Former EXODUS frontman Rob Dukes was interviewed by rock journalist Mitch Lafon for a recent edition of the “One On One With Mitch Lafon” podcast (Facebook page).
On the songwriting and recording process in EXODUS:
“I’ve never, on any album that I wrote, besides the song ‘Children Of A Worthless God’ and ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’, did I get to write the melody and the music to anything. Everything else — ‘Karma’s Messenger’ and another song; I think those are the ones I wrote the lyrics for [and] the only songs I ever got to rehearse before I got to sing them, in my head. I could rehearse them and sing with the tape and I’d play the CD out loud and I’d sing them in my apartment and I’d be, like, ‘Oh, this is how I’m gonna write this,’ and I could sing it. Every other song, I didn’t sometimes even know what they were gonna sound like until I was in the studio with a microphone in front of my face. ‘This is how it goes, Rob.’ ‘Okay.’ And I’d do it. And we never rehearsed them beforehand, we never performed them until we were recording them for the CD, which, honestly, I always thought was a dumb idea. I was always taken aback. But then again, I was like, ‘All right. This is how they’re gonna do it. This is how they’re gonna do things.’ And over the years, I did try to change that process and say, ‘Hey, man, don’t you think it’d be better if we knew the songs before we recorded them a little bit, so maybe they could settle in, and it would be better.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, man, I think we should do that.’ But it would never happen.
“During the recording process, it stressed me the fuck out, dude. I’ve always been stressed out during the process, because, you know… for that reason and that reason alone. I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I mean, who’s comfortable…? I can’t imagine anyone who’s very comfortable the first time they’re doing something. It didn’t seem… It was never comfortable, and it always stressed me out. And I’d get stressed and I’d get angry — especially if I couldn’t something, if the timing was a little weird, or if it was a little nuance of the phrasing that I couldn’t get and it was, like, hard to do. Then I’d be mad that I couldn’t get it easily. And there were just so many things going on through all this time, and it would just always seem wrong.”
On how much EXODUS is guitarist Gary Holt‘s band:
“Honestly, let me tell you how much it’s Gary‘s band. I have… Somewhere out there, Andy [Sneap, producer] has it, or some other producer has ’em… I never sang… I sang over a sratch track of Gary. Gary would write all the music, do everything, and then he would come in and he would go, ‘I want it sung like this.’ And he would actually go in and sing it in his voice. He wouldn’t scream it, ’cause he can’t scream, but he would say, ‘This is the melody and this is the way it goes.’ And, basically, all I had to do is just go in and copy exactly what Gary told me to do. I did that on every song that I ever recorded with them. The only time I ever got to do my own thing was when he said, ‘Hey, man, you can write the lyrics,’ which I wrote a handful of songs… All those songs, I wrote the melody and all the words, so I actually got to sing them the way I wanted them done. Even then, Gary would be, like, ‘No, I really don’t like that. Can you make it a little more blah blah blah’ — whatever idea he had at the time.
“Look, Gary‘s awesome, dude. Gary writes great lyrics, he’s a fucking phenomenal guitar player. Did I agree with everything he did? No. And I never will. But I’m not gonna take [anything away] from how great it is. I mean, look, I lived on a bus with the guy for ten fucking years. He was my friend.”
On whether he is disappointed by the fact that he no longer has a friendship with Gary Holt:
“Absolutely. It breaks my heart. It breaks my fucking heart. It fucking hurt. It didn’t hurt because I was losing my job. It hurt because now these friends that I thought were my brothers betrayed me. You know what I mean? That’s what fucking hurt. It’s just a job. You know what I mean? But the way it was done was so shitty. And the timing was shitty. The way they did it was shitty. The things they said after were shitty. And all of it… My first reaction is anger, but the truth is, man, it all fucking hurts. It hurts to lose friends, man. It hurts to lose people in your life who you cared about. Honestly, dude, if any of those guys would have called me up and said, ‘Hey, dude, I just killed somebody,’ I’d be, like, ‘I’ll show up with my shovel. Where are we at?’ You know what I mean? They were family, dude, and it was a brotherhood, and I really thought it was something more than it was. And now when I look back on it, I realize I had zero [of their] respect and they didn’t give a fuck about me and I was just a business. And that’s just the way it is. And that hurts. But oh, well. Life goes on. I’m not gonna die from it.”
On the most hurtful part of the way he was fired from EXODUS:
“It wasn’t even the things they said in the press, ’cause I didn’t read any of it, and I didn’t really give a fuck. It was the phone call that I got, the things that were said to me. It was all lies, and it was all bullshit, and it was all like this… It was just bullshit, man. [I was, like] ‘None of this is true. You’re fucking full of shit. You’re fucking reaching.’ Instead of saying, ‘Hey, man, we’re making a business decision, and this is what we need to do,’ it became personal. And it was personal things that I’m not gonna talk about, but it was personal things that didn’t need… you didn’t have to say it. You could have just not made the fucking call and just said, ‘Hey, man, this is a business thing. We’re moving on.’ And it could have waited two weeks. They didn’t have to do it three days after my wedding. They could have waited two more weeks. The album wasn’t coming out for months. They could have just avoided my phone calls and let me be on my honeymoon and let me celebrate the fact that I just got married and not fuck up my wife’s fucking honeymoon. And it just fucked everything up. Now [I was] financially insecure, ’cause I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I just moved to a new state. I didn’t know anyone where I moved to. And it was just really bad timing. And they could have done it wiser, they could have done it better. But you know what? The truth is, they didn’t really give a fuck about me. I was just an entity, and I was an expendable thing in their world. The actions that had happened, that’s what it was. If it’s something different, then I’m unaware of all that. I’m basing things on the actions and the things that happened.”
On whether he thinks TESTAMENT singer Chuck Billy, who is now part of the EXODUS management team, was somehow to blame for Rob getting fired:
“I think Chuck‘s responsible for it. I think Chuck and their management, Metal Maria, I think they were looking at [EXODUS‘s] record sales from the ’80s and they were baiting them into, ‘Look, if you do this, you’re gonna get this.’ I mean, I was there for it. I even spoke up. I even said it in front of Chuck to his face. I said, ‘Gary, I think it’s a conflict of interest having the singer of TESTAMENT be your fucking manager. Because, what makes you think that he’s not gonna put his own band ahead of you every single fucking time? It’s a conflict of interest, Gary. This is not a good thing to happen.’ And they were, like, ‘No, I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. I think it’s fine.’ And I’m, like, ‘Ah, okay.’ And you know what? That’s kind of what they did… Let me give you a scenario. METALLICA calls [EXODUS‘s] management, and they say, ‘Hey, man, we want EXODUS on this tour.’ What’s gonna keep Chuck Billy from going, ‘Well, I don’t know if EXODUS will work out, but I know TESTAMENT can do it.’ Do you know what I mean? Why wouldn’t he do that? I’ll tell you this: I would do it. I would fucking do it in a fucking second. ‘Cause I’m fucking honest. But nobody there in that whole world is honest. It’s all craziness. And I’m glad to be out, dude. Honestly, it’s like this weight lifted off my shoulders. And like I said, it fucking hurt for a minute, because it was fucking fun and it was cool; it was a cool fucking thing I was doing. It was fucking enjoyable, and to lose that sucked. But you know what? It’s not all of me. It’s not everything. It wasn’t my entire being. It was a part of my life that I don’t regret. I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for the opportunity and the shit that I got to do. And I love the experiences that I’ve acquired over the years, man, but I’m not gonna die without it. I’m gonna move on. I’m gonna go on without it, ’cause it didn’t define me as a human being. What defines me is how I treat my friends and my family and the man that I am walking around on the planet.”
On whether he wants Gary Holt to give him a call:
“No. I don’t care. You know what, man. Honestly, I don’t wanna hear… His wife has reached out to me, and I didn’t return… I ignored it. ‘Cause I don’t care. Listen, I’ve moved on. They had a chance to right this, and they didn’t, so now they can fuck off. Now, go fuck yourselves, ’cause I don’t give a shit, and I’ve moved on. And honestly, not having it in my life for awhile… It took awhile… it took a good year. I’m not gonan say it was like having cancer removed, but there’s zero drama in my life. There’s no drama, there’s no people in my life that cause me any aggravation. I don’t have people telling me that I’m not good enough and I need to do this better and that better and this better. It’s kind of nice… Maybe in a couple of years [Gary] calls me and I just… ‘Yeah, man, whatever. It’s all good.’ Who knows? I don’t know how I’m gonna feel in a couple of years. But I know today if he called me, I wouldn’t answer the phone. I’d be, like, ‘You know what? I’ve got nothing to say to you. You had your chance.’ You know, I’ve never spoken to him. Two months before this all happened was the last time I spoke with Gary. The last day in the recording studio was the last time I spoke with him, and I never spoke with him again. They had band meetings and they had made all these decisions, and I was never a part of any of it. I never had the chance to retort or the chance to defend myself for whatever negative stuff they were saying. I didn’t get the call until it was over.”
Dukes joined EXODUS in January 2005 and appeared on four of the band’s studio albums — “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” (2005), “The Atrocity Exhibition… Exhibit A” (2007), “Let There Be Blood” (2008, a re-recording of EXODUS‘ classic 1985 LP, “Bonded By Blood”) and “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” (2010).
Dukes has released two studio albums with his GENERATION KILL project, 2011’s “Red White And Blood” and 2013’s “We’re All Gonna Die”.