Alex Lackner of Lazarus AD
Interviewed by Marko Guevara
"THRASH OR DIE is the motto Lazarus A.D. have lived by since day one and their no holds barred attitude is equaled only by their will to become a leading force in modern metal. Their supreme level of creativity, musicianship and professionalism makes them an electrifying and engaging live act. "
"Lazarus A.D. formed in the frozen tundra of southeastern Wisconsin in the spring of 2005. Dan Gapen (guitars/vocals), Jeff Paulick (bass/lead vocals), Alex Lackner (guitars), and Ryan Shutler (drums), redefine the phrase “alcoholism and aggression” in music. They subject metal heads to furious nights of head banging while drinking venues dry. Have no doubts that Lazarus A.D. is a thrash band, but merely in attitude as their sound is no simple throwback to the 80s bay area sound. They breathe a breath of fresh air into modern thrash with intelligent, memorable riffs, thrash breakdowns, mid-tempo grooves, and high-flying solos.
In a few short years, Lazarus A.D. has accomplished more than they had ever expected. In the small city of Kenosha, WI, the fire began to spread quickly. Fueled only by a free three song demo, the band played as much as possible and landed a big break in the summer of 2006 when they had the honor of being direct support for the legendary Anthrax in Milwaukee. They continued to tour the midwest throughout the summer and fall and finally began work on their first full length album in January of 2007. Recorded and engineered by Chris Djuricic (Soil, November’s Doom, Michael Angelo Batio) at Studio One, and mastered by James Murphy (Death, Testament), The Onslaught was a force to be reckoned with. The band hit the road again and stretched out as far as Denver, CO. The guys even managed to land the opening slot for Testament in Milwaukee on August 1st, 2008. The buzz about their live performances continued to grow. It wasn’t long before Lazarus A.D. was approached by Earache Records for an upcoming metal compilation. Last Breath was one of the 16 songs chosen to appear on Thrashing Like A Maniac, and they were the only unsigned band on the entire compilation! In the spring of 2008, Lazarus A.D. received a call from Metal Blade Records, and a short time later, their deal had been inked.
The Onslaught was originally released by the band and only 1,000 copies were pressed. The Onslaught has since been completely re-mixed and re-mastered by James Murphy and is set to finally see a worldwide release through Metal Blade Records. The future has never been brighter for Lazarus A.D. and a rigorous touring schedule is in the works. Expect to hear their name a lot more in the coming months, and as always, be sure to THRASH OR DIE!"
Hello there! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview in the middle of the tour.
What’s up?! Not a problem. We have off time during the day so it’s better than doing nothing.
I see that the band started as just "Lazarus"? Did you have any problem in keeping the band name? Did another owner have the rights to the name who contacted you on this matter?
Yeah we did start initially as Lazarus but we came across another band that had had the name for quite some time and owned the "common law trademark" of
the name. We did what we could to get the name from them but they just would not deal with it. They sent us a letter from they’re lawyer stating that if we didn’t change our name they would take us to court. I think in this case a simple "no" would have done just fine in giving us the name.
I believe Lazarus AD was formed in 2005. Can you please tell us about the beginning of the band (how you found one another, how you musically all got onto the same page with regards to direction, etc)? I also heard that you were playing in previous band called Defy?
We did start in ’05 but Dan and Jeff knew each other from way back. I believe it was in fourth grade. They hated each other at the time. Ryan met up with them through the local scene. They’d played shows together and eventually started a band. My band, Defy, at the time, was doing shows with them every so often and that’s how I met all of them. I ended up quitting and literally the very next day they asked me to try out. It was a bit odd that they found out so damn quickly. As far as musical direction, surprisingly, we all had the same idea of what we wanted to play before any of us were ever in bands. It’s pretty cool. We just so happened to find each other.
How did the deal with Metal Blade come about?
We had been shopping for labels for a little while and the only one that wanted any part was Candlelight Records. We honestly didn’t want to be part of that label. So we kept looking. With the help of some friends and exposure from the "Thrashing Like A Maniac" compilation Metal Blade gave us a call and offered us a deal. We went through some negotiating and came to a deal.
I must say, it seemed to be a short time before you were signed with Metal Blade. What do you think was the most important factor for landing this major contract?
Yeah we’d only been a band for a couple of years before we were picked up. I think a big part was our sound. This whole new thrash thing is coming out and we had a different sound than the standard 80′s sound and look. Brian Slagel, owner of Metal Blade, really likes us and has been pushing us pretty damn hard lately. I think it’s safe to say when the owner of a label is that into what you do you must be doing something right.
Can you tell us a bit about each member’s previous experience with touring, recording, and the music industry in general?
None of us had really been involved in any of that. I think we’ve been around studios and the environment, but have never actually done any real recording or touring. I actually used to read about the industry all the time, but looking at it now, it really didn’t mean anything. It’s hard to explain how one would get signed or what is actually happening inside the industry. This is all pretty new to us all. But we’re catching on really quickly.
THE ONSLAUGHT is your debut full length. Can you tell me about the album, maybe start by giving us the usual details on how it was written and recorded. Do you feel that in essence this is a matured style of the band, or do you think you are in a transitional state still?
The writing process took some time, but only because we wanted the best to be on that disc. We didn’t want to be limited to anything and decided to write some of the heaviest music we could come up with. We recorded it in Racine with Chris Djuricic of Belle City Sound, previously known as Studio One. Chris did the initial mixing and James Murphy (ex- Testament/ Death) handled the mastering duties. They both did an amazing job, but once we got on with Metal Blade and decided to re-release it, we collectively decided it would be best to re-mix and master the album. We went back to James to take care of both. Once it was done it sounded like a completely new album. It really gained new life. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s our fully matured style. We are already progressing as a band and musically. We won’t stray from the general thrash style but will look more in depth into structuring and add balance.
Tell me about your influences; what is in the background of Lazarus AD?
Our biggest influences are Metallica, Testament, Pantera, and Slayer. All the big ones! They are the ones that know what’s happening when it comes to good music. That’s what we are doing. It’s actually an honor to be on tour right now Testament being that they are one of our biggest influences. And let me tell you they are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met.
Concerning the status of the world metal scene, how do you see the near future for labels and festivals? We’ve already have seen the death of some important icons such as the Milwaukee Metal Fest, Pit Magazine, SOD Magazine, and it seems Metal Maniacs (at least in print?)?
It’s truly hard to say. Everything is constantly changing and because of that you’ll never know how it will end up. We can all do what we can to keep things going but I think it’s a matter of the generations. Go with what’s happening and adapt to it. Just because things change doesn’t mean you have to.
Now you are on tour across US with the devastating act of Testament and Unearth. Tell us about this experience – how is the response of the audience?
Wow! Where do I start? So far I can say I’ve been having some of the most fun I’ve ever had. right off the bat both Testament and Unearth opened up and welcomed us into the major touring world. Basically it’s a party nearly ever night which works for us because we do that at home anyway. Oh, and by the way, Canada is one of the best places to go. Everyone is polite and friendly, and the weed is out of this world especially when its free. We’ve made many new friends in Canada and hope to make many more. The crowd response in general has been great! I’m just glad that everyone warms up to us really quickly even though most of them haven’t heard of us. I think it’ll only get better the more people start hearing about us.
What are you reading or listening on the when on tour and passing time?
I’ve been reading a lot of books that I haven’t had the time to get to before like "Freakonomics" and "The Jesus Papers." I need to pick up some more for sure though. As far music, I listen to everything. I don’t want to limit myself to just metal. I hear enough of it on tour anyway. We all listen to bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, AC/DC, and even rap artists like The Game, Dr. Dre, and T.I. It’s surprising to most people but we like what we like.
Do you have any plans to tour overseas, Mexico or South America?
Nothing as of yet, but we are definitely hoping to hit those areas really soon, especially Europe. Keep looking and as soon as we know you will too.
Back to The Onslaught album, please brief us with some details about lyrics. Looking at the titles of the songs, it seems like we have the usual topics in metal, but is there a different point of view you are expressing?
Basically, the lyrics have to do with politics, people, and everyday life. It’s all things that most people can relate to. The way the lyrics are set up they are meant to be looked at with your own opinion. We have our meanings for them, but we like the fact that they can relate to others on a different level. On their own level. Ask Jeff sometime about the lyrics more in depth. He’s the one that writes most of them. I generally deal with the instrument side of it all.
What’s next for Lazarus AD?
More touring! We’ll be touring for another however many months and then eventually we’ll hit the studio again. We already have some tunes that are near ready to go. If you see us on the road you may hear us play one of them. Hopefully we’ll be hitting some of those festivals as well.
Obviously we will be awaiting for your next assault, and Metal Rules will support this massive attack! Thank you for answers especially on this crucial and last question: Maiden or Priest?? (HAHAHA! It’s a Metal Rules forum classic!!)
We’ll I’d personally have to say Priest. I think Dan and Ryan are on my side with that too. Jeff is the die hard Maiden fan of this group though. I think ninety-five percent of the time he’s wearing a Maiden shirt. Haha!