DAVE LOMBARDO Gets SUICIDAL On A DEAD CROSS! “Maybe” I’ll Answer Your SLAYER Questions!
February 24, 2016, 2 years ago
I’m a strong believer in fate. Being a devout Slayer follower since the beginning and it’s driving force and drum tornado Dave Lombardo, our paths just had to cross. Dead Cross that is, Lombardo’s post-Philm band that assaulted crowds during the recent 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise. The ship is so big that it IS possible that you may not cross paths with somebody on your list, but I was confident. On the way back from Burwood Beach during our stop in Falmouth, Jamaica, we went to the cabbie-recommended Peppers Jerk Center an outdoor cantina, located on Puke Street (!) and a few minutes from our Royal Caribbean ship. And lo and behold, I recognize a slender gentleman in a white casual beach top and sunglasses (everybody in Slayer lives in sunglasses I’m told, especially during photo shoots!).
I shout out: “Dave, is that you?!”
Lombardo hits back: “Tim! How are you?!”
So after a bit of catch-up chit-chat, I meet his new Canadian-born/bred manager/beau Paula Willigar and we arrange his only interview of the cruise. I guess membership does have its benefits. Lombardo was intent on doing zero press on board 70000 Tons Of Metal. He wanted to walk on, make some noise with Dead Cross and walk off. Perhaps he’s a bit over all the Slayer drama, and more recently splitting up Philm, which he’d rather not talk about. But of course you can’t silence a musician that lives and breathes his art. Hence we see Dead Cross and now news that he’ll be sitting on the stool with Suicidal Tendencies on the upcoming Megadeth tour.
Back to an interview. A meeting time was arranged and amidst all the madness and mayhem on the cruise it actually happened! I saunter down one of the vast halls on the Independence Of The Seas and enter a massive suite. How sweet it is! Full disclosure … by far the finest interviews occur on this cruise. Aside from a band’s two set times, their clock is their own. It’s all cruise casual and both bands and fans revel in the moment ‘cause nobody can leave! So pretend you are on the couch beside me, soaking in all the glory and wisdom of the drum tornado.
BraveWords: Is this your first big cruise experience?
Lombardo: "“Second. With Philm we did The Motorcycle Rock Cruise with Sepultura in Brazil. That was a lot of fun. The boat was a lot smaller and it wasn't as prestigious - it was a little rough - but still a great experience. This has been nice. I loved stopping in Falmouth, Jamaica - I had never been there.”
BraveWords: “My photographer and I got there around 9:30 and hit the beach chairs, drinking Red Stripes, not a soul around. Then the Pool Girls from the cruise showed up to do a photo-shoot. It was great. Every local literally had a joint hanging out of their mouth (laughs). They were handing me weed left and right! Sadly, I didn't smoke a thing... (laughs). Did you enjoy some good smoke?”
Lombardo: "Yeah, it was ok. It was natural, which is what I liked about it. It wasn't full of chemicals or additives. Hey, was it Bob Marley's birthday?
BraveWords: Yes! I thought they were bullshitting me.
Lombardo: "Wait. Did you and I talk about this already, or was that someone else?
BraveWords: No, we didn't. But, yeah, it actually was his birthday... he would have been 71 (born February 6th, 1945).
Lombardo: "How special is that to be in Jamaica on his birthday? I love that.”
BraveWords: Last year on the cruise, it was late January and we were watching Venom with Cronos on my birthday just outside of Jamaica. How crazy is that?
Lombardo: "That is awesome! Some things are very special and you have to look at it that way... in 2016 I was in Jamaica on Bob Marley's birthday! I mean, I was wondering, as everyone was walking around blasting Bob Marley. I thought that's just what they do... he is an icon!”
BraveWords: Does that music do anything for you? Strike your soul at all?
Lombardo: "Absolutely. I have several Bob Marley albums. I haven't really dabbled at all in other reggae artists. What I like about the genre is that there exists different variations of the music, where they blend rap and reggaeton - like reggae dance music. They were actually playing that at the restaurant I ran into you at.”
BraveWords: Let me interrupt you for a moment, as I still have the flavour of that restaurant lingering - the jerk chicken - that sauce!
Lombardo: "Oh man! That sauce! The red sauce and the sweet sauce.”
BraveWords: Delicious. It was a very cool little place.
Lombardo: "It sat very nicely in the belly for the rest of the day!”
BraveWords: So, as a drummer, what might you take away from reggae?
Lombardo: "Well, obviously the beats... they are quite different. They stay on the bass drum - quarter notes and rim-shots. The more rhythms you can learn from different styles of music, the more well-rounded of a musician you become - and then you take from that. I'll take a reggae beat and... actually, today, at that jam we did, we played 'Touch Too Much’.”
BraveWords: That's a great, obscure AC/DC song from Highway To Hell.
Lombardo: "Yeah, and I was playing around with it, adding like a rim-shot... well, not a rim-shot, more like a stick-shot, or whatever that's called... fuck, I can't remember what you call that (laughs). Anyway, I was doing that to the AC/DC beat in the middle of the jam. I don't have any idea why I went there, but it just felt right.”
BraveWords: Was Phil Rudd much of an influence?
Lombardo: "Yes, he was. He has some amazing swing in his playing. Nobody plays like him, not even his replacements. You know, I've heard some live recordings and you can really tell - not only with the tempo change - they speed up and slow down. It just doesn't feel right. Phil still has an amazing style that fits AC/DC.”
BraveWords: A little heartbreaking, that whole situation.
Lombardo: "It's sad, yeah.”
BraveWords: He should be there.
BraveWords: I couldn't see the Toronto show. I mean, I felt half-bad for not being there, but when you only have three-fifths of AC/DC, what are you really missing? But, some of these bands aren't going to be touring forever, so you gotta catch 'em... like this whole Sabbath thing.
BraveWords: Yeah, that was one of my later questions... how did all these recent deaths affect you?
Lombardo: "Um, Bowie and Lemmy really hit me hard... big time! Especially Lemmy. Lemmy was a supporter of mine for years. Motörhead opened for Slayer in the ‘80s, and Grip Inc. opened for Motörhead in the mid 90's, I believe '95 in Europe. I would hangout with Lemmy on the bus and chill, drink, have a shot - 'hey, Lemmy, do you got an extra Strongbow?’”
BraveWords: I’m sure he had an extra everything (laughs).
Lombardo: "I loved Phil Campbell. We all had just known each other for years... even their manager, Tom Singerman. So, yeah, it really hurt. Bowie? I think what hurt most about this passing was how he left us and what he left us.”
BraveWords: He knew it was coming.
Lombardo: "Yeah, he knew it was coming... and that video 'Lazarus'. When I had found out that he had died, I saw the video and I was just mesmerized and heartbroken. But, if I'm gonna go, I wanna go like that... working all the way to the end. Retirement is not an option in my love for music. I think that's a lame way for a musician to step out of their career.”
BraveWords: Right. It's what you do... you are musician.
Lombardo: "Exactly. If you are a musician, you should always be a musician. That's what was special about what Bowie did - he planned it. He knew he was gonna go and he planned it. It was brilliant. I loved what he did and the album is amazing. His legacy is just incredible. I can remember in the ’80's spending whole nights just watching music videos, before MTV! I always couldn't wait to see one of my favourite bands come on, such as Judas Priest or something at that time... and Bowie was one of them!”
BraveWords: 'Ashes To Ashes' was one of them for me.
Lombardo: "Yeah, or 'Lets Dance'... (singing) 'put on your red shoes and dance the blues.’ Fuck, so good!
BraveWords: Yeah, it was huge... soundtrack of a generation. Back to Motörhead really quick - because obviously we want to talk about new music soon - “Philthy” Animal must have done something to you, right?
Lombardo: "Absolutely. There is another one. He was the first to show me double bass basically. No Sleep Til Hammersmith, when I first heard it, it wasn't that fast - it was learn-able. But, what it did teach was stamina. It was challenging keeping up that kinda pace for several minutes at a time. I think that that was what I liked - that I was challenged at that age. The rawness of Motörhead just blew me away. Philthy was just an amazing guy. I dug up some old slides and there were some of me and Philthy - me in my board shorts, surfer shorts, the kind we used to wear in Slayer back in the 80’s.”
BraveWords: The Anthrax shorts...
Lombardo: "Yeah, right? Anyway, he is all decked out in his metal gear - his crazy hair and mustache, and I'm all in my shorts…”
BraveWords: You're beached out...
Lombardo: "Yeah, beached out, exactly! He was definitely a big influence in my life and it hurt when he left us. But, I suppose that is life. You just gotta take care of yourself as best you can.”
BraveWords: I find these deaths, some of them can hit closer than a blood relative.
Lombardo: "I was balling... crying... with Lemmy and Bowie. I don't know too much about Scott Weiland. Stone Temple Pilots wasn't a band a followed during that period, back in the '90’s.”
BraveWords: Sure. Still a great singer.
Lombardo: "Absolutely, yes! Honestly, back when they came out I was really into industrial music, I really wasn't into much of that style Stone Temple Pilots were a part of. All these other amazing musicians we have lost, it's sad... and some of them are so young! Some of these guys are younger than me, and here I am pushing 51!”
BraveWords: Yeah, you and I are pretty close in age. So, I just gotta say, your new band gave me quite the beating! Is that right thing to say?
Lombardo: "Good! When I'm beating the drums I expect you to take a beating!”
BraveWords: I was watching this maniac from side-stage with Paula and I was wondering how this pleasant, down-to-earth person can be so fucking angry (laughs)!
Lombardo: "I don't know what it is, Tim... I really, honestly, don't know. It's controlled. All I know is that when I get offstage, like today with this all-star jam, when I got offstage I felt so good - it was exhilarating. Even though the songs we played aren't angry songs, I still hit my drums as if I were feeling some kind of anger. I get this euphoric feeling, get caught up in the moment. I just love what I do, and become almost high from the adrenaline. If I don't play for awhile I gotta get physical...'get physical’?”
BraveWords: 'Let's get physical!' (laughs).
Lombardo: "No, no! Can we wipe that (laughs)? I can just see it" 'Lombardo likes to get physical!' Fuck!
Lombardo: "It's just something I crave... I can't rest too much. I can't stay in bed for a long period of time. It's just something I gotta do. I go to bed at 5 in the morning and I'm up by 8:30. It's constant working. When I wake up my heart is beating and I'm thinking of all the things I've got to do and finish. It just doesn't stop. So, I dunno, it's just my nature - I've been doing this since I was 16 or 17 years old. My whole body, my system, is accustomed to this adrenaline, this rush. I just need it. Thank god I still have it, and haven't lost it.
BraveWords: I don't think I have ever told you this, but when I'm active - I'm playing hockey or running - your beat is my soundtrack.
BraveWords: Yeah, I needed the most vicious music possible, so for my biking journeys, there is always a Slayer song, always a Grip Inc. song. You are such an inspiration and have inspired so many people. I'm one of them, and it's a daily routine.
Lombardo: "Thanks, man. I have so many more ideas, so many more collaborations to come. I would love to see myself booked until I am 85. I try to take care of myself as best as I can. I try to eat healthy, and try to do the best for myself.”
BraveWords: There was a lot of history going through my mind when I was watching from the side of the stage. I listened to the cymbal and I could hear 'Criminally Insane'. That's you... that's your thing. The vision of this project, Dead Cross, the name, where did it come from? I'm surprised no one has it yet.
Lombardo: "We were throwing names around when we first got together, and Justin Pearson, the bass player, threw the name out. I immediately loved the name, and everyone else did as well. This all happened one day after another was wiped. I don't wanna talk about them, ya know? But, the way Philm ended was really upsetting... when I ended it.”
BraveWords: It was a shock!
Lombardo: "It was a shock to me too. They asked that I didn't talk to the metal community and press. They wanted to be on the cover the magazines, and the spotlight. I would have loved for them to have that, but the journalists didn't want to talk to them. So, I refused to speak about that band again... and we ended the band. I had booked time for Philm in the studio with Ross Robinson. A couple of days before that, we had a band meeting where they said they wanted me to go into a whole other direction, where they basically wanted me to play softer, more alternative. I called up Ross and told him I had to cancel - gave him the whole story. He said: 'ok, cool... what are you doing tomorrow? You booked time with me, so now I have all this free time!' (laughs). So, it turns out that he had this demo for a 16 year old songwriter that he wanted me to record on, and he was gonna have a couple of guys come over and play on it as well. So, I get to the studio, and there is Justin Pearson, who I toured with when I was with Fantomas with Mike Patton. He was with Locust at the time, around 2004. I was a big fan of these guys. They have song titles that are actually longer than the actual songs. So, it will take you longer to read the title than the song lasts. It's really complex stuff. I'm also a big fan of Gabe Serbian, their drummer. The guitar player at the studio session with Ross played for Retox and Festival Of Dead Deer, his name is Michael Crane. So, we hit it off and all had a great chemistry working on this girl's songs. She played the songs on acoustic and we were brought in to make it heavier... give it some edge. So, we transposed and changed it. After the session, I told the guys I had some shows booked with Philm, and this band from Mexico had already purchased their tickets to fly out to California to play these shows. I asked them straight up if they would be interested in putting a band together - maybe some covers - just to get out there and play, but I'm not gonna disappoint these kids who spent all this money to get out here and tour - I don't want to fuck these kids over, ya know? No way. So, they said, lets do it. They said fuck covers, let's do our own songs! We practiced everyday until that first show... we wrote music everyday. We talked about who we should we bring in as the singer, and Justin mentioned Gabe., who, as I mentioned earlier is one of my favourite drummers. So, Gabe shows up and he starts writing lyrics and singing, and it clicked so well! We knew what we wanted and the style of music we wanted to do. It was effortless. It clicked perfectly. So, we did the two shows and we immediately went to the studio with Ross. Actually, before we did the shows we were already in the studio writing and stepped out to do those shows and then came back to continue on. We've already recorded ten songs. We are going to release a single - stream a single - in a couple of weeks to give people an idea of what we are all about. We are doing things like this cruise to give people an opportunity to see us play. We are doing a show in Vancouver, at the Ghost Festival, with Dillinger Escape Plan. So, we are getting hit up without any material out, which blows me away. I had so many problems getting gigs and agents for Philm - just trying to get some movement for the band, and as soon as I ended Philm, and Deadcross came together, things moved fast! It's insane. All I had to do was get some real, credible musicians together. I believed in Philm - the musicianship of those guys - but, apparently, what I was being told by agents and management was that I need to be playing double bass - play brutal music, the stuff people know me for. They gave me some examples, like you can't just take Harrison Ford out of an action flick and put him in a love story (laughs)! As this started developing, as fast as it did, I really started understanding that this is where I belong - this style, this genre. That said, I do like step out of my comfort zone from time to time.”
BraveWords: It's like you are a kid all over again in a new band, right?
Lombardo: "Fuck yes! Some of these guys are ten to twelve years younger than me, but we have no problems keeping up with each other. I mean, I was fan of their music, so I know what they do - I know how fast they go, blastbeats and all the changes. Things are great so far... we are still in that honeymoon phase. I'm sure after a few years, things will... I dunno... but I don't anticipate that. These guys have been around awhile and they don't like ego-maniacs in musicians that think they are the shit. They know how to not be. I'm not worried about these guys getting big heads as they have been doing this for awhile.”
BraveWords: Let me ask you a technical question here. Jimmy Page was in Toronto within the past year promoting his book. One of things that stuck out to me that he said was that the key element of all Led Zeppelin songs was that it started with one entity: John Bonham. Everything started with the drums - the foundation was laid first, and everything else was built from that.
Lombardo: "Yeah, it's very important. Ya know, a guitar player can approach me and give me some music he had written to a click track or a drum machine... but you find magic when you sit in a room together and jam, create. I couldn't agree more with Jimmy Page. The foundation of the drums is the machine, and everything else just floats over the top.”
BraveWords: Couple of more questions for ya... maybe we can enter Slayer-land for a bit?
BraveWords: It'll be gentle. Have you heard Repentless?
Lombardo: "I mean, I worked on an early version. We recorded Repentless once already - maybe six songs or more. Kerry and I had been working on Repentless for a longtime.”
BraveWords: Was it under that title?
Lombardo: "No, all that happened after. We were in the studio recording with Greg Fidelman, and Hanneman would come in and try and record and contribute music, but by that time, Hanneman was struggling. So, no I haven't heard it."
BraveWords: Are you a fan of Paul Bostaph? Do you have a relationship with him?
Lombardo: "No, I don't have a relationship.”
BraveWords: Where were you when Jeff Hanneman died?
Lombardo: "I was on my way back from Israel. I had just done a drum clinic out there, hanging out in Israel for awhile. I landed and my text messages were blowing up. Tom was kind enough to send me a text and told me - which I appreciated, very much. I still miss him. I still can't believe he is gone.”
BraveWords: I can't imagine how frustrated those days and months leading up to his death must have been. If we go back to a previous point, this is what you atre built for. So, what do you do when you can't do it?
Lombardo: "I love that guy. I spent a lot of time with him. The last years, especially the last few years, we spent a lot of time together. I was going through a divorce, so I wasn't being my isolated self - I was being more open and hanging out with everybody. We were getting off the bus a lot together, hanging out in other band buses. So, I was getting him out, as he liked to stay on the bus too. So, yeah, we would hang out on the bus together... he would sit in the front and I would be in the back. He'd always tell me to put on some music - he loved my iPod. It has a lot of different styles of music, and he would often be like 'what the fuck is that?'. I'd say: 'Dude! It's Einstürzende Neubauten - they've been around for years. Have you never heard of them?' Then it would go into something else he had never heard. So, yeah, we would have blast. It's unfortunate. He was so talented. When he first got into the band, he was self-taught and didn't know much. He taught himself how to play like overnight. He excelled. He took from punk, metal - also stuff like Robin Trower. He loved that kinda feeling.”
BraveWords: You look at what he wrote - not that I'm trying to rank anything with this point - but, that death hit me harder than Lemmy. I look at all the writing credits and how much I still listen to this stuff. His Slayer material is timeless...
Lombardo: "The beauty of his writing was that he was so influenced by punk. He would bring tapes for us to check out all the time. I remember we played with Verbal Abuse in Winnipeg in '83 or '84. I will never forget, it was freezing - downstairs at some raunchy club. We were kind of crossing over. We were playing Circle Jerks, Verbal Abuse, Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., UK Subs. That moment, when he went to rehearsal, showing up with a shaved head - and he had long blonde hair back then - he shaved it all off. He was coming in all angry, after hanging with some punks in North Long Beach. That changed it all. I fed off of that. Motörhead's Overkill was a walk in the park compared to the anger that this music had, and Priest and Maiden were so polished compared to this raw feeling that you got from bands like Minor Threat, Discharge, Circle Jerk's, Dead Kennedys.”
BraveWords: It goes so much deeper than, say, Never Mind The Bollocks.
Lombardo: "Yeah, for sure... that was polished in comparison. It was the aggression of Minor Threat, and the anger that bands like that had.”
BraveWords: This is kind of a fun question, since we were just in Jamaica. What did you think when bands like The Clash started to adapt Reggae and such stuff - becoming less punk.
Lombardo: "Well, to be fair, every band has to evolve in their own way. Personally, I wasn't a big fan of the Clash, though I did have London Calling. It didn't have what I was into - anger. Don't get me wrong, they are legendary, phenomenal. I just personally like the angry stuff.”
BraveWords: We had a Joe Strummer in-store appearance at HMV when I worked retail, and when he walked in it was like Elvis entered the building.
Lombardo: "Yeah, he is a legend. I remember him playing the US festival in California - it's a festival from back in the late 70’s…”
BraveWords: ... the footage of the Heavy Metal day, with Van Halen finale? That was fucking insane!
Lombardo: "Right? It was so fucked up!
BraveWords: Were you there?
Lombardo: "No, I wasn't. I've heard recordings and it's horrible - Van Halen, that is.”
BraveWords: There was over 500,000 people! That festival was huge - particularly the metal day. Bands like Judas Priest, Scorpion, Quiet Riot, Triumph.
Lombardo: "I remember Triumph. I had a Triumph album.”
BraveWords: Wasn't Bowie on one of those days too?
Lombardo: "Hmmmm... maybe. Gus Chambers, of Grip Inc., was there. He was backstage. He told me this story... I don't know if I can believe him, as he was a story teller (laughs). He said that he and The Clash used to hang out back in England - remember, he is a few years older than me. So, he said he was backstage at the festival, in catering, and he got butter and wiped all over Joe Strummer's guitar. This is The Clash! I was like 'really?' (laughs).”
BraveWords: Another tragic death their too. I am craving for another Grip Inc. record.
Lombardo: "We have stuff that's unreleased, like the 'Painted Black' cover.”
BraveWords: I have that on a compilation CD.
Lombardo: "Dynamo, yes. Then we released 'Hostage To Heaven’.”
BraveWords: I loved those records, man. The production especially... it sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.
Lombardo: "It was a great studio we were working out of in Germany (Woodhouse Studio) - Samael and Tiamat had recorded there at that time. I loved all those albums. They were…”
BraveWords: Totally overlooked.
Lombardo: "Yeah, overlooked.”
BraveWords: Last question, as I want don't want to monopolize your whole night. A famous story from Neil Peart about when Rush were creating their music, he wanted to make the drum tracks as challenging as possible, as he knew he had to play these songs live over and over. Do you think about that when creating music? So that you become challenged at every gig.
Lombardo: "For me, what I want to capture on record isn't all the technicality - it's the feeling. There are many drummers out there that are phenomenal technical players that worry about every single little beat. I focus on capturing energy, which is difficult to do - you have to psyche yourself up to get into this mood. For me, if it doesn't have that feeling or energy, it doesn't pass. It doesn't fly. We can make things as technical as possible, but it runs the risk of becoming too sterile or too clean. Actually, there was a study that I read that said humans prefer songs that don't have that perfect metronome... they like those little fluctuations. Zeppelin has that energy, where there is crescendos and de-crescendos. So, that's what I strive for when I record. Sometimes I think that, yeah, I can sometimes make certain parts a little more exciting. I just try not to over-complicate things.”
BraveWords: What is the one Slayer drum accomplishment that sticks out to you, or is that too loaded of a question?
Lombardo: "Man, there is a lot of them. But, I would have to say Reign In Blood... that entire album. There are countless songs - 'War Ensemble', 'Crooked Cross' from South Of Heaven. Just so many.”
BraveWords: And you mentioned earlier that you had a new highly secretive gig you wanted to share?
Lombardo: “(Suicidal Tendencies) Mike Muir contacted me a couple weeks ago. It was the first offer to join an already established band that I had absolutely no hesitation to accept. Slayer used to listen to S.T. religiously while touring in the ’80's (specifically Jeff and I) so it's a big part of me. Actually, Rocky was Jeff's best friend. Rehearsals have been a trip. Playing songs that we raged to back in the day has been both invigorating and emotional. I'm having a blast. This tour is going to be killer. It's borderline Clash Of The Titans part two. The Megadeth guys are great friends, and the guys in S.T. are incredible. I'm really looking forward to bringing the energy and excitement that this music pulls out of me to the stage.”
(Dead Cross band photo by: BeckyDiGiglio)