Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Nuclear Assault is a metal band from New York City, which was formed by ex-Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker. Since their formation in 1984, they have released five full-length albums and touring throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s. However, in 1995 Nuclear Assault split up. They briefly reunited twice, in 1997 and again in 2002 after which they remained active up until today. We were very fortunate to meet up with drummer, Glen Evans, to have a brief chat.
Alan: Welcome to Dublin. When were you last here?
Glenn: It’s a long story. I got married in Belfast. So the last time I was in Dublin was twenty-something years ago to visit family.
Alan: Your new EP Pounder was released a few weeks ago. How’s it being received live and in terms of sales?
Glenn: Both live and sales, it’s doing extremely well actually. I put it out on my own label Sidipus records. The EP was thrown together really quick. We rehearsed a couple of times, put the four songs together, recorded it in Music America, mixed it, and released it on Sidipus digitally. Then on CD. And the vinyl is sold out already. We’re never going to do another full album. Album deals go back to when you got paid for ten songs on a record for mechanical royalties. But to be honest with you, doing a whole record takes a long time, costs a lot of money, and it’s fucking boring as hell. It’s a lot of work. You’re better off focusing on four songs at a time. When I play a record, I listen to the first three or four songs, and then the rest sound like shit. Basically they’re fillers. And with Nuclear Assault, it started to get to that point too, where a lot of the songs were starting to become filler songs. So the idea of the EP is we want four good songs we can play live on every release now. So instead of doing a full album, I suggested to Danny “why don’t we do a series of EPs?” and we settled on that. The first song Danny wrote, the working title was ‘Pounder’ and that just became the title of the EP. As far as the touring goes, I said “Let’s do a couple of shows” and all of a sudden we’re getting calls from everybody. We started out with like one or two shows, and now it’s like fucking forty in a row. We’re doing South America after this. We’re playing in Bogotá Columbia for 150,000 people. We did Sweden Rock, Resurrection Fest, Copenhell, Dynamo Festival. And the dates are still coming in, so I see this going beyond 2015 and into 2016.
Alan: Now that it’s obvious that there’s an appetite to see you playing live again, do you think there will be another round?
Glenn: I can almost say for sure there will be another round. This is “Final Assault, part one”. We’re trying to figure out what to say, because the “Final Assault” thing was just something that Danny and I said; “Let’s just go do a couple of final shows”, and the interviewer or whatever, somebody put “The Final Assault”. And it was like, well, ok, but what if we want to keep going?
Alan: There’s definitely a perception that this is the final tour. And you guys have come and gone before, but there’s always that fear that “Maybe they won’t come back this time, so we HAVE to go and se them this time”. So it creates this perverse draw for the tour because people think “I’ve got to see them now, before it’s too late”. But that could go on forever.
Glenn: It won’t go on forever. It’s going to end eventually. I’m 56 years old, and I don’t want to keep doing this shit. It’s a lot of work. It’s hard. And as you get older, it doesn’t get any easier. Especially playing thrash. We’re going right from the airport, right to the gig, right to the drums, curtain opens, you’re on stage, back to the airport, no hotel, sleeping on the planes. Your clock is so screwed up, you don’t know what country you’re in, what time it is, what day it is. But I see this going beyond 2015, because obviously we have another EP that we’re going in to do. As far as “Final Assault”; it IS the final assault. We’re not going to return to a lot of these places. We played some countries I’d never even heard of. I didn’t know we had fans there; I didn’t even know they had people there. And there’s a lot of places we haven’t hit yet. So we’ll continue and we’ll keep hitting places we haven’t hit and then we’ll know when it’s time to call it a day. There’s still offers from promoters coming in that want us to continue.
Danny: For example, we’ve played Hungary, but we’ve never played Romania. So if somebody says “Do you want to play Romania?”, we’ll go “Sure!” and then all the Hungarian fans can drive to the next country and come see us.
Glenn: That’s a good example. We can’t fit all the countries into thirty days. We’ll probably do Australia, and Iceland. It’s the final tour, but geographically, it’s going to be spread out throughout the world. We’re not going to hit the same city over and over and over. Because that’s what too many bands do. That’s fucking boring. We don’t want to do that.
Alan: What about the follow-up EP to Pounder?
Glenn: Yeah, the game plan is we go into the studio on December 26th, and we’ll be in there until December 30th. So we basically have five days in the studio to record the next EP. The last one we did in two days.
Alan: Have you got some ideas for songs?
Glenn: Yeah, Danny’s writing, John’s writing on the plane every day. By the time we hit the studio, we’ll have a solid four, or maybe five songs to put out. And then it takes six months to turn it around. There’s a few shows we’re going to do between the time that EP is recorded and when it comes out. Maybe June 1st again. It’s a cool schedule, because I’ve got a thing going where I like to go and record my own solo EP every February, so if I can keep Nuke going every December, we can keep recording EPs and keep hitting places that we’ve never done. It just kind of makes sense. This is the hardest run so far though, because it’s back-to-back shows with no sleep.
Alan: Is it hard to keep fit and healthy on tour?
Glenn: Well at home, I do a lot of hiking, and I play drums three of four hours a day. After Hellfest, we had ten days off, and originally, I had booked Mexico City for the 4th of July. But I blew it off. We don’t want to do that. Mexico City on 4th of July? Are you out of your mind? It’s going to be like 250 fucking degrees there. So I blew that off and I’m glad, because after Hellfest I got sick on the plane, and by the time I got home, I was bed-ridden for ten days. On the tenth day, I had to get a shot in the ass and antibiotics to get over whatever fucking disease I got on the plane. But on the day I was just finishing up the antibiotics, I had to get back onto a plane to start this tour. The timing was kinda good but you have to worry about that. You get really run down really quick. Especially if you’re doing thirty hours of travelling for one show like we had to do for Sweden Rock, Copenhell and Hellfest. Now that we’re on the road, we’re going from one place to another, but they’re not 12-14 hours flights; they’re like 6 hours max.
Alan: Where are you going to be tomorrow?
Glenn: We’re flying to Austria tomorrow, where we have a day off. And then we’re playing Vienna the day after. I drink a lot of water now. I don’t drink beer; I can’t. I was up to about an ounce a day of smoking weed, but I quit that for the tour to make sure my lungs were cleared out. When you’re playing in front of that many people, I try to give the fans everything I’ve got every night. And that’s my mindset. Plus, we go up there and we’re relaxed and have a good time. We don’t have a gigantic fucking show and all that shit. You don’t need that. People want to hear the music. They want to hear the songs that they heard when they were younger.
Alan: You mentioned that the vinyl versions of Pounder sold out really quickly. What do you think of the resurgence of vinyl?
Glenn: I think it’s great, because with all the piracy going on with digital downloads, musicians don’t have a chance to make any money. When I was a kid, I’d see the thing spinning around, and wondered how the sound came out of the record. When I started out playing music, my goal was to make one record. So after the one, then I made another and another. Back then, when you wrote songs and you got them on a record, you got paid for it. I go in the studio now and I record my own EPs and I gotta pay for it. The resurgence of vinyl is great because you can go on YouTube and download our album now for free but you can’t download vinyl. Plus, when you look at it, it’s cool to have a record, and look at it, and look at the pictures, and look at the credits. You can’t do that digitally. You get to see who’s in the band, and you’ve got the lyrics. And it’s a collectors item. It’s back to where it started basically. I remember I used to roll joints on the albums. While you’re listening to the record you get high and you’re looking at the credits.
Alan: If you had to start over again, as a teenager in a new band, do you think it would be easier or more difficult than when you guys started out first?
Glenn: Well, that’s a double-edged sword; it’s easier now because of Facebook. Anybody can have their fifteen minutes of fame. Back then, you had to actually go out and tour. You had to sign a contract, make a record and go out and tour. That’s how you built your fan-base back then. Now, anybody can become famous. It doesn’t take that much effort.
Danny: It’s different now because it’s cheaper to record. Everybody’s got a pro-tools set-up or something, but labels won’t give you any money because everybody downloads everything, so they don’t make any fucking money.
Glenn: And here’s the point… The big studios are shutting down. The Hit Factory shut down in New York City, The Power Station shut down. Record labels like Sony are not going to give you $100,000 to record and pay the studio costs. Where I record at Sonic Ranch, the guy has a 400 acre pecan farm, and he does it for a hobby. He has all the vintage Beatles gear, old vintage microphones and consoles. For me, that place is golden, and that’s where we’re going to record our next EP, because that’s one of the last real studios, and it’s the best kept secret. But it’s a lot of money. But the thing is, the guy has his pecan farm and he makes money off of that. I stumbled upon that studio when I did my solo record Overload back in 2013 or 2014. When I got that on Vinyl, I sent it to Danny and I sent it to John and I said “Let’s go make a record; let’s go make a real fucking record.” And that’s where it all came back together. I could record now in my house on pro-tools, but would it compare to what we get from Sonic Ranch? No. You’re talking about a gigantic drum room. You’re talking about €30,000-€40,000 microphones, and it’s old gear. You could buy this stuff brand new now, but it’s not going to sound the same. They’re too assembly-lined now. They used to take pride in what they do. The microphones will make the recording. Pounder was digital. When you hear the next one, you’re going to be like “Holy Shit!”. The best is yet to come.
Alan: One final question for you as a fellow drummer. We saw that Phil Rudd got arrested again today only two weeks after his last court appearance. What do you think about that? Where do you think things went wrong for him?
Glenn: There’s a couple of other drummers have gotten in trouble too. Meth is bad fucking news. I smoke a lot of pot. I’ve nothing against people who drink beer. But getting into chemicals that you can get from under your sink? I did lines of crystal meth when I was younger. I hated it. I didn’t like the way it made me feel. But because of the chemicals they use now, it’s very addictive and that just fucks your brain up completely. Phil Rudd was one of my basic 4/4 drummers in my childhood growing up, playing in all these AC/DC cover bands. To practice to the guy gives me good timing. I’ve smoked enough cocaine to probably kill anybody. I went through a three month period of that, just doing nothing but cooking it and smoking it. I didn’t care about anything else. When you’re in that state of mind, everything else crumbles and falls apart. I almost lost my house. I didn’t pay my mortgage. All I cared about was smoking that cocaine. I burned through like $15,000 within a month on cocaine. So I quit that. But I can see how that can happen, because I’ve been down that road. When you’re on top of the world, and you do something like that, your world starts crashing, and you don’t realise the plane’s going down you’re so fucking high. I hope Phil cleans his act up, because he is probably one of the most influential drummers I’ve ever had. Along with Peter Criss from Kiss. Richard Hughes was another; he committed suicide. Keith Moon; a maniac. John Bonham drank himself to death. I don’t know what it is about drummers. There’s a lot of pain. There’s a lot of work involved. There was a period that I went through where I had back surgery three times and I started taking pain killers by the handful. So all of a sudden, I blew up like a blimp. And getting off of them, I was sick. I had to lock my doors and I was cold turkey sick for three months. I’m glad the United States is legalising weed state after state after state. It’s far safer than any other drugs. Nobody has ever died from marijuana. You look at any other pharmaceutical, people are dropping dead. Even cigarettes; millions of deaths every year. Alcoholism, fucking texting while driving… Dead! Smoking marijuana? You eat a pack of potato chips! You’re not going to die from that! I’m pro-legalisation of marijuana. PayPal, Ebay, all of these companies are dumping millions into the legalisation efforts. Every state that legalises marijuana, their property values quadruple. And the drug abuse and alcohol abuse is dropping. I think that’s pretty fucking cool. I slipped a couple of times. I have unfortunately, an addictive personality. Right now, I’m addicted to water; so that’s a good thing. There’s a lot of things you can become addicted to. When I was younger it was sex…
John [from another room]: Yeah, but when it’s with yourself it doesn’t count….
Alan: Haha.. Well on that note, we’ll wrap it up. That’s for taking the time to chat. We’ll see you again in a couple of weeks at Bloodstock!
Glenn: Thanks man.