Max Cavalera: “I See This As a Huge Opportunity to Bring Fresh New Blood to Soulfly”

It’s not like Max Cavalera had a boring lockdown. While the rest of the scene was lamenting a lack of live shows, the metal frontman released two massive records, Reluctant Hero by his supergroup Killer Be Killed and the self-titled debut by his new vicious death metal act Go Ahead and Die. But Max’s main band Soulfly are hardened road warriors, and while the COVID quarantine gave him a little time off, he can’t help but admit that he’s chomping at the bit to kick off their tour this Friday.

“I won’t lie, we’ve been itching to get back out there,” says Max. “I’ve been touring for 30 years now, and pretty much nonstop for the last 20 years. So when we stopped by force…those two years were really strange. We’re really excited — a lot of the shows are getting packed, the tickets are selling well. It’s about time to get back out there and do what we do.”

Of course, if COVID taught the world anything, it’s that life will always throw you curveballs. Earlier this year, Soulfly’s longtime guitarist Marc Rizzo left the band, claiming that Max and Soulfly weren’t there for him during the pandemic. Somehow, Cavalera took those sour grapes and made lemonade by giving fans a special treat in the form of Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, who will join the band on this trek. For Max, bringing Dino on was an obvious choice — and it helped that he was a guy close to the heart of the band during a difficult time.

“We were pretty hurt by some of the things Marc was saying, and we needed a friend,” explains Cavalera. “You need a friend at a moment like that. Dino is that guy, and he’s super excited to be a part of this. He was the first guy that we thought of, and when I called him, he didn’t even blink. He was just like, Hell yeah, I’m on board, we are doing this. It’s about time.” 

What do you miss the most about touring? What are you most excited for?

It’s a combination of things — there’s the traveling side, which is one thing that I’ve always loved. The fact that you go to a different city every day and see different things, the geography changes, you start in Arizona and New Mexico and go all the way to New York, everything is different — I love that part. But the other part that I love is that one hour and a half that we share with the fans. I always treat it as a special thing. I don’t take it for granted. It’s an amazing gift to be on the stage, sharing that with our fans. And we have some amazing fans. They’re starving for metal, starving for music — starving for Soulfly! So in a 30-year career, I’ve never looked forward to a tour more than this one. It’s pure magic, man. It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to tell people the feeling that you get from it. It’s like the best drug in the world. It’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk. 

Wow — you’re looking forward to this tour more than the tours you went on as a teenager in Sepultura? That’s a big claim, man! 

Yeah! Because listen, this kind of thing has never happened to us! We’ve always had tours. Even when we were teenagers and I had the Sepultura tours, the early Soulfly tours, we were never away from it for two years! That goes back to my point: don’t take for granted what you have. It’s a gift. So that, to me, is why I’m looking forward to this one the most. Also the fact that we do have Dino joining us — that’s a huge thing, as a fan of Dino and of Fear Factory, to share the stage with him. Every night is just going to be a blast. It’s a special thing that we’re doing that, and it’s a unique situation that probably won’t happen again. We thought a lot about it, and it goes back to my friendship with Dino going on 25 years. Arise is 30 years old this year, and I met him at the same time I was touring that album. We’re veterans in this metal world.

You guys could’ve brought on almost any metal guitarist — why Dino?

Dino has always been a friend, and he was actually involved in the beginning of Soulfly. He plays guitar on “Eye For An Eye.” And there are sort of leads on that song — that’s him doing it. And we did a project in ‘95 called Nailbomb and Dino wrote a song with us called “24 Hour Bullshit.” We kept in touch. And I love Fear Factory. He’s a phenomenal guitar player in both ways — in the riff world, he’s a riff master. But he can also fucking shred! Listen to Divine Heresy — for those people who don’t know he can shred, he’s a shred master. 

It seems like you guys parted with Marc Rizzo very quickly, and he’s since made some disparaging remarks publicly. Is there any ongoing conversation between him and Soulfly, or are you just moving on?

I mean, it was just one of those situations where…we just went different roads. We grew apart. I think some of the accusations he’s throwing out are a bit unfair. I laugh at it, actually, because I know things are different than what he’s saying. He has to say something! But I think there’s supposed to be some kind of code between musicians that you don’t backstab somebody like that. We were with him for a long time, and it would’ve been nicer if he’d said, I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had with Souylfly and I’m moving on with my career. But not attack us the way he attacked us, and tried to put the fans against me — that’s bullshit. It just sucks to go through that. And I’m trying not to go down that road — I’m trying to take the high road. I don’t want to badmouth him. In my Max Trax stream, I wished him luck on his projects, and I thanked him for the 18 years with Soulfly. 

It sucks. It sucks that he’s trying to make me the asshole, the bad guy, who doesn’t take care of people during the pandemic. I’m not responsible for the pandemic — that shit just happened. Mike [Leon, bass] is in the band, and he never called me and complained, or said, Max, you never took care of me during the pandemic! The whole situation sucks, but I want to move forward. We’re going to do the tour with Dino, and then we’re going to look for a badass guitar player to be with the band in the future. I see this as a huge opportunity to bring fresh new blood to Soulfly. It was going a little bit stale, honestly, with Marc, I’m not going to lie. This is a chance to get a shot of adrenaline back in the band. And I’m using that — I’m using that time to find the right guy.

So Dino is not Soulfly’s permanent new guitarist — you’re looking for someone young and/or fresh?

Yeah. I’m looking for somebody who shares the taste of music I share, and doesn’t complain about touring — I know Rizzo has complained that we tour too much. It’s like, if you want to be in the band, you’ve got to love doing it, and there’s a lot that comes with it. This is an opportunity for me to find the cure! Find a really good guy I connect with. I’m excited. I try to see these things as a different step in the journey. This is a new step. It’s a chance to make Soulfly grow. We’re going to take the chance to find the right guy for the future. We’ll have a record out next year. And I also have a ton of other projects — Go Ahead and Die, Killer Be Killed, Cavalera Conspiracy with my brother [Iggor]. It happened, and we’re going to try to do the best we can in the situation, and try to find someone. There’s a lot of awesome guitar players out there — I’m sure we’re gonna find someone great.

It’s interesting that you’re looking for someone new and promising, because your openers on this tour, Niviane and Suicide Puppets, are like that. No offense to them, but I’d never heard of them before they were announced as your tourmates.

It’s all about giving somebody a chance to play. That’s always been the case. Sometimes you do packages that are made for specific tours — Soulfly and Nile, Soulfly and Morbid Angel, which are kind of hand-picked by us — but other times we like to give a chance to underground, more unknown bands, which is the case with Niviane and Suicide Puppets. It’s a chance for new bands to get out there, show the world. Because we had chances when we were growing up. We got many, many tours when we were coming up. Bigger acts gave us a chance — Ozzy was always great to us. Pantera, Ministry, even Slayer, who took Soulfly in 2003, and Rammstein, who took Soulfly out. I love that. And now that Soulfly is a bigger band, we have the chance to do the same for bigger, upcoming bands.

Obviously, Soulfly is a world-renowned band — but listening to you talk about this tour, it’s like hearing a teenage metalhead. You still sound like some metal kid. Don’t you ever get tired of this?

Nah, man. I’m a fan, foremost. I’m always going to be a metal fan. I refuse to grow up by society’s rules. I refuse to become a short-hair model citizen! I like my metal. That’s one sacred thing that I have, and don’t want to grow apart from. There’s a great bunch of new bands who I love, playing heavier stuff. I get in contact with them, we exchange T-shirts. That excitement has been with me since I was 15 years old. And it never went away. And that’s the coolest part, to me. When I don’t have that fire anymore, it’s time to stop. There’s nothing worse than doing something by force. Not because you love it, but because you have to, as an obligation. I don’t want to ever get like that. Everything I do, everything I touch, whether it’s a project like Killer Be Killed or Go Ahead and Die, or a new Soulfly, or a tour, I get back in the mindset of a Young Max. And I get excited. And I don’t want that to ever change.

Tickets for Soulfly’s upcoming tour are on sale at their website. Catch the band live at one of the dates listed below:

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Words by Chris Krovatin