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Slayer Interview

A Conversation With Drummer Dave Lombardo




Columbia Records
Updated November 02, 2009
Slayer’s place in metal history is secure. They are one of the most influential bands in the history of the genre, with some great albums and legions of memorable live shows. More than a quarter century later, the band remains at the top of their game. Their 10th studio album is World Painted Blood, which was produced by Greg Fidelman (Slipknot, Metallica). The band is very happy with how their latest CD turned out, as drummer Dave Lombardo relates. We also talked about the possibility of visiting his native Cuba, his kids’ musical aptitude, and many other topics.

Chad Bowar: Slayer has a trademark sound, but each album also has things that differentiate it from previous CDs, and World Painted Blood is no exception. Is that something you focus on, or does it come naturally during the songwriting process?
Dave Lombardo: That’s something that comes naturally as the songs develop. The sound (on World Painted Blood) had a lot to do with the producer and the engineer. The producer was there at the beginning of rehearsals. He showed up to listen to the band in its rawest form, which is just two half stacks, a drum set with no mikes on it and Tom with a small P.A. With that he was able to capture the band’s true sound without any microphones or playing live or being masked by another engineer trying to tune the band. We were really happy with the process.

What was your selection process for choosing Greg Fidelman to produce?
He was a recommendation from Rick Rubin. If he recommends him, we’re sure he’s good. We’re definitely happy with his choice, and we’ve knighted him the fifth member.

You also did some writing in the studio for this album, which you hadn’t done in the past.
Yes, we’ve never done that before. Everything was always finished and done before we went into the studio. But this time because of the time frame that we were working in where he had to go do another project, we wanted to make sure we did everything to get it done as soon as possible. I think it turned out the best.

Does your success doing it that way want to make you try it again on the next album?
I don’t know how we are going to approach it next time, but we are definitely going to have Greg Fidelman at the board. He did a fantastic record. He set a standard for producers. We’ve been exposed to these producers and worked with them where they show up for a little bit, they listen, and they leave. They don’t really focus on what we’re doing and help get the best out of us. Greg really did a good job.

Did you approach recording your drum parts any different than usual for this album?
Yes. The first thing I did when we started rehearsing for this record was eliminate my largest and smallest tom tom. That scaled down my kit to 9 pieces instead of 11 pieces. With that kit, it helped me approach the songs and the drum rolls and changes a little bit differently. I had to think what was going to come out of a certain drum roll. I had to really focus on that. That helped me think a little bit differently. I did drum parts I wouldn’t have created otherwise.

So many metal bands have a very sterile and artificial drum sound these days, and yours is more natural.
This one definitely reflects to the old records like Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss where no computers were involved in editing and mixing. We kept that feel for this record. He kept as much of the true performance. In other words, he didn’t cut every single bass drum, every roll. There are a lot of takes on this record that are almost 80 percent one take. Things were kept as pure as possible, and I think it shows on this record. You hear little clicks of my stick at the end of a song, you hear me breathing. Things aren’t polished. It’s great.

I am so proud of this record. I think only after the fact when Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss were released was I proud of them, but never at the time. With this one, I was proud at the beginning when we first started rehearsal and were laying down the foundation, which are the drums. I was noticing there was this really amazing chemistry going on in the studio, not only with all four of us, but five of us with Greg. It’s really cool to have something to be proud of way in the beginning rather than later on, waiting for the reaction of the people. I knew something was there from the get-go.

How do you measure the success of an album these days? It used to be a platinum or gold album, but with sales down across the board and so much illegal downloading, those numbers don’t mean the same as they once did.
Without looking at all that stuff you just said, I think the reaction of the people when you’re playing the songs is another way to evaluate whether the record is good or not. For this one, when we opened with “World Painted Blood,” the reaction of the people when the song ends was very positive. I think the feedback from the kids is important too, through the internet or even the press. A lot of little things like that.

Are you finding that younger fans are discovering Slayer in different ways, perhaps through video games or YouTube?
Absolutely. That’s a whole new publicity channel or marketing channel. Video games are amazing. There are a lot of bands I’ve discovered through video games, like Skindred or Kasabian. It happens to me, so I’m sure it happens to kids, too. They look them up, then go screw it up by downloading the songs for free.

The media has become more accepting to extreme bands like Slayer. You’re going to be performing on Jimmy Kimmel. Could you have imagined back in the ‘80s playing on the Johnny Carson Show?
No, but I wish we were on Carson or David Letterman. That would have been great. But Jimmy Kimmel is cool. Craig Ferguson is hilarious. Conan is good, too.

You also appeared on That Metal Show recently. How was that experience?
Awesome. I had a little too much to drink during that interview. I know we were throwing CDs around. It turned out really well. We had shots, and it was good.

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