Max Cavalera opens up on the heartache that led to one of Soulfly’s great­est an­thems


How Max Cavalera chan­nelled his grief into groove-laden clas­sic Bleed.

Metal has al­ways

been a refuge from which you draw strength: some of our most iconic and pow­er­ful mo­ments were birthed from heart­break, pain, rage and frus­tra­tion. No one knew that feel­ing more than Max Cavalera in 1998, as he pre­pared to em­bark on a new jour­ney into mu­sic.

“It was a re­ally weird time for me,” he tells us to­day. “It was my first al­bum since leav­ing Sepul­tura and the first al­bum af­ter the death of my step­son, Dana [Wells, who was killed in a car ac­ci­dent two years ear­lier]. The first thing I did af­ter that was work with Deftones, who were friends of Dana. They were there at his fu­neral – Chino [Moreno, front­man] was ac­tu­ally one of the pall­bear­ers. They in­vited me to sing the song Headup on Around The Fur, and that is when I came up with the word ‘Soulfly’

[‘Soulfly / Fly high / Soulfly / Fly free’]. It all just started from there. I put the first Soulfly al­bum to­gether pretty quickly; I had demos like Eye

For An Eye and No Hope=No Fear, but while we were in the stu­dio I felt that I needed to pay more re­spects to Dana. So, I thought of Bleed, be­cause that was how we were all feel­ing. We were all still suf­fer­ing, still bleed­ing, from his death.”

Driven by his grief, Max be­gan to com­pose a song that cap­tured the feel­ings of his fam­ily around him. “It was built on this re­ally cool groove, but it was the lyrics that made it re­ally heavy. Lyrics like ‘See a mother cry, see a brother cry’… that’s the shit that went on in my house. I would walk around and see Glo­ria [Cavalera, Max’s wife] cry­ing and I would see the kids cry­ing. It was fucking a rough time, man. I had to put it into the song.”

Max was also fu­elled by the cir­cum­stances in­volv­ing Dana’s pass­ing. “And then I started think­ing about the way that he died,” he tells us. “I wrote ‘What goes around comes around, you bet­ter re­alise, you kill life, you kill life, why, why’ – it was a re­ally pissed-off and an­gry song, man.”

It was enough to push Bleed into the kind of emo­tional, ur­gent ter­ri­tory from which great art is made, but there was still some­thing ex­tra-spe­cial to sprin­kle on the top of the noise. The ad­di­tion of Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and DJ Lethal would give the song an added hip hop swag­ger.

“Ross [Robin­son, pro­ducer] had just worked with Limp Bizkit and he said that he thought they would be per­fect to add some­thing to the break­down bit at the end,” Max con­tin­ues. “DJ Lethal added all these re­ally cool scratch sounds on top, but Fred just wrote the lyrics right there on the spot. It was elec­tric. I think it’s one of the best things he’s ever done. We were all su­per-ex­cited, es­pe­cially as the stuff he was say­ing was so pissed off. He didn’t know Dana, but he re­ally tapped into the mes­sage of the song. It was a sad song to do, but it was re­ally an­gry, too, so that was ex­cit­ing. I think that’s why it suc­ceeded so much; that hon­est anger re­ally spoke to peo­ple.”

It was, says

Max, a mo­ment where he was able to bring him­self back from the brink. “Six months be­fore, I was an­gry about Dana, an­gry about Sepul­tura. I’d been liv­ing in a dark room, drink­ing and tak­ing drugs and I was done with mu­sic. My heart was too bro­ken to think about it – I just told ev­ery­one to fuck off, and that I just wanted to get drunk. If it wasn’t for Deftones, I don’t know what I would have done. It was tough and hard to make, but it was great cathar­sis and a great ther­apy for me.”

With Soulfly head­ing out on a huge tour to rub­ber stamp Max’s re­demp­tion, Fred Durst would not be the last per­son to take on Bleed’s rap sec­tion. Over time ,var­i­ous metal alumni have filled the role, but it’s a fam­ily mem­ber that re­mains Max’s favourite.

“We’ve had ev­ery­one do that rap part over the years,” he laughs. “Chino, the (hed)pe guys, Lynn from Snot, Serj from Sys­tem Of A Down, the guy from Dis­turbed did it once… but I liked it best when we had Ritchie [Cavalera, Max’s son and now In­cite front­man] do it. It sounded real cool with a lit­tle kid voice spit­ting these an­gry lyrics.”

Twenty years af­ter its re­lease, it is still a song that both Max and Soulfly fans hold in the high­est es­teem. “I hadn’t played it for a while and we brought it back on this tour,” he says. “And peo­ple went crazy for it. I still love to play it. I love all of my songs, but Bleed is spe­cial to me be­cause of what it means, and be­cause it was the song that showed ev­ery­one that I could do this on my own… and I in­clude my­self in that. If that al­bum had failed, I don’t think I’d be here talk­ing to you now. It was the first step on the jour­ney to where I am now.” NEW SOULFLY AL­BUM, RIT­UAL, IS OUT ON OC­TO­BER 19 VIA NU­CLEAR BLAST


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