Rick Hunolt Says Firing Paul Baloff Could Have Been “The Biggest Mistake” Exodus Ever Made


Looking back at the thrash metal scene of the 80s, it’s easy to imagine a time when bands rose to prominence, flared out, and new bands emerged from those ashes. Kind of like how stars grow, explode, and form new stars, thrash metal bands had to be forged out of hardships and in some instances drama to get rolling.

Take Exodus. Having built up a following in the Bay Area, they were riding a wave with Paul Baloff and his signature voice leading the charge. But according to a recent interview with For The Passion Not The Fashion, as transcribed by Blabbermouth, former Exodus guitarist Rick Hunolt said drugs pushed the band to oust him and it may have been their most critical error.

“Paul was… He wouldn’t work. He was gettin’ bad on the drugs. We all were, but Paul was probably the worst. And we were at a point in the band… It was so tough. It was the craziest thing, it was the hardest thing I ever did, the hardest thing we ever did. And I don’t even know today, at this point… It could have been the biggest mistake we ever made. I don’t know. No one will know. But I’ll admit that — it could have been the biggest mistake we ever made. Who knows?”

That was back in 1986. At the time, Exodus just continued on by hiring Steve “Zetro” Souza, who was singing for Legacy (which would eventually become Testament) at the time. And while that ended up being a good move in the long run, it ultimately pushed Baloff further down a slippery slope of drugs are addition.

“Zetro was great filling in; he was great. He did a good job. But after we let Paul go, he just fell deeper and deeper into his addiction and everything. Basically, he was homeless. He wouldn’t get a job and he wouldn’t stop doing what he was doing. We had to let him go. It was just to the point where it was getting so bad that he couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t remember lyrics. It was just bad.

“But I’ll be the first to admit… I always try to think of what would have happened to Exodus if we kept Paul,” Rick added. “I don’t even know. I don’t even know if he would have been able to sing any of the music off of [Exodus’s second album, 1987’s] Pleasures Of The Flesh. I don’t know.

“Anyway, that was the toughest decision me and Gary [Holt, fellow Exodus guitarist] ever had to make. It was horrible.”

I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to have to force a friend out of a band they helped create. And while Paul Baloff eventually landed on his feet and continued performing until his untimely passing in 2002.

You can check out the rest of the Rick Hunold interveiew over on For The Passion Not The Fashion.

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