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Peaceful Anger: Soulfly's Max Cavalera Talks About Life, Loss, Music and Family

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Friday, September 1, 2006 @ 9:28 PM

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I recently spoke to Soulfly front man Max Cavalera about the special re-union that took place on August 17, in Tempe, Arizona, when his brother Igor joined him onstage to perform at the Soulfly concert that was held in memory of his stepson Dana Wells (D-Low). I discovered Cavalera is a real person, who shoots straight from the hip, and is very passionate about the way he combines all of his ethnic influences to create the very unique sound that is Soulfly. Cavalera lives and breathes hardcore metal and is truly one of metal's driving forces that has inspired an impressive fan base worldwide.

In this interview for KNAC.COM, Max Cavalera discusses the special re-union of the Cavalera brothers, the upcoming Soulfly ďThe Dark Ages TourĒ, the making of Dark Ages, and how the innovative singer is re-inventing metal.

KNAC.COM: Max, it is an honor to be talking with you. Let's discuss the recent re-union that took place on August 17. It must have been special to see your brother Igor jump on stage and perform with you.

CAVALERA: Yes, It was really special. Mainly because the whole thing had been ten years, the memorial for Dana, and it has been about the same years that I havenít played with Igor. I hadn't seen him in ten years...the same amount of time. It was really cool that he came here and spend some time with us, and we decided to jam two songs including, "Attitude" which was written about Dana on the "Roots" record, and he also played on the song "Roots Bloody Roots." It was just a really magical night.

KNAC.COM: I find it so inspiring how your family pulled together for you, for this special concert for D-Low. The concert featured many special guest stars showing their support and jamming with you onstage.

CAVALERA: At the Dana Memorial show, we always have a lot of people. Friends have been involved from the very first memorial to the recent show. It is a trademark. At this one Dave (Ellefson), the (former) bass player of Megedeth, who also worked with me on the last Soulfly record, so it was really cool, jammed with us. He was in town, and came over to play the song "Prophecy" for us and "Defeat U" which included another friend of ours, Danny (Marianinho) from the North Side Kings. He is known, as the guy that punched (Glenn) Danzig. I am a friend of his, from a long time. He is from the hardcore scene. I like a lot of hardcore too. We have been friends for more than ten years. Roy Mayorga, who is currently out playing with Stone Sour, as the drummer and played on one song. It was like a big jam session.

KNAC.COM: How does the D-Low Memorial concert compare to a regular Soulfly concert?

CAVALERA: We just did three months of touring in Europe and all the Festivals. Those shows were a typical Soulfly show with line-up Bobby (Burns), Joe (Nunez), Mark Rizzo, and I. For the D-Low Memorial show, having all these special guests and Igor there, I heard people saying the drums sounded tender and shit like that. It is true; Igor has a way of playing like nobody else. It was so powerful and tender, when he stepped on the drums with attitude. You can sense on the first notes of "Attitude", the whole place was getting goose bumps and shit, it was really awesome.

KNAC.COM: The audience must have been really blown away by the performance. Describe the audience's reaction when Igor took the stage.

CAVALERA: They were tripping. I could see some of the faces in the front. People were really tripping. I didn't know it was going to happen till a couple of days before. I was in Europe. I talked on the phone to Igor, and he said I am coming man. I have heard things before, I never believed it. He really came. From the minute he stepped on the stage, people knew him. Igor came in on the drum jam, which is always with different people. I normally do the drums with friends on the drum jam with Soulfly. It is one of my favorite parts of the show, when I pull someone from the crowd to do the drums with me. Igor came out on that part. And stepped onstage. He stood on the stage, and jumped behind the drum kit, then we played "Attitude." So it was really cool the way he was introduced too. That was my own idea...(he) just came into the drum jam, like with everybody else and stayed in and played the song. He liked that idea...it was really cool.

KNAC.COM: What do you think about the chances of this ever happening on the upcoming Soulfy tour, which is slated to begin on September 18?

CAVALERA: You never know. We have two tours coming up. We have the U.S. Dark Ages Tour, and then we go to Australia with Megedeth. It could happen. Music is like this different world with things happening and changes. You get disappointed and you get surprises. You hit lows and highs. It is a crazy lifestyle. (Laughter) One thing I learned about music: one minute it is extremely happy and then, (the) next minute you are extremely pissed off.

KNAC.COM: I think you managed to capture the highs and lows, and the dark side and spiritual side on your latest album, "Dark Ages." It is dark; it is peaceful. Your different approach and ethnic inspirations are really showcased. I know this album was written in a very dark period of your life.

CAVALERA: "Dark Ages" is a weird record. It is now growing on me. I didn't understand the record when it was done. It took me to go play this thing live to actually understand what kind of thing I really made. It was made in a strange period. There was a lot of personal tragic loss. It was a very angry record. One part is a very angry record, the other side of it is positive. But it is a different positive side. I even made some interviews in the beginning, in which I completely apologize for, when I said I don't like this album much. I was wrong. I really like the record a lot now, especially the heavy side.

KNAC.COM: Let's discuss the personal tragedy that occurred in your life during the making of "Dark Ages." You just loss your grandson Moses, and your friend Dimebag Darrell Abbott. What effect did these personal tragedies have on the making of "Dark Ages?"

CAVALERA: Those two events were in the middle of the recording in December. We really kind of went through to the heart of the album. The album was called "Dark Ages" from the beginning. It was scarier when this happened, because it was a confirmation of the album's title. This was definitely Soulfly's darkest album. It also made it more real too. To me I don't like to bullshit with music. It made it more real. I am this kind of guy; I like to throw myself right in the middle of the whole chaos. My wife said, "Why would you go touring to these places?" I have no reason...I just like the adrenalin. I have a side of me that likes to go the wild side.

KNAC.COM: What was it like touring Russia?

CAVALERA: It was kind of like the world music thing. It was cool, because I was talking to different musicians that I know-nothing about. They don't speak English. We just communicated through music. Knowing the only thing that they knew about me when they said they remembered me coming here with my old band Sepultura. These musicians didn't know anything about metal rock. I would put "Dark Ages" on. They really were getting into the songs, putting different parts here and there. On the Soulfly DVD, my favorite part is actually the recording part. I am working with this professor of music, and they catch that on video, and also with some gypsies and shit. It is so not typical. It is so off the wall, of anything that is in rock music today.

KNAC.COM: I think that is what draws the fans to your music. The impact that you have achieved with the different ethnic backgrounds that have inspired your music. How do U.S. audiences differ from European audiences?

CAVALERA: I don't think that they are that different. The only difference from the last tour is that we did more festivals. We havenít really done many festivals in the U.S. We did a couple of Ozzfest earlier. We kind of just been headlining in the U.S. The passion and fan base are strong everywhere. That is the thing that I really love about Soulfly's band is the Max fans and Sepultura fans is that the fans is that they vary and range from a very young to age 60. They could be my grandfather and they know all the songs.

KNAC.COM: Would you say that the Internet plays a major role in introducing the younger fans to Soulfly?

CAVALERA: Definitely. For sure. Our website has introduced new fans to the band. They get so man people there. It is really great. When I go on tour, I meet really awesome hardcore fans. In Europe, we play bigger places, but to me it is not really about that, it is about the kind of fan that you have. I have some amazing fans in the States. They are more hardcore than most places. I have met guys with their body covered in Soulfly tattoos. That is so insane; I know how much that shit hurts. That is really cool. I like to tour in the U.S. I am very excited about the next tour.

KNAC.COM: What can the fans expect to see on your upcoming U.S. tour?

CAVALERA: The set list is really exciting and mixed with kind of everything. We toured extensively the last three months in Europe, which made us so sharp and we went on to practice so many new songs that we normally do not do. We are playing a lot of shit from "Dark Ages", which is really cool because a lot of bands some times go out and only play one new song. They play all of their hits. I know there is the classic stuff that people want to hear, like "Tribe" and "Primitive." I like to play a shitload of stuff from "Dark Ages." More than half of the new record. We do some cover songs too...we try everything. We get so bored on the road. We were doing Celtic Frost cover songs, Bad Brains, Prodigy, even Jimi Hendrix. bWe were doing crazy Jimi Hendrix jams. Marc Rizzo is an amazing guitar player. He loves to throw different stuff in-between jams like Jimi Hendrix riffs and Van Halen. He is a great part of Soulfly now. I get along great with Marc. He is a great person to have in the band.

KNAC.COM: What do enjoy most about being in Soulfy and how does it differ from being in Sepultura?

CAVALERA: I like both. It is different. Soulfly is really free and open. We manage to go from hardcore parts to really melodic beats. Playing metal festivals with all of the different hardcore bands, you get Soulfly in the middle of metal these bands, we play our shit, and people love it. We get so much respect from these bands and all of the different bills at the festivals. I am excited about working on some new material.

KNAC.COM: Do you think Soulfly will release a new album next year?

CAVALERA: I hope so. I would like to do a continuation of the DVD. The first DVD was really cool, the way it was done. I like how it is put together. There is so much more material that I would like to show people. Some of the things that we did throughout our career. Different places like we visited: Kosovo and Africa. Also, playing the Marine bases in Camp Lejeune (North Carolina). It was an unbelievable experience. Our drum riser was a tank. We were talking to all the marines going to Iraq. That was amazing. A couple of hundred of Marines saw our show, and we got a metal for Soulfly, and I said this is cooler that any gold album I ever got. It was harder to get something like that, a gold album was easier. One marine said, "Soufly should play over there; your music would take care of all of the problems because your music would really charge them up."

KNAC.COM: Your son Ritchie sang on the Dark Ages track "Stay Strong". What was that like?

CAVALERA: I don't really change the approach of working with him or working Corey from Slipnot. I just said, "Man do your thing. I am not going to baby-sit you, here is your mic and just fuckin do it." I am kind of hardcore like that. I don't like reality shows. But if there were one, it would be cool to see how we work. It would be funny. I am not like the Dad, I just say c'mon man do your thing. He is the same way. He has been on tour with us in Europe. My proudest moment was in Czech Republic. He jumped from the cabinets and cut his knee open, I was so proud of that. My wife said, You are insane! Most Dadsí would be worried. You are proud, you are smiling!" I said this is his first battle scar. I am proud. I was worried he cut his knee. We ended up in the emergency room after the show. He comes out with stitches. I said welcome to the club. You better get use to that kind of stuff. Back in Sepultura days, I spent three days in a Poland hospital. I had stomach ulcer cancer type thing. So you get used to that kind of shit. That is going to happen more and more. You have to roll with it. To me that was kind of a ritual rite for my son and introduction into this business.

KNAC.COM: What about your side project Nail Bomb? Are you still working with that?

CAVALERA: We kind of finished that. I get asked a lot about that. The temptation has been there. But I don't want to do it. It is better to leave it like that.

KNAC.COM: Is there anything else that you would like to say to your fans at KNAC.COM about the upcoming Soulfly tour?

CAVALERA: I am looking forward to the tour. It has been too long. We just spent three months in Europe. My fans in Brazil want to kill me right now. I havenít played there since 2000. I am committed to give the fans the best fuckin' show ever on this tour. Regardless of how many people come to the show. If there is 10 or 10 million, I will go out there and do my thing. They are our fans. We are ready to play, I am very excited.

KNAC.COM: One last question Max. How did you feel about Brazil's performance in the World Cup?

CAVALERA: It sucked. I didn't watch it, because they didn't have satellite in Europe. So I actually missed all of the games. I only got to talk with people, and they are telling me shit about Brazil cheating against Ghana. I am so ashamed. They had to cheat against an African country. You guys deserve a beating. That is ridiculous. It sucked, but I am half Italian, so I am happy for my Dad. My Dad passed away in 1979, he was Italian. So I was happy that they won. I was celebrating somehow for him. I loved my Dad. I knew, if he were alive he would be tripping that Italy won a World Cup. That was cool. I got to meet the goalkeeper of U.S. He is a big Soulfly fan; Kasey Keller. Right before the World Cup started, Kasey came to our show in Belgium. It was very cool to meet some players who like this kind of music. It is cool that people from other jobs like our music. I said let him sit behind the scene backstage and see all the crazy stuff that goes on with the roadies.

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