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Interviews   

Death Angel: a thrasher’s road diary


There is true enthusiasm and a smile in Rob Cavestany’s voice when he’s talking to us. The guitar player always has energy to burn, and even his chronic insomnia won’t get the best of it. After all, isn’t this the core of thrash metal? To be get-up-and-go? To want to fight? Three years of touring without any (or very little) break are coming as a proof: Death Angel is a master of the genre, and still has some left. Having built up quite a nice career accompanied with seven albums counting the last one, The Dream Calls For Blood, Death Angel still has this sense of emergency particular to their music.

The hyperactive guitar player gets back on this new record’s writing process, taking place mostly on the road, just as a diary coming to life immediately in the studio after going on stage all over the world, invading some countries for the first time. On tour is well and truly when the band is alive and breathing. Cavestany told us that a visual legacy will soon crown the band’s history on the road in the form of a documentary.

« It’s our goal to conquer every single square foot in this earth that we can possibly play and wherever there’s fans of metal »

Radio Metal: I saw that there is a Skype message on your Skype account where it says “Sleep is for babies.” [laughs] Are you such a hyperactive man?

Rob Cavestany (guitar): [Laughs] Ha, that’s just funny, I just put that on there because I’m unfortunately unable to get enough sleep. For one thing I’m a brutal insomniac; I just stay up like… that’s the reason for my Skype name, because I just can’t sleep, and on top of that I have so much to do and I’m a workaholic so, you know… but I do love sleep, so I’m just kind of being sarcastic and saying sleep is for babies.

Are you insomniac since you were a kid or is it something recent?

[Laughs] No no, I wasn’t when I was a kid, no, I was fine back then! It’s… Yeah, I guess it’s fairly recent but recent being many years by now. Since I’ve been in a band, going on tour I guess, I never could readjust back to the normal way. And then you know nine years ago I had a kid so any rest or sleep I thought I was able to get, then that disappeared completely by having a kid so… Now being in a band and having a kid: forget about it. One of the only times I actually get rest is when I’m on tour, when I sleep in a bunk on the bus.

I guess being on tour is less exhausting than having a kid, isn’t it?

In some ways, it absolutely is. You’ll never realize it until you actually have a kid and then go: “Oh my god, wow, I’ve got to go on tour so I can get some rest!” [Laughs]

[Laughs] Ok, let’s be serious. You guys toured for more than three years for the previous album Relentless Retribution. What did you think of this tour and did you have the time to rest a little before writing this new album?

No, we did not! And the tour was amazing. Exhausting but amazing. It definitely went on longer than we planned that it was going to go on but, we just kept getting offers to do killer tours and we just wanted to keep pushing the album and taking our show on the road so we just kept on touring, going on with those last few legs with Anthrax and Testament. It was hard to say no to that cause that was such an amazing lineup. So yes, the touring was fucking great, it was amazing, the shows were just getting better and better and better all the way towards the end. But on the flipside of that, it did go on really really long and caused it to take a long time for us to get to our next album. We didn’t want to wait this long for our next album, but it was not like we were taking a break! It was just that we just kept playing live. So by the end we just did not want to waste time between getting to the next album and taking a break and getting rest and then trying to get the machine running again to get ready to do a whole album. So instead of that, we just started to write the album towards the last year of the tour and when we finally came to the end of the touring, we just continued the writing straight through, in a very intense and aggressive pace and went directly into the studio and did the album without any break whatsoever. In fact, the break that happened was after we finished the album and then we had a couple of weeks off to catch our breath and those couple of weeks passed in the blink of an eye. And now we’re back into full force: rehearsal, getting ready to get into the next cycle for the next album. I’m very excited, but that’s a lot of work!

On this tour, you traveled to places where you had never been before like Asia and South America. How was it, to discover these new audiences and do you think that you’ll try to go further in that way for the next tour and see other new places?

Absolutely, yes 100%. It was great! It was a dream come true to play in South America and the places we played in South East Asia. I mean, any place that we’ve played for the first time that we’ve never been to is amazing to us. It’s our goal to conquer every single square foot in this earth that we can possibly play and wherever there’s fans of metal we want to be there playing and experiencing their culture and experiencing what the scene of metal and music is like in other parts of the world. It’s just great. Travelling is one of the greatest things that I love to do and that we, as a band, love to do. So yeah, it’s definitely our goal to play everywhere and anywhere they’ll have us, and I expect we’ll continue that with this new album.

« I’m dreaming of, you know, whatever you call it, the ‘2nd Big 4’ or the ‘next four’, the ‘Big 8’… »

Three years, that’s pretty huge and pretty extreme actually. Wasn’t it too exhausting? Do you think you will do a tour as long as this one for the promotion of this new record?

It was definitely exhausting and I do not want to tour that long for this record. [Laughs] If we can help it: no. That’s going to be very draining as well as the other main reason is that it’s going to take too long to get to the next album again and I don’t want this much space happening in between our albums. I want to get into the studio and do another album as soon as possible. I think we’re really on fire with the style of music we’re writing right now and it’s very exciting to create and record music. But of course we also do love to play live and tour. We have to support the new album and we’re very excited to rise to the challenge of playing this new album live so we’re going to come out the gates strong as soon as the album comes out in October we’re doing a month in North America then a couple of days later after that we go to Europe and do a month in Europe, which takes us all the way up to Christmas time. Then we definitely have plans to get back out in January and start up all over again. But, as far as how long we are going to tour, I guess that really just going to be determined by what offers come our way. If great touring offers keep coming and we just have opportunities to play we’re going to do it and we’ll just see at what point we need to cut things off and start working on the next album. But we’re definitely not planning to tour for three years.

Like you said, this new album was written on tour. Is this album somehow the story of the band’s experience of this long and exhausting tour?

Yes, it definitely is. It’s the diary of what we’re going through on tour but not necessarily only what we’re going through on the road and the part that pertains to the shows and the crowd and the life on the road. It’s halfway that and also halfway the torment and the sacrifice and the struggle that we experience on the other half of life, by being on tour for so long and being away from home, away from loved ones, away from friends and family and from the other side of life that keeps you balanced and grounded; and sacrifices that were made, relationships that were lost… a lot of pain and suffering included with the glory and the happiness along with it. It’s all there in the album.

Actually there is a lot of melodies on this album, but the album remains very aggressive and powerful. Is it a way somehow to show the emotional roller coaster you were describing right now?

Definitely. Absolutely. The variety and the different sounds and the combination of the melodic parts and the brutal and intense and aggressive parts is exactly reflecting the emotions and the experience that we go through to be in this band. Everything we’re living through as well as conveying experiences and emotions of people around us that we experience by living with these people or just knowing these people, and the way that their lives are affected either by us and our band or what they’re going through too and we expressed it into what we’re feeling as well.

On a more musical point of view, do you think dynamics is the key to a good album? That an album has to be varied and melodic, aggressive and…f have all of this?

I don’t think it has to be, it’s really to each its own. There are many bands and many albums that are out there and many that I personally love that don’t have a lot of dynamics; that are pretty much straight forward in their dynamic range, and they stay in the same dynamic range and that works for different artists and for different people. But when it comes to our band, yes, it’s extremely important. We love to have a lot of dynamic range and a lot of variety in our style and in our sound, as much as possible, but also without taking it too far to where it’s just getting too crazy. You know, we’ve done it before on our other albums, we’ve gone to what I would think somewhat pushing the envelope possibly over the edge of the variety but that worked for those albums, that’s the style we were looking for, we were trying to create an extremely diverse album that takes you from everywhere from a ballad to an intensely fast speed metal song. But on this album we didn’t want to do that. We tried and kept the parameters inside of the aggressive and definitely very metal and thrash approach. We didn’t put any ballad so to speak, or even barely slow or mid-paced songs on this album. The slowest and lightest song on this album is still extremely heavy to me.

« I want to get into the studio and do another album as soon as possible. »

About this new record, you declared that « it’s so much more cohesive now, with this lineup that we’ve got, we know exactly how everyone is playing now, where everybody’s strengths lie ». Do you think that’s the secret to writing records more efficiently?

It definitely helped. It helps in a big way; it was very much more efficient for my point of view for writing this record. Because I know the ingredients I am working with. It’s very much like creating a dish or something; you start with the various ingredients and the tools that you’re going to use to create it, and then you do it. So if you know what you’re working with ahead of time, then while you’re creating it already… In my mind I can picture the way that Will’s going to play drums, I can picture the way that Damien is going to play bass, I already know how Mark’s going to sing but more so with the newer guys. You know what we did with Relentless Retribution, I somewhat knew how they played but not as much compared to three years of touring together and living together and not only the style of their musicianship but even their personalities because that has something to do with it, because people’s personalities come out in their playing style. Knowing each other’s personalities and becoming that much closer of friends definitely made the experience that much more cohesive.

Is this what being a mature band means? Focusing on your strengths, and not trying to become someone else, some other musician?

I think so very much. That’s a very good point you make and yes. I mean if anything, the years and the hours and hours you put into it together, the stripes you earn along the way, you’d better know how to use that experience to your advantage because that’s one of the things that comes with experience: if you can’t learn from your experience, then what a waste the experience is! You’re not even bettering yourself and progressing and… You know it’s a goal for us. We don’t want to just make another album. We are very conscious of the fact that we want to make another album and outdo ourselves. We want to make the next thing that we’re going to do the greatest thing that we can possibly do and take ourselves to higher levels, individually as musicians and as people and collectively as a unit and as a team. It’s just what you should do I think, as a more experienced and mature band.

The new tour will kick off on October 18. It could look as if touring is what you enjoy the most. Can we say that Death Angel’s purpose, more than writing music, is traveling through the world and going on stage?

No I wouldn’t say so. As far as coming from our point of view, from importance, they’re equally as important if you ask me. They each count equally for sure. You need to have the material and the album to play and new music to keep it fresh and stuff to play for the people and for yourself, as well as being able to take it live and play, perform in front of people and entertain a crowd live, and enjoy the process of being on stage and the fun of being on tour so they work hand in hand. But the thing is just that we just tour more than we make albums, it just happens to work that way. And nowadays, in the way that the industry… you know, with what’s happened with technology in the industry, it’s even more so important these days to tour and be on the road and to give a good live performance because your albums – unfortunately for us, the recording artist – they are easily pirated and copied. You don’t sell as many albums these days and everyone gets it for free eventually. So the album is more something that people can listen to, to be able to go and see you live. Most of our work is happening on the road because that’s quite frankly honestly where we can make a living. Where we can make money to survive and keep the band going is by playing live, selling merchandise live, and it’s very important to be able to give a good live show because that’s the one thing left that people can’t duplicate and copy with their technology. Live is live, that’s this one thing; you go and see the band right in front of your face, if they can play good live, that’s the last honest thing they have left in the world.

Since touring is such a special experience for you, have you ever thought of recording a documentary about that to show the life on the road? And to show other things than what people think of, for example, bands that are getting drunk and getting laid? Have you thought of doing a documentary to show something else?

It’s already happened my brother. It’s happened; it’s in the final editing stages now. We’ve been filming this documentary over the entire three years of our last tour. Now it’s being edited and probably, I’d say some months after our new album comes out, maybe in spring time of 2014, we will release this exact thing that you speak of. It’s called “The Thrashumentary.” It’s got tons of live footage and even more fun than that, it’s got all the behind the scenes footage. Everything you’ve been talking about, showing all the good and bad times of being on the road – mostly the good times. Lot of funny times, lot of partying, a lot of just behind the scenes footage of us on the bus, backstage, working out, the things we have to work out behind the scenes that you don’t see, that it takes for us to be able to do what we do. As well as lot of interviews from our peers in the music industry, other guys in other bands talking about their experience with us and it’s going to be a really really cool film when it comes out.

On this last tour, you played some shows with Anthrax with Testament, with Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. It really looks like there is a strong unity between thrash metal bands. Do you think that some other events like that will come up, that there will be some kind of thrash tours or “Big 4” tours, etc. and that you will be a part of it?

It’s got to be. It has to be. None of those are exactly booked right now. The tours we have booked right now is us headlining, bringing a lot of younger thrash bands with us, younger newer metal bands, but I’m very optimistic in the future there should be more of that. The last three legs of the tour with did with Anthrax and Testament was amazing, totally amazing. We’ve been doing a lot of touring with our other brothers in Exodus. We always have a total blast touring with those guys so I would hope that we could. Yes, definitely so. I’m dreaming of, you know, whatever you call it, the “2nd Big 4” or the “next four”, the “Big 8”… whatever the fuck, I don’t give a shit as long as there are quality bands on the tour and we can be a part of it, you can count us to be in. We’d love it.

Interview conducted by phone on September, the 3rd 2013 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription: Natacha.
Introduction: Alastor

Death Angel’s official website : www.deathangel.us

Album The Dream Calls For Blood, out since October, 11th 2013 via Nuclear Blast.



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