Max Cavalera is a living heavy metal guitar legend. Cavalera co-founded the seminal Brazilian thrash band Sepultura with his brother Igor in the mid-1980s, and since his time with that band ended in the late ’90s, he has fronted Soulfly for the past two decades, as well as the previous bands Nailbomb, and the more modern Killer Be Killed and Cavalera Conspiracy with his brother. Throughout his musical career, he has collaborated with hundreds of rock, metal and punk icons, ranging from Fred Durst to Sean Lennon (son of Beatles member, John Lennon).
With the new album Ritual, Soulfly has been reborn with a lineup that features former guitarist Marco Rizzo, bassist Mike Leon, and Cavalera’s son Zyon behind the drum kit. Cavalera took time to speak with CULTURE about the band’s latest album, the 11th in its career, his love of punk rock, what it’s like to work with so many musicians and how despite the fact that he has been straight edge for a decade, he fully supports cannabis consumption at concerts. Soulfly will be on a nationwide North American Tour with death metal band Kataklysm, through March 1.
On Soulfly’s new album, Ritual, you feature guest appearances from Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and Ross Dolan (Immolation). What was it like to work with these two metal musicians?
It was great. We didn’t actually write “Death Behind The Eyes” track for Randy. I work mostly with my son, and originally, we worked this song out and just jammed on it. It was our producer, Josh who is good friends with Randy, that played him some of the song and the dude fell in love with it and ended up singing on it. It was very cool, I am a huge Lamb of God fan. I love their sound. The other song, “Under Rapture” was written for Ross. I knew I wanted to work with him from a long time ago before I started working on this album. I toured with Immolation back in like the early ’90s maybe, and we actually met for the first time in 1989 with Sepultura in New York. We have known each other for a long time. I love Immolation and their music, what they do with the underground death metal sound. He loved the song and it came out great, I loved his vocals.
Soulfly has had guest musicians on each album from the beginning. Is there one in particular that stands out to you?
Yeah, we have guests on all the albums and I see other bands doing that now and it makes me happy. Soulfly didn’t invent that but we pushed forward to keep that idea alive. To see other bands doing it is cool. I get to work with my friends and my idols it’s a lot of fun it’s a blessing.
But years ago, when I was doing the album Primitive, I met Sean Lennon years [while] flying to a festival on a plane to Australia. We sat across from each other, and then at the fest we were at the same hotel and we kept bumping into each other. We formed a friendship; he was a fan of the first Soulfly album and I asked him to be a guest on primitive and he was down for it. He is a cool dude, a very down to earth guy. It was a special experience working with him.
You have been friends with and worked with Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys, during your time in Sepultura. What was that like?
Oh Jello is an awesome guy. We had a great time working with him. He knew Sepultura back then, in the ’90s, it was for the Chaos A.D. album, and we worked with him on the song, “Biotech is Godzilla.” He sent us a tape with him singing, and we sampled it on the song, there is part is him singing “Godzzilllla”! I love Jello’s music, the song lyrics are amazing, and that sarcastic humor he puts into his songs sounds great. Me and Igor love punk rock, it’s music we grew up with. Bands like The Ramones, Black Flag, The Clash, Bad Brains and the Dead Kennedys, of course.
“I do like the vibe of weed. It is so much better than alcohol or other drugs.”
How do you feel about legalized cannabis in the U.S. and Canada, as a touring band in North America?
Well, I have been straight edge for 10 years by choice, it’s a healthier lifestyle, but even though I don’t smoke. I do like the vibe of weed. It is so much better than alcohol or other drugs. It’s such a mellow drug. To be honest, I’m not even fully convinced it’s an illicit drug, it’s a plant from the earth. I am glad more people are smoking weed. I welcome it, I don’t mind at all. I get weed from fans on tour all the time, and I give it to some of Soulfly’s crew because some of them they like to smoke. I think it’s cool and the right way to go with it being legalized by governments; and they are making money off it so that’s good too.
What does Soulfly have planned for the rest of 2019 after this North American tour with Kataklysm?
We are going to be doing a ton of touring. After this tour, we go to Europe and play festivals and our own shows. Plus, we are doing 70K Metal Cruise Ship as well, and after we get back from Europe, we might do another US tour maybe a cool package tour type thing. But I want to take time off from being in the studio and just tour. We are all super excited for this tour and I am glad to be taking a break from making records for at least one year and just tour as much as we can with Soulfly.