SLAYER – Interview with Drummer Dave Lombardo
Interview by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
Slayer has been in the frontlines of thrash metal and extreme metal for nearly four decades. Several classic songs such as Hell Awaits, Raining Blood, South Of Heaven, Dead Skin Mask, Cult etc are immortal and present a well oiled metallic war machine pushing forward relentlessly and show the brutality of thrash metal. However, the thrash metal machine needs a powerful inexhaustible source of intense drumming to create the well-known Slayer tempo. Dave Lombardo is definitely at the core of the unique sounds of Slayer. Despise his absence from Slayer, his role in the world of Slayer has become, and still is, an important part of Slayer. Metal-Rules.com had the great pleasure to have a moment with Dave Lombardo.
Welcome to Finland again. Last time you were here was last summer at the Sonispehere festival where a tornado hit the area. Do you remember that?
I remember it.
So it was, kind of unexpected. We have never seen anything like that here in Finland.
No, that was insane. I had it on my phone – actually, I have it on my computer. That was quite… It was crazy.
Did you hear about what happened in the area …?
I don’t know what happened, you know, afterwards. I’m sure some gear got messed up. But the coolest thing that happened was Iggy Pop’s performance. That was the best thing that I ever saw. You know, his whole band… And his gear got fucked up; the PA was fucked up. He went out there – acoustic guitar player and himself singing those songs. That was true musicianship. It says a lot about the artist. You know, there are a lot of bands these days that would be prima donnas and wouldn’t do anything like that. And I think at any possible opportunity to give the public their show; I think should be done by every musician.
But in the sad way, one person died afterwards at the hospital as some heavy equipment had hit him on the head…
Oh, from the stage?
Something like that I think and also about 40 people got injured in some way or another.
Now, has that happened before, has anything happened like that in the country before?
No, never. Not even close.
Not even close, like that – it was that powerful? It was really powerful. So what did you think? It’s the end of the world? Things are coming to a closure?
Something is going on anyway. There was a huge flood in Australia, there’s that thing going on in Japan and those clouds are coming to the States in the next week..
Yes, that’s right. And we’re supposed to have a monsoon in California. There’s supposed to be a huge storm. I saw it on the news. But I lost it – I can’t research it, because I can’t find it anymore. Maybe it wasn’t true, or whatever. But, you know, they said there’s supposed to be a big storm coming through. And it’s supposed to dump, like, ten feet of rain.
All kinds of storms, and terrorist things going. But there’s also been a lot of things going within Slayer as well.
Yes, it seems like Slayer and the world, kind of go together. And there’s Tom with his injury, me with my divorce; after 24 years married. And now Jeff, with his arm so there’s definitely something going on here! "laughs"
How is Jeff’s situation now and what actually happened to him? There are so many rumors flying around, you know?
Yes, he was bit by spider and Jeff, maybe, wasn’t paying attention to it – didn’t care. Maybe he thought it was, like, a change in his arm, or his skin. Because he didn’t feel anything, he got bit and it grew – his arm. And it – from here to here – you could describe it in finish. And it ate away at his flesh. And he let it go. Until it got so bad that, you know, that he had to go to the doctor. And they have to extract it. So now, they’re fixing it all up. So he should be okay. He should be fine soon. I mean it’s going to… He’s recovering fast. And he has a couple more operations left.
Does he have to do some kind of exercises, to get back the muscles?
Yes, but it’s not really the muscle. The muscle is fine. It didn’t get to the muscles or the nerves, or anything; but the skin. So they had to put other skin on his arm.
Yes, it’s the same kind of – I have read – the same kind of thing if you burn yourself badly?
Exactly, yes. They have to cut away the dead skin.
Dave Lombardo behind his kit
RECRUITING GARY HOLT
When this thing of Jeff came about you decided not to cancel shows but to hire Gary Holt from Exodus to fill in for Jeff until he’s able to return. How did Gary come into picture?
Me and Kerry were on the side of the stage at Hellfest, in France. Both me and Kerry, were “Come on, let’s go listen to Exodus. Let’s hear Exodus. We haven’t seen them in a while.” We saw Exodus and I was like, “Wow. Now I remember why I liked them so much, when I was young.” They were playing the whole BONDED BY BLOOD album. So it brought back many memories. I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures of Gary and myself – Exodus and Slayer together?
Yes, we have.
There are lots of pictures – and so much fun. Even with Metallica, when we were kids. We used to hang out. We used to have fun together. So, when we saw him play and we were enjoying the music, I go, “Look at that guy. That guy’s an amazing guitar player. He’s a good player.” And so, when this happened, the first person that came to Kerry’s mind, and myself, Gary. I mean he was there, from the beginning. He knows that style.
He’s a part of the family, kind of?
He’s part of the family. At the beginning – the embryo stages of that music – you know, the Bay Area in Southern California.
There isn’t too many guys who can, you know – who have that certain kind of history behind.
No there isn’t. He’s from that time and we have the common past. And I thought it was a fantastic addition, when we started playing. So he’s definitely good.
How did he react, when you first contacted him?
Kerry spoke to him. I don’t know how he reacted. But I think Kerry said that he said, “Absolutely. He’s in.”
How was the first rehearsal with him?
Fantastic. He’s very professional. He did his homework. He stepped up, big time. What I have to say about him is that he’s a fantastic musician. And there are guitar players and then there are musicians. And he’s a fantastic musician. It takes a lot to be that.
When reading the feedback on different forums there have been really positive reactions there like: “I want to go and see Slayer, because this is one of a kind thing.” People are really excited to see this kind of Slayer line-up, right now.
Yes. I’ve been seeing only positive things. Jeff is fantastic but this is like, something – because on the Internet, everybody talks about their dream band. You know, everybody puts together their favorite musicians. “Oh, this is my dream band: put this guy, this guy, this guy.” And sometimes they use me. And this is like a situation where – it was unexpected, but we had to choose a guitar player. So with that in mind, people I think are enjoying it. Because it’s kind of… it’s something exciting and different.
Okay. And also, it’s interesting that you have mentioned the family thing of Bay Area. Back in the day when you were out of Slayer for a while you played with Testament and Slayer got Paul Bostaph who’s now with Testament. Paul also played with Exodus and Gary is playing with you and the list goes on..
Yes, yes. I played in Testament for one album.
So it’s quite a large family?
It is, absolutely. There are pictures even – on the internet. I’ve just found one of Testament and myself at Day on the Green when Metallica and Faith No More played. Did you go to that, Gary…with Faith No More and Metallica?
(Gary) Queen’s Road?
Yes, you were there?
(Gary)Yes. I was shit faced “laughs”
You were? Yes. It’s cool.
What about the future, what if it does take longer than expected to Jeff to heal, will Gary then continue playing with you for how long?
Well, yes. I mean, as long as Gary wants to play and we need a guitar player, we have to do something. I mean, what are we going to do?
So I guess, he has his own schedule with Exodus. Doesn’t that cause any problems here?
Yes, yes. You know, I don’t know what’s going to go on with that. Right now, I don’t know what’s happening.
Gary Holt on stage with Slayer
WORKING WITH DIFFERENT MUSICIANS AND PROJECTS
It’s been two years since you released WORLD PAINTED BLOOD. Do you have some plans for the next Slayer album?
Right now, we don’t. Right now, what we want to do is fulfill our commitment to our fans. Tom, he’s the singer, vocalist and bass player. That’s a little more difficult to replace. And Tom needed to heal, so we waited for Tom. Jeff – of course, Jeff is Jeff and he has his own style. We can’t take that away from him. But we can get another guitar player to learn the music, like they can get another drummer to learn the parts. So, we chose to do it; because we had already cancelled shows before and we don’t want to keep doing that. What is it telling our fans? Can they trust us? No. So we have to show that, “Hey, you can trust us. We’re trying to do our best to make the shows.”
You recently had a really difficult time in Australia. You did a couple of shows with Gary and then you had to cancel a few once again when Tom had some problems. And then on last summer, you had to cancel a couple of dates in Germany, before you came to Sweden Rock.
But do you think that… Okay, this might be a little bit of a nasty question but I’m realistic now. Because everyone is getting older and getting more aged. Do you think that getting older brings more problems and it becomes difficult for you, playing and stuff like that? Because music is – your style that Slayer does, is really demanding, you know?
The music is very demanding. Have you ever been to a Slayer show?
Have you ever sat behind the drummer?
Okay. Then you really don’t know what it is, until you sit behind the drummer. And then you realize what goes through for this music. Yes, it’s difficult and it’s demanding, you know. But I feel alive when I’m up there. When those lights hit and the music is really loud, it’s just pure power. You have control. I have control of the amount of power I push into the people and then I pull back. And to have that, it’s fantastic.
How much your playing has changed during the years, I mean, are you still able to play all parts the same way you used to do in the past? there are many drummers who do keep on skipping over the difficult parts as they get older, you know?
Oh, no, no. I make it more. I do the opposite. I’ll create, on stage – I’ll improvise. I’ll do stuff. I’ll play the part and I’ll do some parts like they’re supposed to be, but there’s other parts, I’ll change them. And I’ll just make it more exciting. Like “Whoa, what was that?” You know, be very creative. I can keep the same, but how boring is that, every day? And if you can’t do what you’ve already recorded, then that’s something else.
After you split Slayer in 1991 you worked with many different bands and projects. As a musician, how much it helped your creativity to play such a different music with artists like Fantomas and John Zorn?
A lot, a lot. It helped me – that made me more of a musician and understand more about music. Not so much notation, and what they teach you in school. But what really matters is what the creative – being creative and putting your soul into music. That’s what I learned from these musicians; is what they put in from the heart. Because a lot of those musicians, they don’t teach me their music by notation. They give it to me by playing it for me and telling me “I want this kind of rhythm. I want it to feel like this.” Now how can you write what you feel? So what you’re taught in school, and what you’re taught on the street, or when you’re working in a band situation, is totally different. It’s inspiring.
Is that one reason that you have these other bands like Philm…
Absolutely, yes. See what it does – with Philm, I play a four-piece drum kit. So it limits me. I can’t go into double bass. So I have to find other ways to create that powerful feeling. But on a small drum set. By restraint – because you’re pulled back – you are only allowed to do so much. And when you do that, you give it all you’ve got and it becomes different. Too deep.
Tell something about your collaboration with the Finnish band, Apocalyptica?
I love them. I love those guys. I just saw them in LA. They played the Nokia Theatre. Great guys. I think Perttu was a sick then. He wasn’t feeling too good when he was over there. He was really thin. Eicca was fine and Paavo was fine. Love those guys.
Obviously this time, you didn’t visit the studio and do any recordings for Apocalyptica this time like have done few times in the past "laughs"
No, I haven’t. I’ve yet to contact them. I feel like I should contact Eicca – if he wants to come down.
Do you usually feel going to do the drumming for the other bands, or this is still – Apocalyptica – one of a kind thing for you?
Absolutely. When I saw the show that they did in LA, it was brilliant. It was fantastic how they did everything. You know, the movements of the show and the way how they divided the parts up. A certain section was with a vocalist. Another section was with just a drum, in the middle of the stage, with Mikko and then the rest of the songs… There was variety. So they put on a show. It’s not just music. There’s, you know – it goes in movements.
JOHN BONHAM AND MEGADETH
On last January you took part in the Bonzo -Tribute to John Bonhan gig in Hollywood. How important of an influence is the former Led Zeppelin drummer for you?
John Bonham influenced me, I think, more than any other drummer. I mean, maybe Mitch Mitchell, from Jimi Hendrix, and how fast he played. The “jazzy” way that he played. That was a big influence but Bonham taught me how to move air. I don’t know if you understand. No, no. Not move air – move time. So there’s the four-four count, but I have this swing that I could… I have parameters – not parameters, guidelines – between each beat. And he’s taught me that. You know, where you could move the time. It’s bizarre.
It is bizarre, right. Which songs did you perform on that tribute evening?
They just called me up and said, “Hey, you want to do a song?” “Yeah, which one?” And they gave me a choice. And I chose “No Quarter”. I like that song.
Right. You are now touring with Megadeth – you first did the Big Four thing with them and now you’re doing a double bill tour with them but could that type of lineup have been possible to set up something like four or five years ago, I mean, how you guys get along after all that writing all over the place, you know?
I love them. We saw each other today, at the airport. We had a nice conversation. He went to a restaurant – the same restaurant we went to. He was joking with us, and we were having a great time. I don’t know why the press makes it so much. But I think maybe the press takes a little too much, this whole thing with Dave Mustaine and everybody else. I mean, the guy’s great. I don’t have a problem with him at all.
You also have some shared history with Megadeth – starting from the early ‘80s. Do you any great memories about them from those days?
Yes, absolutely. I remember some of the shows. We played at L’Amour. I remember him hanging out in front of Johnny’s house – Johnny and Tom’s house. And practicing there once. They practiced there once, without a drummer, which impressed me, because they were going through the parts – whatever they were playing, without a drummer. He just clicked time, and they played the parts together. I found it interesting. Good musicians.
But there’s been for a little bit more. Because I guess you have got a lot of questions recording this Big Four thing. Are you kind of surprised that, all of a sudden, everybody who wants to get the Big Four to the States and Europe – and someone wants to bring you to Australia. The whole thing has become bigger than alive, all of a sudden?
I think – because, here you have a group of guys that maintained their career on something that they believe in. Which is this style of music. And that hasn’t gone away. I’m 45 years old – no, I’m sorry, 46. And for musicians that started so young, and to have this kind of career – I think it’s appealing to see, and watch perform. The bands are bad ass.
We thank you very much for your time. We wish you a really good show tonight.
Thank you. Later.
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