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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews


Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview with Gary Holt of Exodus - January 2008
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at

How was your recent trip to South America?
It was pretty insane! It's always good when we play down there. All but one time when we've been there, we've worked with the same guy who's been one of my best friends for well over 20 years. We get treated extremely well and the fans down there are some of the best in the world. They tend to go a little bit over the top.
MSJ: Are they a lot more intense than fans here in the States?
You know, they are intense in different ways! The South American fans, like a lot of the European fans, tend to sing a lot. They even sing along to the riffs! The American fans tend to be the most violent, as far as the pits go. They do have some pretty insane ones down there that are on a par with the best ones up here. They are really vocal!
MSJ: My publicist prompted me to ask you about all the hair pulling down there?
I don't know how that happened! Two of the shows we did in Santiago, Chile and one in Bogota, Colombia...the floor was just littered with hair! I mean, huge amounts of hair! It was pretty crazy. I don't know what was going on there! (chuckles)
MSJ: You've been a lot of places in your long career. Is there anywhere you haven't played yet that you'd like to?
I haven't been to Russia yet, but we're working on that. Probably sometime next spring we might be making our way over there. But you know, I haven't been to Hawaii yet - neither on vacation or on a tour. I'd like to tie the two together. I'd like to track down Dog the Bounty Hunter there!(laughter) Get him to cut that f***in' mullet!
MSJ: That's kind of his trademark...
Yeah, I guess it is. It wouldn't be Dog without that bad mullet and that sun-damaged skin...
MSJ: He always reminded me of Diamond Dallas Page!
Kinda, yeah, although the funny thing is, despite all this toughness, the guy is about five foot seven inches tall...(chuckles) He's a little guy!
MSJ: Kinda like Stallone! Now that you've been back out on tour with him, what's it like having former drummer Tom Hunting behind the kit again?
You're talking about somebody who's been one of my best friends since I've been 16 or 17 years old, you know. It's awesome. Up until him leaving the band for the first time in 1989, I had never even played with another drummer! He was the first drummer I played with. It's very unusual to play for that long without having another drummer come along. It's like getting laid for the first time and never seeing another chick for years and years! (laughter) There's this musical language that he and I speak. It's always his drumming that I hear, you know?

Was the South American tour his first time back? That would be a real trial by fire, if it was.

No, he had done a few California dates before that. The big issue with Tom, other than being apart from the band for a while, was just coming to terms with his anxiety and its symptoms. He had to realize that that was the cause of what he's going through and not some underlying medical emergency. Once he turned that corner, he could talk himself through any episodes he had, because he knew it wasn't a heart attack. He was just having a little panic attack and he had to take a deep breath. He's been absolutely perfect so far.


You're pretty confident that he will be with you right up until the end of Exodus?

I certainly hope so. I'm not the Grand Vizier who's gonna shake the eye and see the future (chuckles) but I can't see him leaving because it's awesome having him back!

MSJ: Atrocity Exhibition is the second album you've worked with Lee Altus on guitars. How has the chemistry changed from Shovel Headed Kill Machine?
Well, the chemistry has always been there between Lee and I even when we haven't played together because he's been my friend since the days Kirk Hammett was in Exodus. I knew Lee even before I knew Rick (Hunolt, former Exodus guitarist) and the guys Rick replaced! He's been a close friend forever. But having him in the band for two years changes everything for the better. It’s totally awesome and I wouldn't have it any other way.
MSJ: I think of Lee being in Heathen and Heathen was a more progressive thrash band while Exodus is more straight brutality. Is Exodus strictly his gig now or does he have anything else going on?
He still does the occasional Heathen thing when he has time and he's totally welcome to do that. A lot of fans are calling for him to do a new Heathen album and I'm all for it, I think it's great, but he is Exodus full-time.
MSJ: Another fellow who has improved greatly between the last two albums is Rob Dukes, your vocalist. His vocal performance on the new one is one of the most hateful and venomous that I've ever heard. How does he keep that intensity without burning himself out?

You know, Rob's just a maniac. (laughs) He's just insane. A lot of people have commented on how much better he is now than on Shovel Headed... and I have to remind them that Shovel Headed..  was the sound of a guy who had only been singing in his life for about four months. He came in and killed it. Now he's got a couple hundred shows under his belt and the confidence is there. He knows what he wants and he knows how to go about getting it now. Rob's this wild animal, especially live, and I can't control him! There are times when I want to, when he says something crazy and I'll go "You can't say s*** like that!!" but at the same time, I don't want to control him at all. I'd rather have a few moments where he goes over the top than restrain him. I want him to be a madman.

MSJ: It's a fine line...

He's so intense.  I don't see another frontman out there who can touch the guy, you know?

MSJ: When he's off the stage and out of the Exodus spotlight, is he a pussycat or is he still crazy?
Ah, he's a sarcastic smart ass New Yorker! (laughter) No different from all the other ones!
MSJ: On the new CD, the title track is one of your longest songs ever. I'm not sure if it was longer than "Architects of Pain" from "Force of Habit"...
It was about a minute shorter. If I had known that I was that close to setting a personal standard, I would have added more to it!(chuckles)
MSJ: Was it intimidating coming up with a monster track like that? What was the writing process like for it?
No, it's not intimidating! When I started writing it, I asked the other guys to trust me. I told them when all the parts come together, all the vocals and the solos come together, you'll see what I'm aiming for here. It probably did not make a whole lot of sense at first and they didn't see where I was going...I just gave them the riffs. But once they got the vocals and solos, then it clicked. You know, I never intended for it to be that long. I don't put a stopwatch on my s***, you know? It's done when it's done...
MSJ: It kind of writes itself...
Yeah, exactly! We didn't know how long it was until we actually recorded it. We didn't time anything; we didn't put any restrictions on what we were doing. When we were in the studio, we looked at the computer monitor which gave the track time length and we were kind of blown away by it. But in a good way, because I didn't think it was that epic. It's kind of a Wagnerian thrash epic! (chuckles)
MSJ: Is writing songs smoother now than when Rick was in the band?
No, it's the same, because I wrote most of it anyway. When you look at the credits of the albums, they all say "Songs written by Exodus" but sometimes, you do things to keep the peace, so to speak. Somebody will say "I didn't get a credit.”The bottom line is, I write 95% of everything Exodus has ever done. Once in a while, things are a bit different but the process is usually the same. I start with this piece of s*** four-track I have and just crank out some riffs.
MSJ: Do you keep up with some of the newer thrash bands coming out? It looks like the scene is exploding again.
Yeah! I'm a big fan of these younger bands that are coming out. A lot of them have played with us and they are very, very old school thrash. Fueled by Fire, Warbringer, Evile and even the band Bonded by Blood, which I take their name as a huge compliment to us. Yeah, I think they're all awesome and super fun to watch. And I think that they are so young that given a couple of years, they'll start to stray from being so retro and put their own stamp on things.
MSJ: Right now it's fun to do that old school stuff but at some point, you can't just nick riffs from bands that are 20 years old.
Yeah, I don't see that they are stealing anything. I think it is more like paying homage. But a couple of albums in, they'll start developing their own style and adding some new twists of their own. These new kids even dress the way we did in 1985, I think it's so cute! (laughs) When I run into them, I ask 'em, where do you buy your tennis shoes, because they're 1985 Nikes. They must be EBaying that stuff...
MSJ: What do you think the secret is to thrash's long-lasting appeal?
I think the aggression and intensity and then there's a certain element of fun to it. I think some of the nu-metal and Swedish metal bands kinda tapped into that and transmitted it to the fans. Bands like  The Haunted were inspired by Exodus and Testament and then got their fans into thrash..
MSJ: I think it has the aggression of old punk rock but there's a lot more room to do musical stuff with it.
Yeah, that's the way it always was to me. I just took my love of Discharge and added in a heaping dose of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

You've got one song on the new disc, "Children of a Worthless God,” which is very anti-Islamic in a way. Have you gotten any flack over that yet?

No flack at all. Right now, we're at a point where what flack is somebody going to give me? Christianity has long been a favorite whipping boy of heavy metal but why does radical Islam get a free pass? People are afraid to draw cartoons of Mohammed because they will get death threats but in the same breath, a lot of the radical Muslims want to protest loudly that they are not a violent religion. Look at this poor lady in Sudan whose only crime is trying to educate these children and the children named their Teddy Bear "Mohammed" and now people are protesting in the streets and trying to kill her! The only thing she's guilty of is a cultural faux pas, you know.

MSJ: Even worse than that is the case where a rape victim gets sentenced to 200 lashes. To me, that's a culture that has to be fought.
I have a 12 foot long python and the next rabbit I feed it; I'm going to name "Mohammed.” (chuckles) I don't pigeonhole everybody, not all Muslims are suicide bombers, of course.
MSJ: I keep hearing about ones that are moderate or not approving of violence. Well, they certainly don't seem to have any power or influence over the ones that are violent.
Oh no, There are crazy Christians that go on murderous rampages; they come in all shapes and colors. But I'm sure somebody will say to us, "How dare you speak badly of Islam?"  Well, you know...f*** you!(laughs) Why is it OK for me to slag Christianity as long and as hard as I want but if I say something bad about you, watch out? If you had faith in your religion, you wouldn't be scared by one song!
MSJ: The lyrical tone on your albums is generally pretty bleak. Do you have any hope that things will work out or is the human race pretty much on its last legs?

I'd say it's pretty much on its last legs but in the scheme of space and time, the last days are gonna be a long time coming. It's not like the end of the human race is coming in 10 years. As a species, we are pretty self-destructive. We are the only animal that destroys its own habitat.

MSJ: I think it's gonna be a lot sooner than people think.
Well, you look at a dolphin. The only destruction it does to its habitat is it s***s where it lives, you know. But the ocean is an awfully large house. We do a lot more damage to its home than it does. Looking at humanity, as a race, we do not know how to get along, we do not know how to leave each other alone, we do not know how to tolerate difference.
MSJ: We invent conflicts. We invent things to keep us divided. Well, as Monty Python might say, enough of this gay banter! (laughter) Earlier this year I talked to Chuck Billy and he said hopes were high that there might be an Exodus, Testament and Death Angel tour in 2008.
I'm hoping it will happen! I've talked to Chuck about it. One thing that's common in this music business is that friends and fans will speak to each other about these great grand ideas and they never seem to leave the ground. We've all talked about and want to do it, but we've got to set some action behind it. I want to do it, Chuck wants to do it, Death Angel wants to do it. Let's get our camps together and have a marshmallow roast! (laughter)
MSJ: Well, you're all on the same label now!
Yeah, I'd think the label would certainly want it to happen, too!
MSJ: The new CD is subtitled “Exhibit A". Do you have Exhibit B already mapped out?

We have four songs recorded already, that we did concurrently with Exhibit A. We decided which songs to use on Exhibit A, which to hold back took a lot of debating. The ones we've held back on are incredible, some of the best of the bunch. We hope to get back in the studio early next year to continue recording. We'll probably do it in pieces, in between tours. We'll be touring most of next year because of Exhibit A so we'll be forced to do it in that manner.

MSJ: Will you still be working with producer Andy Sneap?
Ah, of course! He's the sixth member of Exodus, you know.
MSJ: What was the last CD you picked up just because you wanted to?
Everything But the Girl...the CD is called "Missing". One of my favorite bands in the world. (chuckles)
MSJ: Really?

Yeah, I don't listen to too much metal. I did get the latest Arch Enemy which has my good friend Michael Amott in it. Because of him, I'm contemplating retirement, because he's just way too good!

MSJ: Arch Enemy would be a really good band for you to hook up with.
Oh yeah. It might happen sometime in the future. Michael's a really good guy and we had a great time when we went out before.
MSJ: What was the last concert or gig you checked out because you wanted to?
A couple of months ago, I went to see Finntroll because those guys are pretty incredible. But then I took my daughter and her best friend to see Fall Out Boy...

For each moment of pleasure, there must be an equal moment of pain.

Ah, I thought they were great!

The crowd had to be different from Exodus, though?

They were just a couple of years removed from The Wiggles!(laughter) The average age was 13. My daughter was 15; she was one of the older kids there.  They were quite good and super tight. The opening bands were really f***in' abysmal but it was a great production and I enjoyed myself a lot. I got "Father of the Year" award for at least a week! (laughter)
MSJ: In the long career of Exodus, what was your most memorable Spinal Tap moment?

We played a place in Rhode Island once where we got lost trying to get to the stage under the venue. We actually could not find the damn stage.

MSJ: How did it turn out?
Oh, it was fine. We weren't screwed up that we actually missed the show. We were about 10 minutes late and did our best Spinal Tap impersonations.

Did you yell "hello, Cleveland?”

Yes we did!
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