Interview with vocalist Richie Cavalera | By Tom Crandle | Photo by Jeremy Saffer
Richie Cavalera has been around heavy metal his entire life. After all, his famous stepfather, Max Cavalera, founded Sepultura, Soulfly, Nailbomb, Killer Be Killed, and Cavalera Conspiracy and just happens to be an all-around metal icon. For the last 15 years, the younger Cavalera has been forging his own path, fronting his own heavy juggernaut, Incite. The Phoenix-based quartet just dropped their fifth full-length album, Built To Destroy, via Minus Head Records on Jan. 25.
Cavalera claims he was never intimidated to follow in such big footsteps and join the family business. “It was just what I felt like I was meant to do,” he recalls. “I was only, like, 10 or 12 years old when I started jamming onstage with Nailbomb, Sepultura, and Soulfly. So, when I got old enough to really take things on, I saw no other path for my future than to rock out, work hard, and carry on the name.”
After some early personnel changes, the Incite lineup has really solidified over the last five years. Cavalera seems very happy with his current bandmates. “We know what to expect, we know what we can do, and it’s just better in every way. It took a lot of trial and error to find people who are 100 percent committed to this crazy hard lifestyle,” he explains. “The guys now are all on the same page, and we’re just rolling along trying to be the best band we can be.”
Built To Destroy builds on, and even improves upon, the winning formula of the band’s last couple of albums. “It’s so much more fine-tuned. It’s a grown-up Incite with better musicianship and focus. I think it made the songs sharper, heavier, and vibe harder than previous work,” Cavalera says. “This album, compared to the recent ones, displays the live feel that we have been wanting. It’s raw and full of energy. Old fans and new fans will love this album, that’s for sure.”
Their songwriting process has also evolved over the years. “It’s changed a lot,” Cavalera reports. “Now, [guitarist] Dru [Rome] brings all the demo music to us, and we kind of sit down and rework it all. We change things we don’t like or add things we want. It’s easier to have one guy get it together and then have us come together with ideas and fixes.”
Built To Destroy takes the thrash and extreme metal traditionally associated with the Cavalera family and fuses it with the groove of Pantera and Lamb Of God. As is often the case, hardship inspired much of the music. “Dru handled most of the writing, and I know he had a hard year with girlfriends and friends, so he definitely was in a rough place. I think the anger and shit really poured out of him into the music on this album,” Cavalera observes.
The inspiration for the lyrics came from a similar place. “I wanted to keep it real, keep it about life and social issues that we all worry about. It’s not a political theme, just more about modern life,” Cavalera says. “It’s things that a lot of people can relate to, like hard times, ruined planet, and people you thought were friends.”
Despite their success over the last decade and a half, Cavalera still has lofty goals for Incite. “We want to go to Japan and Australia, play the Wacken [Open Air] festival, and so many other things,” he explains. “We’ve yet to scratch the surface of what we want to accomplish with this band.”
Incite will be touring heavily to support Built To Destroy, including an extended run with Soulfly. According to Cavalera, it’s not all that different hitting the road with family. “We don’t treat them any differently. We want to kick their asses every night,” he jokes. “It’s cool, and we’re excited because it’s been five or six years since we last toured with them.”
Fans can expect to hear plenty of new songs too. “We’ve actually already started to do that. We’ve been playing our singles, ‘Ruthless Ways’ and ‘Built To Destroy.’ We’re excited to add a few more to the set for sure,” Cavalera says. “We always like to play newer stuff to keep our setlist and live shows new and interesting.”
The Cavalera family is full of musicians. In addition to his stepfather, there’s Cavalera’s famous drumming uncle, Iggor. His half-brothers, drummer Zyon and vocalist and guitarist Igor, also play metal in the band Lody Kong. Despite the common occupation, don’t expect an all-family heavy metal supergroup any time soon. “I think we’re all too busy with our own stuff now. That would be one hell of a band, though!” Cavalera enthuses.
Cavalera clearly has a great deal of respect for his family’s legacy, and he is not bothered by the constant questions about his clan. “Not at all. It’s an honor to have people care about the music we make,” he concludes. “I just hope I can rock for 30 years and make 30 albums like the old man has.”