Exclusive Interview with Thrash Drum Legend Dave Lombardo (former Slayer)

Published on March 9th, 2014

Dave Lombardo Interview pic 1

 

 

Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Senior Staff Writer/Contributor)

 

 

LiveWire Workshops was an idea dreamed up by Belfast guitar teacher Alastair Simpson. The idea of bringing world class musicians to visit amped Guitar School to inspire and teach the pupils was exciting and something new in Northern Ireland.

It soon became clear as word got out about LiveWire that there was demand from musicians around the country to attend these workshops. The idea grew when the Crescent Arts Centre came on board with their fantastic venue ‘The Cube’

In its first year LiveWire welcomed musicians such as Whitesnake’s Steve Vai, Greg Howe (Michael Jackson), Steve Vai, Rob Harris (Jamiroquai), Marco Mendoza and many more. By the end of the year we had run over 10 workshops with musicians from around the world and had welcomed George Lowden Guitars as our primary sponsor.

LiveWire Workshops returned for 2014 with Canadian guitarist Ewan Dobson and a sell out show with ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo

Livewire site is www.livewireworkshops.com for all those interested in their services.

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Last week legendary thrash metal drummer Dave Lombardo was in N.Ireland to do 2 “clinic”master classes with Livewire workshops. I was fortunate to be able to chat to Dave at his hotel as part of his busy schedule.

 

Good morning Dave, thanks for agreeing to chat to me today. You are doing 2 Clinics in N.Ireland on this quick trip. What are your plans after that?

Dave”After these, I am off to Italy for two more.”

None in the UK?

Dave”No, I was just able to book two in Ireland, but it’s cool.

Have you been over to Ireland in recent years?

Dave”I think that the last time that I was here was in 2000…,2009,2008? Maybe earlier, it has been a while. I know that we did some festivals, an Ozzfest festival. We did a venue ,a theatre in Dublin.”

My personal first live viewing was in 1988 in Belfast when you played on the South of Heaven tour with Nuclear Assault.

Dave”Wow, that’s probably the last time that I was here.”

Have you had much of an opportunity to have a look around, and do the full tourist tour? Or has your schedule been too hectic to facilitate that?

Dave”Actually it has been hectic, but I walked around a little bit last night. The guys that I was hanging out with took me by the water and they told me about the history and everything. Which was awesome, hearing all these stories. Unfortunately the tragedies but the history was interesting.”

This clinic format, is that something new for you, or something that you have always done?

Dave”I have always done these clinics. What I do is that I try to go up there and its very relaxed. It’s not anything pretentious, or anybody being like a rock star. We just have a good time, chat with the fans, and interact. They ask me questions and things and we just have a nice conversation. I just play drums for them and they have a good time.”

It makes you also more approachable from a fans perspective. Perhaps at the height of your success with Slayer for example maybe that wouldn’t have been as possible to make that connection.

Dave”Yes that’s true, and I like it too. The kids get, well not even kids there were some guys there that were older than me. It’s really interesting to see these generations and its awesome, I love it.  It’s like I give something back to the fans that have been giving to me all this time. It’s like”hey, let’s chill, lets talk about drums”

What sort of format does your master class take?Do you have a drum kit there,?

Dave”Yes I have a drum set there, I usually pre-order, and I set up to check that they have the right specifications. I arrive, I set it up. I have these play a longs, I have these songs that don’t have any drums on them. It’s just a plain track, a backing track. I play along to that and I just have a good time. Then I do a little solo, I do a question and answer and we have nice conversations.”

Musically then, outside of the clinics are you working on anything specific at the moment?

Dave”Yes at the moment I just finished recording and producing the new Philm album which is the second release. We haven’t nailed down a record company and we are probably thinking about releasing it independently. I hope to find a good record company and put it out.”

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Is musically all encompassing in your life, obviously you also have family now? Outside music do you have any other interests or hobbies?

Dave”Oh music is the main thing, both of my children well two out of three. My boy-the twenty one year old he’s the bands engineer, recording engineer and live engineer. My son Jeremy is a drummer in a band called Two Humans, and they are being sought after now by a management company. So….who knows? I wish them the best”

Looking back over your extensive musical career, what have been the particular high and low points?

Dave”Well it fluctuates, up and down you know. A low point was probably January of last year when ever they went down, you know with Slayer. It was leading up to that you know unfortunately. Well not really leading up to it because my bags were ready and packed to go.”

Still must be difficult for you on a personal level? As they were your friends, and people that you had grown up with.

Dave”Yeah, it’s strange. It’s unfortunate as well because I realize now that they weren’t really my friends. They were just business partners. I lived and hung out with them, as if they were friends. Wow these guys are watching out for me-and it didn’t quite turn out that way.”

How do you feel one year on? Has your attitude to the situation mellowed, or…..?

Dave”Yeah I have, I am more like-oh well, shit happens. Move on, you know”

Are you generally a modest person about your personal musical talent and ability? How do you deal for example with compliments. I read for example that Bill Ward called you “one of the best drummers in metal”?

Dave”Yeah, I am honored. First of all I am honored to have Bill Ward as my friend. This is a guy that I looked at these albums and listened to this music, and played along to these albums as a child and a little kid. For now and me to know Bill it is surreal, and it feels very odd but it is awesome.”

Growing up and looking back, who was your first musical hero? First early memories of music, was it a drummer or a particular band maybe?

Dave”Hero?,mmm. I think the hero would be you know the classic drummers of that era. That would be obviously Bill Ward, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, Ian Paice. I love Ian Paice, and Ginger Baker.”

Ginger Baker is still going.

Dave”I heard, he moved back to England and he has got a band together and he is 75.”

He has a new trio together, they are doing some dates including Belfast in a couple of months.

Dave”I would love to go and see that, that’s awesome. I am so proud of him ,look at that-that’s me. I’m just going to keep playing you know as much as you can.”

Just touching on musical influences, outside of Slayer obviously your albums have illustrated a diversity of different styles and genres.

Dave”Well Slayer is one genre, I have tapped into the avant-garde, and very experimental with Mike Patton, and John Zoran, and even with my new band Philm. We touched on some of the experimental with that group, but I have worked with wow (responding to some hotel background music)-that is beautiful, right?

Music still has the power to emotionally move you?

Dave”All styles of music, I love Latin jazz, percussive, I even like indigenous music like different countries. I love listening to that whether it is gypsy music from Romania to African music or Moroccan.

Those rhythms go back though to where you were raised and grew up (Cuba).

Dave”Yeah, absolutely but also those rhythms they are like very ancient, and I feel like those are the source that’s your touchstone where you go and you get charged up musically or rhythmically. Then when you go to the drum set you have these new ideas, and you get very creative. It’s like using different colored paints.

So there is a mellow side behind the public persona of Dave Lombardo crazy drum animal/machine?

Dave”Ohhhh yes(laughing), yes there is very mellow side. Yes at home I am really chilled, but just very driven.”

I can see that as evidenced by your hectic work schedule during this short trip.

Dave”This is brutal, hectic but on days off are somewhat of a bummer. There is nothing to do, but then when the schedule is really hectic I am really anxious for a day off. I am home for only two days, then I fly to Australia to perform with John Zorn, and Bill Lazarus Saxophone and bass player for one show. My phone is on constant to stay in touch with family. I am divorced now, I went through this horrible divorce, but now I just have connection with my kids.”

How do you find being a working and touring musician in the Internet age is it more difficult to make a living?

Dave “Well it is”

You cant do this full time??? I have talked to other guys who have established careers and still have to take other jobs because life is difficult, and cant sustain a living solely from music

Dave”Well the thing is you have to find other ways and get creative and find other ways to market your music and to recreate yourself, it’s like once the Internet and the world wide web came into the picture everyone scrambled and the first was the music industry because everyone was downloading music, so the started scrambling ways to make a living.  So you just have to get creative, yea it is difficult its a little different the royalties aren’t the same from the physical Cd’s but there are other avenues of income that you just need to sign up online and you will start receiving royalties on the songs that you have recorded. I never knew this until recently about six months ago and it was like woo i got a nice cheque in the mail. All i did was just go online and register my name all the music that i did in my life that i have recorded.

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That you weren’t aware off, that type of royalties thing?

Dave”I was never aware off, nobody told me, thank-you fucking very much..”.

The money was obviously ……?

Dave”Going somewhere…. else” (laughter)

Sure sure…..”

Dave”That’s what i tell the kids, I call them the kids…”

My oldest is eighteen and hes still a kid

Dave”I tell them that you not only have educate yourself, you know with your music you learn obviously in your art, but there is the business side to learn and that’s more important than anything else…….

Yea

Dave”So it could have avoided a lot of problems if i knew more of the ins and outs ….”

I’m sure you have done quite a few interviews over the years. If you have the opportunity to sit down with somebody, not necessarily a musician and you could interview them , who would it be and what would you ask them?

Any body that springs to mind instantly or?

Dave”Em  Buddy Rich, yea hes amazing and he would be a character to interview. Keith Moon, who else who else? ”

Any drummer heroes? outside maybe music maybe a sports hero or a politician.

Dave”I’m not into sports”

Really?

Dave”Can you believe that…? I’m not into sports, I cant sit down and watch a game, ya know. I don’t know I just never been into its always been the music its always been the arts.”Its never been sports. I like motor cross and I like races like car races like Nascar”

Watching rather than doing?

Dave”Yea watching but I would love to do it, I would love to race a car, I am not used to not racing but rode motor cycles, until I got my accident and then I stopped it because I didn’t want to break anything else”

What about your health over the years, like playing drums at the velocity and energy levels that you exhibit regularly on stage has that had any adverse health effects.

Dave”Nothing absolutely nothing thank God nothing absolutely I’ve been healthy, the only things that have been wrong was I broke my leg and i had to stop for only about three weeks cos i got straight on the drums again, they said no you gotta stay of the leg, no no i worked it up

Its in the blood is it?

Dave”Yea just kept going and it was great. I wrote a song and its on the new album the new film album with a broken leg so, but other than that no. I drink a lot of water .I try to stay of the booze although I like it but there’s limits .I try to eat right and I try to walk a lot. You could really become…, you could grow stagnant you could get very lazy if you don’t stay active

Sure

What keeps you motivated? you mentioned the….

Dave”The bills…”laughter)

I was going to say when you get dealt like… a stab in the back like you mentioned earlier from the Slayer business. How do you get through the dark times I mean what keeps you focused is it family and things like that?

Dave”Not only that you have to set an example for your kids you know you need to show that you are strong and your moving forwards and its helps you, but its its reminding myself, I remind myself what happened to my dad when the carpet was pulled out from under him. His home country was Cuba and he owned three markets the government came in took everything away. He firstly decided to send my two older brothers to the United States and they were supposed to see them six months later. The Cuban missile crisis happened and the wall went up and my parents couldn’t see there kids that were ten and thirteen for five years, so that tore the family apart”

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Sure yea

Dave”My parents were about to get a divorce, my dads shops were taken away by the government and then I popped up. My parents got back together they went to California and here I am”

Yea

Dave”So what I see that they went through, my dad retired he bought his home he lived the American dream. He did it and he came in later in the picture like I he was i think thirty eight or thirty five when they came from Cuba to the US so that’s very inspiring for me because here you are having to start all over again and what makes it worse”

You have them as role models to…

Yea and also it was difficult for him because he didn’t speak the language, imagine being dropped into a country were you don’t speak the language and you gotta support your family feed you know your son your daughter and the two boys they were already off they were working and older there were only two just my sister and I and he did it”

Just keeping an eye on the time cos I’m aware that you have a busy schedule today..

Dave”No we are good”

That you have to go at eleven and have packing and stuff to do.

Dave”Yea I just throw stuff together and its just and hour and half drive so em..so we can talk till then I know its twenty minutes so…

Its one of those inspiring stories and you hear other stories not just my dads story that’s a personal story but i hear other stories from people so I’ve got my health I’ve got my talent you cant take that away from me so whats going to stop me. So I just keep going. I’ve kinda prepared myself to for this situation cause in a way i think I didn’t see it coming but I knew something was going to happen. Because I got my band together with Tom Araya when he got ill he got a surgery done

Yea that why i asked about the health question earlier.

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Dave”Right”

Playing that type of music obviously is going to have that chance of health issues…

Dave”Well that was all self inflicted on his part because the way he was banging his head you know he was….”

I was at quite a few of those shows

Dave”Yea it was like woo that’s going to hurt bro. He would whip his head as if he wanted his skull to fall off. I was like you don’t do it like that but I don’t say anything”

So I started Philm you know when I noticed that the band in a way health wise was crumbling, not only with Jeff, but with Tom and Kerry doesn’t take care of himself. He should be careful. Well I’m not going to tell him that…..

Nobody would tell him that.

Dave”Nobody and I’m not either ”

Hes quite an imposing character shall we say

Dave”Yea off course he has a lot of insecurities ”

Going back then to the work shops that over here do how did you hook up with the Livewire organization?

Dave”Well I have a connection in Switzerland, her name is Victoria and she specializes in making these clinics and running these clinics for guitar players. Like I’ve known her for a 100 years and shes always asked me Dave do you want to do these clinics there is a demand for you,. She comes out and so I finally said yes I have time lets do it. Cos now i am in control of my own schedule I can book myself”

All be it a hectic one.

Dave”Yea its hectic, I could of had a day off yesterday in Belfast you know but i didn’t I didn’t care to i said lets do it lets go lets make this a nice run.”

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Do you find it easier as well when you are able to with the likes of this morning being able to walk about and be approachable by people who may recognize you and stuff where as years ago you were on the big tour bus staying at the big hotels with no connection with fans.

Dave”Yea staying away. I like this I don’t mind this at all. Even back then when we were kinda of isolated in the hotels tour buses and everything ya know security and all that even then I was approachable I didn’t keep myself from the immediate fans ”

OK then just sorta finally future plans then what have you lined up after these clinics you mentioned some sort of musical thing you have got trying to get an album deal and stuff like that.

Dave”Yea we have a lot going on there’s an album I have ready to release I’ve just mastered it it just come back to me the other day and sounds great ”

Would you put that out independently or or you looking somebody to push it?

Dave”That’s what we are on right now. It’s either independent or just putting it out like tomb-core or Nimbits were its all digital ”

Your seem au fais with all that technology side of that thing now?

Dave”you put it out there are you sign a bad mortgage deal with a record company and they hold onto your record forever and they pay you pennies on your record. I don’t know we will see you know I don’t know if the deals right we will go with the record company otherwise I think its going to go there. Then after that album we have already five more songs for the third album film album. The second film album is called “Fire from the Evening Sun” and now we are working on the third.

I know there is a guy actually coming to the clinic tonight i just hooked up with him on Facebook hes actually a huge fan of Philm and hes coming over purposely to try and meet and get stuff signed. It’s Philm stuff its outside slayer.

Dave”Really that’s cool”

Yea that’s a musical thing that hes latched on whereas he didn’t go with the obvious Slayer thing.

Dave”Really”

Hes flying over this morning.

Dave”Really you know I met another guy last night that was like that to. He said “you know I was never really into the Slayer stuff”

Yea that’s what he says. I was only just chatting to him online last night and he says its just Philm stuff.

Dave”That’s cool”

Its nice that there is an new audience

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Dave”Yea I notice that we are building the music is good. It may not be Slayer but it is heavy but its got a different vibe to it, I’ve been working on some movie scores and I redid the music the drums at least for Californication its a show, showtime I think. I did that I worked on ya know with Christopher Young the composer I did some life shows with him which is online to with a seventy five piece orchestra and i have a cartoon that I’m going to write some music for Disney..”

I was going to actually that was going to follow on from that i was going to ask art-wise would you ever have any interest in that painting?

Dave”Yes i do 3.

Because that creativity thing has come threw not just music but I’m picking up that.

Dave”My daughter is really into art and she has been painting a lot and its inspiring as I’m thinking for her birthday I’m going to get her an easel, but an nice one that we can really lets say the paints will be there and I can go on there and start painting.”

Yea is that an interest of yours?

Dave”Yea yea it is and its a good thing to because later you sell it and make a good profit”

Its a source of revenue.

Right I’ve read another interview that you did an email with a guy over here for another website and he had suggested the idea of a book so you can imagine those possibilities – obviously its getting the time to do it and you know what I mean. I would imagine it would be quite a read going back from your Cuban and family history…

Dave”Yea I’ve thought about it and there a right time for that. I still feel young where i don’t need a book you know”

Sure you have your life ahead of you rather than behind you?

Dave”‘I’ve another thirty years what are you talking about what am i going to do write part two”?(laughter)

Its good to look ahead rather than looking back.

Dave”Yea look at Ginger Baker… seventy five”

Still doing it.

Dave”Yea and that’s when I’ll write the book”

So looking back on your musical legacy again I’m going to obviously hit on the Slayer thing how do you view that ? Looking back would you listen to your own music not outside of Slayer you know.

Dave”Absolutely you know ”

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Are you proud of that legacy that you created?

Dave”Absolutely”

I’ve read and I’m not a musician myself, that regarding the drumming side of stuff you are recognized as an innovator “?

Dave”I love it yea I would not change anything. Is there anything I regret? You know what? Life is a constant learning experience you know and I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t experience everything that I’ve been though.”

Both the Highs and lows?

Yea highs and lows and I wouldn’t change it because I’m proud of everything I’ve done. I haven’t had an extremely bad period in my life like were the media is like aww hes in jail because hes done this and that every things been cool so a love it very proud of it”

Thank-you very much, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you today.

Dave”Thanks Mark, good to talk to you.”

 

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