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Soulfly’s Max Cavalera on Siberia, Jeffrey Dahmer, Bad Hygiene, and Sepultura

Groove-metallers Soulfly, led by Cavalera Conspiracy and former Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera, are currently on a North American tour, supporting their seventh full-length, Omen (Roadrunner). The fact that they started the tour immediately after a grueling trek through some of Europe’s coldest locales doesn’t even faze the singer. “We’re looking forward to being back in America, playing,” he says. “I haven’t played here in a while.” It’s this sort of positive outlook and steadfast determination that helped him break out of his native Brazil to become an international metal legend. Here, he fills us in on his past, present, and future.

REVOLVER Soulfly just finished a European tour. How did that go?
MAX CAVALERA It was really cool, especially in Russia. Soulfly was the first international band to do a Siberian tour. Those fans are awesome. At one show, 20 minutes after we had finished our set, the audience was chanting “Soulfly,” and wouldn’t stop. So I went back and played two more songs. For a lot of them, it was the first show they were seeing. I think they saw Nazareth, like, 10 years ago. But they don’t have any international shows. So they were super excited.

Your new album, Omen, features some cool guests, like Greg Puciato from the Dillinger Escape Plan and Tommy Victor from Prong, which seems to be a Soulfly tradition. Why do you like working with guest musicians?

I really like what you get from different musicians. One of my favorite memories of working with a guest was when I did “Jumpdafuckup” [off Soulfly’s 2000 album, Primitive] with Corey [Taylor from Slipknot]. He was playing in Phoenix that day. I showed up at their sound check, and I kidnapped him. Pretty much just took him hostage, like, “Get in the car, we have to go to the studio and record right now.” Then for four or five hours, we fucked around with the song and it was finally done. After that, I went to the show. For me, that was a killer day in my life. Recording in the day, watching Slipknot at night.

Omen has a song about Jeffrey Dahmer on it. Why did you want to write about him?

I’ve actually had that idea for a long time. When I was in Sepultura, I always wanted to write a song about a serial killer. At the time, it was going to be Charles Manson. When I started working on this Soulfly album, I had that idea again. I thought of Charles Manson, but then I thought, Now we have Jeffrey Dahmer, too, which is much more sick because he was a cannibal. The I recorded the bits of Jeffrey Dahmer through the TV when they interviewed him. It was a really cool interview where he doesn’t blame his parents at all, and he says he killed just because he wanted to. It was just an urge that he had. He wasn’t abused at home, like most of the other serial killers blame it on their families. I also remembered when Sepultura played the Milwaukee Metalfest the week that Jeffery Dahmer got arrested. Igor [Cavalera, drums] showed me a receipt that he got from a fan that was from Sears for a fridge, and it was signed by Jeffrey Dahmer.

A few years ago, you reunited with Igor to form the Cavalera Conspiracy. You two have a new album, Blunt Force Trauma, coming out in March. Is it as straightforward as the last album?

Yeah, it’s even more. Marc [Rizzo, guitar] was saying, “Some of this shit sounds like Cannibal Corpse.” Igor’s playing really good. His playing reminds me of when he was in Sepultura, top form. Like in Arise or Beneath the Remains, and he was going super fast and just killer energy from the drums. We wanted to make shorter songs, so a lot of the songs are a-minute-and-a-half or two-minutes long and kind of feel like “Raining Blood” a little bit when you listen to them, which is also different for us. We had one guest song with Roger [Miret] from Agnostic Front. He sings in a song called “Lynch Mob.” I think he’s probably my favorite vocalist out of the whole New York hardcore era.

Since we’re talking about Sepultura, what influenced the beginning of that band?
There was a band in Brazil that made us really want to get serious about starting a band. They were called Dorsal Atlântica and they were like the Brazilian Venom. Really heavy, super Satanic, painted faces, inverted crosses in their forehead and shit. Just crazy shit live. And we were like, “Dude, we’ve got to get like those guys. Those guys are brutal.” That was one of the inspirations that made me go, “If they are Brazilian and they are doing it, then we can do it.”

What was the local scene like when you were starting?
We’d hang out at a record store run by our first label, Cogumelo Records. It was just a bunch of us in front of the store with leather jackets and ripped jeans, with other people going to work looking at us like, “Look at these bums. They don’t do nothing all day long. They just stand here looking at each other.” We just spent the time drinking beer and annoying the people on the street and getting into trouble. Just regular teenager shit.

Sepultura in their current lineup recently announced they’d be playing the album Arise in its entirety. But weren’t you the primary writer for Sepultura around then?
At home I did the same style of writing I do with Soulfly. I give credit to the guys. Igor came up with a lot of the original beats, like to “Territory.” As we got better, he played better. The only musician that didn’t improve much at the time was Paulo [Jr., bass]. I think the first album he recorded for was Roots. Everything else was me and Andreas [Kisser, guitar] doing the bass because he couldn’t really play that good. But we were friends, so we were like, “Yeah you can stay in the band, we won’t kick you out. When we play, we’ll just turn you really down so nobody hears.”

Aside from your interpersonal band struggles, coming from Brazil, was it tougher to break internationally?
It was a little slower process. It started in Europe. Sepultura’s first tour of Europe was in 1989. We opened for Sodom and we eventually got a better reaction than them. Their tour manager got pissed off and started fucking around with us a little bit, like cutting our sound and our lights. He was a German guy, and I noticed he was really clean, like he took three baths a day. So I decided I was going to fuck with this guy, so I decided not to shower for the rest of the tour. I became the stinky person on the bus, and it drove the guy nuts. He was like, “I want to kill the fucking singer of Sepultura. He’s got to take a shower or I’m going to kick them off the tour."

Cody Thomas

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