Interview by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
Bay Area thrash metal is an institution and provided a massive metal revolution in the very early 80’s. Exodus is the legend of the whole genre even though the band has faced several unexpected turns during its long career. Metal-Rules.com sat down with the only original Exodus member left, Tom Hunting, to talk about the latest 10th album and various other interesting topics that may interest die-hard Exodus fans.
TRAVELLING ALL OVER THE WORLD
First of all welcome back to Finland!
Thank you, It’s always great to come here.
Did you ever, over 30 years ago, think “someday I will travel all over the world and every small corner in Europe and South America”?
No, never would I have dreamt I would be in places like Macedonia and Bosnia, but it happened. We went to the far regions of the planet.
So far, which has been the strangest place you have been with the band?
Probably China. We played in Beijing and then we did another festival South, like four hours South of Beijing. We flew in and I can’t remember the name of the place, it was like Xing Chao Chan Chao or something like that. I guess that’s how it was pronounced. But we were on the bill and there was all these like Chinese, like power pop bands. Like these super cute little kids, playing power pop and then there was Exodus. Like we never felt more out of place. We had no business being on this festival, but they loved it. People were starting to like thrash and there was all these guys like with guns, and like big green coats and like captain hats. We were like; I hope they don’t shoot these kids. Because they acted like; what’s going on here? Because the kids were like starting a little tiny circle pit, and like they were looking at them for approval. It was weird.
Did you have to send your set-list in advance to the Chinese authorities? Because they usually monitor what kind of lyrics you have or what kind of song titles you have. For example Megadeth had to do that.
I think we did, yeah. I think we did. But I don’t think we really had to alter anything.I can’t remember the set of that day. That’s probably why will never get to play Dubai, because we have songs like “Children Of A Worthless God” or “Strike Of The Beast”.
I read somewhere the most exotic place, that you have been, has been Eastern Europe. You took a small ferry across the river and you saw that…
Yeah. We were going to Romania and they hadn’t built a bridge yet, so we boarded a river ferry. The guy on the boat was totally corrupt. He said; no, no. You can’t bring that thing on here. I fix some money, exchanged hands and our bus with a trailer on it was too big for the ferry. So they couldn’t even like close the backdoor in the hallway. It was pretty country this ferry, and like we just rolled with it. We set out lawn chairs outside and we were just chilling on the river. Like if you took a shit in the toilet, it just went down the shoot and like into the river. We made it and I think that tour we went to some super remote places. We went to Macedonia, Romania, deep inside Romania. We went to Bosnia and everything within the year on the end of it, we pretty much covered it that summer.
SUPPORT THE ALBUM BY TOURING
Exodus has played in several places and with several bands, but last tour you did was with King Diamond.
How was it to tour with them? I guess they’ve been one of your favorites in the early days?
They were totally one of my favorites. The tour was great, it didn’t finish very strong because they canceled the last three shows. It sucked for us, because like we couldn’t… He canceled them like a day off and so there were like last minute cancellations. If we had a week’s notice, maybe we could have booked our own show somewhere else. But it all went down so fast, that we were just like; fuck it, let’s fly home. So we went home. We went home a day and a half early and we couldn’t finish the tour very strong. Because we didn’t get to play any songs at the end, the last three were canceled.
Is this European tour an end for the support of the BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT album?
No, we’re going to go through the summer and we’re working on something for the fall too. But we’re going to start writing, Gary has a window of time in April and so do I. We’re going to start getting in the room and jamming. So we are getting ready for the next album cycle.
You don’t have an exact deadline for the next album yet?
No, we’re not under any time constraints on how long. We don’t really care when it comes out, we just want it to be good when it does come out. At this point we’re like, we’re more concerned with the quality of the music than we’re with; got to have an album out. Honestly when we play live, everybody wants to hear old shit anyway. So we can have 20 albums and still they want to hear BONDED BY BLOOD shit. But we love creating new music and we love the process, even the uncomfortable part of like learning songs, writing stuff.
RECORDING IN THE GOAT FARM
The latest album was processed differently than the previous ones, because it was recorded in your house. How was the experience and will you work that way in the future as well?
We work whatever way it feels comfortable for us at the time. Like this time there happen to be, I find myself living at a goat ranch and we set up a studio there. We did all the guitar tracks there, vocal tracks. Everything except for the drums was done at my house. It’s a cool place; it’s kind of centrally located to where everybody lives. So we did all of our external tracking rather than drugs there.
Andy Sneap has usually been behind the desk as a producer but this time you worked most of the stuff by yourself. Was it kind of an eye opening experience that you can do everything by yourself…?
Actually Andy helped us with the drum tracks. We did the drum tracks in Studio D in Sausalito, which is kind of across the Bay from where we all live. The experience was great. Jack’s been studying a lot about Pro Tools and how to record and things like that, and he understands.
How much do you understand about the use of ProTools yourself?
Fuck no, I don’t…. A little bit, I understand the concept of how it works and stuff like that. But I don’t know how to apply it. But in terms of like recording it ourselves, we knew what we wanted. Andy probably would have stack out and like done the whole record, but I think he had something else he had to do. So he came, he helped us get it all set up and showed us how to use the stuff. We just kind of took off from there. Again we weren’t under any time constraints, so we had as much time as we needed to do a record. It was well documented, we changed singer 95% of the way through the album. So we had to go and do vocal tracks again. But if you’re not under any deadline situation you could do shit like that.
Did you have to make changes to the songs on BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT – except re-singing the most of the stuff – because Zetro has a different voice and scale compared to what Rob Dukes had?
Not much really. We originally brought Zetro in just to demo him on a few songs; it’s becoming increasingly hard to work with Rob. It’s unfortunate, because we love Rob and we love the music that we made with Rob Dukes. We brought Zetro in to demo a couple of songs, and it just sounded pretty natural. We didn’t really have to do a lot of changes to anything. Like we didn’t change any of the phrasing, Rob didn’t really write any lyrics. I think he had lyrics on one song, but we changed those around. As far as the phrasing goes, the phrasing was kind of online with the same. But the other vocal styles were two totally different things. It just sounded natural, when Zetro came in and sang on the shit. We were just like; Wow!
BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT
The songs of both THE ATROCITY albums are really long and epic if I can say that. Whereas the BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT songs are shorter and more old school. It is easier stuff to follow them at gigs especially when you’re a little bit drunk “Laughs”
Yeah, yeah.The drunk you are the better we still are. “Laughs”
Was it an obvious choice for you to make shorter and simpler this time?
The music is not really any simpler to play, but we made a conscious choice to make some shorter songs. Not all of them are short, but we did kind of make an effort to make each one an epic seven minute journey. Some of the songs on Exhibit A and B are kind of a journey, but we were behind doing that. We loved it.
Was it the idea to bring Zetro back to the band to test the waters how he sounds, because Rob has more like the punk background and you have more like a new wave British heavy metal background and there is some kind of difference how you wanted the music to sound.
Honestly, we just wanted to make a really good album. That was our main focus. We weren’t thinking about styles or. It was album number10, which is we’re all super fortunate to be in a band that’s even made 10 albums. I’m not going to get into heavy details on why we parted with Rob, but we had differences and we couldn’t get past them. We couldn’t communicate our way past them. It wasn’t easy to do, I’ll always consider him as part of this brotherhood because that’s how our band is. It’s not just a band, it’s a brotherhood. There is a business side, but at the end of the day we all have to be like brothers and attached to each other. If this isn’t fun, I’m not going to do it anymore.
I think the band has been really polite for Rob not saying any negative things about him. You have been saying that he’s still a part of the brotherhood, but he chose the other way. After two years he’s still doing that in every interviews.
He’s from New York, well it hurts. I have no doubt that it probably hurts. I’ve been out of this band three times now, this is my third go around with the band. I kind of left on my own terms but it never feels good.
When Rob dismissed the band and Zetro came back, it was really interesting to read and hear people’s reactions and opinions about it. There was quite tension as people thought if this was a bad or a a good move to the band. Did you pay attention to what the people said in social media or Internet in general?
We were aware of it, but honestly we just wanted to make a good album. We weren’t really concerned with the follow out of; why did they do this to this guy? There were reasons behind what we did. People got to own their shit including Rob. It wasn’t perfect and he could say; we did this to him, we did that to him. Whatever..We enjoyed working with him in the time that we did, but we just couldn’t work together on album number 10. It wasn’t going to happen. But we truly tried.
Is it challenging to write new catchy thrash songs with good hooks without not repeating yourself too much?
I think we’ve been doing it for a while now. It’s like the formula has never really changed, I guess sometimes a song doesn’t work or the well runs dry. But some songs just happen, like you’ll have the core of the song in 20 minutes. Sometimes like whenever I’m trying to arrange stuff with Lee, Lee’s riffs. Sometimes I’ll work with Lee for five hours and all we have is like one minute worth of shit. I’ll just be like; fucking, I’m ready to retire. Then the next day Gary came over and we played “Collateral Damage”, and like the core of the song was basically done in 20 minutes. We were like; wow! It’s a bad ass song. It’s different all the time. We totally repeat ourselves all the time. These riffs, that sounds a little bit like that. But of course it’s going to work, we’re the same people we were then.
When we did an interview with Gary Holt 2004 at Sweden Rock, we told him the FORCE OF HABIT album was a really different at that time because it almost sounded like an hard rock album compared to the past albums.
I wasn’t in the band at that time, but there are some good songs on that record. I think it’s, for me there is a tough listen. Because I don’t like the mix on those records, I think the drum sound. John Tempesta did fucking awesome drumming on this album, but I think the drum sound like a detached part of the band. I don’t think they didn’t get the mix right. I think as a major label release and I can’t explain why those albums sounded different because I wasn’t there.
If you compare this new situation of the band to the era of the TEMPO OF THE DAMNED, that was kind of the second coming of Zetro and this is the third one, is there any different this time?
Yes. Because then I think TEMPO OF THE DAMNED, we were all like recovering drug addicts, all three faces of the band were. Those were tough times and like that album was, some of those songs were conceived and we worked really hard. I was like almost at the point of recovery, Gary had totally recovered from them back then. That’s why we named the album, TEMPO OF THE DAMNED. Because that’s the pace we were living our life at. We were doing tons of drugs and that album, Nuclear Blast signed us and we were a fucking mess. But we had a bunch of songs that we knew were good, and like we put the album on our friends credit card. Everybody believed in what we were doing and we were a kind of a mess. I didn’t get straightened out until like we started touring for that record. I recorded it pretty much sober, but not entirely. But the songs were strong and we probably worked harder on the songs.
However that album sounds still great and the promo video for “War Is My Sheppard” was really cool. If I remember right it was shot on a battleship….
On the hornet In Oakland. We had a lot of fun through that video.
AND THEN THERE WERE… A NEW MANAGEMENT
Nowadays you have Chuck Billy as a manager.
Really? He’s not your manager anymore since when?
It’s kind of a recent development.
Why did you split with Chuck and who’s managing you now?
I love Chuck and we are good friends. It would be stupid for us not to be friends with him, you know. I would say that we just have different styles to work. We didn’t want to work in the style that… It wasn’t just Chuck, it was with the rest of management. We have new management now. We have actually Julia and Robin Mason in the States. We wanted to like take it in a more boots on the ground direction, like people that are in the trenches with us everyday working. Honestly, Julie and Robin were doing most of the work anyway. Because everything was getting delegated to them to do. So we were like and we love them both as people. We want this to be easy for as long as we have left doing this and it was a good move. It’s already been working out perfectly. We are doing lot’s of European festivals on the summer. Why? Because we now have a European management? I think that was going to kind of perpetuate itself anyhow. The way it landed this summer is we’re doing a lot of festivals, the festival thing is going to buy anymore. Like we played at Hellfest last year and will not be playing it this year, but we didn’t do Metal Camp last year. So we’re playing it this year. That’s kind of how it works, it’s kind of every other year cycle. It just happens.
You’re not the first band to realize that it’s wise to have an European management. The state of music business in Europe is so much better for metal bands compared to the States, right?
That’s why we call it boots on the ground, because Julia’s boots are here on the ground. We work well together. We’ve been friends and worked together so many years, it’s healthy. I’m surprised we didn’t figure it out sooner.
There are 80’s bands like W.A.S.P. When they play shows in Europe they play for the audience sized between 500 – 1000 instead of US market where the attendance would be less than half of that. That makes no any sense.
Yeah. That’s just the state of things kind over there now.
Gary Holt is now on tour with Slayer and Kragen Lum from Heathen is replacing him on the tour. Lee Altus is also playing in Heathen so it must be sometimes difficult to make schedule’s to work without conflicts?
It’s not easy to tackle the schedules. As far as Gary is concerned, I totally support what he’s doing. He’s my brother, we’ve been jamming together since we were kids. I’m really happy for his opportunity for Slayer. Unfortunately we’re both in album cycles right now and we still have to be out there working too, and Kragen is like the perfect guy. He’s our bro and he shreds, he does it Gary Holt way and he adds his own flavor to it.
Gary has missed many Exodus tours since he started working with Slayer. What’s the biggest difference not having him on the tour with you?
I can’t really tell the difference on stage. I miss looking at his face, like when he comes back to the riser. But Kragen does that too. I think the fans like at first were kind of resistant to coming see us play with Kragen and then after they see us play they are like; wow! That guys sounds great. This whole barrier thing has kind of become incensed to us anyway, you’ve got Paul Bostaph play drums in Exodus and Testament and now he’s in Slayer; and Jack did a tour with Testament.The only one who hasn’t been a whore is me I guess, I’ve never done tours with any of those other bands.
A LESSON OF EXODUS
Speaking about who has played with whom and was asked to join in which bands, were you ever asked to join Testament?
No, they never asked me.
There was a funny speculation about who is going to be the new Megadeth drummer and you were one of the names which popped up then. It was last year and I think and you then commended; “Yeah, I could think about it”. Would you still do it if they ask?
Absolutely, if they needed me I would be there.
Would you play with Slayer if they have asked you to join after they split with Dave Lombardo?
Unfortunately my feet doesn’t go that fast, I’m more of a hands guy “Laughs”
We were just thinking that Exodus never ever played a show without not having any original members. Well we are not that sure so please tell us if there ever was one?
There is only one original member left, that’s me. I’m the only one left. I’ve been there from day one, but Gary is been there a very long time too.
But if we start counting from the BONDED BY BLOOD era. Did you ever play any shows without you and Gary both missing the action?
I don’t think so, I can’t say. I can’t say that we have. The line-up has changed a lot. We even brought Rick Hunolt back to our tour years back, I think he played at Tuska?
And at Sweden Rock. How did you manage to get him in the band temporary for a few weeks?
That was easy. We just asked him, we said; Hey, you want to go on tour? We need you, we’re going to do an old set of old music. You want to do it? He said, “Fuck yeah!”
By the way, what’s up with him nowadays ?
He’s doing good, he’s living in Northern California. He’s raising a family up there and he’s super happy, he’s drug free. I talk to him all the time.
Have you ever been thinking about bringing him back to the band in permanent basis?
I don’t think he wants to do it. I think he wants to stay close to home and be part of his family, be present. It’s not easy to have a family and be in the band at same time.
When you were absent from Exodus in early ’90s, you had several small project such as IR8 with Devin Townsed and Jason Newsted…
And we had Sexoturica when we did that.
What was the purpose of having this IR8 thing? Was it just having fun or something else?
Yeah, basically Jason called us all up and said; Hey, you want to come over. We will barbecue, we will drink beer and play this music. We went to his house, we wrote the shit on a Friday night. Recorded it on a Saturday and fixed any little flaps on a Sunday or whatever, we barbecued on that Sunday or whatever. That was that.
Where did you get the name for the band?
I don’t know where IR8 came from, but Sexoturica was because we had Andreas from Sepultura, Jason from Metallica and me from Exodus. So we called Sexoturica.
Did you have a fourth member in the Sexoturica?
In Sexoturica? No. There was another one, it never was released Quarteto de Pinga. That was Jason, Andreas, Rob Flynn and myself. I don’t think he ever put that one out, maybe someday it will come out.
Then you released the Split album with IR8 and Sexoturica?
IR8 was just a three piece, that was Devin, Jason and me.
Then you had briefly a band called Eye For An Eye?
Yes. I had a band called Eye for an Eye band for a while. Where I did the singing and we had Bobby Gustafson in guitar and John Torres on guitar and Brian Poole on bass. Then we had another guy playing bass for awhile and singing. But that didn’t really go anywhere, we only played one gig and it ended.
Didn’t you also play briefly with Organization, the band which had the former members of Death Angel?
Yes, you do your homework. It’s like one show and that was it with them.
Then there was a band called War Dance with vocalist John Miller. Didn’t you ask him to join Exodus at some point?
We did. He was actually in Exodus for one night. I know he stubbed himself. He was kind of a mess. He’s a great singer with all the potential in the world. But he had a few issues, but he sang on the War Dance demo. That’s kind of how we hooked up with Jack Gibson as we were jamming, and we originally had Mike Butler. The last bass player for Exodus and he’s such a slut, he’s in like six different bands. He never had time to come to practice and Jack actually came to practice with another friend, and he said; I could come and play bass. We were like; yeah, why don’t you come? Because this guy ain’t coming around. Then we got Jack on bass and we were like, that guy plays great. So that’s kind of how the Jack Gibson’s Exodus era came to be.
Jack recently played with Testament a couple of shows. It’s a small world “Laughs”
Yes. In Testament there was a cash barrier thing going on.
You mentioned in some latter interview that Exodus was the first band playing this type of music in the Bay Area and everybody wanted to be like Exodus in the early days.
It’s just true, we were the first ones.
You used to do a lot of gigs with Possessed.
Yes we did.
When you were really young guys hanging around in Bay Area, I think the influences for you mostly came from new wave of British heavy metal like Venom and Angel Witch. You worked briefly with Angel Witch in the 90’s, tell something more about that period?
I loved it. I was out of Exodus for a year and Kevin Heybourne called me up and said; You want to jam with me? I said fuck yes. Originally it was just a play on a three song demo and then we had some shows booked, and then he got kicked out of the country and haven’t seen him ever since.
But Angel Witch is still doing gigs here in Europe.
They did some gigs in Holland at Roadburn a few years ago and then they played here in Finland at Jalometalli Oulu.So Kevin is around, Angel Witch is still around.
Good. We covered “Angel of Death” on this album and I sang it. It was fun.
Would you like to have a new side project beside Exodus?
Me and Jack got a country side project called Coffin Hunter. It’s like hilly-billy bluegrass – chucker music.
Sounds like completely different with what you’re doing with Exodus?
The parallels are there, kind of drumming ways and everything. The drum gets really smaller, it’s fun. We don’t make any money out of it, but we just have a good time.
I used to do the tape trading back in the day. So I managed to get a lot of Exodus demo tapes. For example the demo ’82, something like that. There was a song called “Whipping Queen”. There was three songs if I remember it right.
The other tracks were “Death and Domination” and “Warlords”.
Do we still have those tapes still in good quality somewhere, those original ones?
That was the four track demo. So they never really was good quality. It was like live tapes. I think we did them in a small club in San Francisco, where they had like a studio set up and we just went in there. I had a piece of shit drum set and we just went in there and did it.
DIE BY MY HAND AND IMPALER
You did this anniversary thing for Paul Baloff a few years ago and then Kirk Hammett came in to play with you. It seems that there is still old brotherhood left in the Bay Area and you’re still in good terms with the Metallica guys.
Yes.Absolutely, I love those guys.
When RIDE THE LIGHTNING came out and you had the “Die By My Hand” song. They had to create a similar sound and the riff. Were you surprised to hear “Creeping Death” on the Metallica album back then? Or did you know that they were using “Die By My Hand” with?
I didn’t write the riff. I think maybe you’d have to ask Gary about that one, because I think he called up Kirk and said; hey, that was my riff. He was like; what? I thought I wrote it. They kind of joke about it now. Gary is like, find a dollar for every time I have to hear “Die By My Hand”
You released “Impaler” as a a bonus song for TEMPO OF THE DAMNED, but you didn’t have to pay any loyalties to Kirk Hammett?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t think he got paid anything, I think he’s got enough money “Laughs”
Was the reason to have the “Impaler” on the TEMPO album, because you were not allowed to use the “Crime of the Century” song?
Man, you do your homework.That’s right we do have a song called “Crime of the Century”. We just wanted to put “Impaler” on our album. You might hear it tonight.
Speaking about a little bit about current involvement with Slayer and of course with Exodus. Do you have plans to do some touring together in the future?
We have toured with Slayer and then Gary was doing a double duty. Yeah. We’re open to do that again I guess, it kind of comes down to Gary. Like being physically able to do War Dance, because I think Exodus is a pretty demanding physical job. To get on stage and do our thing and then to get on stage to do Slayer, it’s not easy. We’re open to do something like that.
What is the difference in the tour bus of Exodus and Slayer. I read Gary’s interview that he said that, as for Exodus tour bus there is always funny things, everybody is laughing. But as for Slayer everybody is very controlled and everyone goes separate ways after the show.
That’s probably true. We like to have fun. We don’t party like we used to, but we like to have a good time. We’re having a lot of fun with these kids in Lost Society.
Yeah, I was about to ask about that. Is it funny to see then the young kids playing thrash? When you’re seeing Lost Society do you see like…?
It’s like looking in the mirror at 20 or 30 years ago of myself, but I think we were more bad boys than they are “Laughs”. We were really bad boys when we were their age. But we were having fun, we were having fun together. It’s a really good bill actually, they’re great musicians and they’re a lot of fun too.
When you reunited with Paul Baloff and did that legendary comeback show in your home town. I remember having see video clips on the German music channel VIVA and if I remember you had plans to make official release of that. It never came out, because of a record label or something else.
I think we have a footage somewhere, maybe someday it will. But we have to do some editing and we have to like look through the shit and go through it again. I think some editing has to take place.
I remember that it was really intensive gig.
Yeah, it was fun. There is some great footage of it, because we did a six camera shoot.
Do you have plans for DVD release with Zetro? Because there is no official DVD release of Exodus with him fronting the band?
We want to do something live. We want to do it like a tout inclusive thing though, and like have a guy travel on tour with us. Like document everything and make it a couple of year process, like touring in South America again and have that footage there too.
Do you have any plans to re-record any of the stuff you released originally with Dukes?
No, I don’t think we need to revisit that like in a studio but Zetro sings some of the Rob era shit live.
We thank you for your time!
It was good questions, you guys fucking totally did your homework.
The official EXODUS sites :
LIVE PICTURES FROM HELSINKI 2016