Gary Holt of EXODUS
Interview and live pics by Luxi Lahtinen
Pic of Gary and Luxi by Humberto Sanchez
Lots of things have been going on in the Exodus camp since the band´s highly praised comeback album TEMPO OF THE DAMNED was released in 2004 via Nuclear Blast Records. The band lost their vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza on the eve of the band´s South American tour due to his other commitments in his life outside of Exodus. When the two other original Exodus members, Tom Hunting and Rick Hunolt, left Exodus due to different reasons in the same year, the band started struggling – leaving Gary Holt as the only original member left from the classic Exodus line-up. People started wondering whether Exodus´ so-called ´second coming (or third, it depends on whether the band´s live record ANOTHER LESSON IN VIOLENCE, released in 1997, can be considered as the band´s 2nd coming or not?)´ would be over before it even had started.
Gary, however, didn´t loose faith for his life’s work, Exodus, and decided to pull the strings even tighter together in his fists and found Rob Dukes to replace Zetro on vocals, Lee Altus from the Frisco thrashers Heathen to replace Rick Hunolt for the 2nd guitar and no less than Paul Bostaph (ex-Forbidden, ex-Slayer) to replace Tom Hunting on the skinbasher´s stool. The band started rolling on the right tracks again and Exodus´ next album SHOVEL HEADED KILL MACHINE was put out with this particular line-up. For some, it never reached the same standards musically as TEMPO did, but for many, it was even better and more rewarding as far as the album´s material as a whole was concerned.
I met Gary in Helsinki on the 24th of November 2005 on the band´s on-going European tour with Hypocrisy and Keep of Kalessin, and got a chance talk him briefly about the new album, touring, celebrities, the first satanic band of all time Witchcraft Coven – and what exactly happened between Gary with his previous band mates.
First off, welcome to Finland Gary once again! You played at the Provinssirock festival last year for a pretty wild crowd. What kind of memories do you still have left from that particular gig of yours here in Finland?
Provinssirock was the funniest festival we have ever done; because it was so different. It was a mainstream festival and not just all Heavy Metal. Black Eyed Peas played at 7.00 PM; it was a freakshow. People painted off their costumes… and loosing their minds. It was fun and they treated us really really well, so we were having a really good time.
Literally speaking, you kind of played in the middle of nowhere…
It was beautiful tho. It was so cool. There was this big muddy feeling, sitting in the catering and surrounded by a river, forest, etc. It was just awesome, man.
EXODUS thrashing over Europe 2005
You started your European tour 11th of November in Ireland and have been doing a bunch of dates around the Europe since then. I noticed that you have had no day-offs at all so far, so do you think the schedule is a bit tight for you? Or have you already gotten used to this intense touring?
We have had a couple of drive days. It´s been a bit rough because I´ve been sicker for the last 8 days than I´ve ever been on tour in my life. I have got a sinus infection that ain´t so bad except that you get a headache that lasts for 8 days, you don´t know how bad you wanna shoot yourself. I mean, I would rather suffer from flu because at least I know when it´ll end. Till yesterday I didn´t know if I had an infection, or if I have a tumor in my head. I cannot bang my head at all right now because it hurts too much. I don´t know if I´m doing ok right now. I just started my antibiotics yesterday, so it means I cannot drink for 5 more days. That sucks worse than a bad headache.
It is ´less fun´ for not being able to drink, heh!
Yeah, exactly. Just like I said, I can´t bang my head, I can´t drink; it´s taking all the fun out of this.
Is that one of those reasons why you have shortened your set list a little bit?
No, no… we have just decided that every band plays like 1 hour, y´know. I mean, we did a number of headlining shows and I was sick as dog. We still played like 17 songs, y´know. You go out there and do what I gotta do.
I was watching on the Internet the setlist of your gig in Gothenburg in Sweden - and it looked like a pretty damn killer set you played for the Swedish crowd there (The full setlist in Gothenburg´s gig: “Bonded By Blood”, “Raze”, “Deathamphetamine”, “Kharma´s Messenger”, “Black List”, “A Lesson in Violence”, “Altered Boy”, “Now Thy Death Day Comes”, “Shudder To Think”, “Scar Spangled Banner”, “Piranha”, “I Am Abomination”, “.44 Magnum Opus”, “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” – and encores “Fabulous Disaster”, “War Is My Shepard” and “Strike Of The Beast”).
Yes, we played 17 songs in Gothenburg and I was sick as dog at that night. It was one of my worst nights, or so I felt.
I´m sorry to hear that. But how do you think this tour has been going overall?
It´s been going really good. It started off with a bang; Ireland was just crazy and we have never been there before and it was nuts. We have had some really good shows on this tour. Overall the shows have been good, but not really good as I have felt so terrible. But now that I´m getting better, I bet the rest of the shows are gonna be awesome. And I bet tonight is going to be crazy.
What about your gig in Oulu yesterday? Did you manage to thrash both the place and audience down while you were there, playing for all those crazy people out there?
Oulu was good. I wasn´t really feeling good yesterday. And the place was just huge! It´s Janne Niinimaa´s (that Finnish NHL hockey player) club and it is just so big. There was like 400 hundred people there. If it had been a regular club, it would have been packed, but it was almost like arena-size of place, damn near to it anyway. It was just… HUUUGE!! But it´s gonna be weird because you hear just the echo off the room as much as you are in the sauna onstage. It´s kinda weird playing and I just didn´t feel well at all. The show we did a night before was awesome. The club was packed, and I didn´t feel well then, but once I got onstage and felt the energy of the crowd, I felt fine. I shouldn´t bang my head much, but it´s so much fun to do.
Was it a sold-out show, by the way?
It wasn´t completely sold out, but it was really packed. There were just tons of people there, it was really good and fun to see them to come our show.
SHOVEL versus TEMPO
Lots of (murky) water has been flowing under the bridge since Exodus made its comeback and released TEMPO OF THE DAMNED in 2004. How would you sum up last year in your own words, keeping in mind you had both your ups and downs with Exodus. On a more positive side note TEMPO OF THE DAMNED was receiving lots of positive reactions both from the fans and media – and on the other hand you lost Steve, Tom and Rick from Exodus due to different reasons. Pretty tough year for Exodus?
Well, that´s just the Exodus way of life. I have gotten used to it, I guess. I work better with my back against the wall anyway. Right now this line-up is a machine and we have had so much fun. It´s like these guys are the best group I´ve ever had around me. I mean, they are just fuckin´ so much fun to be around. I did never love working with Zetro, but I loved Tom and Rick like brothers. Tom can´t do this any more and Rick has got his own personal problems that were dragging the band down and making life difficult. Zetro, made it difficult for us to tour the way we wanted to. And now we are gonna be touring pretty much non-stop for the next year which we couldn´t do with them.
Are you still keeping in touch with those guys?
No, last time I saw Tom was when he came to the house to get all the stuff ´coz he moved like 4 hours up North – up to the mountains where his mom lives. And Rick, I saw him a few months ago but I haven´t talked to him.
As TEMPO OF THE DAMNED was such a well-received album amongst the metal fans all over the world, did you feel any pressure to start writing new material for this new album, kind of trying to maintain the same high song writing level that you had on your last album TEMPO OF THE DAMNED?
No, I didn´t feel any pressure. I put enough pressure on myself that, y´know, I don´t feel it from other people. But I thrive on it; I would do better when I feel like I have got something to prove, no matter what I have accomplished in my career. It´s like it´s always something, someone doubting what I can do.
Do you think that due to all this crap Exodus was going through for the past 6-8 months or so, your song writing for this new album turned out to be somehow more challenging and time-consuming – and the songs were kind of harder to get done for SHOVEL HEADED KILL MACHINE for this reason?
Well, to tell the truth I started writing for this album before Tom had his breakdown; and before Rick quit. Rick was never around at the rehearsals. He never showed up. And Tom was there, the new stuff, so it wasn´t like I did all of it after these guys left. I mean, I was working on the new Exodus album when all this happened. Some people have said: “Wow… the new album sounds great, they changed the name”. I said why? I was writing an album before Exodus with these same guys, and then they had their problems and they fall apart. And Rick quits the day we´re going into the studio. I cannot change the name the day I’m going into the studio. ! It would be different the band broke up for 6 years. I would not make comeback without any other original members and call it Exodus, but y´know, I was going into the studio to make an Exodus album. And it´s not my fault these things happen, but right now the band is stronger for it.
“Deathamphetamine” has already been considered as one of the most killer Thrash Metal songs that you have ever penned . Under what kind of circumstances was it born? Were you going through some hard and frustrating periods in your life at that time as the song sounds so brutal and aggressive?
I just started with one riff, then another, then another… Next you noticed – 10 minutes later, it´s done.
Did any of these setbacks that you had in Exodus, give sort of an extra kick of aggressiveness and brutality as the song turned out so heavy and brutal?
Actually I was writing that song before Tom and his mental issues and before Rick quit. But lyrically I wrote it about my own experiences being an amphetamine addict, y´know, which he still is. I showed him the lyrics and he was like: “These lyrics are cool, but y´know, I didn´t sink in, it never had any effect”. He didn´t see what I was really writing about; writing about myself in the past and him in the present.
What do you overall think of your last album? Do you see it as an improvement from your previous album TEMPO OF THE DAMNED both song – and production-wise – and do you believe you are going to continue from those musical footsteps with your new stuff that you have on SHOVEL HEADED KILL MACHINE?
I think SHOVEL HEADED KILL MACHINE is a better album as a whole compared to TEMPO, definitely! I mean, the best songs on TEMPO, were as good as any I have ever written, but TEMPO had some flaws in it. If I had had more time when we were doing TEMPO, I´d have not included those songs leftover from “Wardance”. We never meant for “Impaler” to be an album track; it was gonna be a bonus track on it only. It´s cool tho the old fans appreciated it. But y´know, this album´s got 10 brand-new tracks from start to finish – and not one single leftover from anything. And it´s more fluent, it´s more constant, There´s no like caps in it. It´s harder to pick the songs on this album we are gonna play and which we are not.
The line-up you have right now in the Exodus –camp, do you hope it could be the line-up that will record the next Exodus –album as well?
Oh yeah, absolutely! There´s no hired guns in this band. Everybody is a full-fledged member and we are already for writing the next album.
Even Lee Altus from his own band, Heathen? Is he now a fully permanent member of Exodus or just helping you out with all these tours only??
Yeah, he´s a full-time member in the band nowadays. I mean, when he has time, he wants to try to finish the Heathen –stuff, but now he´s fully committed to Exodus.
As for Rob Dukes, your new vocalist in the band, he is one helluva vocalist, fitting the sound of Exodus very well.
You tell him that, tho. He´s gonna get you big…
I guess you guys are damn happy with him as your new frontman, correct?
Yeah. I mean, I´m totally stunned. I couldn´t dream of anything better. I got exactly what I wanted. I met him last year and he was my guitar tech on the Megadeth tour. And knowing he was my guitar tech because the first guy was doing a really shitty job, and we had to fire him. And then a friend of mine in LA also knew Rob and recommended him to me. So, if the first guitar tech had done a good job, neither Rob would ever been hired for Exodus, nor he would be hardly known by anybody.
Who came up with his nickname ´Exodukes´ as many people seem to know him by that name these days?
That´s him. He came up with that nickie quite some time ago already. ´Exo-Dukeess…´!!
Obviously there were lots of skeptical thoughts going around amongst the Exodus fans due to all these line-ups changes. In my opinion when the all these skeptical Exodus fans finally had a chance to hear SHOVEL HEADED KILL MACHINE, it basically knocked their feet off in a positive way when realizing Exodus can still thrash as hard as they have always been doing. Have you been thinking the same way about this matter?
Yeah, yeah… I knew they would be. There´s a couple of things they need to understand and one is that I´ve never meant for this shit to happen; except for Zetro. And number two: It happened, just get over it because the bottomline is that Rick and I did 50% from every song that has been ever done. And the sound is still 100% Exodus and everybody knows that when they heard the album.
Have you got any idea how well this new album has been doing both in the States and here in Europe?
In the States it´s outselling TEMPO. Over here the tours are gonna do a lot for it. But I think despite having had more support in Europe over the years, maybe some people in Europe will be little skeptical. But now people are like singing in the shows; it´s been awesome and people are loosing their minds and they are embracing the new line-up, so…
Celebrities love metal… or do they really?
There´s a pic of David Beckham wearing an Exodus -tee on your website. So he´s an Exodus fan for real? Have you been in touch with him?
No, I don´t know him. And I doubt he even knows the band at all. I think it´s becoming trendy for celebrities to wear band shirts. You got the girl in the Justin Timberlake video with an Iron Maiden “Killers” shirt. And you probably got some Vincent Sharp and he probably paid 100 dollars for it – I don´t know. But it´s really fuckin´ cool because he´s right next to Posh. I was really excited about rather have her wearing the shirt myself.
Do you know any other celebrities who have been wearing Exodus shirts; any actresses, film stars or some other ´famous´ persons?
No, no… I don´t ever leave the house really other than touring, so I´d not know.
You will also do this X-mass festival tour with Hypocrisy, but at this time 3 other bands will join with you for this tour. Naglfar from Sweden, Wintersun from Finland and Fear My Thoughts from Germany. Do you know all those bands how they are musically?
I have heard Naglfar and have seen them and they are fuckin´ awesome. As for Wintersun, I have their record and they are really good. And Fear My Thoughts, I haven´t heard them, but I´m looking forward to it. But these X-mas festivals are overall a lot of fun anyways, so it´s gonna be super-cool, definitely!
EXODUS soundchecking before their show in Helsinki on Nov 24th 2005
What about after this tour? Have you already scheduled any new tours for next year like f.eg. such countries as Japan and Australia?
We´ll be taking January off, as Lee´s wife is having a baby and then we are starting up again in February. We´re just figuring out what we can do in February because we´ve got something we are working on for March that I can´t really talk about right now. That´s gonna be huge anyway. But we are gonna be busy for a long time. We have worked on the European festivals and stuff.
I guess, now when we have this matter up to talk about, I suppose your both Japanese and Australian fans are eagerly waiting to see you guys to tour in their own countries again…
Yeah, yeah… we are actually thinking about doing both Japan and Australia in February, so…
Alone, being the only headline act in those two countries…?
Probably just ourselves, playing with local bands from those countries.
(*at this point of the interview Gary suddenly takes a glance to Humberto´s direction and says:*)
The 1st satanic band of all time… WITCHCRAFT COVEN
Hey, he´s got a Coven back patch! Coven… are the first satanic band of all time. Dammit, they did a theme for a movie Billy Jack (1971). I know that song: “Go ahead Nato navy, go… she´ SAID friend”. I love that song, man. Kiss the goat!! A friend of mine has that on vinyl (Witchcraft Coven “Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls”, released 1970) and he´s really proud of it.
“I´ve got groove in my veins…”
I went to your official forum last night and saw this one and a half minute video clip that was filmed at the Cathouse in Glasgow in Scotland by some guy in which you did an impressive dance performance on the dance floor with some chick while James Brown´s “Get On Up” was played in the background. Seemed like you had lots of fun in there?
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was the merchandise girl Julie I was jamming with. We were getting down.
Do you like dancing… drunk, I mean?
No, I would have danced with anybody. I have got groove; I´ve got skills. See, other headbangers are like: What dancing will you know I was telling when you are standing against the wall and all the hot chicks are out there on the dance floor. I´m the one out for shaking their asses in a rhythm. You guys sit there and laugh, and like say what you want, but the bottomline is you guys are just watching – and I´m doing, alright.
Ok, I think my time is up, so thanks Gary again for this nice chat with you and best of luck for your gig tonight.
No problem… Thank you, too.
… and a shirt of a band called BLOODRIDE was handed over to Gary…
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