SLAYER’S DAVE LOMBARDO: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
If Horatio Alger were alive today, he’d be tempted to write about Slayer. Defying logic, popular fads and the moral majority, the band is an American thrash-to-riches story, having not just survived, but thrived on a regimen of non-compromise. Future musicologists will no doubt struggle to explain how four guys from Huntington Park forced Reign in Blood down the world’s collective throat, then went on to sell millions of records, win two Grammys, and amass a huge, rabid fanbase. And does any other band have a holiday dedicated to them?
As the curtain closes on their third decade in the music business, Slayer’s Dave Lombardo was good enough to shoot the proverbial shit with MetalSucks when the American Carnage Tour stopped in St. Paul, MN. Read the full transcript of our chat after the jump.
Crowds reacting favorably?
Everything’s been great. Crowds have been great. The band’s been great. I mean, in Slayer, we all get along with each other. Everyone gets along with us. No problems, no drama, no arguments or spats. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
Walking over here tonight, I saw a lot of families. You know, I saw a lot of older fans, but a lot seemed to have their kids in tow.
Have you noticed a large age range at shows?
Yeah, we have noticed that. We noticed that I think about a year-and-a-half ago. It’s the parent with their kids. And then the young kids, you know, 16-20. And then the 20-30 year-olds. So, you got a good range. And we’re starting to get girls, too.
Did you ever expect, when you started this band, that it would be something to bring generations together?
No. No. I was able to see myself still doing something in music for this long, but for Slayer to last this long? No. And to have made such a big impact, nah, never?
How are fans reacting to the World Painted Blood tunes live?
They’re loving it. As far as I know everybody likes it. They like the sound, you know, it goes back to the old thrash style. I don’t think we’ve had a single bad review.
Sales been good?
As good as any other metal album these days. Everybody downloads things for free. No one likes to buy CDs or albums.
I just read that last week was the second worst week for album sales since SoundScan started.
Really? I mean, I believe it.
So, when you started working on World Painted Blood, how many songs did you come into the studio with?
So Slayer’s not a band coming into the studio with thirty songs and whittling down?
No, we had five songs, and we had to come up with another six.
So we’re never going to see a Slayer box set of 100 unreleased tunes?
You’re playing Seasons in the Abyss in its entirety now. Why that record?
Promoters were requesting something different, because we canceled two or three times because of Tom’s injury. They wanted something to keep the interest high. Keep fans coming back for both bands. So Megadeth decided on Rust in Peace, and we chose Seasons.
How do you feel about Seasons?
It’s kinda mid-tempo. It starts with “War Ensemble” and “Blood Red,” it’s just very a mid-tempo record, with bursts of speed in there, “Sprit in Black” and “Hallowed Point” in there. But it’s got “Dead Skin Mask” and “Seasons in the Abyss” and “Expendable Youth.” All of those are very slow, at least for me.
Twenty years after you put a record out, you find yourself playing it every night. Do you start questioning why you did certain things? Is there a temptation to change things?
Not really change things. I’m happy where the transitions are, but maybe the complexity, It was too simple when I recorded it. Very primitive. My playing I feel was very primitive at that time. Now it’s developed to where when I play Seasons live, I add to it. I don’t change things, but I add a little.
World Painted Blood is almost a year old. Are you playing with new sounds during sound checks?
That’s really not something we focus on on the road, but I do hear Jeff fiddling with new ideas. Little riffs. You know, “What is that?”, and he goes, “I don’t know yet.”
When this tour ends, is it right back into the studio?
Oh, it just ends in the states. We’re doing Asia. We’re doing India. We’re doing Australia. Obviously Japan, South America. Then probably come through the U.S. again, so it’s going to be a while before we start thinking about the new record.
I had the opportunity to see the Bulgaria Sonicsphere telecast a few months back. What do you think about that as far as the future of touring?
I think it’s great.
Wave of the future?
It could be. I mean, how much were tickets?
I think it was eight or ten bucks in downtown Minneapolis.
For about six hours of entertainment.
Yeah, once it was all edited down. Anthrax finishes. Some cutaways and crowd shots. Megadeth starts.
I think it’s cool for people who can’t get to the shows and be a part of it. And it’s a whole different perspective, with multiple cameras. It’s almost better in a way.
In large venues you end up watching the video screens.
Absolutely. You’re so far away and the musicians onstage are so small.
Should audience members in the theater cheer?
I don’t see why not.
There seemed to be confusion about that. Anthrax finished their first song and everyone sort of looked around at everyone else, “What are we supposed to do?”
I heard there was a lot of yelling and screaming, and people got up and headbanged in some venues.
I guess I picked the wrong theater.
I think it’s an interesting idea given the logistical and resource demands of touring.
We’ll just do one show. And everyone will go see it in theaters. And that’s it.
Back into the studio to make a new record. Spend time with the family.
That’s a lot better idea than busing everybody in. We’ve thought about, “Let’s have one show in the middle of the United States and just bus everyone in.”
What are you listening to these days?
Well, I went to this place in Chicago called the Jazz Record Mart, so that’ll tell you right there what I kinda listen to. But that’s only one genre I listen to. I bought The Best of Billie Holiday. I bought Willie Bobo’s Lost and Found, he’s a Latin jazz percussionist. I’ve been getting into a band called The Heavy.
From the Kia commercials.
Actually, I like the band. I got the CD and it’s fantastic. And a band called Jucifer, a husband and wife thing.
What about new metal bands?
I wondered about that. Do you just find the music isn’t challenging enough?
It’s not challenging. I don’t know. There’s a lot of great musicians and metal musicians and metal bands, but to influence me it needs to be from another genre.
How about like a Sepultura or a Soulfly?
Really? I would think the mix of heavy guitars and organic percussion would be appealing to you.
Yes and no. Recently I’ve been listening to Skindred, which is more reggae with metal, which is really interesting. There’s a band called Labirinto, from Holland, that brings the Latin influences into their music, but I don’t even know if they’re still around. That’s stuff I can get into. Or bands like Meshuggah. Really, very left field.
So Slayer is getting on thirty years. What was your first hint that the band had some staying power?
I remember feeling really happy because we got on the radio on time. The song “Die by the Sword” was played on a L.A. radio station, either KMET or KLOS, and I remember thinking, “Wow. This is good. This is going to be good. We have something here.” And that was really early on, ’82 or ’83. You know, also playing our first shows, before we had a record out, I remember we were drawing people. People would take notice.
So, now you’ve been on Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon.
So we’re seeing Slayer in places we would never imagine seeing this band in a million years.
How did Slayer make it into the living rooms of America?
Well… I think we did our first TV show right about the time I rejoined the band. I forget the guy’s name.
I remember seeing you on The Henry Rollins Show and thinking, “What is Slayer doing on television?”
But what is Henry Rollins doing on television? That’s kinda weird. He’s a punk singer. Or he was a punk singer, but he grew out of that. I don’t know. It’s cool.
So, at the end of the day, how do you want Slayer to be remembered?
Just one of those metal bands that made a mark. There’s really not much to ask. I mean I think it’s been all said and done recently with the Grammys, playing with Metallica and being recognized as a “Big Four.” I think where things are now is great.