Soulfly’s Max Cavalera Reveals Surprising Conversations With Kurt Cobain & Dave Grohl

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Soulfly photo by Rodrigo Fredes.

When quite a few veteran metal bands were softening their sound or “going alternative” in the ‘90s, Max Cavalera refused to budge – offering up classic metal releases with Sepultura (1993’s Chaos AD and 1996’s Roots), Nailbomb (1994’s Point Blank), and Soulfly (1998’s self-titled debut). And Cavalera continues to carry the metal torch, as evidenced by Soulfly’s current US tour, which also features Cannabis Corpse, Noisem, and Lody Kong, and will go until November 10th (complete dates listed here). Cavalera spoke to Alternative Nation from the road about the tour, upcoming projects, and his relationships with the members of Nirvana.

This tour is an incredibly heavy line-up.

I love the line-up – it’s very underground. Lody Kong is my kids’ band – they’re the first band. And then you have Noisem, which is really awesome right now – they reformed the band and they’re a three-piece. I’ve always been a big fan of Noisem – I love their albums, Agony Defined and Blossoming Decay. They are working on a third album, which is going to come out soon. And then Cannabis Corpse, which is great – all of their songs are about weed, and they have that awesome death metal sound, and of course, they’ve got members of Municipal Waste. It’s cool – it’s an underground package. And we’re doing the whole Nailbomb record, Point Blank, which is a pretty kick ass album. A lot of energy. We don’t let up – “Wasting Away” starts, and all the way to “Sick Life,” it’s a continuous assault of brutality. It’s great.

What made you decide to perform the Nailbomb album in its entirety at this point?

It’s one of my favorite records that I’ve ever done. A lot of people wanted Nailbomb to do more stuff, and since we’re really not doing any new stuff with Nailbomb – because Alex [Newport] doesn’t want to do anything with Nailbomb anymore, we thought it would be cool to just have Soulfly play it. We put the weight of a real band…because Soulfly is a real band with a lot of weight, with a lot of power and sound, and transformed the Point Blank album into a live band situation. And it becomes something else – it’s a different monster. I think it’s really cool. A lot of the electronic songs are translated into band songs – “World of Shit,” “Religious Cancer,” and “24 Hour Bullshit.” It’s a great set. It’s a lot of energy. We play song after song – there’s not really talk between songs. It’s kind of a direct, confrontational set. It’s really angry and powerful. It’s about the explosion of Point Blank – with the weight of a heavy band like Soulfly playing it. I think it’s perfect. I’m glad the format is underground – with Cannabis Corpse, Noisem, and Lody Kong.

I give you a lot of credit, because while many metal bands were going “alternative” in the ‘90s, you made it a point to remain true to metal with Sepultura, Nailbomb, and Soulfly.

Well, I’ve always loved metal. And Nailbomb was a bit of an experimental project, because I was listening to a lot of industrial stuff at the time – a lot of Godflesh, Ministry, and Fear Factory. Me and Alex got together and he plays in Fudge Tunnel, which was a real heavy band at the time. And we mixed our styles together – my style with Alex’s style and drum machines and samplers. And we invited people like Dino from Fear Factory to play, and the Sepultura guys. We made a really cool record. It came out right after Chaos AD. I’m a huge metal guy – I love metal. I love what’s going on with metal right now, with all the releases coming out – Paganizer, Genocide Pact, Gatecreeper, and the new Morbid Angel song sounds insane. Metal is my life.

Is it true that Dave Grohl was trying to get Sepultura on a tour with Nirvana at one point? 

Yeah, he and the bass player were talking about it. I think they wanted to take us and the Dead Kennedys – which would have been an insane tour. Sepultura, the Dead Kennedys, and Nirvana would have been great – it would have been one of the best tours ever. But it never came to life unfortunately, because Kurt passed away. But Dave is a big fan of my stuff – I got him to do the intro for my book. He was really honored that I would ask him to do that. He loves RootsRoots is one of his favorite records of all time. So, I’m very happy that we got to meet him – he’s really cool.

Did you ever meet Kurt Cobain? 

I actually met him twice. We met at a Headbangers Ball special, where he was wearing a dress, but he was sleeping most of the time – I think he was heavily on heroin at the time. And then at one point, he was doing a show in Brazil, and one of my friends called me from Brazil to Phoenix, and Kurt was on the phone. We talked a little bit about our kids – his daughter was just born, and my son, Zyon, was just born. So, it was very cool. And then he asked me where he can get heroin in Brazil. I had no idea – I couldn’t really help him. I was in Arizona, y’know? I told him, “There is plenty of good coke – Brazil’s got good cocaine. I don’t know nothing about heroin…but you should try coke.” [Laughs]

Future projects? 

We have to finish the Roots tour – we have a couple more shows in December with Overkill in Europe. I’m going to work on a new Soulfly record – hopefully we can be recording by the middle of January and February. It’s going to be a great Soulfly record. Next year will be 20 years since the first Soulfly album came out, so it’s a very special year for Soulfly. Nuclear Blast is really behind the album, and we’ve got a big project commitment for the new Soulfly record. It’s going to be great. And then more touring – I’ve got the new Cavalera Conspiracy album that is coming out in November, Psychosis, it’s a really cool record. Very thrashy, very death metal. And eventually, we will tour for it. So, next year will be a lot of touring and making new music – which is always great for me.

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Bio: After having his articles posted from other outlets on Alternative Nation (and before that, Grunge Report) for years - heck, he was even interviewed by GR back in 2009! - Greg Prato finally began contributing articles to the site in 2014. He has written for various sites/mags over the years (Rolling Stone, All Music Guide, etc.), and is the author of quite a few books. And as evidenced by such titles as Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, and Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, he also has a deep fondness for alternative rock n' roll music. You can check out info on all of Greg's books here, see what he's up to on his Twitter page here.
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