Max Cavalera’s Soulfly released their 11th studio album, Ritual, in October of last year. The follow-up to 2015’s Archangel, Ritual picks up right where its predecessor left off. Just as cohesive, energetic, and angry, Ritual shows why the band has maintained relevancy 20-years after they were formed in the wake of Cavalera’s split with Sepultura. Songs like the title track, “Dead Behind the Eyes,” “Under Rapture,” and “Demonized” display everything that came before distilled into a whole new formula of aggression and inspiration. If you’ve doubted the band, Ritual will challenge all of your preconceived notions.
The band is set to hit the road across 26 dates with Kataklysm, Incite, Chaoseum, Alukah, and Skinflint (see dates at the end of the interview). We caught up with Max to get a preview of the upcoming tour, talk a little about the Ritual album, and check on the status of Cavalera Conspiracy.
You’re coming off back-to-back tours revisiting some of your classic albums, Sepultura’s Roots and Nailbomb’s Point Blank. Are you excited to get back out on the road to support a new album and new material?
Max Cavalera: Yeah, very excited. Ritual has just come out. It’s fresh. It’s a record that got a lot of good reviews and a lot of fans really like it. And I think it’s gonna be fun. Ritual, it’s a real, real hungry album. [A] really angry, energetic, [and] powerful record that’s gonna be fun live, man. So, we’re just gonna have a blast.
Have you started putting together the setlist for this tour? Is there going to be some new material in the set?
Max Cavalera: Yeah, I was hoping we’d play a lot of…I never really went out and played a lot of stuff off a new album before. So, I thought it would be kind of cool to do that. We can almost play the whole record. You know, because it was such a strong record that was received [well] by the fans, that I think they would not mind hearing a lot of the stuff.
Right now, it looks like we’re gonna do the setlist kind of divided in two. I think the first part we’re gonna play a lot of the new stuff, a lot of stuff from Ritual. And the second part is a bunch of like classics. A lot of Soulfly classics that people love.
I think that’d be really cool, because we get…It’ll probably be around an hour and a half of music. And it’ll be perfect because then you get the new stuff that just came out of the oven fresh. And you get all the classics that people love. All the old cool Soulfly stuff that people always dig. So, we get to kill two birds with one stone. I’m excited, man. I think it’s cool.
I’m definitely very excited to play the stuff off Ritual, because I think this record is gonna be great live. You know, play some stuff like “Dead Behind the Eyes,” and “Under Rapture,” “Demonized,” “Evil Empowered.” Those are all gonna translate amazing live. And so we’re preparing for that right now. I think it’s gonna be really, really, really fun, and really great. And we’re very excited.
Talking about the setlist, Soulfly has been around for over 20 years now. Ritual is your eleventh album. Is it hard coming up with a setlist that satisfies the fans or do you just play the songs that you like?
Max Cavalera: Well, we kind of like…I think my son Zyon did a little campaign on Instagram, asking the fans what kind of songs they wanted to hear. And we kind of got an idea of the most popular songs that people like to hear. We feel good about playing those. But, also we feel excited about playing stuff from the new album that we have not played. I mean, last year we toured a little bit, and we played “The Summoning” for a big part of the European tour and it was really well received.
We’re not one of those bands that just plays the same stuff every night. We change from night to night, actually. It keeps it moving. It keeps it very different, so it’s not robotic. You’re not doing the same set like a factory worker every night, you know?
Sure. Yeah, I imagine. You have to avoid redundancy or else it becomes a chore.
Max Cavalera: So, that will be kind of cool for that. You know, just keep changing [it]. But, I wouldn’t mind throwing a couple Archangel songs in there, like “Sodomites.” You know, “Ishtar Rising,” “Archangel,” “We Sold Our Souls to Metal.” Those are always fun. I mean, there’s a lot of material. A lot of songs should we play. That’s never been a problem. Actually, there’s too many songs.
Speaking of Zyon, this is his third album with Soulfly. And he is just getting better and better with each album. He’s really coming into his own. And I was curious, is it hard to separate yourself as a father versus a bandleader when you’re working with your son, and writing, recording, and performing?
Max Cavalera: Actually, I found out that it’s easier. I’ve been…I feel very comfortable with this idea of working with family because…and I worked with Igor for many years with Sepultura. And now we’re working again with Cavalera (Conspiracy), and all the songs from the Sepultura records we’re playing again. I feel comfortable playing with members of the family. Zyon is the same.
He’s just a breath of fresh air, man. Cause he came in with just this hunger, and youth, and energy. And he’s a very unorthodox drummer. I’ve never played with anybody like him, man. He’s like…not really on the technical side, but really crazy innovations. Don’t play the same shit every night. He changes up every night. I don’t know how he does it. It kind of drives me crazy, but in a good way.
I can never count on him playing the same song exactly how he did it the night before. He will not do that. He will change it up. He will do it different. He will do something different. But that’s part of the excitement of playing with him. You know, it’s a dream come true for me as a Dad, [to] share the stage with my son, and be able to do this, and go on tour with him now is fun.
It’s like when he was born, 26 years ago, that was just a dream of mine, one day [I] hoped to share the stage with him. And it has come true, you know? And to me it’s the meaning of success is doing things like that. Sharing the stage with my son. And enjoying with the fans, making records, touring. I never lost the passion for any of that. In fact, I still get nervous before a show, which is kind of crazy after all these years.
But, I’m a huge supporter of underground metal. You know, I contact bands all the time. Wear their shirts. I’ve been doing that 30 years now. And it’s fun. It’s fun, man. You know, it’s cool. It’s cool to give shout-outs to bands and wear their shirt. They’re all struggling bands. We made it a little further, so we can give out a helping hand.
This year is cool, because it’s a touring year. I’m not doing anything else. Everything is on hold. All the other projects are on hold. You know, as far as like recording new music. We’re gonna hit it hard. We’re gonna tour all year long, which is gonna be great.
I was blown away with Marc Rizzo’s playing on this album. What’s it been like to watch him continue to grow and impress with album after album?
Max Cavalera: Yeah. Rizzo is a beast, man. I think he’s a very underrated guitar player. I mean, he’s so good. He’s up there with all the best. But, I kind of feel happy about that because he gets to be in my league. You know, and like [not go] tour [with] Ozzy or some shit. So, stay like that. Stay cool, stay underground with us.
He blows me away, brother. I’m telling you like [he] never fails to amaze me. In the studio [when] I need a part, or a solo, and he just comes in and kills it. And I’ll be like, “God, he did it again.” When he came up with the intro off “Ritual,” which is the whammy thing that he does, and it sounds a bit like “Prophecy.”
First time I heard Rizzo, that’s when he did “Prophecy” and I was like, “That should be a trademark.” I told him that. “That thing you do with the whammy. Nobody does that as good as you, man. You’re like the king of that.” Rizzo’s a phenomenal shredder. But, to me the most amazing things that he does sometimes are the simple things. The little nuances that he puts on some songs. Just a little piece of a guitar. Like, if you listen to a part of “The Summoning,” there will be like this little melodic clean guitar on top of the heavy riff.
He also does that. He also does that on “Demonized.” One of my favorite songs actually I’ve ever done is “Dead Behind the Eyes.” I created a whole solo for him. All the notes were really melodic. So, it was like, “Go at it, man.” I told him, “Go nuts on this one. I created it for you, brother. It’s specially…It’s handmade. Hand tailored for you.”
And he did it. It’s one of favorite songs, favorite solos he’s [done] on almost all the records I’ve been with him. So, we have a pretty good team right now. You know, Mike’s (Leon) great. Great bass player. Got all that thrash energy. Zyon is killing on drums. And we’re very positive. I think this is one of the best Soulfly lineups we’ve had in a long time.
One of my favorite albums from last year was Cavalera Conspiracy’s Psychosis. And I was kind of surprised that you and your brother didn’t take that one out on the road. Have you guys given any thought to that?
Max Cavalera: There’s a hope that we can still do something with that sometime this year. Because I love the record, too. I think Psychosis, it came out great, man. It was like this thrash…death metal/thrash album. I heard from people in bands that love it. Like, Nergal from Behemoth loved the record. And it’s like the guy that produced [the album], Arthur (Rizk), he was killer, man. He did Power Trip and he killed on that record.
Definitely, one of my favorite records I’ve done in a long time was Psychosis. I listen to it all the time. The other day, I just put it in and listened from beginning to the end. I was like, “Man, this is a fun record.”
I wanted to get that question in because I’m such a big fan of that album.
Max Cavalera: We have not forgotten the album. So, we should be able to squeeze [in] a tour. And it might be even cooler to do it like that. Like, touring for a record a while after it came out and you have not toured for it yet. That might be even more exciting than planned.
Soulfly 2019 Tour Dates and Tickets, click here.