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Killer Be Killed’s Max Cavalera: “The Pope should listen to our new album”

Killer Be Killed
(Image credit: Jim Louvau)

In 2014, Killer Be Killed released their self-titled debut album, featuring Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato on vocals/guitars, Soulfly’s Max Cavalera on vocals/guitars and Mastodon’s Troy Sanders on vocals/bass. Yes, that’s three vocalists, and a hell of a lot of talent. Working around the schedules of their main bands, they’ve finally recorded a follow- up, Reluctant Hero, with Converge’s Ben Koller replacing former The Mars Volta man David Elitch on drums. To celebrate, we asked each bandmember to set questions for the next, and then we interrogated them. From bacon consumption to giant dreadlocks, here’s everything they wanted to know about each other.

Metal Hammer line break

Max Interviews Greg

Max: What is your favourite or craziest tour story ever?

Greg: “We were in a bus accident in Poland, in 2017. I was asleep and we got rear-ended by a semi at full highway speed, and people had to get airlifted in a fucking helicopter. There were 13 people were on the bus, and nine of us went to hospital. You’re supposed to be safe when you’re asleep, so I ended up having panic attacks, and I had a hard time for a long time. It happened when Dillinger were breaking up, too. It was like, ‘OK man. The universe is telling us, wrap this thing up.’”

If you could be president, what kind of laws would you put into action?

“I’d institute Universal Basic Income. I think it’s pretty much the only way that we’re going to be able to go forward economically on this planet; stabilising the lower tiers of the population financially would be the most immediately beneficial thing to society overall. A lot of problems like drugs, crime, poor health, poor dietary habits and poor education stem from poverty.”

What actor would play Greg Puciato in his life story movie and why?

“Denzel Washington! Ha ha ha! I’ve heard a lot of people tell me, ‘Sometimes you look like Tom Hardy.’ But it would have to be multiple people, because they would probably have to go through different time periods, right? That Timothée Chalamet kid would be pretty good for the teenage years, and then maybe slowly morph into Tom Hardy, and then end up at Denzel Washington. Something’s gonna happen in the next 15 years and I’m gonna end up a 65-year-old black man.”

If you could have a superpower, which one would it be and why?

“It would be a tie between time travel and teleportation. I talk about them pretty much on a weekly basis. I’m so annoyed that I was promised, when I was a child, by cartoons and science-fiction movies, that at least one of those things would have happened by now. After being on tour for your whole life, you miss so many things, and you know so many people that you can’t see without getting on a plane. Even living in Los Angeles, it takes for fucking ever to get from one side to another. Another one would be not physically ageing, unless I wanted to. I’d like to freeze, right about now.”

What does Killer Be Killed mean to you?

“It connects to the earliest time of my music playing, which is really cool. Dillinger has metal elements, but this is the first straight-ahead metal band I’ve ever been in. I started playing guitar at nine years old. Pretty much from nine until 15, I just wanted to write music, and I did; it was a hybrid of everything I liked – metal and grunge and alternative and heavy, guitar-based music. The stuff that I write on guitar for this band is exactly connected to what I would have written in that time period, to the extent that I used two riffs that I wrote at 13 years old on this record, on Dead Limbs. The opening riff, and the one that starts at 3:29. It sounds totally seamless.”

Killer Be Killed

(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Greg Interviews Troy

Greg: You came up with the title, Reluctant Hero. What does that title stand for and mean to you?

Troy: “Wow, Greg. Way to get very personal first thing in the morning! The last track that we pieced together in the studio was a very slow, dark track. And I was penning some lyrics, in regards to my dear friend Nick John, who was also my manager for 15 years, and he had just died of a horrific pancreatic cancer. While I was working on the first draft, I got a phone call that an extended family member had just passed away. He’d also been fighting a horrific cancer battle, and had always referred to himself as a ‘reluctant warrior’. This was not the fight that anyone ever wants to have, but when faced with that extreme obstacle of fight or flight, life or death, you’re gonna go for it. I said, ‘I wanna call this song Reluctant Hero.’ The other three guys all said, ‘That’s amazing, I really like that title.’ Then a couple of days later, they all said, ‘We should call the album that.’ That made me happy, because it translated some sort of deep emotion to them, without them truly knowing where I was coming from lyrically.”

If you were forced to magically inhabit the life of any other musician in history for a year, who would it be, and when?

“Greg Puciato in the very first Dillinger Escape Plan/Mastodon tour [in 2002], because he was fucking crazy. The last song of the night, he’d jump onto the floor of the crowd, and he’d have the big stick with the flame on top of it, and he’d have a gallon of some kind of alcohol. He’d spit on it and create this massive plume of fire above the crowd. That would’ve been shut down so fast if that were to happen right now. Is that too sweet to say that I want to be him? His showmanship was out of this world, and his idea to blow fire in the crowd was a giant display of elephant balls.”

If you could relive any year of your life, which would it be?

“I wanna say 2007. That was a fantastic year. We played Wembley Stadium supporting Metallica, in front of so many people that their faces looked like pixels. We were just playing a 30-minute warm-up slot, so there wasn’t really a lot of pressure on our shoulders, and we were kind of giggling onstage. Like, ‘Look at this, this is actually happening, it’s like a dream come true.’”

How many pieces of bacon would you say you ate during the making of Reluctant Hero?

“Well, only between four and six every day. We did maybe 25 days total in the studio, so I’d say approximately 120 slices. We’d share a rental home when we were in the studio recording, so we’d share a lot of breakfasts together. But that amount of bacon was only done in the celebratory moments of being with my friends in Killer Be Killed.”

How many miles have you run this year?

“I think I’m just over the 200 mark. When Greg and I lived together, we encouraged each other to do a morning run before our eggs and bacon. If you start like that, you’re setting yourself up for a good day. You have to balance the bacon. That should have been the album title! ‘Balance The Bacon’. But yeah, 120 slices of bacon, maybe 200 miles. As long as the mileage outweighs the bacon, we’re in good spirits.”

Troy Interviews Ben

Ben: “Ha ha ha! Oh, not as much as I’d like, but I feel very blessed. I’m very comfortable, especially being a professional drummer, because most people would think that I’d make, like, five cents. I won’t make as much money as Mastodon, unfortunately. But with KBK, we’re going to be bigger than Metallica, so I’m not worried about it!”

Do you remember when Mastodon and Converge toured together? That was awesome

“I absolutely do. I remember every time we toured together. I think one of the most memorable nights I had was in Japan. We did a tour with Isis, Mastodon and Converge. One night a bunch of us went out to karaoke, and shit got really crazy. I remember many pint glasses smashed on the floor and entire pitchers of beer spilled. There was, like, inches of beer on the floor. We thought we were going to get arrested, and then the staff just came in and started cheering for us, and we were like, ‘What is life?!”

Do your kids recognise the passion and dedication you have towards the bands you’re in?

“Yes, and no. I have an eight, a six and a 10-month-old, so it’s quite the handful at home. Roland sent me an electronic drum kit at the start of the pandemic, which has been a life saver, and we have that in the garage and we come out and play a little bit sometimes, and if I’m trying to impress them, if I’m trying to go crazy, they don’t care, at all. They just say, ‘Give me the sticks, this is how you do it.’ But they’ve also never seen me play a show, or a concert, or a festival actually in person. So I think that’d probably blow their minds, a little bit. If they see a music video on YouTube, and I’m in it, then they get mildly impressed, if they like the song. If they don’t like the song, they’re just like, ‘Ugh, I wanna watch The Smurfs.

If Killer Be Killed was to have a single vocalist, based strictly on good looks, who would you vote to be our sole singer?

“Oh no! This is a horrible question! Well, I feel like they’d have to share the spotlight equally, because they are all beautiful humans. If you were speaking in specific categories, Max is classic metal, with cool dreads and spikes, and is kind of punk. If you wanted a classy Gandalf with the voice of an angel, you’d have to pick Troy. And if you wanted a more clean-cut, muscley man, then you’d have to pick Greg. It depends on what you’re into.”

I have never met your wife, kids or dog. Are you ever going to invite me over to your house?

“Ha ha ha! Of course. Well, we always invite each other over to our houses, but one of the biggest problems I have in life is geography. I hate geography, I hate that all my friends are so far away. In all my bands, there’s people in LA; Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Brooklyn, New York; Salem, Massachusetts. It makes me wish that we could all just pick one spot, where we’d have a village. We’d have a big metal gate with attack dogs and tyre fires at the entrance, and wouldn’t let anyone else in, and then we could all hang out all the time.”

Killer Be Killed

(Image credit: Jim Louvau)

Ben Interviews Max

Ben: How do you stay so inspired by heavy music, and still get pumped up about new bands? What has been on rotation lately?

Max: “Since I was a young kid in Brazil, I always loved the underground; there’s more of a real energy and passion in a lot of these new bands. So my whole life I’ve worn shirts of bands that I like, all the way back to the tape-trading days. I was tape trading with Chuck from Death, and the guys from Morbid Angel, and then I still kind of do the same today, through the internet. When I find a band that I like, I have my son Zyon hit ’em up and tell them I’m a fan of their music, and do they wanna exchange t-shirts? The last band was Creeping Death from Texas; they’re kind of like a heavier Power Trip. I think I’m a fan first and a musician second.”

You have a giant family. Are you grooming anyone to be the next Max Cavalera and take over the family business?

“Well, hopefully so! I’ve been kind of lucky in that area, because Zyon plays drums with me in Soulfly, and Igor is a great guitar player, and also plays bass and writes horror books, like Stephen King. I adopted the kids from Gloria’s other marriage, so we have Richie who is in Incite, and Jason is a drum roadie. The other ones, Roxanne and Christina, help a little bit. I joke a lot with Gloria. I say, ‘Hopefully they get something going, and we can be in our RV travelling the world, and they can support us when we get old!’”

There are rumours on the internet that you’re cutting off your giant dreadlock. Will you be donating it to medical science, cutting it up in pieces for all your bandmembers to share, or raffling it off for charity?

“Those are all good options! I think first we have to wash it, and kill all the bacteria and animals. I dunno what we’re going to do with it, yet. It’s been with me for 27 years, but it’s time to move on. Charity might be cool. It would also be kind of cool to see it somewhere, like a hall of fame!” [NB: Max cut his dreadlock off soon after].

Would you like to comment on the new Killer Be Killed album, Reluctant Hero, being called The Next Great Hope in heavy music, and the solution to global unrest that will align the planets?

“Oh, that’s a mouthful, man, jeez! Well, I always said that in metal, we have succeeded where society fails in general. I like to think that in rock music, there is less prejudice, there’s more of a bond between people. If you go to Wacken, there’s all people from all walks of the Earth together. Nobody’s fighting, there’s no Republican or Democrat, no Arsenal or Tottenham fans. Maybe all presidents of the world should listen to the new Killer Be Killed album. Maybe the Pope should listen to it.”

How many relatives named Igor do you have?

“My brother was the first one. I still don’t know today why my family picked a Russian name. My mum was part Brazilian native Indian, my dad was full-blown Italian and also a little bit of Croatian. But I always thought it was a strong, really powerful name. So when I had my second kid, I named him Igor. There are many fans that have my son’s name. There’s one guy that makes all my battle vests, and he’s a huge Sepultura fan, and both of his sons are named Max and Igor, which freaks me out a bit! But it’s really cool.” 

Eleanor Goodman

Metal Hammer deputy editor El commissions the features section of the magazine and curates covermount CDs, as well as co-hosting the Metal Hammer podcast. Irrationally obsessed with sea creatures.