» Rob Cavestany - Death Angel
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Interview conducted September 16 2013
Interview published September 22 2013

Californian long-time thrashers Death Angel's 7th studio album releases in early October. Metal Covenant had the opportunity to speak to main man and guitarist Rob Cavestany about the new album, tours, future etc. The guitarist was in a good mood, excited and enthusiastic, so buckle up and enjoy.

Tobbe: So how are things going in your camp?

  • Rob: Going good. Just exciting times for us right now. We're preparing for the release of the new album. Very nice. Busy, busy, but nice.

Tobbe: So let's start this one with your coming release, The Dream Calls For Blood. What are your thoughts about the album's direction?

  • Rob: My thoughts on the direction? Do you mind if I ask you, have you had a chance to hear the album yet?

Tobbe: Yes, I've heard the entire thing 4 times already.

  • Rob: All right, yeah that's nice, it's good to know.

Tobbe: Now I know what it sounds like, but now I wanna know what you think.

  • Rob: Well, this is one of those questions. I always feel, you know, it's such a cliché thing with this fucking question and this answer, because pretty much any guy is gonna tell you with their new album, the same thing. "It's our best album to date, it's so heavy, it's back to our original sound and blah blah blah". A funny thing is, it's the truth for me. All I can actually honestly say is that we're very fucking happy with how this album turned out. We're very excited, we feel it's really aggressive and really exciting, lively, fast and filled with emotion. It's also kind of dark. It's not a very happy sounding album. This isn't a really happy style of music anyway. You know, people wanna release their aggression and vent out their bullshit in their life and have fucking fun doing it. It's kind of releasing of aggression, but in a fun way, so that's what we did on this album.

Tobbe: For me this is a typical Death Angel album, so what did you do to minimize repeats from your last album, Relentless Retribution?

  • Rob: I think we just had to only live the life that we lived since Relentless Retribution and that was enough to generate a different emotion and inspiration. We were on tour for three years straight. That alone, if anyone can imagine what that will do to you psychologically, being on tour for that long. You immediately think of what a blast, what a big party it's been and "you guys must be having a great time". Which is true, it's not like we're fucking not having a great time. We love music and we love being on tour and playing in front of crowds and being surrounded by our other friends who are great musicians and great bands.

    But also there's the other 22 hours of the day that you have to exist when you're not on the stage. Just traveling and missing your family and friends. One day you're fine and so happy and one day you just wake up and it's just a long hard day to get through, that day. It's always great to release it on stage, but you know, after a while it builds up and all this shit. You know, the dark side of all that, was the inspiration of the darker sides of the album and the good side of it is that we got really, really tight with our line-up, because we had a new bassplayer and a new drummer on the last album. After three years of living together and jamming with each other on almost every single day, we grew so much tighter together as friends and as musicians and as a unit. So that also is, I think, apparent in the difference of the fire of the last album and the playing of this album, so that's happening in there.

Tobbe: You're the main songwriter in the band, with Mark (Osegueda) writing a major part of the lyrics though. I assume this is the deal with the new record too, so how do you prepare yourself to get into writing mode?

  • Rob: There was not much time to prepare. I pretty much took a deep breath and jumped in the ocean. It was like, we were on tour, you know. It came a point where I just had to realize that I better start writing already, because it's gonna take so long if we're gonna go home and then like rest for a while and then start writing and then all of this will take forever and we don't wanna do that. We felt that we wanted to make up for lost time. The times of the years in between when we weren't existing and stuff like that.

    You know, we were working and we just wanted to get another album out right away. We thought that it would be good to capture all this emotion that was happening to us and everything that was going on. If we were able to put that into our next album, we thought we would have something really good there, so that was the goal. All of a sudden on the next tour, I brought my mobile recording unit and set up like a recording studio in the back lounge of the bus. Setting it up is one thing, using is another thing.

Tobbe: Yes, a lot of people say it's hard to write while on tour.

  • Rob: Very hard. Of course you can imagine that there's a million distractions and our band is definitely a band that love to have our fun and party and hang out with the other bands and just make the best of being on the road. It really just came to a point of self discipline and finally I just started to get to work and at first it was harder, but after doing it on a few tours, it started to actually become really fun for me. It was actually a great escape and a release, all at the same time. I had space where I'd be. So involved in working on something and getting excited about writing and stuff that I would literally forget where I was for hours at a time, which is a nice thing to be able to do, you know. So that's what happened, man.

Tobbe: So what about the album title? What made you decide to go for it?

  • Rob: The title is basically our motto. It's what we're talking about, you know. In our point of view the dream being our band and keeping the band going and making music for your life. The blood is all the sacrifice and all hard work that goes into it and that's the metaphor for that. It's not only meant for music. It's also meant for other people to relate in their own life and goals that they're trying to achieve and the sacrifices that it takes to achieve these goals. And along with that, there's also a tinge of aggression in there about other people that cut corners and don't quite go through all the steps it takes to achieve the goal the right way. So there's a little bit of a middle finger to those people that go about it that way and don't fully respect what it takes.

Tobbe: So this maybe explains some of your intensity in the music and also your whole writing mode?

  • Rob: Most definitely. I'll throw in one other if that wasn't enough fuel for the fire. Toward the end of our tour, we realized that we had reached the 25th year anniversary of our debut album, The Ultra-Violence. This album had been unable and out of print for a while and stuff like that and a lot of people were looking for the album, so we re-released the album and then switched up our set. We were doing kind of a set to give a tribute to our album, so we were playing the whole The Ultra-Violence from beginning to end on tour. That was like, you know, a double-edged sword too, in a way of that it was doing two things at once. We knew it was gonna be killer thing to do. The crowd was gonna fucking like that, the old school fans and then it was gonna be fun to us to do that all of a sudden after… (pause) We probably never even done that since we wrote the album. I don't know if we did that before.

    Then I also knew, another secret key was that if we were doing that every night, it was gonna affect the music we were currently writing. In a good way that people would be glad about too, because that album's widely accepted and I can see why. In those days when we were writing that album, we had far less parameters of musical influence and we were much more narrow minded into metal, you know. You can never recreate that and I don't even wanna try to recreate that, cause you're like a whole other person when you're young. By playing that album from beginning to end for so many times live in front of a crowd, I think that's about the most you can do to yourself to actually bring yourself back closer to that feeling again. With that in mind, that also, you know, it snuck its way into the music as well.

Tobbe: You were talking about your fans earlier. Like you said, it was a long time since you recorded your first album. Are the fans nowadays still the same fans or do you get new followers down the road with a different generation now, a younger generation nowadays?

  • Rob: Oh, for sure. Definitely are. If it wasn't, then our crowds would be getting much smaller.

Tobbe: Yes, I can see that. It was like a rhetoric question.

  • Rob: And the crowd would be getting a lot mellower too, because you know, I don't expect a lot of them, the people that were there in the eighties watching us play. I can only imagine how old they are now, because I'm one of them. You can get excited and go crazy and paying the price for weeks after that, if you do go like that. So that's an activity reserved for the younger people and the just insanely crazy older people. I'm glad to say that it's fucking amazing these days. Our crowds are fucking insane. There's a lot of younger people in the crowd fucking going fucking nuts, mixed in with the old school fans.

    You would expect that we would play, you know the so called classic older songs and the crowd of course is gonna get much more excited, because that's usually how any concert goes. The really exciting thing is that we have absolutely noticed, to our joy to see, that the new songs from the new album gets as equal response from the crowd as the old songs. We're going to a new song and you see, you know they're singing the words, going crazy, just as much as that. And in fact it's funny, because you see a lot of the younger fans, they do get confused when we play older songs, as they probably mostly know our new album. It's really fucking awesome, man. It's gonna be exciting to see how the new album affects everybody.

Tobbe: Tell us why someone should buy this Death Angel album, instead of another thrash metal album from random band?

  • Rob: Well, I'll tell you why, because it's gonna help this band survive and keep going to the next album and be able to keep alive and could stay a working band, because that's our livelihood. I mean, that's kind of a joke answer, of course. But that is a good reason to buy the album, you know, but in truth I don't give a shit if you buy the album or file share it with your friend. The point is that I think that our album delivers fucking some serious fucking thrash music and has one foot in the old school, but one foot in the modern. It's a relevant album to give a perfect example of what thrash has evolved to in today's modern age, the production, the songwriting, everything.

    In my point of view, without trying to analyze our own music too much, but we are very confident about our album, we are very proud of the work we've put into this album. We feel it's the real, it's the fucking one hundred percent real fucking goods, man. It's everything that it's supposed to be. You know, if you wanna get a good example of it, there it is, it's right there, and it's new and it's high octane, man. It'll beat you up.

Tobbe: It's no time for breathers on that one.

  • Rob: No, no, no, there isn't. In my eyes, if you hear the way Mark is singing and you hear the way that we're playing these songs on this album, your heart, your ears and your body will be able to tell you that we didn't just try to make a heavy album or something. This album is an absolute truthful expression coming from us.

Tobbe: So what about working with producer Jason Suecof again and were you involved in the production this time as well?

  • Rob: Absolutely, in fact more so. This is the most producing I've done on any of our albums so far. Definitely a true collaboration of production between myself and Jason. We produced it together as a team. I had already done all the pre-production by myself in the Bay Area before we showed up to his studio. There was really not too many more arrangement changes that happened from what we already originally had when we had worked it out in pre-production. I feel very glad and very proud of the work that was put in to it, ahead of time, even very much work to re-arrange and get the proper construction of the songs and didn't waste too much time in the studio where we were not prepared with our songs already.

    And then when we got there, of course we still leave a lot of room for experimentation and we were open to ideas to collaborate with each other and you know, make things better when we're in there and capture a lot of raw emotion, especially the vocals. A lot of the vocals were left open to interpretation and a lot of it was actually created on the spot in the studio out there. And as well as my guitar solos I'm extremely proud of on this album, because I spent the most time working on my guitar solos than I have on any of our albums, by far. For sure, I never had so much work put into just the solos on the album, so I'm really glad about that. We just really try to push ourselves.

    It's one thing that Jason told me when we did the latest album that stuck in my mind. "When you're making a new album, especially this far into your career and this deep into your career. What's the point, if you're gonna make another album, you better be making it for a reason of not only just to put something out so you can go on tour and stuff and sell merch. It should be a statement you're making, you should be making a statement of yourself that's outdoing yourself from whatever you've done before and if you're not pushing yourself to that level, why are you wasting all this effort and time for?". It really stuck with me, so when it came to this album, I was already telling myself that when we show up at Jason's studio, "I don't want him to ask me that question again. I want him to know for sure that that was what we're doing without a question.".

Tobbe: You were set to deliver when you came there.

  • Rob: Yes sir. I mean, one thing I love working with Jason is that he has a way of pushing without being pushy. It's like his style. His personality is in such a way that he's not pissing you off like some fucking asshole, arrogant kind of dude, telling you what to do, make you feel small. He's just over there in his way, you know making us feel like equals, but he has a way of communicating his messages to work by, you know. We were laughing about it, but at the same, I understand the seriousness what he's talking about.

    And he's also an amazing fucking guitar player. He's an incredible shredding guitar player. For me as a guitar player, it's inspiring and intimidating, all at the same time. I don't wanna inferior with this guy in front of me, cause he has no problem like taking my guitar from me in the middle of something. He'll just go "Look, give me your guitar!" and I'll go "No, no, no". He's like "Just give me your guitar". And then I'll hand it to him and he'll just start doing all this incredible shit. "Well look, c'mon man. Let's go, let's push for something more incredible. How about something like this, or this, or this, or this". And I'll go "Okay, okay, give it back already".

    Then I go disappearing for another three hours and then come back and I'm like "Is this what you're fucking talking about?" and he's like "That's what I'm talking about". In this case I already know he's gonna do that to me, so I'm already like "Fuck you man, I'm gonna blow you away with this solo" and I just go lock myself up in the other studio and working on it. It's a fun way when you get in this kind of a challenge, but where it's not a negative challenge. It's like driving you to kick ass, but it's still kicking your ass at the same time while it's happening.

Tobbe: It's his job and if he can do that job by pushing you, like in a good way. Well, then he's doing his job, I guess.

  • Rob: That's why I like working with this guy. One of the main reasons I like it. It's not so much just as about pushing buttons and stuff like that, but it's also about the human relationship. I think a major thing in a producer's role, that I've learned over the experiences, is the ability to communicate with the artist and make them bring out the best of their performance without crushing their spirit. It's a delicate thing. Artist are very sensitive, we're sensitive people (laughing).

Tobbe: Senseless sensitive heavy thrashers, that sounds good.

  • Rob: It's funny, you know - you could be on fire and like with just the wrong way you say something to somebody or the wrong thing, you can just like really crush someone's spirit in a moment. All of a sudden, you've lost like what was going on there. It's about getting your performance on the recording, it's the way you're doing it. Not just the notes you're hitting, but it's the feeling inside of it that's being captured in the recording that I think is important, especially if you're unable to afford to record on analog and all this. Of course I can understand how things have moved into digital and the whole discussion of, you know, the human spirit and everything like that. And for us, being a band that has recorded all earlier albums on tape and working with how it used to be compared to how the modern production works now, it's even more important to me to capture the human feeling into the recordings these days. We're working on that, while we're trying to play tight and make it very accurate and everything else at the same time.

Tobbe: You guys are putting down tons of efforts on your recordings. How much effort do you guys put down to become an even bigger act than you are? Can you like evolve this band to a bigger act or are you gonna stay in this level? What do you think?

  • Rob: Well, we fucking don't wanna stay in this level, shit man. You know, we wanna take it as far as we can take it. That's the dream, that is calling for the blood, you know what I mean. It's killing you, it's taking years off your life to create and everything you've got in here. More and more gray hairs are coming by the day and it's sucking the life out of you, but at the same time, it's what you're practically living for. We would love to take it as far as we can go, hell yeah. The more people we can play in front of, the bigger the shows, bring a better production and enable us to bring a better performance to the crowd. That's what it's all about, you know. We're trying to do as good as we can.

Tobbe: So this is something you guys talk about on a regular basis?

  • Rob: Fuck yes, we do. We've learned our lesson about letting things get out of hand. If you don't talk about all these things and the purpose for it and pumping each other up as friends and as bandmembers, so that we're all unifying the goal. It's not gonna work that way, it's gonna start to disappear, the magic and the fire starts to quickly disappear if you don't keep aware of why you're doing things and how lucky that we are to have each other and to have this band.

    If you start taking things for granted, which easily happens because you get caught up in everything else in your life and all the other bullshit starts to take over sometimes, and then it starts to slip away and that's a very scary thing that happens, because then that's like the cancer that starts inside of the thing. We've already experienced that in various ways and we're trying our best to keep things at a high level and keep everybody pumped up and enjoying the process of killing yourself.

Tobbe: So if Death Angel is still active in 10-15 years, in which direction have you evolved to, or will you stay the same band and play this heavy thrash, or will you be more mellow? What do you think?

  • Rob: I think it's absolutely impossible to predict, so I won't even begin to do that. It's just not even possible. I don't even know what's gonna happen in our next album.

Tobbe: That's my best question. You totally ruined it. I love that question.

  • Rob: Well okay, I can give you the answer that people wish to hear. "In 15 years we're gonna be younger than ever, playing the heaviest music of our time and completely going crazy and you would never even notice the difference between our age of now, of then, or 15 years later, or 15 years of then". But that would be a foot in my mouth, so these days I don't wanna predict anything. I've noticed that attempting to predict things usually causes the reverse thing to happen and we have our share of fucking really dark clouds and bad luck and I don't wanna bring that to ourselves. So we're gonna take it, you know, day by day, game by game, fight by fight, one battle at a time. Try to live a little bit more in the moment, which I have a hard time doing, because I am constantly planning for the future. I'm trying to look out about the future and that gets very stressful and sometimes it takes away from enjoying the moment.

    You know, I just have to realize that we're not getting any younger. I think it's a good thing to realize that, because what happens is, by us realizing mortality, realizing time and reality of things, it makes us give it our all at every fucking moment that is happening. When we made this album, we made this album in a slightly morbid way of thinking. What if this was gonna be our last album? Like something happens to us, to the world, to one of us, to some. "So let's fucking make a statement on this album".

    So that's how we see ourselves and we do that when we play live too. You know, "What if this is our fucking last show that's ever gonna happen, let's just give our fucking all". I know that people can easily say that they do that, but we really do shit like that. Our reputation as a live band is pretty high, we fucking deliver live all the time. By the time we get off the stage, we're fucking worked, man. We come off the stage as though we just fucking got our ass kicked by Mike Tyson. So there you go, in that case I feel that we're doing our job.

Tobbe: Like you said, no long term future plans for Death Angel, but do you have any plans for 2014, next year, or for the rest of this year?

  • Rob: Exactly man. The tour is plans enough, you know what I mean. We're gonna be touring as hardcore as we can possibly do and that's already starting with this year. As soon as the album comes out, we're on tour. The same week that the album comes out, we're starting our North American tour and that's gonna start off in our hometown of San Francisco. We're gonna do two nights for the record release shows. A very exciting way to kick off the album and the tour. It just goes on from there, Hollywood next night, this goes on and on and ends up on my birthday in New York City. That's gonna be a very exciting show. It's always fun to have a birthday show somewhere special. And then we get home from that tour mid November, we turn around and a couple of days later we start our headlining European tour, which we are very proud to announce today. We're going to announce the dates later today, we just finalized the tour.

Tobbe: I will check out that itinerary tomorrow then.

  • Rob: Please check it, but I'm gonna disappoint you already. There's no dates in Sweden whatsoever on this tour. It fucking sucks man. I don't know what happened. Well, I know what happened. Basically it's just a matter of routing and that's just how they do it. It's not like we're skipping it because we don't wanna play there of course. It didn't work out on the routing. You know, we're gonna tour Europe, not Scandinavia at all, but the rest of Europe. There are other parts that we're also missing out on, on this tour and that'll take us to the end of the year.

    We go home for the holidays and I think we're gonna kick off the next leg with the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise that happens. Of course we'll be back in Europe for the summer festivals and we'll do another tour before that, that's gonna come to Scandinavian countries and every other place we didn't play. As you can see with our last three year tour, we pretty much play everywhere more than once. We love to tour and we love to be on stage, sharing the energy with the crowds.

    And you know, just to not be so vague on the other question you asked; tt is our plan to get back into the writing and into the studio as fast as possible again to the next album and sooner than this album. We're not planning to tour for three years this time. I mean, if it takes us like that, then it's gonna happen by accident, but our plan is to tour not as long as that for the reason of being able to get another album out sooner than that. So yes of course, we do plan of doing all that. It's just that I'm not gonna sit here and predict it too exactly, because of the way that crazy life goes.

Tobbe: Three years can be a long time with this competition nowadays and one year will mean that the band already have a new album out and people maybe won't be interested. For me, two years is the perfect timing for a new album.

  • Rob: It seems like it, yes. I can't imagine how in the old school days these great artists would release amazing albums, like two of them in one year. It's just sick, it's unbelievable, it's awesome, but it was a different time and different circumstance. That's not gonna happen now and the only way that we really can make any kind of living off music is by being on tour, because nowadays the record sales amounts to nothing with all file sharing. It forces you to be on tour much more.

Tobbe: How much will you play live off your new release on your gigs this fall?

  • Rob: I'm so in love with the new album. If it was up to me, we would play our entire new album. I've been debating our setlist lately, because I'm the one that make our setlist and we're about to start the rehearsals for it. I think, you know, that's probably too extreme to do that, especially when the album is new. The people aren't gonna know the new songs and after a while they'll just be standing there watching you play the new album for too many songs in a row. Currently I cannot make it be any less than seven of the new songs that we're gonna play.

Tobbe: So for how long are you playing? How long is your set?

  • Rob: I think our set right now, we're talking about doing at least an hour and twenty minutes, cause we're gonna be headlining, so an hour and twenty at the minimum.

Tobbe: So like half of the set is new songs?

  • Rob: Definitely, definitely.

Tobbe: So which is your favorite song off the new album then?

  • Rob: Oh, that's really hard to tell.

Tobbe: Yes I know. That's why I'm asking those questions.

  • Rob: That's like your new ten kids come out at once and then you have to choose your favorites. I swear to God that it's really, really hard. I am really that much in love with our new album. I have to be. Right off the bat, the first five songs in a row is killer to me, like they go together. Right now I'm sitting with our setlist and I'm having a hard time. Right off the bat of my plan is to come right out with the first five songs off the album, straight. Before we even play a different old song, cause I love the first five, the way they go in order, just like that, so much.

Tobbe: You can play it for a couple of gigs and see the crowd's reaction and then you will find out if it was a good choice or not.

  • Rob: I think so, this is true. When we get to the second half of the album, I love the fact that it kind of gets a little bit more pushing the envelop of the styles. It like goes into some different directions and more a bit adventurous for a while there. The closing song is like a bit of an epic. It's sort of, for me, like my tribute to Diary Of A Madman. That's what it is for me and it's a really intense and involved song, melodically. And with the guitar parts, it's just very challenging, so I love the way that the album closes out. The last song is kind of an epic number that I love. Yeah, there you go, I can't give a single song, I just can't.

Tobbe: Your favorite all-time Death Angel track then? Which is most fun to play live?

  • Rob: Oh shit. Now I can't include the new songs, because we haven't played them yet. Ah, you got me with that one. But it's so hard again. I love the songs we play live. I just have to pick one out of the blue and imagine for me how much fun I have playing it like right now. I can say that I really love playing the song Claws In So Deep. That's a little bit of an epic track. It's really fucking heavy. It's got these really powerful parts and I definitely love playing that song live. It pumps me the fuck up.

Tobbe: Another question. The one song you wish you didn't record?

  • Rob: Oh, the one song I wish we didn't record. I have a kind of funny answer for you, because at the time, the one song that I really did not wanna record before it was recorded, before. I was really very much against it, cause I thought that the song was just like a joke actually at the time when I wrote it. It was the song Bored, which ended up being one of our most popular songs.

Tobbe: Yes, it's a different one.

  • Rob: It's very different. I can see now. I can see the catchiness of it, the riff and the I'm bored part and all this stuff. It was like by popular demand that we put that on our album, because everybody dug that song when we were playing it. I thought it was like just a song we played for fun and I did not even consider that we should even use that song. But luckily we did, because that song really put us on the map, with a video on MTV.

Tobbe: It's a good break during your livesets too. It's slowing things down a little bit and it's not intense all the time.

  • Rob: It's a good party, upbeat and make you smile kind of song in the middle of all the fucking heaviness. It shows a fun side of us, which is always cool I think. We're actually fun. Funny and happier kind of guys than we might seem like with our fucking music. The song I wish we didn't record? Oh dude. It probably will have to be something off Frolic (Through The Park) again, because that's kind of to me our weirdest album. Probably, oh man, I don't know. It's hard to say. I don't wanna say anything bad about any of my kids. I don't know, maybe the song Confused is kind of a weird thing.

Tobbe: I'll settle with that answer. I don't wanna push you any harder now.

  • Rob: You know, in our box set, there's an entire CD that has all like the outtake kind of like b-side songs. Every song on there is fucking weird and songs I wish we didn't record.

See also: review of the album The Dream Calls For Blood

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