NUCLEAR ASSAULT is the kind of band which know how to drive the crowds insane. With such personalities as John Connelly, Danny Lilker and Glenn Evans, who gave to our beloved music some of the greatest thrashing anthems like ‘Sin’, ‘New Song’ or the ultra classical ‘Hang The Pope’, I warrant you that the fact to see them performing live is absolutely godly. And yes, almost a decade after the death of NUCLEAR ASSAULT, the boys are back in town and ready to kick our asses. I want for proof the new offering called "Alive Again" (what a great live album!). And they intend to release some new stuff soon. Reasons enough to hook up with bassplayer Danny Lilker for the following in-depth interview…
NUCLEAR ASSAULT formed in 1984, not so long after you have quit ANTHRAX. Did the fact that John Connelly also played in ANTHRAX before motivate you to keep on playing thrashing music with him? Are there any recordings of ANTHRAX rehearsals or gigs with John Connelly?
"Yes, it is true that John was a member of the very first incarnation of Anthrax way back in ’81. I am not aware of any kind of recording with him on it."
How was the New York Metal scene looking like when you started with ANTHRAX and then with NUCLEAR ASSAULT? I guess bands like TROUBLE, RAVEN, VENOM, HELLHAMMER had a big influence on the Metalheads of this time, but were you already aware of what happened in Germany at the same time? I mean, did you aleady know the TORMENTOR (pre KREATOR), SODOM and DESTRUCTION demos, and if yes, were they an influence on your playing?
"Yes, I was aware of the German bands you mentioned at the time through zines and record stores. I did not have their demos then, only later, but I can say that the aggressive style of these bands did have an impact on early Nuke stuff. These bands had releases out before "Game Over"."
What happened to the first NUCLEAR ASSAULT members, guitarist Mike Bogush and drummer Scott Duboys? Have you met them since that time? Were they involved in other bands?
"Mike had a wife and kid even back then, and he had to have a regular job to support them, so it was hard for him to make practice. We decided we needed someone who could be around more. Scott had some personal problems which made it difficult to deal with him, but years later he admitted it and we are friends now. I don’t know if they did anything else…"
NUCLEAR ASSAULT is a band with socially engaged lyrics from the beginning. Why did you decide so? How strong was the impact of the Punk and Hardcore scenes on you and John in 1985? What did you think of new bands like NAPALM DEATH, ELECTRO HIPPIES, and all this crossover wave with bands like CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, S.O.D. (of course)…? Why did you feel the need to include such lyrics into Metal, as bands like POSSESSED, LEGACY / TESTAMENT, never did?
"We started out with typical Metal lyrics (‘Stranded In Hell’, ‘Cold Steel’), but when John and I got into Hardcore Punk we decided to make meaningful lyrics. We didn’t plan on changing the world, but we WERE in a unique position to make people think a little. I really enjoyed all those mad British bands, of course. I wasn’t a big Cryptic Slaughter fan… no comment on S.O.D., hehe. We felt the need to do this simply because we did (and do) what we want, and that’s what we wanted to do then."
Although your relation with Neil Turbin (first ANTHRAX’s singer) wasn’t good, how was the ambient if NUCLEAR ASSAULT had to play a gig with ANTHRAX on the same stage? Together with OVERKILL, CARNIVORE and ANTHRAX, NUCLEAR ASSAULT was one of the few challengers to the Bay Area Thrash Metal. What was the difference between the East and West Coast sounds, according to you?
"Nuclear played with Anthrax a few times, but we were not playing gigs yet when Neil was still with them. I am a civil person, so I would have said "Hi" and "Bye". East Coast bands were faster and less technical than Bay Area bands. There are, of course, exceptions on both sides like Possessed and Overkill (Overkill was never too "intense" in my opinion)."
When did things start to be serious for NUCLEAR ASSAULT? I mean, when did you begin to play gigs outside of New York? How was the response when you played the first time in California?
"We played in places like Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, even as far as Chicago in ’86, and played in California in ’87. The response in L.A. was awesome, it was great to be "so far" from home and have killer shows!"
Although, bands like METALLICA, TESTAMENT, POSSESSED were already well known around 1986 / 87, I want to know if you were already aware of the existence of bands like SLAUGHTER, MANTAS / DEATH, SACRIFICE, PESTILENCE whose influence on the extreme Metal was huge.
"I also remember Sarcafago, Thanatos, Invocator, Master, Poison (don’t ask which one!!!), Assassin, Necrodeath, etc.. Does that answer your question, hehe?"
Were you the only one in NUCLEAR ASSAULT to be more "Necro Metal" oriented? I mean, your love for CELTIC FROST, AUTOPSY and the likes isn’t a secret. What kind of musicians inspired you and John, in the composition work for NUCLEAR ASSAULT?
"John grew out of the real crazy stuff eventually… but, before that happened, we enjoyed Venom, Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate as well as D.R.I. and Agnostic Front, if you see my point."
It seems that Anthony Bramante never took a big part in the composition of the songs. Am I wrong? How comes that Glenn Evans composed songs like ‘Search And Seizure’ on your "Handle With Care" album? Was he a long time guitar player, besides his duties behind the drum kit?
"No, Anthony was never a songwriter in the band. Glenn learned how to play guitar over the years to the point where he could write songs, he’s very talented."
Please tell us how you regard the albums and minis you did with NUCLEAR ASSAULT now? When you left to form BRUTAL TRUTH, how did you react to the NUCLEAR ASSAULT albums without you? Are the songs after the "Handle With Care" album so bad that you don’t play them anymore on stage since your reunion?
"I am very proud of the stuff I did with the band, but the "Out Of Order" album was not as good. We were having problems in the band by then, you see. "Something Wicked" was not my idea of a classic N.A. releases, but I think that’s understandable for me to say. We decided to play the stuff we liked best live."
A thing which I read often in your interviews is your disgust for the so called "New Metal" wave. Alright, I won’t disagree with you, but hell, how can you explain that you played on the same bill as bands like 40 GRIT (who are good friends with Billy Milano), and that you sayed in an interview that you found SLIPKNOT "cool"??? Are there several levels in this style of "music" for you? Have you already seen some New Metal fans blown away by the power of NUCLEAR ASSAULT on stage?
"Well, I had no idea who 40 Grit was until I met them in Europe, and yes, they are friends of Billy, who got them on the tour. As for Slipknot, they are cool compared to Limp Bizkit. I can tell the difference. They are nice people, too. I have no idea if we’ve converted New Metal fans yet."
What do you think of the last SLAYER, ANTHRAX, MEGADETH and OVERKILL albums? Do you appreciate the last stuff from bands like DESTRUCTION, KREATOR and SODOM?
"Sorry, but honestly I haven’t heard any of these records!"
In this whole wave of reunited bands, do you think that there are some that just should have remained as dead and not killing all that made them cult? Which bands are you happy to see alive and kicking again? (Please say HEATHEN, hahaha!!)
"I’ve heard that Dark Angel are having big problems re-uniting. Perhaps they should forget it. It is great to see the return of Death Angel. I was never the biggest Heathen fan."
In 1989 you released the "Live At The Hammersmith Odeon" album. And now you shall soon release a new live album called "Alive Again", from the reunion tour. Please tell us what the fan will find in this new offering from NUCLEAR ASSAULT? Is it sounding better than "Live At The Hammersmith Odeon"? And could you speak a bit of Screaming Ferret Wreckords which shall release the new live album?
"I never liked our first live album ‘cos it was a bit of a rip off being nothing more than the soundtrack to a previously released video! The new one sounds a lot better, and it shows our fans that we can still thrash hard in 2002. Screaming Ferret is a small Metal label in New Hampshire and the label boss came down to the show and recorded it himself. They have licensed it to SPV in Europe."
You also plan to release a new album. Is John still very active in the composition? Will you include modern sounds? Will it be recorded in numeric or in analogic? Aren’t you afraid to release a second "Survive" or "Handle With Care" album, or to have lost the essence of NUCLEAR ASSAULT classics?
"John is, as always, very active in the writing process. Modern sounds? Not really… WE do not know at this moment what technique will be used to record it. We are not at all afraid to release an album similar to the ones you mentioned, that was our style! And I can tell you we have definitely not lost our classic style."
In the "Fight To Be Free" vinyl version, one can see a poster of the band, where you are all posing on Harley Davidsons! Ha! Very funny looking picture! Was it in order to say that NUCLEAR ASSAULT was tougher than MANOWAR? Hahaha!!!!
"Oh, boy. That shot was taken outside the clubhouse of the Rogue Animals, a biker club from Brooklyn. They did shows there, and before a show we had to do a photo session, and they wanted us to take pictures on their bikes. YOU say no to a bunch of bikers!"
What do you think of a band with socially engaged lyrics like DYING FETUS?
"That is fine, it’s 2003 and you don’t have to sing about corpses to be Death Metal. Their old bassist / vocalist Jason was an extremely intelligent guy."
You told me that you are more into the "necro" Death Metal, and not that much into the Deathcore wave. But NUCLEAR ASSAULT is also a mix between Hardcore and Metal, as well as S.O.D. Don’t you think that the actual Deathcore scene is slowly dying because of its unability to renew itself? According to you, where belongs the future of Death and Thrash Metal? (Ok, you’re allowed to say THE RAVENOUS, hahahaha!!!)
"Ugh, complicated question. Music is music. Crossover is dead ‘cos "Hardcore" bands sound just as Metal as Metal bands today, that’s all. The lines of distinction blur… Ravenous has elements of Death, Black and Hardcore Punk for example."
What kind of bands moved you recently in all the Metal genres? Have you got an eye on Sweden and bands like REPUGNANT, KAAMOS, DELVE? Are you also following American bands like CIANIDE, SCEPTER, COFFIN TEXTS, SADISTIC INTENT? According to you, what are some of the most underrated Metal bands (past and actual)?
"I don’t follow all the new bands so much. I will hail Goatwhore, though. A good example of an underrated band is Carpathian Forest."
As you have a long involment into the Metal scene, could you foresee what will be the next trend? Had you already felt that Death and Black Metal would know such a boom?
"I couldn’t begin to surmise what the next trend will be, and it’s great that Death and Black Metal are still standing strong. Forever underground!"
Did you await such a positive reaction on the NUCLEAR ASSAULT reunion? How was it to play in Wacken last year?
"It was fucking great to see that the Metal community still cared enough about us to welcome us back upon our return! I want to thank everyone immensely for continuing to support N.A. and Metal in general! Wacken was awesome! 42,000 metalheads united! It really made the point that we weren’t wasting our time when we reformed…"
How did you finally get in touch with Erik Burke to take the place of Anthony Bramante? I heard that he is also playing in a Death Metal band… Are you going to record a new full length with him, or is he just supporting for the tour?
"Erik is from Rochester, NY where I live now. My wife has known him for years and suggested him when Anthony could no longer commit due to his job. He also plays and sings in SULACO, but I wouldn’t call them Death Metal. I believe you can hear their music if you search online."
"Tragic loss and he was a friend."
"Cool fucking guys and great band."
"Early stuff was best, Dee Snider seems quite cool."
"Not to be wasted on the undeserving."
Death (not the band):
"An eventual reality for us all. I don’t fear it, but I don’t want it to be violent or extremely painful."
"I’m glad I’ve had the chance to play what I enjoy and get to travel the world doing so. I hope I’m reborn as a cat so I can sleep all day."
"Very enjoyable. Still illegal?"
Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons (hu hu hu…):
"I am honored that some have suggested that I resemble such a sinister character."
OK, now comes my usual question. If Metal music was a beer, which one would it be according to you? Please give your definition of Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Death and Black Metal.
"I am American! I have to drink shitty beer. OK, I’ll try… Heavy Metal beer is obviously Budweiser for the white trash connection. Thrash Metal Beer is gonna be Warsteiner, the German one. Death Metal is Guiness ‘cos it looks thick and soupy like diarrhea. Black Metal beer is whatever’s coldest."
Would you like to ask me a question?
"Have you considered buying a new tape recorder?" (Nathaniel: Hahahaha! Shitty question, shitty answer! I feel ashamed, haha! But no, I haven’t considered this now.)
Ok, I stop to disturb you now, and let you in peace with a good joint in your mouth!!!! This was really cool from you to answer this interview, and I wish a long life to the new NUCLEAR ASSAULT! You simply rule! These last lines are yours.
"What makes you think I waited to smoke until the end? Thank you, Nathaniel, for your interest and support, thanks to all fukkers reading this, we’ll see you with Exodus in October!"
copyright for the last 7 live pics: Nico Wobben (Nico’s Photopit)