SOULFLY - “The Fucking Cops Shut The Whole Thing Down”

Hot Flashes

Posted on Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 19:27:02 EST

By Aaron Small

Former SEPULTURA vocalist and guitarist Max Cavalera certainly didn’t waste any time between SOULFLY releases. It was just last year that Enslaved was issued, and now he’s back with album number nine, Savages. “Yeah, I went right to work; just keep rolling. I got inspired, I was writing a lot. The prospect of working with (producer) Terry Date also motivated me.”

Soulfly and Terry Date (METAL CHURCH, OVERKILL, WHITE ZOMBIE) have history together, as he mixed Dark Ages (2005) and Soulfly III (2002). However this time, Date produced, engineered and mixed. Max explains the elevation of Date’s status within the Soulfly camp. “I met Terry with THE DEFTONES when I did ‘Headup’ (1997), and I thought he was really cool. I loved the sound of that record (Around The Fur), and I followed what he did after that: some other Deftones, SOUNDGARDEN, all the killer PANTERA stuff. I thought Terry was a powerhouse. I kept in mind that one day, I want to work with him, and I kept seeing him through the years. I came to L.A. when he was mixing Dark Ages; that’s actually a funny story. His studio was next door to HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH. So I took a picture with the Hootie & The Blowfish sign behind my head, making fun. It would be funny to see them, ‘cause they’d probably say, ‘you’re the motherfucker who wrote a song about us.’ But I never saw any of them.” Max is referring to the song ‘No’ from Soulfly’s self-titled debut album (1998).

“So I always wanted to work on a full album with Terry; I thought it would be fucking great. The time came, we talking, and he came to our show in Seattle when we played with FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH. We were in the back of the bus and I told him, I’m already working on the next one; I’ve got some ideas and I would love for you to produce it. He said, ‘Really? ‘Cause I really want to work with you too.’ So it clicked and we kept in touch. He said he was available at this time, we made the arrangements and it became true; so it was killer. I was so excited about the idea of working with him; I went home and wrote like 1,000 fucking riffs. No joke. It was incredible. It got to the point where it would be 1:30 in the morning, and my wife (Gloria) would come up to me and say, ‘Are you going to come to bed, or play guitar all night?’ I’ll be there in half an hour, which turned into an hour; but it was worth it. I came up with a lot of cool riffs.”

Savages is a real family affair as Max’s 21-year old son, Zyon Cavalera, plays drums on the entire album. Zyon replaces Dave Kinkade, who retired in October 2012. One might expect a moment’s hesitation when your kid says, ‘Dad, let me play drums’. Yet, “It actually was super quick; I didn’t have time to think about another drummer. Zyon jumped in right away. I grabbed my guitar and threw three riffs at him, and he reacted fucking amazing! It was really killer. So I thought, this will be cool; we can do it. Right there I decided, he’s the man, he’s the drummer. I didn’t even look for somebody else.”

The album credits list Igor Cavalera guesting on ‘Bloodshed’. But that’s not Max’s brother; it’s another of his sons, who was named after his sibling and former SEPULTURA bandmate. “He’s got a punk voice that goes with the riff; it’s very melodic. For me, my voice alone wasn’t working. I needed a second voice to make it a little more wild. I thought, I could go and find somebody from a punk band, or I could get my kid to sing it. It would be easier to get my kid, rather than having someone else involved. I didn’t want it to turn into Primitive. I remember when Primitive came out (in 2000). A lot of fans were upset because of the amount of guests. I still think it’s great: I love everybody on Primitive and I think it was a killer record. Having Chino (from Deftones), Tom Araya (from SLAYER), Sean Lennon, all these people; to me it was great, but some people didn’t like it.”

Obviously, guest appearances on Soulfly albums are nothing new. But the contribution made by Neil Fallon of CLUTCH to ‘Ayatollah Of Rock 'N' Rolla’ elevates the song to a whole new level. “That’s the idea, that’s what I love. That’s why the guests are so important. Soulfly has had at least two guests on every album; that’s the minimum requirement. It’s like a secret clause in the imaginary contract. When I wrote ‘Ayatollah’, I wrote the opening riff and it sounded like Clutch. I was thinking, man, to get Neil here would be so cool! In fact, in the studio I sang imitating Neil. Terry (Date, producer) has this tape. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be released; it’s my imitation of Neil, ‘cause we didn’t have him yet. The lyric was something like, ‘You feel my redneck hate.’ Everybody in the studio was laughing! Redneck hate? Really? When we sent the tapes to Neil, I said, don’t send him my vocals. Don’t show Neil that; I was embarrassed.”

The phrase, Ayatollah Of Rock 'N' Rolla, has been used numerous times by FOZZY vocalist and WWE wrestler Chris Jericho. It was also mentioned in the 1986 Clint Eastwood movie, Heartbreak Ridge. But Max lifted it from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, starring Mel Gibson. “Yeah, I just heard it was in Heartbreak Ridge the other day; somebody pointed that out to me. I had no idea; I’ve never seen that movie. I was really surprised to learn that had been used somewhere else. I took it from Mad Max, straight up. I was watching Road Warrior at home. And I didn’t know a wrestler used this, I don’t follow that. I watch thousands of movies at home; it’s one of my hobbies. In fact, there’s influence from both Mad Max movies. In the chorus I say, Fuel-injected suicide machine. That’s a line from the first Mad Max, right in the opening. I didn’t add anything from the third one with Tina Turner ‘cause that was shit!”

‘El Comegente’ is not sung in English. Easy enough to go online look up the translation, which is ‘The People Eater’. It’s about a guy named Dorangel Vargas, who was a real-life cannibal. He killed and ate ten people in two years. “Yeah, I found it on the Internet,” says Max. “We really wanted to do a song in Spanish; me and Tony (Campos, bassist) did ‘Plata O Plomo’ about (Colombian drug lord) Pablo Escobar on Enslaved, and people loved it; one of the best songs. We had to do it again, this is a killer connection. I love Tony’s vocals in ASESINO (with FEAR FACTORY guitarist Dino Cazares); they’re brutal Mexican death metal. When we read about Vargas, we were in shock! He put eyeballs in his soup!”

Another song from Savages traverses a similar theme, that being ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, which shares its name with an infamous Italian horror movie from 1980. This film was considered obscene, and banned in several countries, including Italy and Australia. “I really love that movie! My wife (Gloria) has a collection of B-movies like I Ate Your Brain, Motel Hell, and Cannibal Holocaust. One day I was watching it; brutal, super shitty quality and really not well made. But it’s cool and I love the title! It’s so controversial – Cannibal Holocaust. The Holocaust happened in Germany (during World War II), but involving cannibals is pretty different. I thought it was a super powerful word, so I wanted to make a song out of it. With the (album) title Savages; I think it relates to the record.”

HBO television series Vice, hosted by Shane Smith, was also a source of inspiration. “Yeah, I watch Vice a lot. That’s what gave me the idea to call it Savages; how they go to all these wild places in the world and see all these atrocities. Interviewing ten-year old suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was really exciting to watch and make a connection. In fact, I wanted to use images from Vice for the first video for ‘Bloodshed’. I wanted my record label (Nuclear Blast) to contact the people from Vice to see if we could use some of their footage in our video. I don’t know if they did it or not? I’ve got to check on that. I hope they did their homework. We have a lyric video for ‘Bloodshed’ that’s out. The video actually kind of started already… but it got in a jam. We got into some trouble on the filming. The idea was to film us on a Civil War battleground, with all of us in Soulfly in Civil War uniforms. We show up there, and the guy that made the arrangements, didn’t have any fucking permits. So we’re all ready to unload drums, amplifiers and guitars – and the fucking cops show up and shut the whole thing down! That was a bad day. So the film crew flew back to New York.”

“We’re in contact with the director to see what the fuck we’re going to do, ‘cause we got to fix this. We did get footage of the band playing at nighttime where the show happened, dressed up in the Civil War uniforms; but it was with a shitty camera. For some reason the good camera went back to New York. There was only one guy there, and his camera wasn’t really good; so I think that footage is trash. We cannot use any of it, which sucks! Maybe the best plan would be to still try and contact the Vice people and see if they can help us with stock footage, and cross out the Civil War idea. I thought Tony (Campos, bassist) looked amazing man. He was all in grey, and he’s got the big beard; he looked scary actually, like somebody you don’t want to fuck with. Mark (Rizzo, guitarist) looked great with the jacket on. It was a cool idea. It’s too bad we didn’t have the permits to film that one day; so the whole thing got scratched. Right now the video is on pause; I hope we can fix it and get it out for the fans as soon as possible.”

The new Soulfly album is called Savages; the closest thing to a title track would be ‘Master Of Savagery’, Max details exactly who that song is pointed at. “The idea was for high-power people in society, like Adolf Hitler and Pinochet; people who made decisions that left a lot of people dying in war and stuff. There’s different levels of savages. There’s savages like the Mexican Cartels who decapitate people, there’s suicide bombers, and there is the higher people – the Al Qaeda leaders who make those kids put on the suicide vests; they’re the masters of savagery… the people that control the puppets.”

Topics dealt with on Savages are rather unpleasant and involve pretty brutal realism. The limited edition CD contains a bonus track, ‘Fuck Reality’, acting as a backlash to the ugly truth. “It’s really a curve ball. On the whole record I’m dealing with reality issues, almost to the point where you just have to say fuck reality! Fuck all this! I can’t take this anymore. That’s what the song ‘Fuck Reality’ is about. But it’s also about media and reality TV shows; there’s a twist in it too. Part of it talks shit about zombies brainwashed by daytime TV, and people who watch all these reality shows. There’s fucking 1,000 of them right now. It’s really a take on that and how that hypnotizes people. Everybody knows those shows are fake, but people still cannot stop watching them. Even The Osbournes, everybody found out later half that shit was all fake.”

‘Soulfly IX’ is the other bonus track, continuing a self-imposed tradition. “I love all the ‘Soulfly’ melodic tracks,” proclaims Max. “It’s fun to do, it takes me to another place. I have to find a different muse for my art. I have to find melodic notes that I don’t normally do on a daily basis. It’s another imaginary Soulfly contract clause; that we have to have this instrumental song. But since the last record Enslaved, we made them a bonus so that people decide if they want those songs or no. Not everybody likes those instrumentals, so we give the fans a choice. If they want it, they can get the special edition. If they don’t like it, just get the regular CD. But I try to make them as special as they can be. The new one, ‘Soulfly IX’, is actually Middle-Eastern reggae. It’s a very wild idea. All the patterns and riffs come from the Middle East school of music. In the middle, it turns into a full-on reggae jam with the whole band, which is kind of crazy. I’ve always liked reggae myself; it’s like dub a little bit. Kind of like those BAD BRAINS jams you hear on some of their records; it catches you by surprise. That was the idea on this one, but I’m going to try and get more inspired for the future ones. I like to record in different countries. I hope I can do ‘Soulfly X’ in a different country and use different instruments, make it really special.”

North American tour dates for Soulfly are booked until November 7th, when this leg wraps up in Hollywood, CA at The Viper Room. “After that I go to South America with the METAL ALL STARS. It’s Phil Anselmo (PANTERA, DOWN), Udo (U.D.O.), Joey Belladonna (ANTHRAX), and a whole bunch of other famous musicians. I’m playing three Soulfly and two Sepultura songs. Joey Belladonna was actually the one that wanted me on it. That should be pretty cool. Then December is off. I’ll probably start writing the new CAVALERA CONSPIRACY; get some ideas flowing for that. Then start touring in North America again in January.”

Before heading off, Max offers his thoughts on the new Sepultura album, The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart. “I think it’s a weird title. Andreas (Kisser, guitarist) is trying to think too much. When I first heard that it threw me off; it’s too long, it’s not catchy. Sepultura, for me, always had catchy names for records.” To hear Andreas call this new Sepultura album, “The strongest album we’ve ever made in our history,” is downright insulting. “Yeah, it is. It just shows what state of mind those guys are in; denial of reality. The name of an album is something you should take seriously. Chaos A.D. was going to be called Propaganda. I was never really happy with that name. At the last minute I found the words Chaos A.D. and I really liked it. It’s a little bit of a take on MISFITS’ Earth A.D.; but I always found influence from other people anyway. I think it saved the record. Can you imagine if that record had been called Propaganda? It wouldn’t be half as strong. When I first heard the name of that (new Sepultura) record, I thought it was kind of stupid actually.”