Words by Zachary Ahern
Slayer: a name amongst names. Little needs to be said, because they are the quintessential thrash metal outfit. Synthesis had the good fortune of catching up with Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo just a week before the beginning of the highly anticipated Rockstar Mayhem Festival, in which they will co-headline with Marilyn Manson for nearly two months. Along with Slayer and Manson, the festival will feature over a dozen heavy acts such as Killswitch Engage, Cannibal Corpse and God Forbid, just to name a few. This will surely be the heavy music attraction of the summer that you won’t want to miss. With nearly as much intensity as Lombardo puts into drumming, he also has the ability to passionately describe the past, present and future of Slayer, one of the most influential bands heavy metal music will ever see.
You’re about to embark on the Mayhem Festival. Do you enjoy playing these kinds of tours?
Heck yeah. Absolutely. But it does get boring. How many times can you see the same band night after night? People have this illusion of â€œYeah man, party all the time.â€ But do you know how bad you’ll burn out and how bad you’ll start sucking on stage if you continue that life? I’ll chill and relax and wait to go on. Some bands like to party all the time, but we’ve been there, done that. Some of [us] indulge after the show, but nothing before. We’d start sucking then. The opening acts would sound better than us and we’re not gonna let that happen.
How do you mentally and physically prepare?
There’s not much mental preparation because the songs are so embedded in our brains that it’s second nature. If there’s a song we haven’t played in over six years, we’ll play it a couple of times and remember it. Physical is a different story. We’ll rehearse for maybe eight days before tour; and all we have to do is play and we’ll be back in good shape.
You were gone from Slayer for nearly 10 years. What did you learn from time away from the band, and how did you come to rejoin?
They called me just a few months shy of the 10-year mark. I learned the different methods of operation that each band or composer has. There’s not just one way, there are various ways that bands work together and I had to find that method. When you find it, that’s the magic right there; there’s a flow of creativity and energy that makes for good songs.
In that time away you went on to Fantomas. Were there aspects of Fantomas that were totally different from Slayer?
Absolutely. Slayer’s music is physical with some mental aspects where Fantomas is more mental with some physical aspects to it; mental in a good sense meaning that you really have to think about what’s coming up next instead of letting feelings go. With Slayer it’s more energy and aggressionâ€¦two very different and distinct styles there.
Has Slayer found a producer that they might stick with?
Rick Rubin helped shape the band. And with the latest record to be released, World Painted Blood, Greg Fidelman has brought out the best in us. That’s what I feel is the importance of a producerâ€”to pull out what is best in each musician and get that recorded. Greg has done it. Slayer has accepted his opinions, help and guidance more than anyone since Rick Rubin during the period of Reign in Blood and South of Heaven.
Do you think World Painted Blood is going to be one of your best records to date?
I think it’s definitely up there. I have to categorize this one with Reign in Blood, South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss; records that Rubin had his hands on initially. I’m really excited about this record and would not say that unless I truly felt it. I am blown away and listen to it all the time. It sounds great. Tom sounds great, the drums sound great, everything sounds great. I have not one complaint.
Did you try anything new in the studio that you’ve never done before?
Before we’d go right into the studio with everything finished. This time around we wrote in the studio. It took the longest for me to track at around three weeks. Fidelman helped bring out variations of the same drum beats and worked on trying to find the right pattern to put with the song.
What advice can you offer a younger generations of musicians?
It sounds redundant but follow your dreams, don’t give up, and move forward. Don’t set yourself back and if it happens get up and start running again. When I was 14-years-old and learning to play drums, I had a dream of being a rock star and wanted to be the best in the world. And whether I’ve achieved that or not, it doesn’t matter because I’m doing what I’ve dreamed of doing.
Do you think the concept of a rock star is dead?
So many of them have died over the years. Maybe newer generations are a little more aware and don’t latch onto that. Or maybe that’s something the Internet has killed like â€œThe video killed the radio star.â€ Perhaps the Internet killed the rock star.
Slayer has been a household name for years. Do you ever think the name is bigger than the music?
It could be that the name is a marketable item, but it goes hand-in-hand with the music. I don’t think it’s turned into a commercial object of dispensable merchandise. And there’s still a whole lot of value in the fans’ hearts.
Slayer equals controversy with lyrics, artwork and aggression. Would you have it any other way?
It’s freedom of speech and art through music. It is what it is and there’s absolutely
What do you envision for life after Slayer and drumming?
I hope to be the Charlie Watts of metal. Old and gray and still jamming. That’s what I see as success: When you’re doing what you love at 75-years-old, still doing blast beats. You may look like shit but you’re still jamming. How can a self-taught musician that plays from the heart ever retire their art? An artist always paints and creates. I will create and record on my death bed. Whether it’s finger drums, finger bells, whatever. I’ll be tapping on something.