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Livewire's One on One
Soulfly Publicity Photo

Interview with Soulfly's
Max Cavalero

Nov. 10, 2000

Max Finds His Soul

Max Cavalero has taken his punches.
From founding the seminal death metal band Sepultura, that influenced the likes of Metallica and Megadeath, to founding Soulfy, Cavalero has tasted the apple's rotten core only to be reborn.
Livewire's Phil Bonyata talked with Max.

Livewire: What makes Primitive and for that matter Soulfy standout fromthe rest of the metal bands today?

Max: We're not afraid to combine different elements with heavy music. Primitive, for me is a challenge album, we're challenging ourselves and the fans. The fans should be open minded because we can combine metal with many other things then in the past, like reggae, hardcore, punk rock - stuff like that. I love the diversity of it and I love going to different places throughout the whole record.

Livewire: With your inclusion of Brazilian beats, reggae, rap and electronic music on your new album is there a chance you will ever evolve out of your death metal or your hardcore roots?

Max: Well, I think I do it in a way where I don't need to get away from it, but at the same time I'm not trapped in it. That's what I like about Soulfly - the freedom to stay happy, stay aggressive and at the same time stay fresh and free, even melodic at some points. We're not afraid and we know we can take this music far and this is just the beginning. Primitive is just a taste of what's still to come for us and for the future.

Livewire: You found your new drummer, Chicago native Joe Nunez flipping burgers. How's he getting along and how did you find him?

Max: He's great he was referred by Dave Lombardo, that used to be in Slayer. They know each other and Dave knows my work with all the tribal stuff. He suggested that Joe Nunez would be perfect for the job because Joe can play all these different styles. We tried about 20 different drummers and in the end I really liked Joe. There was something about him personally and musically that I was attracted by and he's in the band for good. He's been in the band for a year now and has been great for Soulfly. He's not a rock star. He's a regular person like me and you. one of his qualities is he makes Soulfly real not like one of these rock star bands, but once he sits on the drum kit everything goes killer.

Livewire: How was it working with a non metalist like Sean Lennon?

Max: I've worked with non metal people in the past, I don't have a problem with that I actually find it to be very exciting. I worked with Carlinos Brown, he's a Brazilian artist who does a lot of fusion with percussion, on the Roots album. The difference with Sean is he really knows me and my work. He's been a fan of my work for a long time. For him it wasn't such a different world. People get surprised because they hear the names Sean and Max and people go 'whoa what the hell is that.' Me and him musically really click and I think the song itself shows it. I think, for me, it's one of the brightest things on the record. It's "Son Song" and it has a really cool magic to it.

Livewire: Many critics called your debut album "unfocused." Do you agree with them?

Max: No. I think critics are out to get me all the time because they can't f**king explain Max. They get pissed off because on each album we get bigger and bigger without losing integrity and that bugs them, you know. They got to try to find a way to piss me off. So, the first album they called unfocused and on Primitive they're criticizing because of all the guest musicians. I don't have time for critics. They just don't play part of my agenda. I play music for the fans and f**k the critics.

Livewire: What if a critic really loves your album? What do you feel about that?

Max: In the past I could have thought I could do something different and some constructive criticism can help, but once the person starts bullshittin' around, either loving you or hating you for no reason, then I kinda just ignore it. I mean if a guy is kissing your balls just to kiss your ass, just to say you're the greatest and this and that, but if you're sure he doesn't mean it, it's like bullshit too. I like real opinions made by real people.

Livewire: Do you mind talking about why you left Sepultura?

Max: Well the main reason was bullshit opinions inside the band. It wasn't clicking anymore and there were a lot of problems with personal differences, this and that. I got burned out of it. In order to make good music I need to be around positive people that want to make something out of life rather than bitch about this and bitch about that. In that stage in Sepultura everybody was fighting. I had to get out and find something else for my career and that's when I decided to make Soulfly. Something new from scratch where I had the time and just the right frame of mind to make music.

Livewire: How do hardcore Sepultura fans respond to Soulfy?

Max: I think it was a very natural thing when they heard my voice, my groove. There is a direct connection to what I was doing with Sepultura. For me it's bigger, better and more positive being in Soulfly. I think, every fan that has been a fan of mine the last couple of years really understand what I'm doing with Soulfly. It's a continuation of what I started with Sepultura.

Livewire: Your mother is a priestess of the Candomble. Were there any unique rituals and traditions that helped shape your music?

Max: Based on the old religion like orthodox which mix Bible and Christian things, but they also believe in the mysticism of the forest. If you understand religion - the orthodox, they believe God is in nature at the same time they believe in Jesus and the crucifixtion and this and that. So, my mom has a big understanding of that because she's a priest who can perform ceremonies and she can bless people. She taught me a lot about that, but religion is within yourself and only you can find it and only you can really give it to people. It's what she taught me about being spiritual. Spirituality is important in music. Music is a sort of spiritual device for me, it works as natural as writing a song.

Livewire: Does your religion and your rather graphic lyrics contradict each other?

Max: Not really. They go along very well. They make sense and very to the point. With my words I don't try to beat around the bush to, like confuse people. I'm very direct . I don't have a problem with that.

Livewire: You have been called the "Bob Marley of Metal" even going so far as having Marley's longtime designer, Neville Garrick, design the cover art for Primitive. Apparently you like the connection?

Max: Working with Neville Garrick was a great experience . I want to work with him more and more on the next albums. I think I'm very lucky to be able to do things like that. I mean, Neville did all the Bob Marley stuff until his last album and than for 20 years Neville didn't do an artwork until now, untilPrimitive. I feel kinda like glad I brought Neville back to the artwork world and he's very happy to be working again. I'm happy to work with a person I respect . Neville and Bob Marley were important people in music for me.

Livewire: What's your feelings on Napster?

Max: Well, I think it's a little bit weird, like I don't know much about it, but I know no one really gives you a free car or a free motorcycle or even a free dinner. Why should people get free music, free CDs from artists that work very, very hard?It just seems kind of unfair and there's something not quite right about it. There's a feeling like you're getting ripped off. So I think that the United States wasn't really prepared for the Internet. I mean not only the United States, but the world wasn't ready for the Internet. Now they're running to try to fix the damage that's been done.

Livewire: What artists today blow you away?

Max: I love Paul Simon. I'm a big Paul Simon fan from a long time. Yeah, I really dig his style. Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints are classic albums, I think. I really got connected to those albums because of Paul Simon's attitude of mixing ethnic world with American pop music . He does it in such a strong and powerful way that makes it real . He doesn't fake it. It's all about getting together with different cultures to make music. I dig that a lot.

Livewire: Anybody else?

Max: Ozzy. I like Ozzy a lot. I think he's a great entertainer.

Livewire: Are you guys coming to Milwaukee soon?

Max: Yeah, we're going out on tour with Pantera in the end of January, so hopefully it comes around your area.

Livewire: What was the strangest thing that happened on your recent stint headlining the second stage at Ozzfest?

Max: Um.. I think seeing all the people on the portable bathrooms, the portable toilets that was kind of cool. I've never seen anything like it before. Hundreds of people on top . I was expecting those things to like break with hundreds of people goin' down to the ground. I mean it was crazy. So many people wanted to see the show that they went everywhere like on top of trees and toilets. It was cool to see. Headlining the second stage was just awesome. I loved the fact that there were no seats . Just go out every day rock out and have fun.

Livewire: Are you ready for the main stage at Ozzfest next year?

Max: I would be prefer to be on the second stage to be honest with you. The second stage is more like Max Cavalero. The main stage, too me, is a little bit too organized with the seats and the whole thing. I like the chaos vibe. I like that it's crazy and out of control. You got nine mosh pits at the same time. I like that. If you offered me the main stage I would actually beg them to put me on the second stage.

More Soulfly
Live Review - Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL 2/12/02
Live Review - Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI 2/19/01


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