När Slayer nyligen spelade på Gröna Lund fick vi möjlighet att ta oss ett kortare snack med Gary Holt. I ett trångt litet rum, där vi samsades med Paul Bostaphs lilla trumset, pratade vi bland annat om hans “Kill the Kardashians”-tröja, första giget med Slayer och om han blev tvungen, skulle han då kunna välja mellan Exodus och Slayer:
That´s kinda like impossible. It´d be like choosing between your children. Exodus is obviously my much older first born and that´s always gonna be my first born, my heir. If I was fucking royalty, that´s the child that takes the throne and then I´ve got this usurper called Slayer that´s there to kill the other one and take the throne for itself. I don´t know. I think they´re two separate kingdoms, put it that way. It´s a Game of thrones and we haven´t like started sending fucking armies at each other yet.
What are your memories of the first show you played with Slayer back in 2011?
First gig was in Australia at the Soundwave Festival. It was awesome. I mean, people ask me “Was it intimidating?” I´m playing with guys I´ve known since I was a kid, so it was just kinda like getting together with friends and jam. It wasn´t any intimidation. I destroyed their hotel room the first weekend we ever met and when I say destroy, I mean destroy. We ran as soon as we heard the cops were coming and I left them alone to deal with it. But it was fun. It was no pressure and I put in my homework and I was ready to go.
I read recently that you were totally up for a new Slayer album. What´s the possibility of a new album?
I hope there will be another album, I mean, I take everything day by day and right now I´m writing for the new Exodus album, but I´m in no hurry for that. Tom Hunting and I are both of the mindset that “however long it takes” We want it to be right and not feel rushed, so hopefully we will be in the studio at the end of this year, or maybe not. I don´t know, but I´m not putting a deadline on myself and I think it´s kinda the same way with Slayer. I don´t think Kerry (King) and Tom (Araya) are putting a deadline on it when it comes around to that. I know that Kerry´s got stuff that he wrote for the last album, like really good stuff that just… sometimes in the grand scheme of things a certain song doesn´t quite fit the running order or whatever, you know. And if he comes to me I´m more than ready to contribute as well, so we´ll see what happens. I take everything one day at a time.
Do you yourself have riffs and ideas lying around that you could probably use for Slayer?
I´ve got thousands! Sometimes now, I write something for Exodus and “Nah, I can´t use that, it sounds like it should be a Slayer riff.” Those go on the backburner, but yeah, it´s not that dramatically different like people think. It´s mostly note selection. Jeff (Hanneman, 1964-2013) wrote a lot of really chromatic riffs and Exodus writes stuff based more on like certain scale structures. There are no rules to thrash metal, you know. That´s how the shit was invented in the first place, by breaking them and I´m good at breaking rules. It´s been one of my number one talents since I was in high school.
You´ve played with Slayer for a couple of years now. Do you have some favorite songs that you enjoy playing live more than others?
There´s a lot of them. There´s a lot of variables. Some of them we haven´t played in a long time. Some of them I had to relearn parts of. I liked playing “Dittohead”, yet we´ve never played it, even though it´s on a Paul Bostaph album (Divine intervention, 1994) and I just have to relearn that middle… like harmony ascending part again. I´ll, ask Kerry about it and he´s like “Ah, I have to relearn it too.”, so he´s no help at all. I love playing “Hell awaits” We don´t play it at every show, it depends on whether we played it the last time we were in a particular city, but I love playing that one. “Chemical warfare”, “Spirit in black”… I love playing “Seasons in the abyss” and of course “Raining blood” and “Angel of death”, those are always in the set and they´re fun to play too. And from the new album, I like playing “You against you” and “Vices” and stuff and some of this stuff we might pull out for this upcoming US tour. It´s been fun to rehearse so we´ll see what happens.
I´ve seen you guys live a couple of times the last couple of years and when you joined, for me it was like a vitamin injection. Did you feel that yourself in some way, that you brought something to Slayer? You´re moving around and…
That´s hard to say. I mean, I have to rein in my stage moves, because in Exodus it´s a four ring circus and I say four because Tom Hunting is behind the drum kit and he can´t fucking crash into each other like the rest of us do. In Exodus we´re constantly running back and forth and yes, sometimes we have accidents and hurt each other and that does not really fit a Slayer set, to have one guy running all over the place. I mean, I move more than the other guys maybe, I don´t know. I have to keep a rein on it, but as far as a vitamin injection? I don´t know, it´s Jeff´s rightful home and rightful throne and I just try to keep the ship moving while we hope to get better. When I started doing this I thought it was gonna be like a three month adventure. I was taking a break from Exodus to actually spend some time home and write because we had been on the road and doing albums nonstop for the last several years prior. I just wanted a little break and be creative and stay at home and not travel and almost seven years later, here I am, busier than ever because I´m doing the Slayer thing and trying to work as often as I can with Exodus. When I get home from this tour on the 27th of June I then fly on the 30th to LA for an Exodus show and then I get back the 2nd and I have two headlining Exodus shows the 7th and 8th in San Francisco. Our first in like four years and then I fly the 10th for Slayer and I have children and a grandchild on the way. Sometimes I think I stretch myself a little too thin… my wife tells me that, but I don´t know. If I keep busy… I´m one of those guys that if he stops being busy, he sinks into the couch and becomes part of it and he doesn´t wanna get up and leave again. We had six months off prior to South America and it was hard getting out of the fucking house. I was very domesticated after my first half year off in ages. I wrote a lot and I played a lot of guitar, but I hadn´t been home that long in decades so it was hard to drag me kicking and screaming out of the front door to go the airport, but once I got there it was a lot of fun.
It sounds like a hectic life? Could it become too much?
Yeah, I guess so. Sometimes it will wear you out, but there´s worse problems to have than being in two legendary thrash metal bands and trying to decide how many shows you can fit in. There are a lot worse problems to have than that. You could have no gigs and you can have that nobody wants to see you play anywhere or be unwanted like an abused stepchild, so yeah, I´m lucky. It´s a good problem to have, to be too fucking busy. My children suffer and my wife because they don´t get to see me very often.
That´s gotta be pretty hard?
It´s hard, yes. As I get older it gets harder. Like I said, after six months at home I had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the house, but my wife was probably glad to see me get out of the house, for a little bit. Then she wants me home. When I was in my 20´s I couldn´t wait to get out and fucking rip it up and get hammered every day and party. Now I gotta make sure that I get my rest so I can do it at the level I want to, because I can´t be hungover and do what I need to do. I drink to total moderation, a few beers and maybe Kerry will talk me into a couple of embarrassingly small shots of Jägermeister. I mean, they´re embarrassing and he makes fun of me for it. It´s like the one that comes with a kids meal at McDonald´s, but I wake up feeling good every day and that´s something I didn´t use to have. I either woke up feeling like shit or I never went to sleep in the first place. I´ve got no complaints, I´m still alive.
If it for some reason came down to it, could you choose between the two bands?
That´s kinda like impossible. It´d be like choosing between your children. Exodus is obviously my much older first born and that´s always gonna be my first born, my heir. If I was fucking royalty, that´s the child that takes the throne and then I´ve got this usurper called Slayer that´s there to kill the other one and take the throne for itself. I don´t know. I think they´re two separate kingdoms, put it that way. It´s a Game of thrones and we haven´t like started sending fucking armies at each other yet. We´re still allies, total. It´s good and everybody´s understanding when I have to do something and it´s worked out really well so far. I´m not there as often as I should be, for sure with Exodus, but Kragen Lum from Heathen does a fantastic job as my stunt double and the Exodus fans have been super understanding and I can´t thank them enough for not calling me an asshole. Standing by the band, you know.
In the Bay area when it all started out, could you really feel back then that you were part of a movement, so to speak?
I can´t really say that. I mean, maybe looking back I see it as that, but at the time we were just kids playing the kind of music we wanted to play and no one else was playing it yet. People were playing similar, you know, the roots of it all like Motörhead or even fucking Judas Priest´s “Exciter”´ (Stained class 1978) I think you´d have to say is the first thrash metal song. Double bass throughout the whole thing, grinding. But we just took all those huge life changing influences and just mixed it up with some British hardcore punk and turned it into what we liked. We were super aggressive kids who wanted to play super aggressive music and it just blossomed from there.
How long did it take for you guys in Exodus to actually start making a decent living from the music?
God, I didn´t start getting a salary until ´87. The “Bonded by blood” era and all that, I still lived at home with my parents. I didn´t have any bills, so it didn´t matter if I came home without any money. I came home to a house and food and that´s all we cared about, “Do I have enough money to buy alcohol and the occasional drugs?” back then. It was 1987 and “Pleasure of the flesh” when we actually started taking a salary from it.
A totally different thing. I´ve always wondered about the “Kill the Kardashians” t-shirt, was that your idea or something you just found somewhere?
No, no, it was made by a friend of mine, Jack. Put together just because he knows my deep, bitter, black hatred of them. It´s like… I don´t begrudge them for their money, I just fucking hate people that are becoming superstars for doing nothing. Kim Kardashian was a closet organizer and then she did a sex tape and became famous for it and now they stick their name on products and I hate their guts. So my friend Jack actually made the shirt for me first and then we decided to start our own little merch company No Love Apparel and sold them and it became like a huge viral thing. What was this guy´s name? Some internet star, another one of those kinda people I hate. An Instagram star who´s famous for hanging out in places where famous people are. They call him the “something” Jew or something (The Fat Jew). I saw him on some reality show even once like The real housewives of Orange County or something. He was at some party. He posted the little dual photo of me wearing the shirt and one of the Jenners wearing a Slayer shirt and the shit went viral from there. I haven´t worn them onstage for a while just because I was wearing it every night for a while, but I´ll bring it back. Maybe I´ll have to get a little more personal? Like, I left Bruce Jenner alone because I´m all for sexual identity freedom and someone said “You should do one like that!” and I said no because I have nothing against the trans community or gay and lesbian people. I´m all for personal freedom and whatever nature meant you to be is who you are, so I left him alone even though I wanna fuck with him because there´s a fucking republican who voted for Trump who wants to take away all of his own rights, except, Caitlyn Jenner is wealthy enough to where none of it affects her. So yeah, “You can vote for Trump. You´ve got all the money in the world. Your very own people are the ones that are gonna be hurt by it.” But yeah, I left him alone. The rest of the family and Kanye West are fodder enough. Fucking hate their guts.
Looking back, do you remember one album that kinda made you go “This is what I wanna do.”? An album that had a really big impact on you growing up?
There´s a million of them, but I mean, the first Iron Maiden album (1980) was like hearing music for the first time and the first Angel Witch album (1980) was a huge influence on me and I think it´s the number one NWOBHM album. Venom… and before that, all the old AC/DC stuff and Ted Nugent and UFO and all of that… Rainbow… they all had a huge influence on me.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk