Guitarist Gary Holt
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
Off/onstage pictures by Terhi Pihlaja
Transcription by Martin Heaps (Psychophobe)
Thanks to Silke from Tough Enough Promotion for setting up the interview
Finland is known for its several summer festivals – big or small, but every year some of them do surprise with some interesting band announcements that just cannot be shrugged off totally.
This year, one of the most interesting festivals appeared to be 3-day Myötätuulirock, which has annually been arranged in Vantaa, Finland for 14 years in a row – and is heavily based on some of the hottest Finnish rock/metal names of each ongoing year. The Bay Area veteran thrashers Exodus was announced to be the headliners of the first day of the festival, so that alone made the festival interesting enough to be checked out.
Exodus´ 9th full-length album, EXHIBIT B: THE HUMAN CONDITION was released through Nuclear Blast Records on May this year. There performance surprised many festival attenders by their immensely brutal and heavy load of thrash delivery as the last act on Friday evening. The band confidently churned out both new and old stuff from their well-oiled killing machine over the enthusiastic audience (“The Ballad of Leonard and Charles”, “Blacklist”, “Piranha”, “The Toxic Waltz”, etc.), and was also very well received by a fanatical crowd that seemed to go absolutely berserk in front of their masters, song after song.
Before Exodus went to punish their Finnish fans onstage at Myötätuulirock festival, Gary Holt had a moment to talk to Metal-Rules.com about his memories about the band´s 1st live appearance at Provinssirock festival in Finland in 2003, the ongoing tour, new album, but also reminiscing some blasts from the past.
DESTROYING THE FINNISH GROUND
So, anyway, first up thanks for coming along to this festival and coming to destroy this space around here.
Yeah, that’s what we planning on doing, is destroying everything so, I’ll do my best, ha-ha!
Actually the first time when you played in Finland happened at this Provinssirock festival in 2003.
Yeah, yeah… That was great!
What kind of memories do you have from that?
It was crazy! It was like playing a giant rave, because it was a mainstream festival. David Bowie was a headliner, Black Eyed Peas played and the Roots – and Exodus, Testament, Hypocrisy and Tesla as well. You know, when I was just walking around that first day I saw so many crazy things. It was nuts, people where so drunk, be like right when doors opened, people painted all these crazy colours and – you know, I saw like one girl who was so drunk the paramedics were seeing if she was breathing, right – you know like she was almost dead and a couple of hours later she was front loafing with the Distillers; just jumping up and down, you know, – it was like, how can that be the same little girl we just saw if she was alive?! It was pretty nuts – it was crazy!
One of those crazy things I was seeing there was like you guys were throwing the darts, using this one guy´s (from the Extreme Duudsons that is) stomach as a target…
Ha-ha… That was awesome!
Actually, quite bizarre and extreme would be more precise words, ha-ha!
They handed me like a big zucchini (or courgette), or some vegetable and let me just beat him over the head as hard as I could with it and just exploded it across his fucking head and threw the darts in his stomach and stuff, that was pretty cool I liked that, had a good time.
Exodus´ newest album, EXHIBIT B: THE HUMAN CONDITION is your 9th studio album and it came out in Europe and the United States in May – and even before the release of the studio album you were actually doing quite a lot of touring, you had this Testament tour together with…
The Megadeth tour…
Yeah, the Megadeth tour. I think this was kind of a very successful tour for you guys, wasn´t it?
Oh, it was an awesome, you know. Like 99% of the shows were all sold out. Actually the only shows that didn’t sell out, were two of the biggest venues. You know, the place holds like 4700 people and maybe there was 4400, so it was not sold out. It didn’t mean much though. It was still a lot of people – it was a lot of fun, you know, touring with old friends. It was a good time.
PINK FLOYD OF THRASH METAL
And if we talk about this new album of yours, this is quite different from your previous album, this is more based on the human condition lyrically – like cruelty, ignorance, inhumanity and brutality of human beings. Was it any way for you somehow easier to write this album, you know, and talk about these different sides of human beings, compared to those things for example like religion and stuff that your previous album was all about – well, at least most of it?
Well, fortunately the human race leaves us no shortage of song subjects, you know, because we’re pretty fucked up people and there’s always something we’re doing that is worth writing about. You know, we want every album to be different from the last, we don’t want to repeat ourselves but we want to be true to what Exodus is all about, and I think this album is, you know… super brutal, more melodic at the same time, it’s fast as hell then there’s some slower stuff. I mean it´s a perfect album for us at this point, right now.
Yeah, like you said, this new album is kinda faster and more melodic and more organic sounding I would say.
Yeah I think so, yeah.
Can you actually give any reasons why it turned out the way it turned out, you know, having all this lengthy songs on it, but still maintaining this very distinct Exodus sound you’ve always had over the years?
Well there’s no real reason, you know, it´s just everything is the natural thing that we do, you know, when I’m sitting down and writing a riff; I just write a riff and, you know – whatever happens – happens, you know – there’s no real thought about it, you know. So, who knows what the next album is going to be like, it might be 20 songs that are all four minutes long, I don’t know, you know. Have to wait and see it in a couple of years, but right now we’re proud of this record.
I have noticed that especially on the couple of last Exodus albums, the song lengths have been increasing all the time; you have had like 7 to 10 minute songs, so what kind of things keep you feeding your songs by all those huge riff monsters?
Well, you know, once again it’s all natural. The song is finished when the song tells me it’s finished. Certain songs end up kind of epic, you know. One guy in an interview I did the guy called us the ´Pink Floyd of Thrash Metal´, you know. Another guy called us the ´Rush of Thrash Metal´ – and they where both meant as total complements, so I was like “Okay, cool”, you know, we’ve been pretty progressive as of late, but like I said heaven knows what the next album will be like, I have no idea.
It is basically so that you mostly write all the rhythm guitar work on your albums – and Lee (Altus, that riff master in Heathen also) comes up with all the solos and places them into the songs. Do you think it’s going to be like this in the future too - you concentrating on writing all these big riffs, and Lee doing his best effort to throw in some killer solos into the new Exodus songs?
I dunno, I mean Lee wrote two songs on this album, and he and Rob (Dukes) wrote also two songs together for this album, you know. I tend to write fast, very prolific, you know – and who knows what the next album’s going to be like. And the more they write the less work I have to do so it’s kinda good too, you know.
What about Andy Sneap´s role on your latest album; how much do you actually give credit for him for coming up with this kind of crazy sound this album has, having this pleasingly organic and heavy sound?
Andy understands this band better than anybody, you know. We´ve been friends forever and you know, fans – and first time we had Andy we played together in 1987 in Dynamo festival when he was still with Sabbat, originally. And you know, every album he knows what it should sound like – we never have any discussion about the new album; about what the mix should sound like. He just knew – and we knew and it did come out, you know, more organic and a little less digital perfection, a little more raw, I think. And that’s just perfect for these songs.
Do you think he’s just that kind of guy around nowadays who has the best understanding about how Exodus should sound like – what kind of sound Exodus needs to sound like, you know, Exodus in the first place?
Yeah, we both do, you know, and that’s why we work together so well.
THE INTERNET IS KILLING MUSIC?
That’s cool. If we talk about music sales, as you know the Internet is kind of opposed by the whole music industry because younger kids seem to download lots of music through the internet, getting it all almost completely for free from there.
Yeah, sure. That´s really the downside of this music business.
How much do you think this has an effect on Exodus, and your album sales?
Well, it affects everybody, I mean – hell, you know, you’re looking at what bands are selling, and you figure for every one song there’s five people downloading it for free, or more, who knows, you know. It affects everybody but it’s not going to go away, you know, I think the record industry is going to be dead within ten years. People will just make albums and put them up as digital downloads and no one will even concern themselves with like the album booklets, you know. I’m old school, I love getting the vinyl and taking it home and putting that disc on for the first time and listening while reading the lyrics and poring over all the pictures, you know. That was a part of the experience, you know. When people just download and listen to their iPods, they’re missing out on all of that, you know.
Exactly. I completely agree wit you on this. If you don’t have the physical format in your hand, then listening music is not that much fun anymore…
Yeah, and it’s not as personal as it should be.
MARCHING INTO BRUTALITY
If we continue talking about your touring plans, you are going to have your own headline tour coming up on August called “March of Brutality”.
… and actually you’re going to tour with some really good bands like Malevolent Creation and Bonded by Blood…
Plus, with Holy Grail.
Yeah, with them, too.
It’s going to be awesome, they are one of my favorite bands.
So I guess you are pretty much looking forward to touring with all those 3 great names on this tour?
Yeah it’s going to be a lot of fun, you know, I’m a big fan of all the bands, and I’ve been friends with Malevolent Creation for quite a while – and the Bonded by Blood guys have played a few shows with us over the years. I’ve yet to meet the Holy Grail guys but they sent me some killer T-shirts and stuff so that’s, that’s sweet, you know, and they’re one of my favourite bands in the world right now they’re so awesome so should be really good
According to the band name Bonded by Blood, I think it´s like their own tribute Exodus, naming their band by the title of Exodus´ debut album…
I guess so, yeah. We have Bonded by Blood playing on the tour – and we’ll play “Bonded by Blood”, so you’ll have the best of both worlds, you know.
Yeah, of course! Then you’re going to have this New Zealand and Australia tour coming up in October and it’s going to be like your first headline tour over there.
Yeah… First time in New Zealand we’re also going, returning to Bangkok, Malaysia, Indonesia and I think Beijing also that are all new places for us, so that’s going to be a lot of fun.
Do you think it’s going to be quite a lot different to tour over there because you don’t have that much of experience to tour in those aforementioned exotic countries?
Nah, it’s all the same to me, you know. You just gotta kick people in the teeth and have a good time doing it, you know, doesn’t matter where it happens.
What about the fans over there, do you have any idea how fanatical or crazy the fans might be in these countries, I mean, countries like Malaysia and Indonesia?
Well, we’ve been to Australia before you know, and the fans were awesome, but it’s the first time we’re headlining so you know, I’m expecting it to be violent and a lot of fun.
The metal fans over there supposedly don’t actually make too much difference if you compare them to the metal fans either coming from Europe or the States?
Not really. They’re pretty nuts though, so it should be all good.
Like in Japan for example, where it´s said to be some of the most fanatical metal fans in the whole world?
Japan’s awesome! We did actually inspire quite a bit of mayhem there, which is unusual for the Japanese crowd, you know. Last time when we were there, they tore out barricades, but politely handed them over the crowd to the front, you know.
Was it this “Thrash Domination” tour you did over there at that time?
Yep, that was it… last year. Because they have the main barricade at the front, and then they had two rows of barricades through the crowd – and they just fit into holes in the floor of the venue and they tore them all out so they could get a big circle pit. People said they’d never seen anything like that so that was awesome.
Do you have any plans to do some sort of “Thrash Domination” again?
We’re playing this year, yeah – with Overkill and it’s us and Overkill – and it’s a co-headliner and they close one night, we close the next. One night it´s Exodus, Overkill, Nevermore and I just saw this today, and I forget the other band – and the next night it´s gonna be Overkill, Exodus and Sanctuary.
I also heard about that, Sanctuary, they’re making a new album…
Yeah, that’s going to be fun, I can’t wait.
IT DOESN’T GET ANY HEAVIER THAN 70000 TONS OF METAL
Me neither, it’s really cool. Anyway, January 2011, you’re going to go to the sea and do this world´s biggest floating heavy metal festival called “70000 Tons of Metal” cruise with around 40 bands or whatever.
Yes, it’ll be 40 bands in total, yeah, it’s going to be awesome, I can’t wait for that!
All the way from Miami, Florida to Mexico – and back to Miami, FL again.
Cozumel in Mexico, yeah, four days. It’s going to be great, just lotsa fun to do it.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
No, never, when I heard about it I called up my management and agents and I said I really want to play this it’s going to be fun, I need a vacation!
Yeah, there’s old school bands there like Sodom, Raven, Saxon, Trouble, etc. – some of your friends in bands like Death Angel and Forbidden will also be a part of this cruise…
Yeah – and Testament, too.
And so many other bands as well. How much are you looking forward to seeing some of these bands live there like Raven, or Uli Jon Roth or…?
It’s sick, you know, Trouble, Finntroll, Sonata Arctica – you know, Stratovarius – who else is playing? A whole bunch of people, they still have a lot of bands to add. It’s going to be great! (Editors note: Stratovarius had to cancel due to scheduling conflicts)
Yeah, it’s like a big boat packed with all these metalheads you know, partying like for four days, enjoying their beers, bands, good company and so forth.
Ha-ha, yeah, it’s going to be wild and crazy for sure.
That´s something I’d like to be part of, you know, some day anyway.
That’s going to be great, you should go.
Ah, it´s just the money issue that I have some little concerns about, you know.
Oh yeah, but you have a year to save, so… almost a year, not quite a year.
BIG 4 (OF THRASH?)
Changing the subject a little bit now, next week actually already – June 22nd precisely, there’s going to be this so-called ´Big Four (i.e. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax)´ playing first time together in many years in Sofia, Bulgaria. What´s your take on about getting this ´Big 4´ together?
I think it’s great for the fans, you know, they’re going to get to see something they haven’t had a chance to see before, it should be awesome.
You know, last week I was talking with Mark (Osegueda) from Death Angel at this one festival in Finland, he was actually kind of sarcastically saying that the REAL ´Big 4 of Thrash´ should actually be bands like Testament, Forbidden, Death Angel and Exodus…
Ha-ha! I guess I know what you mean by this. Thanks Mark!
My point is like, you know, if you’re thinking about these so-called ´godfathers of thrash´ – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, when they started out it was all about thrash, but nowadays when you’re thinking of those bands – and their whole careers up to this very day, they’ve gone quite far away from their original thrash roots, having had their weaker moments album-wise – and therefore I can easily relate to Mark´s point of view, you know, of having like Exodus, Forbidden, Testament and Death Angel on tour at the same time if people have a demand to see a REAL thrash tour.
Anyway, have you ever been you know, talking with these guys about doing a tour like this – all the 4 bands together, like that would be something you should really consider doing some day?
We talk about it all the time, it’s just all about timing – and stuff like that, you know. Maybe some time next year we might make it happen, who knows. In fact, if I come to think of this idea a little bit closer, we will be kind of already doing something similar, you know, in Europe in November. We’re coming on tour together with Death Angel, Kreator and Greek Suicide Angels. That’s going to be a lot of fun too – that’s going to be great! Looking forward to that one.
So, since your 1st gig experience at Provinssirock festival here in Finland was kinda crazy in many ways, I need to ask from you what do you expect about these crazy Finnish mother-fucking Exodus fans over here at Myötätuulirock festival then?
It’s going to be awesome! They are crazy, I hope they’re getting drunk already, you know!
I think most of them are already reaching that happy state, little by little, ha-ha!
But not too drunk, you know. They need to have a little energy, but the Finnish fans, you know, still have a lot of life in them even after drinking all day, so they can drink like nobody I’ve ever seen that’s for damn sure!
Ha-ha, I guess you are very right about that Gary. Are you planning to charge the party up after your show, by the way?
We got a very early lobby calls, we will have a couple of drinks for sure, you know, but we don’t move from the lobby round the corner until six, so…
Well, thanks very much for your time, and best of luck with your upcoming shows!
Appreciated! Thank you.