SEPULTURA, NAILBOMB, SOULFLY, CAVALERA CONSPIRACY… Max Cavalera has more than made his mark on the global metal scene and he’s not slowing down! Now he’s back with a second CAVALERA CONSPIRACY offering ‘Blunt Force Trauma’ featuring that unmistakable Cavalera brothers Thrash / Groove metal combination but taken to another level entirely.
Speaking from his home in Phoenix, Arizona, Max brings us up to speed on the new album, the secret to creating that crushing Cavalera wall of sound, and why he wont be running out of subject material any time soon!
So the new album ‘Blunt Force Trauma’, its heavier, its faster and its more aggressive than the first CAVALERA CONSPIRACY album. Was that the aim?
Yeah we wanted to make a more brutal and more direct album. We loved the work that was done on ‘Inflikted’ but we thought we could take a step further into the heaviness and the brutality. I thought it was a good time for that, we felt very strongly about making a stronger album with a somehow heavier feeling to it going through all the songs. So we just went for it. It was an idea that came up in the studio and we just decided to go with it. So the first half of the album was a lot of fast songs and a lot of kind of like hardcore thrash metal and then the other half had more like a groove vibe. And then when you put the two together it made it into a good album. So it was a combination work between the fast stuff, the thrash stuff and the groovy stuff and then you have the basic Cavalera material.
‘Target’ and ‘Torture’ are two of the fast songs on the album. Was it fun to be playing that super fast thrash metal again?
Oh yeah man it’s a blast! I love playing fast stuff and that was the beginning of this record. When I sat down with Igor I was like lets make a lot of fast songs like ‘Reign In Blood’ kind of style, like MINOR THREAT. I even joked, I said lets do MINOR THREAT on crack haha! It was my joke. It was to make it super fast and aggressive with that kind of 80’s thrash vibe. We just went for it man, and every day songs like ‘Target’, ‘Torture’, ‘Blunt Force Trauma’, ‘Burn Waco’, ‘Psychosomatic’… the songs just kept coming and we were like woah yeah man thi s is fucking killer and we kept going. But then in the middle of the session thats when we thought the album something more than just fast stuff. We couldn’t just do a whole record of fast stuff. To me it would be like something was missing, that killer Max and Igor groove that people love and that has been with us since the SEPULTURA days. People want to hear that shit too so I had to throw some other stuff like ‘Killing Inside’ and ‘Genghis Khan’ just to combine with the fast shit to make like proper record.
‘Killing Inside’ is a heavy groovy one like you say. What make you pick that track for the music video?
We wanted to start out with something different from everything else that we have done and killing inside is the most different track on the record. Its not fast at all, it’s a groove song which is mid-tempo, a little bit like a KILLING JOKE kind of song or maybe a little bit like MINISTRY. It was really different and we just wanted to start out with something completely different that would maybe people off by saying you think you knew Cavalera? well you don’t! Check Killing Inside out and then the song would just come out like woah! Where did this come from, like a total surprise. We went for more of a surprise kind of vibe for the fans because most people were expecting us to come out with ‘Warlord’ or ‘Torture’ or ‘Burn Waco’ or one of the fast songs but we came up with ‘Killing Inside’ which is a totally different vibe. And I thought it was cool because it was something different to start the whole campaign of the album.
You just mentioned bands like KILLING JOKE and MINISTRY, have you thought about taking that whole industrial metal vibe even further than what you have in the past?
Well I kind of did that with NAILBOMB back in the mid-90’s which was the closest attempt that I ever had to industrial music was when I worked with Alex Newport from FUDGE TUNNEL. We had a sampler and we used a lot of drum machines and sampler material. We got to work with Rhys Fulber from FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY. That was the closest to industrial I ever got apart from touring with MINISTRY which I did back in the SEPULTURA days and I saw MINISTRY every night. It was really awesome to play with them. But I still like this kind of music. I think industrial metal is really cool and I love the stuff that came out like GODFLESH and even some of the FEAR FACTORY stuff was really cool like how they combined industrial elements with metal. I love that combination, I always thought that drum machines and heavy guitars really work out good. It’s really powerful when you do it the right way like MINISTRY does or like GODFLESH does. I’ve always been a fan of that.
You seem to have perfected the art of creating a crushing wall of sound in your music. What’s the secret?
I think the secret is how you record four guitars. In the old days we only used to do two guitars and now we do four so you get two guitars on each speaker and you get two different sounds of the guitar so you create some kind of wall of guitar sound. And by having four different kinds of distortion because you have four guitars, you combine them all together and then you get something really super extra heavy. And that’s my goal with SOULFLY and CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, it’s to try to create the heaviest guitar sound but which is still clean so you can still hear the notes so its not just noise. So you still hear the proper notes but it still is a wall of guitar sound and I think I’m getting pretty close, I think the CAVALERA CONSPIRACY ‘Blunt Force Trauma’ album is the heaviest guitar sound I’ve got on an album and I’m really happy with the sound of it.
You had a couple of extra songs from the ‘Blunt Force Trauma’ recording sessions and they’ve made it onto special editions of the album. Why did you leave them off the album?
Those are just songs that were created in the studio but we didn’t use them because we only needed 11 songs. We had two extra songs which were ‘Jihad Joe’ and ‘Psychosematic’. They’re really cool songs but we didn’t think they’d fit in with the album so they came out in a digi-pack and a bonus track edition of the album together with a BLACK SABBATH cover of ‘Electric Funeral’ that we did. And it was just together with a DVD that was live in France. The Les Eurockeennes Festival, it’s a full on CAVALERA CONSPIRACY concert where there are like 50,000 people. It’s a great show. We’re trying to give the fans something extra with the bonus digi-pack. If they buy it, they get two extra songs, a cover song and a full live DVD. So it’s just a couple of things to make the digi-pack more exciting.
You’ve also released a limited run of 500 copies on vinyl. Do you think its still important to keep releasing music on record?
I do, I like vinyl you know I’m a big fan of vinyl myself. I have a bunch of vinyl that I brought through the year and I’m glad that some of my albums are actually made on vinyl. Its a little thing to do but for vinyl collectors and people that still like vinyl its a huge thing to have that. I have friends that collect vinyl and they always ask me, is that going to come out on vinyl don’t worry. So they’re really happy that we did. I think its great.
Roger Mirret from AGNOSTIC FRONT sings on the track ‘Lynch Mob’. What was his first reaction when you call him up and asked if he wanted to be on the album?
He was really excited man! He knew me and Igor from SEPULTURA and of course knew about CAVALERA CONSPIRACY. He was really happy, really happy and when we told him that we wanted him to sing on it he was really proud. To me he is the Godfather of New York hardcore and without him and AGNOSTIC FRONT there would not be SICK OF IT ALL, BIOHAZARD, MADBALL, HATEBREED, PRO-PAIN and all the hardcore we have today. Most of them owe it to AGNOSTIC FRONT for starting that back in the early 80s. So he is a warrior and he has been making music for almost as much time as me and Igor so he is a veteran like us. So it was great. He came down to LA, we talked about the subject of the song and we made it work. We picked the perfect song for him. He really liked the fast pace of ‘Lynch Mob’ and we created the lyrics together in the studio and we sang together. It was a great day of recording and when we finished the song at the end of the day we knew that we had something special. It was a great feeling when we listened back to the song because I think that my voice and Roger’s voice are so different and there is a huge contrast between the way I sing and the way Roger sings that jumps at you when you first hear the song. When Roger starts singing and you totally can tell there is a different guy singing it changes the whole atmosphere of the CD. I really think that’s something that is really cool on the CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, is this guest appearance by Roger. I think he did a great job.
You’ve worked with many musicians over the years. Who would you still like to work with but haven’t had the chance yet?
Probably Ozzy Osbourne and James Hetfield. Ozzy is of course the Godfather of metal and BLACK SABBATH and his solo career. I’ve played with him many times and I know him personally but I’ve never got to actually ask him to record anything yet. But I think at one point the chance will definitely come. I would also like to do something with James Hetfield because I love old METALLICA and I’ve always been a big fan of the thrash that METALLICA brought and I like James’ vocals. I thought a thrash song with me and James singing would have been really cool too.
What is inspiring the music that you write these days? Are you still using your music as a machine gun to shoot at all the things that you’re pissed at like you said back on the SEPULTURA ‘Third World Chaos’ video?
Oh yeah man! The world is going to shit and you know, it’s getting worse and worse. We’re on Armageddon right now! The Apocalypse is upon us and there are more things to sing about than ever. There is war, there are riots and revolutions everywhere and the Middle East and all that kind of shit is going on. And I still use music as my machine gun haha!
When you look back over your whole musical career, what are you the most proud of in terms of recordings that you’ve done?
Well of course I’m really proud of the SEPULTURA work because we broke internationally and we came out of Brazil. And ‘Roots’ was one of my favourite albums of SEPULTURA and we explored the Brazilian roots on it and it was really exciting to do that. I’m also really proud of SOULFLY because when I left SEPULTURA I had to start over again with SOULFLY and it wasn’t easy. It was a really had beginning and we had to create everything again from scratch. The first SOULFLY album is huge to me, it was a great album to me and it was the album which defined my career, if I was going to continue playing or not. That first SOULFLY album is a career defining moment of my life and I owe a lot to that record. I love the way that record turned out and it’s really powerful. SOULFLY took off from that point on and I got to continue to making music.
Speaking of that first SOULFLY recording, on the song ‘Tribe’ you mention the name of many cultures from around the world including Maori. How did you learn about them and how did they come to be in the lyrics of ‘Tribe’.
I just knew about it from touring and being in New Zealand. And from the Maori necklace that I wore all the time. I knew about the Maori face tattoo, I always loved that style of tattooing. So ‘Tribe’ was about all the tribes around the world and making a kind of unification song uniting all the tribes of the world. So I had the names of tribes in Africa and Brazil and of course the Maori in New Zealand. But I’d love to know more about the Maori tribal culture you know. If I could get to explore some more and maybe one day spend some time there even visiting and getting to know the culture some more I would really like to.
CAVALERA CONSPIRACY is touring Europe later this year. Is there any chance we’ll get to see you guys down under for a tour of Australia and New Zealand?
I hope so man, especially with the new CAVALERA CONSPIRACY album there is a big chance that we’ll come and do some down under touring. I hope they will include New Zealand and we can come over and bring the CAVALERA experience to New Zealand.
We were hanging out to see you guys play as part of the JUDAS PRIEST tour a couple of years back but then it got cancelled. What happened?
We still don’t know. We got a call one day that we were on the tour and we were all excited. And then the next day we got another call to say we were off the tour and there was no explanation. We still have never found out what happened and I don’t know if they thought we were too heavy for the bill. I still would like an answer you know, to find out what happened because I think a lot of people were disappointed that we didn’t go. We were really excited for that tour you know and we were really ready to do it. But I hope we can come back and make up for it some other time.