DATE OF INTERVIEW:
7th May 2010
Few would dispute Slayer's hegemony within the thrash genre and, as the Californian veterans enter their fourth decade in existence equipped with yet another crushingly heavy, riff-fuelled new album 'World Painted Blood', the band's authoritative metal grasp shows no signs of wavering. Further, Slayer's musical aesthetic remains a pervasive influence to a myriad of both upcoming and established bands, and the sonic aftershocks of their seminal, career-defining opus, 'Reign in Blood', can still be witnessed in the extreme metal scene to this day. Rather admirably, almost thirty years after their original inception, the band's lineup still features all original members, albeit drummer Dave Lombardo left briefly in 1986, and then again in 1992 for a longer period before rejoining a decade later. Ahead of a lengthy 2010 tour, commencing in the UK at the end of May and incorporating several prestigious summer festival appearances before climaxing with a series of joint headline shows alongside Megadeth in the States, Slayer's percussionist extraordinaire, "the godfather of double bass", spoke to Metal Discovery about the new album, frontman Tom Araya's recent back surgery, the forthcoming landmark "Big Four" shows, and a lot more besides...
DAVE LOMBARDO: How you doing?
(Dave Lombardo on the forthcoming "Big Four" shows with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax)
“I’ve been texting Lars and he’s texted me back and, you know, we’re gonna have a blast this summer...The camaraderie that’s taking place before the tour, I can only see good things happening from here forward.”
Slayer - promo shot, 2009
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Seliger - www.markseliger.com, supplied by, and used with permission from, Columbia Records UK
METAL DISCOVERY: Fine, how you doing?
DL: Good, really good.
MD: ‘World Painted Blood’ is a fantastic new album, and the songs have a very natural, kind of raw energy to them. I gather the band had a different approach this time around working out a lot of the material while actually in the studio, so would you say that contributed to that kind of feel to the record?
DL: I would think so because it did put us under a little pressure. We needed to write and we needed to put these songs together and, of course, time is always an issue when you’re in the studio. You don’t want to drag it out long because you do have to pay for it. With all that in mind, it did put…maybe pressure would be a negative word to put on it, but maybe a kind of constructive pressure! [laughs]
MD: But it turned out fantastic, of course.
DL: Yeah, it did.
MD: There’s a very organic, almost live drum sound on the album too - was that predetermined in the production or did it just transpire that way?
DL: Well, I’ve always been a fan of drums that sounded real. I like electronic music, you know, I like industrial music so that used for that, but when you’re in a band situation like Slayer where the energy comes from the live performance, you need to capture that on record. You need to try to put that down on record so, that way, people can actually hear the real sound of the instruments. I’ve always liked drums like that. I spoke to the producer and told him - “Hey, I really want my drums to sound natural; I wanna hear the body of the drums; the resonance of the shell.” I mean, these drum companies go through a lot of work analysing drum sounds, and shells, and the kind of wood, and it disappears in the mix because different engineers process it. We kept that to a minimum.
MD: Yeah, there’s a very nice acoustic sound to it rather than a processed sound so it’s really nice to hear that these days. I presume you never use triggers either then.
DL: Right, right.
MD: I’ve read you scaled down your kit a little for the recordings by removing a couple of toms to force yourself to approach rolls and fills in a slightly different manner. Did that work in the way you hoped it would and what did you learn as a musician from doing that?
DL: Well, it definitely did work. What it does, with the absence of certain drums, you’re playing a beat and you’re gonna get creative and create some kind of a roll, and it challenged me. It’s like - “Wait! That’s not there! I can’t hit anything there!” So it did bring out a little creativeness which I really like. I took the biggest one and the smallest one from the left side…the biggest tom-tom that’s mounted on my bass drum, I took that one off. I think there was another question at the end of that last one…
MD: Oh yeah, what did you learn as a musician from scaling down your kit?
DL: Whether it’s adding or taking drums away you can add to your creativeness by limiting yourself. You know, we all think we need more, and more, and more to be creative, but try to strip yourself down and now try to be creative. So it’s a different challenge.
MD: So is that something you’ll be taking to the live stage, or…I presume you’ll be using your full kit at shows?
DL: No, I’ll be using this kit.
MD: Obviously you postponed a whole load of shows last year and the rescheduled dates as well due to Tom’s back injury. How’s he doing now after the surgery?
DL: I’ve seen him a couple of days now…amazing. Fully recovered.
DL: But he’s not gonna be headbanging. I’ve seen pictures of the plate that’s in the back of his spine and close to the back of his head, you know, in the upper spine. He’s gotta take care of himself.
MD: Absolutely. The rest of you will have to headbang a bit more to compensate maybe!
DL: Yeah, that’s true!
MD: You’re embarking on a pretty length tour starting over here in the UK at the end of this month - how’s you’re mentality for touring these days with all the travelling that entails?
DL: Everybody is full steam ahead. Everybody’s ready to go. You know, we’ve had down times…what is it? Nine months, I think. We’ve been really itching to play! [laughs] Even Kerry commented to me during this recent trip to Frankfurt for the Frankfurt fair, the Messe, which is an instrument convention…he said - “Dude, I was even anxious to get on the plane!” He said - “I’ve been so itching to play, or just go anywhere, or do something…so I was happy just to get on the plane!” So we’re all ready to go.
MD: More than ready by the sound of it!
DL: Yeah, more than ready! [laughs]
MD: You’re set to appear on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ in a couple of weeks. Do you think there’s an element of throwing yourselves in at the deep end by appearing on network TV for what will be your first performance in quite a few months rather than doing a low-key warm-up show?
DL: No, it’s only a couple of songs, and we’ve already started rehearsing for the tour this week, so we’ll be fine. It’s nothing that we couldn’t handle.
MD: Of course. You already appeared on that show in 2007, didn’t you?
MD: You have what’s being billed as the “Big Four” shows coming up this summer with Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth, of course. Apart from yourselves, would those other three bands be your personal first choice for the “Big Four” based on where they’re at musically in 2010, or do you think the likes of Testament have a place in there too, perhaps?
DL: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely, because Anthrax was there before Testament.
MD: Of course.
DL: And no question about Metallica and Megadeth. So it goes back to, I think, who was there first. I mean, I could be wrong; I don’t know if that was the way they chose it.
MD: I’ve heard Exodus say in an interview recently that they thought it should be a “Big Five” as they were there first!
DL: Yeah, that’s right, it could be a “Big Five”! I totally forgot about them.
MD: Do you anticipate there will be an air of competitiveness between the four bands as to who can get the biggest pits going, or whatever, or do you think it will be one big party and fun time doing those shows?
DL: Yeah, that pit stuff isn’t our concern. It’s one big party! I’ve been texting Lars and he’s texted me back and, you know, we’re gonna have a blast this summer.
MD: Yeah, that’ll be cool.
DL: The camaraderie that’s taking place before the tour, I can only see good things happening from here forward.