» Rob Cavestany - Death Angel
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Interview conducted July 14 2017
Interview published July 18 2017

The Bay Area thrash metal unit Death Angel is currently on tour in Europe and as they visited Gefle Metal Festival in Gävle, Sweden, Metal Covenant got a chance to talk to founding member, guitarist and songwriter Rob Cavestany.

"What a strange and wonderful journey it's been and I would never think that some fucking Filipino kid like me, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, would even have a possibility of something like this."

Tobbe: Ever since you reunited in the beginning of the 2000's you have kind of put out a record every third year, so will the fans have to wait until 2019 to get a new Death Angel album?

Rob: I wanna say no. It's a long time in between, that's for sure. But you know, we love to tour. The touring cycle keeps going and you get another tour again and we're like "Sure, let's play.". We love to play live and the creation of the music, we don't wanna rush it either, so. Sometimes I get in a creative mood and write a lot in one time and sometimes I just need a break. So, I really don't know. I hope it'll be sooner. It's our goal to make it sooner. So we'll see, but you know, we're not getting any younger, so let's make it happen!

Tobbe: So do you have any stuff written for a coming album? Anything at all?

Rob: Well, musically there's some parts, yeah. I mean, I always record riffs when ideas strike, so I have, like, riff tapes with just tons of riffs. It's easy to crank out riffs, but the thing is actually sit there and listen to them and start constructing. So that will have to be the next phase. But definitely there's riffs. I've written stuff on the road and stuff here and there and at home.

Tobbe: Will you kind of focus on something specific for a coming record or will it just be a blasting Death Angel album?

Rob: At this stage I'm really not sure and I'll leave it wide open and when the inspiration will start happening, then I'll just go with it. So I can't plan it out. It might be this, it might be that, but it'll be something.

Tobbe: Is it actually possible to take kind of the best parts from a record and try to put them into a new record, but in a different way?

Rob: That's sort of what I do, kind of, in a way. Especially after you've toured on a record for a while, so it takes on a different life from when it existed in the studio and the writing. Now you see how it happens live and the reaction with fans and stuff like that and for us performing the songs. So yeah, sometimes you look at the ones that is in our setlist, because that's usually the ones that, of course, has a good effect. So there's a little bit of that, but at the same time there is also just the absolute unknown and also leaving it to a natural progression of whatever is just gonna come out and then see how it starts to come together. That's usually kind of how it ends up.

Tobbe: The Evil Divide [2016] wasn't a thrash record all the way through, because I think there's a couple of heavy metal songs on that one. So was some variation important too on the record?

Rob: Definitely. I mean, to me, The Dream Calls For Blood [2013], the album that came before, is really, really brutal. The place we were in our lives, emotionally and mentally, and just things we were going through personally. Me and Mark [Osegueda, vocals] were each having really challenging situations happening.

I didn't even realize it at the time, until I looked back at that album and go "Oh, man!". It's a really dark and fucking angry and aggressive album. So because of that I wanted to not try to repeat that. It didn't seem like we could top the anger and the intensity, because we weren't going through that anymore at this point. So I wanted to explore other feelings of emotion in the album. Still dark feelings, but not quite so fucking pissed and frustrated.

So in this case I wanted to lean towards a lot of our heavy metal influences. Definitely. Because we love, of course, heavy metal and probably more of the music we listen to is heavy metal than thrash. It just so happen we play thrash. But a lot of thrash bands don't really put so much heavy metal into their sound, so we like to do it.

Tobbe: So it's possible to, like, bring in influence from another genre of music?

Rob: Definitely. We've done that ever since our second album Frolic Through The Park [1988]. The Ultra-Violence [1987] is, like, the only album that's totally, totally thrash, because we were just kids at that time, trying to compete with Exodus and Metallica and Slayer. I mean, not compete, but we were, like, influenced by them so much, so we were definitely just doing our best.

I remember the studio and we were like "What's the tempo for the song?" and - "As fast as we can.". [Laughs] You know, reckless, insane. Then already after that album we were listening to different music and we said "Well, let's just start putting it in our own music.". We like all kinds of music, so we just wanna play as much as we can, within the realm of metal and thrash.

Tobbe: You have some distance now to The Evil Divide and of course The Dream Calls For Blood also, so if you have to pick any of them, and you have to pick either one of them, which one is the best record of them? And no excuses, OK?

Rob: Oh, wow! Fuck, why you do this to me? [Whining] Which child is your favorite? Do you like the fucking crazy, fucking like really, really wild child or do you like the somewhat more controlled, but still very more maybe emotional child? It really depends on my mood. On some days I would say Dream Calls For Blood and on some days I'll say The Evil Divide. And I'm completely honest that way. I can't say one or the other. I can't. …Today it's The Evil Divide.

Tobbe: If you look at Death Angel's future, do you look at the band with confidence or do you look at the band with a certain amount of hesitation?

Rob: I'm gonna be completely honest with you there. I will look at it with hesitation, and that's only because I'm just being truthful and real. You know, confidence, of course. Where we're at right now, our band is really… I'm gonna knock on wood somewhere. [Luckily the temporary flooring is made out of wood.]

I know it's a rare and fortunate situation when you have all 5 people really loving each other and feeling confident with each other. So in that case I'm very confident with the band. But in the case of father time and reality and things that just happen in the world suddenly, I just don't know. So I just wanna try to make the best of every moment as it's happening and also try not to waste time, like we were talking about earlier, taking too long, because shit happens, you know.

So I just wanna keep it real like that. I wanna be like "Oh yeah! We're gonna fucking dominate forever!", but you know. I mean, it's definitely our goal and we don't feel that we've reached the peak of where we could go. We've been around a long fucking time. And we were bigger in the 80's or at some point, so I feel we can achieve much more.

Tobbe: Is it hard to keep up nowadays, because the music industry is changing all the time? Like changing from one day to another and who knows what next thing is gonna be? Now there's Spotify and stuff and next year it's maybe something else and maybe Instagram is gone some day too.

Rob: That's true. It is hard to keep up with everything going on in the world and with technology and quite frankly I don't really try to keep up at some points. You know, I've just had it. I keep up enough to make it work for what I need to do. Even still the way I write and even with my primitive Pro Tools that I barely can make it work. Older version and stuff, but it works. I'm able to write and do whatever we need to do before we take it to the real studio and then you have actual people running the stuff.

And as far as just everything else going on around, musical styles and things going on, I really don't worry about that because, let's be honest man, fucking metal went out of fashion long ago. So there is no keeping up. If anything, I hope it will come back more, you know what I mean? So yeah, not really worried about it. I just try to go with the flow. But I do try to keep up with some things just so that I can function in fucking modern society, but you know, I don't wanna kill myself with that, so.

Tobbe: I think that's best for our sanity, I guess. I pretty much do the same and I keep up with the things that I want to keep up with.

Rob: Right. My son just turned 13. I have one kid and I'm the only guy in the band that has a kid, so that's kind of rough too. Nobody understands what I'm going through. [Said with quite a bit of sarcasm.] You know, it's hard missing each other and everything like that. But through him I end up keeping up on lost stuff. 'Cause now he's 13 and he's in with the times.

I remember my dad telling me this when I was really young, which is that "OK, boy. I created you. You go out there. You get the information and bring it back to me and show me what's happening in the world.". So, funny enough, that's what's happening now. I pick up on a lot of the latest slang and the shit going on from him. It's cool!

Tobbe: Don't get me wrong now, but what would it take for Death Angel to call it quits some day? Negative, of course.

Rob: What would it take? I think Mark and I are bound to each other for life at this point. We've been through so fucking much. Neither of us could possible let each other down at this point. So it would take, I'd have to say, either some other bandmembers just fucking giving up on us and us not wanting to keep replacing and replacing and replacing people, or it would just take an act of God to strike us down.

Tobbe: You seem to be such a solid unit nowadays with the same band for 8 years and both of the so called new guys seem to function very well on stage and everything.

Rob: It's great, man. I really do recognize how rare that this is and how fortunate we are to have this. So we always try to remind ourselves of it. We talk a lot about it. We're a real brotherhood and actually we're really sensitive guys, you know, and we can really get deep with each other knowing what we've all been through and it's just amazing. I'm so thankful to have a tight group like this and I never want it to end.

Tobbe: So if, or when, Death Angel cease to exist some day, would you say that you had a good run? Even if you haven't reached your ultimate goal, that is.

Rob: Yes. Absolutely. Even if we haven't, my God, I mean, you can't complain about that. What a strange and wonderful journey it's been and I would never think that some fucking Filipino kid like me, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, would even have a possibility of something like this. So I'm just absolutely thankful for everything.

Tobbe: The way I see it. Even if you're not a huge band, look at how many people playing thrash metal around the world and how many bands are bigger than your band? Not so many.

Rob: It's true, and I really try to appreciate that, more than ever. Even like at our rehearsal studio in Oakland, where we rehearse; You know, there's tons of bands rehearsing there, all kinds of bands. But you see, when people see us loading in and loading out they're like "Oh, the guys are going on tour." and stuff like that. You can just see in their eyes how they would love it.

They're trying so hard and when they say "You're living the dream, bro." like stuff like that, sometimes in the moment, when you're struggling and grabbing all your equipment and trying to say goodbye to your family, you're like "Ooh, be careful what dream you think this is.", because true enough it's not for everybody. It is a fucking amazing experience and just the ultimate, but it definitely isn't for everybody. You have to fucking eat shit for that too.

Tobbe: I would have a hard time being away from my kids for 4 weeks.

Rob: It's brutal. It never gets easier. Every time we say goodbye is harder and harder the older that he gets and that he understands how long it's gonna be. And when we're just seeing each other at the end at the airport and stuff… Oh, man. I dread that moment every time we're gonna go. It takes me at least, like, one week of touring to let go and starting to enjoy myself and stuff.

And they're so great. My family does not pressure me, or they don't make me feel bad, but they just always give me encouragement and they wait for me, but still, still. You know, like 50 percent of life we're either on tour or in the studio. I mean, there's so many things; I come home, and different things, he's done this, he did that, someone taught him how to do that already and I'm like "I was gonna teach him that!". You can never get it back, you know.

Tobbe: But still, bringing food to the table.

Rob: Exactly, man. Exactly. And if anything it just makes the whole thing so much more deeper, what this is all about and everything. For me it's definitely made it so, like, intense and it comes out in the music and the performance. It's back and forth. It is what it is.

See also: review of the gig the same day

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