CAVALERA CONSPIRACY – Brazilian Kamikaze
Writing sessions for November 2014’s Pandemonium – the third studio full-length affair from Cavalera Conspiracy, the heavy metal group spearheaded by brothers and founding Sepultura members Max (vocals) and Iggor Cavalera (drums) – mirrored writing sessions undertaken for Cavalera Conspiracy’s past two records, namely Inflikted (March 2008) and Blunt Force Trauma (March 2011).
“Me and Max exchange a few demos, like with some riffs and drum beats and stuff,” Iggor informs. “Then we just go in a studio, and try to capture the raw power of the two of us playing together. At the end, Max comes back to it and adds vocals, and adds some leads with Marc Rizzo (guitars). I have to say though, it’s very similar to what we have done with the other two Cavalera records.”
Roughly, 90% of Cavalera Conspiracy material is penned in the studio. “Of course, we have a few ideas to start something,” the sticksman notes. “The basic core of the record is all done on the spot, so it’s a very, very different way of doing records than what I did in the past as far as going into the rehearsal room, and practising the songs over and over, and then going to record. In the past with Sepultura when we did stuff together even, we would rehearse and go over the songs a lot. Since the first record with Cavalera though, we decided to work more in a fast way, more direct, which is almost like doing it the other way around. We just go and try as fast as possible. We’re really happy with this way of doing things.”
Max wished for Iggor to return to the style of drumming employed on March 1991 Sepultura opus Arise, where the man’s parts were pacy. “It’s not something that we were trying to reproduce, something that we did in the past,” Iggor stresses. “Of course those influences are there because they’re a part of us, but it was definitely not intentional to go back and recreate something that we already did.”
Musically separated following Max’s 1997 departure from Sepultura, the siblings explored various styles during that ten-year timeframe. “It’s funny, because I’m not influenced by one record – nothing that I could point out that influences me in a major way,” the rhythmist muses. “Of course in the years that me and Max were separated doing different stuff, we were experimenting with a lot of different things. Then once we got to starting Cavalera, it was really fun just to do it and exchange a lot of ideas. That also goes not only for music, but also for artwork, for how we play live, and everything. It’s a very cool way to get back to what we did when we were kids. Before I go into the studio, I have a very open mind to seeing what happens, and it’s the same with Max. It’s not that we’re preparing ourselves to do things a certain way. It’s a lot more free-form as far as we see what happens once we get to the studio, so there isn’t preparation to it.”
Asked to critique Pandemonium against Cavalera Conspiracy’s past two efforts, Iggor finds the task difficult. “It’s hard to compare, because they were all different times when we did them,” he reasons. “The basic comparison I can make is that this one is a bit faster, as far as the songwriting. There were really a lot of fast songs, and they really reflect where me and Max were head-wise, thinking musically. It was totally by accident. We did choose songs, and the first few songs that we recorded were very fast. I just looked at Max, and we were like ‘Man, let’s just keep going on this atmosphere, this vibe.’ Then at the end when we looked at it, it was like ‘Wow, the whole record’s really, really faster.’ It was not something that me and Max planned ahead before we went into the studio, though. We didn’t know what to expect before.
“We just had a lot of ideas that ended up not making the album. It’s just riffs sometimes, and drum beats. I don’t know if they’re gonna be lost forever or we’ll go back to them at some point, but they’re just minimal ideas that we have usually. Not like full on songs that we just left out, but more just basic stuff to start writing in the studio. Some of these ideas did make the album though, but it really happened on the spot, and so we kept going with this fast thing. I think if I look back at the three records, this one is the fastest one as far as sonics – that’s the main difference.”
Throughout the feature thus far, the composer has oft mentioned his sibling relationship, but not the contributions of other Cavalera Conspiracy members for the most part. Such comments suggest that Cavalera Conspiracy is more of a project between the brothers as opposed to being a fully-fledged band. “It’s weird,” he ponders. “I don’t really know what’s the main way of calling it, because it’s not really a side project. At the same time though, it’s not really a full band of just me and Max, so it’s somewhere in-between. That’s how we treat Cavalera Conspiracy. Of course, with the majority of things, they’re done by me and Max as far as deciding what to do and how to do things, but there’s also… Say when we ask Marc Rizzo to play the guitar, or Nate from Converge (Nate Newton, bass). We give them freedom to play the way they want to – it’s not that we’re dictating anything.”
The recruitment of Converge bassist Nate Newton surfaced on December 31st, 2013. “Actually, me and Max were thinking about who we were gonna call to participate on the record as a bass player,” Iggor divulges. “We’ve always had different people, like Joe from Gojira (Joe Duplantier) and Johny Chow (Stone Sour). We started thinking about who would be a bass player that me and Max really like, and of course Nate’s name came up. We were like ‘Wow, what if Nate would be into it? That would be amazing,’ so we just asked him. Luckily, he really liked the idea, but it was really coming more from fans. Me and Max are really big fans of Nate, and Converge, and Doomriders, and all of the stuff that he does. That’s how his name came up, and so then we decided to get in touch with him. We had never met him before, so it was almost like a fan thing more than anything else. It was really cool.
“I think he adds a lot of raw power to Pandemonium, especially in the way he plays the bass, the distortions, and the way he put the bass-lines. It was really cool to see how his input on it is very different than what we’ve done in the past. That’s by giving freedom to the guest that you call. That’s how we feel the different ways and different tones in terms of how they’re gonna recreate the bass parts. That’s how I view the main difference.”
Marc Rizzo’s contributions towards Pandemonium can be heard “mostly on the leads. Of course most of the riffs – if not a 100% – are all Max’s ideas, and then Rizzo comes more with the solos and things like that where he shows more of his style.”
Drumming parts, meanwhile, are consciously different to that of the percussionist’s other musical projects. “It’s funny, because after I started doing a lot of stuff – especially with Mixhell, my other project – the more I got into Cavalera, and the more I tried to keep as minimal as possible as far as the drum beats, and all of the experimental parts,” he discloses. “I tried to keep it from Mixhell in a way, so it’s channelling in different ways. I think it’s very positive to have more than one project, so you don’t try everything in one take. You really start focusing differently on why you should do certain things, and how you should approach certain things. You kind of like push certain things in terms of certain ways of playing for the different things that you’re doing, so it’s quite exciting for a musician to do that. It becomes almost a natural way of choosing certain things you should do in certain parts.”
As was the case with past Cavalera Conspiracy platters, the album’s lyrical content was authored by Max. “It’s all inside his head,” Iggor shares. “Of course, Max likes to write a lot about things that are going on nowadays mixed with some old history – even like the title Pandemonium, which is Babylonian. He read lots of books, but also he gets influenced by movies and general things, like touring and things like that. It’s a big mixture of a lot of different influences lyrically. It’s pretty much about chaos and how we live today; it’s a very chaotic world, and it has been for a long time.”
John Gray is accredited as producer in Pandemonium’s liner notes, having previously worked on several Soulfly records. “There were a lot of final touches that he did for the record, but mostly I would say he was more of an engineer rather than a producer,” the drummer observes. “I think the most important thing was capturing the raw power of us playing as a band, rather than playing everything separately. It was really about capturing those moments in the studio, and trying to recreate that on the CD. He was the main key in that he had to capture that; a sense of us playing together, especially me and Max playing together, and all of those riffs. He was a very important key in capturing those, and then later of course, Max added some vocals, and then came the guitar leads, and Nate came in with the bass. I think the most important part, more than anything, was him making sure that he captured that main idea. He was more in that role than anything else.”
Cover artwork responsibilities fell to Stephan Doitschinoff. “It’s crazy,” Iggor reckons. “Of course with the first two records, it was very minimalistic artwork. We wanted to keep it as simple as possible with the logo and everything, but then for this one, when we were in the studio, me and Max were doing a bit of research on who would be cool to do the album cover. We then came across Stephan Doitschinoff’s work, and asked him if he wanted to do it. We sent him some music and some lyrics, and out of that he came up with the album cover. When he did the cover the album was all recorded, so he had full access to the music. We’re really happy with it, because it’s quite different than what we did with the first two records. It’s also very integrated with the concept of the music, though.”
A music video was filmed for the track ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’. “We started filming in South America,” the sticksman tells. “In September, we finished a tour of South America, so the video we started filming there. ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’ is a very strong opening track, which is why we felt it could be cool to do a video for it, and to open the record with it. It’s a very in your face, kind of song, and it really represents the state of mind of the whole record.”
Co-ordinating Pandemonium’s release is Austrian heavy metal label Napalm Records. “It’s cool,” Iggor enthuses. “It’s always good to change things, and of course they were very excited to have us onboard. I think that’s what we took into consideration, the fact that it’s always great to work with people who really appreciate what you do and really have a lot of energy to work with. We’re really happy so far with it.”
Inflikted and Blunt Force Trauma were issued through Roadrunner Records, who announced the closing of all of its European offices on April 26th, 2012. “I don’t know,” the rhythmist comments. “I have no idea, man. Our management dealt with that, us leaving Roadrunner, rather than us personally.”
Pandemonium’s material will naturally be performed during live performances, the setlist littered with tunes from the siblings’ back catalogue. “Writing a live setlist is just me and Max going back and forth, and trying to see what would make sense in the show,” Iggor explains. “Then at the end of course, we try to add some of the songs that we wrote together in the past with new stuff, and everything in-between – from the first two Cavalera records. Also, it’s quite cool, because we do have a lot of material to choose from. It becomes a really good challenge in terms of what we’re gonna play and what songs we can’t and need to leave out, and things like that. In the end though, me and Max nail down the setlist, and then the other guys start learning the songs, and things like that.”
Cavalera Conspiracy plans to write further material. “We had some ideas when we were in South America we started speaking about,” the songwriter reveals. “Hopefully by the end of 2015, we’re gonna have more stuff coming out.”
Besides Cavalera Conspiracy, Iggor has other musical projects which occupy his time. “I have stuff with Mixhell, a lot of releases and things, as well as shows,” he lists. “It’s quite busy for me and Max, the end of this year and next year. It seems like we’re gonna be non-stop. No vacation for us.”
As an aside, music journalists seem confused as to whether Iggor’s name is spelt using one G or two Gs, the two G spelling variant emerging in recent years. “My mom asked me to put an extra G on it,” he clarifies. “She’s really into numerology and shit like that, so I was like ‘Yeah.’ I started writing it with two Gs after many years, but it’s just because my mom asked me to do it.”
Pandemonium was released on October 31st, 2014 in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Finland and Benelux, on November 3rd in the United Kingdom and certain parts of Europe, on the 4th in North America, and on the 5th in Norway, Sweden and Spain, all via Napalm Records.
Interview published in November 2014.
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