Soulfly’s Max Cavalera talks hmv.com through the making of new album Ritual…
Max Cavalera turns 50 next summer and has been a leading light in metal since his teenage years, but he shows no sign of slowing down.
Currently, Cavalera has four projects on the go, Cavalera Conspiracy with his brother Igor, Killer Be Killed, a project Cavalera with Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato, Mastodon bassist/frontman Troy Sanders and Converge drummer Ben Koller, and a reunited Nailbomb, his extreme band with Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport. This and his regular gig, Soulfly.
A going concern since his departure from Sepultura in 1997, the band, who have gone through over eight line-up changes over the years, now consists of Cavalera, former Ill Nino man Marc Rizzo on guitars, bassist Mike Leon and Cavalera's son Zyon on drums.
For their new album Ritual, the 11th of their career, the band have hooked up with producer Josh Wilbur, best known for his work with Lamb Of God, and recruited some high-profile guests in Randy Blythe of the aforementioned Lamb of God and Ross Dolan of death metallers Immolation.
As the album hit shelves, we spoke to Cavalera about the making of the LP and why this is an LP inspired by all kinds of rituals...
When did you start putting the songs for Ritual together?
“At the end of last year, I did a tour with Nailbomb and then I went straight into writing mode and starting putting down ideas. My son Zyon is in Phoenix with me so I got to practise with him for a month, so by the time we entered the studio in January we were ready to go.”
You did the album with Josh Wilbur, was he someone you’d wanted to work with for a while?
“I’d worked with him on Killer Be Killed. I was a big fan of his, he’s a protegee of Andy Wallace and he’s my favourite producer, he produced Chaos A.D, which was a big record for me.”
“He was excited to work with me, he’s a big Soulfly fan and he came in with that mindset. He used all his qualities and he was a great professional, but he was so excited for the songs and he pushed for all the things he wanted from a Soulfly album. That’s why it’s a different album for us, it’s that new perspective.”
You’ve got some great guests on the album, Ross Dolan from Immolation and Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe, how did those collaborations come about?
“I’ve wanted to work with Ross for years. We toured with Immolation and we became good friends and I told him I wanted him on the next Soulfly record. I wrote the song ‘Under Rapture’ just for him, I wanted it to have this full-on death metal part.”
What about Randy?
“Randy was a bit different. I knew Josh was working with Randy and I told him, ‘Hey, if he likes anything, he can sing on it!’. Then Josh called me and he told me Randy had fallen in love with ‘Dead Behind The Eyes’ and he wanted to sing on it. I didn’t care which song he picked, I just wanted him on the record, I’m a big fan of his.”
Is it important to you to have guests on an album?
“For this album, I think it shows the different sides of the band. Ross is from the death metal world and Randy is from the new wave of heavy metal. We can do both.”
You’ve got a slightly different line-up this time, Mike Leon is in on bass, has he made a difference?
“He’s really good, he’s a solid bass player and very professional. We’d been playing with him for a year and a half so we knew it would work. He’s done really well, he’s filled in for Tony (Campos, bassist who left to join Fear Factory) and those are big shoes to fill. He’s got this really good thrash influence with a bit of Steve Harris. I like working with him.”
What kind of record is it lyrically? Is there a concept or a theme?
“It’s very mixed. There’s no concept. Ritual is a very open name, there’s no one reference, people can think whatever it means to them. The lyrics are inspired by everything. ‘Under Rapture’ is about final judgement and beliefs, ‘Evil Empowered’ is about politics and evil dictators and ‘Blood On The Street’, which is about the murder of a Navajo girl by the police. That's one of my documentary songs. I read a bunch of articles and then I make a song out of it. Then 'Feedback' is a song about life on the road and how cool it is to still be doing this."
Finally, when did you decide on Ritual for the title? Did it have any other titles?
“There were others. I had the idea of having something spiritual. Then it was going to be called Dragon Language. Then I wanted to call it something in Navajo, because the stories of the Navajo people have been a big influence on the album, I thought maybe Tó, which is water in Navajo. Then I came to Ritual, it feels like a good name, a strong name. Metal is full of rituals, how we listen to music, it’s a ritual and I love tribes and they have some many rituals. It made sense.”