Savages and the human condition
Heavy Music Artwork catches up with Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera in Brighton to tell us more about the band, music, his biography book and football. The band has been busy touring in Europe and US promoting the latest album “Savages” released in late 2013.
HMA: Hi Max and welcome to Heavy Music Artwork.
HMA: Your latest release “Savages” continues the theme of war, violence, aggression, hatred and slavery. Can you tell us more about the concept?
Soulfly: It has a kind of concept… the music is very aggressive so we need aggressive topics to go with the music and I thought ‘Savages’ was a good name. It’s a strong word and it reflects the human condition in the world, We go into the future with technology but we’re still killing each other so we’re still savages.
HMA: When you wrote the new album, did you embrace any pieces of art, music or literature?
Soulfly: Yeah, some songs are inspired by movies like “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” and “Mad Max”, Hunter Thompson a little bit from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. It was written a little bit of him; some of the lyrics have reference to that.
HMA: What things inspire you besides other than music? Any Brazilian cultural influences?
Soulfly: Yeah, this album has less, it’s mellower and more direct. Savage is a combination of a little bit earlier Soulfly groups from “Prophesy” and “Dark Ages” combined with the aggression of “Enslaved”. Kind of putting those two together and has really great group songs like “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” and “Fallen” and “Bloodshed” so it’s a little bit slower than “Enslaved” but more groove, but I really like the result of the record.
HMA: Your cover art was constructed by metal artist Paul Stottler. What kind of approach was taken for “Savages”? Were you involved in deciding what it was going to be?
Soulfly: Yeah, Dr. Ball, I like his artwork, stuff from early Sacred Reich covers like “Surf Nicaragua” and “American Way”.
HMA: Yeah, because he’s been doing it from the ’80s.
Soulfly: Yeah and he’s a tattoo artist, so, it’s great. I just told him I really wanted a metal skull, that was the only reference that I gave, my only idea. He came up with the rest, but it’s a real painting which is good because these days a lot of people are just doing stuff in digital, so it’s good to see somebody who actually paints an album cover that’s real painting.
HMA: Do you have any favourite album cover?
Soulfly: I like “Dark Ages” it was designed by Michael Whelan. “Conquer” was by Android, he did a really good job. “Primitive” also was Neville Garrick, it was Bob Marley’s artwork. So that’s a couple.
HMA: Tell us the story behind some of your lyrics, for example, “Spiritual” or “Fuck Reality”?
Soulfly: That’s a B-side that didn’t make it to the record. That’s actually taken from a t-shirt. I saw a t-shirt; a guy was wearing that said, “Fuck Reality”. I thought it was cool; I was going to make a song out of it. Some of the spiritual songs on “Savages” are more like Soulfliction. It’s really about apocalyptic themes and what we are living right now. The state of the world right now with a little bit disasters and tsunamis and all this crazy stuff, but some of the other stuff is more violent stuff like “Cannibal Holocaust” and “El Comegente” which is in Spanish and Portuguese. It’s about Vargas the Venezuelan cannibal. It’s all different topics to fit the music; the music is very aggressive so you got to have also aggressive lyrics.
HMA: What is the storyline for the video “Bloodshed?
Soulfly: The original ideas were to dress up like Confederate soldiers, but that didn’t work because we couldn’t get it right and we end up just shooting live and having the producer/director shot some footage from some confederate war soldiers fighting. I think it came out cool, I really liked the quality, it’s really clear and very nice, Thomas Minion has done a lot of great videos. It’s a performance video so the band playing live. It’s fun to make performance videos because you get to play your music, but when you look back at the video, the images are always really powerful.
HMA: Is there any album you are most proud of writing?
Soulfly: Yes, I like the first one which was very difficult to make but it’s really a good record and some really stand out. Songs like “Eye for an Eye”, “Tribe”. “No Hope, No Fear” we still play today. A lot of people like “Dark Ages.” A lot of people liked “Enslaved”. It was more Death Metal. It was more brutal. I don’t really have a favourite, for me all of them. I’m proud because they sound different from each other so I like that it’s not just one album sound the same. There’s always been a change that keeps it interesting for me.
HMA: I can see that your sons are getting involved in the band, Zyon is now the drummer and Igor sings in “Bloodshed”, is it different writing and playing music with family?
Soulfly: Not really, I was in a band with my brother Igor so I always been family involved in music and having my kids playing, it’s just natural. Zyon is a good drummer and he did a great job on “Savages” and he’s doing a great job on tour. It’s great but they have their own band, Lody Kong, and I hope they will do good with that. Eventually, we’re going to find a drummer for Soulfly and continue with our career, but it was fun having him for these shows.
HMA: How does it feel to have your biography published?
Soulfly: It’s good, it’s a story. I like how the books are; I think we put a lot of work on it. Three years of working on the book with Joe McGuyver and we did some really cool stuff. The intro that Dave Grohl gave me was really nice and all the people inside the book are also really cool: Mike Patton, Sharon Osborne, David Vincent. A lot of really cool people from the metal world that I like. The story of the book is really good, there’s a lot of funny and crazy stuff from touring. There are hard moments, there’s bad but I think it’s a very cool book for people to read. Very inspiring.
HMA: What do you think about the current metal scene?
Soulfly: It’s good, metal is in a good place, there are a lot of really good metal bands out there. I listen to a lot of noise, or bands like “All Pigs Must Die” and “Behemoth”.
HMA: Yesterday you played at the British Summer Festival in London together with Black Sabbath, Motorhead and many others, how was the atmosphere?
Soulfly: It was great. We were the first band but everybody was there and people were ready, from the first song. We opened with “Prophesy” and yeah it was killer, we loved the reaction that we got. The UK fans love Soulfly and they showed that they loved it and when they asked to put their hands up, everybody had their hands up. We had a circle pit and it was fun. Igor played drums on “Roots” with us and it was great… It was only half an hour, it was quick. We couldn’t play a lot of songs but it was a very action-packed half an hour, it was worth it.
HMA: How has the tour been so far and what are your expectations?
Soulfly: The tour has been great. We did some shows with Rob Zombie, we did Hellfest. We did one show with Hatebreed. We did one show in Germany with a big German band and a hundred thousand people, now we’re here in the UK at least, some dates here then we have some festivals in the end, but so far it’s been a great tour. I really, really love this tour. I think Soulfly is getting better and better every day. The more we play, the better we get and it’s showing in the shows. The shows are all good and people leave the venue really happy because they saw all the songs they wanted to see. We do a set list that plays everything; it’s not just new stuff. We play old stuff that people like and I think that makes people happy that we give them what they want. I like to give the fans what the fans want; I’m not one of those bands that don’t care about what the fans want to hear. That’s selfish, I just care about what I like. I think some fans really love some songs and you have to play them.
HMA: Ok Max, one off-topic question… Does is Brazil going to win the World Cup? They won yesterday against Colombia!
Soulfly: It was a good game but we got Neymar hurt, which is bad, he’s our best player. No more secret weapon, have to do it with no weapon. We’ve got to win against Germany first.
HMA: Yes. I think it’s going to be against Germany, it’s going to be difficult. OK Max, thank you so much for this interview, see you later.
Soulfly: That’s ok, thanks.
Interview by Manuela G. – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All Rights Reserved.