Interview With Gary Holt Of Exodus
Band Photo: Exodus (?)
The renowned Bay area thrash band Exodus have been pumping out albums since 1985 amid numerous line-up changes, record label issues, a full scale break up, and even the death of a vocalist. Despite all the problems the band is continuing on at full speed without skipping a beat, and is set to release a re-recording of their classic first album "Bonded by Blood."
xFiruath: Tell me a little about how your first got started in music and what originally made you want to be a musician.
Gary: Well you know how I first got started in music and what made me want to be a musician is probably the same thing as most guys. I wanted to get laid. It always starts out that way, but then you eventually start learning how to play. The guitar is an excellent way to express yourself.
xFiruath: Exodus has been through a lot of line up changes and had plenty of inter-band conflict, how have you kept the band together through all of that?
Gary: Through just perseverance and an overwhelming belief in the fact that the world is a better place with Exodus in it. I love doing this and I still do and I still have a lot to offer musically, and this band has a lot to offer. We’ve been through our fair share of ups and downs and trials and tribulations, but right now this band is as strong as it’s ever been and everybody is focused and on the same page. We still have a lot left to give.
xFiruath: Re-recording an older album tends to divide the fans as plenty of them love their classics and don’t want them to be changed, so what made you want to re-record “Bonded by Blood?”
Gary: We wanted to re-record it ever since we did the live album with Paul (Baloff, deceased former vocalist of the band) and just finally hearing these songs recorded even in a live environment with the benefit of the modern technology and with Andy Sneap mixing. We used to talk about it all the time but we never had the finances or the ability to do it, because it’s also something we wanted to do on our own you know. There’s not much in this business that you actually own, usually most songs you write actually belong to the label, but the ownership of these songs is in house. We wanted to do it and as a guitar player I wanted to record these songs with the benefit of the better technology at my disposal. At the same time though I love when people are passionate about the original, they should be and it’s a real compliment. I don’t make anybody take sides and I’m not reinventing the wheel with this album. If you love the first album that much I take that as a total compliment and I don’t demand or expect everybody to want to hear a re-recording of it. It sounds great but I’m not trying to replace the original, there is no way you could anyway. If people want to listen to the original exclusively that’s the great thing anyway. That was Paul’s magnum opus. If you want to hear it with us representing how the songs sound to us now and how we play them now and what they can really do in a serious sound system then this is for you. I’m not trying to make anybody take a side at all, it’s just a re-recording. It’s like a studio version of doing a live album, it’s just another version
xFiruath: What, if anything, did you change about “Bonded by Blood” with the re-record?
Gary: Oh we just changed some of the fast stuff is even faster. If you listen to the live bootlegs we’re striking the beats at a ridiculous level and so we recorded it a ridiculous speed. Some of the slower stuff we might actually fall back a little bit on the chunky parts. We tune lower, but we’ve been tuning at this same pitch since 1993, including the live album with Paul. It’s just the guitar tones are huge. I stick to the framework of my original solos. There are flourishes of little stuff here and there, but that’s the same way I do things live, I improvise on things in between the meat and potatoes of the solos. It’s not like re-arranging, we didn’t really change anything. There’s no new lyrics and we didn’t add anything new or take any parts out. It’s just as the speed, tempo, and force that we do it at now.
xFiruath: How was it recording the album again, was it strange doing it without Paul this time around?
Gary: Well it was actually a lot of fun because the other one when we did the drums, everything was done in different studios. Rob tracked the vocals in New York and we just communicated by e-mailing files back and forth and made corrections we wanted. When we did the drums it was just Tom and I in there and we were laughing a lot thinking about the mayhem that took place every day during the original recording. It was so amazing that we ever got an album done, we just partied so hard. We did the album “Bonded by Blood” in a studio called Prairie Sun that was on a farm and it has its own cabin so we lived there. Friends would come up from the Bay area and we’d get so drunk at night, and a couple of friends would start fighting, and shit was getting broken, and it was just crazy. Every single fucking day, it was amazing that we were able to get such great work done in the afternoon.
xFiruath: Aside from the re-record can we expect any new studio albums coming out from Exodus anytime soon?
Gary: Well that’s my primary objective right now is just finishing up songs you know. This little thing didn’t take us very long and I didn’t have to rehears for it, since I’ve basically been rehearsing these songs for like 25 years now. So we went in the studio and did the thing quick. I think we actually did the thing quicker than we did the original one. We’ve got seven songs, maybe eight that we’re working on and that’s on top of the four we’ve finished and recorded, so we have more than enough new material in the works right now to get the new album underway. It’s just a matter of finding time since we are still touring for the last one at the same time, so we have to figure out when we will have time to do it.
xFiruath: You guys have a lot of albums worth of material to choose from, so how do you come up with your live setlists?
Gary: It’s hard. With the exception of like certain “Bonded” songs that are always in the set and other “Bonded by Blood” songs that we sort of rotate in and out, from there it’s kind of a combination of a lot of the new stuff and trying to fit in some other stuff. It gets harder with every album, that’s for damn sure.
xFiruath: What do you think of where the thrash scene is today and where do you see it going from here?
Gary: Well today it’s really good. For the last few years you know people would ask me about what I thought about this resurgence of thrash metal, and I thought you know I’ll believe it when I see it. Because I just played a show the night before and there were like 15 people there, you know some comeback. But with time I’ve started to see it and it hasn’t just been a media opinion. Like on the U.S. tour we’ve been doing the new album it’s been the best since the band reunited. Where it’s going I don’t know, it could just keep getting bigger or it could one of those things where the labels kill it. They’ve been signing every young thrash band without stopping to ask if they are any good or not.
xFiruath: Overall what has been your favorite live show?
Gary: The one that’s sticking in my head, just because it was so recent, was the performance at Wacken was one of the best shows we ever did. It was amazing because there was a real connection with the audience, there were 70,000 people and every one of them putting their fists in the air at the same time. It looked like a giant organism, one fungus or something, it was really cool. The ’97 show with Paul at the Dynamo Festival was one of my favorites. That was Paul’s first show back in Europe since 1985 at that was really phenomenal.
xFiruath: You guys have been in the metal scene for quite some time now, so in that time what do you think is the most bizarre or silly thing you’ve seen in the history of metal?
Gary: Oh God, I don’t know, silly or bizarre thing, there’s a lot of them, I mean it is heavy metal after all. (laughs) You know I don’t even know that’s too hard of one to answer.
xFiruath: When you aren’t playing music what is your favorite album to listen to and what do you like about it?
Gary: You know I listen to a lot of different shit. I love listening to Arch Enemy because Mike Amott and his brother are such amazing guitar players, especially Michael he’s like Michael Schenker (Scorpion’s guitarist) that guy. I listen to a lot of different weird different shit. I like Gorgoroth and a lot of black metal, but I also listen to Dead Can Dance and Everything But The Girl too, so I have some weird musical tastes. Everything short of like new country.
xFiruath: As a musician how do you feel about things like music downloading and file sharing?
Gary: You know it hurts. I’m not going to get on a soap box and yell at everybody about it, but everybody thinks it hasn’t forever changed the music industry, and usually the defense has been in the past to talk about Metallica and how rich they are, but we’re not. People just take it. It does put a hurt on things but there’s nothing you can do about it. The music industry needs to find a new way to conduct business.
xFiruath: You guys have toured the world and played with plenty of famous bands, is there anything else that Exodus hasn’t done yet that you’d still like to?
Gary: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. We’ve played with a lot of my all time favorites. I just want to keep doing this as long as I’m having fun and we’re doing it a high level.
xFiruath: That’s all my questions, so do you have any parting words for the fans?
Gary: Just thanks for all the memories and hopefully we’ll have this new studio album out sometime next year.
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