EXODUS (Gary Holt) INTERVIEW
When I began my time as a music journalist, the very first artist I had the pleasure of interviewing was Gary Holt, founding member and axeman of the Legendary Californian Thrash Metal outfit Exodus. Now, several years later, and following the release of the band’s ninth studio album “Exhibit B: The Human Condition”, I had the chance to meet up with the friendly man again. Topics that were discussed: the band’s current state of affairs, Gary’s involvement in the highly successful and well respected documentary “Get Thrashed” and his opinion about the so-called “Thrash Metal Revival”, led by a bunch of young kids whose bedroom walls are most likely covered in images of the man himself! Thrash rules!
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
• Gary, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Last time we spoke was when the “Tempo Of The Damned” album came out back in 2003 and I remember wishing at the time that that would not be a one-off thing. Luckily for us, you have released quite a few albums since then and you have also been visiting the UK quite frequently. How are you guys feeling about being here once again?
Gary: It’s awesome! We, as a band, are going stronger than ever and it’s always great to be playing in the UK, especially as it’s been a long time since we were last here. London has always been quite welcoming, so I am really looking forward to tonight’s show! It should be killer!
• I am not sure why, but somehow I had it in my head that “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” has been out for ages whereas it’s only a few months old. It could be because I feel that, of all the albums you have released, this is the one that I found to be the most controversial, with peoples’ opinions quite varied. Anyhow, I believe that this is an album that grows on you with time.
Gary: Well, this album is quite epic for sure and sometimes an album like that takes a while to sink in, you know? It is really a very ambitious effort. I personally believe that it came out perfect and it’s got some of the best reviews that we’ve got in our lives…I think that it was the perfect album at the perfect time. It would be easy to write an album of fourteen four-minute long songs that would be of a straight grinding Thrash nature and which people that love this kind of thing will love immediately, but these same people would not be listening to it six months later, you know? They would probably say ‘ok, that was great when I first listened to it, but if I like that stuff I will better go and listen to “Bonded By Blood””, you know? Well, we’ve done that already and we did it well, so we don’t put any limits on what we want to do musically. There is no MTV to write and make people Saturday night happy anymore – it’s all about reality shows nowadays anyway, and what radio is there? We only have satellite radio and there people don’t play this kind of sh*t anymore! So based on all that, we wrote the kind of songs that we really wanted to write and they just end up sometimes seven to nine and ten minutes long (laughs). The next album might be totally different; it’s so far in the future, though, that I cannot tell you what it will really be like!
• Is it fair to say that you spoiled a few people by having things ready for them in the past and it is these same people that are freaking out now that things are slightly more ‘complicated’?
Gary: Yeah, maybe…I like to think that people are smart enough to understand things sometimes and not be too ‘cavemen’ (laughs). This is a super aggressive, super punishing record but there’s a lot of thought that has gone done into making it and so a lot to take in!
• The production was absolutely spot-on too! I know that you and Andy Sneap have a special relationship, but what I am happy because he has given Exodus a personal sound. It’s not like with Death Metal in the early 90s when most bands that recorded at Morrisound Studios ended sounding exactly the same after a while!
Gary: Well, you know, when he works with a band like Exodus, or some other bands that have been around for a long time, these are people who know already how to get their own sound. So, what you end up having is Andy’s expertise and also a band whose members know what they are doing and so you manage to get something more unique as an end result! When you have to work with kids who don’t even know how to get their own guitar tone yet and they go to work with a producer like Andy, then they will undoubtedly depend entirely on Andy to pull things off! Tom’s (Hunting: drums) sound, for instance, is 50% Andy’s production and 50% the result of how Tom fu*king hits his drums, which is harder than fu*king anybody! Those are the kind of things that add up to make the end result that much more special!
• So then, how would you describe your relationship with Andy?
Gary: Oh, he’s one of my best friends, you know? We were fu*king with him last night because he couldn’t make it to the show so we sent him at least a dozen text messages calling on his manhood, saying horrible things to him (laughs). All he said back is that my new signature guitar has hot pink pickups which is not true as they are red (laughs).
• I am not going to focus so much on Europe because the old continent has always been pretty supportive of Exodus; I want to talk with you about the current situation in the States. I believe that in “Exhibit B: The Human Condition” we have the second best-selling album in Exodus’ career there, right?
Gary: Correct, first being “Force Of Habit” (1992), which was released through Capitol records. That was the first album to be featured on the charts and we returned to the charts with this one. America is weird right now! Because the economy is so bad, people put out albums that sell better than the ones before, but the tours in support won’t do as well because most people are broke and cannot attend shows! There is a lot of competition when it comes to touring these days. I do believe that things are improving; especially in our case as we are becoming more popular now.
• Do you reckon that this is a phase or the beginning of a build-up of a strong scene again on US soil? I am asking because America has always been pretty unpredictable when it comes to Metal!
Gary: Yeah, I know what you mean. As I said, we are selling more albums than before, so things are better in that respect. We did a UK tour this past summer and there was a good turnout in the big cities. We also had quite a few cool festivals going on such as the Summer Slaughter, Mayhem Festival and also the Slayer-organised Carnage tour all at the same time. I mean, people do want to attend as many shows as possible, they just don’t have the money needed, you know?
• I assume that this is a problem that one tackles by organising a varied bill with many big names, right? Is it expected for a band of a certain calibre to still go out on a major tour alone?
Gary: Well we do that. We took some young and up and coming bands to support us on our last tour like Holy Grail, who also happen to be one of my favourite bands, or Bonded By Blood. These guys opened up our shows and Malevolent Creation were also part of the bill, so that was indeed a very good package – a little bit of everything, you know?
• Gary, if my memory serves me right, tonight is the last show of the current tour in support of “Exhibit B: The Human Condition”. Are you guys going to be returning back to the States straight after?
Gary: No, we will go over to mainland Europe for the Thrash fest Tour with Kreator, Death Angel. This tour will cover Germany, Italy, France and also northern countries like Norway and Sweden. This is going to be an amazing tour!
• And your plans after that tour is over?
Gary: We will go home for the holidays as January coming we will be performing on the 70,000 tons of Metal cruise, which I am sure is going to be really fun!
• Well, it has to be called that way with so many Metal bands performing there!
Gary: (laughs). This is a five day cruise during which we will do two shows and the rest is all party, you know? Awesome! After that, we will take a little time off, except Lee (Altus: guitars) who will be back in Europe in March in order to tour with his other band Heathen. I will have a little time off at home, so I will try to find something to keep myself busy with, you know?
• I would like to talk to you about the documentary film “Get Thrashed”, a highly enjoyable presentation of Thrash Metal music, and the reason for that is mainly because you seem to have acquired the role of a scene spokesman for that project. Did you enjoy the overall experience? Were there any band that you believe were left out and which, in retrospect, shouldn’t have been?
Gary: Maybe there was not enough time to mention every single band there, but I believe that it came out quite amazing! It is an awesome documentary and maybe the German bands could have been offered a more extensive coverage, more airtime, as Sodom, Kreator and Destruction have offered quite a lot to the scene! Anyhow, I think that it came out fantastic and some people do consider me to be some kind of spokesman for Thrash, but it is something that I am alright with, you know, ‘cause I love this sh*t!
• It was interesting to see quite a few young bands being featured there also, voicing their opinions on the legends of the scene and also promoting their work; something that is healthy for every scene! My question to you, one that I ask every veteran of the scene, is what you make of the young musicians out there who sweat it out for Thrash? How do you perceive this whole Thrash Revival thing?
Gary: I think that it’s awesome! Things work in cycles sometimes and once all these trendy mascara-wearing bands all died and the Rap Metal thing faded away, that’s when stuff like Thrash Metal and Death Metal comes back, you know? These are stuff that is not dependant on trends for their success! You see these kids wearing these high top tennis shoes, their denim leather vests and it looks like we are back in 1985 again! I think that it’s pretty totally fu*king cool!
• I find your comments to be very interesting because I, as a fan, feel that most of these band have little to offer to the scene, as they often unsuccessfully try to mimic bands like you. You, as a musician, have a very positive feel about this whereas I, as a fan, am quite negative! Strange!
Gary: I understand what you say but you also have to remember how young most of these bands are and it is only when given time that most of these bands will start evolving. If you listen to Warbringer’s first album (“War Without End”/2008) and then listen to their second album (“Waking Into Nightmares”/2009), you can see how they completely evolved and added new elements to both their style and sound; starting putting their own stamp onto things, you know? A lot of young bands do sound like old Kreator demos, but their hearts are in the right place, you know? They love the sh*t!
• Point taken! We are happy to have Exodus around, hopefully for many more years, we are happy to have you touring the UK. Is this something that you feel strongly for and see yourselves doing in the years to come?
Gary: Oh yeah, for sure! We love doing this! Playing on stage is the reason we make albums for. I am not sure if I would be recording any new music if touring was not part of the picture. I cannot see myself sitting in a studio all the time!
• Surely, though, you must have had the thought running through your head that, at some point, touring may no longer be feasible. Do you have something like a Plan B in the back of your head? Would perhaps becoming a producer be an option for you?
Gary: Yeah, you know, if I had more free time I would love to do a bit more production stuff. With regards the second Warbringer album, I just happened to have some time off when they were going into the studio so that worked out fine, but I don’t really have a backup plan at the moment (laughs). I will keep on doing this for as long as I can do it on a high level; as long as I don’t feel like I am slowing down!
• Well, the signs are indeed very encouraging, so please continue doing what you do best and we will be there to support you all the way! Thanks Gary, it’s been an enjoyable chat!
Gar: Right on! Thank you, Yiannis!
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