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Slayer: About the Apocalypse. Interview with Drummer, Dave Lombardo

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Saturday, June 27, 2009 @ 0:26 AM


ďA lot of bands, what ends up happening is youíll hear the record then youíll see them live or performing on YouTube and youíll be disappointed. Itís like, ĎOh, so this is what it really sounds like.í"

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Any Slayer fan whoís seen or heard the new song ďPsychopathy RedĒ live or on YouTube, or wherever, is probably peeing themselves with anticipation over the bandís upcoming 10th studio album, World Painted Red. And with good reason. With its clipped, staccato riffing, stampeding tempo and balls-out intensity, it recalls the Reign In Blood/Seasons In The Abyss-era when Slayer were the most fearsome band in metal. Period.

Certainly one song ó even if it is a barnstormer about a Russian serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo, who racked up a body count of more than 50 children ó does not an album make. But from what drummer Dave Lombardo says, ďPsychopathĒ is a pretty good indication of what Slayer do have in store over the rest of the album. ďThereís a lot of energy, a lot of speed,Ē he said. Cool!

Lombardo is now seven years into his third stint powering the two-time Grammy winning band ó rounded out by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and bassist/vocalist Tom Araya ó that is, incredibly, approaching its 30th anniversary, yet is still one of the most ferocious acts around. Though he has enjoyed a wide variety of other projects ó from his own band Grip Inc., which has released four albums but now seems finished what with singer Gus Chambersí death last October, to guest stints with Testament, Apocalyptica, John Zorn and DJ Spooky and his ongoing role with mind-fucking avant gardists Fantomas ó itís all about Slayer for him these days.

And there will be lots of Slayer to be had in the months ahead, as the band hit the road first on a spate of Canadian Carnage dates with Megadeth, then as part of the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival with Marilyn Manson, Killswitch Engage, etc., before issuing World Painted Blood this fall and doing yet more touring.

On the phone from his California home, a few days before leaving for the Canadian Carnage dates, Lombardo enthused about the new album, the tours and the bandís newfound, well, enthusiasm, and recalled the old days when Slayerís fans would literally destroy venues while the band was onstage.

KNAC.COM: When was the last time the band played live?

LOMBARDO: November of last year. Weíre raring to go. Even though we have been playing a lot for the last four-five months, itís all been in the studio. So weíre looking forward to getting back out there and letting it go.

KNAC.COM: Have you played with Medageth since the Clash of the Titans tour?

LOMBARDO: No. When was that, 1991? It has been a long time. Itís going to be interesting because I havenít seen Dave [Mustaine] since probably then. Actually maybe I have, at a festival in Europe when I wasnít in Slayer. Actually, no, Iím thinking of someone else, the guy from Maiden, Bruce Dickinson (laughs). Not sure how I got those two confused. So yeah, I havenít seen Dave since Ď91. Maybe the other guys have at a festival show or something, but Slayer hasnít toured with Megadeth since then, Iím sure of that.

KNAC.COM: What do you remember of the Clash of the Titans tour? That was when you all were arguably at your peak.

LOMBARDO: Absolutely. We built ourselves up and got that package together and it turned out good. It seemed like it earned the title of ďthe ultimate metal show.Ē It was pretty cool. Now everyone looks back and reflects on that. It has become this legendary thing.

KNAC.COM: I saw the show at Madison Square Garden from up front on the floor where they had actually put a section with chairs. By the time Slayer finished playing, nearly all of the chairs had been pushed into a pile at the front of the stage. It really looked a like a tornado had touched down.

LOMBARDO: Wow. I didnít notice that, but thatís pretty cool (laughs). I will always remember that show though, it was awesome. Iíll never forget that place. I really, really liked playing there. I later played there for two nights when Fantomas opened for Tool. Iím really proud of the fact that I was able to play that place. Itís definitely something I think a lot of musicians strive for, like playing at Carnegie Hall. Itís a rite of passage and if youíre headlining, it sort of signifies that you ďmade it.Ē Itís a big deal.

KNAC.COM: Have you played Carnegie Hall with any of your side projects?

LOMBARDO: No, I havenít. Iíve played Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom, places like that. Something like Fantomas is still way too extreme for a place like Carnegie Hall. And Slayer doesnít exactly have the best reputation in New York, so Iíve probably spoiled it for anyone I might be playing with to play there. Guilt by association.

KNAC.COM: I guess that all goes back to the Felt Forum gig during South of Heaven tour in Ď88?

LOMBARDO: Thatís theater right next to Madison Square Garden, right? Yeah, that got a little crazy. There were seat cushions flying around and people were trying to tear out the tiles in the ceiling. The seats in the back of the theater went way up, and if you stood on the back of the seats, you could touch the roof, so people were ripping up whatever they could get their hands on. It was nuts, and I remember Tom yelling at the crowd about how we were never going to be allowed to play there again. And he was right (laughs). That wasnít the only place. That was when we reached the stage where we could play theaters, and there were some really nice theaters we played in across the country that werenít so nice after we were done. And Iím not trying to make light of that, I donít condone what people did. It was really unnecessary.

KNAC.COM: And of course it was all your fault for inciting that?

LOMBARDO: Of course. And people hear about one incident, like the Felt Forum show, and feel like they have to up the ante when we play in their town. It made touring the states tough for us for a while because people were afraid to book the band. Fortunately, that destructiveness has abated. Itís really not a problem now. Our crowds are no less enthusiastic; they just donít tear places up like the used to, which is fine by me. Itís a lot less hassle for us.

KNAC.COM: Again, to look back at the Titans tour, that was pretty much the pinnacle for thrash metal. Did you have any inkling that Alice In Chains, who opened the shows in the states, and bands like that would soon take over the world?

LOMBARDO: At that time, no. But there was definitely something catchy about them that was really cool. That really was the beginning of that whole grunge thing, so maybe it was partly our fault (laughs), since we took them out. The funny thing was, they werenít originally part of the tour. Another band was going to open, [Death Angel] but they were in an accident [a van crash that nearly killed drummer Andy Galeon] and couldnít make it. So Alice got the spot, and the rest is history, I guess. The whole Beavis & Butt-head thing came along and it was like, great, metal music has become a joke.

KNAC.COM: Machine Head is also on the Canadian Carnage bill and over the years Kerryís had wars of words with both Robb Flynn and Mustaine. Are you expecting any fireworks at these shows, or is everything cool with you all now?

LOMBARDO: As far as Robb Flynn, Iíve never had an issue with him, when I was in Slayer or when I was out of Slayer. And Mustaine, too, Iíve never had a problem with him. I donít even think I know any of the other people in those bands. Iíve never even met them, so I really donít know what the score is there. Those are Kerryís battles.

Most these things seem to start because somebody eggs Kerry on because they know heís a pretty blunt guy and they figure they can get him to talk shit. You should see some of the stuff he said about me when I was out of the band. But Iím not expecting any problems, I donít think these shows would have happened if everyone was feuding.

KNAC.COM: Up next is the Mayhem Festival with Manson. Things must have gone OK last time if you agreed to tour with him again?

LOMBARDO: You know, it was smooth. It went really well. As far as I know, they enjoyed our company enough to ask us to support them on the Mayhem Festival. So it was like, ďOK, yeah, sure.Ē That way they carry all of the lights, they carry all the stuff, they take care of all the major logistics and Slayer can relax and go along for the ride. Itís a nice change for us, because when we do the Unholy Alliance tours the show is our responsibility and thereís all kinds of other stuff to worry about. This time, we can put all our energy into our performance.

KNAC.COM: So it will be the same deal as last time, you guys going on before Manson?

LOMBARDO: Yeah. Theyíve sold more records and itís about record sales. And if he doesnít mind following us every night, more power to him. Half the people left after we played at a lot of the shows last time, from what Iíve been told. There are a lot more bands to see this time, last time it was only three, so there could be a different kind of audience. Weíll have to see what happens. Itíll be interesting.

KNAC.COM: The Mayhem Fest is going to have an extreme metal stage this time. Have you had much exposure to bands like Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth - and do you want to? Does that stuff hold much interest for you?

LOMBARDO: Iím not really that familiar, just faintly. Like Iíve heard of Cannibal Corpse, thatís about it. I havenít really even heard of the other bands, so I donít really know what to expect. Iím kind of looking forward to Mushroom Head, Iíve heard some stuff about them.

KNAC.COM: Theyíre sort of a poor manís Slipknot. They even have cheesier masks.

LOMBARDO: Really? Weíve toured with Slipknot, and they were pretty good, so Iíll have to see how they [Mushroom Head] stack up (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Do you pay much attention to ďcontemporary metal music?"

LOMBARDO: I try to keep abreast of whatís going on today. But a lot of it I donít like because itís so programmed, if thatís the right word. So clean. Itís almost like itís not real. I like a band that performs what they put on record, otherwise itís not real.

Some albums you hear, itís like, ďCome on, letís see you try to do that live.Ē Itís like ďOK, whatís human and whatís not human?Ē And Iím keen to that. I guess being in Slayer, we kind of push those boundaries. A lot of bands, what ends up happening is youíll hear the record then youíll see them live or performing on YouTube and youíll be disappointed. Itís like, ďOh, so this is what it really sounds like.Ē

KNAC.COM: You mention doing it in the studio and then being able to pull it off live, Fantomas must have been an enormous challenge?

LOMBARDO: Thatís all written out. Itís very structured, even though it sounds like thereís no structure at all. We did play along to some samples, because there are a lot of crazy sound effects, but where you hear drums, percussion, bells and things like that, it was performed. It was real. It was definitely a challenge. Itís controlled chaos. Itís fun to do that, itís meant to confuse you, make you go, ďWhat? What was that?Ē

KNAC.COM: Turning back to Slayer, last I saw the new album was coming out July 7, but that doesnít seem very likely?

LOMBARDO: No, weíre looking more at late August or September. Itís still being mixed.

KNAC.COM: Is it still being called World Painted Blood, or has that changed too?

LOMBARDO: Thatís the title. Yes.

KNAC.COM: Since ďPsychopathy RedĒ is the only thing anyone has heard from the album so far, the $64,000 question is obviously whatís the rest of the album like?

LOMBARDO: Very punk, very edgy. Itís real. It doesnít sound over-processed. Itís a very well constructed and put together album. Iím so excited about it. Itís been a long time since I felt like that. I can only compare it to our earlier records, Reign In Blood, South of Heaven, Seasons, it has a real feel to me like we were talking about earlier.

Itís a record that was collectively put together. Whenever we had an opinion about something on a song, maybe something should be extended or shortened or maybe we should add this other part in, whatever it was it was, that opinion was heard and we performed it that way to see what it felt like. So it was a collective effort, on everyoneís part, from the beginning with the foundation with the drums to now with the vocals. I couldnít be any happier.

KNAC.COM: Since you had just gotten back on board with the band, did the Christ Illusion process feel much different?

LOMBARDO: Yeah, it was a whole other feeling. Things were still new to me, things were still new to the band. I had been out of Slayer for 10 years. They had done three records with Paul [Bostaph]. I think Christ Illusion was good, but I this record just has something that that one did not. Itís structured well. The melodies are great. Youíre probably thinking, ďSlayer? Melodies?Ē But go back to South of Heaven and listen to the melodies that were on those songs. Even Reign In Blood had an amount melody, which made it listenable. And thatís what we have here. Thereís a lot of energy, a lot of speed, but thereís melody to tie it all together. As far as Iím concerned, to me, itís a very, very good record.

KNAC.COM: Did all of the ďfirst album by the original lineup in 15 yearsĒ hype weigh much on you guys last time?

LOMBARDO: No, that wasnít even a consideration, not at all. We were confident in our trade. We were proud. ďWeíre back, look at this.Ē We were powerful. And we still are. Right now at rehearsals, itís like, ďWow, this is what weíre taking out on the road, this is the energy weíre going to have? Damn!Ē

KNAC.COM: ďPsychopath RedĒ is about a serial killer, I guess itís safe to say the rest of the record delivers the usual death, destruction and the end of the world?

LOMBARDO: Yeah, basically (laughs). Itís like Steven King has a style, John Carpenter as a director and a composer has a style. [Film soundtrack composer] Tyler Bates has a style. All these guys have a style and Slayer has a style. People shouldnít detract from that, if thatís the correct word. This is us, this is our art.

KNAC.COM: ďWorld Painted BloodĒ is kind of an odd title, whatís that all about?

LOMBARDO: I havenít read the lyrics, but I can guess. Probably war, apocalypse? I think itís about the apocalypse (laughs).

KNAC.COM: You recorded a few of the songs last fall, then went on tour, then came back and finished the album. Is it unusual for you to work in chunks like that instead of going in and banging it out from start to finish?

LOMBARDO: Yeah. Usually weíre well rehearsed. All the songs are basically done, structure-wise everything is there. Weíve thought of everything. But this time around we did those two or three songs initially, and it was really cool, we kind of got ourselves prepped up for the next batch of songs. The excitement was there because we were playing and performing the songs and it was feeling good.

When we got back from our tour and the holidays were over we started rehearsing with the producer, Greg Fidelman, whoís done a magnificent job. He would come and listen to what we would do and record it, we would mess with it, so the foundation was really worked on a lot to make sure it flowed well. And I was getting really excited at the time because all of our enthusiasm and the collective effort we had in putting these songs together.

What was cool was we went into the studio with only five songs. So we had to create and learn songs in the studio, and it was a whole different atmosphere. It added a little bit of pressure, but it brought out the best of us. It was something that threw us off guard, but then it made us work a little harder. And I think it shows.

KNAC.COM: How did you decide on Greg Fidelman?

LOMBARDO: Rick Rubin recommended him, and a very, very good recommendation it was.

KNAC.COM: Was Rubin around for any of the recording?

LOMBARDO: No. Heíll have a final listen before itís mastered. Heís just like, ďYou guys work on it, I want to hear it when itís done.Ē Itís kinda cool that way.

KNAC.COM: So no working with Metallica war stories from him then?

LOMBARDO: (laughs) Sorry to disappoint you, but no. At least not now.

KNAC.COM: Youíve been back with Slayer now for two years longer than either of your previous stints, so things are tight with the band?

LOMBARDO: Yes, definitely. Weíre a solid unit. It feels great. Weíre excited, we canít wait to play live and to get this record out, so the enthusiasm is there, absolutely. I donít think any of us would do it if we really didnít like it. The traveling part of it sucks, but being able to perform is great. Thatís what makes up for it. Are there still disagreements? Yes. Do we always all get along? No. But everything just makes more sense now that weíve grown older and wiser, if you want to call it that.

KNAC.COM: Of all the guys in the band, youíre the only one whoís really done side projects or been involved with bands other than Slayer, do you have any other irons in the fire right now?

LOMBARDO: Right now, no, everything is quiet on that end, Iím just focusing on Slayer. But Iím looking forward to doing other projects and whatnot in the future, hopefully with Fantomas again or who knows what other bands. Iím always up for new ideas and new projects and little step outs, those are always fun. Iíve been able to touch on so many other genres. It feels good to step out a little bit into a totally different realm.


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