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Interviews : Soulfly – Esoteric Agenda (An interview with Max Cavalera)

By on February 8, 2012

Soulfly – Max Cavalera

Having recently finished up a successful tour of Australia with Cavalera Conspiracy as part of the 2012 Big Day Out.

Metal Obsession’s Anwar Rizk had the pleasure to speak with Max Cavalera, in person during his stay in Melbourne. This time discussing Soulfly‘s upcoming eighth studio album, ‘Enslaved’ and the numerous extreme metal influences the album took on board.

Metal Obsession: How have you gauged the reaction towards Cavalera Conspiracy at this year’s Big Day Out?

Max Cavalera: It’s about the same as when Soulfly tours. Its essentially the same crowd, so its good. The crowd who like Soulfly are very much like Cavalera Conspiracy fans as well. I think its very similar.

MO: Have you noticed any of the bands on the BDO line up taking the time to see both you and Iggor perform again?

MC: Ah yeah! There have been a couple. Iggor is good friends with Bassnector. They came and watched our show and I heard the drummer of Soundgarden (Matt Cameron) asked our tour manager if it would be ok if he came saw our show. We said “Yeah! It would be great”. He actually remembered us from back in 1989 when we went to see Soundgarden in New York with Faith No More and Voivod.

Soundgarden were the opening band and we got to see that show by the side of the stage and some of the members of Soundgarden still remember that. I guess one of our guys meet them at a party recently and they said something about it. They were like “I remember the Sepultura guys standing at the side of the stage”. That was pretty cool to hear.

I’d actually like to check out Parkway Drive. I’ve heard they’re pretty cool. I don’t know their music, I just know the name. There is also a really cool band that play on the BDO who are also from Australia. It starts with an A?

MO: The Amity Affliction?

MC: Right! I heard they’re pretty cool too.

MO: This year’s BDO seems to have gotten a lot of negativity. One story which got my attention was about a police bashing in Brisbane. Did you happen to hear about this?

MC: You mean it happened this year at Big Day Out? [looks around in disbelief]

MO: That’s correct. A man alleged he was bashed by a group of police at the Brisbane Big Day Out and was later ridiculed and thrown in jail. (Read the full story here!)

A 26-year-old Brisbane man has revealed allegations of shocking police brutality that he alleges occurred at the Big Day Out 2012 Festival on the Gold Coast on Sunday. Morgan MacManus alleges that he was punched in the eye by a QLD police officer while he was handcuffed and had each arm restrained by 2 other police officers, and that this was after police had already dislocated his shoulder and elbow.

He has also alleged that 2 police officers forced their knees into his back around the kidney area for over 5 minutes and that caused him to urinate. He said that a number of officers then stood around ridiculing him with taunts of “pissy pants, shut up pissy pants Macmanus” while he was face down handcuffed on the ground in his own urine.

MO: This isn’t the first time something like this has happened in Australia. Does it worry you that incidences like this still occur, moreso in a democracy like Australia?

MC: Yeah man! It sucks to have any kind of physical brutality in any country. I don’t tolerate any kind of police brutality or violence. I mean even if a bouncer is trying to beat up one of our fans.

I stop the show and kick the security guard out. No matter what. I’ve done that many times and broken my guitar in the process whilst trying to get rid of aggressive bouncers. When fans come to a show they don’t pay to get beat up, you know? That shit is not cool.

MO: By comparison. Its nowhere near as insane as when Sepultura toured Indonesia back in 92′. When the crowd was beaten into submission with bamboo sticks by police.

MC: Yeah! That was insane, man.

MO: Soulfly’s new drummer, David Kinkade has described ‘Enslaved’ as “Arise on crack”. Would that be an accurate description?

MC: [laughs] I think he just said that for a bit of fun. Just fucking around with the new record. This new Soulfly album, ‘Enslaved’ is its own thing. Its definitely a Soulfly record because all the trademarks are there, but its probably the most extreme so far. I’m very proud of that. I specifically hand picked death metal orientated riffs and beats, because David Kinkade comes from a death metal school of drumming and he can play that stuff really well.

I made those beats and those specific parts with David in mind, so the new Soulfly album could be the most extreme we have ever written. I mean, take ‘World Scum’ for example. Thats probably the most extreme song that I’ve ever done and I’m very happy that’s the first single. It announces the record in a great way, its so heavy and so brutal. Its like “YES! We’re back with a vengeance”.

Soulfly’s debut single ‘World Scum’ from their forthcoming new album, ‘Enslaved’.

MO: When listening to an advance copy of ‘Enslaved’ last night. I got the impression that Napalm Death and Morbid Angel were heavily influential towards the new album.

MC: Yeah man! It’s very Morbid Angel like. Its like the cousin of Morbid Angel in terms of how we play. [laughs]

MO: Speaking of which. What are your thoughts towards the new Morbid Angel, ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’?

MC: I’d say they should have done it as a side project. The songs they had should have been on a separate album. Some of the songs were good, they sounded killer. If it were up to me I would have written those songs on a completely different album and put those more experimental songs on another album.  I think someone should have approached them and said “You guys should do a side project”, you know? I mean people waited almost 8 years for a Morbid Angel record and I can understand their disappointment. I heard those songs and was in shock.

I think people wanted something heavier, especially after waiting 8 years. They wanted the real Morbid Angel. I can understand why so many people feel disappointed.

MO: Who else would you say has influenced this album, musically?

MC: I’d say the whole era of death metal. Bands like Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Massacre, Death, Possessed, Dark Angel. That whole era of death metal. There is a lot of European bands in there too. Bands like Celtic Frost, Battery. I’d also say that Kreator were a huge influence along with Destruction. I really like all of it. I mean I like all forms of heavy metal, not just death metal. I enjoy a lot of  “regular” heavy metal as well, bands like; Angel Witch and Satan. I love all of it, man. Metal Church which isn’t really fast, but is still pretty cool. I love Mercyful Fate too.

MO: Are you at all worried what will become of heavy metal in the next couple of years when all these classic bands start to disappear?

MC: Not at all because heavy metal has a tendency to carry on whatever happens. I think Gene Simmon’s once said that “Heavy metal is like a car that’s made in Detroit. It will be here forever and never die”. [laugh] That’s a very good way of putting it and I believe it to be true. Heavy metal may change from time to time, but it refuses to die which is amazing.

To be honest, I actually enjoy the new wave of metal bands coming out. Bands like; Oceano, Whitechapel, The Acacia Strain and Gojira. I like it all. Some of the descriptions for these bands are a bit weird like mathcore and deathcore, but its all good. The producer on our new record, Zeuss. He’s actually worked with a lot of those bands and I love the fact that he’s worked with these bands. Because I wanted a similar heavy sound for ‘Enslaved’ and I got it with Zeuss.

The sound on ‘Enslaved’ is very modern. Its up to standards of what you’d hear from a solid band today, but with a lot of death metal influence.

MO: How were David Kinkade and Tony Campos introduced to Soulfly. Did you personally pick them?

MC: Yeah! Tony is a guy I was in contact with during a Static-X tour with Soulfly a couple of years ago. Tony use to come sing with us all the time doing back vocals and he is a really cool guy. I saw Tony perform with Prong and I knew he was playing with Ministry as well. I thought he’d be a great bass player to have on the record and I approached him and asked if he’d like to be apart of the new Soulfly line up and he loved the idea. From the beginning, he liked the idea of being in the band and accepted pretty much straight away.

David was a little different. David came in contact with me via e-mail. He said he was an extreme death metal drummer and played with a Norwegian black metal band called Borknagar. He sent me over some tracks and they sounded killer. Blast beats and stuff like that. At the time I thought I’d really like to try something really brutal for the new record. I originally had the idea to make an extreme kind of record, so I flew David to jam with me in Phoenix, Arizona. As soon as we started jamming we locked in perfectly. He played the double bass while I played a couple of the riffs and I thought we were on the same page. So perfect. You know!

MO: Would you describe ‘Enslaved’ as a concept album?

MC: Yeah! Its more a political album. Definitely. Its more to do with slavery which is a hardcore topic for a lot of people. It talks about old slavery from our past and also the new slavery which seems to be very hidden away these days. Its not as blatant as it was in the past, but its still there. Its definitely a political album.

MO: Soulfly’s previous albums have always held a certain spiritual theme to them. Are those spiritual themes still present on ‘Enslaved’?

MC: This time its more political. Soulfly has a tendency to go through phases and that’s what I like about the band. Through the early stages, like on our first few albums like ‘Soulfly I’ and ‘Primitive’. We had more of a spiritual vibe going on. Then with ‘3’ there was even more of that. ‘Prophecy’ came in and we decided to do things a little differently.

Then ‘Dark Age’ literally made things darker, heavier and more thrashier. From there you can see going into ‘Conquer’ and ‘Omen’ we went towards a more brutal sound. Then we reach our new record ‘Enslaved’ and its turned everything upside down by creating a more extreme and death metal sound. It seems to get heavier as each album comes out and I like that.

MO: Relating to so many political issues in your music. Would you ever consider going into politics yourself. Much like Randy Blythe from Lamb of God is currently doing?

MC: [laughs] Nah man! I hate politicians. I personally wouldn’t do that. I mean its cool to see other musicians doing that. I think Jello Biafra (The Dead Kennedy’s) did that a couple of years ago and was third in the running for Mayor in San Fransisco which was amazing to see. But no, not for me. I’m a metal head and music is my gig. I wouldn’t even think about the idea of me wearing a suit and tie and going to work with a bunch of stiffs. [laughs]

[Editors notes: Randy Blythe’s blog regarding his run for US presidency can be found here!]

MO: If you were to ever get into politics. You could essentially be the Manny Pacquiao of heavy metal.

MC: [laughs]

MO: Before we finish up. When can we expect Soulfly back in Australia?

MC: Hopefully when ‘Enslaved’ is released. I can’t wait to play all this new stuff live for our fans. Hopefully by the end of the year or perhaps next year we can arrange something. Maybe even the next Soundwave festival. I’ve heard that’s a really good festival.


Soulfly‘s forthcoming new album, ‘Enslaved’ will be available via Roadrunner Records March 9th,

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Anwar is the editor-in-chief of Metal When Anwar isn't busy promoting tours, interviewing bands and reviewing awesome music, he loves to collect metal vinyl and play video games. Follow Metal Obsession on Twitter and Facebook