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Max Cavalera of Soulfly is a mellow speaker. His Brazilian accent is thick, and there's a lilting quality to the way he punctuates his sentences with phrases like "You know?" or "It's killer, man." He's buzzing about a lake house in unincorporated Phoenix, a second home to go along with his other Phoenix abode: "It's great, man, on the lake with the mountains and the trees. It's killer, man."
But for all his laid-back cadence and family-man warmth, Cavalera is exceedingly busy: He's currently on the road supporting Enslaved, his most recent record with Soulfly; he's just about finished writing an autobiography called A Boy from Brazil; he's prepping to head into the studio to record for an unnamed project with Troy Sanders of Mastodon, Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan, and former Mars Volta drummer Dave Eltich (he describes the material as melodic and says that the band's having trouble coming up with a name because Google search results indicate "all the good ones are taken"). Then there's tentative talk of doing a dubstep/reggae/EDM remix record of Cavalera Conspiracy songs, an idea his brother Igor, with whom he formed the famed thrash combo Sepultura, is especially keen on. All in good time, the singer/guitarist laughs.
"I'm going to be really busy — I won't have time for Cavalera [Conspiracy] this year," he says, citing immediate plans to record a followup to Enslaved with producer Terry Date "as soon as this tour is finished." It would seem Enslaved — recorded with famed heavy producer Zeuss (Shadows Fall, Hatebreed) — has got him pumped on Soulfly material. Following the hardcore punk-influenced Blunt Force Trauma, released by Cavalera Conspiracy in 2011, Enslaved found Max getting in touch with his most extreme tastes.
"Blunt Force Trauma has more of a thrash feeling to it; Enslaved is more extreme," he says. "It's definitely influenced by deathcore, death metal, and everything from old bands I listened to [like] Entombed, Napalm Death, Carcass, to new bands like I Declare War, Molotov Solution, Impending Doom . . . because I like a lot of these new bands, too."
Which isn't to say that Cavalera's signature swing, a deep-rooted desire for rhythmic balance informed by his love of reggae and Latin music, has gone away. He insists that "groove" will always be a component of his musical makeup.
"I love groovy metal," he muses. "I think I always like when you hear a good Pantera song with a great groove, something like 'Walk,' you know? It has a killer groove to it. Or like, Prong [or] old Metallica. Even Slayer! Slayer is full of groove. Groove is good for metal. [Laughs] Somebody should put that on a shirt: Groove is good for metal."
"In my Sepultura days, we wrote with a lot of groove, stuff like 'Roots.' 'Territory' has a lot of groove in it, because I always thought if you just go fast the whole time, there's nothing special. It just becomes a blur of speed, you know? I love it. I'm always going to write like that. I love groovy metal. It's something that's organic, it moves people. When you're at a show, those parts come in and you can feel the people getting into it. You leave the fast stuff from the circle pit people, and then the groove parts come in and everybody bounces. It's great."
Groove has been a constant for Cavalera, as well as his connection between work and family. Sepultura and Cavalera Conspiracy drew energy from his (sometimes combative) relationship with Igor. His wife, Gloria Cavalera, manages Soulfly, and his son, Zyon, has taken a position as the band's drummer.
"He's playing drums this whole tour," he says with pride. "He's doing just awesome; people really like his drumming. It's great having him there, you know?"