Before Exodus plays Cleveland, a Q&A with thrasher Gary Holt

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Exodus plays with with Goatwhore, Warbringer, and Arsis. 7 p.m. Sun., February 10. $15 ADV/$18 DOS. Peabody’s, 2083 E. 21st St., 216-776-9999. Check out this week’s Scene for DX Ferris’ story about the band. In the mid-1980s, thrash metal was famously embodied by a group of bands collectively known as “The Big Four,” all of which went platinum and played arenas: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth. But penty of headbanger aficionados argue that San Francisco’s Exodus was – or should have been – number five. Outside of metal circles, the group is a historical footnote, known, if at all, for the fact that its original lineup featured Kirk Hammettt, whom Metallica poached before Exodus released its masterpiece, 1985’s Bonded by Blood. ... As Slayer guitarist Kerry King – who’s infamously skimpy with praise – said during a recent interview: “I think Exodus is the one band that should have got bigger and never did. I think Metallica took the wrong dude. Gary Holt’s bad-ass. And that’s not to say Kirk Hammett isn’t. I just like Gary’s playing. Bonded by Blood, Jesus Christ, you can’t go wrong with that.” In metal circles, the Bay Area band put the scene on notice by releasing one of the strongest albums 2007, an impressive feat considering the band’s constant turnover during its meth-addled, up-and-down run in the years between BBB and Exhibit A. Before their stop in Cleveland this weekend, I spoke with guitarist/lyricist Gary Holt, the group’s one constant through this on-again, off-again career. The full interview is below. – DX Ferris You’re a music fan. Before drummer Tom Hunting returned, how did you feel when Exodus became one of those groups that had one original member left? I think it all depends upon the situation. On the last album, when Tom left the due to anxiety issues. Rick [Hunolt, guitars] had issues and needed to take care of kids. Some people criticized it still being [called] Exodus, but I didn’t go into that album planning on not having everybody there. I think [it would have been different] if we split up, and ten years later, I came back with four different guys and called it Exodus. I went into rehearsals as Exodus, and then all this shit happened, and I’m not going to let the band die over it. Some people had misgivings about it, but they got over it when they saw the new lineup live. Obviously, it’s not easy -- but how hard is it, really, to find four guys that want to go out and play grade-A thrash, and be in a real, well-known band? I’m in better shape than I’ve been since I’m 25. But as you get old, people have other commitments in their lives. They may want to do it, but it’s hard to convince guys who are 40 years old to go out and chase what they refer to as their dream, when they’ve got families and kids and good jobs that pay well. The band’s biggest hit was 1988’s “Toxic Waltz.” Do you think it hurt the band when it was embraced as a novelty song? Initially, maybe it hurt us. Through the reunion, we stopped playing it. I needed a break from it; we played it every gig since its inception. But we’re contemplating bringing it back into the set; I’ve seen some of the greatest pits ever to the song. “The Garden of Bleeding” [from the new record] is one of those songs might just be too much for someone that’s not a metal fan. How did that song come about? That song was almost an afterthought. The riff to that was one I almost forgot about. It was on one of many riff tapes I’ve created, and I stumbled upon it, and put that one together in an afternoon, once I remembered it. Looking back, what’s the difference between Exodus and a band like Slayer or Metallica? Management? Bad breaks? Bad breaks, for one. We’ve suffered through the serious death, drugs, and rock and roll more than anybody. And bad circumstances. But I think all of that led to us making better albums than everybody else. All the bad luck and bad circumstances pushed us to where I don’t think a single band from our era is making records anywhere near to ours. Each of the bands from our era, the original bunch, these guys all have money; they have houses; they have a level of comfort I don’t know. So I’m constantly pushing myself to go back and reclaim what I truly believe is mine, and that’s the crown at the top of the heap. Metallica’s in the studio, and I have all the respect for Metallica in the world, but it remains to be seen whether guys worth $150 million can come up with some kind of fire and hunger to play heavy metal.

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