Thursday, October 1, 2009

Slayer: An interview with Dave Lombardo

Slayer return to the record stores on November 3, 2009. A new record titled ‘World Painted Blood’ will kick start the Slayer machine into high gear via touring and press for at least the next 18 months. As a way of pre-promoting the album, Slayer took part in this past Summers Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival in which they played one new song nightly. During the tour’s Tinley Park , IL stop I sat down with Slayer Drummer Dave Lombardo for a pre-show interview.

Where is Dave Lombardo, the drummer these days? The kid who grew up a John Bonham and Peter Criss maniac? Where are you as a drummer in 2009?
I feel I’m at the peak of my performance right now. I just feel on top of my game. I feel confident, I’m hitting hard, I’m breaking pedals, snapping sticks and popping snares. I’ve got this great record behind me, ‘World Painted Blood’ which I’m really, really excited about. So aside from the little ups and downs that a personal life can do to you, my career and my future look very positive.

I feel I need to comment on the amount of press you’re doing, I think it’s great…

Well first off, not only am I a fan of Slayer but I’m a big fan of your work. When I did that interview that I left for you in the back lounge…
I wasn’t doing any press back then, was I?

No, none. In fact at that time (February 2002) you weren’t even “officially” back in Slayer, that was a one off thing your manager at the time set us up with.
So why do you think it’s a good thing for me to be doing press? I’ve heard this from a few people so I’ll ask you, why do you think it makes people so enthusiastic?

Well speaking for myself, to me it’s a fresh perspective. Along the same lines, you’re palette is so wide, so varied for you to be speaking so highly of this new record…it’s really got to be something. I mean you’re a lot of things to a lot of people but you’re not a bullshitter Dave.

No, that I’m not (smiles). But you’re right, I’ve not come out and said the kinds of things I’m saying right now, you know? I personally feel the record you’re about to hear, from the guy who’s sitting at the helm driving this ship, or this train or whatever the hell you want to call it! Well it’s going over 150 miles per hour and I’m trying to steer and I feel collectively we’re all just at the top of our game!

It feels good, it feels classic, it feels like I said collective it was a very good vibe when we were working on it. I felt if the foundation, which is the drums with no lyrics, with no leads, just rhythm guitar tracks and drums, if that foundation is there and it feels good throughout the whole song…then everything else will just fall into place.

Part two of your heavy press schedule, you’ve done other press where you say ‘World Painted Blood’ sort of conjures up the “holy trinity” of ‘Reign In Blood’, ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Seasons In The Abyss’, right?

So you’re saying ‘WPB’ has a classic feel, when approaching these songs are you reaching back to an inspiration you haven’t reached for in some 20 years? How do you approach this blank canvas and decide what fits the song best?
Well just recently I listened to the song “Expendable Youth" and I’m thinking to myself, “god, the drums suck!”


How? I mean they’re driving the song, aren’t they?
They are, yes, but they’re so primitive. It’s primitive Lombardo. Now [if] you listen to Lombardo today and the chaos happening all around the music but being controlled by this kind of precision, you can hear not only how much I’ve grown as a drummer, but how much the band has grown as well.

That’s what I hear in this new record and I feel it’s fully entertaining. It’s in the melodies, the way Tom [Araya] sings even if he just jumps up a single note it just makes a world of difference in how the song comes out. Perhaps that’s also due to us working with an amazing producer too?

I must admit, all the records you’ve done in your career, I’ve never heard you speak so highly of a producer like you have with Greg Fidelman.
I feel he worked with me, and I can only speak for myself but I noticed he also did this with them too, but he worked with me the way Rick Rubin worked with me on all the old records. I don’t know if this was Greg’s technique or what, but he helped me develop the very best possible drum tracks…simply by their performance. Not in the editing stage or with a computer, nothing like that, he coached me.

He was right there with me, very positive. Together we focused, I mean really focused on detail as well as sounds and if that meant a snare hit or an extra kick drum sound that’s what was done.

You mentioned the word precision. Now to me, Dave Lombardo has always been a drummer who played from the heart. When Paul [Bostaph] was in the band he came across as a drummer who played more from the head.

As you’re explaining Greg’s role in the studio I’m getting this vibe where he motivated you to become a more technically efficient drummer. Would this be true?
A good producer makes a band sound good in the studio, but makes them sound even better after. He definitely did pull something out of us indeed, and that’s what I heard directly from Rick Rubin after the sessions.

I understand some of ‘World Painted Blood’ was written in the studio.
Yes, about half of it was.

OK, so looking back to [2006’s] ‘Christ Illusion’ I know that album was written, then you’d tour and then come back and write more, demo it, then go out again etc. etc. Do you feel that the album, I guess, suffered from maybe over thinking the material? Where maybe you lived too long with the material before it was laid to tape?
Maybe, it’s hard to say really. I think I work the best by just getting in there and nailing it down. I hate to use the words ‘under pressure’ because to most people that’s a negative, this was more of a “let’s just do it” feel, more motivation than anything.
How cool is it that this long into the journey you’re still getting this band wide motivation?
Well I think the nature of the circumstance of us going into the studio with only half the material we needed, I think it helped the situation. It did something to our natural way of functioning for sure. It was very positive, it was great.

I know you have to run, I appreciate your time today, I really do. Is there anything you’d like to close this out with?
All I have to say is I’m not going away. I’m not one to retire, I’m a drummer and I’ll always be a drummer and I’ll always perform. There’s a lot more of me to come in the future, whether it’s with Slayer, whether it’s with an orchestra or even with some African hand drums, it’s a part of me that will always be here. Thanks Tom.