You can read my story about Anthrax here, but I also got a last-minute interview with Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo that couldn't make it into the print edition. (Lombardo, one of the most influential drummers in metal ever and an undisputed master of the double bass, left the band way back in 1992. Slayer soldiered on through the 1990s with a string of replacements, but their reunion with Lombardo for Christ Illusion (2006) and World Painted Blood (2009) has been considered a significant return to form. So here's a transcription of my conversation with him, after the jump. (Bonus: Read John Sewell's 1999 interview with Slayer's Tom Araya here.)
Well, why did I leave? I forget why I left.
Yeah, there's no reason to bring it up now. It's old news. Actually, you can read about it on the Internet. It is what it is.
Well, what brought you back?
Money, dammit. That's what brought me back. Slayer, you know, one of the bigger bands I've worked with, called me after not playing with them anymore. It was like, wow, this is awesome. And of course working with these musicians, Kerry, Jeff, and Tom, putting back together the original lineup was an amazing thing to do.
This tour indicates that thrash has become classic rock. How do you feel about that?
I feel great that it's considered like that. At least our thrash--the Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, even Exodus and Metallica, but the new metal, I would not consider that classic rock.
What's different about being in Slayer now that you're in your 40s, writing new material for the band and playing those old songs? How is it different than when you were in your 20s?
Well, I feel like when I first recorded those albums I didn't know what I was doing. I had an idea, I had a road map of how I wanted to play, but it's nothing to how I play today. When I had to relearn those songs I was very apprehensive in using some the same drum rolls. I add a little bit more to those songs now. So when fans see the show I add a lot more drums, a little flair to it that I didn't do before.
Do you remember what you guys were trying to do back in the early '80s when you first got together? Were you trying to be as extreme as possible?
Yes. We were. The most extreme or the best?
They seem like two different things. Are they related to you, being extreme and being good?
Yes. I mean, you have to. You can be extreme and suck. There's a lot of bands out there like that that are very extreme. It's like, ugh, not good. So we try to be extreme but within the parameters of creating solid music.
I wanted to ask you about Reign in Blood. That's a landmark album, certainly a progression for you guys at the time, and most of all it was just so fast. Was that on purpose?
No, that was the way I played. That's the way we wrote the songs and played the songs. Well, when we first wrote the songs they weren't that fast. As you play them and rehearse they kind of speed up. That happens with all albums that we do. They're at a certain bpm, beats per minute, and then once we play live and get used to them they become faster, to a point where I have to almost pull the reins on them and say, whoa, we've got to slow down because the song is not becoming fluid, it doesn't sound like it's supposed to. You kind of lose the vibe of the song if you play it too fast. So I make sure to keep my tempo at an even pace.
Do you remember what it was like in the studio at the time? When you guys started to hear it, did it seem special to you? Did you think, 'Wow, we're really doing something here'?
No. At that time, I was very disconnected with the band. I don't know if you remember, I left the band back then, too, in '86. I'm always leaving. I'm the rebel. I'm like, 'F--k you guys, I'm out of here.' Anything doesn't work my way--well, not if anything doesn't work my way, but if I find disagreements that don't sit well with me, I'll leave, no hesitation.
Did I think that this album had something? No. But I did feel it for World Painted Blood. That one, as we were working on it I noticed that there was something special about it. And I think it was more how the band members were getting along. We were all having a good time when we were putting this album together and also we had a producer in rehearsal with us who we got along really well with and helped us out through the whole thing. For that album, yes, but for Reign in Blood I didn't.
When you recorded South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss, did you make a conscious decision to slow things down, to sort of step back from Reign in Blood?
I think we did, because it made no sense to recreate something we had already created. We knew that we weren't going to be able to top that album. And still to this day, you can't top that record--28 minutes of classic thrash metal. You can't. And that was all done without us even knowing. We were clueless. We just knew what we were doing felt good, and the music we were writing felt good, too.
What did you think about the emergence of death metal in the early '90s? Those bands were obviously taking so much from you guys.
Some of the performances were great by the musicians, but you know, the singing is a big part of music to me and I just don't find it musically stimulating when the singer has no melody. There has to be melody and a lot of the death metal stuff didn't have that. Death metal, thrash metal, speed metal, whatever metal--'Oh, melody, we don't want no melody.' Well, dude, melody's the core of music and if you can't realize you need melody, good luck with your band.
You never really play blast beats, do you?
Yes, I do. I started playing blast beats during my Fantomas years, when I was recording with Mike Patton. And then I brought blast beats into Slayer. They were stealing from me, all those death metal and grindcore guys were stealing from me, so I stole from them.