INTERVIEW WITH IGOR AMADEUS CAVALERA BY KELLEY SIMMS
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIM LOUVAU
Consider the Cavaleras as the “Royal Family of Heavy Metal.” Former Sepultura and current Soulfly, Killer Be Killed, Cavalera Conspiracy frontman Max Cavalera’s offspring have followed in their father’s footsteps with their own successful careers in music.
During a father and son getaway at a remote mountain property in the middle of the Arizona desert, Cavalera senior and his youngest son, Igor Amadeus Cavalera, spent the COVID summer of 2020 writing Go Ahead And Die’s self-titled debut full-length record. Featuring Max on vocals/guitar, Igor on vocals/guitar/bass, and Zach Coleman (Khemmis, Black Curse) on drums, the album contains an aggressive amalgam of thrash/crust punk/grindcore/hardcore, consisting of 11 face ripping tracks.
Igor speaks about the writing and recording of the album, what it means to be a Cavalera, his stoner metal band Healing Magic, and much more.
How did the phrase “Go ahead and die” become the band name? It seems like the ultimate insult to say to someone. Is that how it was meant to be taken?
It’s pretty funny, actually. We were making the music before we had the name. Once we had sent a few demos over to Nuclear Blast and they seemed interested, we realized that we needed to come up with something because things were happening for us. We were looking out in every direction to find a name, and it was actually my dad who came to me and claimed it was a Japanese phrase. I don’t know if this was fact checked or not, but he claims it’s a Japanese phrase that equals “Go fuck yourself.” But when he did a Google Translate, it said, “Go ahead and die.” A light bulb went off in my head where I was like, let’s just use the English version and possibly even use it as an acronym of GAAD. It’s funny that you say it’s an insult to people because it kind of is. But the idea we had behind it was, during times of crisis and crazy, chaotic years like 2020 was, our leaders and people in power looked at all of us regular civilians and said, “Meh, go ahead and die, we don’t care about you!” It’s a black humor insult a little bit. It’s a little dark, but for the sound of the record, it fits it perfectly.
Do the current times reflect the vitriolic nature and aggression of the music on the album?
Definitely, man. I don’t think it’s any surprise to fans of my father that he writes about social commentary, human rights, and sometimes politics even. But I share the same views. I grew up with that from my parents, that’s how I was raised. It’s definitely influenced by everything from the pandemic, the isolation of quarantine, to police brutality and human rights, to detention centers. So, it definitely spans a lot of different things, but it’s rooted in a kind of punk mentality of anti-establishment/anti-police brutality and things like that. I think as Americans we had a lot to be frustrated about last year, and my father and I both channeled that frustration, and sorrow even, in feelings like that into the music. And that’s how it came out. That frustration and anger is real, it comes from the heart.
“THAT FRUSTRATION AND ANGER IS REAL, IT COMES FROM THE HEART.”
Tell us about the remote location in the Arizona desert writing this record. What was the process like, especially getting to bond with your dad?
It was very natural and organic. We didn’t have a strict plan or any type of direction. It really came down to when the pandemic struck. I was living in Florida and all my family was in Arizona. So, when the pandemic went down, I called my folks to ask if I could come stay at the house for a month because things were kind of crazy over here. When we realized we weren’t going to tour or play shows anytime soon, we wanted to do this record. We’d been sort of kicking the can around for a while. My parents have a property about 45 minutes outside of Phoenix in the countryside. So, we just locked ourselves in there and started from scratch, literally with a blank page and started coming up with riffs together. We used a drum machine to make the demos at the start. We did it all on my dad’s old 12-track recorder from the 90s that he still has. The whole writing process of it was, let’s lock ourselves away from people, focus on it, wake up, have breakfast, grab the guitars, and start writing all day long. We did that between writing and when we went into the studio for about five months. I think we started in April or May of last year and we recorded by September. We put a lot of time, focus, and attention into it.
How did the recording process in the studio go? What did you want to achieve sound-wise?
We were definitely going for a retro/extreme record sound, like a Scott Burns sound, an old school death metal sound, a thrashy sound. We took those steps by not using a click track, not over perfecting the guitars and the vocals. There are imperfections through the record, and I love every one of them. It’s what gives it personality. We recorded it in Mesa, Arizona at a place called Planet Underground. It’s a really swanky place, actually. You wouldn’t have thought we did it in a place that nice with how the sound is, but like I said, that was our intention. Charles Elliot of Abysmal Dawn did the engineering. He did a great job of capturing the vision of two deranged madmen who had been in the desert for five months, mid summer I should mention, too. Charles took our crazy ideas and found a way to capture them correctly and get us the sound that we were proud of. From the studio it went to Arthur Rich, who mixed and mastered it. He did a phenomenal job. He really polished it and fine-tuned it into what you hear now as opposed to being a little bit rough like it was in the mixing era of it.
“THERE ARE IMPERFECTIONS THROUGH THE RECORD, AND I LOVE EVERY ONE OF THEM. IT’S WHAT GIVES IT PERSONALITY.”
Getting drummer Zach Coleman for the album was a great move. How did he appear on your radar?
Once again, it was just kind of natural, the flow of things. I think we had 10-11 songs, and it was coming to that point of getting ready to record it and we needed to find a band. We reached out to our colleagues in the music industry. It was actually Arthur who put us in touch with Zach. They had worked on the Black Curse record. So, they had a friendship already, and we had a friendship already with Arthur, so he passed along Zach’s info to us. Once we hit up Zach and he heard the music, he was totally on board. I was pretty impressed by his speed and stamina—his energy to keep playing drums, especially with blasting, which can really wear you out. So, he came in and had full-on energy, despite it being an Arizona summer. He just crushed it.
You handled the guitars, vocals, and all the bass on the album. How did you know which sections to trade off with your dad?
A lot of it came down to who could play and sing and who sounded better for each part. Again, it was just natural. We tried it one way and if something didn’t feel right then maybe me and him switched parts. It was all trial and error. Recording the bass really came down to it being a pandemic, not tons of people were looking to join a band or to travel. If we got a bass player to do the record, that would’ve involved more COVID tests, gas money, plane tickets, etc. So, we just decided to get it recorded and then when we go to play live, we can find a bass player. It was just a natural decision until we got the songs how they are now. We’re comfortable playing them. We’ve practiced a couple of them live. It just feels right at this point.
“ALL OF THIS WAS INSPIRED BY THIS DYSTOPIAN/REAL LIFE PANDEMIC WORLD THAT WE ARE LIVING IN RIGHT NOW.”
Opening track on the album, “Truckload Full of Bodies,” is obviously COVID related. How was making the video for it? What was the theme and basis for it?
The video was amazing. It was one of the best music videos I’ve ever worked on. As you mentioned, the song is inspired by the pandemic. It’s like a walk-through of an overcrowded/overfilled hospital where they’re starting to throw corpses into a truck. The idea for the video was inspired by the lyrics. We went to this old mill from the 20s, and the guy who owns it now has anything and everything you can imagine in there. Everything from the morgue freezer that you see in the video to the incinerator to the cars to the skating half pike. So, when we got there, we were like kids in a toy store. He had the body bags that we got zipped up in. All of this was inspired by this dystopian/real life pandemic world that we are living in right now. It was based on reality
What about your main band Healing Magic? Is GAAD just another creative outlet?
With Healing Magic, we had our debut EP released last year, it’s called Restoration. We also have a record we recorded that we’re going to put out later this year. As much as Go Ahead and Die could be my main band, my father’s in three other bands, Zach’s in two other bands, I have another band. I can see there being times where Go Ahead and Die will not be available to play. Healing Magic is my baby, I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. We started it in 2018 and it’s totally a different sound from Go Ahead and Die. An important thing to note is that Healing Magic is a stoner/sludge band, more on the groovy, ambient, desert side of metal as opposed to Go Ahead and Die, which is in the extreme, fast, blistering type of stuff. I love all different types of music and I wanted to create different music, and some of the themes and sounds that I get to do with Healing Magic I don’t get to do with Go Ahead and Die and vice versa. I stay really busy with all my music, that’s for sure.
Given that everyone in GAAD is in many other bands, is touring or playing shows as GAAD possible in the near future?
Yeah, that should go without saying. We do want to play live with Go Ahead and Die. We do want to tour, but it’s probably going to come down to one month out of each year we need to find time to prioritize it. Whereas Soulfly might be on the road for six months out of the year, and Zach with Khemmis might be out on the road for six months a year, it’ll just come down to prioritizing the time to do Go Ahead and Die. This old school sound and extreme crustiness needs to be played live. I really want to play small bars and small clubs—100 to 200 seaters. I think to do punk styled shows with Go Ahead and Die would be totally awesome. It definitely is in the cards, it’s just going to come down to finding the time to do it.
“THIS OLD SCHOOL SOUND AND EXTREME CRUSTINESS NEEDS TO BE PLAYED LIVE”
Speaking of the Cavalera family, you’re like royalty of metal. Growing up knowing that your dad was such a metal icon, did you want to follow in his footsteps in a career in music?
It’s something that obviously we’ve always been exposed to always and to have the knowledge to be able to do it. I always figured I’d take some type of interest in music, but I didn’t know that it was always going to be a band or even being a musician. I have an interest in the business side of it as well. That comes from my mom, she manages all of my dad’s bands. She’s one of the hardest working managers in metal in my opinion. There were times where I thought about being in music, but there were different aspects of it. It just came naturally. Once I started playing guitar when I was about 10, I really started diving into metal. It might be funny to say, but thanks to MySpace, I found so many bands and had access to all that at a pretty young age. Once it clicked, it was there. But I’ve always thought of doing other things. I love writing, I to work on fiction novels on the side. I love animals, I’d love to work with animals somehow if I could or work in wildlife in general. It wasn’t always necessarily obvious to me, but once I finally had a band and started jamming with people, I knew then that it had clicked and I chose to stick with it.
You, Ritchie, and Zyon have earned whatever you’ve achieved. Do you find yourselves always having to prove the Cavalera name?
A lot of people probably don’t see it this way, but being a Cavalera, I feel I have to work twice as hard. Not only do I have to already do the normal stuff to be in a band, like running it and fronting it and working on the business side of it, but I have to meet people’s crazy expectations all the time. Sometimes that can be really intimidating, but I’ve been doing this since I was 15 when I had my first touring band Lody Kong. It’s probably crazy for a lot of people to imagine, but I was 15 out on the road with a couple of friends from the neighborhood playing shows and having people hate us and having people like us and everything in between, from a super young age. Now I’m 26 and I feel like I’m finally starting to have an identity as a musician and to see some of the fruits of all this work. I think a lot of people forget that to be in a band, it’s hard. I don’t think people really take into account what it’s really like to be a musician. It’s much harder than people give you credit for. It’s definitely not champagne and bubble baths all the time! (laughs) It’s actually quite the opposite, but I love it and that’s why I do it. If I wanted to have a nice 9 to 5 job and have everything provided and take the easier route, then I would have done that. I chose to play music, I chose the rougher lifestyle because I really wouldn’t do it any other way. I got to see all my older brothers and sisters make their mistakes and learn from it. There are benefits to being the youngest.
“I HAVE TO MEET PEOPLE’S CRAZY EXPECTATIONS ALL THE TIME. SOMETIMES THAT CAN BE REALLY INTIMIDATING”
What’s next? What will you be focusing on for the rest of this year?
For the next month or so, Go Ahead and Die will be very busy doing press and interviews. We have music videos coming still. We’re talking about a digital show until we can hit the road and do it the old fashioned way. Once we move out of Go Ahead and Die, we’re going to start working on releasing the Healing Magic record, getting the artwork, doing videos, and press. Same ol’ routine but with a different band. I’ll be busy all year. I’m hoping by the end of the year there’ll be some shows that will be starting. I’m dying to play, but I’m also responsible. I would never feel good if a single person got sick or harmed themselves to come see me. I’m willing to wait, but as soon as that green light is on, we’re going to be out there with force.