Heart of Steel: Interviews

Guitarist of  EXODUS - GARY HOLT

Interview and pictures by
Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjälä

EXODUS – The Bay Area thrash metal pioneers stroke back with one hell of a bone-crushing comeback album titled TEMPO OF THE DAMNED and proved to be the most vital and energetic thrash combo on both the album and above all on the stage. These thrash metal legends literally caused a real ballistic reaction in the audience raging in a huge put through the whole gig at this year’s Swedenrock festival. Before the excellent gig the two Metal-Rules.com journalists had a great opportunity of meeting the band’s guitarist Gary Holt and have a loooong chat about various things. Here is the brief interview for all of you…

And note, this interview was done at Sweden Rock therefore there is a little bit outdated info on the vocalist issue. We all know now about Zetro's departure from the mighty Exodus.

Recently Dave Mustaine had a very funny statement.  You read that?

Gary Holt : Ah, yeah

He wants to tour with Exodus...

… And Death Angel and Testament

He told that there's some kind of fight or dispute between Exodus and Testament.

The funny thing is there's no fight or dispute between us and Testament, and we're fuckin best friends.  Well, and none of us, no one in the band has even spoken to Dave, our manager spoke to him for like 5 minutes.  And the only thing he ever said was we wouldn't open the show.  Ya know, cuz I mean I'm 40 years old, I do this cuz I love it. I'm not gonna go out, open  a show, play 30 minutes when there's people still comin in the door and there's no one there.  What's the purpose in that?  And then it got all blown out, ya know, I mean I love Dave.  I'm still not sold whether I'd do the tour even if I was in it.  I mean ya know it's like I'd have to see whether this thing will happen or whether, ya know,  it could fall apart.


But could it be possible to get out with Testament  and tour around the States and what not.

It's a possibility.  I'd love to do it. 


What do you think is, honestly, what's the situation with Dave.  Cuz on the other hand he says , "I'm doing the heaviest possible stuff and on the other hand he's making some religious stuff and based onto more religion, I think.

Yeah, I don't know, um...


I haven't spoken to Dave in years and years.  So I don't know where his head is. I know he's gone through his share of problems with drugs and stuff.  And I have, too, but I came out of it completely sober and fine, I dunno if he is.  I hope.  He's a genius, ya know.


Yeah he is, yesterday I spoke with Jimmy Degrasso I met him on backstage and he said, "Uh yeah, I haven't spoke with Dave in 3 years, and no one knows what he's going to do, but uh, he's going to tour and he doesn't have any band, he tried to get Nick Menza back in the band, and he never came.

And you know it's bad, the situation's bad, when you're this platinum metal band, and you can't get your former members to do it, and I'm talkin former members who're doing nothing now.  What's Nick Menza doing now?  Nothing.  You'd think he'd be like, "Yeah, I'm in!".  Back plan the big hauls and shit.  Yes!  You know there's gotta be some internal problems to turn that down


And Ellefson has some side project band and played...

He played on Soulfly's new album


A video and album, that's all as  I know

And he's workin at Peavey.  Peavey amps, as an artist rep.


Back to Dave Mustaine and his talk of a like Thrash of the Titans type tour, but in general is it possible to do an all Bay Area band tour ?

Possibly, it's something everybody wants to see so ya know maybe we will.


Even here in Europe, but also the states.

Yeah, if I did it I'd like do it everywhere.

Are there any favorite bands you'd like to have included ?

Other than the ones already mentioned?

Yeah, who would you like to bring on tour ?

Oh well I'd love to have, other than Testament and Anthrax and ya know old friends like that, Death Angel and I'd love to do a tour with Hypocrisy


Overkill, that'd be cool



I read in some interview that you had a drug problem, and during that time you didn't write any stuff.  After getting rid of the drug problem you got more inspiration to start writing more stuff.

Yeah, I mean well some of the stuff was already written, obviously "Impaler" which is 20 years old.  "Sealed With A Fist" and "Throwing Down" were songs from the band, Tom, Jack and I had called War Dance, and "War is My Shepard" I had pretty much had it done when I was still doing drugs, but once I got clean I was writing like fuckin song after song after song.  Writing fucking 3 songs of lyrics in a fuckin day. 


What happened to the song called Angary ?!

That's "Sealed With A Fist"


Really ?! It's the same track ? 

Yeah I just thought it was kinda silly havin a song about me.


I remember you played it at Wacken a few years ago and remembered it so... But anyway, why did you decide to pick up this "Impaler" and not "Deathrow" ?

Well, ya know, we originally recorded it as a bonus track, but as part of our agreement, our settlement with Century Media Records, we took a song off the record which is called "Crime of the Century".  And so we had to have something to fill its place, so that was the one.  And the old school fans always wanted to have a studio version of it anyway  

It was written by Kirk Hammett...


He never asked for any royalties?

Nah, I mean we'll pay him, not that he needs the money. (laughter)


Have you never shared any money with Kirk since he left the band and took some riffs from you ?

Well, those were his riffs.  Ya know.


You never shared anything else ?

Well, they took a few of the words of mine, the "Die by His Hand" thing, ya know, that was originally "Dying By My Hand" which was an old Exodus song.  I've had to watch 60,000 people chant that line over and over, (laughter) but whatever I don't give a fuck.  I bet if I got 1 penny off every album they'd owe me a lot of money. (laughter)


Maybe you should ask for some.

Nah, they can have it.  

But are you going to do "Deathrow" for the next album?

Um we did all the rhythm tracks for it but didn't do any of the lead guitar stuff or the vocals, but we'll probably finish it when we do the next album and just use it as a b-side or something for a single.


What about the Century Media track, "Crime of the Century"?

It'll see the light of day. 

It will?

It's super heavy, I fuckin love the song.

So I guess Nuclear Blast wasn't that pleased ?!

No Century Media wasn't, Nuclear Blast couldn't give a shit.


Alright, but "War Is My Shepard", it has been written on the internet quite a lot that this is a message against the war or something like that ?

Eh, it's not an anti-war song.  It's kinda the way I see our United States government which is very pro-god and pro-war which ya know, the two don't usually go hand in hand.  Whereas George Bush sits there and like fuckin preaches on and on about god and this, and god bless america and god this, god that, fuck god fuck fuck fuck....god fuck (laughter).  At the same time he's orderin up more missiles and shit all in the name of god and the good ol' USA.  They're super pro-religion, pro-evangelist, pro-fuckin invasion.

"Throwing Down" is from War Dance…



How many tracks did you record with War Dance?

We'd written quite a few, we wrote a 4 song demo.  


Can I get it?

Heh, I don't even know where my copy of it is.  It's on a DAT tape somewhere.  But I'm sure you can find it somewhere.


So "Throwing Down", but are you going to record more War Dance stuff ?

There's a couple of riffs that were floatin around that I might still use but ya know a lot of the stuff that's good but it's not Exodus type stuff. 

Like recycling maybe ?

Well some parts, parts of songs, stuff that were never finished War Dance songs, but nah I got tons of new riffs.  Next album's gonna be fast as fuck. 




You recorded a live album and but also recorded a live video from the comeback show.


But you never got that video finished.

We're gonna use a bunch of that on our DVD when we get that finished.

Ok, tell me about your upcoming DVD.

Well it's hopefully gonna be out at the end of the year. Basically just a history walk with the band with footage as old as we can find all the way up to the present.  The hard part is gonna be lookin through all the footage we've got cuz we've got stacks and stacks of tapes from dozens and dozens of shows.

Are you going to use the studio live session recorded at Studio 54 in 1985 !?

We're trying to get our hands on the entire filming of it.  Cuz they only used 3 songs, we'd like to put the other ones on there

I have them on my computer though, 4 songs.

Yeah, I'd like to get the other ones that aren't on it.

How many songs all in all ?

We probably played at least 8 songs, I guess.

And they were not on the real video release…


Are you going to film all the shows for the upcoming DVD ?!

Yeah, get some footage.

Are you going to use the old videos like "Toxic Waltz" and "Good Day to Die"?

Yeah possibly, mostly like live shit.  We've got a lot of comedy act shit, too.  Especially during the recording of this album, Tempo of the Damned, that's some funny shit.

Are there any plans to record a live album with the current line-up ?

Nah, I'm done with live albums for a while.

Heh, it's done. But speaking of the "Toxic Waltz" video there were a lot of familiar faces from the local scene on this video.

Oh well everyone was there that day.

Give me a couple of names

Demmel, Anthrax, Billy Milano, Heathen.  Everyone was there for that one.

Diving and jumping….

Yeah or watching the mayhem or us...Billy was fucking people up, though.

Speaking about your new videos. The German music channel Viva shows your "Throwing Down" there and it's on there every week.  It looks very simple, I guess it must have been shot at your rehearsal place ?

Yeah in our garbage dump, rehearsal room.

Very simple, and you didn't want to make a live thing like you did with Toxic Waltz ?!

No, no, no, we just got together in our studio and just started jammin for about fuckin 9 hours. (laughter)  One song

"War is my Shepard" is another one, that was completely shot on a battleship.

Yeah, yeah, the U.S.S. Hornet.  A retired aircraft carrier.    

And it cost a lot more?

Fuck no. One of my best friend's fathers is the director of events for the U.S.S. Hornet.  It's a floating museum, and you can actually rent it out for parties.  So we rented a battleship fo a full day for $750.  There are cars you can't rent for $750 a day. Go try rentin a Ferrari for $750. We rented about a million tons of aircraft carrier for that.

Did you get any airplay for it in the States ?  Because in Europe you can see the way people respond, but in the states how do people respond.

I don't know, you got Headbanger's Ball on MTV2 and fuck that.  Them fuckers just won't play it. 



But do you think that, that the internet is the reason why retail sales go down but on the other hand you can find the videos on the internet.  Do you think you can some kind of benefit from it ?

Well yeah, maybe, I mean people can view.  People have been watching them a long time on the Nuclear Blast site and stuff.  But as far as downloading records, there's nothing you can do about it.  It's a fact of life, it's never gonna go away.  No matter how hard they try to find some copy protection.  There'll always be someone who figures out, who's one step behind figuring out how to overcome it.

And odds are you can always record the stuff and burn it...

Yeah, yeah, burn it off the audio output instead of digitally.

Ok, I gotta confess, I downloaded your album from internet. BUT  I went and bought it later.

Well, ya know, a lot of people said when it's out we'll go out and buy it. And if the album totally sucks, the downloading would've killed it.  Because, ya know, before the album's released, if everyone who's already downloaded it says it's awful, who's gonna buy it?

Well it's very interesting that when I gave the mp3s of the new Exodus stuff to other people who have never heard Exodus before and they are metalheads and they go, "Whoa, this is great great stuff, who's this new band?"

Well that's good, cuz at our shows I'm seein more and more kids who definitely couldn't have been around during our last studio album, let alone Bonded By Blood.  You got a guy who's like 14 years old, well ya know Force of Habit came out in what, like 93?


So ya know, they weren't even old enough to listen to that one.

Maybe I'll throw, if you compare record sales to 80's sales they will never be the same.

No ...

For no one

No, no not even.  It took a lot of time but we've finally learned how to make money in this business.  I'm not gettin rich, but ya know for one, ya know, on Force of habit we spent a quarter of a million dollars recording it.  We recorded Tempo of the Damned, including Andy Sneap's fee for about like $40,000.  As compared to $250,000, and it's the best sounding album we've ever done, and you gotta give that to like the ProTools digital recording technology.  You don't need a fuckin $1000 a day studio. 

Force of Habit was the last album of the Exodus era in the first place.  When I listen to that it seems like soft stuff compared at that time when death metal came in.

Yeah, Well it's a metal album and I still think it's a great album, there's some great guitar playing on it.  Great riffs.

People were willing to get more aggressive stuff and more aggressive like Deicide, Morbid Angel, Death, and all that, and thrash metal was going away at that point.

It was, it was.

Maybe when Force of Habit came out the whole metal scene was going down cuz there were new things coming.

Yeah and the whole grunge thing coming up




Well after the tour with Impaled Nazarene, Steve left the band, why ?

He left because, ya know, the band was very unstable at the time with the drug use and all that. 

And you were seeking a new singer and did you try any other guys ?

Looked at a couple, but it wasn't what I wanted.

Did you try the WarDance singer, damn I don't remember his name now...

Yeah, John Miller.

Yeah right

Yeah John Miller's the most unstable person of all.  I love the guy and he's a super killer singer but he's awfully rocker.  

Y ou made some testing tapes because I came across an address where people can send tapes and...

And there were some real doozies, too.

Which was the weirdest tape you got ?

Some guy from Turkey.  Who sent this tape and he was just singing by himself and he was just saying (doing his best impression) "She tried to kill me, she tried to kill kill kill, she tried to kill me.  Sounded like a lounge singer.  "She tried to kill, kill, kill she tried to kill me".  I was laughin so fuckin hard never heard anything so funny in my entire life. 

Sounds like Idol, this Tv show thing..

Yeah, haha funny.

So there was no one from Finland? Or Anyone from Scandinavia ?

No, no, no. I dunno I didn't listen to many of them



Hey, back to Exodus.  Someone posted a message to the Tales From The Pit or the Exodus forum that Paul Baloff would have done an Exodus gig on his own without other real members ?

No Paul, uh Paul, before we got back together he tried to do an Exodus show on his own with a bunch of fuckin people jammin.

Using Exodus' name?

I told him it was the stupidest thing I ever heard.  Nobody bought it.

How many shows did he do anyway ?

Yeah I think he did one, or somethin... I didn't go

(all laughing)

In the late 70's that singer from Deep Purple did shows under the Deep Purple name.


The same kind of situation.




You toured with the Finnish band like Impaled Nazarene.  You definitely dig them?

Yeah definitely, it’s a fuckin riot.  

I read an interview in a Finnish magazine that, "Gary Holt came into our (Imapled Nazarene's) room and he had a lighter which had an Impaled Nazarene sticker.

Yeah, I still have it.

And you came to say that, "You fucking rule".  And all of them in Impaled Nazarene said, "Oh shit, we were supposed to say that, not him"


Nah, those guys are fucking awesome.  I haven't heard their new album yet,though. 

It's typical Impaled Nazarene stuff.

Yeah I gotta hear it.

And what about other Finnish bands,  do you know any other Finnish bands?

Children of Bodom

You like it?

Oh yeah, they're a really talented band.

You know Nightwish?

Yes, they just signed to Nuclear Blast actually.

Do you like that kind of Opera Metal stuff?

I like some of it, yeah.  I love Therion.  Therion's like one of my favorite bands.

Have you heard the new Nightwish one song.

No I haven't.

Do you listen to more extreme stuff or...

I listen to more extreme shit.


I love Hypocrisy, I love Peter.  Peter's one of my favorite people.  I love shit like that: Marduk, Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar. 

As for Finnish band do you know any others?

I dunno, Finntroll's from Finland aren't they?


They're fuckin, yeah I've heard a little bit of them, they're killer.  It's like polka black metal.  They're one of my girlfriend's favorite bands.  She loves em.

So Finntroll.  Any others?

No not that I know of.  There's probably some that I don't know they're from Finland.


Yeah, of course I know them.


Yeah I've heard of them, too.  I just didn't know they were Finnish bands.

And Stratovarius? Well You have to know Stratovarius.  They're crazy guys.

Yeah Timo, fuckin nuts.  (laughter) … Guy's off his rocker. I read some post he's goin off on the Cabalah and shit.  This Guy fuckin needs help, I'm sorry.

He's not teasing.

Yeah, and someone tried to kill him in Spain. To tell you the truth we played the Metal Mania festival in Spain last summer and they played and we had to share a bus ride to drop them off at the airport and he was so drunk everyone in our band was on the verge of fuckin cuttin his throat. 

(all laughing). He was just rippin the curtain's down, spittin and this is for like four hours.  Just sittin there (doing his best Timo Impression) "AAAUUGH YOU WANT TO MARRY ME!" and shit..

(All laughing)..  And we were on the verge of just fuckin beatin the fuck out of that dude.  I'm sorry, and I don't care if he reads this.  We were on the verge of killin him.  I mean I'm sure he mightbe a nice guy when he ain't got so much liquor in him. But I saw a picture of him from the last Metal Mania show of his keyboardist pissin on his leg. Which shows you what his own band thinks of the guy.

And he was sent to a mental hospital for a while.  He was locked up…

If that ride would've been one hour longer it wouldn't have been a mental hospital he would've had to have gone to. We would've fuckin killed him. We would've been kickin him up under his ribs  Just wastin that dude.

He even kicked out all of his band and hired a woman vocalist. Yeah she's the new singer, and they've done nothing but a couple of  press things.  And then the keyboard player sent in the mail, "Yeah I just came to Helsinki, yeah and we're making new songs.  There is no animosity there.  I'm making the keyboards, um maybe Jorg Michael is coming in. He has been kicked out of the band but we're making new songs.  What's going to happen, who knows.  We'll see over a drink”. Laughter

I dunno,  the guy needs help. 

So You're going to Finland?

Yes we're playing at the Provinssi Rock Festival

That’s in the next week

 It should be good, we've never been there.

It's really in the middle of nothing.  400 km to the north from Helsinki.  Definitely in the middle of forests

That should be cool.

Then you have David Bowie with you...

Yeah but I love David Bowie.  If I can just meet him and shake his hand I'll be happy.

It's a mainstream rock festival

Yeah, Linkin Park's playing

No, no, not this year, they used to be here, one or two years ago.

I heard they were playin this year, no?

Slayer played a couple of years ago there with Dream Theater and Rammstein.  This year it's David Bowie...who else..  Hypocrisy of course..

Yeah they're playin right before us

Lots of teens

Nothin wrong with that.  

But when Slayer played there was huge pits and the Misfits played 5 or 6 years ago and Danzig played there.  You will see a lot of drunk people, you will remember it for the rest of your life.

Heh, good, good, good.

You take a bus drive for about 5 or 6 hours to the middle of no where to a huge arena with drunk Finnish people lying all over.

Haha, good.

I remember one year when the light man for Slayer came over and said, "I have never seen so many people passed out on the ground before. It's a Finnish tradition.

Haha, good good I can't wait to see it.




All right I don't want to ask anything about the death of Paul Baloff, but did you hear about the death of Swedish Black metal legend Quorthon?

Yes I did.  Yeah, I'm dedicating tonight's show to him. 

 You will ?

Yes, absolutely. It's quite a shock. 39 years old and heart failure.

It has been a very hard time during these last three years Chuck Schuldiner, and your singer, Quorthon and the guitarist of  Finntroll and Impaled Nazarene.

Yeah, yeah indeed

There have been a lot of accidents in a short period

Yeah, it's a drag, and the world never got to see Bathory play live. 

That guy from Finntroll, did you hear how he died?


He was walking on a bridge and fell down the ice, 6 meters.

No way, he's the one, see, cuz how did the guitar player for Impaled Nazarene die?

The Same guy…

Oh !!

He was playing in both bands.

Oh ok, I was gonna say I heard he was the one who fell off the bridge

Yep, that's him.  It has been said it was an accident but in the latest Metal Maniacs magazine the Impaled Nazarene vocalist told that it would have been suicide. He fell down 6 meters (?) down the ice, and his neck went (makes crunch noise).




Which one would you choose, Kerry or Bush?

Oh Kerry, I mean they're all dirty crooks, all politicians.  But at least he wasn't a coward.  He fought in Vietnam whereas George W. Bush Jr. was a draft dodger. 

Does it bother you that GWB is using Ronald Reagan as some kind of way to get more support from people ?

Nah, I've been away from home.  I just found out the other day that Ronald died.  And so I haven't seen any news or anything.

Magazines and newspapers are just now writing that Bush is using Reagan as a new way...

A campaign play or something

Well you can even find his own picture from Bush’s website



That's fuckin dirty, that's dirty.  Using a fuckin dead man's fuckin name to further your own cause.




You know a dude called Tharsh from TalesFromThePit forum ?!

Tharsh ?

Yeah Tharsh

We call him Tharsh cuz the first time he posted on the forum he misspelled thrash.  He was like talkin about tharsh metal.  Never met the guy but I love him, never seen Exodus and knows more about the band than anybody.

He's a very funny guy actually.  He once emailed me some years ago and asked about Exodus demo tapes which I have some in my collection …

Yeah he's got it all that guy.

I think that's enough and we may have asked more than enough, so thank you very much.

Thank you guys.