One of the most important and creative metal/hardcore bands on the last two decades, Cave In recently released its sixth full-length, Final Transmission (Hydra Head), that features the final recordings of bassist/vocalist Caleb Scofield (Zozobra and Old Man Gloom), who tragically died in an auto accident in March 2018.
The new album, the first in the band’s career since White Silence (2011), has Scofield playing on all tracks and was originally intended as demos. Mixed by Andrew Schneider and mastered by James Plotkin, the record brings some of Cave In strongest songs, like “All Illusion”, “Lanterna” and “Strange Reflection”.
In this interview, guitarist/vocalist Stephen Brodsky (Mutoid Man) and drummer JR Conners (Nomad Stones) talk about Final Transmission, how it is to be back on the road, with Nate Newton (Converge and Old Man Gloom) on bass/vocals, and what they’re most proud of in their careers with the band.
Final Transmission sounds maybe a little more focused than White Silence and Perfect Pitch Black, that are really great albums, but go on a lot of different directions. Do you agree with that? And do you think that the fact that all of you had other active bands during the last few years, like Mutoid Man, Old Man Gloom, Zozobra and Nomad Stones, could have contributed to that?
Stephen Brodsky: When we started putting together ideas for a new Cave In album in 2017, it had a lot to do with Caleb identifying a specific direction for the band to go. I think because our time together is more limited these days, we try to make the most of it when we do manage to be active with Cave In. Maybe that helps with our focus. And I think actively writing and playing with other musicians usually improves one’s perspective, at least in our world.
JR Conners: I think the focus of every record we’ve made has more to do with us getting in the same room together and sharing ideas that excited us, rather than trying to deliberately write songs in a certain fashion. In the end, all of the songs are extensions of how we’ve felt and the circumstances surrounding the writing process. The time that we have spent in other projects has certainly helped in the way that we are able to get ideas across to each other easier, in a shorter span of time. And, It helps that we can all fully explore different creative paths with our other projects, and bring those influences in to Cave In. Ultimately, the idea of a record being focused or not, is up to the listener. To me, they all sound focused in their own way.
How was to get these demos and transform it into an actual record, during the mix and master process? And did you ever think about not releasing the album?
Stephen: It was difficult. You just never truly know how quickly and drastically things can change in an instant. Revisiting these demos was kind of like spending time with Caleb. They’re some of our last moments with him and the importance of that helped to push ourselves past any doubts about finishing what we’d started.
JR: It was, obviously, very emotionally charged. The whole idea of releasing the album came about after Caleb’s death, so there weren’t really any thoughts about not releasing it. The mixing and mastering process was difficult in that we were excited to hear the album coming together and sounding as best it could, but the reality of the circumstances surrounding it dominated every thought.
The first song of the record brings Caleb playing guitar and singing on a song idea. What made you decide to put this as the opener for the album – was that something that he and you used to do, to exchange song ideas? The first time I heard it, it really hit me – even though I´d never met him in person.
Stephen: The first track has Caleb’s voice and it’s the only track on the album where that can be heard. Since it was his ideas and concepts that started the creative process to begin with, it seemed fitting to lead off the album with a recording that features his voice.
JR: Because we had all moved to different locations, it became the best way to share ideas, by sending demos via phone messages or email. Caleb sent that particular track via a phone message on the last day of a weekend of recording demos together. It was the last piece of music we received from him.
And did you think about trying to transform this song idea into an actual song, let´s say, with the whole band?
Stephen: We considered it, but that changed after Caleb passed away.
JR: There were some very basic ideas of a structure that I remember playing with at home. But it wasn’t ever worked out by the whole band, and Caleb never heard the initial idea for a structure. When it came time to consider putting it on the record, it was clearly the best decision to present it as it was given to us.
You recently did a bunch of concerts in Europe and also announced a big tour in US, probably your biggest in these last years. How it has been to be on the road again, after so much time and for the first time in a long time without Caleb?
Stephen: There’s something bittersweet about it, and that might just be the case from here on out. The positive to all this is that Nate Newton has really applied himself to learning songs and doing justice to the music as best as anyone could.
JR: I repeatedly look up at certain points in the set and my brain expects Caleb to be there. It’s very strange playing all those songs live again without him. But, overall, it’s been a positive experience due to the reaction and support from the people we are playing for. And, having Nate in the band is a huge help. We couldn’t have done any of this without him.
These are the two last questions. What the future holds for Cave In? Have you thought about this yet?
Stephen: It took a lot for us to put the wheels back on the band, and I think we’re finally coming to terms with our new reality. That being said, we’re just looking to finish our tour commitments for the time being.
JR: We have a couple US tours, and a trip to Japan in the works, but we haven’t really planned beyond that.
And what are you most proud of in these more than 20 years of career with the band?
Stephen: At this point, I’d say the resilience of Cave In is something I’d never imagined being tested so tremendously. I don’t wish it upon anyone, but I’m thankful for the ways it’s brought me closer with family, friends, and our community.
JR: That we are still here for each other as close friends, and that we are able to still create music together.