INTERVJU: Tom Hunting i Exodus

Tom Hunting gick igenom en svårt tid förra året efter cancerbesked och sedan operation. Nu är han tillbaka och mår bra igen. Vi snackade med Tom i samband med skivsläppet i november och han berättade då bland annat om svårigheten med att sluta röka, hur bandet var ganska illa ute för 20 år sedan och hur Kirk hammett fick honom att upptäcka band som Scorpions och UFO.

As you get older you tend to think more about life. After what you´ve been through, has your view on life changed?

Well, I definitely don´t sweat the small stuff anymore. It gives you a new perspective where that´s concerned, I think. Things that used to stress me out, I´m just like “Meeh!” It´s just stuff that´s gonna happen to some of us. I´m lucky, very lucky, that they were able to take a bad situation and make it ok. I´m walking around, I´m eating, I´m breathing, I´m playing drums. I´m lucky and the science is amazing like what they´re able to do. They´ve done a lot of tests and they can´t find cancer inside me right now so that´s a good thing. I might´ve dodged a couple of bullets there. (laughs)

Was there a long period of time where you couldn´t play drums at all or did you try to stay in shape throughout the whole thing?

Basically, the only time I couldn´t play drums was after the surgery and that was July 12th and they wouldn´t let me do anything for like five weeks. Then I started doing pushups. Before the surgery I was getting chemo doses, like four of them, and they were pretty massive. I did play drums a little bit, but I wasn´t feeling it that well. I thought I was gonna be in the throes of getting four more outro doses of chemo, but they´re not doing them. They don´t need to. Right now I´m getting immunotherapy which does not really have any side effects. Getting small doses of that once every three weeks, but I have no restrictions on playing or anything basically. They said “Just resume your life. Celebrate and resume your life.” and that´s kinda what I´m doing.

Usually when you have down time and you´re not out touring, do you still play at home?

Yeah, I have days when I´ll do like a couple of hours of Exodus music or I´ll do an hour of Zeppelin or something fun, maybe even some funk music like Earth, Wind & Fire or something like that. When we have stuff coming up I take it pretty seriously. I go into what I call my “Rocky IV” work out where I´m in the mountains, high altitude and I try to play hard two hours a day without breaks. Chop a little wood, throw wood around, through the hatchet around. (laughs) Just basically be physical. I don´t do anything crazy and I don´t do any like cross fit bullshit or anything like that. It´s hard on the joints, especially when you get to your 50´s. You wanna keep the high impact stuff to a minimum.

You mentioned Earth, Wind & Fire. I also read that you were into Ohio Players and stuff like that. Was that the first kinda music you got into when you were a kid or did you go straight for the metal?

I think when you´re a kid you´re like an open book, so I listened to everything. Classic rock, funk music… whatever was around me and within grasp… I think the first record I held in my hand was Joe Cocker. My mom had it. There was music all over the house when I was a kid. Blood, Sweat & Tears, Joe Cocker, The Beatles, everything and I was attracted to everything. It wasn´t just all metal. That came later.

What made you get into metal then? Was it a certain album, something you saw or heard or a friend that brought a record along?

I think Kirk (Hammett, Metallica) turned me on to like the Scorpions, UFO and all that stuff. I didn´t know anything about that music. He had a picture, you know the iconic one of Michael Schenker with the black and white Flying V and he´s wearing all leather? Kirk owns that guitar now, which is amazing. We used to sit in his bedroom, read Creem magazines and Hit Paraders and he had that poster of Michael Schenker on his wall and now he has the guitar. I love that. I think that´s so awesome the way that came full circle. He turned me on, as a young kid, to that kind of music, but it was also college radio, like Rampage Radio (Ron Quintana), KALX in Berkeley and they were all playing hard shit late at night and we listened to that. Gary´s (Holt, guitar) older brother turned us on to punk rock and reggae and all that stuff. That´s kinda where the Bay Area thrash metal started, because we were influenced by hard rock and punk rock so basically we made this music where it was rock riffs with a fast drum beat on it and then BOOM, you´ve got thrash metal.

Were you in metal bands up until Exodus?

I never played in another band. I mean, I played in Angel Witch for a minute and had maybe a couple of other little local bands, but as far as being dedicated to a band, this has been the only one for me.

And time just flies by…

No shit! (laughs)

Do you remember your first drum kit?

Oh yeah! I bought it for $15 from a neighbor friend of mine and it was a piece of crap. But what are you gonna get for $15? Then I got screwed on my next one. I paid $200 for another piece of crap, but it was a Ludwig, and I kinda put them together. The first one I had had an 18” bass drum, which is like a floor tom size. Smaller than like a jazz cocktail kit bass drum. The second kick drum was 20” which is pretty damn small too. We were poor and we were young and stupid and we were learning how to play the instruments.

Do you get nostalgic about those days?

Now it´s a point and click world. Back then I had to go stand in line to buy “Back in black” (1980). I wore it out and then I went and bought another copy. I think there is something special about that era of music. I think we had to work harder for it and the rewards of having an album that you could look at, it´s tangible and you can hold it in your hand, you can read about how many people were in the band, what kinda instruments they played and it tells a bigger story. Now you go “Hey Google, play blah, blah, blah!” How easy is that shit? You don´t even have to clean the disc or anything.

It´s like the song “Clickbait” on your new album. It´s interesting what the world has become. Is that something you think about when you´re doing interviews? Holding back on certain things because you now they´ll pick up on that?

You know what´s funny? I was just joking about “Hey Google…” My Google´s playing something now. I don´t know what it is. It´s in the other room but it heard me talking to you. (laughs) Anyways, everything is clickbait. We don´t really hold back and we kinda like expose the human condition. That goes for ourselves too. I don´t see how we´re innocent of it either. I think it´s no different than a comedian examining the human condition and writing skits about it all the time. It´s kinda the same thing. Some of the best comedy is basically people making fun of how people are. We should be able to laugh at ourselves and we should be able to look at the dark side of ourselves and examine, because we´re pretty screwed up dude. We need examining. (laughs)

We live in a world where everybody´s offended and people are afraid of saying things that might offend someone somewhere. That´s a dangerous world as well. I would hate to be a kid today and grow up in tis kinda world.

Yeah, basically everyone´s a little bit hyper woke now. I think we could calm down a little bit and learn to laugh at ourselves and some of the stupid things we do.

When it comes to the band, are you all really tight or is there someone in the band you´re tighter with than the others?

We´re brothers and we really enjoy each other’s company. A lot of other bands that work together, they don´t hang together and we kinda do both. This has been a journey. I feel really lucky to be in a band that has made eleven records. I won´s say de don´t ever fight or disagree with each other, but that´s all normal in any kind of relationships, friendships, marriages or whatever. We get along good and we enjoy each other´s company and we enjoy the creative process together too, al lot. To be older men doing this… when you´re a young kid you think you think about the party and everything´s a party, your bulletproof, you´re strong. Now that we´re older we respect the journey a lot more. Let´s face it, the fuse is shorter on where this shit all ends than where it all started. (laughs) We´re living the journey.

What has been a high point in your career?

I enjoy the process of writing a song. This last record, we really enjoyed making this record and hanging out together. It was Covid and times were crazy. As far as the highest point, I mean, what do you mean when you say high? We´ve all been super high. We don´t do that no more though. There´s lots of high points. It´s hard to pick just one. When we´re on stage we´re like “This is awesome!” whether it being a giant festival or 450 people in a club in your face, those shows are great too. Lots of high points on stage for sure. Lots of high points laughing and enjoying the journey.

Getting high, that is way more American than Swedish. Smoking pot, did that come early on?

14 or 15 or something like that. I wouldn´t say it´s a gateway drug, but we ended up between 1998 and 2002, we were a pretty messed up band. Ultimately it led to Paul (Baloff 160-2002) dying. Even him dying didn´t make us all like jump into sobriety or anything, but we were doing quite a bit of meth amphetamines back then. Gary stopped first and I followed. The rest of the guys took some time, but Jack (Gibson, bass) never messed with it. He was just a stoner. But you know, we got passed it. We survived it. (laughs)

Are you totally sober these days?

Gary doesn´t drink at all. Jack doesn´t drink at all. Zetro (Steve Souza, vocals) smokes a shit ton of weed, but doesn´t drink. Lee (Altus, guitar) dabbles in drinking, but nothing else. I don´t have a stomach so I´ll drink a little glass of wine and maybe a little bit of weed here and there. Cigarettes were the hardest thing for me to quit.

Did you just stop from one day to another?

It kinda happened that way. They told me I had a giant tumor inside of me, so I was like “These doctors are gonna try to help me, so I guess I should try to help them help me.” I hear stories about people getting chemo and being like right outside with the fucking chemo IV and smoking a cigarette. Who does that? I´m not gonna do that, so I was like “I´m gonna try this for one day and if it works I´ll try it the day after. If I slip I´m gonna try it the day after that.” I didn´t put a lot of pressure on it. Next thing you know three months went by. I did smoke a cigar with Rob Dukes the other night and that was fun (This interview took place early November.). He came to town for my wife´s birthday and hung out and we were smoking cigars like gangsters.

How´s Rob doing?

He´s doing great! It was good to see him. His band´s got new music out and it sounds awesome.

The new Exodus album, where did the title “Persona non grata” come from?

Gary named the title and it´s kinda fitting with the whole times, I guess. He had that in his mind and has wanted that for an album title for a long time and we just kinda went with it. It was easy.

You recorded your drums at home, right? I read somewhere that you were hanging stuff on the walls…?

Yes, with hammer and nails. Old school. We were hanging up cloth on the ceilings, because the cymbal waves were acting weird when we were trying to figure out how to isolate drum tones and things like that. Turned out to be one of the best drum sounds I ever got. In my own garage so I think we´ll keep doing it that way. No time constraints and I can literally roll out of bed with a cup of coffee and go “Let´s track some drums!” We had a lot of fun making that record.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Björn Olsson