The "Tempo Of The Damned" album meant a fine, storming return back to the Metal scene from the veteran Bay Area Thrashers EXODUS. The whole band in their respected forties, clearly proved to everyone that the whole band was in an amazingly perfect strike to kick our worthless and fat asses in a more effective and determined way than for many years. Having a few spinnings through the album, it became very evident that the guys by no means had forgotten their Thrash – roots anywhere over the years and they were still able to deliver their goods nearly in the same way as they did back in their days of glory and fame – at least as far as some values of an indelibly catchy Thrash Metal are concerned. The EXODUS’ Metal commando stopped by here in Finland on their on-going European tour 18th of June and the guys played one helluva gig at the Provinssirock Festival. Just prior to the actual showtime, I managed to catch up with Gary Holt from the EXODUS – camp and change a few words with him about the tour as well as some other so-called ‘hot topics’. I think it needs to be mentioned that this conversation between me and Gary was originally supposed to be much longer, but since this attitude-wise very arrogant and annoying Finnish fellow (yet can still remain unnamed) who was (unfortunately!) hosting EXODUS here in Finland, screwed things up just a little too much, my original 30 minutes to pull the interview through with Gary, was forced to cut down to 10 or-so-minutes only. And I can honestly tell you that I surely wasn’t the only person who was bitching about this, so let my sincere fistful of a warm human shit fly straight to his direction for ruining my chance somewhat totally to get a properly-made interview done with Gary. If I’m lucky enough I hope that our paths will never cross under these kinds of circumstances ever again… ’nuff about bitching now, though. Here’s everything what I managed to talk to Gary in 10-15 minutes, so try to at least enjoy your reading even if many interesting questions were left out from this conversation due to a lack of time…
As the first natural question, how has your European tour been going so far?
"It´s been going great so far except the bus was catching on fire and…"
Wow…?! Where did that happen exactly?
"That happened between Rome and Bergamo in Italy. I got fuckin´ awake when smoke was pouring inside and the back of the bus was blazing. Everybody just ran off from the back of the bus and the whole situation was actually quite scary. Last night on the way to OsnabrÜck, something was wrong with the trailer. We blew out 5 tires. Other than all the shit like that everything´s been great, so I cannot complain."
Also you played two shows in Sweden and one of them happened at the Swedenrock Festival… Did you get a huge crowd there?
"That was truly awesome, I can tell. One of the best shows we have ever done live so far. It was absolutely a very cool to play there. Wow, it was fuckin´ killer. We got to close this show on our stage. It was already dark outside and we had all the lights there, so it was totally cool."
What kind of set did you play in Swedenrock Festival actually?
"A full headline set; an hour and half."
Did you try to cover songs from each of your albums or did you mostly have the main focus on this new record?
"Well, we did songs off our new album “Tempo Of The Damned”, but of course we played a lot of old stuff as well, y´know. We played like 6 or 7 songs off the new album and the rest of the set was taken from our old albums."
Are you basically going to play the same set here at the Provinssirock Festival, too which you already had for example at the Swedenrock Festival?
"Pretty much, yeah. It´s gonna be pretty much the standard set what we have been playing everywhere on this European tour."
I heard this kinda ‘funny’ story that you also had some sort of an episode going on with this big guy of STRATOVARIOUS, Timo Tolkki? What exactly happened there?
"Oh yeah… ha-ha-hah!! I tell you a story for this shortly. Last summer we played at the Metal Mania Festival in Spain and we shared a bus ride with them from the festival side to the airport which was like 4 hours and he was so fuckin´ wasted and just spitting on windows, howling whole the time, tearing down the curtains and being a total ass. We were about to punch him a few times during that trip. If someone else hadn´t stabbed him, I might have that day. The boy has got problems… And we were in a complete hangover and all we wanted, was quietness. And this guy (Timo Tolkki) just NEVER let up; the whole time he was just a fucking ´out-of-office´ wrecker. Someone needed to knock him out… (*laughs*)"
That story I had never heard before… Jesus, he sounds like a poor wasted guy…
"Yeah, that´s exactly what he was at that time. He was driving even his own people crazy as he was driving us, too. He was so fuckin´ annoying, I can tell."
Are there actually some Finnish guys in some Metal bands that you respect and like what they do – of course besides STRATOVARIUS, heh?
"Of course Impaled Nazarene, Children of Bodom, Finntroll… all these bands play some killer stuff in my opinion. I really like them very much myself. Especially Impaled Nazarene is my favorite band from your country. They are a fuckin´ bad-ass band for me."
And tomorrow you will be playing at the Waldrock Festival in Holland?
"Yeah, we will be playing there tomorrow (19th of June 2004). We well leave this morning and fly back to Amsterdam in which our bus is waiting and from there we´ll go to Waldrock Festival."
According to your website, your last date on this European tour will be 25th of this month; you will be playing at the Crashpop Festival in Belgium…
"Yes, that´s correct. I have to say that I look forward to play there as well. It´s great to play at festivals, y´know."
After this European tour, you and your manager Steven will start recording the Drug Pig debut album at Tsunami Studio.
"Oh yeah, but that´s just some thing to do for a download. Right now we are just getting our clothing line off the ground."
What kind of stuff can we expect from you guys on this album? Metal? Hardcore? Jazz? A fusion of all these styles or what then…?
"All I can tell to you it´s a super-funny stuff. It´s all drug humor shit, that´s basically it in a nutshell, I think."
And you are going to put it fully available through the Drug Pig website?
"Oh yeah, check out www.drugpig.net even if there´s not too much stuff there yet…"
So there won’t be any real pressed CDs done for it or anything…?!
"Well, maybe sometime when I have got more time in my hands. But right now we are just making shirts for sale. The shirts are just funny. If you are looking for like Heavy Metal shirts, these shirts are kind of alternative to them, kind of like replacements. Super-funny shit…!!"
John Miller, who previously used to play in Wardance, is also supposed to sing a few tracks for it, is that correct?
"Maybe when we get around, but right now I have too much stuff to do with EXODUS than anything else, so we´ll just have to wait and see what happens."
Alright, let’s continue talking about your crushing comeback album "Tempo Of The Damned". As the fact goes, it has been received amazingly well by Metal fans all over the world. Have you been any surprised that it has been doing so well amongst the Metal crowd? Do you have any idea about the worldwide sales for it thus far?
"You put it so well, man… It´s indeed a ´crushing´ album in my opinion as well, heh! But oh yeah, I mean, all the reviews for it have been simply just outstanding and the fans have been totally excited about it. So yeah, all this is really cool to us, of course!! It´s very cool to see so many people like what we do."
Have you been informed about the whole sales for it worldwide yet by your label Nuclear Blast?
"Well, worldwide I´m actually no sure, but now in Europe I think it´s standing around like 30-35 thousand sold copies all in all. In the States the sales for it have been a bit slow, but steady, but as you surely know by yourself, Metal is a bigger thing here than there. In the States it is deadly selling, so that´s a good thing, y´know. Europe is just a little more Metal advanced continent, but all in all, I´m satisfied with the sales for it, though."
The European Metalheads seem to find your stuff more appealing for their taste, I assume…
"Oh yeah, absolutely!! I can hardly argue with you about that at all. You are very correct about that, man!"
Why do you actually believe that the European Metal fans find your music more appealing and overall interesting than the American Metal fans then? Do you think that especially kids in America kinda don’t know any more what REAL Metal should be all about? To me it seems like all they listen to nowadays, are bands like Korn, Slipknot, Deftones and basically all these so-called Nu-‘Metal’ or Metalcore bands that are so far away musically from everything that people used to consider as ‘classic Metal’ like f.ex. in the eighties, being it Heavy,- or Speed,- or Thrash Metal, whatsoever!
"I think that every form of music has got both good bands and bad bands. I mean, I love bands like Hatebreed, Korn and Slipknot, but I don´t love Limb Bizkit at all. There´s good, there´s bad, there´s everything… all kinds of bands that can be either bad or good bands to me musically. I think the image thing is the reason why they (Slipknot especially!) are more popular amongst the kids in the States than here in Europe. It´s definitely more fashionable to them, I think."
But don’t you think that it’s kind of sad that bands that have a strong image, I mean, bands that go onstage with masks on and everything, may steal the main concentration out of their music into their stage presence unlike you guys when you just go onstage and let your music do all the talking for your audience?
"In my opinion Slipknot whom music I love, also have the music to back it up, tho, y´know. I mean, it´s getting better if you look at the Ozzfest this year or the past years, they have got a killer line-up this year for Ozzfest compared to all that what it was in the past years with all bands like Limb Bizkit and shit. This year you have got Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Slayer, Dimmu Borgir and Superjoint Ritual, y´know, on the main stage. So that´s definitely a clear improvement for sure I gotta say."
Let’s go back in the history to the times when you had this METALLICA – fame Kirk Hammett in your line-up like in 1981-’83 as well. Wasn’t he in your line-up like 3 years or something…?
"Yeah, something like that if I can still remember correctly…"
And now he’s wasting his talent in METALLICA, heh! Anyway, have you ever considered asking from him to join EXODUS for just one gig, let’s say, for good’n’old times sake?
"No, I have never considered it and I don´t think he would do it anyway, but no, it´s not something I would like to do either. He has got his own thing obviously and we have got ours, y´know. I don´t think it´s going to happen."
So how do you honestly think of METALLICA’s latest yet very controversial album "St. Anger"?
"I like it, but I don´t like the production on it."
To me it sounds like a demo put on CD…
"Yeah, it sounds like a bad demo production-wise…"
Talking about some EXODUS bootlegs, have you ever thought of putting all your old demos together and releasing them all on one CD just because there seem to be so many different bootlegs for them floating around these days?
"Well, we have got old demo songs like ‘Whipping Queen’, ‘Death And Domination’ and ‘Warlords’ from the early 80s EXODUS –era and even if they seem to be hunted down very often by many EXODUS – fans around the world, we have never even considered to release them on CD because that´s a whole different era of EXODUS and those songs have nothing to do what we are doing now."
But maybe that would cut down a bit the making of these bootleg things, y´know…
"Maybe, quite possibly yeah, but I have no interest of putting them out. People can trade them all they want, I just don´t care."
Do you have any idea what some ex-EXODUS members like Mike Maung (guitar 1983), Geoff Andrews (bass 1980-83) and Rob McKillop (1983-91) are up to nowadays? Are you still keeping even occasionally touch with some of them?
"I have no idea what they are up to nowadays. I haven´t seen Mike Maung for years, years and I haven´t seen Jeff and Paul about for 15 years."
Speaking of some recently happened comebacks, Death Angel also released their comeback album through Nuclear Blast Records for a while ago. What do you think of “The Art Of Dying”? Did this album kind of live up all your expectations you may probably had towards that album in advance?
"Yeah, absolutely!! I think it´s an excellent album from them, just a great fuckin´ record. Glad to have them back… Friends are label mates, it´s only far-out."
Also another Bay Area Speed / Thrash Metal band called Heathen made their comeback. Do you know what they have been up to lately?
"Yeah, I know. They are really good friends of ours as well. They put out like an EP called “Recovered” which contained some covers from such bands as Tygers of Pan Tang, Freddie Mercury, Phil Lynott and stuff. I think they cannot wait to do a full-length album, so let´s see what happens…"
Have you heard the EP yet…?
"No, I haven´t had a chance to hear it yet. I have to call to Lee and ask him to send me a copy of it."
If we still keep on talking about comebacks for a moment, are there possibly some comebacks of some once disbanded bands that you´d like to see happening some day?
"Uh… it´s hard to say. There´re quite a few bands actually that surely have disbanded over the years that I might like to return back to the scene again, but I just cannot get any names into my mind right at the very moment…"
Hmm… I can help you out a bit with this… How about Vio-lence?
"Oh yeah, of course…!! Vio-lence would be cool for sure! Those guys were awesome!! But other than that, it´s hard for me to say because I just always tend to think of some bands who have previously been members some bands that I know of personally. But definitely Vio-lence! That would be killer! That would rule for sure…!"
How do you feel about this Bay Area movement these days as to me personally it seems like the whole Bay Area is making its new coming. I mean, both you guys in Exodus and Death Angel made strong comeback albums; Kaos put out a killer new album called “Kaos Among Us”, then Heathen was reformed and they are working with new stuff for their new record, so everything seems to look great concerning all these bands coming from your area…
"I´m more for it as it seems like it´s really doing something elsewhere, too. I mean, we all did great shows in the Bay Area, but as far as the actual Bay Area club scene is concerned, I have to say that I don´t go out the same way as I did in the past, for example. To be honest with you I don´t know a whole lot what´s going on because I´m kind of like a hermit when I´m home. I rather stay at home and avoid people, he-he!"
Anyway, do you know any new bands from the Bay Area that pretty much have managed to capture some of that essential yet even ´magical´ ´80s Thrash – vibe into their own sound? Do you have any recommendations to some of those new Bay Area bands that people really should consider checking out?
"I really don´t know. Like I said I don´t go out much any more. Good, new Bay Area bands… hmmm?! Name one for me, Zetro (*Zetro just came in from the EXODUS dressing room, spreading his arms for a sing of being blissfully ignorant of anything… and walks away, heh…! * – Luxi)! Well, at least there´s one Metal band like Black Metal band with two girls in it; one guitar player and one singer called Luna Crown and they rule! They are like one of my favorite bands from the Bay Area. They play kind of mixture of Black – and Death Metal into Nordic type of vein; a bit like Dimmu Borgir, I think. It´s a super-killer stuff in my opinion!! They have got records out; they truly are a great band – just check them out!"
I´ll surely try… Then let’s move on as my time to do this interview is quite limited as I’m told… (unfortunately!) Let me show you this piece of paper first which I actually ripped out from the EXODUS message forum…
"Yeah, I saw that thing there, too. Ha, that´s a VERY old EXODUS pic really, I can tell…"
In which magazine was that interview – along with that picture, released originally where you spitted out that particular quote?
"It looks like it has originally been in Metal Mania magazine. Yeah, for sure…! That picture has been taken from an old show which we did years and years ago. That´s kind of a cool picture in my opinion, though."
You have said in some of your earliest interviews that: “What I like to listen to most is us because what I write is what I like…”. Have you still managed somehow to stick with that particular quote over the years as I have every reason to believe you just simply take your own song writing process for granted at all?
"First of all, it still is that way to me, y´know. I mean, what I write is what I wanna hear as surely any band does. So yeah, I can still easily stick with that particular quote what I have said in this article. When we do a new album, I listen to it ´til I´m sick of it for a while and I don´t listen to it any more, y´know. But, yeah, you gotta like listening to your own stuff."
According to your website again, I read that you have been sort of a writing mode for quite some time already concerning your forth-coming stuff; even after you wrote stuff for “Tempo Of The Damned”. Have you lots of new EXODUS stuff written already?
"I have got lots of new stuff available for EXODUS already…"
Can you tell how your new material sounds like so far?
"All I can tell you right now it´s super-fucking-heavy shit. Some of it is similar type of stuff compared to the songs on “Tempo Of The Damned”."
So can we expect even some ´surprises´ from you concerning your newest songs for your follow-up record?
"Well, there will be, I´m quite sure of it already."
Eh, could you possibly reveal some of it already, in a bit more specific way…?
"I´m sorry, but I can´t do that for you. But you´ll hear it eventually if you can be able to be a bit more patient, my bro. It´s just way too early to reveal anything else about them at this point of song writing, y´know."
Do you believe that it´s gonna be pretty damn hard to top the songs on “Tempo Of The Damned” with your next album as it´s so damn tight and overall kick-ass package as far as its songs are concerned? I suppose you do like challenges anyway, don´t you?
"Oh yeah, of course! I just have to like them because every time when I´m doing something for this band, I always try to top the songs what I have done for this band previously. You have to let the song develop itself, y´know, you cannot force it. You just let the song come to you and the end result is the end result, y´know."
Could you at least reveal how many songs you have got almost ready all in all since “Tempo Of The Damned”?
"Actually right now I´m working with probably 5 or 6 new songs, but none of them isn´t completely ready yet."
I guess that was it. Thanks for sharing these couple of minutes with me, Gary!
"Thanks to you very much. See ya guys after the gig or something…"
Interview and all pics: Luxi Lahtinen