When Soulfly decided to launch a fall tour, it wasn't to support their latest album, 2015's Archangel, or to bang out a set of greatest hits. Instead, frontman Max Cavalera wanted to play Point Blank — the sole studio release from his 1994 industrial sludge/groove side project Nailbomb, featuring Fudge Tunnel singer/guitarist Alex Newport — in its entirety.
"My wife Gloria came up with the idea and I thought it was great," Cavalera says. "We're doing it because my other band Cavalera Conspiracy recently played [the Sepultura album] Roots on [the Return to Roots] tour and it was so great and successful. People really liked the nostalgic feeling, so we talked about what we could have Soulfly do that would be kind of like that. And we decided on Nailbomb."
The roots of Nailbomb can be traced back 1994, when Sepultura were touring behind the previous year's Chaos A.D. album, with support from Nottingham, England, sludge/noise band Fudge Tunnel. While they were on the road, Gloria Cavalera's stepdaughter, Christina, started dating Newport. After the tour, the couple moved to Phoenix near the Cavaleras. Max liked Newport, so the two hung out and soon started jamming.
"I loved the ultra-heavy guitar tones on Fudge Tunnel's [1991 album] Hate Songs in E Minor and Alex showed me how he plays them," Cavalera says. "And Alex asked me if I could show him how to play the really fast thrash riffs from albums like [1991's] Arise. We were just having fun. We didn't have any plan to make a record."
But the jam sessions soon evolved into the duo writing original songs, which would eventually make up the 13 tracks included on Point Blank — a cult record that stands the test of time and sounds as good today as it did in 1994.
Four days before the launch of the Point Blank Soulfly tour, Cavalera talked to Revolver about his original musical and political goals for Nailbomb, why he nicknamed Newport "Mr. Hate" and what happened to the Vietnamese woman being held at gunpoint on the album cover.
POINT BLANK IS SUCH A DIRECT, PUMMELING ALBUM THAT DOESN'T WASTE A NOTE. IT'S SURPRISING TO LEARN THAT NAILBOMB FORMED ALMOST BY ACCIDENT.
MAX CAVALERA I just pulled out a bunch of riffs I had written that were not going anywhere since Sepultura had already done Chaos A.D. And then he showed me some really cool riffs. He told me all the Fudge Tunnel stuff was Black Sabbath riffs played backwards or slowed down, which I thought was crazy. We kept playing and came up with some new stuff, and then Gloria came into the room and started listening to us. She said, "I'm going to make a band out of you guys," and we laughed and said, "Oh, no way. We're just messing around." And she said, "No, seriously, this is really good stuff. I can get you guys a record deal with Roadrunner. You need to make a record." And that was pretty much it. We were just killing time and it was Gloria's idea for us to make an album.
YOU CAME FROM A THRASH BACKGROUND AND ALEX WAS A SLUDGE/NOISE GUY. HOW DID YOU END UP MAKING SUCH A HATEFUL ALBUM EQUALLY INFLUENCED BY HELMET, GODFLESH AND MINISTRY?
We just liked that stuff. Alex always suggested that we use samplers. He was totally into Godflesh. I was more into Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Front Line Assembly and Treponem Pal, as well as some weird shit like Einstürzende Neubauten. Alex really loved Big Black and other Steve Albini stuff. So we borrowed some money from Gloria and bought a sampler and Alex got really good at it in a couple days. He figured the whole thing out. It was amazing because I had a huge record collection of everything from Dead Kennedys to Discharge and we sampled all of it and turned the samples into really interesting sounds. The crazy intro of the first song "Wasting Away" has Sonic Youth, mixed with Lemmy Kilmister's bass and some Big Black noise, but you can't tell because it goes through the sampler and it's all slowed down to the point where it's completely unrecognizable.
DIDN'T YOU HAVE TO CLEAR ALL THE SAMPLES YOU USED?
There were no rules back then. It was the Wild West, so we could do anything. "Guerillas" uses a snippet of "Procreation of the Wicked" by Celtic Frost because I always loved that song. We got some crazy shit from this movie Salvador, where these guys kill a priest in a church. And then on the song "Cockroaches" we used stuff from Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer. We were into a lot of these underground cool movies and we'd sit around watching them, waiting for something cool to sample.
THE SPOKEN WORD SAMPLES ARE COOL, BUT YOU ALSO CREATED YOUR OWN SAMPLES, DIDN'T YOU?
Gloria had an abandoned washing machine she wasn't using anymore, so we got all these metal baseball bats and beat the crap out of it. We recorded all the beating sounds and threw them on different parts of the album. Also, I had a real fast white Camaro and Alex would stand on the street with a microphone and I would go 80 miles-per-hour and hit the brakes and he recorded the sound and slowed it way down. We definitely got creative.
YOUR BROTHER IGGOR PLAYED DRUMS ON THE ALBUM …
Iggor played on six of the songs and we used drum machines, too. Alex loved to program that shit. He would spend fucking hours and hours doing that. He drove me crazy. He'd be doing something and I'd get bored so I'd take a nap. I would sleep three or four hours and then I would wake up and he'd still be on the same beat he was working on when I left. I don't have that kind of patience. I was like, "Fuck! Let's move on, dude! You've been on that part for, like, 10 hours now." And he'd say, "I'm just fixing the high hat, man." And I'd be like, "What's wrong with the high hat. It sounds fucking great. What the fuck are you doing?" And he'd get really impatient and say, "Max, get out of here! Go do something and then come back." I used to call him "Mr. Hate" because he hated everything. One time we were talking and he said, "Yeah man, I really hate the noise of the crowd." And I said, "What?!? How can you be in a band and hate the sound of the crowd?" But I love what he did with the samples and beats and how the record came out. It's so heavy.
YOU DID THE SONG "EXPLOITATION" BY THE PUNK BAND DOOM BUT YOU CHANGED THE LYRICS. WHAT INSPIRED THAT CHOICE?
Doom was one of my favorite crusty punk bands. I wore Doom shirts all the time and I told Alex I wanted to do a Doom song. I drank half a bottle of rum I bought on the way to the studio. I just said, "I'm gonna get shitfaced today. We're recording Doom and I gotta be in a punk state of mind." I got to the studio at 1 p.m. and Alex called Gloria all worried. He said, "I don't know what to do. Max is really drunk right now. We can't record. He can't even hold a guitar and he has to sing today." And Gloria said, "I don't know what to do. Just deal with him." So he put me in the vocal booth and I sang whatever came into my head. I didn't even look at the original lyrics. And the best thing I said was, "It feels good to be a punk loser!" We kept it in the song. When I met Scoot, the bass player from Doom, he said, "Why didn't you use our words? We wrote really good lyrics about killing animals and being a vegetarian." And I said, "I just felt like singing something else that was punk rock, man."
WHO'S THE GUY YELLING IN THE SONG AND INSULTING YOU?
Alex brought this Scottish guy who was a janitor at the studio in and played him the stuff we were doing. Then he asked him what he thought and recorded him. This guy said, "Oh my God, you've gotta be kidding me? You think people listen to this and enjoy it? This is W.C. music." W.C. stands for water closet, which is their way of saying toilet. I was like, "Fuck, this is awesome. The janitor is talking shit about Nailbomb. You gotta leave this shit on the record!"
WHAT'S THE WEIRDEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN THE STUDIO WHEN YOU WERE RECORDING?
We did most of the album at my house, but we recorded some of it at Chaton Studios in Scottsdale, Arizona. It doesn't exist anymore, but it was a beautiful studio right on Camelback Mountain. One day we were recording and Glen Campbell walked in. I had no idea who the fuck this guy was. He had a cowboy hat and this country vibe going on. He listened for a second and went, "Well, this is great. These guys sound crazy!" I called Gloria and said, "Hey, there's this Glen Campbell guy here. Do you know who the fuck he is?" And she said, "Oh, my God. Glen Campbell's huge!" I just thought he was some wannabe cowboy guy.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PRANK CALL RIGHT BEFORE YOU START "WHILE YOU SLEEP I DESTROY THE WORLD"?
That's a song about Charles Manson so I wanted to do something crazy. I prank called North Side Kings singer Danny Marianino. He's the guy who knocked out Glenn Danzig [in a viral video from 2004]. First, I tried to prank Gloria's dad, but he didn't pick up the phone. I had a list of people and Danny was second. He was at his dad's furniture store. I called him and he answered. I was breathing heavy and he didn't hang up! It was a gold mine, dude. The guy kept going, "Hello? Who's this? Stop Playing Games! You gonna talk or not? Who the hell is this? Huh? Hello?" He had this tough New York accent and he just kept talking and I kept fucking with him, breathing like a serial killer. That was so good, man.
THERE'S A HIDDEN TRACK AFTER "SICK LIFE" — WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT?
That was fun. We started playing a sample of Sepultura's "Dead Embryonic Cells" mixed with Fudge Tunnel's "Spanish Fly" and it came out really cool. We sped up and slowed down the tape.
POINT BLANK ISN'T AN OVERTLY POLITICAL ALBUM, BUT THE COVER IMAGE OF A SOLDIER HOLDING A GUN TO A VIETNAMESE WOMAN'S HEAD IS BOTH BRUTAL AND POINTED AS IT KINDA EVOKES THE FAMOUS IMAGE OF GENERAL NGUYEN NGOC LOAN SHOOTING A VIET CONG PRISONER IN SAIGON.
We weren't protesting a war or anything. We were just protesting. It was like a "fuck you" to everything. Now, I sort of look at Point Blank as a protest album. Maybe it was subconscious. At the time we didn't even know that's what we were doing.
HOW DID YOU GET THE COVER ART?
We called our Roadrunner guy, Monte Connor, and he sent us the name of this company that had all these black-and-white pictures, like the first Rage Against the Machine album art with the monk on fire. We wanted something real. So, this company sent 30 or 40 black-and-white prints and this was one of them. The minute we saw it we said, "That's the one! Fuck, yeah! Holy shit! That's so hardcore!" It looks like this lady is about to get blown away. But the cool thing is she wasn't shot. It was just an interrogation. I really liked the fact that she didn't die. It gave us a little bit more of a clear conscience.
YOU ONLY PLAYED ONE SHOW AS NAILBOMB AND IT WAS RECORDED FOR THE LIVE ALBUM PROUD TO COMMIT COMMERCIAL SUICIDE …
We actually did two shows, one in this little place Club Dynamo that holds 300 people, which went perfect, and another at the Dynamo Festival, which was in front of 20,000 people. That was quite a production, man. That thing was crazy. We had three drummers. We had Iggor, we had D.H. Peligro from the Dead Kennedys, and we had Barry C. Schneider from the South African band Tribe After Tribe. Rhys Fulber from Front Line Assembly and Fear Factory played keyboards. And then Scott Doom from Doom guested on "Exploitation" and Evan Seinfeld from Biohazard came on for "Sick Life." But I was kind of bummed they didn't record the club show for the record. The festival concert was a good show, but I thought the club show was so much better. We were so much tighter. I think the amount of people at the festival freaked us out a bit.
WHY DIDN'T YOU PLAY ANY OTHER SHOWS WITH NAILBOMB?
Alex never wanted to do a tour. He never liked to play live and he didn't want to make any other Nailbomb records, either. After we did the album he said, "Let's just call it a day, man. Let's not make this into a real band." I was like, "OK." But I thought we could do more and it would've been great. But at the same time, it's kind of cool that this is a one-of-a-kind thing so it's really special. And now we get a chance to play it live again, which is great.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO MOST ABOUT PLAYING POINT BLANK WITH SOULFLY?
We get to play songs like "24 Hour Bullshit" and "For Fuck's Sake," which we never did before. I don't know why they weren't on the Dynamo show, but when we play them as a band they're so tight and heavy. There's an energy that comes out of them that feels like the whole thing's gonna explode, man.
DID ALEX GIVE YOU HIS BLESSINGS TO TOUR THE ALBUM?
Yeah, Gloria talked to him and he said he was fine with whatever we wanted to do. He actually told her what sampler to buy, which is a newer, smaller sampler that does everything that the one we used did. And we got the original backdrop, which is a KKK guy with a target on his face — which is great for right now.
YOU'RE TOURING WITH CANNABIS CORPSE, NOISEM, HARM'S WAY AND LODY KONG, WHICH IS YOUR SON ZYON'S BAND. AND HE'S ALSO PULLING DOUBLE-DUTY AND DRUMMING FOR SOULFLY …
When we did the Roots tour with Cavalera Conspiracy, it was more flashy. It was supposed to be a big deal because it was a big album. Nailbomb was never really a big record. It's big in the underground. It's huge and it developed a big cult following. So we wanted to have a real underground spirit for the tour. I love Cannabis Corpse and Noisem. And Zyon is playing drums. He's doing a really good job. He's really evolved in the last couple of years since Archangel came out. I think maybe he was a little too green when we did [Savages] in 2013, but it was the beginning for him and he did a lot better on Archangel. And now he's even tighter, stronger and more full of energy. It's crazy playing with him, so yes, he has so much energy he's doing two sets a night, which is OK because he has a break between sets. He's still young. We'll get some Red Bull in him and he'll be fine.