INTERVIEW: Max Cavalera – Cavalera Conspiracy

Max Cavalera is one of metal’s true legendary figures, and ten years after reuniting with his brother Igor in CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, the brothers are apart to release their most searing and impactful record under that name so far in Psychosis. Ahead of its release, we spoke to Max about how being still a fan at heart keeps him on his toes pushing him to create.

Psychosis is now the fourth album from CAVALERA CONSPIRACY and it feels like you’re really finding your place of where you should be as a band. Does it feel that way to you?

Max: It’s been a fun search for our own identity I guess. Me and Igor are both veterans of this, we’ve played on so many big records in our past, but that’s what makes interesting, the challenge to continue doing relevant music. The struggle is the glory. The creation of a record like Psychosis which I’m very proud of, we spent a lot of time on it which I think shows in the songs. There’s stuff like Judas Pariah which almost goes back to Morbid Visions and black metal and then ends on this riff that’s almost like a short cover of Procreation of the Wicked by CELTIC FROST, and then there’s stuff like Hellfire with Justin from GODFLESH, so it’s a full on record. Death metal, thrash metal, noise, industrial. Those are my favourite styles of music and I think we hit that nail harder than we did on the previous one. I think Pandemonium was close, we were listening to a lot of grindcore when we made that and we recorded it to sound really shitty on purpose, but a lot of people didn’t seem to understand that and didn’t really like the album because of that production. This time around we decided to produce it properly, and to spend more time on the songwriting to make sure every song is full of riffs and parts, with the best elements of death and thrash metal together. I wanted songs to be more elaborate and have more details. A song like Crom, it has a beginning that reminds me of Scream Bloody Gore era DEATH, and Terror Tactics reminds me of Age of Quarrel by CRO-MAGS or AGNOSTIC FRONT, those hardcore riffs mixed with metal when it was exciting to do before we all overdid it. There’s a song that we used to call “Thrasher’s Delight” and it ended up being Impalement Execution, and it has like six thrash riffs back to back! It’s embracing our past in order to go to the future, and bringing in influences from stuff we listen to now like FULL OF HELL or NOISEM, NAILS and GATECREEPER. Mix that with the old stuff and we have some very cool things. I think of the four records it is closest to the original idea of what me and Igor have done together.

You’ve recently been performing Roots in full, and you’ve announced that you’re going to be doing the same with Point Blank by NAILBOMB. Does revisiting decades old material like that help reinvigorate and inspire you with what you’re doing currently creatively?

Max: For sure. Psychosis was recorded right after coming off the road from the Roots tour, our ears were still ringing from the amplifiers, so we still had so much energy and this feeling that records can really mean things to people so it is worth it to try to do something big and powerful. That was the best thing to happen for Psychosis. Sonically it sounds nothing like Roots, it’s closer to stuff like Arise and Schizophrenia, but the energy of the Roots live show fed in.

You worked with Arthur Rizk to produce this one, who has produced a lot of great albums from young, exciting bands. How did he impact the process for CAVALERA CONSPIRACY?

Max: Working with him was the other best thing to happen to this album. Arthur was a breath of fresh air. He was so knowledgeable of metal, he’s done great stuff with POWER TRIP, INQUISITION, CODE ORANGE, and when you listen to those three albums, they’re all pretty different from each other, so he’s really flexible and can do different things. He did a lot of cool things like getting Igor to use rototoms again, which he used on Schizophrenia, these drums that sound like KREATOR’s Pleasure to Kill, and I’m so happy that he brought that back. We decided to make a record that has no silence between songs so in between tracks there’s noise and things like that, and Arthur got his friend Dominick from PRURIENT to do all that stuff, and I’m so glad that he was involved.

Did you hear the PISSGRAVE album Arthur did?

Max: Oh yeah he gave me a copy of it, it’s fucking amazing! Even the name of the band and the album cover are so disgusting. Arthur’s shown me a lot of stuff, like war metal like BLASPHEMY, and he showed me a project I really liked from the drummer of POWER TRIP called IMPALERS which totally sounds like old DISCHARGE but right now. We traded a lot of information like that when we were making the record, a lot of jamming of these bands during the sessions. Before we did the song Crom which is about Conan the Barbarian we watched the movie together to get inspiration for the lyrics, so it was a really fun session to do.

You’re an outspoken fan of a lot of really underground bands like BÖLZER, MGŁA, DEAD CONGREGATION, and BATUSHKA, and when you look at other legendary figures of your standing within metal, a lot of them maybe aren’t as in touch with what’s coming out of the underground right now. Does being aware of and into all of this stuff push you to go harder and do things creatively yourself?

Max: For sure. That’s the beauty of it because a lot of those bands were influenced by us, like when I met Todd from NAILS who I was completely blown away by, he told me he was a huge SEPULTURA fan and that they used a part from the end of Territory in their song Unsilent Death that’s a blatant rip off but that he was proud to tell me that! I told him to watch out because next I’ll be ripping him off. I love all this stuff man. Hero by BÖLZER was my favourite album of last year. In many ways they’re such an original-sounding band. A lot of stuff in metal does unfortunately sound samey but then you hear something like BÖLZER which is so original and their own thing, and that’s really inspiring to me.

You always have a lot of guest spots with both CAVALERA CONSPIRACY and SOULFLY, and this time you have Justin Broadrick from GODFLESH coming onto a really GODFLESH-sounding track on Psychosis. How did that come about?

Max: We were looking for somebody really different from what we do but that would be really meaningful for us as fans. When we first heard Streetcleaner when we were in SEPULTURA we were totally blown away, and I loved their last comeback record too. I just mentioned to Igor “Wouldn’t it be great to get Justin from GODFLESH and create this super noisy track?” and even before Justin really said yes we were working on the song, so it would’ve really sucked if Justin had said no. But Igor sent him an email and he was thrilled, and right when he finished recording his part, he sent Igor an email saying “I’ve not sung like that since the Streetcleaner days!” And when I heard it it was all there, the simplicity, the minimalistic lyrics, together with the noise and the explosions. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the new record. Sometimes I feel like I should use these people even more, like when we had Travis Ryan from CATTLE DECAPITATION on the song World Scum for SOULFLY, he has such a crazy voice with these weird vocal styles and I was nervous about pushing too far and getting him to do all that but I should’ve done it! You always get something cool out of those collaborations.

You’ve spoken how about when back in Brazil as a teenager you’d tape trade with people in MORBID ANGEL, KREATOR and DEATH. Doing these things that you do today, is that an effort to keep that community spirit alive?

Max: I think so and that’s why when I like a band I really go all out. I’m not good with computers so I get my son Zyon or my wife Gloria to get shirts and things like that, that’s how I got my two BÖLZER shirts and I got an autographed copy of Hero which was great. It keeps that spirit alive. It’s a bit different with the internet but the spirit is the same. The collaborations keep it alive and of course when you go on tour you can jam with other bands. With SUFFOCATION and BATTLECROSS we did Ace of Spades, with IMMOLATION and FULL OF HELL we did Black Metal, and right now I’m on tour with CANNABIS CORPSE, NOISEM and LODY KONG and I’m trying to get them to do Breaking the Law.

Do you ever think about starting up a Cavalera festival where you could have all of you and your family’s bands and then all of these young extreme bands that you like come and play?

Max: I would love to do something like that! Having the time to put the work in is hard but it’s definitely something that connects right to my heart because I love all that underground stuff, and I’m such a big fan of these bands that if I could create a little festival and have BÖLZERDEAD CONGREGATIONGATECREEPER and HOMEWRECKER play, it would be so cool. Here in America at least we don’t really get to be on the festivals like Warped Tour, Mayhem Festival, we never get asked, so to have our own would be such a big “fuck you”. One of these days I sincerely hope we can put something like that together.

There was a time initially when you first left SEPULTURA that SOULFLY was your one primary outlet, but now both SOULFLY and CAVALERA CONSPIRACY put out records so regularly that they both feel like fully-fledged bands in themselves. Now that you’re putting your creative energy into both bands fairly frequently, what to you these days is the defining difference between what you do in both?

Max: With CAVALERA CONSPIRACY I just enjoy being really open with Igor about our love of metal and using all of the influences that we have to just have a lot of fun with it. SOULFLY’s a bit different, there’s more exploration and on the new record we’re trying something a bit different. It’s going to be divided into three parts with a tribal part, a thrash part and a really heavy, extreme final part. I’m working on it right now and trying to put all the pieces together. As much as I love CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, SOULFLY is probably in my heart still my main thing, it’s the reason why I’m still here. Next year is twenty records since the first record came out and we’re celebrating that just by continuing to push forward and create.

Psychosis is set for release on November 17th via Napalm Records.