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October 31, 2010

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Soulfly: Heavy metal boys from Brazil

BRAZILIAN heavy metal band Soulfly wowed the audience at the Changjiang Midi Festival, incorporating many styles of metal with Brazilian tribal and world music.

Chinese fans could hardly believe Soulfly finally turned up at the festival in early October in Zhenjiang, Zhejiang Province.

Lead singer and driving force Max Cavalera was especially cheered when he turned up on the stage wearing an old-fashioned jacket with the word "China" stitched on the front. He had traded his own for it with a local journalist just before the performance.

Guitarist Marc Rizzo, known for his interest in ethnic music around the world, said he loves the sound of pipa (traditional Chinese lute) and wanted to take one home with him.

The band, formed in 1997 and based in Phoenix, Arizona, was one of the big names in the four-day festival that drew nearly 100,000 fans. Soulfly closed the show on the third day.

The band is comprised of lead singer Cavalera, guitarist Rizzo, drummer Joe Nunez and Johny Chow on bass. Cavalera's earlier band Sepultura, or "grave," was one of the most influential heavy metal bands in Brazil in the 1980s and early 1990s. But he and Sepultura went their separate ways and now performs with Soulfly. Much of the music is about spirituality and religion.

Shanghai Daily talks to the band.

Q: How does the Midi festival compare with others? What had you expected about China?

Chow: The set up here is just as good as at all other music festivals we have played, and the equipment is top-notch. The atmosphere in the plaza was splendid. We can't stay but wish we could remain for a week or two and look around.

Cavalera: If we were invited, we would love to come here, not just for one performance but a tour to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. It would be amazing if we could play at the Great Wall.

Nunez: I would love to go to Shaolin Temple.

Q: As one of the most influential heavy metal bands, are you satisfied with achievements over 13 years?

Cavalera: Music is never fulfilled, it's endless, and you just get heavier and heavier. We started in 1998, and I'm rather happy with where we are right now. I have done more albums and performances with Soulfly now than my previous band. It has been a great journey. We were just playing in Israel, the fest was great, and the media there called it the most important music event there so far, we are just really happy to be part of it.

Q: What are your musical influences?

Chow: I listen to a lot of Dubstep, heavily bass dominant music, because I'm a bass player. I also listen to a lot of electronic music.

Nunez: I listen to quite a bit of world music and reggae. That's why we are a good mix here, because we are not just all coming from one direct music style, everybody brings in a little bit of different stuff. I also really like classic Chinese music.

Rizzo: I listen to a lot of instrumental guitar sounds, and also love ethnical music, I'm quite interested in the pipa right now, actually I would love to play one, if you can get me a pipa tonight.

Q: What's been the most impressive fest experience ?

Cavalera: Grass Pop in Belgium this year. It was a great fest that attracted 8,000 people, and I think we were the most ghetto band they've ever had. We played after Slash, and they had like 400 people working for them; we had only four, no laser lights, no special effects. It all comes down to music and it was a great experience.

Q: Your albums show hardcore influences. How do you balance hardcore and heavy metal?

Cavalera: We grew up in Brazil listening to great bands like Mortal Head, Sex Pistols and Discharge. There's really no division in that, it's all about music and we love the great energy that comes out from hardcore. It's much simpler. Metal songs sometimes get too long, so when I want something faster and dynamic, I go to hardcore. We had quite a mix of that in our albums. Hardcore songs just never get old, you put on a Discharge track now, and you'll still love it, it's so up to date. As for metal, it needs a lot more taste so it isn't overdone.


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