Dave Lombardo Says You ‘Can’t Hide’ From Politics With Certain Music
Testament, Dead Cross, Suicidal Tendencies and Misfits drummer Dave Lombardo was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. The newest music he has out is with crossover thrashers Dead Cross, who will release their second album, II, this October and it's one that doesn't shy away from brushing with politics, something the drummer says you "can't hide from" when it comes to punk-inspired music.
Keeping up with Lombardo's current activities can be dizzying and, in the interview below, he chats about the events surrounding this new Dead Cross record and how guitarist Michael Crain powered through cancer treatment amid writing and recording sessions. "He fought it and won," cheers Lombardo.
Elsewhere, he touched on what it's like maintaining certain styles while playing in so many bands, as well as his return to Testament, now having the opportunity to tour with the thrash icons beyond their couple weeks on the road together during his brief first stint at the end of the '90s.
Read the full interview below.
The first single, "Reign of Error," from the new Dead Cross album, II, is pointed commentary about the polarizing Supreme Court ruling on abortion. Why is controversy an exhilarating and scary artistic vehicle?
Punk and politics go hand in hand and two of the members — Justin Pearson and Mike Crane — are the epicenter of the San Diego and Los Angeles punk scene, in my opinion.
I've always loved that style of music, so it's just one of those things you can't hide from. It's in our faces and we get upset at some things that we hear on television. This style of music allows us to vent our frustrations, so I'm lucky to be in a band like this. If there is anything that pisses us off, we're out writing a song about it.
Dead Cross, "Reign of Error"
Making the record had somewhat of a medicating effect on guitarist Michael Crane, who was diagnosed with cancer. How did it heighten your enthusiasm knowing the process was integral to his wellbeing?
We had been working on the record for five to six months. He, Justin and I got together initially to write the music together. When I found out he had cancer, I met him at the studio and I was waiting outside for him. He was running a little bit late — I guess he had gone to the doctor — and I asked, "Hey, are you okay?" It was really shocking — just look on his face... he just looked pale and he said, "I have cancer."
I couldn't believe it. I was like, "No, no... dude, don't worry about it. [There's] medication and and treatment, they got it early enough, don't worry about it, you you're going to be fine..." But still, it's gut wrenching when you get that kind of news.
We stayed optimistic and focused with continuing his treatment and as well as songwriting and recording. We started recording in November of 2019 and we didn't finish until December... or, at least my drum tracks were laid down and finished at the end of December.
He was driven. He said, "I want to get this done. I don't want think about this cancer. I just want to create music and create this album." He was headstrong.
He was suffering from the nausea from the chemotherapy and we were at the studio recording and he just couldn't eat. He was very weak and he found the strength to overcome the pain that came with the treatment. He fought it and won.
You play in Testament, Misfits, Suicidal Tendencies and Dead Cross, just to name a few. What's key to maintaining your distinct style and technique within the aesthetics of different music.
I'm just being myself. With Testament, I came into the picture after Gene [Hoglan] was in the band for many years. I asked, "What do you want me to do in this section? This is Gene right here, but I wouldn't approach it this way. I would try something different," and they would tell me, "Be yourself — you have a style make these songs your own."
I remember speaking to Gene and I said I said to him, "I'm going to perform these songs and in your honor. You wrote these songs and these drum parts." and he said, "Make them yours. Make them Dave Lombardo." So it's just being myself and sometimes you do have a crossover and emulate what the original drummer did. You just try to hone it in and make it your own.
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You were previously involved with Testament, but you never toured with the band. What are you enjoying most about now touring with them?
We did a very short two or three-week run in the United States in 1999. At that time, I believe I started working with Mike Patton and I was working with Grip Inc. and shortly after that Slayer called me and I went back to Slayer in 2002.
I didn't have too much time to continue with Testament, but what I'm enjoying the most is playing the songs that we wrote back then (we're only playing one in this setlist in Europe). Then there's the conversations and chilling with the guys and jamming with these musicians. Every musician has a different style and every band has a different approach and a different way of of harnessing energy and music and structures and everything.
I learned so much from playing in all these different bands that I feel it makes me a better musician. We're really good friends. We've become really good friends through all these through the years, not just back in '99, but we've toured together when I was in Slayer and I've run into them while I was with Dead Cross. Several times in Europe we were on the same festivals. Reacquainting ourselves with each other and going out to dinner, hanging out, having some drinks... that's the fun stuff. Of course, that one hour or 70-minute or the hour-and-a-half set that you play onstage is just magical and we're all enjoying it.
Testament, "D.N.R." Live (2022)
The last time you recorded with Testament, your input resulted in the band venturing into heavier death metal territory. Where do you envision your return could take the music next?
I feel The Gathering is a bit thrashier than the latter record [Demonic]. Later, I think they evolved into more death metal. I don't know exactly what death metal is and this and that — it's all over the board. I know what they developed with Gene and I would think that it's going to be a blend between thrash and death metal if we do decide to write something because that's just basically my style. I'm not scared to dabble in the death metal style.
The blast beats, I did it with the late Slayer records, I've done it with Dead Cross and I'll do it with Testament if need be. Who knows? It might not even go in either of those directions — we might just throw a wrench in the entire songwriting process and go a whole different route. You never know what the final product is going to be like and it's not conducive to the body of work to set limitations. You have the basic style of instrumentation — the heavy guitars, my style of drumming and Chuck's vocals. To be exact and say that this is a death metal album or a punk album or a thrash album, it's difficult to pinpoint what it's going to be.