Max Cavalera talks about songwriting process, new Cavalera Conspiracy album, dream collaboration

Posted by on November 4, 2014

cavaleraWith their third album, Pandemonium, out today (4), Cavalera Conspiracy mixed things up a little bit this time out. Admitting that their first two albums were very similar, frontman Max Cavalera spoke to us in New York about how they switched things up to make a rawer album. We also spoke to him about juggling three bands and how the songwriting process works for that, who he’d most like to collaborate with on a Soulfly album, touring plans for Killer Be Killed and his sons’ bands and their reluctance to tour with him. Pandemonium is out now on SPV Records.


Tell me a little about the new Cavalera Conspiracy record. How does it compare to the last few? It’s been a couple years since you’ve come out with one, right?

Yeah since 2011’s Blunt Force Trauma. That’s been about three years. We had to do some things differently. Because the first record, Inflikted,  came out in ’08. Blunt Force Trauma came out in 2011. They’re very similar to each other. The albums are almost like the same record. We didn’t change much. We used the same formula, we used the same producer. Even the album covers were similar, we just changed the color. So we decided we couldn’t get away with a third one like that. We had to do something different. We had to break the mold and do a whole inner revolution and come up with something quite different. I came up with the idea of making up a total fast record with my brother, which is something that’s for all the people that keep asking “you guys, when are you going to make that fast record? That one that sounds like the old shit.   That you and Igor playing together and playing fast.” I decided this is the time this is that time. Pandemonium is based on that. It’s a real strange record. It’s done in a very underground way. I produced it. We went to a house instead of a studio. So we kept everything really low profile. No big studio. No big producer. No rock star at all. Even the record sounds ugly as shit, it’s on purpose. I read some comments on the internet and some people are a little surprised of the sound quality. They didn’t think it was up to standards with the sound quality that we have. And I have an explanation for that. It’s not supposed to sound pretty. It’s an album that’s supposed to sound ugly. It’s an ugly sounding record on purpose.


You have Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy and Killer Be Killed.  How do you know what a Cavalera Conspiracy song is? Is it just you getting together with Igor?

Ya, most of it. You know, I wrote the songs for the record. For two months, November and December of last year, I spent all that time writing for the record. Everything I wrote from the guitar on a 4 track with a drum machine, it was all very based on the picture I had for Pandemonium in my head. I think a lot of times you have to form a picture of the album in your head before entering into the studio. It helps a lot, I think. It helps make you, if you’re going to make a more focused record. Sometimes the other way around works too. If you go into the studio with no idea what you’re going to do and just let it flow and see what the fuck happens, that is the case of Primitive. I have no idea how the record was going to come out like that.  It just came out. Combination of all kinds of shit. We had all those guests and the record came out like that. It’s spontaneous as shit. I kind of myself I like to be a little prepared and have a vision of the record. So I had a vision for Pandemonium when I was writing.


Does it all come together in one session? Or are there songs that two years you were like “this would be a good Cavalera Conspiracy song.” 

Everything was written for the Cavalera album. It was all written in the period of November and December. And I wrote a lot of music. We went in the studio with four CDs full. Each CD is about an hour of music. So I had four hours of riffs and had to choose 40 minutes. So a lot of the stuff we didn’t even use which I can use on another record. I probably will save it for when the time comes to do another Cavalera record. That’s probably really great leftovers from this session that we didn’t use that’s really cool shit that we could have used, you know.


So do you think it will be less than three years before another Cavalera Conspiracy record comes out? Or you can’t say that? 

I don’t know. We don’t really plan the day. It has a little planning but not that far in advance. Right now I want to slow down a little bit because I released Soulfly last year, Cavalera and Killer be Killed this year, it’s a lot of shit. Even for me sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. So I feel that I can slow down a little bit now. I can take the foot of the gas a little bit. Let things come down and work on a new Soulfly record for next year of course and not worry about a Cavalera record until a couple of years from now.


Soulfly records seem like there’s almost somewhat of a pattern where you’ll have two different guests per album, albums are kind of sequenced the same way, is that something you go into with? 

Ya I like the idea. For Soulfly I think it works because it’s something that started on our first record. It eventually became a trademark of the band to have guests. And I look forward to the people I want to work with. I really want to do a song Al Jourgensen for example. I think it would be fuckin awesome to do an industrial metal song between me and Al Jourgensen some kind of Ministry/Soulfly song.


Have you reached out to him yet or not yet? 

 No my bass player knows him, Tony. He played with me before so I can do the connection through Tony and I’m pretty sure Al will be thrilled, you know? He knows me from the Sepultura years.


Is there a thing where people approach you like “Hey I wanna be on a Soulfly record!” Or is it just you?

It has happened. It has happened. I think it was Tommy Victor who was like, he heard we were doing a record and he was like “you got something in there for me?” Prong man, you know? My only regret is that I didn’t have him write a riff. He’s such a  good riff maker you know? We had the whole song, it was a song called “Lethal Injection” it was a song that came out on Omen and it is a great song and Tommy does the vocals but if I would have done it today, I would  get him to write a riff. Use one of his riffs also.


Killer Be Killed is a really cool project that just kind of came together. Are there any plans for anything more or is it just kind of a one off? 

No I think we’re gonna take it slow. The next thing for Killer Be Killed is to organize some type of touring for next year. We’re gonna try to tour the US maybe once and Europe and see when everybody can do it. We’re all in kind of pretty busy bands. Troy’s got Mastodon and Greg has got Dillinger Escape Plan.


It’s a nightmare! 

It’s a nightmare, it is a nightmare. Even when we did the record it was almost impossible to get everybody in the same place but we did it. Somehow we pulled it off and I really like the record. I had a lot of fun making it.


It sounds like the best version of what it could have been. When you hear about you and Troy and Greg teaming up…

It shouldn’t work right. It seems like it shouldn’t work.


It seems like something that looks good on paper but would just kind of sound schizophrenic, like too many chefs spoiling the broth or whatever. But it’s great. 

Some reason, for some organic, music reason it fucking worked, and it worked like a charm. It was like we didn’t even put much effort. We put effort into the songs to get them as good as possible. The producer, Josh Wilbur, he wanted the best out of each guy. “Max, give me the best Max you can give me. Troy, I want the best Troy I can get.” He wanted the best. In fact, we wrote the chorus for one of the songs and it sounded real bad. And he was the first one to say “this chorus stinks! I am not recording this shit. You better get over there and record another chorus.”


cavalera_conspiracy_pandemonium_306Who did the most writing? Was it just all three of you? The four of you? 

Ya. It was really combined. It started with me and Greg on a lot of demos. We wrote the first set of songs. And then Dave [drummer, Elitch] joined the band. We rolled some more songs with Dave. Then Troy joined the band so we rolled some songs with Troy like “Save the Robots” and “Forbidden Fire.” I think it really clicked when all of us sang. That’s when it really brings the songs to life. Because just the instrumental was cool but it was regular metal songs. Nothing too special. If you listen to that record, only the instrumentals, it’s a little bit boring actually. Once you put the vocals on top of it, and everybody has their own vocal style, when you mix the three vocal styles together it’s really interesting.


Did you record any of it together in a room or was it people coming in and just doing their part? 



Everything in general. 

We recorded the music together. We actually had a system similar to what we do on Soulfly records and Cavalera records which is we have the amplifiers and the drum kit and we play live. Like real loud. And we feel the energy of the loud music hitting you, you know? We wrote the structure of the songs. We had no idea what the vocals were going to sound like so we just had the music. And we wrote like this. We wrote the music just imagining our vocals. We thought “This is going to be cool when we sing. But we haven’t yet.”


How did you map out who was going to sing what? 

That was really chaotic. Organized chaos that’s what it was. We just started giving parts to each person. I’ll tackle this chorus and Greg is like I’ll take this part. And Troy taking his part. A lot of the vocals you like a part, you raise a hand, and that part is yours. Nobody fought over the same part which is cool.


Let’s talk a little bit about the family. What’s it like playing with your brother once again? 

Awesome. For me it was one of the best things to happen in the last 15 years in my life was my brother calling and making this friendship you know, offer. Coming back to be my brother again. For those ten years we didn’t talk it was real hard on me I felt really angry. I think angry is the right word for not talking to him. I didn’t understand why. We never fought. We just weren’t playing in a band anymore. I left the group. That shouldn’t be a reason for us not to talk.


So basically you left the band, he was still in the band, and you stopped talking?

We just stopped talking. Cut off any communication and it went on for ten years. And for one reason it went on for that long was I got busy. Soulfly and the things I was doing, he was busy with Sepultura until he left Sepultura. That’s when he called.


Let’s talk a little bit about your son. Incite is about to play our showcase at CMJ. What do you think of the new record? 

I think it’s great. It’s the best thing they’ve done.


Do you notice him kind of distancing himself from you a little bit? Musically? 

Ya ya they sound more like Lamb of God and Pantera. Less like my stuff, which is good. I think it’s important for him not to do the same stuff I did. Richie works extremely hard for Incite. I see how much work he puts in and when he lost a member of the band, when a bunch of the members quit on him, I told him ‘welcome to my world.’ It’s gonna happen a lot you better get used to it. It’s the politics of music. It sucks. People you thought were your friends and would be there forever, next thing you know they’re gone tomorrow. And you’re gonna deal with it.


Does he come to you with advice? 

Not much. I think he wants to do it on his own. He doesn’t like to throw the name around like other people would expect. He doesn’t like to do that. I think my kids have that thing where like even Zion, Igor with Lody Kong, they said “we would like to tour more with the other bands than with you,” which is quite funny. Because they could have any tour I do, they could have the guest spot. But they don’t want that. They’d rather tour with someone else. They want to make it on their own. They want to try everything on their own and with failures and disappointments. It’s all part of the learning process of being in a band, is going through all these things. They want to experience they don’t want me to tell them “Avoid this” or “don’t do that” they want to try themselves. They’d rather try and fail than having me tell them ‘you should do this’ or ‘you should do that.’ I respect that. I think it’s a pretty cool attitude to have.


What’s the word of touring plans for Cavalera? 

My brother doesn’t like to tour that much. The tours have to be done a certain way. Maybe a month in America then he goes home, back to his family. Then maybe regroup and do another month in Europe. That’s how he likes to do it and I respect that. We created Cavalera together so we could have fun with it and not hating the touring. A long tour, like a four month tour, would not work and is not gonna happen. But we’re looking at a very good American tour in January, a lot of cool House of Blues and nice venues. BB Kings here in NY, one of the nice venues in NY. A full US tour and a full European tour, and then hopefully some Killer Be Killed dates and then I can work on the Soulfly record.

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