Dave Lombardo interview, September 2014

Former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo played the Underworld in London earlier this month with his new band Philm.  I met up with him the next day to talk about the band.

Dave Lombardo with AntPlanetmosh: Lets start by talking about last night.  You played Philm’s first ever UK show.  How did you enjoy it?

Dave: I loved it.  I’ve been anxious to bring Philm over to the UK, partly because Philm’s influences stem from a lot of the UK bands and so Gerry and I have a deep love and respect for The Experience with Hendrix, and of course Led Zeppelin, and my super early influences too, Cream, and a lot of new bands too.  Believe it or not I like the Arctic Monkeys, I like The prodigy, there’s a lot of music that influences my style, so to play here in the UK with Philm has been definitely something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m glad I did, and hopefully there will be more.

It was a great show.  The fans were really enthusiastic, and I heard that a lot of people really liked it.  I want to come back really bad.  London, maybe two nights at the Underworld, that’d be fun, and maybe go up to Nottingham, Birmingham and even Edinburgh, I’d really love to do that.

Planetmosh: It was interesting that you set the stage up with the drums front and centre with the other two to either side, rather than having the drums at the back.

Dave: It’s a trio, so we can move everything forward, plus it’s something different and interesting – get creative you know.  Push the boundaries, try something new.  I think doing that, the fans especially drummers and fans of my playing, in the small clubs, they get to feel the air come out of the bass drum.

Planetmosh:  Am I right in saying that it’s a much smaller drum kit than you used to use with Slayer?  Why the change?

Dave: Yes.  When I first met Gerry in 1995, he opened up his guitar case, and it was a Gibson 1969 Les Paul Gold Top, all original hardware, just beautiful, and when he played that guitar, the sound was so pure I could almost see the different notes and textures that guitar was emitting.  I was used to the metal kind of guitars, the ESP, the Ibanez, that all the metal guitar players were playing at that time, and when I saw this it stood out.  That instrument needed a bit of respect, I couldn’t bring a huge double bass drum set to compete with this instrument, I felt I had to scale it down, so I decided to strip the kit down to a four piece drum set.  Last night’s kit was a little bit smaller than normal.  I normally have a big 24 inch bass drum, 18 inch floor tom, 15 inch rack, and a lot more cymbals, but because my drum company wasn’t able to get me a drum kit here, I just used the house kit and made it work.

Planetmosh: It’s nice to see when drummers are able to be flexible and play well with whatever is available.

Dave: I just make it work.  If I have one cymbal or two cymbals I’ll make it work.  I’m a firm believer, not only that the show must go on, but also instead of just sitting there and griping and making matters worse, I believe you just have to work with the tools you have and make it happen.  Sometimes that’s where the magic lies, you just take all those elements and that makes the show.  I was very pleased with last night’s show, including the lack of rehearsals.  We hadn’t played together since July 25th, so after that July 25th show, Pancho laid down tracks for a new EP that we’re going to release in early Spring next year, then Gerry laid down some tracks, so our studio was switched around from rehearsal to tracking – we don’t have much room in there. It’s our own little spot that we have that we utilise as a rehearsal room/recording studio.  Then I had to leave for this drum workshop tour of Brazil which was like 12 days, then home for 26 hours then here.

Planetmosh: It must be quite hard to stay awake and focus when you’re that jet lagged.

Dave: Yeah I have difficulty sleeping on the plane.  Last night I was so tired.  We played the show then had a falafel or Doner Kebab and walked around the town a bit before I said to the guys I was off to bed.  I had a solid 8 hours sleep and woke up and been doing interviews since.

Planetmosh:  It’s interesting that you mention about recording a new EP.  Your new album is coming out very soon, and you’re already working on the next release, so clearly like to be well ahead of things.

Dave: Yeah I think it’s influenced by how magazines work, and how clothing companies work.  They’re usually two or three issues or seasons ahead, so working on the December issue even though September’s isnt out yet. I think that’s a good way to work.  This band is really creative and productive when we get together.  We press record and start jamming, just like the bands from the 60s.  You just jam and then what we do is trim the excess parts and focus on the magic, there are sometimes certain sections of our jam sessions that are just phenomenal and we say we have to mark this with a little flag, so we capture it, rewrite it a bit in our own minds. We’ve found our niche, how we create, and it’s very productive.  We figure out a structure, then Gerry takes the songs and he lives with them for a while and he creates the melodies and lyrics for them.

Planetmosh: I presume Philm must give you more chance to be creative than Slayer – after all, after so many years as a band, fans expect a certain sound, whereas as Philm is new you have more of a blank slate to create something new.

Dave: We can. We have the ability of going in different directions, different genres, because we have so many influences that there’s no limit.  We interpret those genres in a heavy rock form.  You can count on us always delivering a heavy album, it just has these little different influences that we take. The last song on the album is a song called “Corner girl”, and I’m playing brushes and then I go into this percussive section with the trumpet player.  The band definitely satisfies my creativeness.  They are able to tap into genres that other musicians don’t even have the interest or liking to listen and to learn from, to take something from and become a better musician, so these guys are very well-rounded musicians.

Planetmosh: The new album, “Fire from the evening sun” comes out on the 15th of September. Can you tell us a little bit about the album?

Dave: Well it’s 12 songs.  A lot fo the songs were written during our last recording.  We released an album in 2012, which is Harmonic, and that album consisted of several songs written by Gerry and I around 1995-1998, so we brought those songs and we added some improv and some new songs written with Pancho, the current bass player.  So we now have Fire from the evening sun, part of which was written during the recording of Harmonic.  The opening track, “Train”, it’s just a little idea inside of how we work, we take whatever the song feels.  That rhythm, that beat that I start with, I said to the guys it sounded like a train, and then Gerry took that idea and gave it that blues feel.  It’s an album that’s unlike the first, the songs are concise, they’re focussed instead of loose-ended – on harmonic we had a lot of loose ended parts, but that’s because we were getting creative, trying to push boundaries, and trying to let people know this band was more than just song structure – we are able to improvise on the fly, instantly.  There are elements of funk on this album, because of course Pancho is from a and called War, and he plays with Tower of Power, he’s the bass player that takes Rocco Prestia’s place whenever Rocco can’t make it because he’s sometimes ill.  It’s got some blues in it, some thrash in it, it’s got a little bit of punk, there are hooks, there’s melody, so there’s many different elements that makes up the album.
I remember buying an album when I was a kid, and going through the songs, and “this one is great, this one is ok”, but the album had two or three songs that you loved, and this album definitely has that.  We could go even more diverse, but you want to narrow it down at least to some genres that people can grasp, and not be too loose.

Planetmosh: It’s a difficult balance – enough diversity to keep it interesting and stop all the songs sounding the same, but not so much diversity that the songs just don’t work together.

Dave: Yeah definitely.  We could have done that, but I didn’t want to tread over what we did on the first album – that one was a little too diverse, so this one we’ve kind of homed on n the sound of the band, and the band’s creative style.

Planetmosh:  Last night was the London show, and you’re off to Europe next for more shows.

Dave: Yes, we have three more shows, We have Vienna, Munich and Zürich.

Planetmosh: Any plans to do more shows later in the year?

Dave: I hope so.  I’m working things out now with the record company, and maybe we can get on a tour to open for someone.  We hope to lock in some more dates by the end of the year.  I don’t mind opening for somebody, I don’t have to be on the top of the bill every time.  I’m one of these guys who doesn’t care – I’ll play clubs, I’ll play stadiums, as long as I’m playing I’m a happy guy.

Planetmosh: It must be hard after being in Slayer to be almost starting again from scratch?

Dave: I’ve done it before.  I did it back in 1995 with Grip incorporated, we were playing clubs then, and what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter if there are 10,000, 30,000 in the crowd, or 50, it’s those people that are watching you that matter.  Those are the people that are going to remember those shows, even in the smallest places, they’re going to remember that day for the rest of their lives “I remember I saw you years ago at this really small club, it was hot and sweaty”.  That for me is a lot more exciting than playing a sterile environment where you’re catered too and driven around and you really don’t see the city.  I’m dragging my gear through the streets of London.  I’ve got my drum pedal and my suitcase, but that’s great, it’s not a big deal for me.  So yes it is different but I enjoy both extremes.

Planetmosh:  That’s the key – to enjoy what you do.

Dave: To enjoy it and be confident.  I’ll play the club kit, their house drum kit, and I’ll play my own kit.  Sure it’s a little disappointing, the heads aren’t that great, but it’s a drum kit, so I can at least play.  It would be terrible to turn up and there not be a kit I can use so I can’t play – that would be very disappointing.  The opening bands let me use their snare and their cymbals – they really helped me out and I really appreciate that.  The poor guy, I used his snare and I left all these dents in the drum.  He was about to leave, and a couple of the guys said thanks, so I asked where the drummer was, and he was in the van, so I told him I was really sorry about his snare, and told him to drop me a line with his address and I’ll get Evans to ship you some drum heads.  I asked if I’d broken the cymbals but he said no and he had checked them, but I said if anything shows up as damaged let me know and I’ll get Paiste to send some replacements.  I hit harder than the norm.  I tried to hold myself back at least a little bit.

Planetmosh: I know some drummers do hit hard and can get through quite a few cymbals, so I can imagine it gets expensive if you don’t have sponsorship.

Dave: Very expensive.  I don’t know how these drummers can keep it up – cymbals, sticks, that shit is expensive.

Planetmosh: I dread to think how much it costs Combichrist with the amount of drum sticks they get through.

Dave: I love Combichrist.

Planetmosh:  They are one of only three bands I’ve seen (including Philm) that have had the drummer at the front of the stage where you can see them – there are very few bands that do it.

Dave: It works really well as a trio – it’s not too crowded.

Planetmosh: Thank you for your time.

Dave: Thanks

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.