Max Cavalera of Soulfly
Only days from embarking on another hell ride journey through the US, Soulfly frontman, Max Cavalera graciously took the time to speak with me. Max may be one of the most hard working musicians in the industry today. Never forgetting about his roots in Brazil, Max retains a level of humility that is often lost in the over-inflated world of metal. He is a great example of what a person can do if they believe in themselves and never stop rocking when the going gets shitty. Soufly brings one of the hardest hitting metal shows around. Don’t miss them when they tour through the Midwest in early October including the Rave in Milwaukee I’ll see you at the show.
MAXIMUM INK: What is your least favorite interview question?
MAX CAVALERA: Probably if there is going to be a Sepultura reunion. I get asked that one a lot so it gets kind of old.
MI: I won’t ask that one… I hear there’s a new Soulfly album in the works.
MC: Yeah, in fact I’m in the process of separating the tracks now. I’ve got like eight riffs that will eventually become songs. And those are my favorite ones from when I have been recording the last year. And we’re going to be getting together after the tour and putting the songs together and then we’ll go into the studio and record. So we should have a new album out by early next year.
MI: Do you write a lot on the road or do you like to have a certain time or place to write new material?
MC: We write more in the studio. I do some lyrics on tour but the music and everything usually will come when we are in the studio. We don’t do much of that on the road.
MI: What is the best time to write lyrics and do you have any lyrical aids?
MC: I just keep my ears open. They can hit at any time. They come from movies, or books, or posters. One of my more famous songs that I did with Sepultura, “Refuse and Resist” came to me on a subway in New York. There was a black guy wearing a jacket and on the back of the jacket it said “refuse and resist”. And I thought that was a cool name for a song. He looked like he might have been a Black Panther or something. So I wrote that lyrics for that song based on that.
MI: When do you know when a song lyric is good for a Soulfly song or a Cavelera’s Conspiracy song and how do you differentiate between the two?
MC: Its just something I feel. Its just a feeling thing that I have to decide what goes where. Sometimes when I set out to write a song I will already know what it will be for.
MI: You have some signature guitars from ESP. Now, I really like the style of these guitars because they are very stripped down and simple. Its great. Its Primitive. Do you have any new signatures in the works?
MC: Yeah, simplicity is the key for me. The less complicated the better; Straight up, 4 strings, just one volume knob. So, just plug it in and you’re ready to go. The four string trademark happened long ago in Brazil. I broke the two little strings and my roadie said, “well, we can buy the strings or we can buy beer.” So, I said lets buy beer and just leave those two off. So that’s how it started and since then its become my trademark. Now any new guitar I get I just take the bottom two strings off.
I have a couple new designs in mind I just have to talk to ESP and see what’s up. I did draw one that I think is kind of cool and I would like to make that as my own design. I have to talk to them about that still. So far I have two signatures, The Viper and The Axe. And I’ve been using them on tour. I also have a line of camouflaged Axe guitars that I’m using now. But I love ESP, they are a great guitar company. I get along really good with them and they seem really cool.
MI: What does your amp and effects setup look like for your live shows?
MC: I use a Peavey head and cabinet setup. I’ve been with them for a couple of years now. I use two BOSS pedals, one is an auto-wah and one is a flanger. And I don’t really use them much but on some Soulfly jams. I don’t use them the whole time but I will throw them in on special parts of the show.
MI: I’m never one to ask what people’s influences are because I think that’s a cheap question. But I get the feeling that you have some punk rock influences. What draws you to that type of music?
MC: I like the fact that the music is in your face and I am very drawn to the adrenaline - the energy of it. The anarchy spirit is also something I like - just do what you want and don’t give a fuck about what people think. The Do-It-Yourself type of attitude; I love that side of punk. Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, the Bad Brains were a great band and have had a huge influence on my music and my writing even today.
MI: From a political standpoint, would you consider yourself an anarchist?
MC: Well, I have my share of thing I did back in the day, I’ve settled down a bit now but I still like to fuck shit up. I don’t like authority figures and any chance I get to confront that I use it. So those are the things I take from anarchism.
MI: Now the Soulfly tour kicks off in a few days, what have you been doing to get ready for the tour?
MC: Basically we just go through the set list, we don’t really need to practice because we’ve played together so much in the past year. We need to get the gear together, get the roadies ready, that kind of thing… Im really excited for this tour. There’s some great bands in the package with Cattle Decapitation and Prong. It should be great fun for the whole night for the fans.
MI: Do you have any advice to a band that might just be starting out?
MC: I would say to enjoy the garage times. That’s an essential time in your life. That was a really important thing in my life. That is what’s going to form you and make you what you are later in life. So really appreciate the garage time and spend many hours there and believe in yourself. Things will happen to you if you have faith and believe in your work. But never forget those garage times.
MI: I’m guessing you’ve played a basement show or two in your early years….
MC: Oh yeah, all kinds of them. Crappy stuff - sleeping under the stage, going on a 50 hour bus ride with dogs and chickens and some crazy shit. Those were the Brazilian hardcore killer days. It was crappy but it was all part of the experience and it is what made me the musician I am today.
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