Interview: Soulfly talk about the release of a new album
Our Alan Daly had a chat with Tony Campos, Soulfly’s bass player, ahead of the band’s gig in Dublin. See review and photos from the gig.
Alan: So you’ve been to Dublin before. Not with Soulfly, but about five years ago. Do you have any particular memories of your last visit to Dublin?
Tony: Good shows… Good Guinness… And good fish ’n’ chips!
Alan: I know your touring schedule is hectic this time around, but did you get to enjoy a bit of free time here the last time?
Tony: Yeah, I was able to walk around and check out the town a little bit. I always like doing that. It’s one of the things I like about this job; you get to wander around a new city every day.
Alan: It’s been about three years since you teamed up with Max [Cavalera] and Soulfly now. Do you remember how that came about exactly?
Tony: Well I’ve known Max since 1999 or 2000. My old band was on Ozzfest with them, and I used to jump up onstage and sing ‘No’ with them. That’s how I got to meet Max. And then, 3 or 4 years after that, my old band did a co-headline tour with Soulfly. And then we would run into each other out on tour and say hi. Then in late 2010 I was working with Prong, and we did a couple of tours opening for Soulfly, and I reconnected with Max there. After that tour, Tommy [Victor (Prong)] went and did some stuff with Danzig. I was sitting at home not doing anything, and I heard Soulfly needed a bass player, so I sent an email and made a call, and I was like “Hey, I’m not doing anything. If you guys need somebody to come in, let me know; I’m here.” And that’s how it happened!
Alan: Did Max make you audition?
Tony: I don’t know if it was ever called an audition. I just showed up and we started jamming on songs, and that was pretty much it.
Alan: You mentioned Prong there. I was wondering about that and Asesino. Will you have time for those now that you are with Soulfly full time?
Tony: No. You know what? Soulfly keeps me really busy. I’m out eight, ten months of the year with these guys, so it’s a really busy gig. Which is great; they love working as much as I do. It’s an awesome gig for me. But on the flipside, it doesn’t really leave me time to do anything else. Tommy decided to go with someone that is more readily available. Jason Christopher is playing bass with him now; a great guy and a great player. And as for Asesino; when I have time, Dino [Cazares] is out on tour, or vice versa. I know he’s home right now doing a Fear Factory record. I’ll get home on the 21st and I’ll be home for three days and then I’ve got to leave again. It’s just a matter of our schedules lining up, and so far it hasn’t happened. I’m hoping we can do a record some time in the next couple of years; before the ten year anniversary of the last one comes around!
Alan: Yeah, I saw a rumoured title of “La Segunda Venida”?
Tony: Yeah, we’ve been talking about it for years, about doing another record. I think it was three years ago now, we both had an April off, and we decided to get together and we wrote like five songs. So we more or less have five songs sort of written. But you know, that was three years ago. So we’ll see (1) if we remember anything from that session and then (2) we’ve still got to write five or six more songs for a record. It’s just a matter of scheduling. That’s how side-projects go.
Alan: How about releasing an Asesino EP with the songs you’ve already written?
Tony: It’s a possibility. An EP would certainly take less time to record than a full-length album, so we’ll see. It’s just a matter of me, Dino and Emilio [Márquez] sitting down and bashing things out.
Alan: Cool. And what’s it like here with “the Cavalera family”, let’s say, because Max’s son Zyon is the latest addition to Soulfly, and he and his brother Igor are playing in the support band Lody Kong. So does it feel like one big family?
Tony: Yeah! It’s a totally different dynamic to any other band I’ve worked with. It’s so tight-knit, you know? When they welcome you in, it’s almost like you’re part of their family too. Gloria, who manages the band, is Max’s wife, and she’s mom to all these guys. She’s like tour-mom; she takes care of everybody. But it’s cool. It’s different. It took me a little while to get used to it, but it’s a really nice dynamic.
Alan: I don’t think you have children yourself, but if you did, would you bring them with you into this environment of “drink, drugs and rock’n’roll”?
Tony: I don’t know if I could handle that! It’s a lot to handle trying to raise kids and manage a tour and a band. I give Gloria credit; she’s been able to pull that off. I don’t know if I could!
Alan: And speaking of Max and his family; were they devastated over that crushing defeat by Germany in the World Cup semi-final a few days ago?
Tony: I wasn’t around. Max was watching the game on the bus, and I was in the dressing room. We went on stage right before half time, and I heard what the score was, and I was like “Yeah… I’m going to leave Max alone today!”. [laughs] I heard he was pretty upset; understandably! I think he’s over it now!
Alan: I see you have a pretty hectic schedule on this tour. What’s the craziest thing that has happened on tour with Soulfly so far? Any crazy stories you can share?
Tony: I got my phone stolen in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago! The one day off we had on the tour, we got to hang out in Amsterdam. I left my phone plugged into the wall, because I had been using it all day, and I was waiting for the train back to the bus. I put my head down because I had been walking around all day, and I looked up, and it was gone. Yeah, not a fun story!
Alan: That sucks! At the moment you’re playing a lot of summer festival shows to big crowds. But tonight you’re playing Whelan’s which is a very small venue. The last time Soulfly played in Dublin they played in the Academy, and you’ve played there before too. And the Academy is a much bigger venue. Was that a conscious decision or a scheduling restriction?
Tony: Yeah… that’s up to the booking agent. He sees what venues are available, and where the dates line up, and sometimes even though the band can sell more tickets, the venue isn’t available, and so they put you in a smaller room. It’s all the same to me.
Alan: Well, that’s what I was going to ask: Honestly, do you prefer to play the bigger outdoor arenas where you play to thousands of people who may not even have come to see you, or to play the intimate club gigs to a handful of fans?
Tony: There’s things I like about them both. I like the big stages at big arenas, because it gives you room to run around like a moron…
Alan: You’re not going to do much running around tonight!
Tony: Yeah, not tonight. But, at the smaller venues, you get that interaction with the fans. You can reach out, and slap them, and grab a beer from them if you want! The smaller clubs have their advantages too!
Alan: Haha, yeah! When you worked on Savages, which was your second album with Soulfly, how much input did you have in the writing and recording process?
Tony: Not much. You know, Max kinda has everything sort of figured out by the time me and Mark [Rizzo] show up. On this particular record, he jammed a lot of the stuff out with Zyon back home before going into the studio. But then, once we got into the recording studio, we jammed everything out for a weekend and we changed a few things, you know? We added our parts. Mark changed a few of the riffs to fit better. So we had a little bit of input, but the core of the songs are pretty much done by the time we get there.
Alan: Do you feel a bit restrained by that? Or do you just trust Max…
Tony: No, not at all man. I mean I grew up listening to the guy. So it’s not like I’m not going to trust him to write a good song! [laughs]
Alan: Savages was released last September, so I guess it was written in early 2013. I’m guessing it must be close to the time when you guys will start thinking about the next album, based on your album release history?
Tony: Yeah. Max has already discussed with me about starting to write early next year and get into that recording mode again.
Alan: Have you got the framework or riffs for any new songs?
Tony: Not that I’ve heard. I don’t know if Max has been writing. But if at the end of this next run, Max says “Hey, we’re going into the studio”, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
Alan: So you think that might happen sometime early 2015?
Tony: Yeah, early to mid next year. Possibly. But don’t quote me on that! [oops!] You know, at the end of the day, it’s Max that makes the call, so we’ve just got to be ready for that.
Alan: In the past, Soulfly have recorded and released some cover songs, but none on Enslaved or Savages, which are the two albums you have recorded with the band. But during the recording sessions, were there any covers that were played with or considered?
Tony: I don’t think so. Not during the recording sessions. Out live we mess around with stuff; we play some Sabbath and Maiden. But as long as I’ve been here, there hasn’t been anything like that happening in the studio.
Alan: Is there any song that you would really like to cover with Soulfly? Something that you think “We could do an awesome version of this”?
Tony: I don’t know man. I mean, Max’s voice on pretty much anything sounds pretty cool.
Alan: Any song that would be a personal favourite of yours?
Tony: I don’t know. I like so much shit, you know? Asking me to pick a favourite song is like asking me to pick my favourite testicle; I like them both! [laughs]
Alan: Your family back home; what do they think of your career choice? Did they ever doubt you would go as far as you have? You know, did your mom every tell you to “get a real job”?
Tony: Well I had a real job! I was still working when my old band, Static, got signed and we did the record, and I was still going to my job…
Alan: Which was?…
Tony: I was working at this company called Video Monitoring Services, and what I did was; I would watch TV news broadcasts and type up transcripts. So I worked right up until a week before we left on our first tour. So as far as they understood, I still had a job! And then when I took off on tour, the band started making money and being successful. Then when I’d come home, I didn’t have my own place because I gave that up when I was out on tour, so for the few days I did go back home, I just crashed on their couch, you know? And they would ask “Are you making money? What’s going on? Why are you on the couch”. And I was like “Well, yeah. This is what I’m doing for a living now, look!”. And then it didn’t hit my dad until he actually came out and saw us play on Ozzfest, and it finally dawned on him “Woah, what the hell? They’re all here to see you?” [laughs] So yeah, once they figured it out, they’ve been very supportive. And I’ve been doing this now for fifteen years!
Alan: What do you think you’d be doing now if the music career hadn’t worked out for you? Do you think you’d still be transcribing news reports?
Tony: At the time things started happening for the band I was going to a trade school. I went to university to try to get a degree in computer science, but that didn’t work out because I ran out of money. And then I went to a trade school to try to get a degree in drafting, and the school I was going to had this two year program. And after I went to the first year, they cancelled my program so I either had to change my major or go to another school. And I was like “Aw man, what the fuck am I going to do with my life?”. And that’s when shit started to happen for the band. So I was like “Well, let’s see where this goes”.
Alan: And the rest is history! I looked at your Facebook page and I see you’ve been keeping your fans updated on your dining experiences while on tour. You seem to seek out Mexican cuisine wherever possible! Is that you feeling a bit homesick?
Tony: Well, I’ve been doing this for a while now, and up until recently, I’ve never found Mexican food in Europe, or anywhere else outside of the U.S. and South America, you know? And so, when I first found a Mexican place in Europe, I was like “Woah, you’ve got to be kidding me!” It was this incredible thing. And now I see more and more Mexican places popping up all over Europe, so I’m like “Well, I’ve got to try them!”. There’s two things I love; burritos and sandwiches! A good burrito, a good sandwich; you can’t go wrong, you know? So it’s an adventure! Because some places; they get it pretty good. Other places; they still don’t quite get it right. So any time I sit down at a Mexican place out here in Europe, it’s always a roll of the dice!
Alan: So will we see a picture of you in Dublin with a burrito and a pint of Guinness?
Tony: If I can find a place! I found a place yesterday in Belfast, and that’s exactly what I was thinking; “Oh cool! I can have a burrito and a pint of Guinness”. And I get to the place, and all they have is Mexican beers! [laughs]
Alan: I do have one last question for you if you don’t mind answering; I was wondering how the relationship is between yourself and Wayne Static at the moment?
Tony: Pfhh… There isn’t a relationship! You know, that fell apart in 2009 and according to him, we were never friends; it was all business, so that’s how I’ve handled things between us since then.
Alan: We’ve seen that he wanted to continue touring and recording under the name Static-X…
Tony: Yeah, we reached an agreement, and he couldn’t fulfil his end of the agreement, and you know, he decides to blame me for not being able to live up to his end of the agreement. I guess he expected me to do him favours, and again; I treated it like a business, which is what he established.
Alan: Do you ever see a situation where you might play together in the future? Maybe not under the Static-X name? It’s a long time to share with someone; like losing a friend or a partner.
Tony: At the end of it, it was fifteen years I had worked with the guy. Five years of the band not being signed and then a ten year career with the band. Yeah, it’s a long time! But too many things would have to happen; too many things that I don’t think he’s willing to do to make it happen. And for me personally, it’s like, that’s in the past, and all I’ve wanted to do since then, since the band fell apart, is just move on, and continue on with my life and my career. That’s why I never got caught up in a war of words with him in the press. I’d let him say whatever he wants to say; make up whatever he wants to make up. And if he wants to blame me, it doesn’t change anything for me. I’m still out here, and I’m still working. I can pay my mortgage; I can feed my dogs; that’s all that matters to me! You know, if he wants to make me the scapegoat; go ahead man!
Alan: Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing you play with Soulfly tonight.
Tony: Yeah, it’s a great gig. I got really lucky hooking up with these guys. I get to play with one of my heroes; I get to sing songs with Max. Like I said, we’re out working eight to ten months of the year; it’s a really great gig!
Alan: On that note, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to chat, and I hope you enjoy performing in Dublin tonight!
Tony: No problem, man!
Interview by Alan Daly
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko