INTERVIEW: Max Cavalera Talks Soulfly’s “Archangel” & 20th Anniversary of Sepultura’s “Roots”

Max Cavalera’s Soulfly has been touring relentlessly in support of their last album Archangel. Recently completing a Latin American tour, Soulfly kicked off their U.S. tour in Texas and I was able to sit down with Max when they came to Dallas to play the Gas Monkey Bar ‘n’ Grill. We talked about Archangel and touring the album, the forthcoming 20th Anniversary show for Sepultura’s Roots, and the future of Killer Be Killed.


the void report: Y’all just wrapped up a Latin American tour and this is only the third date in on the North American tour, if I’m correct?

Max Cavalera: Yeah, exactly. It’s been non stop, man. I’m lovin’ it. These packages we’ve put together are just the best thing ever. I think we did the Soilwork last year…and Crowbar. Now we’ve got Suffocation. But, they’re not playing tonight, unfortunately. It’s the only show they don’t play. But, we’ve got Battlecross, Abnormality, and Lody Kong. So, it’s kick ass. Everybody that’s come to the show, by the time Soulfly comes on everyone is just drenched wet (laughs) and happy! They saw five hours worth of metal, you know? It’s the way to go. I think those packages are the way to tour. It’s killer. It’s more music, more variety…more metal for the fans. I love the bands, you make friendships for life in it. I wanna do more and more. This is the third U.S. package, I think we can do one more before we wrap up this album and work on something new.

the void report: Cool. So, you just did the Latin American tour and you also did tours last year in support of Archangel.

Max Cavalera: Yeah, we did two U.S. runs.

the void report: I was curious about the Archangel material. Now that you’ve had a chance to play a lot of the new material live, are there any particular songs standing out in terms of fan reactions or what you guys enjoy playing?

Max Cavalera: The stuff is actually, it’s really good live. For some reason, it really works good live. Stuff like “Archangel,” we open with “We Sold Our Souls to Metal,” which is a kick in the face. It’s no holds barred. You know what you’re gonna get once that song starts, you know? It’s just pure adrenaline. And there’s a couple of other favorites we’ve enjoyed playing. “Ishtar Rising”…”Sodomites,” oh my God, I love “Sodomites” that came out great. And uh, we’re also playing “Bethlehems Blood” and “Titans”and “Shamash.” So we play a lot of stuff from the new album, which is surprising, it’s more than I thought we would play. But, the fans seem to really like it. The record got a really good reaction from the fans. Which is all I care…I don’t really care much about media and critics. The fans is where I base…where I value my opinion, man.

From the fans, they really like Archangel. And I think it was the right record to make. I’m really happy with the record. I think it’s really different. The biblical stuff works really good. Sonically, it’s kind of uh…it’s a bit more extreme for Soulfly, which I think is cool. Because I listen to a lot of extreme metal myself, it’s my favorite stuff. 1349, Belphegor, that’s what I listen to in my spare time. So, Soulfly going in that direction makes me happy…that we’re trying to do something like that.

So, Archangel was kind of an experimental kind of record. We never really…we just had the idea to do something biblical and extreme with the Soufly based on top of it, that makes everything different. And it came out really cool. I’m really stoked on it. I think for now on it would be even easier to make records like Archangel because we had Archangel done. So, it becomes easier if you wanna do more records in the same kinda way that Archangel was based. I think you can still do more biblical stuff. I think it’s cool. It’s different and it works with metal, man. The Bible and the Old Testament is full of metal (laughs). It’s full of blood and destruction and violence. It works. So, I’m really digging it. Playing it live is killer.

Max Cavalera performing live at the Gas Monkey Bar ‘n’ Grill, Dallas, TX, 2016, Photo by J.Kevin Lynch

the void report: I really dug Archangel, particularly the title track.

Max Cavalera: It came out really good. It’s uh…I think it has a lot to do with the production. You know, Matt Hyde is a great producer. And he was really into the whole biblical stuff and he got me to sing some Kabbalah stuff and I was like, “I don’t know what that is?” (Laughs) And he’s “No, you got to sing this! It’s like a ritual.” And I was just like, “What the fuck is that shit, man?” I don’t even know what that means. We’re using language from the time of Jesus on this song. Which is crazy. And the intro is a prayer in the language of Jesus, too. The intro to “Archangel” is prayer we got from YouTube somewhere. And then I did some chants and I asked him to do some crazy stuff like horns on “Bethlehem’s Blood.” That’s an old, old goat horn from back in the bible…a 1,000 years ago. I’m really into all that shit.

I’m really into obscure instruments and stuff. So, any chance I have to put something in my music from…you know…”Prophecy” was like that. We worked with a professor from the University of Belgrade on “Prophecy.” He had like bagpipes and flutes from the middle ages and shit like that. That was really cool. I’d like to do more of that, really. I think that’s what makes Soulfly a little different form the rest of the metal bands, you know? We have this little corner of exotic instruments and vibes, you know? Even on Archangel, the song “Soulfly X” there’s a guy playing the duduk. It’s an Armenian instrument that sounds very, very eerie, very dark. And I discovered the duduk on the soundtrack to the move “The Last Temptation of Christ,” which is a great movie. Scorsese. It’s a killer fucking movie.

And on the soundtrack…Peter Gabriel did the soundtrack and he had this duduk instrument and I fell in love with it from the first time I saw the movie. So, I watched some documentaries about it and found out the duduk was actually made from the apricot tree in Armenia. It’s an Armenian instrument used in the middle eastern region a lot. It’s very dark and the best duduk player is a guy called (Djivan) Gasparyan, from Armenia. But, he’s really old and I couldn’t get him, so I got a guy in LA who can play really good, too. His name is Roman (Babakhanyan) and he did really good for the album. So, any chance I got to put some exotic instruments into Soufly I will not hesitate to go a little extra mile to bring something exotic and new. Just for the sound…for the curiousity of the ear. I just think it’s cool. If you can do it, why not?

the void report: Right on, that’s always something I’ve appreciated in your music. Soulfly is kind of the world music of metal.

Max Cavalera: Well, we don’t want to do too much so it’s overdoing it. But, there’s a little bit which is cool. But, I’d like to do a little bit more in the future. Even venturing more in all the countries and hopefully recording with local musicians from other countries and bringing that into the Soulfly world. That is something I would like to see happen with Soulfly.

the void report: When I heard the song “Soulfly X” it really took me back to “Kaiowas” on Chaos A.D.

Max Cavalera: That song actually (Soulfly X) is only one note throughout the whole song. We don’t change keys the whole song. And I was really into that concept…having a song that doesn’t change keys. I was like, “can we do a song that just stays in one key?” The whole time. And I was convinced that we could. Especially with the duduk, because the duduk is really the star of that song, because it does all the soloing on top of it. So, I talked to Mark (Rizzo) about what we’re going to do instrumentally and I decided to…we had the choice to change the keys, and we tried, and at the end of the day I said, “Let’s just keep it in the same key, like a mantra.” Repeating like a cycle, it just felt good.

Even on “Kaiowas” it had a couple…I think three key changes and “Soulfly X” is just one the whole time. Just one note. We jammed it and it was really good. And that’s how Soulfly songs are really born, out of jam. The first one was an accident, but I named it “Soulfly I” and the next one was less accidental, I was already prepared for, but they were all born from a jamming environment. From percussion instruments and acoustic guitars and then I add stuff on top of it to make it different. I’ve added violin to “Soulfly VIII” there’s some that are little more rocking with guitars, Mark does a solo, I think “Soulfly V” is one of my favorites, it’s like a 10-minute song. It has some flamenco guitars on top of it and there’s some rain from Russia we recorded and bells from Cathedrals in Moscow. I think it was like 10-minutes, it was like an epic. So, I always look forward to do those songs, even though they’re kind of like b-sides kind of thing, it’s still fun to put some time and make it something exotic and cool. So, I’m looking forward to what I’m going to do for “Soulfly XI,” I don’t know yet. I’m sure it will come to me.

Max Cavalera performing live at the Gas Monkey Bar ‘n’ Grill, Dallas, TX 2016. Photo by J. Kevin Lynch

the void report: I noticed on the Latin American tour you had a couple of different players in the band. Who’s out with you on this US tour?

Max Cavalera: Zyon is back for the US, my son on drums. And he’s the real original drummer on the album (Archangel), and on Savages, and he does most of the touring. He did Europe and South America, but he was kind of busy with his other band, Lody Kong, who is also playing – and for South America we ended up using Kanky (Lora), who is a friend of ours and plays for Kingdom of Sorrow and Straight Line Stich and a couple of other bands. But, he’s a good, Chicago drummer, from the Dominican Republic. Real cool, dude.

But, I like this line up more with Zyon, my son, and we got Mike (Leon) from Havok playing bass, which is killer. He’s been with us since last year. And Mark Rizzo, the guitar player, has been with me for like 10 years. It’s a solid line up. From playing so much, we’ve go it down. We don’t even need to to say stuff, we just look in the eye. We play so much that we’re super tight and we know what to do and know what the crowd wants and when we get together, and when you have a certain sound…we just bring it. And a lot of it is just the energy feeding off the crowd. Metal shows, most of the time, always have an excited crowd. So, we feed off of circle pits and that shit. I feed off that shit. We love that. That’s a metal show. Circle pit, mosh pit, stage dive, crowd surfing. They broke my mic stand on the first show. But, not even that got me mad. I said, “fuck it, I’ll just buy a new mic stand you assholes (laughs). Jumping on the stage like a bunch of lunatics.” I love the energy of a metal show.

the void report: So, what’s it like having Lody Kong (featuring Max’s son’s Zyon and Igor) out with you on tour? You’ve been touring with family members for decades. But, now you’re kids have a damn good band in their own right. Are you and Gloria watching the gigs like proud parents?

Max Cavalera: Well, she watches every show. She’s a huge Lody Kong fan. And I am, too. I’m super proud of them. But, lots of times I’m taking a nap in the bus, so I don’t watch all their shows. But, she watches all the shows. We just had them in Europe for about two months with King Parrot and that was great. I think now they’re much better. And they’ve got a new guitar player, they’ve got the guitar player of Noisem, Travis (Stone). Noisem is one of my favorite new bands that’s come out and its killer that they have him. And they have another friend, Noah (Shepherd), who’s playing bass. So, Lody Kong has an album that just came out, Dreams and Visions. I love how the record came out. It came out killer. I’m really proud. It’s really different from what I’m doing. It’s really punk. Kind of like Melvins…Fudge Tunnel influences. It’s really cool. I didn’t expect that from them. But, I’m super proud.

And Zyon is a warrior, he does two sets every night. That’s insane. I told him, “by the end you’re gonna be like the Hulk” (laughs). But, he does good. He’s a good kid. And for me, it’s really cool to have the whole family out. It’s been like that for 20 years…25 years. Those kids have been born on the tour. Sleeping on guitar cases with Ozzie singing in the background. I have pictures of that. They’re born in this lifestyle. They could’ve become doctors and lawyers, but I didn’t see that. I don’t think that was going to be the case. They became musicians. I’m super stoked. I think eventually Zyon is just going to jam with Lody Kong, when they are doing more stuff. Then I’m going to have to get a drummer for Soulfly. But, it’s cool, it’s no sweat. Soulfly, we’ve had plently of changes and it’s good, we’re used to it. But, I’m enjoying playing with Zyon at the moment. For me, sometimes I have to go pinch myself. Like really, that’s my kid playing behind me? And doing good. Playing like a real drummer.

the void report: I was impressed with his work on the Archangel.

Max Cavalera: You gotta see it live. He’s a beast live. He’s really killing it live. So, we’re good, man. It’s the way we like to do things. We’re a different breed of band. We don’t kiss ass much. We don’t go to LA and kiss peoples ass to get on tour. We don’t do that shit. If we don’t get offered all the tours, we just do our own tours. Fuck it. You know? Of course, we’d love to tour with Metallica, or shit like that. But, if that doesn’t happen, you know, life goes on. We do other stuff. But, I’m very proud of the fan base we’ve created. A lot of fans refer to me as, you know, “You’re a legend.” Which is fun, you know. I dig that. I’ve been doing it for a long time. My grey hairs are here to prove it. But, I really, really love interaction with the crowd. That’s what I do. Every night just hearing the roar of the crowd and singing all the song and having fun. That’s why I do this. Every sacrifice you give your whole life…it’s worth it when you hit that stage and hear the people going crazy on the first note of the song. It’s like, “fuck, yeah!” This is why I do this. This is why it’s all worth it to do it. Jus that moment right there.

the void report: Let me ask about the anniversary of Roots. There’s been talk that you and your brother (Igor) are going to do an anniversary tour?

Max Cavalera: Yeah, Gloria came up with that and we thought it was cool idea. And Roots was such a big album for us. Kind of a turning point record for Sepultura. The band blew up on that record. It’s an interesting record. For me, Roots is very heavy, in a weird sense. Almost like, back to simple stuff. A lot of the songs on Roots are simple and almost primitive sounding. Simplify everything. Stuff like “Cut-Throat”…uh, “Roots Bloody Roots,” “Attitude,” they’re just gnarly and heavy, primitive sounding songs. And that’s what made that record interesting. You know, Dave Grohl of Nirvana said it’s his favorite album. So, we had the idea’s the anniversary of the album, let’s do a run with it. We’re going to try. We have one show booked, officially. It’s the Amnesia Rock Festival in Canada. It looks like Fear Factor is doing that with us. So, that’s going to be awesome. I love Fear Factory. So, that’s going to be a great tour.

the void report: Are y’all billing that as Cavalera Conspiracy doing Roots? Or is it Max and Igor doing Roots?

Max Cavalera: It’s billed as Max and Igor return to the Roots, but it’s Mark playing guitar and Johny Chow from Stonesour playing bass, which is pretty much the Cavalera Conspiracy players. But, for some reason, they didn’t want to book as Cavalera Conspiracy playing roots, but Max and Igor, I don’t fucking know…I don’t get into the politics of this shit, man. Just give me a guitar and mic and I’m good (laughs).

the void report: Is the plan to do the album in sequence, first song to last?

Max Cavalera: Yeah, that’s the idea. The only song we can’t perform live is, of course, “Itsari,” because it’s the Indians. So, we thought about using that song last as walk out music. Which, I think would be cool. And I think because Roots is something like 40 minutes, so we probably need to play a couple of other songs. We probably need to play a couple Cavalera songs and maybe some other Sepultura favorites like “Arise” and “Beneath the Remains” and “Refuse/Resist” and more. But, we’re going to play the whole thing. I’ve never done a whole record like that. So, it will be a first for me. And maybe we could do other records like Arise and Beneath the Remains. You just wait for the right years (laughs).

Max Cavalera performing live at the Gas Monkey Bar ‘n’ Grill, Dallas, TX, 2016. Photo by J. Kevin Lynch.

the void report: I also read y’all found the original stage props from the Roots tour.

Max Cavalera: We got the original back drop. The official backdrop. And there’s some of the stuff that hangs on top of the amplifiers, from the original days. We ended up finding those. We’re going to use that. And I think Igor is talking about may be the idea of hiring a film crew and making some kind of video and showing footage of us with the Indians. The whole record was based on the whole Indian experience. And that would be interesting for the fans to watch. We haven’t really discussed how we’re going to do it, during the show, before the show. We need to sit down and talk more about it. We got the original backdrops and I think that’s a killer thing to have, already. You know, what else we can make this more special, we will. We want to make it as exciting as we can.

the void report: Earlier this year, I interviewed Eliran Kantor about heavy metal album art. I’m a big fan of his and he did the cover for Archangel. What was it like working with him?

Max Cavalera: Man, he was amazing. Like, I literally talked to Eliran once. And just kind of explained to him…my original idea for Archangel was gonna use an old icon from church, like a Russian Orthodox or archangel Michael. And he said, “No, no. I can do something much better than that.” And I said, “Well, alright. If you can incorporate the Soulfly symbol somewhere, that would be kind of cool, too.” So, he made the wings of the angel like Soulfly, which really blew me away. I talked to him once and he sent me a sketch like a week after I talked to him and it was pretty much the album cover all done. I was completely blown away. And I think a lot of people agree. That’s one of Soulfly’s coolest album covers. Definitely like top three. It looks so old fashioned, like a museum piece, but that’s his style. That’s Eliran’s style.

I love that kind of old fashioned kind of…and it’s a real painting, actually. He told me that the angel was modeling one of his buddies from school. He used his buddy for the face. And he made me a cake when it was my birthday in Berlin. And it had the archangel on the cake and that was really nice (laughs). He’s a cool dude. I really enjoyed working with him. I want to work with him again. I think eventually we may turn him in to that special guy and just use him from now on. He’s really killer. It was actually the Nuclear Blast guys in Europe who suggested him. Originally, I was just going to use an old icon and it would’ve looked cool, too. But, I think what we ended up with is much cooler. That whole iconic Michael archangel he did with the Soulfly weapon was awesome. I love what he did. And he was so fast, too. Normally, I have to talk to the art guys like 10 times to get it right. With him it was only once. He got it right way. He nailed it. It was like, “Wow! Damn.” I didn’t have to go back and ask him to change anything. Don’t change anything! It was awesome.

the void report: When this Soulfly tour wraps, what do you have planned next?

Max Cavalera: I think we have June off, we don’t have anything booked. June or July. So, I’m going to write for Killer Be Killed. We hope we can get a new album out early next year. I think I’m going to get together with Greg (Puciato) and start writing the riffs. At least a majority of the riffs for the new Killer Be killed album. A lot of people liked the first record, so it would be good to make a second one. I think we can make cooler one now. I know the guys better now, I know Troy (Sanders) better. I know Grant better. We’re probably going to use Ben (Koller) from Converge for drums. He’s a beast. Amazing drummer. I think we can make a much cooler, better second record. Even though the first one was really good. I think we can do a better one. That’s my mindset. I think we’re going to work with Josh Wilbur again, he’s the producer of the first one. He does a lot of Lamb of God stuff. Good producer. Very solid. So, that’s what I’ve got on the table right now. Finish this tour, write some Killer Be Killed stuff, do the Roots thing with Igor through the end of the year, and then see what next year brings. But, I still think we can do one more package in America. One more tour for Archangel with other bands that we like, there are so many bands I like that we could use…Full of Hell…Warbeast. So, we’re going to keep on touring as much as we can.


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