Killer Be Killed: Natural Born Killers
What do a one-off ‘90s industrial metal project and Kanye West have in common? A collaborative spirit which inspired new all-star juggernaut Killer Be Killed. BLUNT gets heavy with Max Cavalera and Greg Puciato.
“It’s freeing to know that when you do something, you’re doing it not because you’re expected to, or because you’re caught in a machine where that’s what you do,” The Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato gushes about new venture Killer Be Killed. “Usually you know you’re going to release an album, you’re going to go on tour for a year-and-a-half and play like 300 shows, and that’s kind of what’s expected of you. But now that people don’t even expect you to play at all, it kind of frees us up to where if we do it, it’s not only going to be something rare for fans, it’s going to be something that we did because we’re genuinely excited about playing, not because we feel like we’re expected to. It is honestly a record written by three fans of all genres of metal.”
This encapsulates Killer Be Killed’s genesis; an endeavour borne out of desire by its participants to stylistically cross-pollinate and explore previously untapped territory. A few years after a chance meeting at a show in Los Angeles and Puciato’s ensuing guest appearance on Soulfly’s 2010 record Omen, guitarist/vocalist Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) and his muscle-bound pal spent a marathon three-day session in the desert. There they crafted demos with the same drum machine and four-track recorder Cavalera used to assemble Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. After recruiting Mastodon bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders and drummer Dave Elitch (The Mars Volta), the fully-fledged act has unleashed their self-titled debut. Throughout separate conversations with Cavalera and Puciato, a mutual admiration society rapidly becomes apparent.
“Killer Be Killed was a chance to do something different, because mostly our voices, the combination of the three voices, I knew it was going to be different,” the Brazilian native enthuses of the union initially dubbed Negative Fucks. “And we wrote a different kind of record. I used a lot of my riffs, but they are in a different context… Something that’s a Max riff, it doesn’t really sound much like a Max riff anymore when you have someone like Troy singing on top of it. It becomes something quite different from the original idea.”
The band, fusing Sabbath-y doom, thrash, hardcore and punk, is perhaps the spiritual successor to the short-lived, much-loved mid-‘90s industrialised thrash project Nailbomb, Cavalera’s collaboration with Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport. Fans and journalists alike have clamoured for a follow-up. While the broader concept motivated them though, BLUNT is assured a copycat sequel wasn’t the goal.
“In many ways it started very similar,” Cavalera explains. “It was just me and Greg, and we wrote the first demos… If it would have stayed only me and Greg all the way to the end with like a drum machine, it would be very much a Nailbomb project. I totally believe me and Greg could have made a Nailbomb Part II record, easily. But that was not the intention; we wanted something different, that’s why we hired Dave, and we got Troy involved. Because we were looking for, we didn’t want to do Nailbomb Part II. That was just a starting point.
“What I think is similar in Nailbomb and Killer Be Killed is the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude that both bands have. We don’t care what the label says; we don’t care what the other people are going to say. This is what we like, and this is what is going to be on the album. That kind of ‘fuck you’ attitude is still very well alive in both bands. But sonically, it’s very different from Nailbomb.”
Puciato unsurprisingly concurs, and elaborates. “The only thing that we decided that was definitely going to be like a sonic fingerprint of the record, was that we definitely all wanted to sing on every song. ‘Cause it wouldn’t be that exciting if we went, ‘Here’s Troy’s song, here’s Greg’s song, and here’s a Max song.’ So we just went, ‘This might be a mess, but let’s all sing on every song.’ Kind of like the hip hop approach, like if Nas, Jay-Z and Kanye West do a song together, one guy takes one verse, one guy takes another verse and the other guy takes the other verse.
“The Nailbomb record was really interesting to me because no one ever does anything like that in metal. You guest on someone’s song, or you have a guest singer for like 10 seconds on one or your songs or something like that. But no one ever does like a full album, and that’s something that people do all the time in other genres. People in pop, hip hop or jazz, they collaborate a lot more than people in metal do. I don’t know whether that’s because metal is kind of like this more ego-driven, aggressive, defensive thing, where once people achieve some success they end up sticking with it forever and being afraid to leave their comfort zone. I really like the idea artistically of just seeing what would happen if we forced ourselves to write a whole album together. At that point, I was considering it as being like a project, a one-off, and then when Troy became involved it became something more organic, and went from being a project to being a band.”
While Nailbomb’s sole studio album (1994’s Point Blank) and minimal live activities enhanced their cult-like status, Killer Be Killed plan to be more active. However, Cavalera is spending 2014 touring with Soulfly, finishing a “very brutal” Cavalera Conspiracy record and releasing his autobiography. His musical co-conspirators also have hefty commitments.
“We’re gonna start stockpiling riffs and ideas, and maybe get together in the fall and try to write some more for maybe another one that could possibly come out in 2015,” Puciato ponders. “We’re gonna do it, we just don’t know how,” he says of touring. “That’s the biggest pain in the arse of all this; logistically everything is kind of a nightmare. Even getting us all in the same room for a day is a fucking nightmare. We’re looking at schedules, like a fucking year in advance… We’re gonna do it, it’s just a matter of when and where.”
His partner in crime weighs in. “Troy came up to me and said, ‘Max, please, let’s put some time aside next year for Killer Be Killed. We need to play live, it’s gonna be great. Even if it’s only two weeks in America, two weeks in Europe and maybe a bit in Australia and South America. But let’s do it.’ I totally agree. We all have our own bands and we’re busy with our own bands, but it would be very easy just to take some time off, just like we did for the recording. We’re going to just have to take a break from our own bands, but I think it’s gonna happen.”
Irrespective of whether said plans come to fruition, ultimately the album’s timelessness stimulates the ex-Sepultura main-man. “I’m glad that it doesn’t really belong to any era of music. It’s not deathcore, doom metal… My view [was] exactly what I need at this point in my career is something quite different from the normal. A shock to the system a little bit and that was exactly what happened.”
Killer Be Killed is out now on Nuclear Blast/Riot!