Intervju med Max Cavalera.
Soulfly är aktuella med "Savages". Ett album med filmreferenser och ett tema som bygger löst på Max Cavaleras frus telefonkonversation med en väninna.
Max berättar att nya albumet är ett av de roligaste han spelat in och hyllar producenten Terry Date. Dessutom bjuder den brasilianske frontmannen på två låttitlar från hans kommande projekt tillsammans med Greg Puciato, Troy Sanders och Dave Elitch.
I read that the song title ”Ayatollah of rock ´n rolla” was taken from the movie “Road warrior”, but my initial thought was that it came from “Heartbreak Ridge”.
Max: Oh, they say it in that movie too?
Yes. Mario Van Peeples plays a soldier and he´s in a bar and starts singing that he´s the “Ayatollah of rock ´n rolla”. I had totally forgotten about that line in “Road warrior”.
Max: I don´t remember it from “Heartbreak Ridge”, so I have to go watch it now. I´m curious now. But I actually took it from “Road warrior”, when they´re in the desert and the outlaws are introducing the main guy in the gang and I just thought “That´s a fucking killer name for a song!”. I love the first and the second movie, but I thought the third one was shit. “Tina Turner? What the fuck, man? What´s Tina Turner doing in this shit? You´re ruining it! Thunder dome shit.”
Another song on the album is “Cannibal holocaust”. A well known movie and a lot of people initially thought it was a snuff movie. Have you seen it?
Max: I have and it´s killer! It´s really got a B-movie vibe. My wife´s got a big collection of B-movies. She´s got stuff like “Motel hell” and “I ate your brain”. All these gross and grotesque movies and sometimes we have B-movie night and just watch this kinda shit. One of the nights we were watching “Cannibal holocaust” and as I was watching it I thought “Hmm, there´s another good title for a song!”. (laughs)
Since there are these other movie connections, does the title of the album, “Savages”, have anything to do with the Oliver Stone movie of the same name from last year?
Max: No, I didn´t see that one. I was actually listening to my wife talking to somebody and she was talking about how we´ve progressed with technology, the internet and missions to Mars, but we´re still killing each other all over the world, so we´re still savages. I needed a topic for the record. On the last one it was slavery, so when I heard the conversation it was just like, “Can I borrow your topic? Can I borrow your conversation and make it the topic for the next record?”. Of course she said yes and I just thought it was a good topic. The first name I was thinking about for the title was “Savegery”, but then I thought that “Savages” was a lot more simple and powerful. Go for the minimalistic and most simple. It was the same words I used when I talked to the artist about the album cover. I told him I wanted to use the most clichéd metal symbol ever, which is the skull. The skull has been used on many records and I have one too, “Beneath the remains” (1989). This time I wanted it to be the whole thing, covering the whole cover and no room for anything else and I wanted him to go as minimalistic as he could. Just as raw as possible and make it like a real skull and not cartoonish. I wanted it to be looking at you and screaming at you when you look at it. That´s why he made it with the mouth open and the missing teeth and all that shit. It´s really cool. I used the same approach for the name of the album. The most simple name. It´s been used before, but I didn´t care. I stick to my guns and I still think it was the best topic and the best idea for this record and it´s working so far.
It is pretty fascinating with the stuff happening after all this time. Like the situation in Syria and the gassing.
Max: Exactly and that´s the whole point of it. After all this technology and Facebook and medicine and things we´ve achieved, we´re still killing each other in barbaric ways. It´s incredible.
And a lot of times this can be connected to religion, which really should stand for something good and comforting.
Max: Yeah. On “Savages” it´s more on the political side of things. Powerful dictators like Mussolini, Hitler and the most recent ones like Chavez and Bush and saying that even though they dress real nice in suits and ties, they´re responsible for more deaths than a lot of other people. They become the masters of savagery. They´re above the rest. There´s the savage that does the savagery and then there´s a master of the savages, controlling and sending people off to die. The things that Bush did were so illegal and so crazy and I can´t believe that people actually went along with it. When we got rid of him, it was such a good feeling. People were really thrilled and happy. Some of the work on the album is quite political. In “Bloodshed” I say the names of places that have had a whole lot of bloodshed, like Khyber Pass, Bosnia, Sarajevo, Brazil, of course, and South Africa. All these danger hot zones and I thought it was really cool. You can barely hear it because it´s really in the background, but if you listen to it with the lyrics and you read the names, you can hear me saying these names. It´s a very cool effect that we did. I worked with Terry (Date) quite a lot on this, trying to make it perfect. I think it could´ve been a little bit louder, but it was inflicting with the verse and Terry said that he thought the verse was more important than the background. It kinda works and I think if you have the lyrics you can make it out. It was a crazy idea that worked and I´m glad we were able to actually do it.
There´s a part in the song “Master of savagery” towards the end, where it calms down and there´s kind of a Nine Inch Nails feeling to it.
Max: All those effects were done in the studio with a guy called Sam. He´s an engineer and really good with Pro Tools and noises. He´s worked on computer games like Halo and stuff. I was just like “I have to use this guy! He´s incredible!” and it would be a waste not to use him. We thought about putting stuff towards the end of almost every song on the album. Almost every song has an outro and some are longer than the other ones, like the one you mentioned. It was really cool working with him. At the end of “Ayatollah of rock ´n rolla” we´ve actually got Tibetan monks playing these huge horns up in the mountains and we actually took that right off from YouTube and mixed it with some tribal drums from Africa, or something. Mixing those two, we created a whole original outro. There was a lot of cool stuff like that, just to make the record more exciting for people to listen to. Some people don´t care about that stuff, but for fanatics like me, that likes to listen to every little piece of the record, it works. It´s really cool to have those noises and weird sounding things between songs. I really like that kinda stuff.
Was there any song on the album that you felt was more difficult getting done, than the others?
Max: the song “Spiral” was kind of a drag. I couldn´t get the right chorus on it. I think “Spiral” and “Master of savagery” were the two songs that I struggled with. For the chorus on “Master of savagery”, I had a chant which was too much like Lard´s “Faith, hope and treachery”. I had the same kinda chant going “ something, something and savagery”. I recorded it and it sounded great and then my bass player (Tony Campos) comes and ruins it. He said “Hey man, I wanna show you something!” and pops out his iPod and starts playing the Lard song and I was like “Dude, you just ruined my party!” and he answered “Sorry man, but I just had to point that out. It´s too much like the Lard song and I think Jello Biafra´s gonna be pissed.”. (laughs) I went back and changed the chorus and it worked out in the end. I like what I did now and it´s cool. And I won´t piss of Jello Biafra. (laughs)
You´ve got your son Zyon on drums. Could you be as hard on him as with the others in the band or were you perhaps harder on him?
Max: Probably. He was stepping into big shoes and I had to make sure that he was gonna be as good as he can be for this kind of record. He was prepared and took it seriously and we jammed a lot at home. We prepared the backbone of the record at home and practiced the songs a thousand times before we came to the studio. He knew the all the songs really well, but he was a bit intimidated to be working with Terry Date, but the minute he met him they clicked and they started talking drums. We really tried to get the best take out of him on every song and he did great and I was really impressed with his playing. He completely blew me away in the studio, as a dad and as a musician. When I was working with Zyon, I wasn´t really being the dad. I was much more being the musician. To me, music is not about super professional playing, but more about the energy and the vibe. That´s more important than being super precise, so I think that because of that, Zyon had it a bit easier. I was not looking for a Neil Peart where there´s perfect drumming in every little second on the album. I was looking for the power and the energy and to make the songs as energetic as possible. He´s twenty years old and full of energy and we captured all that. That´s what I like about “Savages”, the high energy that the record has. It´s kinda raw apart from the great sound that Terry gave the album. I think it´s one of my favorite sounding records I´ve ever done. “Savages” gotta be my favorite sounding record ever. It´s just completely insane the way Terry makes this shit sound. I don´t know how he does it, but he does it and it´s mind blowing to hear the final thing. When I listen to it on a good stereo and put it on real loud, it just jumps at you. It was actually a really fun record to make and I definitely wanna work with Terry again.
Have you pushed your kids in any musical direction?
Max: They do all that themselves. I don´t get involved. They have a band and the only time I ever stepped in was in the early beginnings of the band and they were all out of tune. I made a kind of intervention, but it was for their own good. I said “You know guys, it sounds cool and all and playing out of tune is cool, but it really doesn´t sound good. If you guys tune everything, you´ll sound ten times better.”. I tuned all their instruments and they played the song again and went “Oh, this is so much cooler!”. I said “I told you. You have to trust me! I´ve been doing this for 30 years, so I know what I´m talking about.”. (laughs) They´re really cool and they mix like Nirvana with Pantera and they listen to all these cool bands like Sonic Youth and Fugazi and semi punk bands and they mix that with metal. Zyon is a real metal drummer and he actually plays a lot like his uncle. He hits hard and it´s very meaningful playing. He´s really cool to watch and he´s a very physical kind of drummer. Igor, the young one, actually got me into a lot of heavy stuff. A lot of times I´ll take them to school and he´ll pop into his iPod and he´ll play me stuff like Oceano, White Chapel and Black Tusk and all these cool bands. It´s cool that he knew of all those bands before I did.
The book then? You´re just two years older than me and I just feel that there´s so much time left for you to put out cool music and have more cool stories. What made you do this book now?
Max: Well, it was an idea that kinda came out of nowhere actually. I thought it was a good time for it because of what happened with the Rock and Roll hall of Fame. What happened was that the note book that I wrote Sepultura on for the first time, the school book, we actually donated it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and they displayed it together with Dimebag´s guitar and a bunch of stuff from other metal bands. I think that kinda led to the idea of now being a good time to do a book. I came all this way from being a kid in Brazil to be part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That´s a huge journey, but you´re right. There´s a lot more to be done and the story will continue for many more years, but we just felt that it would be good to tell the story right now and we had Joel McIver, who´s a really good writer. He approached us and offered to write the book for us and we saw what he´d done. I read parts of his Metallica book, the Randy Rhoads book and the Motörhead one and I really like how Joel writes. We started working on it and it´s out in Brazil, finally, and it will be out in the rest of the world in January 2014. It´s a very cool book with cool stories and a lot of great people involved. Dave Grohl wrote an amazing introduction. People in Brazil are really digging it. It was a good time for it now. I´m 44 and let´s just see what happens from now on.
Did you sit down with Joel or was it mostly done via phone or Skype?
Max: We did most of it over the phone, but I sat down with Joel twice. We were touring a lot, but he came to two of the shows and we sat down during the day and we talked a lot. But a lot of it was done by phone. It was like an hour and a half phone calls and three times a week. It was horrific and I did not look forward to them. It was like “Oh no, the phone call´s coming!” and I had to try and remember everything that happened during all these years. It was like therapy sessions.
Were there things he brought up that you had forgotten about?
Max: Yeah. He was trying to get as much as possible. We ended up forgetting a couple of things, which is really amazing to me. For example, Sepultura toured with The Ramones and that´s not in the book. Incredible that I left that I forgot about that. How could I? (laughs) It was just too many stories, too many things, but that´s why it´s so cool that Gloria (Max´s wife) has her blog www.gloriacavalera.com that tells all these other stories that are not in the book. The making of the book was a long, long process and I think it took about three years all together. Gloria found a lot of cool pictures. There´s pictures of my grandfather and pictures of my great grandmother, who was an Indian, so there´s a really cool picture of her. Then there´s pictures of us as kids in Brazil and my mom and my dad and our teenage years and Sepultura. You see the whole madness developing. It´s really cool.
Finally. This project you have together with Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Troy Sanders (Mastodon) and Dave Elitch (ex The Mars Volta), have you recorded everything?
Max: We´re still recording and we´re actually going to the studio right now. I have to finish two more guitars and we´re singing today, which is cool. All the drums are done, twelve songs. There are som great song titles like “Set fire to your flag” and “A throat full of broken glass” and some other crazy titles. I think it´s gonna be really, really cool. It´s really energetic and there are all these melodic parts that troy´s gonne be singing and bring that kinda Mastodon vibe to it. It´s exciting and it´s a combination of all the bands involved. A little bit of Dillinger, a little bit of Mastodon, a little bit of Soulfly and a little bit of Dave playing as in The Mars Volta. It doesn´t really sound like any of those bands but you can hear parts of them. A cool fact is that the three of us are gonna sing on every song and that´s gonna make the singing really exciting. It´s like a metal version of The Transplants. It´ll probably come out late next year, because “Savages” is just coming out and we´re gonna let it take its course and we´re gonna tour for a long time. After that we´ll probably release the project.
Are you doing a new Cavalera Conspiracy album before or after the project?
Max: After. Cavalera Conspiracy is taking quite a long break right now. It´s good though. That´s the way Cavalera is created, no stress. There´s no pressure and we can do it anytime we want. It´s Soulfly now and then the project and once that´s settled, we can work on the new cavalera Conspiracy album, which is probably gonna be towards the end of next year or beginning of the year 2015.
Why don´t you just call it The Project?
Max: Yeah, we don´t have a name yet, but that´s a possibility. We´re totally running out of ideas.
Who´s producing it?
Max: We have this guy Josh Wilbur. He produced Lamb of God´s last records and the last Gojira record. He´s a very cool guy and very young. He´s only like 35 and very energetic. He´s doing a great job so far and he´s been able to get a lot out from us and the music is really coming out great and powerful. I think it´s gonna be a great thing.