Soulfly’s Max Cavalera: “I’m not afraid to be fragile. Kind of like Che Guevara” – Q&A

Soulfly's Max Cavalera

Soulfly’s Max Cavalera

Soulfly‘s frontman Max Cavalera is one of the noisiest men on Earth, but he’s surprisingly soft-spoken when talking about Soulfly 3. Metal’s answer to world music, the album is more bloody roots, more Brazil – and it uses more instrumentation than the band’s previous work. But there is also silence – 9-11-2001 (One Minute Of Silence) speaks more than any other tear-jerking tribute.

musicOMH caught up with Cavalera for a chat about the World Cup, world music and the World…


musicOMH: Did you watch the World Cup final?
Max: I watched all the games that Brazil played.

musicOMH: You wanted to be a pro player. Do you still play?
Max: For fun, nothing professional. I can kick the ball. I have a big backyard. I play with my kids. But I kind of enjoy more watching than playing. Playing is really boring. I have all of Pelé’s games from the ’70s.

musicOMH: Would you have become a Pelé if you hadn’t become a rock star?
Max: I had the passion, the thrill. I don’t know how good I would’ve become, but it’s not really about how good. I think it’s about if you enjoy playing.

musicOMH: You’re the Pelé of the metal scene. Did you think you’d get to such a rank?
Max: Yes and no. I never expected to go this far, but I look at things like that and I think I took chances and I did things some people wouldn’t do, and I feel proud of it.

“It’s a little bit more mystic. It’s the trinity of the past, the present, the future…”
– Max waxing lyrical about the number 3

musicOMH: Like what?
Max: [Living with] the tribe in Brazil…those things were really unorthodox. Many musicians, I don’t think they were really up to that. It was a strange experience. Many times, it was rough ’cause you were in the middle of nowhere with these indigenous Indians. There was no shower; it was uncomfortable at times. But it was very cool for me, because, like, this is the roots that I can feel. So because I took those chances, I feel that a lot of these musicians and bands, they look up to me. I feel proud.

musicOMH: Is three a lucky number for you?
Max: It’s a little bit more mystic. It’s the trinity of the past, the present, the future. You can find many other things that combine… there was a ring to it. And the other reason was that I was delayed in finding a name![For] the next album, I have to think really hard to find a good name, because I won’t be able to get away with Soulfly 4!

musicOMH: It’s more melodic that what you’ve done before. Are you mellowing down?
Max: A little bit. See, I don’t need to be like some of those guys out there. They get a little older and they need to prove they’ve still got it, they’re still bad-ass. I feel like I want to be my own person, my own musician. So I go to tradition, and it is the stuff I listen to. I went to do things like Tree Of Pain and Soulfly 3… took it to a whole other place, which I’m not afraid to be – fragile, kind of like Che Guevara, you know?

musicOMH: There is a poignant story of shared pain in Tree Of Pain…
Max: It’s three people that share a tree and a similar pain, which is losing somebody close in their lives and talking about being afraid. It’s probably the most realistic topic I ever touched with other people.

musicOMH: There’s a cover of the Chico Science song Sangue de Bairro (Blood of the Bairro). Is that a true story?
Max: It’s a true story. He’s one of my favourite artists from Brazil. He wrote two albums, maybe the two most innovative albums in the last decade ofBrazilian music. I just thought that the way Chico did that song was really great. It was really, really delicate and exciting…and I think people like that I sing in Portuguese.

musicOMH: Are you spiritual?
Max: Yes, but once you admit that, some people have a different idea. It’s just like saying, “Are you only a rock ‘n’ roll player?” I really can’t explain, because I draw from many different parts of religion, not one itself.

musicOMH: Roy Mayorga’s back. Did his comeback affect this album?
Max: No, I always say I’m happy he’s back, but I’m the real fighter in this band. If all of them leave, I’ll find someone to keep the noise. I have this guitar, I think about my music no matter what. But I’m glad he’s back, because I like the way he plays.

musicOMH: What do you listen to nowadays?
Max: New stuff like Ill Nino, people from world music.

musicOMH: Do you ever intend to cover any Snot songs during alive show?
Max: I talk to Mikey (Mike Doling, Soulfly guitarist, formerly of Snot) all the time, but I think we need more time to practice, because it’s a different kind of music.

musicOMH: What name did you use to register in this hotel?
Max: I’m under Bernie Lomax. It’s a really cheap comic movie called ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ about this guy that dies and they drag him around. When they listen to music, he gets up and walks around. It’s a dark comedy, so I’m him!

musicOMH: I thought maybe Ronaldo…
Max: No, that would be too easy. My favourite one was Muhammad Ali. That was in our hotel in Germany. There’s a knock on the door and it was the manager of the hotel, and he’s like, “Mr Mohammad Ali is in this room?” And I go, “You’re talking to him.” I explained to the guy. [He was] really disappointed. I thought it was funny.

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Soulfly’s Max Cavalera: “I’m not afraid to be fragile. Kind of like Che Guevara” – Q&A