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Max Cavalera | Interview

It’s a World Cup Brasil Special 😉 – Mega metal veteran Max Cavalera tells MI he’s into Psycroptic, thought he’d be dead at 25 and why drumming with his son is cool

Soulfly have a reputation as one of nu-metal’s biggest names.

But in fact, they haven’t sounded like a nu-metal band for quite some time. Their last few records have been heavy, death metal influenced numbers that major on speed rather than groove.

As the band prepare to hit Belfast and Dublin this week, we got five minutes to chew the fat with mega-metal veteran Max Cavalera – and found a dude who says he’s still wedded to the underground.


Having not heard you in years, I was pleasantly surprised at how good ‘Savages’ was. It confounded my expectations of what Soulfly was – and it certainly had more straight out metal in it than I expected.

Thanks. It’s a continuation from where ‘Enslaved’ left off. Once again we had some great collaborations on it – we had Neil from Clutch, Mitch from Napalm Death, of course my son Zyon playing drums. As well as that the album was produced by Terry Date who’s just a master of producing, so it was a really exciting record to make and I’m really pleased with the result. We have a few Savages songs on the setlist. I consider it to be a very successful Soulfly record.

You’ve changed quite considerably over the last 15 years. You started out very much with the ‘Roots’ kind of sound, but over ‘Omen’ and ‘Enslaved’ it’s gotten harder and moved away from the bouncy nu-metal of the beginning.

Well… I love the underground and I love playing small clubs. 200 people, everybody sweating, its all close… to me that’s the real thing an nobody can touch that. Big shows are great, arena shows are great, but where the spirit of metal is is really in the club shows.

‘Enslaved’ was very heavy, very brutal. And those places are perfect for that, because the crowds go insane. They lose their minds when we play ‘World Scum’ or ‘Gladiator’, it’s a great feeling.

You know, in the beginning we were linked with the Nu metal scene, but I never really liked that. I’m not a hip hop guy, I never liked hip hop. Metal is my first love since I was a teenager.

Through the years of Soulfly we realized that we weren’t nu-metal, that we didn’t fit in with Linkin Park and all that. That we really fit in more with the heavy stuff. Like with Behemoth and all those other bands that I love.

I listen to a lot of new bands, Acacia Strain, Man Must Die, Psycroptic, Noisem, Full Of Hell, and I get a lot of inspiration from them and I put all that into the music. So Soulfly is always inspired be that, and its great because so many of those bands were inspired by Sepultura. I like to stay in contact with the underground, I mean I even sing on the new Man Must Die album because I love those guys. For me it’s where I belong.

Yeah, listening to ‘World Scum’ off the ‘Enslaved’ album the first thing that comes to mind is Morbid Angel more than anything.

Yeah, I was listening to a lot of Morbid Angel, Death, Massacre old school death metal when writing that album. Then newer stuff like Nails, Whitechapel that I like a lot. So it was a very death metal inspired phase.

And we had the drummer from Borknagar join us then – he could play a lot of blastbeats, doublebass, so we took advantage of that. ‘World Scum’ is one of my favourite songs I’ve ever done in my whole life. I love the power of it.

People just remember the groove and bounce of the first Soulfly albums, but you’re really not doing so much of that now.

Yeah, stuff like ‘Dark Ages’, it’s a full on thrash album. ‘Blood Fire War Hate’ with David Vincent, that’s another example. Then again ‘Bloodshed’ is a song that’s very tribal, very groovy, so of course we do go back to that feel.

Photo published on Gloria Cavalera’s blog –

Your son Zyon’s heartbeat was the sample that opened ‘Chaos A.D.’ – now he’s drumming in your band. How weird is that?

It’s great. He has a young man’s energy and he keeps old dogs like us in shape, haha! He has a lot of energy. He’s adapting a lot to play with us, and I love having him on stage. Tomorrow is a great day actually, because we’re playing with Black Sabbath and that’s his favourite band, so he’s very excited.

Tell me you’re doing the ‘Symptom Of The Universe’ cover!

We haven’t sorted the setlist out, but hopefully we can do that. My brother will be there as well actually, and I think we’re going to jam.

Talking about old dogs, when you think back to Schizophrenia, Morbid Visions, Arise – did you ever think you’d still be making heavy metal albums nearly 30 years later?

You don’t really think about that stuff when you’re young, you know? I actually didn’t really think I was going to make it past 25, I thought I was going to die by then.

But it didn’t happen. Im surprised I didn’t die, but life goes on. From this point on you just got to keep on going, because its what you love.

I live for music now and I’m lucky I don’t have to have a job. I still enjoy going on stage, Im not like those people that get old and don’t like it anymore, doing it cause they have to. That never happened to me.

Why didn’t you think you’d make it past 25?

I had a wild lifestyle, a lot of drinking. Drugs. You know, just being wild. I was really wild in the Sepultura years, and my brother actually took care of me because he didn’t drink, and he was like… the level headed guy trying to keep an eye on me, making sure I was ok. I’ve been close to death a couple of times in my life.

After you pass that and survive that, you get wise, which is good. I wised up, stopped drinking and doing drugs, and now I live for music. In the Sepultura days my priority was drinking. It was drink first, music second. But that’s changed nowadays. It was a bit of a waste of time actually, getting drunk and the same shit every night. It gets old after a while, and I don’t miss it.

I mean it was fun, I did a lot of crazy shit, but its not something you really miss. I put my family through a lot of hell, and its good to be normal now. I save the wild stuff for the live show.

How do you feel when you see a bunch of guys of a certain age with the Sepultura ‘S’ tattooed on them?

Im proud, man. A tattoo hurts, you know, it hurts like hell, so it’s a lot of commitment. I’ve see a lot of not only Sepultura tattoos but also Soulfly tattoos as well, that symbol is very popular among the fans and a lot of people have that. So it makes me very proud that people put that on their skin as a show of appreciation for the music. It’s quite amazing actually.

Earl Grey ::: 08/07/14
Soulfly play Limelight 2, Belfast on Jul 10 and Whelans, Dublin on July 11.

  1. Cool little interview

  2. Good interview, and nice to see considering some of the flak Soulfly get on here….regardless of what people think of his music or live shows nowadays, he does seem like a decent, down to earth guy who is still very much loving metal and the scene in general.

  3. connorputrefy Says:

    Good read. I dont really rock the Soulfly stuff. Hes still capable of a good riff like, but live footage ive seen tells me his voice is shot and his guitar playin live is non existent.Though i do like Roots and all that came before. Ive alotta respect for ol max, hes a big influence from younger days. Having heard the MMD track, i thought it was very cool. Im sure MMD were super stoked. Do you reckon Max had a fee to appear on the MMD track or was he really a fan? i wonder ….

  4. connorputrefy Says:

    hahahah and ive tribal “s” on my chest, it was my first tattoo 🙂

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