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Max Cavalera has many irons on the proverbial fire. The co-founder of Brazilian thrash masters Sepultura currently has three active bands — Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy and Killer Be Killed — none of which can tour due to COVID-19 restrictions. But that hasn't stopped him from working on new Soulfly material with his son Zyon and appearing on Facebook Live a couple of times a week for what he's calling Max Trax. "Basically, I go on there every Tuesday and Saturday and go through different songs I wrote throughout my career," he tells Revolver. "I pick the song about two days before, and I tell stories about the songs and show people the riff. It's nothing fancy — my wife shoots it on her cell phone, and it's just me in my living room. I wanted it to look kind of raw, because that's how those songs were written."
In fact, Cavalera is sitting in that very living room — in Phoenix, Arizona — on the day we speak with him. The always-gregarious musician is in an especially good mood today. For one, it's his brother and bandmate Igor's 50th birthday, and he's planning to celebrate by doing a Max Trax on Sepultura's 1993 classic "Territory" — for which Igor wrote the dizzying drum intro — in his honor. But he's also gearing up for the release of Reluctant Hero, the second album from supergroup Killer Be Killed, the band shares with Mastodon bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, Converge/Mutoid Man/All Pigs Must Die drummer Ben Koller and former Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato. "I'm really excited for this record," he says. "I think a lot of people are gonna like it."
RELUCTANT HERO SEEMS LIKE A BIG STEP FORWARD FOR KILLER BE KILLED. DOES IT FEEL THAT WAY TO YOU?
MAX CAVALERA Everybody got more involved. It felt more like a real group, especially with Ben on drums. He already went to Australia with us, so he was pretty connected. With the first record [2014's Killer Be Killed], me and Greg had about half of it done and then Troy came in with some songs. But this one was all of us from the get-go, and we did a bunch of rehearsals — we've been jamming for the last two years, on and off. They'd come here to Phoenix and jam. We've been gathering riffs and song ideas. But I agree with you — the first one was really exciting, but I think this one tops that. I hope people feel the same way.
YOU'VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS ALBUM FOR SIX YEARS, BUT YOU SUCCESSFULLY KEPT IT A SECRET. HOW DID YOU MANAGE THAT? NO ONE CAN KEEP A SECRET FOR THAT LONG IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE.
I know! Especially me — I'm a big mouth. [Laughs] I get in trouble all the time about shit that I'm not supposed to say. But we had a little meeting with the label and they were like, "Max, do you think you can keep a lid on it?" And I said, "I'll try, but I don't promise!" But it was killing me because I wanted to tell people. On the flipside, it's really cool because now it seems like the whole thing exploded out of nowhere.
THE OTHER GUYS TOLD ME THAT WHEN YOU WERE TRACKING DEMOS OUT AT YOUR PLACE IN PHOENIX, YOU USED THE SAME DRUM MACHINE FROM YOUR SEPULTURA DAYS.
Yeah, everything was pretty much done with that. The first demos that me and Greg did back in 2013 was done on that. I'm kinda caveman when it comes to that. I'm not good at updating gear. People tell me all the time, "Just get a computer — you can do everything!" But I have a system, and it works. But yeah, the drum machine is super old. I bought that during the Arise tour, and it still works. Same thing with the 12-track recorder I have.
WHAT WAS THE WRITING PROCESS LIKE?
We went through all my riffs, and Greg had a bunch of cool-ass riffs. I love the riffs he has on "Comfort From Nothing" — they sound like old Entombed. They remind me of Wolverine Blues or some shit. It's awesome. Even his guitar tone is kinda like a heavy-metal tube guitar tone, so together with my guitar it sounds killer. And he's doing leads on this album, which is incredible. He killed it, man. He's turned out to be a really good guitar player.
And then Troy's voice is killing on this record, man. He totally blew me away, especially when we did "Deconstructing Self-Destruction" and he sings on that chugging riff. That's an old-ass riff — it's probably from 2001 or something like that. "Animus" is a cool one, too — it's just a steamroller, one-minute blast, like Extreme Noise Terror. I was talking with Ben and we said we had to do something old-school like that, so we did that song in about half an hour. I love what Ben does in All Pigs Must Die and of course Converge, so I knew he would be perfect for something like that.
THESE SONGS HAVE ALL THREE OF YOU SINGING ON THEM, ALMOST LIKE A HIP-HOP TRACK WITH GUEST RAPPERS. WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SHARING FRONTMAN DUTIES?
I think that's one of the coolest things about this project. It's funny you mention hip-hop, because I was watching this Wu-Tang documentary and they were talking about how there were so many of them in the studio, so they'd try to battle each other in the vocal booth. I think it's a bit similar to what we do. Greg will go in and kill it, and then Troy will go in and kill it, and then it'll be my turn. Like on "Inner Calm From Outer Storms," they were laughing like, "We put all the pretty parts down and Max comes in with the fucking tank and just runs over everything!" So it's a bit like a friendly competition, and we let each other know when we do a sick thing. It's a really cool process, man. It's really fun, really enjoyable.
ALL FOUR OF YOU GUYS HAVE TALKED ABOUT HOW MUCH FUN YOU HAD MAKING THIS RECORD, AND IT REALLY COMES ACROSS. WHEN YOU HAVE THREE STRONG FRONTMEN IN A BAND, IT COULD EASILY BE A SITUATION WHERE EVERYBODY IS STEPPING ON EACH OTHER'S TOES, OR EVERYONE WANTS TO DEFER TO THE OTHER GUYS AND THEN IT ENDS UP BEING DIRECTIONLESS. BUT YOU GUYS HAVE REALLY FOUND THE BALANCE.
I think so. And one thing that Greg mentioned is that he felt like he was 16 years old again, jamming in one of his first bands. And I feel the same way, man. We're just there for the reason of making music because we love music. There's no pressure or politics involved. And I like that these guys sing melodic, because I don't have a lot of that in my bands — they just keep getting heavier and heavier. So to step out of that and write melodic riffs and be involved with melodic guys is really cool for me, really exciting.
WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THE ALBUM COVER?
I'm really happy with how it came out, because I wasn't happy with the first one. I have a lot of these National Geographic magazines at home, and one had a story about haunted places in America. One of them was this cemetery in Cleveland, which has this really cool statue of an angel with a sword. I thought it would look so badass on an album cover — it almost looks like black metal — so I suggested to our label to find someone to go over and take a picture of the statue. They did, and it came out really good. It's got a classic look. It'll make a cool t-shirt and it really fits with the album title. I can't wait to see the statue in person next time I'm in Cleveland.