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Interview With: Max Cavalera of Soulfly
Aggression, power and an uncompromising metal sound was the trademark that Max (born Massimiliano) Cavalera established with his former Brazilian hard-rock band, Sepultura. His departure from the band in 1996 came as a shock to many. Max has since returned with a new project, Soulfly. Despite some changes in the line-up, the past two years have brought sold-out performances worldwide, showcasing music that rivals the best of Sepultura. Max Cavalera likes to describe it as a fusion of metal and Brazilian sounds, and sees it as the forerunner of a new musical trend that will popularize a genre dubbed “world metal.”
NYROCK: You check into hotels under some strange names. For example, you are registered under Muhammad Ali…
MAX: Oh, ha ha ha. Well, you know how it is. Once you’re in the music biz and people know you, you get pestered all the time and I don’t think they’ll be looking for Muhammad Ali. Since you’ll probably mention it, we’ll have to think long and hard to find other aliases. Seriously, during the last tour a lot of kids showed up and just banged on our doors, that was a bit inconvenient. Not that I don’t like being in touch with the fans, but sometimes you do need a bit of privacy and time. A few times they chased me out of the shower and that wasn’t all that great. Imagine to stand dripping in the doorway, while a few kids fire questions at you and try to make you sign autographs. I was busy holding my towel in place.
NYROCK: But Muhammad Ali… Where did you get the idea?
MAX: Glory, my wife and manager had the idea. She said it would be much easier for us to use an alias, so we could at least have a bit of quiet. We all had to pick names and since I always wanted to be Muhammad Ali, I picked that one. The other guys got even weirder names, but I’m not going to tell you. It’s really funny when the switchboard calls up and tells you, “Mr. Ali, I havea call waiting for you.”
NYROCK: When you’re on tour, most of your support bands are unkown artists. Why is that?
MAX: There are a few explanations for it. I’m sure people who don’t like us would tell you that we’re afraid of the competition, but I can tell you we’re certainly not. In Germany, we have some local German bands as support, in England some English bands. We’re really trying to get local bands and give them a chance. I think small bands deserve a chance and I know how hard it is to fight your way up in the business. So why not give a local band a chance?
NYROCK: What strikes me as rather strange is that you were touring without a new album. All too often bands only tour to promote a new album.
MAX: Our new album will certainly take a bit of time. Not before fall 2000, but we released a digipack. So we didn’t go on tour completely empty handed. There are quite a few remixes of our debut on the album, some of them by Rootsmann, Junkie XL and Josh Abraham, the guy who produced Orgy. We wanted to get Asian Dub Foundation, but they were unavailable, but promised to be part of the next studio release. Even our drummer Roy remixed something and there are quite a few live tracks from the Rockslide festival on the album.
NYROCK: Did you perform new songs during the tour?
MAX: We didn’t, and we have a reason for it. The time just isn’t ripe for new songs. This is our second tour as Soulfly. If you look at the audience, they love some songs we didn’t play during our first tour, “Fire,” for example, seems to be a real favorite among the fans. Personally, I thinkthat our first album has so many different sides and vibes that are still not discovered.
NYROCK: Logan Mader left Soulfly…
MAX: Stop. That’s not correct. He didn’t leave. We asked him to leave. His ideas and visions were completely different from ours. I don’t know what happened, but the only way I can explain it is that when Logan left Machine Head, he wanted to have his own project, deep down inside he always wanted his own project and never really wanted to be part of a band.
NYROCK: Why did he join Soulfly then?
MAX: Because it was tempting. Because it was a brand new band. People would talk about us and about the band members. When we started he was very motivated but that changed really quick and became a major problem for the rest of us. If you’re with Soulfly, you have to give it 100% or nothing. I talked to him and told him that. We didn’t have a fight or anything. I just had a talk with him and the result of our conversation was that I advised him to try to follow his own plans and ideas, because that would be a lot better for all of us.
NYROCK: And Mike Doling (Snot) is his replacement?
MAX: Nobody knows. We don’t know if he wants to stay, if he wants to be part of Soulfly or if we’ll get along with him in the long run. So maybe we’re going to have to face the same problem again next year when we’re going to start our second album. I don’t want to confuse our fans. That’s why I always say that Mike is a friend who helps out. But we definitely want to have a steady line-up for the second album. That much is sure.
NYROCK: One of the reasons you left Sepultura was for a better atmosphere in a band. Did you achieve that goal?
MAX: Yes, absolutely. In case we have a problem we talk about it straight away and try to solve it as soon as possible. That’s one of the reasons why a couple of people won’t stay with us, because pretty soon we find out who’s right for Soulfly and who isn’t. We even had to let a few roadies go because they didn’t really believe in our concept and our ideals. They were not ready to give it all.
NYROCK: “To give it all” sounds pretty heavy…
MAX: I think we’re on our way somewhere. We’re building something. At the moment we sow, later on we can bring the harvest in. But anybody who wants to harvest has to make sacrifices and has to work hard for it, like playing in dingy little clubs and not having a lot of money. But that’s not what’s important. Anybody who wants to make a quick buck and who wants quick fame doesn’t have the patience to work toward our goal. I don’t mind. I’m not cross with them. That’s fine with me, but they have to accept that we go our separate ways.