Old rona may be hanging around like a party guest who’s overstayed their welcome, but …
Already established as one of heavy music’s major dynasties, the Cavalera family is cementing itself further as a cross-generational empire with the father-son project Go Ahead and Die.
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Featuring Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Sepultura, Killer be Killed and a breathless list of other bands) and his son Igor Amadeus Cavalera with Zach Coleman of Khemmis on drums, the family collaboration has been brought to life as a seething and intense outlet of crust punk, grindcore and death metal. From his home in Florida, the younger Cavalera checked in to discuss the origins and intent of Go Ahead and Die and of having a metal legend as a father and bandmate.
Let’s get straight into Go Ahead and Die. Can you give us a little bit of history into this band?
It’s awesome, you know? Not to toot my own horn, but I’m happy to be a part of it, happy to be working on it. It’s a one-of-a-kind father/son collaboration that I don’t think has been done before in this style of music. So I think it’s cool! It’s a really strong, powerful, aggressive record, very reminiscent of old school metal and punk. It’s a lot of good things wrapped up in the one package. It was a cool bonding experience between me and my father, and it was one of those once in a lifetime things that we got to do, and it came out cool because of it.
What it’s like being in a band with your dad? You’ve done things together before, but to have a band dedicated to the two of you working together, what was it like working with your father on this?
He’s very laidback. He let me have a lot of creative control and a lot of freedom with the album. He was supportive of my ideas and stuff like that. It went really, really smooth. It was natural, it was organic, we did it down at my parents’ property that they got back in the 90s, and it was really comfortable. Little distraction and tons of time to work on things because of the pandemic. All in all it was a cool experience, coming up with these songs, demoing them with different versions and stuff. It was just a cool process all the way.
Do you think you would have been able to do this if it hadn’t been for the pandemic? Obviously Max is usually busy all the time with so many things. Would you have had a chance to put this together under normal circumstances?
To be honest, no. It was something we talked about for a little while, but I don’t think it would have happened this soon had last year just been a normal year. I’m in another band called Healing Magic and we had tours and shows and stuff lined up that didn’t end up happening. My father had shows and tours that didn’t end up happening. Without the pandemic, we would have been on the road, we would have been doing different things. It was one of those weird, serendipitous things that just happened that way. It’s like a lightning bolt – you can’t control it.
It’s a really strong, powerful, aggressive record, very reminiscent of old school metal and punk. It’s a lot of good things wrapped up in the one package. It was a cool bonding experience between me and my father, and it was one of those once in a lifetime things that we got to do, and it came out cool because of it.
[ Igor Amadeus Cavalera ]
Where did the name come from?
My dad found it. He was going through stuff just looking for names when we were trying to come up with something. On his iPad, or something, he came up with a translation which is basically “go fuck yourself”, in Japanese. Then when he took the Japanese words and translated them on his iPad, it came up as “go ahead and die”. He had a bunch of names, and that’s the one where the lightbulb popped up above my head. I think my mum and my wife were in the room too, and they were all like, that’s a pretty cool name, actually! It’s abrasive and it has some underlying black humour message, and it works as an acronym – GAAD – which has that punk, crusty, grindy vibe that’s present on the record.
It certainly has that feeling to it. Whenever your dad does something, you can never be sure which direction he’s going to take it in. He has this approach and this ability to always throw out curveballs. Some might have been thinking this was going to be something like Cavalera Conspiracy or something similar, but it’s different from that.
I think it stands on its own from the bands he works on, and from my band Healing Magic it’s night and day. Maybe early Sepultura, Schizophrenia and Beneath the Remains, is sort of in that vein, but there’s a huge grind influence on it that wasn’t in his music before. Big influence from crust punk, that he only really did on Nailbomb. He’s one of those artists that you don’t know what he’s going to do. I even like the mid-90s stuff like Roots and Soulfly I, the real groove, jumpy, nu-metal stuff. I think it’s awesome that he’s able to evolve like that. I try to approach my band the same way, keep it unpredictable, keep it no-holds-barred, no limitations.
It must be incredible to have a role model like that. He doesn’t let anyone tell him what to do. When he went into that early Soulfly direction, people accused him of bandwagon jumping and abandoning metal, but he just went ahead and did it anyway and he’s never really given much thought to what others would say.
In my opinion, that was the music he wanted to make then, and he went ahead and made it. Then through the 2000s and into now, I think he does the same thing. He’s definitely always imparted that bit of wisdom to me: do what you want to play. Whether it’s going to sell or anything like that, you should do it because you want to, before anything.
Is there a possibility that you can continue to do this band at some point?
I think so. Certainly. I know for sure that we want to play it live. Obviously live shows are a pretty crazy situation right now, but once things have mellowed out, we want to do it live. I’m in a band, dad’s in other bands, Zach who plays drums is in another couple of bands. We’ll need to find some time to prioritise it and all that jazz, but we’d definitely like to – we want to! It’s just out of the question right now.
Did it come together easily? You said that your dad gave you a lot of creative freedom. Can you identify the parts that were yours, when you listen back to it now, and how they developed from your original ideas?
We did a couple of versions. When we first started, we were just making demos with an old drum machine onto… my dad has an old Korg sixteen-track from the 90s, so we actually did it straight up as old school as we could for the demos, and then developed it. Sometimes he’d come up with a riff, and after listening to it a few times, I might alter it and he would say, “That’s cool.” And vice versa. We would bounce ideas off each other and have fun with it. The biggest thing was, don’t get upset, don’t get worked up about it – it’s music. Have fun. Don’t stress yourself out about it, and I think at the end of the day it has a good balance of both of us. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint which riff is this and that. We did a video like that of one song, and you can find that on the Facebook page, but it’s definitely got roots of both of us in it, and influences of both of us, as well. If I had to narrow it down, I was pushing the punk, D-beat stuff a little more and he was pushing the death metal, blistering blastbeats and stuff like that. But as I said, there’s balance of both of us on every song. We both worked on all of them, we wrote lyrics on all of them. I had a little more creative control, but we both worked on it together.
So there’s probably not much that you’d go back and change about it? It sounds like it came out very much the way you wanted it to.
Very much. We wanted it to be extreme, fast, screechy, crunchy, all those things. But at the same time, it was definitely a session of what we were listening to that day, that’s the way the song we were working on came out. If we were listening to a bit more punk one day, the song came out like that, if we were listening to something thrashy, it might come out like that. It’s music that we would want to listen to, and would want to play.
There’s always a big buzz with anything that has Max Cavalera’s name attached to it, and just the fact that the two of you worked together on this is going to create a lot of interest also.
Like I said, it’s a father/son combination and for this style of music, I don’t think anyone could say they’ve done this with their kid, and vice versa. It does have reach and that is a bit of a hook, and there were some nerves going into it because, as you said, everything he touches gets attention, but I did my best not to think about that. Play it how I wanted it to be, talk with the press and the audience just as natural as I can be and have fun with it. Music should never be stress!
Is he your biggest influence?
I don’t know. That’s the biggest question. In a way, yeah he is a huge influence. I grew up watching him play, I grew up knowing people enjoy his music and people look up to him and stuff like that. So he is a role model, but I also have a pretty crazy taste in music so, I feel that personally, with what I write, I don’t necessarily take that much from him. He’s more an influence as a person, than as a musician. Because he’s a good dad, and he was there for me and he taught me good stuff. No matter all the weird stuff I listen to, that he might not get or understand, he’s always, “Yeah man, keep doing that. Maybe I’m not going to listen to it, but you do whatever you want.” So I have a lot of different influences other than him, but he’s definitely influenced my outlook.
Even if he wasn’t a musician, if he was a great dad and let you do that, that’s all you can hope for really, isn’t it?
Definitely. I think a lot of people forget that. When he’s not on stage, he was picking me up from school. He was taking me and my neighbourhood buddies to the mall and to the skate park, and stuff like that. He was a dad just as much as a musician, and he definitely influenced me that way, and being a young kid and seeing him rock the house like that, every night, I was thinking, “I’m going to do that one day. I’m going to be my own personality and my own music!” It’s almost the family business now, in a way. But it was never forced. I play metal and I listen to metal, and I enjoy it, and I naturally got into it on my own. I think had they tried to force me, I would have been rebellious and not wanted to do it. So the love is real, the love is there, and at the same time it’s cool to keep on the family tradition and keep the family business going.