“Just follow your heart. Don’t give up, no matter how hard things get. I’m living proof of that. I came out of Brazil, which was really hard to do and we were the first Brazilian band to break through. I did that all with Sepultura and then I left Sepultura and had to start all over again. And I started with Soulfly and did it all over again. You just have to believe in yourself and just keep going man. That’s the secret.” -Max Cavalera
Embarking on the U.S. dates of their world tour, Max Cavalera and his band Cavalera Conspiracy cranked up their crushing live set as headliners on the bill at Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, Florida that featured OTEP, Earth Crisis and the local, swamp-metal madness of Parabellum.
A week before the show, Max Cavalera took a few minutes from the studio where he is recording his next album to answer a few questions about his art, spirituality, starting from scratch, being one of the baddest motherf*ckers on the planet and more.
***Max Cavalera Interview***
TCAS: On this tour, what song on your setlist gets you off the most?
MC: I love playing the first song of the night is Warlord, which is the first song of the new record. That’s f*cking great. I love how it starts and it just prepares the whole atmosphere for the whole night. You know, it’s juck f*cking…the way it comes in, Iggor’s drums behind and it comes with the double bass and it’s just awesome. It’s so heavy and brutal. It’s really catchy. You know you’re in for a good time, right when the drums kick in. So I love that one.
TCAS: I have to say, “Warlord” and “Killing Inside” are really awesome. What inspired your writing on this album?
MC: The inspiration was from everywhere. We wanted to make a more brutal record than the first one and I think Blunt Force Trauma, it is a bit more brutal and a bit more direct. That album is also shorter, which I love about the record because it’s like 30 minutes. So you can listen to it over and over and don’t get tired of it. It’s never long enough…so it’s really killer timing and the songs are about two to three minutes. The perfect thrash songs, but in terms of lyrics and inspiration was from everywhere. From history, like Genghis Khan and Rasputin in some of the songs. Some of the other ones were different things that I’ve seen like “Torture” is about torturing prisoners and things like that and “Warlord” is about (how) we use war to control the world and sh*t like that. So it was a bunch of different things.
TCAS: I was turned onto your music back in the early 90’s by a friend from Colombia…from Bogota and with all of the strife his country was going through, he could relate to your music. With this current political climate we have, is it inspiring you? How do you see this world as it is now? What’s going on?
MC: Good music comes out of f*cked up times. It happened in Vietnam. Then in England when punk came out. Had a lot to say. So I think it’s good to have something going on that you can write about. Right now there’s a lot of things to say. There’s a lot of wrong things going on in the world right now. So there is a lot to be said. I think it’s a good time to make musical statements that you can put your opinion on. Pretty powerful time to do it and with you music you can put in a really powerful way like I did with a lot of the Sepultura Chaos A.D. Perfect example. And with Nailbomb, it was a very punk rock, political point-blank kind of statement. So you can do that with music which is great.
TCAS: What do you do on your down time when you’re on tour? How do you unwind?
MC: A lot of the time, I watch movies. I like watching movies a lot or reading books. I try reading a lot of books. I just finished a Motorhead book. I read it. It was really cool and I read Ozzy’s book. I like that one too. I read a couple of Russian books about Rasputin. That was really cool. I like to watch a lot of movies. And when I go, depending on what town, I like to go walking around and check out the town and where we’re playing. So a lot of the times I go see what they have. I go downtown. Visit what they have. If they have a museum or something nice to visit, something good to see and maybe take pictures and sh*t like that.
TCAS: We’ve got some cool museums in Pensacola where you’re playing. Actually where you’re playing is right downtown. There is a lot of cool stuff down there, so I hope you have a good time here.
MC: Cool. That sounds awesome.
TCAS: As an artist, what has been the greatest moment of your career?
MC: You know it’s hard to pick one. There’s been a lot. (brief pause of recollection and Cavalera sounds in) I think one of my most proudest was the acceptance of Soulfly when I finally realized that Soulfly was accepted. That happened in Australia right after the release of the first record, we went down to Australia to play Big Day Out. There were thousands of people. It was with Marilyn Manson and Korn were on the bill. Soulfly played really early and I was really scared. Nobody is going to be here, nobody knows this new band, but I was totally wrong. People were there. It was massive. People were chanting Soulfly after the show was done. Which to me was like “Yeah. I made it. I finally made it through. To break from Sepultura which was really hard on me. And then when I realized that Soulfly was here to stay. It was really awesome, that was a great moment in my life.
TCAS: You’ve been through so much as a person, as an artist, spiritually. What advice would you give to an artist who wants to be where you are right now?
MC: Just follow your heart. Don’t give up, no matter how hard things get, there’s always a way out. I’m living proof of that. I came out of Brazil, which was really hard to do and we were the first Brazilian band to break through. I did that all with Sepultura and then I left Sepultura and had to start all over again. And I started with Soulfly and did it all over again. You just have to believe in yourself and just keep going man. That’s the secret. And love what you do, you know. Really, really enjoy what you’re writing about and your riffs. As far as technical goal, I like to say the more you prepare yourself, the better. The more you practice, the more you write riffs, the better. The more you play cover songs are great. I did that my whole life. I still do that. I still play other people’s music. It’s a great way to know how other people write their music. And you can analyze how they write and compare to the way you write and maybe learn from that and use it on your own band. It’s a great way to develop your skills.
TCAS: Could there be some covers or surprises for the Pensacola crew coming out?
MC: We might do the Black Flag one that we did on the newest record. It’s really great. We also did Black Sabbath, so it depends on how the mood is and depends on what Igor wants to play. We can always play that. We did “Electric Funeral”, we can also do “Symptom of the Universe.” First record we did “Possessed” The Exorcist. We haven’t really played that much live. We can always try, but I’m pretty sure that we are going to do the Black Flag one.
TCAS: I have to ask you this question. When local musician Joey Wilson found out that I was interviewing you, he told me to ask you this, “How does it feel to be one of the baddest motherf*ckers ever to live?”
MC: (Silence and with the most humble and reserved tone and response) It’s cool man. I mean, I just do what I do. I love what I do and my passion for music is beyond everything. It’s really what drives me. I think of most times how to make a better record. I’m always trying to be better live and make better tours and improve myself all the time. It’s never enough. It’s always more. I’m always searching for more and that keeps me busy, which is cool. And I don’t see the fact that, but it does pass fast. It’s been almost 30 years since I started, so I’ve been doing this for a long time. But I really enjoy it. I love being in the music, making music, creating music, playing live and bring that to the fans every night. That’s what I love the most about the whole thing.
TCAS: You’ve got a day off on Halloween. Do you have any plans for Halloween?
MC: Our grandson’s birthday is on Halloween so we’re hoping we can be home for that day. Yeah, because it’s his birthday and we really would like to get together with him and maybe have a little party and cake for him and stuff. That would be really cool. So hopefully we can make it work and come home for that. We’re on tour, so we got to see.
TCAS: A lot of your lyrics have a spiritual element. I’ve read interviews were you talk about embracing spirituality. There are a lot of bands, especially a lot of metal-labeled Christian bands out there. How do you feel about that whole, huge wave. When I grew up listening to metal, there was Stryper. And that was it. How do you feel about this whole labeling.
MC: It’s cool. I’m not myself. I don’t consider myself a Christian band. I’m not really trying to preach religion on anybody. That’s not what I’m here for. I think people have got to find religion on their own and if they get it, they get it. If they don’t, they don’t. That’s just how it is. My fans are from all different areas. Some of them even like inverted crosses and shit. I respect all of that. I’m just interested in music to play the music. But I myself, I am spiritual. I dedicate the album to God. It’s always been the Soulfly records; they’re all dedicated to God because I believe that there is a purpose that God has put me here for. But it’s a different God. You don’t have to go to church to find him. He’s everywhere, everything. Not the preaching and church God, really. And it’s more like a spiritual thing. I think there is a difference between religion and spirituality. Two different things and I am myself spiritual. I don’t consider myself religious, I consider myself more spiritual person.
TCAS: I went to a hardcore private Christian school and it really turned me off on organized religion. I definitely feel what you’re saying. Are there any plans for a third Cavalera Conspiracy album?
MC: Well I’m working on a Soulfly record right now. I’m actually in the studio. I recorded a song with Dash from Devildriver yesterday and it turned out really killer. It’s called “Redemption of Man by God.” It’s really, really heavy. I think the new Soulfly is really going to blow a lot of people away. A lot of really killer songs. Some of them actually long songs like 6 minutes and really full of parts. So I’m in the studio right now creating that. That’s going to come out next year and I probably will start working on a Cavalera album sometime in middle of next year. So we should have a new Cavalera album by the end of next year.
TCAS: Can you tell us if there are going to be any special guest artists.
MC: (chuckles) It’s too early now. I haven’t thought about it yet. I’ve got to think about that. On the new Soulfly there is one song with Dash from Devildriver and one song with Adam from Oceano. One of my favorite new bands of right now. And then Tony Campos in Asesino??? We sing one song in Portuguese and Spanish and it’s about Pablo Escobar the drug cartel leader guy that was killed. So it’s really cool. So they’re a lot of cool surprises on the new Soulfly album.
TCAS: You’ve worked with a ton of amazing artists. Are there any artists you haven’t worked with, but you would love to?
MC: I would really love to do a song with James Hetfield, would have been cool or Ozzy. Or even Phil Phil Anselmo from Pantera would be really cool. I love his voice and I like all the old Pantera stuff. Like some of the “Down” stuff. And I know all these guys personally. I met all of them. They’re really cool guys and so anything is possible. Let’s just see how it goes.
TCAS: I’d love to see that happen. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
MC: I think it came from a quote that I read and I put in a song called “Living Sacrifice.” And it was from a basketball coach, actually. And it’s a really killer quote. “Learn as if you’re going to live forever. Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.” And I really like that. I think it’s really cool. I try to apply that to my life. So learn as much as you can. Really enjoy life and everything that’s connected to it.
TCAS: My last question for you Max. It is a crazy one, but do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter.
MC: (Pause) Probably crunchy (chuckles)
TCAS: Crunchy Man!
MC: Yeah, crunchy, man. On my guitar sound too. Crunchy the best. The more crunchy, the better.
Check out Max Cavalera’s Top 5 albums of all-time.
Michael L. Smith
For additional photos from the Cavalera Conspiracy show, check out PNJ photographer Jody Link’s photo gallery.