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Max Cavalera: “Go Ahead And Die saved my sanity”

Go Ahead And Die
(Image credit: Press/Nuclear Blast)

Max Cavalera says the debut album by his new band Go Ahead And Die stopped him losing his mind over the last 12 month. “Everybody was going crazy because of the pandemic,” he says. “There was a black cloud around, and nobody had anything to do. So making this record, I had a reason to get out of bed and do something with my life. It saved my sanity.”

There’s another reason it means a lot to him. It marks the first time the current Soulfly/former Sepultura frontman teamed up with his son, Igor Amadeus Cavalera. “I always had a great metal connection with Igor since he was little,“ says Max. “‘I showed him a lot of stuff from my era, like Celtic Frost and Discharge, and he’s showed me some newer stuff like Full Of Hell and Genocide Pact.”

The self-titled album wears its love of 80s underground metal, crust-punk and grindcore on its unwashed sleeve, right down to enlisting Carcass frontman Jeff Walker to design the logo. “Both my bands and my father’s bands are way more into groove and sludgy riffs,” says Igor, who fronts stoner-doom outfit Healing Magic. “We definitely wanted to go for an old school vibe with this.”

But if Go Ahead And Die’s sound is pure 1980s noise, the topics they’re tackling couldn’t be more 2021. Lead-off single Truckload Full Of Bodies was directly inspired by the pandemic, while the likes of I.C.E. Cage, Toxic Freedom and Worth Less Than Piss aim their fury at all-too-apparent political institutions. We caught up with Max and Igor in Arizona and Florida respectively to get the lowdown on why the world needs Go Ahead And Die and their father-and-son “caveman metal” in 2021.

Metal Hammer line break

Whose idea was it for the two of you to work together?

Igor: It’s something we’ve talked about as far back as 2018, when we did the [Nailbomb] Point Blank record live. But my dad’s so busy – he’s in a couple of bands already, always on the road, always doing records. We just never had the freedom to do it.

Max: When the pandemic hit, Igor came here from his home in Florida to escape from Covid. We just ended up driving up to a house we have in the desert, and we sat down and just started writing riffs without any compromise.

Igor: It was, "Let's do it.” It was totally from Ground Zero.  We didn’t have a single riff or a single idea. It was, like, ‘What do we want to do? We want to make it extreme? Let's do it.”

Max: I had my little four-track machine that I've used for 25 years now, I used it on Chaos A.D., and I had a drum machine. We didn't really know we were gonna make a record, but the stuff was coming out so cool that we looked at each other like, “Okay, we should make this into a record, this is really good.” It had this retro vibe, kind of caveman metal, and it was so much fun.

What’s your house in the desert like?

Max: It’s about an hour away from our house in Phoenix. It’s seven acres – there’s the main house, then there’s the other part, which is the place where we jammed. There’s no neighbours, only mountains, desert, rattlesnakes, coyotes and mountain lions. You can make noise as loud as you want any time of the day or night.

Igor: There are neighbours, but they're a couple of acres away. I've always wondered if they can hear us, cos we’d go a little bit late some nights. But it's really secluded, a peaceful place with no distraction.

Did you have a routine up there?

Max: We started the day by listening to what we like, so we'd play a lot of old hardcore and death metal, classic Celtic Frost, Entombed and then some newer stuff. Then we'd jam, and then at night we'd watch horror movies.

Max Cavalera

(Image credit: Press/Jim Louvau)

What horror movies did you watch?

Max: We had all those old black and white Universal movies – the original Black Lagoon and Wolf Man and Dracula. It was, like, “Let's watch one of these.” They're not as scary as The Exorcist or Hellraiser, but they have a cool vibe. We ended up watching one every night and we had twenty of those to watch, so we just made it a thing.

Igor: We thought, ‘Let’s get ourselves into an old school mindset, turn off our phones and watch some VHS’s.’ That definitely did make it onto the album. While some songs have an underlying political message, they also have a little bit of horror and darkness and grimness, which came from watching scary movies.

Max: We did watch some comedies. We watched one where this guy got his dick shot up when they were camping and his friends were trying to put it back together. It was really ridiculous. And we ended up watching Planes, Trains And Automobiles and Uncle Buck and all those great 80s comedies.

The album has got a definite old school vibe…

Igor: That was definitely the intention - to do something fast and total piss-and-vinegar, like Extreme Noise Terror and Discharge and Doom. The sound and the imagery - it was all meant to go together.

Max: We were listening to old Kreator songs where the drums are bigger and faster than the guitar riff, and it was like, “We need to get that vibe.” Some of the songs feel like Zach [Coleman, drummer] is going a little bit faster, and sometimes slower, naturally. When I listen to the record, it feels like it was made in 1987, but with the message of right now, of what the world is feeling right now.

It sounds like a really good, low-pressure way of making an album…

Max: I just wanted to have fun with my son and write something with him. Once it turned into a record, he became very involved. He kind of reminded me of a young Max, a 20-year-old Max. He was very hungry, he wanted to prove himself, he was writing some really cool riffs, and he ended up playing all the bass on the whole record.

Igor Amadeus Cavalera

(Image credit: Jim Louvau)

Did you step back and let Igor be in charge?

Max: For sure. I wanted to take the back seat a little bit, and let him run it. This is really his baby, he was very protective for everything, I was like, “We need a bass player, we need a lead guitarist”, and he was like, “No, this is our thing, just for us.” It’s kind of like a father and son caveman project! I'm glad we went that way, and it didn’t turn into a hardcore or death metal supergroup.

Did you argue?

Max: Well, he's my son, but when we're doing music stuff he’s like a best friend. We really wanted to enjoy this; it was a therapy for both of us. We did have a couple of arguments here and there, but he ends up winning anyway. We did the lyrics together. It was funny because I would do some words and he would be like, “Nah, that's kind of cheesy, I'm gonna be the lyric police here.” I’m like, “My son is telling me my stuff's shit.” [Laughs] that was amazing.

What about you, Igor? Did you have to tell your dad to back off at any point?

Igor: A couple of time. He was definitely pushing towards a death metal aesthetic, which I was cool with but I didn't want it to be only that. On a couple of songs, he was trying to get a meat-and-potatoes death metal riff in there, and I’d be like, “Hey man, let’s do a more thrashy style.”

The first song to be released from the album was Truckload Full Of Bodies. You’ve said it‘s about politicians who don’t care whether their people live or die. Who are you talking about? Bolsanaro in Brazil? Modi in India? Trump in the US?

Max: All of them. I was reading an article from National Geographic, and there was a truck in Italy and it was full of bodies. That's what gave me the idea for the name of the song. Every place that got hit with that you could see that the powerful government were not caring. Even the name of the band comes from that, you know, 'Go ahead and die, we don’t give a fuck, we don't care if you live or die.' It really pisses you off because you're human, your life is your life, it’s a precious thing, and when you see people dying because the powerful people – and it's really hypocritical because the powerful people were taking care of themselves to make sure they had the shots and they had the medication, but they let the people die. Brazil is really bad right now, there's thirty thousand people dying every day.

The video shows you zipped up in body bags. What does that feel like?

Max: We went into a mortuary and get inside these body bags and were put inside where the body goes. They zip up the body bag and close the thing and it’s pure darkness. I’m in there kind of freaking out: “I don’t wanna be in here, this sucks!” It definitely had a psychological effect on me, but it looks good and it fits the song.

The band name Go Ahead And Die is pretty on the nose. Was it your original choice?

Max: I was looking for a Japanese name, maybe the Japanese way of saying “Fuck Off”. So I went on my iPad and typed “How do you say ‘Fuck Off’ in Japanese”, and it came back that they don’t say that, they say, “Go ahead and die.” Igor goes, “That’s a cool name for a band, we should go with that.” At first, I was a little, like, “I don’t know about that.” But it grew on me. 

You should have just called the band Fuck Off.

Max: Ha, yeah, maybe we should have. But I love the reaction Go Ahead And Die gets from people. It's really shocking, and people open their eyes really big when you say the name. It's cool when a name gets a reaction like that.

You’re confronting some hot-button political topics head-on with Truck Load Full Of Bodies and ICE Cage. You’re definitely taking aim at conservative governments, which is going to piss off some metal fans.

Igor: It’s funny, I never really planned on doing a political record. It was just one of those things, like, “Let’s do it because we’re feeling it right now.” But this stuff is going on right now. 2020 was the most insane year ever, between the election, the pandemic, George Floyd’s murder, the protests. We’re not going to write this kind of music and then have lyrics about how peaceful it all is.

And it’s important to challenge people. If a song going against police brutality makes you mad, you need to think about why you’re mad. If a song about political corruption makes you mad, think about why you’re mad. So no, I’m not worried about that.

These subjects are timeless. Police brutality is still going on, coups are still going on, the ICE border is still going on, people are still being dehumanised. So even though we did get the little orange man out, I’m still distrustful of just about any politician personally.

Does a metal band have the power to change anything anymore?

Igor: I think so. There were bands in the 80s that were singing about similar things, and they inspired me. Now I’m gonna write songs that are hopefully gonna inspire people. The more people that are aware and confident enough to speak out about stuff, the more we'll get something done. The worst thing you can do is stay silent.

Any plans for Go Ahead And Die to go out and play live? Or maybe even play a livestream?

Igor: Once things are better with the pandemic, we do want to play this live. Once people won't be endangered when they come to our show. Nobody needs to get sick or potentially die to come and see me play music.

Is this album going to be a one-off, or do you think you’ll do another down the line?

Max: I’d love to, because it was so much fun - the vibe of going down to the desert and jamming and watching those movies. It was a fun time, and I think it’ll be well received, cos I think a lot of fans miss that Max sound from the 80s - the Schizophrenia, Morbid Visions era.

Igor: If we get the chance to do another record, I'd be down with that. Have we had a conversation? Yeah, we've brushed on it. If it's something worth dedicating the time and everything to, then I can see it being a full time band that we do seriously.