Here’s another interview with NUCLEAR ASSAULT bassplayer (and pothead extraordinary) Danny Lilker, talking to our Hungarian Metal maniac Lacy about his entire musical career thus far… As the interview is already long enough in its own, I better cut the crap here to let you enjoy it right away!
Hi Danny! I’m very happy about the reunion of NUCLEAR ASSAULT, so I would like to do a long, in-depth interview. You are one of my favourite Thrash bands…
"Holy shit, 40 questions! I better load my pipe."
Before you established NUCLEAR ASSAULT you were a member of ANTHRAX. Why were you fired?
"A conflict with the original vocalist, Neil Turbin. He was an egotist (like most singers, haha) and it bothered him that I was taller than him. Also, he had no sense of humor, so if you busted his balls he took it seriously. So, he told the other members "I can’t take Lilker anymore, it’s him or me". They decided he was more important as a familiar frontman to the fans, so they threw me out, even though I wrote 75% of the music on "Fistful…". Oh well. He was, of course, thrown out 7 months later, and I played with Scott and Charlie in S.O.D. the next year."
You have come from New York. How was the Thrash Metal scene in New York? Which bands did work in the underground of the city?
"It was great back then. There was Nuke, Anthrax, Overkill, Whiplash, Bloodfeast, Carnivore, and all the great hardcore bands too like Agnostic Front, etc."
John Conelly was also a member of ANTHRAX for a short time. Did he play on the ANTHRAX demos? Did you know him before you established NUCLEAR ASSAULT?
"John might have been on a very early demo, but I don’t remember as this was over 20 fucking years ago. Yes, I knew John from school, and he was the first person I thought of when it was time to make a new band after ANTHRAX."
In the first line up of NUCLEAR ASSAULT have played Mike Bogush on guitar and Scott Duboys on drums. Why did they leave the band? How did you find Anthony Bramante and Glenn Evans?
"Mike had a kid and couldn’t commit anymore. Scott had some problems getting along with us so he didn’t work out. But he introduced us to Anthony before he was thrown out, and Anthony ended up finding Glenn."
How were your rehearsals? And please tell us about your demos as well! How many demos did you record?
"We used to rehearse in the Music Building in Manhattan, a big building where lots of bands rented rooms. Then Glenn built a studio in his house in New Jersey and we rehearsed there every weekend. We did 2 demos, but the first isn’t very good. The second one is pretty good and I like the guitar sound better on that than on "Game Over"."
I would like you to comment on all NUCLEAR ASSAULT releases… I’m interesting in what you think, respectively what’s your opinion about the songs, covers, lyrics, sound etc. Your first album was "Game Over" (1986)…
"I’m not crazy about the over-clean guitar sound, but other wise I think this was a very good album, and a strong way to introduce ourselves to the world. It has a lot of good songs like ‘Sin’, ‘Betrayal’, etc., the artwork was very effective and showed you it wasn’t going to be pretty when you listened to it. The lyrics are very unique on this album ‘cos it has some of the older songs like ‘Cold Steel’ and ‘Stranded In Hell’ which were more Black / War Metal but most of the songs were "newer", after we got into hardcore and realized you could make statements with lyrics. Like I said, I wish the guitars were a little more distorted, but it still sounds good."
What must we know about the track ‘Hang The Pope’? Was it meant seriously or more of a joke?
"It was very much S.O.D.-type humor. You don’t really mean it, but all the same there’s a reason you wrote it in the first place. I think the Pope’s a fuckin’ jerk, but I wouldn’t kill him. I’d just tell him "You’re a Catholic asshole"."
Your music contained a lot of hardcore elements. Why did you mix your music with hardcore effects? Was it called crossover at that time?
"It was a natural result of living in a great city like NY that had a very healthy music scene. We loved fast music, and we got turned on to all the great NYHC bands by going to shows at CBGBs. I saw Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law, Ludichrist, Crumbsuckers, Adrenalin O.D., etc.,etc, and John and I got influenced by the music and definitely by the lyrics. I guess it was called crossover among other things."
You have released the "Brain Death" EP. Which songs were on this? What was the use of it?
"That actually came out before "Game Over". The 2 songs on the B-side were ‘Final Flight’ and ‘Demolition’. They were recorded during the "Game Over" sessions and the point of the "Brain Death" EP was just to put something out quick before the whole album."
Your next release was "The Plague" (1987) mini album…
"Only 6 months after "Game Over" was released, but we were touring a lot so it was good to have more new stuff out before the summer. Also, it was the first of 3 releases done at the Music Grinder studio in L.A. with Randy Burns and Casey McMackin as producer and engineer. The production was a little better than "Game Over"."
On this record is the song ‘Buttfuck’, which was an ode to Vince Neil (MÖTLEY CRÜE singer). Whose idea was to dedicate the song to him? Why was the track dedicated to him?
"I forgot whose idea it was, probably mine. The whole concept of that song was that it was fucked up that he could get away with driving drunk and killing the guy in the car with him (Razzle, from HANOI ROCKS). He didn’t do any jail time like you or I would. Just because he was famous, all he had to do was some community service and do some public service announcements about drunk driving. He literally got away with murder. We thought he should’ve gone to prison and got anally raped like most young men do when they’re put in U.S. prisons. We made the whole thing funny, but we meant it."
"Survive" (1988) was the second album of NUCLEAR ASSAULT. How would you comment on this one?
"I’m very proud of this one. Good production, and good songwriting resulting from years of jamming together. We also tried to write songs we’d have to play 100 times on tour, so the songs had slow parts too, unlike "Game Over" where most songs were all fast and tiring to play live."
You have released two EPs too, "Fight To Be Free" and another one, unfortunately, it don’t occurs to me. What was the importance of these EPs? Were unreleased songs on them?
"You must mean the "Good Times, Bad Times" EP. Our British label, Music For Nations, were kind of "maxi-crazy". They loved to put out these 3 and 4 song releases, and they made sure we recorded lots of extra stuff every time we recorded one of our albums so they would have material for these releases. It’s a British thing, bloke." (the "Fight To Be Free" EP also has ‘Equal Rights’ and ‘Stand Up’ on it while "Good Times Bad Times" also features ‘Lesbians’, ‘Happy Days’ and a live version of ‘Hang The Pope’ – Frank)
It was followed by "Handle With Care" (1989). In my opinion, this is the most hardcore influenced NUCLEAR ASSAULT album. Do you agree with me? Whose idea was it to cover the LED ZEPPELIN classic ‘Good Times Bad Times’? I think your version was good…
"Probably my favorite NUKE release along with "Game Over" for different reasons. It’s hard to say which of our releases was the most hardcore-influenced, I would’ve said "Game Over" myself. I think M.F.N. in England wanted us to do a classic rock cover, things were starting to get a little out of control by then…"
"Live At The Hammersmith Odeon" (1990)… Are you satisfied with the sound quality of the album? In my opinion, the record is a little bit short, why didn’t you release a double album?
"I must be honest – I hate this release! It was just the soundtrack for the live video of the same name that was already out! I always thought it was somewhat of a rip off in that respect – if you already owned the video, you weren’t getting anything new. By then, there were problems with the business in the band, problems with labels, and this record was put out just to satisfy a legal requirement to help us get off a label."
At the beginning of the 90s, when "Out Of Order" (1992) came out Thrash Metal wasn’t popular. In your opinion, why did Thrash Metal lose its popularity? Are you satisfied with this album?
"By now, yes, Thrash Metal was losing steam and Death Metal and Grindcore were getting bigger. I can tell you why Thrash Metal lost popularity – to people like me, it was slow and boring now! It’s obvious a lot of people were thinking like me, heh heh. "Out Of Order" is not the worst album in the world, but I have bad memories of it ‘cos we were fighting a lot by now (words only!) and it was the last thing I did with the band back then."
Why did you leave the band after the release of the record? What’s your opinion about "Something Wicked" (1995) which was made without you? Why was this album released under the name of NUCLEAR ASSAULT?
"I had started the notorious BRUTAL TRUTH in ’90 as a project, but it got bigger and bigger. Pretty soon I was in a hectic situation being in 2 bands, so I had to cut one loose or have big scheduling conflicts. My heart wasn’t in NUKE anymore, B.T. was much more exciting. Just like NUKE had been one of the early Thrash bands, BRUTAL was one of the early Grindcore bands, and it was fresh and exciting all over again. Well, "Something Wicked" had some heavy John riffs, but it wasn’t really intense like the band was known for, I didn’t like it that much. I’m sure they used the NUKE name once again to fulfill a contractual obligation like the live album."
Please tell me about your lyrics too. As far as I know, politics has played an important role in the lyrics, hasn’t it?
"Well, ever since John and I got into hardcore punk, we realized you could use lyrics to speak your mind about things instead of just writing about fictional stuff. So we started doing that. It was John’s lyrics, so I can’t answer completely, but basically we figured you might as well use lyrics to speak your opinion, which is more intellectually satisfying than just copying other bands or writing about stuff you don’t really care about but sounds good."
I think John’s voice is the trademark of the band. In your opinion, did his voice go well with the music? He has a high, but rough one, hasn’t he?
"I think his voice is great, he had good range, but he didn’t sound "gay" when he hit high notes, he sounded like he was screaming in your face."
When and why did NUCLEAR ASSAULT split up? What did the other guys do after the split?
"I believe the band split up in ’93, but I’m not sure. I guess they were tired of doing it, and I imagine they were tired of answering questions about me! None of the other guys stayed in the Metal scene, they did shit like go to college, build houses, etc."
When did you decide to reform the band? What was the motivation of the reformation?
"NUKE’s biggest fan ever, Eric Paone from Candy Striper Death Orgy, called me sometimes in the 90’s asking if I’d be into doing a few shows. I was always too busy with B.T. and then S.O.D. again. Then I got married. But when he called in early 2002, I wasn’t as busy and I agreed to play with the band at the New Jersey Metal Meltdown in March 2002. One thing led to another, it was fun again, and we decided to do more music. It just happened gradually."
You have played at the Wacken Festival in Germany in 2002. What do you remember about it? Were the fans enthusiastic? How was it to stand on stage again?
"Wacken was awesome! It was very inspiring to see that a lot of people were still NUKE fans and they were really excited to see us again. It did a lot to make us realize we still mattered. And it was great to be on that huge stage with the guys in front of 50,000 maniacs!"
Last year a live album was released ("Alive Again" – Frank). Where did you record it? I think the sound of the album unfortunately isn’t the best. Do you agree with me?
"It was done in a club in a small town in Massachussetts. I think it sounds good, it was purposely mixed in a raw way, ‘cos if you make a live album too polished it sounds like a studio album and you lose the excitement."
As far I as know, you were also part of the "Bonded By Metal" tour. How was the tour? What kind of experiences did you gain? Was everything alright? With which bands did you play together?
"Hey, that’s 4 questions! The tour was a lot of fun even if it wasn’t a success for the promoter. After all the touring I’ve done I can’t say I gained many new experiences, except playing in Brno, Czech Republic. Never played there before and we had a lot of Slavic maniacs there! Lots of drunk Poles, hahaha. There were some problems with finances on the tour but I will say no more about this ‘cos I like Johan from Metallysee. The bands for most of the tour were us, Exodus, Agent Steel, Grave, Mortician, God Dethroned, Occult, Callenish Circle and Prospect."
Did you listen to the new EXODUS album? How do you like it?
"I have not heard it but I heard a few songs live and they were great!"
What’s your opinion about the reunion of DEATH ANGEL, HEATHEN, HALLOW’S EVE, NASTY SAVAGE and EXODUS? Will there be a Thrash comeback this year?
"I always joke that peole are tired of fucking Nu-Metal already and want to hear the old real shit! I think some bands see other bands doing it and get inspired, and it’s a good thing as long as the bands are still powerful and intense."
Do you take the career of NUCLEAR ASSAULT seriously or do you take part in other bands, projects too? When will you record a new album? Do you work on new material?
"Sure, I take NUKE seriously, but at the moment (May) we’re just chilling, waiting for the album to be completed and mixed. We did all the basic tracks last year. We are not yet working on any new material beyond the new album. Well, you know about THE RAVENOUS, but I also play in a brutal Black / Death Metal band called OVERLORD EXTERMINATOR."
Everybody knows, you have played in several bands / projects. Could I ask you about them too? Let’s begin with S.O.D. Tell us everything about the period that you have spent with the band!
"Everything? Let’s just say it was a lot of fun to play in a band with those guys, they’re very talented. It was also lots of fun to fuck with people who thought we were fascists or whatever. Our lyrics were meant to provoke people primarily, and to be outrageous. We had no idea back then that the band was going to be huge. The European festivals we did in ’99 are very fond memories for me."
What’s your opinion about Billy Milano? Was he the boss of the band?
"Billy is a very cool guy. He has strong opinions, sure, but that makes him who he is. There was no boss in the band."
What do you remember about the underground scene of the 80s? Please tell us detailed about it!
"I remember reading lots of cool zines and getting interested in crazy bands like SODOM! I remember playing and attending a million great shows at clubs in NYC like L’amour and CBGB. There were great college radio stations that played Metal and hardcore you would never hear on "normal" radio. You must realize this was a long time ago and it’s hard to remember details. I’m a pothead!"
Did you also play in Exit 13?
"I played for a short time in EXIT-13 because their bass player left and I volunteered to help out because I liked the band a lot and I wanted to see them continue. I played on the "Ethos Musick" and "Smoking Songs" albums and did about 3 drunken disaster live shows."
I think the most extreme and brutal group in which you have played was undoubtedly BRUTAL TRUTH. Your debut album "Extreme Conditions…" is one of my favourite records, a Grindcore classic. Please tell us about the BRUTAL TRUTH times and albums!
"With BRUTAL TRUTH we were influenced by earlier grind bands like NAPALM and CARCASS and we just wanted to play really fucking fast, which we achieved, haha. After "Extreme Conditions…" we put out an EP called "Perpetual Conversion", then Scott left and we got Rich on drums. Then we did "Need To Control", the "Kill Trend Suicide" EP and the "Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom" album. We toured with bands like NAPALM, CARCASS, PUNGENT STENCH, MACABRE, INCANTATION, BOREDOMS, DEICIDE, etc. etc. And we smoked pot all the time so that’s all I remember."
Why did BRUTAL TRUTH split up? What are the guys doing nowadays? Didn’t you think about reforming BRUTAL TRUTH?
"A couple of guys weren’t getting along anymore and it made it impossible to continue. Kevin is in a band with Jesse and Shane from NAPALM and Buzz from the MELVINS called VENOMOUS CONCEPT. Gurn just hangs out at home, I believe, and Rich plays in TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION. No, we never thought about reforming, it had to stop."
As far I as know, you have played also in BLOOD FROM THE SOUL together with Shane Embury from NAPALM DEATH. Who else were the members of this band?
"No, I played in MALFORMED EARTHBORN with Shane and Scott Lewis, the first BRUTAL drummer. I was not in B.F.T.S. but Lou from SICK OF IT ALL was."
The last act in which you were together with Killjoy and Chris Reifert is THE RAVENOUS. I think this is an underground supergroup, isn’t it? What would you say about this band and about your albums?
"Well to us it’s just a bunch of friends having fun, the word "supergroup" makes me feel like a fuckin’ rock star, hahaha. I really enjoy playing in this band, all the guys are super cool. As far as our albums, I like them all, I guess. Sorry, my brain’s starting to hurt."
Are you still a member of THE RAVENOUS? Is this a project or a band?
"Yes I am. I guess if I had to say, I’d say we’re a project ‘cos everyone’s busy with other bands and THE RAVENOUS is not a proirity for any of us."
Chris Reifert is a Death Metal hero, one of the most famous persons of the Death Metal underground scene. Is he your friend? How would you characterize him personally? Did you / do you like his cult band AUTOPSY? In your opinion, is THE RAVENOUS a little bit similar to AUTOPSY?
"Chris is absolutely my friend, he’s one of the coolest, most down to earth people you could meet. He’s very laid back, really funny, and a little crazy. Yes, I enjoyed and still enjoy the classic AUTOPSY, and yes there are some similarities to AUTOPSY in THE RAVENOUS which is understandable since Chris writes 99% of our music."
Please tell us about the future plans of NUCLEAR ASSAULT! Do you come on tour or to play shows to Europe? Do you know where Hungary is, haha? When can we see you on stage in Hungary?
"We hope to have our new album out Summer 2004, and as for touring it will have to wait a little, John’s wife will have a kid in October and he wants to be there. Of course I want to come back to Europe, I always really enjoy playing for and hanging out with the European maniacs. Yes, I know where Hungary is, BRUTAL was supposed to play there in Budapest once but it got cancelled for some reason. Maybe if Johan from Metallysee finds a promoter in Hungary we can play there some time."
Danny, thank you for your answers. I hope my questions weren’t boring. I think you are a legendary person of the underground scene, so it was an honour for me to chat with you. What do you want to say at the end of the interview? Cheers and I wish you all the best of luck!
"Well thank you very much, it’s obvious you are a true Metal freak for sending someone 40 questions."