It's been six years since Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Nailbomb), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Greg Puciato (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Black Queen) got together to form Killer Be Killed, releasing an awesome self-titled album before playing their first and only shows here in Australia at Soundwave 2015.
Now, with the addition of Ben Koller (Converge) behind the kit, the supergroup are ready to return in full force with their sophomore album Reluctant Hero on November 20, and we were lucky enough to jump on the phone with the friendly, legendary Max Cavalera to talk about the organic writing process behind it, cutting off his signature dreadlock and more!
Hey Max, great to talk with you! It's awesome to have Killer Be Killed back, but first we gotta ask - does it feel weird not having the giant dread now after 20-odd years on your head?
Yeah, it was about 23-25 years? I don't know I didn't really count...but yeah man, it was time for something new, you know? I just felt like the time was up with that and it was time to move on. But it feels like a big relief actually because it was real heavy man. I feel way lighter and way better too. That thing was so heavy and it was actually pulling a lot of my hair. They called it "mono-dread", I didn't even know they had a name for the fucking thing (laughs).
But it was cool, there was no big ceremony, we did it in my backyard. Gloria (wife) just cut it...sometimes it's kinda cool to start fresh, you know? I know it was a big part of my personality and my dread was famous through the years but I just wanted to go back to normal long hair. Hopefully it'll grow and I'm not too old to grow hair (laughs). And even if that's the case, go bald, fuck it!
I'm not much into the whole vanity thing...I actually think it's kind of cool to get old and wear your scars and your age with pride. Some people were like "oh of course you had to go and do that in 2020", but I don't know...just feels good to get rid of it and have something new.
You're all obviously very busy people in Killer Be Killed - is Reluctant Hero a record you've been trying to make happen for the last 6 years, or did you all decide to come back to the band later?
No we've been going back and forth for the last 6 years...because we played in Australia at Soundwave in 2015, and it was a great success and we felt very good about that. And we had Ben (Koller, drums) join the band just around that time too, so what we did was little by little. I called them "the desert sessions" because they all came here to Arizona, and we did the sessions where we jammed in my jam room.
From these desert sessions is where the album was born. I brought a lot of riffs to the sessions and the other guys brought their own ideas, and we wrote it all together. Then we finally entered the studio and it really felt like a focused album. Like a real album by a real band. Where the first record had a bit of a side project feel to it, this one feels more like a real band, you know? It's a band like Soulfly is a band. Like Cavalera Conspiracy is a band.
Killer Be Killed is a band now, it's not just a side project.
The Soundwave shows were the only shows you've played as a band to date - does that mean that you'll be taking Killer Be Killed on tour more extensively when you can?
That's what we hope, 'cause I think it's worth it! The Australian shows were so good man, we all felt amazing to be on the stage sharing that music with the fans. I love the Killer Be Killed guys and I'm big fans of their stuff, and it's exciting to be around them and make music with them. So yeah, I'll say especially that I'm not really in a hurry to make records now like I was maybe a few years back when I was putting out a Soulfly record every year...I'm not really in a hurry anymore. I'm gonna take the time.
So next year if we decide to just do more Killer Be Killed live shows, I'll totally be down for that, that would be great. Then eventually I would get back to Soulfly. But yeah, when things go back to normal I hope that we can do a real world tour where we go to Australian again, Europe, America...because I think this record is so good that it deserves to be heard live. It would be really cool to play live.
There are so many great riffs on Reluctant Hero that it's hard for us to pick a favourite track, but do you have one?
I'm a big fan of 'Inner Calm From Outer Storms'...that song's close to the heart because those are all really heavy riffs that I wrote and the guys fell in love with it. The beginning is almost like an old black metal riff, but in the middle it is like a 'Symptom Of The Universe' (Black Sabbath song) kind of riff that I've been trying to do my whole life, find a way to rip off 'Symptom Of The Universe' without getting caught, and I think I did it! I think it's 'Symptom Of The Universe's cousin riff. It's like it's from Tony Iommi's family of riffs.
But apart from that, I'm really proud of the variety. You have a song like 'Animus' which is like grindcore/thrash/speed metal, but then you have 'Reluctant Hero' which is like as Greg (Puciato) said is like a mix of Def Leppard and Neurosis. So the variety on the record is amazing, how it stretches out.
I think it's a really good record to hear when you're driving, when you're on a big highway. It's definitely a fun listening experience and it takes you to a bunch of different places. Especially a song like 'From A Crowded Wound' is really drowsy and hypnotic, and then songs like 'Left Of Center' is a real Mastodon-esque song...I think you can tell I'm really happy with the final result man. It's fun to listen to from front to back.
We recently asked Greg Puciato whether he's ever burned out from making so much music. You said you don't rush records anymore, but has that ever happened to you?
You know, there's times where you might feel a bit less inspired and you're doing stuff because you have to, not because you really want to. It has happened a couple of times. I think with Soulfly's '3', I wasn't really to ready to make that record...I was coming out of 'Primitive', which was a really big record for us and I was routed into doing '3'. I don't think it's a bad record, but it could have been better if I had waited a little longer.
But at the end of the day, I can't be that picky. I've been very fortunate that a lot of the records I've done hold their ground, and there's a lot of them (laughs). I love the first Killer Be Killed record, of course I love this new one, the last Cavalera Conspiracy was really good and I thought the latest Soulfly record was a kick in my own arse to go back to my own metal roots.
I kind of need to stay productive like oxygen. Metal and music is very important for my life. So it's not that I get burned out, it's actually the opposite - I really need it all the time. From now on into the future I'll go a bit slower though, I don't feel a hurry to put records out like that anymore. So this one will come out this year and then we'll just see what happens next year.
What is it about writing records in the same room that you prefer over sending ideas over the internet?
Well I think that goes back to all the classic records that were made in the 70s and 80s...Black Sabbath were all in the same room, Maiden, Judas Priest - those to me were all the masterpieces of heavy metal, and there was no internet at that time. There really is something to be said about being there with all your mates in the studio. It's not that I'm against technology - and I can probably do it by computer - but I think it's less fun that way, and it just takes away the organic element.
When you're in a room with motherfuckers, real shit happens, real magic. When I think you're on the internet, you don't get the same result. So, for me the Soulfly and Cavalera records has to be all of us in the same room together. It's almost like a team, or a gang, and you're in it together. It's the best way for me to work!
So is the next 12 months for you just Killer Be Killed and maybe some Soulfly then?
Yeah I'm doing my "Max Trax" every Tuesday and Saturday on Facebook which is a lot of fun. It's actually turning into a real job, because I have to prepare to play the songs and everything, and we get like 15,000 viewers live on Facebook, it's free, and I get to bust out a lot of old, old riffs. That's something that I think I'll continue even after the pandemic is over because I just enjoy it so much.
Apart from that I'll be working on Soulfly with my son Zion, and hopefully some live shows in 2021!
Thanks for chatting with us Max!
Good to talk with you, thank you!
Reluctant Hero is out on November 20 - you can place your pre-orders here!
Listen to Killer Be Killed now.