By David E. Gehlke
SOULFLY has a new studio album, "Totem", queued up and ready for release this August. But first, the Max Cavalera-led outfit is taking a brief detour back to their early days via "The Soul Remains Insane", a boxset that includes a 40-page book of photos and liner notes, the band's first four LPs and a bonus collection with rare and unreleased tracks all on vinyl. Their 1998 self-titled debut and 2000 "Primitive" were very much "of the times," with an assortment of guest appearances (from Fred Durst to Tom Araya),the occasional turntable scribble and the muddled, down-tuned guitar tone that was the flavor of choice for nearly every nu-metal band. It was enough to score Cavalera a gold record with "Soulfly I", but he wisely started to shift course come 2002's "Soulfly III" and by 2004's "Prophecy" was off into unchartered but heavier territory.
The "Soul Remains Insane" is also a stark, if not double-take-worthy reminder that Cavalera's exit from SEPULTURA happened over a quarter-century ago. Even with the passage of time and plenty of additional studio albums to his credit, there is still little distance between the frontman and SEPULTURA, which he founded with his brother, Igor, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1984. Therefore, it was inevitable that SEPULTURA would sneak into the conversation when Cavalera connected with BLABBERMOUTH.NET to talk about the boxset.
Blabbermouth: Was there a "versus the world" mentality when you started SOULFLY in 1997?
Max: "Pretty much. You hit the nail on the head. It was such a weird place to be. In fact, I always said the two most difficult records I made were [SEPULTURA's] 'Beneath The Remains' and 'Soulfly I'. Musically, they are totally different, a million miles different. But, in spirit, they're very similar because you're in this 'whatever happens, happens,' like a no hope, no fear situation, but there was a lot of pressure to be good from everywhere. Like, 'This has got to be good.' I think both records were immensely stressful to make. Very enjoyable after they were done. Very painful to make, very hard to get them done, but very cool to enjoy what happened to those two records. Definitely, 'Soulfly I' had all this pressure. The validation of when fans heard it, 'Max is back!' Then they heard 'Eye For An Eye' for the first time and a lot of fans felt, 'The man is back. Yes!' It was all there. That was a cool moment. I think the record was in a different time and age. It went gold in America before [SEPULTURA's] 'Roots'. That's an incredible thing that this record went gold. Now, 'Roots' is gold, but 'Soulfly I' was first.
"I talked to some people, like [former Roadrunner Records Senior VP Of A&R] Monte Conner. He said, 'Max, I have to make a confession. I listened to 'Roots' and 'Soulfly I' and I love 'Soulfly I' ten times better than 'Roots'.' I thought, 'That's cool, man. I'm glad!' Once that record came out, the pressure lifted, and I continued my SOULFLY career. But I like the idea that SOULFLY was different from SEPULTURA. The way it was formed was different; we had different elements, almost like a different spirit altogether. It was a bit more positive, in a way, spiritual. Fans connected with that. The ones that didn't always had the old SEPULTURA stuff to listen to. I love that stuff as well. It's all part of it, but I'm very proud of 'Soulfly I'. It was very difficult to make, but I love this record."
Blabbermouth: Are you the type of guy who does better under pressure?
Max: "Sure. You can argue that, but there wasn't that much pressure on me. I consider some of the classic records like [SEPULTURA's] 'Chaos A.D.' or [NAILBOMB's] 'Nailbomb' to be fun to make. Heck, NAILBOMB was the most fun I had making a record in my life. There were zero fucks given. It was like, 'We don't care about anything! We're just doing whatever we want. That's it. If nobody likes it, we don't give a shit.' Now, it's a cult record and a lot of people like it. It depends. Then you have records like 'Beneath The Remains' and 'Soulfly I', they were very stressful. Even remembering my state of mind while making those two records stresses me out. [Laughs]"
Blabbermouth: "The Soul Remains Insane" boxset is impressive. Was it a trip down memory lane assembling it?
Max: "I first have to give props to [manager/wife] Gloria [Cavalera] for the idea. It was her idea to do the boxset. I didn't think of that; I don't think of things like that. I think more about riffs and songs. [Laughs] I thought, 'What a great idea! Let's go for it!' I love vinyl and it's also on CD, which I love. We made a killer booklet. We have our friend, [photographer] Kevin Estrada, who had all these great pictures from that era. Stuff like Chino [Moreno, DEFTONES] with us singing and the other people involved on the first record, like Benji [Webbe, DUB WAR]. I think of the first four records as being special. I like 'Primitive' a lot. I don't know why it got a weird rap because it had too many guests. But, who cares? It was a different idea. I was borrowing a hip-hop idea for a metal record to have all these people I love come into my record. I don't regret a second of it. I think it's a great idea. I might even do another one of those in the future. So much fun working with Sean Lennon. Nobody expected me to work with Tom Araya [SLAYER]; nobody saw that coming. Then, we started going more thrashy with 'Soulfly III'. I brought everything back to basics with stripped-down, thrashy riffs. Then, 'Prophecy' is the very first, real, true SOULFLY record with the spirit of what SOULFLY is, which is world music or 'world metal.' I got to travel to Serbia and France. I think Moscow as well, and I put a little bit of all that into the record. Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon were my idols for making those kinds of records. I really admire them. I wanted to become the Paul Simon / Peter Gabriel of metal. But I became the Bob Marley of metal by accident."
Blabbermouth: You mentioned the guests on "Primitive". It was a big deal to get Tom Araya since SLAYER and SEPULTURA had a rivalry in the '90s.
Max: "It was one of those bucket-list things. One of the things that bothered me the most was this rift that we didn't even create but the media. They rode with it. It was like two tribes going to war. There was so much weird stuff being said. I had the opportunity to work with Tom and it was great. That whole week I was jamming SLAYER in my car and listening to a lot of their old records, which I love. Like, 'Hell Awaits', 'Reign In Blood', and 'Haunting The Chapel', which is probably my favorite EP ever. The cool thing was that we did the recording in two sessions; we didn't finish the first time. I said, 'Don't stress, Tom. Go back home, come back in a week and we'll finish this thing.' He came back a week later. This time, we did it a little differently. We created a wall of Marshalls in the middle of the room with a little window where I could see him and I was singing, looking directly at him. It was back-and-forth. Then, I had to ask him, 'The end of the song will be fast. Can you please sing two lines out of [SLAYER's] "Criminally Insane"?' He didn't like the idea at first. I said, 'Please. I'm asking you as a fan to do this for the song.' He did it. I ended up singing lines from [SEPULTURA's] 'Inner Self'. It was an amazing thing. It put an end to all that. Tom is a great guy and we had a great time making the track. We even got to play it once in England. It was the first time Tom Araya was without a bass. He had his hands in his pockets the whole time. I don't know if it's on YouTube or not, but it was killer."
Blabbermouth: You've had a lot of guys in SOULFLY. Do you have a degree of fondness for the first lineup?
Max: "The original lineup is close to my heart with Lúcio [Jackson Bandeira]. I was such a big fan of Lúcio's guitar playing. I love his band, CHICO SCIENCE. He's got this Jimi Hendrix swagger. Even today, I've never played with a guitar player like that. All the guys I've played with are more metal. That's great; there's nothing wrong with that. He had a unique style that was insane. The first lineup was pretty killer. Everybody was really together and felt the moment. We got put on this big stage with Ozzfest and did a lot of big shows. We got to headline the second stage. We played the stage right before TOOL [in Ozzfest '98]. I even got Ozzy [Osbourne] on the 'Primitive' video with him saying 'primitive!' I have good memories of that time, especially the beginning when I first formed SOULFLY because it was so new. Nobody knew what was going to happen. The very first show DEFTONES was in town. Chino sang with us. I didn't have a name yet. We had songs like 'No Hope = No Fear', 'Eye For An Eye', we had 'No'. We had all that in the beginning, but it took a little longer to get the name. Finally, we went into the studio and made the record. I have great memories of that time."