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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews


Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview with Dave Lombardo of Slayer From 2009
Wow, OK! That's a blast from the past!
MSJ: One of the first records I ever got by mail order was Show No Mercy and I got that from the old Record Vault in San Francisco. Looking back at those days, did it seem like a lifetime ago or was it only yesterday?
Both. Some times I think, man, that was a long a** time ago. Then other times I think, it was just the other day!
MSJ: It had to be one of the most exciting times of your career, because you were coming up with a whole new sound that hadn't been done before.
We didn't even really have a name for it at the time. We didn't even really know we were on to something. The press didn't start asking us those kind of questions until Reign In Blood. At the time, you're just going with your heart and working hard and pushing forward. At that time, it wasn't even hard work. We were just being ourselves!
MSJ: Now there are actually second generation Slayer fans and before too long, there may even be third generation fans. How does that make you feel?
My friend, you're talking to the Charlie Watts of heavy metal! (laughter) I think it's great - longevity, man!  That's a sweet thing. The last thing you want to be is one of these shooting stars that made one record people hit wonders.  You never heard anything from them again.
MSJ: You don't want to be the metal equivalent of Right Said Fred...
See, I don't know who that is, I must have missed them. I don't want to be them, no. 
MSJ: Even in the late 80's, did you think that you'd still be going so strong in 2009?
No way, that was never a thought.  I was the youngest guy in the band when it started, like 17 or 18. Tom was already in college.  I got together with Slayer when I was in the 11th grade and my parents were saying, "you gotta get a job! A rock band isn't gonna lead you anywhere!"  Then I'm 20, 21 years old after my third or fourth record with the band  and they're saying "you still gotta get a job, that band isn't gonna last too long!" (chuckles)  Then I got to 30 and they asked, "what are you going to do when you're 40? You'll need a job!"  And here I am! (laughter) The years are just ticking by! This band is my life, it's not going away!
MSJ: There are only a handful of metal bands, especially on the more extreme side, that can actually make their living from their music. Slayer is certainly one of those and that's got to be a great feeling.  You're pretty much top of the food chain in your genre.
Yeah, we are.
MSJ: I've heard some cuts from the new record World Painted Blood and it sounds really phenomenal.
Yeah? What songs did you hear?
MSJ: I heard "Psychopathy Red"  and "Beauty Through Order".  I could tell on your last album Christ Illusion that there was a lot of fire coming back into the band. Now it sounds like World Painted Blood is even more so. What was it that injected this new level of passion for the music?
You know, I think it's the passion that we create on stage. The love of playing, the magic that’s on stage between all the performances...the drumming, the guitar playing, Tom on vocals....there's a kind of invisible square connecting us four.  We feed off each other. Kerry's jamming drives me to another level of intensity on the drums.  Jeff's leads drive Tom on the vocals. There's another level of excitement on stage. I think that's what creates the enthusiasm to create more songs and get another record out. We feel very much on top of our game, we feel almost unstoppable...and we are! We have come up with a new record in the least amount of time ever between Slayer records. 
MSJ: There have been times in the past where it's taken a while...
This time, it was absolutely fluid. The energy, the ideas, the enthusiasm of the musicians's a lot of fun. I think we have captured that better than ever on the new record.
MSJ: "Psychopathy Red" is a classic Slayer song in the vein of "Angel of Death" or "War Ensemble". 
Yup, absolutely.
MSJ: You worked with a new producer, Greg Fidelman. How did he push you on this record differently than you've been pushed before? Did he get you out of your comfort zone...or did he put you into it?
What he did was bring out the best of us musically. Now I can only speak for myself, but let me try to describe how he worked with me. Let's say I play a particular drumbeat on the record. Now I can make four or five variations of that same drumbeat. Greg would sit there and listen and sift through my brain to find the best possible matching beat for the song. Then we'd discuss, should I hit the crash cymbal, should I hit the high hat or should I go to the ride? We would fine tune things and go through a bunch of ideas. Other producers wouldn't give me the kind of ideas and feedback that Greg does. I think that's the magic of a good producer. A good producer will make you sound good in a studio and great afterwards. He will give you lessons or different ways to approach yourself. Those ideas and tools will last you forever, so you become a better musician. 
MSJ: He just didn't produce the optimum record; he helped to create the optimum band.
Absolutely!  What Rick Rubin used to do for us back in the Reign In Blood and South of Heaven days, Greg did for us on this album. And you can totally tell! Of all the things I loved about his work, I love that he kept the purity of my drums. I love my drums to be resonant, warm, real...not this bulls*** clicky, computer generated drumming from guys who think they are great and then when you put them on stage at a live show, they can't pull it off. Greg really, really captured the drums how I like them and kept them that way. He didn't make them sound different at the end of the day. That's not cool, I don't like that.
MSJ: "Beauty Through Order" is not a typical Slayer song title. What is that track about?
It was inspired a trip we took to Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia...the Eastern part of Europe, where this infamous countess used to live. Me and the other guys visited this countess' old castle...
MSJ: Elizabeth Bathory?
That's her!  She, of course, would capture virgins and drain them of their blood and then she would bathe in it. It's a true story.  She was almost like a Vlad The Impaler, the modern day Dracula.  She was one of the most infamous murderers of that era. That's what the song is about.
Yeah, absolutely, but I think this time we captured the story in a really, really nice way.
MSJ: It must have been pretty cool to see some of those historical sites!  When you first started playing this kind of music and blazed the trail, could you have imagined that heavy metal would mutate into forms like Norwegian black metal and ultra-technical death metal. Did you ever think, “what have we unleashed?”
Yeah. I think about some of the crap that's come after us. Did we give birth to that? (chuckles)
MSJ: People are always driven to one up the last guy...
Yeah and what people don't realize is that they are making fools out of themselves. 
MSJ: You're going out on the Rockstar Mayhem tour and you're now playing with some bands that stretch boundaries, like Job For A Cowboy or Behemoth. Are you amazed at the skill of these bands or is it something you don't take much notice of?
First of all, those bands are playing on another stage. By the time I get to the venue, all those bands are off. The only bands I really see are the ones on the main stage. But I think they're all great. All the bands that we've come across on this tour are very, very cool. 
MSJ: Throughout the years, has your drumming style changed or has it remained basically the same?
Well, I just listened to our song "Expendable Youth" not long ago and I thought, "damn, I sucked!" (chuckles)  I listen now and I think I could have done so much better. We should re-record all that s***! But you learn to appreciate it for what it was. To answer the question, yes, my drumming has improved. After I left Slayer for a while, I had the chance to work with Grip Inc., Apocalyptica and some jazz/avant garde artists like Bill Laswell, John Zorn. I've learned so much ...the ten years I was away from Slayer were like my formative years!
MSJ: You incorporated more than just the metal style into your drums due to that...
MSJ: Nobody gets younger. Is your endurance holding up?
Oh, it's better now! Wait until you guys see me! Hands down, you guys will God, this f***** is brutal! Like they say back home in South L.A.,...that s***'s off the chain! (laughter) I think we've went harder and more brutal than we ever have on World Painted Blood.
MSJ: One record that hangs over the Slayer legacy is Reign In Blood. So much talk revolves around that album. Do you find that to be kind of a burden at times?
Absolutely not. We're one of the luckiest bands in the world. We have a definitive metal record that everything else is measured against. At least, that's what I've heard.
MSJ: Most people describe it as the thrash metal record.
I think it belongs in that book 1000 Albums To Listen To Before You Die.  You have to listen to it at least once. It takes only 28 minutes of your life!
MSJ: Did you ever feel the pressure of trying to put out something that's better than Reign In Blood?
No. We could never do that. You never plan on doing something like that.  You're just asking for a big slip and a fall on the face. It was a time, an era and a place that was unique. You can't make something like that happen again.
MSJ: I haven't seen any artwork for World Painted Blood. Will it be in the vein of your recent covers or is it going to take a different tack?
It's gonna take a different tack, yeah. It's going in a whole different direction.  I'm not 100% sure what that direction is, but I know we're not using the same guy that we've used prior. 
MSJ: Did you just feel like it was time for a change?
No, it's mostly a matter of timing. The guy who did the previous cover wasn't available or maybe wasn't coming up with something fast enough. But I could be wrong.
MSJ: You've been the one member of Slayer who dabbles in other projects outside of the band. Are you still involved with Mike Patton?
No, but that door has never completely shut. Me and Mike will work together in the future, I believe, if schedules permit. He's great, I love his music, all of the stuff that we've done. There's always a chance. Right now, I'm focusing on trying to find a band that I could share my production experience with. Going to the studio with them and working with them in the same way producers have worked with me. I want to take my knowledge and apply it to bands that are up and coming.
MSJ: You want to help create the next generation...
Yeah, exactly.
MSJ: One band that was a special project of yours was Grip Inc. When you look back at that now, are you satisfied with how it turned out?
Yes. Now everybody looks back and says we were ahead of our time. Those songs and that music...people weren't ready for that then. When I came out with that in 1995, it was the peak of the Korn style and the grunge thing. The world was not really ready for our style of metal at that time. There was no interest in it then. Now looking back, people can see, man, that was some heavy stuff!
MSJ: I thought the song "Ostracised" was one of the catchiest tunes I've ever heard. (Dave begins humming the riff) How that didn't get pushed is beyond me. But 1995 was a terrible year for heavy metal. 
No doubt about it.
MSJ: Is there any frontier left for you to conquer?
Ummmm....I think in time I would like to get into different kinds of percussion. Instead of just the standard drum kit, maybe experiment with stuff like bells, whistles, chimes, etc. I did that a little bit with Fantomas, I went deeper into the Latin and jazz sides of things.  The congas, bongos and hand percussion. But that's way in the future.
MSJ: When all's said and done, what would you say the legacy of Slayer is?
Our legacy? I'd say that album, Reign In Blood! That sums up everything in 28 minutes.  That is us, that is Slayer.
MSJ: What was the last CD or record you got just because you wanted to check it out yourself.
A band called “Jucifer”. They're from Atlanta...a girl singer playing with her husband. They have this really heavy sound and yet she has this really soft voice. Although, she can growl and scream. She's got some bite in her! Man, she is absolutely amazing. For me, right now, Jucifer is on the top of my list.
MSJ: I got their last album, which was all about the French Revolution.
Oh, the one with Marie Antoinette on the cover! 
MSJ: Yeah, they were all over the place on that one. Like listening to five or six bands at once!
Right. You have to listen to this album called "I Name You Destroyer". It's got a white cover and it is really good. I also bought Sly and the Family Stone. I can imagine the average metal fan going "what?" I think metal fans would be surprised not at what I like, but what I don't like. Another CD I recently got was by Richard G...lounge music! It was called "Lounge Against the Machine"! (laughter)
MSJ: "Lounge Against the Machine"...I heard a lounge version of Cannibal Corpse one time!
My enjoyment of music really varies. I'm the DJ on the tour bus...DJ Dave! I play a pretty wide array of music.
MSJ: What was the last live show you checked out?
Last night...Marilyn Manson!
MSJ: In the long history of Slayer, there has to be a Spinal Tap moment where things went really haywire. Are there any of those you want to share with our readers?
Our very first time in Europe, we had all our gear in our van and were ready to go. There were just six of us in the whole crew then and we were supposed to have this guy drive us. We're on our first European tour! We've got all our amps, got all our gear! Cool, we're gonna hit England first! And then the driver pulls over. Hey, where are you going? "I'm getting out," he says. "This is where I live." Hey, wait a minute! Aren't you driving?! "No, I'm not," he says. You mean we have to do all the driving? "Yeah!" he says.  So one of us had to jump in the front seat and start driving. Whether it was me or the T-shirt salesman, I don't know. The T-shirt guy was Phil Goodman, who's the tour manager for Green Day now. So we wind up driving our own van through England! For a bunch of kids being in a car where the steering wheel is on the opposite side and on a road where you have to drive on the opposite was like, oh my God, which way do we go?
MSJ: And the signs probably don't make much sense...
No, not at all! We had to drive all through Europe this way. That was quite an experience!
MSJ: Any last words or messages for the Slayer maniacs?
I just want to say, thank you for being there, thank you for being so supportive. I hope to give you guys many, many, many more years of brutal music!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
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