Interview With Rob Dukes and Gary Holt of Exodus
Band Photo: Exodus (?)
Exodus are one of the heaviest thrash metal bands to emerge out of the Bay Area Scene in the 80’s. Most of the bands that were the frontrunners of that era have all but faded away. Only the very best like: Slayer, Megadeth, Testament, Anthrax, Death Angel, and last but not least, Exodus have survived. With many lineup changes, including three different vocalists, one might worry about Exodus’s future. Lead singer, Rob Dukes was introduced in 2005 after the departure of Souza to create “Shovel Headed Kill Machine.” Now with three more studio albums under the belt, it seems that Exodus’s lineup is as strong as ever. I sat down with Rob Dukes before the concert at Reggies Rock House in Chicago. I followed up with some questions with Gary Holt immediately thereafter.
Daniel Becker: Your manager said your trip has not been exactly “Smooth sailing.”
Rob Dukes: (Eating a Star Wars Cooke) Well, we flew to one show. We took a new bus and we’re here now. That’s basically it.
Becker: Any interesting tour stories thus far?
Dukes: Not yet. We’re only five days in, so nothing special as of today.
Becker: I read that you initially liked Punk and Hardcore. Did you ever think that you would be a lead singer of a heavy metal band at all?
Dukes: No. The bands I started out listening to were The Clash, early The Police, and the Sex Pistols. Then I started listening to Black Sabbath, Ozzy and early Judas Priest. Bridging over into the metal scene was very natural.
Becker: So what heavy metal, especially thrash metal bands are you listening to now?
Dukes: I don’t know. Slayer, Metallica, Exodus.
Becker: The last two albums: “Exhibit A, The Atrocity Exhibition” and “Exhibit B, the Human Condition” were wildly praised by the metal scene. Could there be a continuance of an Exhibit C in the near future?
Dukes: I don’t think so. I think we’re going to move on to something else. Hopefully something even more crazy.
Becker: There are references to “Exhibit A, The Atrocity Exhibition” on “Exhibit B the Human Condition,;”mostly on “Beyond the Pale,” and the opening instrumental riff on “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles. This leads me to ask were both albums originally one?
Dukes: Yeah, we had too many songs on “Exhibit A,” so we were thinking of doing a double album. We then decided it would be best if we just waited and release the second album at a later time once we added more songs.
Becker: What compelled the band to remake the classic album “Bonded with Blood” for the “Let There Be Blood” in 2008?
Dukes: Gary wanted to redo the guitars and the drums and I happened to be the singer. If Paul were here, he would of course be doing it. I am very grateful to be the vocals on such a great album.
Becker: I hear you’re participating in the 70,000 tons of metal boat tour. Have you guys ever done something like this? How did you get this gig too?
Dukes: I have no idea how we landed this gig. I’m just the singer (laughs). My manager calls me up and asks me if I want to do this, and I say “yes,” or “no.” But I’m really excited about this. I’ve never done anything like this before, and I think it’s safe to say that none of the other members of Exodus have done anything like this either.
Becker: I have to say the cover artwork for exhibit B is one of the (if not the best) cover artwork of this year. What is the story behind that? What type of symbolism can be related in the songs to the artwork? Does this represent almost a misanthrope or a pessimistic outlook on the future of humans in society?
Dukes: You are going to have to ask Gary Holt on that one. I don’t have anything to do with that. As far as the symbolism goes there are two ways you can see it. You can sing about the good and happy, or the mundane and ridiculous; or your can sing about true stuff that is happening and bring it to life. I watch a lot of history, and frequently watch the history channel.
Becker: So is the history channel your source of inspiration for like the famous serial killers: Leonard Lake and Charles Ng on “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles?”
Dukes: You know I actually read about these guys in a book. Then I did some research on who they are on what they did. That is how I wrote the lyrics.
Becker: What has inspired the songwriting process?
Dukes: I read a lot of books, so that is one source of inspiration whether it’s fiction or not. If I can incorporate the material that I’ve watched or studied throughout the years, it makes writing the lyrics a whole lot more fun.
Follow up With Gary Holt:
Becker: So what was the inspiration for the artwork?
Gary Holt: The Vitrovian Man? I was just looking up some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches, and I thought that worked perfectly with the theme of the record. We just took it and twisted it around to suit our own style.
Becker: So like the guns and knives that this man is holding is symbolic to each of the songs?
Holt: Not to just the songs, but can be applied to society and the human condition like violence and cruelty.
Becker: Do the band members of Exodus have a negative outlook on humankind?
Holt: Sure. It is not going to get any better in my lifetime. I mean there is kindness. People have the ability to be kind. You know it just does not happen that often anymore.
Becker: I agree. We’re pretty much out for our own interests.
Holt: We’re a violent species.
Becker: Are you excited to play the 70000 Tons of Metal tour?
Holt: Fuck yeah!
Becker: How did you land that gig?
Holt: Well, I found the website and told my manager that might be something we’re interested in doing. Our manager got in touch with the agents and before you know it, we’re booked! I’m excited because I need a vacation too.
Becker: So after this tour, what are you going to do?
Holt: Well, we will be on the road probably for the next couple of years since we just finished another album.
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