An Interview With Max Cavalera

An Interview With Max Cavalera

Blunt Force Trauma was released earlier this year, since this is your second album with Cavalera Conspiracy, how would you say that you connected with this album than you did with Inflikted?

It’s more brutal, more aggressive. I think the fans wanted something heavier after the first record and we decided to give it to them, you know? So, it’s like the old saying, “give them what they want.” So, we did just that. We went a step further in the heaviness; songs are shorter. Stuff like Torture and Thrasher are like barely two minutes, it’s like Raining Blood [Slayer], you know?

I made a comment, I said that the new album sounded a lot like modern thrash on crack (laughs) because modern thrash is really fast, and if it were on crack, it would be even faster and heavier. But yeah, it’s going good, we’re playing stuff off of the new record. It’s amazing, the reaction of the fans, they love the new stuff. Killing Inside, everybody sings. Warlord, we start with that. ThrasherGhengis Khan, we play that right in the middle of the set. Then later we play I Speak Hate together with Roots [Sepultura]; it’s great, a great reaction.

When you were recording, or just recording in general whether it had been for this album or for any of your other bands; I know you’re very isolated when doing so. You know how you have that connection and energy on-stage, how do you try to incorporate that energy into your albums, or did you even try?

It’s tricky, but there’s ways to do it. A lot of times, just get everybody pumped up, the whole band, and we write a kick ass song, everybody feels really killer. And then you, normally, when you just make it, you imagine how this part’s going to be when we play live! And it’s “Hell yeah! We’re going to fuck shit up, you know, we’re going to turn it up when we play this live!”

So, I think that’s what it takes it to do it, it’s the imagination in the studio; surrounded by good guys in the band. It gets everybody excited and then you start writing all of these parts that you’d imagine them how they’d be live. And you’d be like, “this part’s going to be sick live! That part is going to be pure live!” You know? Just do that.

But in the studio atmosphere, it’s a little– yeah, like you said, kind of cold, because there’s only four walls, and you don’t have a crowd there. So you have to imagine how it’s going to be when it eventually hits the fans and when they get it, when we play it in front of them, how killer it will be. So, you have to be creative, use the imagination kind of thing.

Yeah. When you’re writing, whether it be lyrics, melodies, or anything, how does that all start to materialize inside of your mind?

Well, I write all of the riffs before I enter the studio, so I just sit down with my guitar and four-track machine and drum machine, and write the majority of the stuff and then I put that on the CD and I send that to Igor [Cavalera, drummer] and Marc [Rizzo, guitarist] and they all get the CD with fifteen songs– almost complete songs. And then we take that CD to the studio and we make that CD into kind of the guide of what we use every day. We pick a song off of that CD and make it into a real song.

So, that’s kind of the process that I use, it seems to work really good, and then I can spend time on writing the riffs; it takes me a couple of months just to write the riffs to pick the right riffs for the album. It is very important to have a good riff, you know?

Yeah. When you’re writing your lyrics though, how do you take those ideas from your mind and turn them into a song?

The lyrics come later, after the music is recorded because I have all of the music in front of me and then I start thinking of what kind of lyrics I’m going to put on those songs. And a lot of it comes from the actual music gives the idea of the kind of lyric because a lot of the lyrics are brutal; are brutal subjects, like Warlord and Torture, (pauses) Burn Waco— those are hardcore topics, you know? So, it fits the music.

So, the music is actually, it is what it’s– in a way giving the idea of what the topic of the song is going to be like. So, the music is actually calling for these kind of lyrics, which is really kind of cool. The music calls for it, aggressive lyrics.

That’s really interesting…. How would you say that you express your passion through your music?

I think it’s on an every day basis on everything I do, you know? It’s like, now it’s on tour, so I’m on tour with Cavalera [Conspiracy]. Every night is a release of a lot of emotions and passion is one of them is one that you have inside of you. Anger, aggression, and you save it all the way through the day, then the night comes and the show comes and you release them on the crowd.

And it’s the same thing that happens with the audience, they have waited, I don’t know, a couple of months for the show and some of them have waited for a long time and it finally comes to a time where you’re there and it’s actually happening, and it’s really great. And then they release that either on the moshpits or the circle pits, screaming real loud, singing with you, you know? Whatever way they found the way to release the energy out of them. So, it’s a combination of both.

I was going to ask this later, but this kind of coincides with what you are talking about right now… How does writing your own music give yourself an escape?

Oh, it’s great. When I play the song, we get transported to a different place; we get really excited. Sometimes, you know, you can just close your eyes and imagine you are in some other place. And that’s with your own music. And then, of course, I listen to my iPod or my CD player, I pick the music I want to hear and that’s everything from heavy thrash stuff to dub-music, different kinds of stuff I listen to, you know?

As you were talking about earlier, with your passion, how would you say that it has evolved over the years that you have been doing this, in general?

Umm… I don’t think it’s changed that much. I’m very connected to music, I love music. I get up with it, I go to bed with it, I wear headphones, listen to music when I’m super tired and finally give up and go to sleep. And then on tour, of course, you play the songs every night, and touring– I love touring.

Touring is one of my favorite parts of being in a band. I love being in a different city every night, a different crowd to play, experience a different crowd reaction every night. Every night’s different from each other, you know? The venue’s different, the people are different, the atmosphere is different. It’s cool, I like that.

Every time you play one of those shows where everything “clicks” – everything goes well, the sound is perfect, the crowd is amazing, how does that feel when you step foot on that stage?

It’s very satisfying to me, sometimes in some parts of the show, I just love what’s happening at that moment. It’s just as if it’s as good as it’s going to get, it’s like, it cannot get any better. The sound is great, the band is rocking out, the crowd’s going crazy… No, it doesn’t get any better. (laughs) It’s a great feeling. But of course, there are some shitty nights when not everything is good. You have shitty sound, sometimes not many people show up, but you still got to do the same show.

I have the philosophy of, no matter how many people are there, you should always play the same show; if it’s a less or big crowd, you should always– always even when there’s less people, you should even do a better show because those people are there, they’re the hardcore fans. They came in small numbers, but they came.

Yeah, and sometimes those kinds of shows would be the most special to you, I would imagine…

Yeah, sometimes it happens that way. Like, you think it’s going to be totally shitty and nobody’s there, and it ends up being a really good show. It depends, you know?

Yeah. I could not imagine living on a tour bus for such a long time or just touring nonstop like you have… And also, being on tour with your brother as well, being a part of this entire lifestyle… How would you say that all of this has made you stronger throughout the years?

It’s a harsh lifestyle. It’s not for everybody, you know? Everybody thinks it’s luxury and stuff. There is some luxury, but there is also a lot of struggle.

Yeah and I’m sure you never sleep…

Yeah, you know it’s hard to sleep, you’re in a different place every day. You want to eat healthy? Forget about it! That’s out of the window when you go on tour. It’s going to be pizza after the show and that’s it. You better eat that, or you don’t eat. But all of that put together makes you stronger because if you can get through this, I can get through anything mentality. Like a marine, a little bit, you know? So, we’re like the marines of metal.

(laughs) I love that! What has been something that happened to you that has really impacted the way you are as a person, the way it has really affected the way you write, or just impacted you in general?

A couple things… The birth of my first son, Zyon, was really great. And I was doing Sepultura at that time and it was something that I really wanted everybody to know I had a son, I didn’t want to hide that from the world, you know? I wanted to show people that you could still be aggressive, play heavy music, but be a dad at the same time, that was ok because a lot of people have a preconception of that if you’re a dad, you can’t rock out anymore. That’s bullshit! Just because you have a family doesn’t mean you can’t play fast, you know? So I was very proud and I announced it to the whole world; I made pictures with him– Roadrunner [Records] made special pictures of me holding him and I wrote his name on my knuckles which I ended up tattooing afterwards. That was a great moment!

And I think through the years, special places that have made an impact, Eastern Europe, Serbia, Russia, you know, I visited– Soulfly played a lot of like– Siberia, we did ten shows in Siberia. We played in places that nobody even goes, [where] there’s no concerts, and that was so cool. We would go there and give that music to those kids that never have seen anything; they’re so grateful. They weren’t spoiled, you know? It’s like, sometimes here in the West, we get spoiled because we have a choice to see twenty shows in a night, and you just get spoiled, and you just don’t care. And they had one show, that was the only show; it was so cool, man. It just makes you look at music a whole different way. It’s great.

And that’s what I like about music, you go places that you normally you’re not supposed to go, like Siberia. Maybe by nature you’re not supposed to go there, but you end up going anyway because you go against nature, you know? And I am one of the people, I beg my booking agent to take me to these places; I always want to go somewhere exotic like Indonesia. If I could tour Vietnam, I’d go there– the Middle East, I’m not fucking scared; I’d go there, they’re not going to bomb me. If they do, I’d die on the stage, it’s the fucking perfect place…

To die what you love doing.

Exactly! Better than old, in a wheelchair, some shit like that. (laughs)

(laughs) You’re very blunt… We touched on this earlier, a little, but I’d like you to elaborate more on this… What is the most special or most meaningful thing to you about music, for you only?

I think the most meaningful thing is what you can get from it. (pauses) Your life goes up and down, but music is always there. It’s a constant for you, you can always count on it. So when things are good, it’s there, but when things are bad, it’s also there. So, it’s something that you can count on, it’s like a true friend that you can have. I think that music’s like that for me. It’s something that always– if you’re feeling down, you can put on some kick-ass record that you like and you feel better after that. That’s great; the power of music.

It is, it’s amazing. I know so many people have definitely told you that your music has changed their lives. What do you think it that is so special about your music for your fans, whether it be Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy?

That, I don’t know… It’s something that’s different for everybody.

What do you think, though?

I think that, maybe the amount of time that’s been put on it. So much time spent on this, like all the projects I’ve been on; SepulturaSoulflyCavaleraNailbomb— there are years of investment on that. And it’s years of passion in music, building, to have this huge discography, songs that I can pick to play. It’s great. And for some people, I play an older song like Refuse/Resist [Sepultura]Troops of Doom [Sepultura], it takes them back in time when they first heard that song, they were like in college like, “Man, I remember when I first heard this!” So many people tell me that.

A lot of people tell me also that they, that my music has helped them during war, you know? A lot of soldiers listen to my music, it’s really cool.

So, yeah, I like the idea that music that travels, that music goes to places too. It’s hard to believe, but it is true, but like in the middle of Afghanistan there is some metal heads. It’s great, it’s so cool. The most strange place that you’d never think music would hit it, it has the power to break barriers, and go places that normally it isn’t supposed to go. That’s one thing I like a lot about music.

Ok, you said “like” — what is what you love about music?

(pauses) Umm… The feeling that you get which is like indescribable… You can’t really describe it, put it into words, what you get from it. Like, when I write the perfect riff, I get a satisfaction from it, which is indescribable; I found this riff, and I know it’s going to be a great riff, and when I play it for people, “Oh yeah, this is a great riff!” So, I thank the “riff Gods” for giving me the riff.

How do you feel when you’re writing those riffs? How do they translate into who you are?

Sometimes, they come out of nowhere. I’ll be just jamming, you know? Without even paying much attention. It’ll be like at the end of the day, I’m not even that interested anymore, and boom this fucking killer riff comes and whoa! Changes everything, I get excited. It’s like new blood, you know? I get really excited again, so I start working on it and then the next day I pick it up again and mess around with it again and make it a little better, you know? Sometimes I’ll work on a riff for months sometimes, change it a little bit until it’s perfect to go to the studio.

How do you know when everything is ready and done?

You just know. It’s weird. You just feel it. You know, it’s like, “Ok, you can stop now, it’s ok now.” There’s not a book about it, it doesn’t tell you how to do it, you just do it and it’s done.

It comes to you?

It comes to you and tells you it’s done and you know it. And if it’s a good riff, a great riff, and I work on it for a month and change it as much as I can change, and I say to myself, “I can’t change it anymore, it’s perfect the way it is.” That’s how you know it’s done.

Music is a journey for everyone, what have been some of those moments in that journey that have really been significant for you?

I think a lot of, there’s been some special shows, like the first Soulfly tour in Australia was really great. It was the first time Soulfly was accepted… I was so… (pauses) Relieved because I made this band with a lot of fear of people liking– coming from Sepultura, what people were going to think about it, and when I hear the crowd accepting it and chanting “Soulfly” it’s like, “Yes, I made it. It’s going to be ok for now.” That was a great moment. Being accepted in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame because they just put up the Sepultura, it has some writings on it, from when I was a kid, that’s in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame right now. That’s a great moment, you know? Because to know it’s there, a part of history, a part of rock history; I’m right in there together with KISS, and Van Halen, and all my legends, people that I looked up to when I was a kid.

That’s really amazing! Since we’re out of time, would you like to say anything else?

Just thanks to coming to the shows, enjoy it. And next year, new Soulfly coming out! So, it should be a great year!


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