Interview with Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal
Interview by Michael De Los Muertos
of '80s thrash -- and any metal fans that have been around for a while
-- will recognize the name and face of Dan Lilker. Whether tackling
ideas like nuclear war and environmental despoliation in Nuclear
Assault, giving the middle finger to the world through the caustic
strains of S.O.D., or stretching the frontiers of grindcore with Brutal
Truth, the thin, satirically-minded bassist has seen a lot of metal
history. With Nuclear Assault apparently reunited -- at least on a
limited basis -- Dan is back doing what he does best. I managed to catch
up with him via e-mail, and here's what he had to say.
Well, it seems the big news these days is the Nuclear Assault
reunion, so let's just go ahead and start off with that. Could you tell
us what's going on with that, why you have decided to reunite, and
possibly what the future holds for Nuclear Assault?
Well, it's been 10 years since I left, so it seemed like fun to do a
few local shows. That will be it besides an appearance at Wacken Open
Air in Germany in August. We all have full-time jobs now, so more shows
are impossible, unfortunately.
This is not your first reunion type of situation -- in the last
few years S.O.D. has also returned with a new album and tour. Did your
recent experience with S.O.D. influence your decision to work with
Nuclear Assault again?
No, not really, both bands have different dynamics and reasons.
I have to ask -- what is happening with S.O.D. these days? Are
there plans for further releases or shows with them?
At this point there are no plans for future S.O.D. activity, but I
think that's for the best - the more we do, the less special it becomes.
You've been active in the metal scene for many years and much of
your history goes back to the 80s thrash days. I'm always interested in
the insights of people who have been around a while about today's scene
and how it's changed. Where do you think metal is today, and what do you
think its condition is today compared to when you first got into the
business years ago?
I think things are quite different now, and I don't like nu-metal at
all. In the old days, it just seemed like more fun. Maybe I'm just
getting old! Too many categories these days.
What are your favorite memories from the days of each of your band
associations -- Nuclear Assault, S.O.D., Brutal Truth, etc.? What will
you take with you from each of those bands that's personally meaningful
Nuclear Assault -- this is the band I first toured extensively with,
going to Europe and Japan for the first time, so I always remember
S.O.D.- I'll always remember people flipping out at the shows and how
much fun the shows were.
Brutal Truth -- My memories of this band will always be blurred due
to all the weed we smoked, hehe! Seriously, it was great fun to play
incredibly intense music and watch people's jaws drop at our speed.
Do you have a style or methodology about how you come up with
material? I'm interested in sort of the creative process, as everybody
has a different way of coming up with ideas. How does it work with you?
Has your "process" differed materially between the various
bands you've worked with or has it stayed constant?
Well, personally, good riffs come to me when I'm just walking down
the street. If I still remember them later, then they passed the test
and I use them. With different bands, it just depends on the songwriting
style of the other members, but generally, I just say, "Hey, check
this riff out."
Could you tell us a little bit about the end of Brutal Truth and
how it came to be that the band isn't around anymore?
All I will say is that when people aren't getting along anymore, it
poisons the atmosphere. Since no one was replaceable, we decided to call
it a day, that's all.
A great deal of your material is satirical and socially relevant
-- you've tackled the environment, nuclear war, racism, etc. Why do you
think metal is such a good medium to deal with those kind of issues?
I suppose it's because a lot of kids are quite impressionable at the
age they're at, so you might as well give them something to think about
if they're going to look up to you.
Indulge me here -- I'm going to name five different subjects, some
of which may mean something to you, others may not, but if you have
thoughts on any of them please tell me what you think about them.
A) Nu-metal (Slipknot, Korn, etc.).
Slipknot is not so bad, Korn is shit.
B) The current international situation, i.e., the war on
A big fucking mess. It's incredible what people will do in the name
of their god. Unfortunately, most of these extremists should be wiped
out for the general safety of the world.
C) The future of thrash metal.
It would be rather strange, I think, because thrash metal pretty
much died out in the early 90's. Stuff like that coming out now just
strikes me as derivative.
D) The punk and hardcore scenes, A.D. 2002.
I don't follow it like I used to, but I certainly don't get into
pop-punk like Blink 182, etc.
E) The last movie you saw and liked, and why.
The Lord Of The Rings, 'cos it was fucking metal!
We have a lot of readers who are just getting into real metal or
who haven't been into it very long and who don't yet know all the
history behind it. What would you say to those people about your bands,
your work and your place in the "universe" of metal?
I did what I wanted to do at every stage of my career, which includes
whatever else I still do. I guess I'd like to be remembered as such, as
someone who functioned independently of whatever the current trend was.