Interview: Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Philm)

It was a Friday morning when I called Dave at his hotel room in Poland where he was touring with Slayer. It doesn’t happen that often talking with Slayer’s drummer and I’ve been impatiently waiting for this interview full of enthusiam since it was my first time talking to him.

This interview was a chance to chat with Dave about his new project Philm, Slayer’s upcoming plans and a lot of other interesting things around Dave Lombardo and his music orientations. Straightforward, talkative and enthusiastic about his new band, Dave explains how Philm started, describes the debut album “Harmonic” and discusses about Philm’s influences and song-writing process. On the other hand regarding Slayer he informs us about Jeff Hanneman’s health, talks about the collaboration with Gary Holt, the recent show in London playing “Reign In Blood” in it’s entirety and his experiences with Big 4.

You can listen to the audio format of the interview here.

So, we’ve just entered summer-season and you should have a lot of things to do. What are your plans for this summer?

I’m touring with Slayer until August 5th and then I think I’ll start working with my new band Philm and hopefully do some shows with them. Then… you know, I don’t know what Slayer doing in the fall. Everything is a little bit loose right now, it’s not concrete. The only thing I know is that we have the Mayhem Festival in the U.S with Slayer and also this European tour that I’m doing right now.

Let’s start talking about Philm, your new band. What are your plans for Philm? Is it going to be a full-time band or just a project?

It’s gonna be a full time band. My friends are great musicians, we get along really good and we’re hoping to promote the new album and play some shows.

How exactly did this band come out? Tell us a few things about how you met with the other guys and how Philm started in general.

Well, it’s kind of a long story. We’ve got together around ‘95 or ‘96 and I couldn’t continue the band because I was working with Slayer, I was working with Fantomas, cooperating with Testament… all those bands at a time. I was releasing albums and I couldn’t focus on working with Philm. So I told Philm that I have to finish these projects. We took a long break and then I think we got back together maybe in 2004 or 2005. Then in 2008 I was getting a divorce and Tom Araya was going into surgery, for his neck, and we had to cancel some shows because of Tom. So I had a lot of time for myself and I called Gerry, the guitar player and I asked him if he was busy and if he wasn’t, we should get together, but I couldn’t find the original bass player. So I had to look for another one and I remembered there was one guy that I had met at my drum clinic in West Los Angeles and his name was Pancho Tomaselli and he knew that I liked funk music and RnB music. So I called him up and he said he would love to play in the band. So we’ve been working together since and he is a great guy and here we are with a new album and hopefully a tour coming up.

“Harmonic” is your debut album. How would you describe the music to a fan that has not listened to the album yet?

Well, the first thing I tell them is that it’s different. It’s different from anything I’ve done before. It’s not heavy like Slayer, it doesn’t have that sound, it’s a different sound. It has an old, vintage sound, maybe like the 60s and 70s and it’s a trio so there’s only drums, bass and guitar, and the guitar player sings. My drum-set is a very small drum-set, I play only a 4-piece. In Slayer I play in 9-piece drum-set. So it’s a lot smaller and it helps me create differently. You still have aggression, you know fans like Dave Lombardo aggressive in drums, but it’s a little different. It’s aggression in a more punk way and the album is more extreme rock instead of extreme metal or thrash metal, speed metal, grindcore whatever it is. It’s not like that, it’s more extreme rock.

I think that you have already played a few shows with Philm. What were the reactions of the fans on your live performances so far?

They love it! They really like it because they know that it’s something different. You know, it’s weird… people say: “Why would you make a band that it’s not like Slayer or extreme thrash metal?”. I don’t want to follow what I already lead. If I am already leading with Slayer – you know we’re one of the Big 4 bands – why am I going to create something else?

There is no reason since you’re in Slayer, I understand…

Yeah, exactly! I don’t need to create something. I’m already in one of the biggest metal bands!

Tell me a few things about the composing process of “Harmonic” and the song-writing in general. Who writes the music and how long did it take you to finish the composition of the record?

Well, the music’s been ongoing. We had some of the music ever since ‘95 or ’96, and then some of the songs were written in 2004 and 2005 and then the rest of the material was written in 2011. We all write the music collectively, we all do it together. What we do is to improvise when we create music. We get together and, you know, we have the recorder playing and we’re going to a room and we just start to write music.

Do you think that Slayer fans would like “Harmonic” or does Philm refer to a completely different target group? Personally I am a Slayer fan and I really enjoyed Philm!

Well there are a lot of Slayer fans that are open-minded and they like different styles of music like myself. I’m a Slayer fan, you know I love the Slayer’s music but I also like other styles of music, all kind of different heavy styles of music. So I think that there are the fans that don’t listen to anything else but Slayer, more speed metal or thrash metal and they don’t have an open mind yet, but they will grow-up soon! But I think that a lot of Slayer fans will enjoy it because it has one common thread: the aggression of the drums. You know there are songs that are aggressive, but there are also songs that are very soft and very mellow, almost like Pink Floyd.

There are a couple of different elements in Philm’s music style. It seems like there are no borders and no rules in your music orientations. Is it really that free?

Let’s see if I can explain this…well there are no rules, I mean we have influences from jazz; we have influences from hardcore punk and some funky roots. There are many influences and I think everybody brings their influences into the band and I’m open to all of it, because I can play all the different drum beats; I don’t just play fast, I play different speeds including slow.

How difficult is to keep the balance between such different music styles?

It’s not difficult to keep the balance. We just know, we feel what the balance needs to be. We can say ourselves what is good and what is not good, what we should keep and what not to keep.

So it came out naturally. It’s just what you feel and what breathes out of you when you write music…

Yes, it’s all naturally. We all going to room and we just press the record button and everything is improvisation. What we do is take the improv, rerecord in a song mode, and create a song from the improvisation. The original idea comes from an improvisation. Let’s say like the song “Way Down”: that song was an improvisation, but we took the ideas and then we created a song around the original idea. And “Held In Light” too… all of the songs were like that and what we did for the record was keep some of the improvisations as they were, like “Mezzanine”: that was an improvisation, “Exuberance” is improvisation, “Killion”, was all improvisation. And we kept the improvisations and we didn’t write a song around it so we kept those song-structures in the record.

Do you have any specific influences? Any bands that inspired you maybe?

No, in this band is everything, all my life’s experience!

Do you see Philm as a chance to express different feelings than with Slayer as a musician?

Yeah, because it’s different, there are different kinds of heavy. I think Slayer fans need to understand that there is heavy music or a heavy feeling – of course in metal – certain riffs are very heavy, you know, like “World Painted Blood”. For me that’s very heavy but there are other songs, there are classical songs, that I feel have a heavy feeling, a heavy sound. There are even funk songs that sound heavy to me. So, heavy to me is not only thrash metal or speed metal, heavy could be applied to all kind of different styles. I even listen to some Cuban music you know and I say “wow, that drum beat, or that melody has a twisted element, it has minors (chords)”. All kinds of music have heavy on it.

What kind of music do you listen to except for metal? Would you like to name us a few bands?

I think that it’s not really about bands. The question is what genres I listen to. I listen to world music. I obviously listen to Cuban music, because that’s where I come from, I listen to Middle-eastern music, I listen to Gypsy kind of style music, like Bulgarian or Romanian, which is sometimes fast. You know, Gypsy music is really fast! I even listen to Brazilian music which is great. I can listen to jazz, I can listen to blues and I can give you artists from all of those styles. On the plane yesterday I was listening to Otis Redding, who is an RnB singer. Beautiful music, beautiful melody. There is only good music and bad music.

Exactly, it doesn’t matter the music style, it’s just if you like it or not, if it’s good or not.

Yeah, it doesn’t matter, it’s either good… It’s sometimes a good music that I don’t like it. I mean, it’s good music but… I just don’t like it because it’s not my taste. It doesn’t mean that is bad, it doesn’t mean that it sucks, it’s not like that. It’s just my personal taste.

I recently read somewhere that you are already working on your second album with Philm. Is that true?

Yeah, that is true. We already have 25 ideas. And out of these 25 ideas, 25 improvisations, we took 10 ideas and in these two months that I’m working with Slayer, I’m listening to those ideas and I’m working on them in my mind. So when I’ll come back in August with the band, with Philm, I will already have listened – and everybody in the band as well – to those ideas for a long period of time and so we’ll come together and work on the songs with our new fresh ideas.

Is there any plans about when this second album is going to be released or it’s too early talking about that?

No, it’s not too early because I personally like to set goals. So I’m hoping to have this album out by May next year, 2013.

“Harmonic” is also your first try as a producer. Are you happy with the result? Would you like to continue producing albums in the future?

I would love to produce albums in the feature but I have to be very, very close and involved with the band. I don’t know if I could do that as an external producer. I think maybe I’d just produce Philm’s albums for now…

Your own releases…

Yeah, exactly, my own releases…

So Dave could we maybe talk a little bit about Slayer at this point of interview?

Yeah, but to be honest, I don’t have any information… everything is already out. Jeff is getting better, Gary is doing great….

That was the first question I wanted to ask you, about Jeff’s health and how is it going with Gary…

Gary is an amazing guitar player. We love Gary and we really appreciate all of the help he has given us while Jeff is getting better.

When exactly do you think that Jeff is gonna be back?

I really don’t know. Nobody knows… Until he feels better and the doctor says “go”…

That’s the most important, the fact that he feels better. So how has been touring with Big 4 so far? Is there any special story you’d like to share with the fans?

I’m really having a nice time with Lars and James and Trujillo and Dave (i.e Mustaine) visited us in our dressing room, I go visit them. It’s a very, very nice friendship and relationship, me and Lars we get along great and I don’t like people talking shit about Lars! They have to stop! There are a lot of fans out there who like to say a lot of bad things about him and he’s a very good friend of mine and I don’t like it.

You recently had a special show in London playing “Reign In Blood” in it’s entirety. What were the fans’ reactions?

They loved it!

And how has been for you playing entire this album?

Oh I loved playing that album. I like playing it because I can play it really fast and I like to play fast because of Kerry. He enjoys that album too.

Would you like to do something like that in the future with another album this time?

Oh we did “Seasons In The Abyss”, and I don’t know if it’ll ever happen with another record.

An EP is going to be released this summer. Do you have any details regarding the release date or something?

No…no details(Laughs). Everything is already known as I said before. I really don’t know any details.

Any chance to see you live this year, or maybe next, with Philm or Slayer in Greece?

I hope so because I really like Greece! I really enjoy Greece and I can’t wait to go back …

What are your memories since your last visit?

I remember we had 4 or 5 days off in Greece and you know of course we went up to the Acropolis, I went to Plaka, there is great food, great drinks, great people and the fans are amazing in Greece. Very, very good fans! They really know how to get crazy in crowd!

So Dave the last words are yours, any message for the fans?

Just thank you for all these many years of support and I can’t wait to keep playing live and creating more records and more music for the fans.

That’s the best gift for the fans I bet…

Yeah, it’s the best gift for the fans and it’s something very satisfying for me to do. I’m just very lucky that I have fans that like what I do.

Dave thank you much for this interview, it was a pleasure for me. Best wishes for the rest of the tour with Slayer and you personally!

Thank you very much! Bye!

Interview by: Panagiotis Karagiannidis

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