So I decided to pull this little gem out of the antique interviews bag in honor of all the sweet metal tours taking place this summer, including Dethklok playing SD this Sunday (Mike Keneally has a rad blog about playing with my favorite cartoon death metal b(r)and from the future on his myspace).
This is also one of my most favorite interviews, which is almost always the case with drummers, who are the most interesting people to interview in the band. Lombardo is a legend and a cool MFR he even told the labels publicity chick to shut up when she interrupted our phone interview, granting me another few minutes.
Slayer of course, will be spending the summer abroad, touring places that make our little summer festivals look like bitches. They’re doing a co-headlining gig at Hellfest with Motorhead!
Summer is the season for metal \m/\m/
Check out the ridiculous drum solo at the end of the article.
Slayer’s Dave Lombardo 20 Years of Innovation
Dave Lombardo was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1965, then moved to America several years later and settled in Los Angeles, CA. He was the youngest of four children, and his siblings were part of some of his earliest memories of music: “I remember sitting in front of the TV watching a Tarzan movie, and there was a lot of percussion in the soundtrack, and I remember getting my toy drum and cymbal, one of those Toys ‘R’ Us drum sets that had the spring lugs, you know? And I had put the symbol on top of the drums, kind of improvising-like. I don’t know what I was doing then. Then there is also my brother listening to music when he came home from work. He would listen to Cream and Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin, and this was probably when I was in kindergarten or first grade. Those are my first recollections of music.”
Dave’s love affair with percussion began in his formative years as a student at a Catholic school in Southgate, CA. In third grade, he had brought in a set of bongos and a Santana record and played along with the record during in front of the whole class for show and tell. His father noticed his sons persistent interest in the drums and, according to Dave, “Around fifth grade I got my first kit. It was a little five-piece Maxwin by Pearl Drums. I think I bought it for about $350 and then sold it for about $300 when I got into ninth grade. Then I bought a bigger kit.”
Dave taught himself how to play “100,000 Years” from the KISS Alive record and impressed his peers by knowing the solo to the song. Dave was always a fan of Led Zeppelin and says, “I was very aware of Led Zeppelin but exposing myself to the record Led Zeppelin II showed me a side of music that I wasn’t too familiar with-The Blues. John Bonham played with so much emotion that I felt I learned that element and took it with me through my career. Later I learned this was crescendos and decrescendos.”
He added, “My brother played drums, there was music in the house, and my parents were socialites. So I was kind of exposed to the social aspects of music. Cuban music has a lot of percussion and a lot of very bizarre rhythms and stuff that most musicians these days would not be able to comprehend, but I understood it at a young age, and I watched bands play those rhythms-the conga players and timbale players. So I kind of thrived on watching these musicians play, and they were sweating and really getting into it. The passion they played with is what intrigued me.”
Passion in life and music is a trait that pours out of Dave. Contrary to what many of the cognoscente might think, his taste in music is broad. As a youngster, Dave not only listened to rock music, he also listened to disco, buying 45 singles and listening to The King Biscuit Flower Hour on the radio. He was even a part of the “A Touch of Class” mobile disc jockey team. Dave is a worldly player, so it’s no coincidence he was intrigued by Ry Cooder’s CD, The Buena Vista Social Club,and Wim Wenders subsequent documentary of the same name, which profiled the club and its music. “It was phenomenal. My whole thing on that is that they got back to those musicians that started that thing and they documented it, and if they hadn’t, those musicians would have died and no one would have known about it.”
As an innovator, Dave did most of his craftwork in Slayer and met Kerry King who lived up the street from him. But his chops weren’t always machine-gun fast. His dream was always to be in a band, and he started in school band like most of his contemporaries. “I was in school band for about half of a school year, and I never made it to any of the shows, but I was still in band and all I played was marching drum. I think I had a couple of lessons, but I got really bored with it because they were showing me all these paradiddles and all this stuff, but I felt like-with listening to music-I got a lot more out of listening and mimicking the musicians than reading bars and notes out of a book.
Because my whole goal was to be in a band and I found that through learning these notes and everything at that time, I was like, ‘no way I could learn a lot more listening to this guy than learning from this book and this guy over here.’ But later on in time I felt like I should’ve gone that direction because I would’ve learned a lot more. I would have been way ahead of the game, and I wouldn’t have been left with having to learn so much later on in life. I should’ve continued my schooling. Then, what can you do? A totally different drummer would have evolved out of that training.”
Some of Dave’s other influences (besides his early affection for the music of his birthplace) are, “John Bonham and then Ginger Baker from Cream, but what I was really drawn to was bands as a whole and what the drummer’s contribution was to the band and what the band’s sound was. Instead of just saying, ‘oh I like this drummer or I like that drummer,’ I was more into the musical entity of the whole band and what the drummer contributed to that that attracted me.”
In 1983, a fledgling label called Metal Blade released an album called Show No Mercy by a Los Angeles-based band that had decided on the ominous moniker, Slayer. Ten years would pass, as Dave would go on to record and tour with one of the heaviest and most influential bands in heavy metal. From their days wearing makeup during the Show No Mercy/Live Undead/Hell Awaits days to their stellar work with producer Rick Rubin (Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, Seasons in the Abyss), Dave has consistently challenged himself and his fans with his remarkable speed and technique.
Dave’s legacy is living on, not only with his work in Mike Patton’s (Faith No More) Fantomas with Buzz Osborne (Melvins) and Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle), but also with his two sons, who are at the heart of everything he does. Fortunately for them, they have better resources to express themselves with. “I got two boys that are in school, and they do have a music program. They go to Discovery School of the Arts. Piano lab, drama courses-it’s great because I never had that when I was growing up.”
Dave is back with Slayer after several years of hiatus playing in his aforementioned projects, and the band is currently playing club dates with Hatebreed and Lamb of God. According to his tour mates and himself, they are “making the opening acts work harder!”
Dave also says as a reminder, “Songwriting is vital! Vital! Everyone is a singular artist but it’s the chemistry of the four that makes it work.”