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Slayer Drummer Dave Lombardo Discusses Mayhem Festival, Life on the Road + More

Dave Lombardo
Courtesy of Slayer

Slayer have loaded up the bus, packed plenty of pyro, and are back for another summer of metal glory as part of the main stage lineup for the Mayhem Tour this summer. Loudwire caught up with drummer Dave Lombardo backstage at their opening night performance in San Bernardino, Calif. to get his thoughts on returning to the road, plans for new music and more:

We’re here for Mayhem Festival. What are your expectations for this year’s run?

Well, if they’re anything like they were a couple few years ago when we did it last, it was a lot of fun. I mean I had a great time at these festivals and the guys that put on these festivals really know how to take care of their artists and of course, you know, the public, so I expect a good time.

You guys are a big part of the metal community and have done the Big 4 and you individually have taken part in the Metal Masters clinic. How cool is it to have those friendships built over the years with some of the members of the top bands in metal and rock?

You know, it’s really nice. Let’s say maybe 20 years ago, you really don’t keep in touch with each other or anything. Now as you get older, you kind of appreciate where each of us stand. Thank God we’re here, still here doing it.

As far as this Mayhem run goes, anything you can tell us about the set list?

It’s all the classics. I can’t think of one that’s coming out of left field that we haven’t done before. We’ve done ‘em, but it would be great to pull something else different out.

Is there a song that’s really striking a chord with you at the moment that you’re having a blast playing live?

I really like one of Kerry‘s songs off the last album. It’s called ‘Snuff’ and I get a kick playing that song because it has this lead section that on the record I play along, I play through the lead, but during live, I don’t play. I just pull out of the part and just let the guys do their lead and I just kind of stand up. It’s really fun and it’s a good piece. And of course, ‘Raining Blood’ is great, always.

It took a while to get out and support the last album as much as you wanted to, but have you guys started thinking about new music at this point?

We do have something coming out, but I don’t know exactly when. It is an EP, it’s a two-song EP. But I frankly haven’t heard any of the songs yet. I’ve recorded them, but I don’t know which ones they chose to actually keep. I’ve been out of the loop on this one, but it should be out sometime soon, and of course we’ll have an album following that.

Not knowing which songs, might you still be able to tell us about the direction?

The direction, yeah, it’s very very typical Slayer. It’s what the fans want.

The band has been together for such a long time. Are shows pretty much automatic for you at this point? Can you anticipate where everyone’s going without even having to address it?

There’s cues and there’s moments that you have to pay attention to, little nuances in the guitar parts to make sure you have the right drumroll and everything is in sync. But for the most part, we’re on cruise control. Especially, we just came back from Europe a month ago, so we’re prepped. We’re ready to go. We’re strong so, we’re on autopilot.

Being out here on the road, is it the same thrill for you of what you get playing live as you did when the band first started out?

Yeah, it is. It hasn’t changed. I still get as excited. I still get as nervous. It’s like my No. 1 priority thing to do. When I get to a venue, all I wanna do is play. I don’t want to wait around. ‘Wait, how many hours to show? Damn! Let me go to sleep and then wake up after a couple of hours to just burn off time.’ But yeah, it hasn’t diminished at all in time the older I get. I just get more and more excited. I feel more alive when I’m on tour than when I’m six months off at home. You start gaining weight, you’re not as active if you’re not onstage sweating every night, and you kind of, things just slow down and I don’t like feeling that way. I’d rather feel charged up and active. I take my vitamins on the road, I try to stay as fit as possible you know. Not overdo it. I’m not in the gym, I just watch what I eat, I try to stay cool and stay up on the juices and I feel much better when I play live on tour.

You mention that charged up feeling and, as a drummer, how much are you aware of the audience? Does it factor in or are you in the zone?

Oh no, I’m watching the audience. That’s my bird’s nest. I’m watching the guitar players, I’m watching their hands and where they’re going and making sure they’re going to the right place, making sure that Tom [Araya] is on point. And then the crowd, from what I can see, they’re really into it and loving it too. Being up there I see everything and I enjoy watching it all and I don’t become blind to it or just stay in my world. I look around.

So being on the road is kind of like being at home for you?

I guess you really become so used to it, that you crave it and after a while, say five months or three months go by and after a while it feels great, but when are we going on tour again? I always ask, ‘When’s the next tour? What are we doing?’ I always try to keep the ball going and then I book shows with my other band in between Slayer to try to stay busy.

I also wanted to ask about the ‘Reign In Blood’ wine, along with the apron and the whole…

(chuckles) Yeah, yeah, yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know. Is that what Slayer fans really like? Is that what they want? I don’t know. I think it’s kind of cool though. I mean there are 40-something-year-old Slayer fans that have probably moved up to wine instead of beer. So you get tired of the beer, you go for the wine. So yeah, it could be possible. It’s okay.

Next: Dave Lombardo Talks New Project Philm

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