We’ve Got A File On You: Dave Lombardo

Ekaterina Gorbacheva

We’ve Got A File On You: Dave Lombardo

Ekaterina Gorbacheva

We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.

Dave Lombardo will probably always be best known as the drummer of Slayer. That doesn’t bother him. He’s proud of the way his work with the thrash legends pushed the boundaries of metal drumming, and he freely admits that they were out to be the fastest, heaviest motherfuckers in the game back in the ’80s. Lombardo’s performances on classic albums like Show No Mercy and Reign In Blood helped drive the inhuman tempos and the sense of barely controlled chaos that defined Slayer at their peak. He is, without hyperbole, probably the greatest metal drummer of all time. Even that distinction sells him short.

Lombardo was born in Cuba and emigrated to California as a toddler, and the Latin music his parents brought over with them formed the backbone of a voracious musical education. He grew up listening to everything from Afro-Cuban jazz and jump blues to psychedelic funk and UK hard rock. When he joined Slayer in 1982, there was already a lot more to his technique than Judas Priest and Iron Maiden worship. When Lombardo stepped away from Slayer for the first time in the ’90s, the true extent of his musical curiosity finally became clear. He collaborated with free jazz icons Bill Laswell and John Zorn, and he balanced more conventionally metal projects like Grip Inc. with Mike Patton-led curiosities like Fantômas and Mr. Bungle. To this day, he’s always busy with a dozen bands at a time, and he turns into an overexcited teenager when you bring up any one of them.

Now, Lombardo is gearing up to release his first-ever solo album, the audacious Rites Of Percussion. It’s a “drum record,” meaning every sound that appears on the self-produced LP was created using live percussion. According to the press release, Lombardo played “a large concert bass drum, a timpani, a grand piano, and a flock of shakers, maracas, Chinese and symphonic gongs, Native American drums, congas, timbales, bongos, batás, wood blocks, djembes, ibos, darbukas, octobans, cajóns, and cymbals.” It turns out that list isn’t exhaustive; in our interview, Lombardo lit up while describing an unusual method for turning a guitar into a percussion instrument. On Rites Of Percussion, he sounds completely free.

We talked to Lombardo about the new album, his drum solo from Slayer’s “Angel Of Death,” working with Matthew Barney, making an experimental hip-hop album with DJ Spooky, and much more.

Rites Of Percussion (2023)

Mike Patton apparently started bugging you about doing a drum record years ago. How did you decide to finally make it happen?

DAVE LOMBARDO: Well, luckily – but unluckily, obviously – we all went through the pandemic. And that just opened up a lot of time for me to get down and get to business. I didn’t have the distractions of learning any music. I didn’t have a reason to leave the house. So, it was just my drums and me, and my wife. That’s it. I think that was the best thing to happen to me. The pandemic had a silver lining, at least in my world. That’s what kicked it off, right there. Just the ability to be home and focus on getting this project done.

Did you have bits and pieces for it lying around already, or did you go in and start writing fresh?

LOMBARDO: I went in and started writing fresh with my new setup. There were ideas that I had in the past, but I never used them. I think they were [too] primitive. [They] didn’t fit the vision of the project like my current ideas did.

You cited a record called Top Percussion by Tito Puente as a touchstone for Rites Of Percussion. What was it about that record that excited you?

LOMBARDO: There’s “Hot Timbales,” there’s “Ti Mon Bo.” There were a couple songs there, plus the addition to the religious Santeria rhythms that are common in Afro-Caribbean music. And he incorporated all those together and threw it on one album. But basically, I think the last four songs [on the record] were the ones. But I was very familiar with the first four or five songs, because I was familiar with those religious drum patterns from Santeria, which is a religion that was brought to the Caribbean by the African slave and coexisted with Christianity. So I was familiar with those.

Growing up Cuban American, was that kind of Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz music something you grew up around?

LOMBARDO: Yes. My parents would obviously listen to Cuban music, and that music is very percussion-based. So that music resonated, and I think kind of set the foundation of patterns and drums and everything. The energy that came with that style of music, you have an instinct to just start moving, just start dancing when you listen to that. At least for me it does. I know some people find those rhythms difficult to understand and difficult to process, because it’s not just your basic 4/4 beat. They’re very complex. And so, yeah, it was definitely a big part of my upbringing.

But not just that music. I had older brothers and sisters, and my oldest brother, he was into R&B at the time. He was into Tina Turner. He was into Chaka Khan. He was into War and Sly And The Family Stone. And then my other brother, Danny, he was into Cream. He was into Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and the list goes on. And my sister was married to this Cuban guy, and he was heavily into jazz. Not just Latin jazz, but a lot of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea. So I was exposed to all kind of stuff. Not just regular jazz, but also the blues. I remember going to see Jimmy Witherspoon at a club. I was pretty young. I had to have been like 19 or 20 years old. That might not be young for some, but some people don’t get into that music at that age. So there was a lot of influence. And then my own personal musical journey, what I came across and what I was searching for, that took a whole different direction.

There’s this huge list of percussion instruments you play on the record, of like 20 different things. Were there any that you had never played before?

LOMBARDO: Yeah. I took a guitar, and I laid it on its back, with the strings laying out in front of me, and I had these special drumsticks that were almost like little leather flaps. And you’re supposed to kind of spank the drum. Well, I used those on the guitar for one of the sections, with a slide as well. I remember using the slide, the stick with the leather felt on it, and I was hitting the guitar with that and then taking the slide and taking the tone up. So, yeah. [laughs] I played guitar in a percussion form. And I opened up a grand piano and put a sandbag on the sustain pedal and started plucking at the strings and hitting the strings with mallets, on “Interfearium.” Those were ideas that I had taken from my avant-garde music explorations in the late ’90s, when I first met Patton. That’s just a couple of them. I’m sure there’s others.

Well, those are pretty insane. I was thinking, in general, this has got to be one of the most adventurous, experimental solo albums by a person primarily known for metal. When you’re doing this kind of stuff, do you ever think about how it will be perceived by fans of your metal bands?

LOMBARDO: No. That’s one thing I live by. I cannot think about what anybody thinks about what I do. What I do is what I love. It starts with me. Do I like it? Is it gonna make me happy? If I’m gonna put something out, I honestly don’t care what anybody thinks. Yeah, there’s gonna be people that aren’t gonna like it. People are gonna tell me, “Go back to Slayer, Dave!” It’s like, “Fucker, I haven’t been in Slayer since fuckin’ 2013!” “Why don’t you do something heavy?” I just put out fuckin’ [Mr.] Bungle, I put out two Dead Cross records. There’s a list of heavy albums that I’ve put out.

I can’t make everyone happy, but not everyone has the knowledge or the capability of searching and saying, “Hey, what has he done since 2013?” They just sit there on their computers and, “OK, boom, I’m gonna write something and say something to him right now!” Everything I do is self-expression, and it’s art. It’s my way of releasing my demons, you know? My creative demons. And I love it, because it’s fun. I feel very satisfied in what I’ve done.

Slayer (1982-2013, Off And On)

With your playing on the ’80s Slayer records, you were really creating a new vocabulary for metal drumming, particularly in the way you played your double bass. Were you conscious of that? Were you trying to push the limits of speed and technique to new places?

LOMBARDO: I think I was at the time. I was pushing the limits. I remember saying to [late Slayer guitarist Jeff] Hanneman, “It’s gotta be heavy! It’s gotta be faster! Fuckin’ faster! Let’s fuckin’ play hard!” And I think the whole mindset that we had at the time was just to play faster — physically faster, not computerized faster like it is today. You have the help of different software to make you sound like this fucking Big Ben perfect clock. Back then, you had to be on point. There was no click track. I had not recorded an album with a click track until probably [2006’s] Christ Illusion. And on Christ Illusion, we only used a click track for part of a song. So you know ,things were very primitive at that time. What you heard on those albums, it was real. It was real human playing, without the help of any computer-generated time signatures or anything. So, we were pushing the envelope, and it was intentional.

People probably ask you this all the time, but I have to: the double-kick and tom fill on “Angel Of Death” is probably the most famous drum part in metal history. Could you tell when you recorded it that that was something special?

LOMBARDO: Well, it was part of a drum solo. They used to let me just go off on the drums. We used to play a song called “Show No Mercy,” and it started with a drum solo. And I remember one particular show, I believe it was in the Valley in LA. I did a drum solo, and then I stopped and I just let the double bass go, and it caught Hanneman’s attention. He went, “Dude, we should put that in a song.” I think at the time we were writing some of the Reign In Blood music, and he said, “You should put that in the middle of this song.” And so we did.

Did I know? Huh-uh. No. It was just a really cool surprise little section of the song. You know, you’re listening to the song, and boom, it goes into this drum fill. I thought it was great, but I didn’t know to what extent it was going to impact the listener. And apparently, it was one of the really cool moments of that record.

Yeah, it stuck around. It’s like Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” and then that. The two big drum fills of the ’80s that everyone thinks of.

LOMBARDO: [laughs] Yeah, right?

I don’t want to make you rehash any drama, and I know that some of the relationships have been fraught. But when you look back at the body of work that you did with Slayer, are you satisfied? Are you happy with the records you worked on?

LOMBARDO: Oh, hell yeah. That was awesome. That was chemistry. I’ve had this conversation with other journalists. Everyone is replaceable, but you cannot replace the magic. Those albums were created by four guys who met at a time that was very innocent, and we just started going with the flow and getting creative and created this body of work. And I’m very, very, very proud of it. You could find imitators, but we were the innovators. We were trying to create our own path, and I am very proud of all the work I did with that band.

Collaborations With Mike Patton (1998-Present)

I know the Fantômas job was originally going to be Iggor Cavalera’s. That’s the story. How did it end up going to you?

LOMBARDO: The story I remember is that Patton presented it to Iggor, and Iggor declined and said, “Dude, this is for Lombardo, man.” I don’t remember if he said he couldn’t do it, or he was busy, I don’t know. But he said, “No, I think your man is Lombardo.” I had released [Power Of Inner Strength] with Grip Inc. in ’95, and then I met Patton in probably ’96 or ’97 at one of [Faith No More’s] last shows in LA. And he asked me about an avant-garde project that I was on. I said, “You mean Grip Inc.?” Because I was already bringing percussion and a different angle of metal songwriting with Grip Inc., and so I think that might have triggered Iggor to say [to Patton] that you need to hit Lombardo up for this. And that’s when Patton hit me up and explained to me what that music consisted of, the first album. And for some odd reason, I immediately said yes. No hesitation. I was like, “Absolutely, yes, I get it, I understand what you’re trying to do.” Someone like me, who’s always creating to something new and different, I immediately gravitated to it and agreed.

Was it kind of a self-challenge? You were doing some out-there stuff with Grip. But this was much crazier, much weirder.

LOMBARDO: Oh, yeah. It was a challenge. [Patton] explained it to me that the songs are like reading a comic book. In one box, you have dialogue, but then you have a lot of little action moments going on. So each box is a song. When I received the cassette, because back then we received demos in cassette form, I listened to it, and I was like, “I need to sit and transcribe this.” I’ve never had any formal music education, so I had to decipher what was going on on this album, and it moved so quickly that I knew I needed some reference, some notes. I remember buying a music notation book, and I remember having to write everything down. The entire cassette, all of the songs. And I showed it to Patton, and he was like “What the fuck? You did this?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “This is amazing!”

It was challenging. I remember, there was this one little section, and I was overthinking it, is what it was. And that happens to musicians and drummers. It’s really easy, but you overthink it, and you can’t do it for some reason. You can’t get the right time. And it was only three hits in this tiny little half-a-second moment, and I couldn’t do it. I was like, “Damn, Patton. You’re gonna have to record this.” And it was super easy, and after time went on and we started playing the song live, I was beating myself up for it. I couldn’t believe it, I was like “This part is so easy. Why couldn’t I get it then?” But man, it was challenging, and I loved every minute of those recording sessions. It taught me how to approach my drum record. A lot of that work helped me, because I was there for all the recording of all the drums and everything for the Fantômas records, so I was able to see [Patton’s] process, and it was very educational moment for me.

And now you’re in Dead Cross and Mr. Bungle, so obviously you still like collaborating with Patton. Do you guys kind of have a language between the two of you now?

LOMBARDO: Yeah, it’s a very collaborative language, but it’s also instinctual. We can improvise very well. We can improvise to a point where the crowd would think, “Oh wow, that’s a great song, where can I buy it?” And I’d say, “You can’t. It was improvised.” They can’t wrap their head around it. There’s certain musicians I have that kind of magic with. John Zorn is another one that I just performed with at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, and we just have this connection where we can almost read each other’s minds. I was approached by several guys at the airport: “How much of that was written?” I said, “If I answer you by way of Zorn, he would say, ‘It’s all written’ and leave you baffled. But I’m not gonna do that. None of it was written.” They couldn’t believe it.

Collaborations With John Zorn (1999-Present)

Did you get to know Zorn through Patton?

LOMBARDO: Yes. After meeting Patton, it was a short time after that. I met Patton in ’98 or something, and after we started working together, I think Patton realized I had the ability to improvise and he said, “I’ve got to introduce you to John.” I think John came out to San Francisco, and we were introduced, and we played a show together. It was my first onstage improvisation show, and that was Patton on vocals, John Zorn on saxophone, and myself on drums. We played, I don’t know, a half hour or 45 minutes of all improvisation, and we hit it off. I’ve been working with John since then. It’s been enlightening. We’re very close. He’s like my big brother and mentor. He’s the maestro to me. He’s like the conductor. All roads basically lead to Zorn when it comes to music.

The other day, I went down this music wormhole with my wife and we ended up watching some Lou Reed and some Laurie Anderson. We checked out one of her songs, and I said, “This is fascinating.” It was quirky, interesting. It was very avant-garde. And I continued going down this wormhole, and next thing you know, I come across this interview of Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, and John Zorn. [laughs]

Of course.

LOMBARDO: What the fuck! I immediately hit up Zorn, and I said “Oh man, Zorn, I went down this music wormhole, and next thing you know you’re sitting at a coffee shop with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson discussing music. All musical roads lead to Zorn.” And he laughed, and then several months later he said, “Hey, I think we have a possibility Laurie Anderson, myself, and you playing together.” I said, “What?!” That was supposed to be for the recent Big Ears Festival in Tennessee, and I was really excited, but she couldn’t make it. She had scheduling issues and couldn’t make the show. But yeah, he’s one of a kind, man. He just got home maybe, I don’t know, a couple days ago, and the very next day he was in the studio, working and recording.

Bill Laswell, Zorn, and myself [as Bladerunner] played Le Poisson Rouge, the famous jazz club in New York City [in 2014]. And we walk offstage, and Bill and I, we pour ourselves a little glass of wine and sit down, and Zorn says, “Alright, guys. I’m off.” We said, “You’re taking off already?” He said, “Yeah, I’m gonna go home and write.” That’s what it’s all about. Music first. Your passion, your love, what gives you the most excitement and the most pleasure, aside from your significant other, is your music, and that’s what you give your most attention to. That taught me a lot. How this guy places music, where he places it. I look up to him, and I’m so honored and happy to have him a phone call away. Whenever I’m in New York City, I pay him a visit, and he always reaches out and sees how I’m doing. Man, that guy is just phenomenal.

I was gonna bring that show up, because I was actually at that show at Le Poisson Rouge that you mentioned. I worked the door at that club at the time, and I came downstairs to watch your set.

LOMBARDO: Oh, man, that’s awesome!

I thought it was terrific. Have the three of you talked about doing anything else with that Bladerunner group?

LOMBARDO: Ah, man. It’s unfortunate. We were supposed to play with Bladerunner, which is obviously Laswell, myself, and Zorn, but I think he wanted to change the name to Painkiller. Back to the original Painkiller, with Mick Harris from Napalm Death, when he played with Zorn. We were supposed to play this festival this past weekend, and Bill has been ill. He hasn’t been feeling well, and unfortunately, he had to cancel. It was sad. I was looking forward to seeing him. I was a Bill Laswell fan before I met him, before I met Zorn. And when Zorn found out that I was a Laswell fan, especially the band Last Exit, and some of his dub music work, he hooked us up. We did many shows together throughout the world. We played La Villete Festival, the Bell Atlantic festival in New York City, the Barbican Centre, San Sebastian Jazz Festival. So many great, eclectic festivals I’ve been a part of with these guys, and every time I get offstage with Zorn, I always feel cleansed and renewed and ready for my heavy metal or thrash metal adventures. It’s awesome.

Appearing In Cremaster 2 (1999)

You played a drum solo in Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. What was that scene like? Were you at his art studio?

LOMBARDO: No, we were at a recording studio somewhere in LA. This is funny. Matthew Barney is this amazing artist, visionary, and so there was this scene where it involved bees. Live bees. We had a beekeeper come in and fill the entire studio with bees, and he let a queen bee in a vocal booth with the microphone. He set the queen bee there, and all the bees came around and started swarming around the microphone. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video, but it’s cool. And so the room was full of bees, and everybody in the film crew, engineer, everybody in the studio had bee suits on. I was the only one [without one]. At that time, I was looking like I stepped out of an ’80s metal documentary. The warning from the beekeeper was, “Whatever you do, just don’t swat at the bees.” I think to myself, “I don’t have a bee protection suit. How are the bees supposed to know that I’m hitting drums, I’m not swatting at the bees?”

I didn’t get stung, but a bee — it’s funny, we were in Studio A, but Jonathan Davis from Korn was recording some solo music in Studio B. Well, a bee goes through the door and ends up stinging the engineer in that project. Stings him in the neck, and he has this huge welt, and out of everybody that was on that production crew, including myself, he was the only one who got stung. None of us. It was so funny. But man, it was quite the experience. I really enjoyed that.

Did you end up seeing the whole film and seeing how your piece fit in?

LOMBARDO: Yes, I did. Yes.

What did you think?

LOMBARDO: It was really cool! It was bizarre. Very, very bizarre. But yeah, we saw it in a theater, and it was quite the experience seeing myself on a big screen.

Drums Of Death With DJ Spooky (2005)

How familiar were you with his world, the experimental hip-hop world, prior to making that record?

LOMBARDO: Not familiar at all, although I was familiar with some of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s work and some hip-hop. I was a fan, obviously, of the Rick Rubin work with LL Cool J and Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C. But I really wasn’t familiar with DJ Spooky. And then I was asked by a record company exec if I was interested in collaborating with him, and I was. I was like, “Yeah, man, I’m into this. This could be pretty cool.” He came over to my house, and we jammed. We had a great time and recorded, and using my recording gear at that time, which was very primitive, we were able to capture a lot of the moments. One of my favorite pieces is the duo between he and I, he on turntables and myself on drums, doing this kind of battle. DJ-drummer battle. That was a lot of fun. But no, I wasn’t familiar with his work at all, and then later I realized, this guy has quite the reputation, and I was really happy that the record company executive hit me up for this.

Were you in the studio with any of the rappers who had guest verses on the record?

LOMBARDO: No, files were given to Spooky, and he took it with him and created the body of work.

Gotcha. I talked to your Mr. Bungle bandmate Scott Ian for this interview series, about working with Public Enemy, and he said something that really stuck with me. He said he thought that Chuck D’s voice was as heavy as the best metal rhythm guitar tone. Did you find any other similar connections in your brain between metal and hip-hop from working on that record?

LOMBARDO: Well, yeah. When you hear Chuck D’s voice, man, on the Drums Of Death record, it stands out. It’s so iconic to that era, and it’s a powerful voice. It’s robust, it’s authoritative. It’s like, “Hey, listen to me.” He has that power in his voice. I agree with Scott.

Rhythm Mysterium Art Exhibition (2015)

When I first looked at the pieces, I thought they were abstract paintings that you did, and then I read about what they actually were, which is long-exposure photographs of you drumming. How did that work, exactly?

LOMBARDO: They put me in a dark room. I had a clear drum set, where you were able to see through it. There were no obstructions. And I found that to be very essential in a project like this. They handed me these drumsticks that had lights in them. They were some kind of plexiglass or plastic drumsticks filled with these lights, and they would change color. They had a film crew there, and they shot photographs, long-exposure, of me. And then I went into a film studio and looked at all the photographs, and I was able to pick out the ones that resonated through my eyes and said, “OK, this one’s good. Can we adjust the coloring here? Can we do this, can we do that,” so all the way up to the end, it had my direction, which was really cool. I liked that I was allowed to give my input on the project rather than just do it, send it off, and they would decide what pieces. I was able to name [the pieces], and also, I released a book with a 45 with a bunch of drum solos that were inspired by each picture. So every time you look at a photograph and listen to the drum solo, I was looking at the photograph as I was doing the drum solo.

It was inspired by a performance I did with John Zorn at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. We performed a duet, Zorn and I, in the Jackson Pollock exhibition. A little four-piece drum set [with a] double bass pedal, and Zorn, and a group of lucky ticket buyers that were able to sit there and enjoy that musical moment. And as I was performing with Zorn, I couldn’t help but not only pay attention to what he was doing, but was also looking around looking at the art pieces. So when they asked me if I wanted to create something unique and different for my piece, I suggested, how about a series of drum solos that we could release with the book with pictures of the art pieces, so when you’re listening to the album, you can look at the photographs.

Playing With Punk And Metal Bands Again

I wanted to bring it full circle to some of the heavy bands you’re playing in right now, one being Testament. [Note: On April 14, after this interview was conducted, Lombardo announced that he’d be sitting out Testament’s 2023 tour dates.] This is the second time in your career that you’ve replaced Gene Hoglan in Testament. I know you guys go way back to early days of Slayer and Dark Angel, so what’s it like to share that history with Gene? Do you guys talk about both being in Testament?

LOMBARDO: We really don’t have … I mean, we’re friends. Everything’s cool. We don’t keep in touch. The last time I had a conversation with him was he went to the show in San Diego. It was really nice to see him. But no, we really don’t talk much about history. It’s all there, basically. He’s very kind. Very sweet guy. Great repertoire of music. He’s done a lot of work, which is awesome.

How do you approach a role where you’re playing someone else’s drum parts onstage? Are you trying to recreate them pretty faithfully, or are you trying to get some Dave Lombardo in there?

LOMBARDO: Oh, I make it my own. You try to keep the structure, the key moments of the rolls and everything like that, but [Gene] plays totally different than I do. Like Jeff [Hanneman] used to say, when Dave’s at the helm and he’s driving this train, it’s going to feel like it’s going to derail but somehow it doesn’t. And there’s other guys who are on the clock, they’re on the timepiece. I have a little crazier way of approaching the drums. A little more reckless. But I try to make it my own.

How does that work with something like Misfits or Suicidal Tendencies, that’s, relative to some of the other stuff we’re talking about, a little more straightforward?

LOMBARDO: Oh, I do the same thing. I give it my flair, my style. I try to give it the human element. I try to give it some feel and a certain dynamic that maybe wasn’t captured, or that was there but I’m elaborating it a little bit more. So, like, the Misfits’ music, unfortunately – but fortunately, because Misfits is such a classic band – they went into the studio like, “We’re gonna record 10 songs, we’ve got four hours.” Total punk! Just go in there and play 10 songs. It’s like a punk show. You just go in there and play. And they did the best they could to capture the drums and the purity of that music, which they did. I try to give it a more modern feel. I still pay respect to Robo and all the drummers that came before me, but I lock it in, timewise. There were fluctuating tempos on those records, and there was a certain looseness to those albums. But that’s what gave it the magic. That’s what people fell in love with. But I bring it up to more stadium-worthy performance, rather than punk club.

What keeps you interested in these two very different sides of your musical personality? With the solo record, you get to explore the outer limits of what you can do with drums, but then you’ve also got the heavy projects. Do they do different things for you?

LOMBARDO: The avant-garde stuff, that is almost a brain cleanse. It’s very free. And then when I go back to metal or thrash or punk, I’m renewed, so I have a fresh approach. And sometimes I’ll bring in some ideas or some drumrolls that, let’s say, I developed onstage with Zorn, and I’ll bring them into Bungle. I think the fact that I jump around from genres, even at home when I’m listening to different styles of music, it keeps it all fresh. It keeps it all exciting. When you’re approached by some good music, you can’t help but take it on.

Just recently, I got hit up by a band from the UK called Biffy Clyro. Their singer, who is super popular – they headline Download Festival in England alongside Iron Maiden – he decided to create a thrash/hardcore band called Empire State Bastard. And when I first heard this music, I didn’t want to take any more projects. I was swamped in the studio, not only working on my drum record but recording Satanic Planet. I was doing all kinds of other stuff. I told my manager, I can’t take on anymore. Well, she heard it, and she said, “Dave, you’ve gotta listen to this.” And when I heard it, I was just like, “OK, tell them yes, I’ll take it.” [laughs] We just did a series of shows. Working with different musicians keeps you fresh, keeps you on your toes, and teaches you different musicians’ approach to music. How they recorded it, their time signatures, their guitar tone. Mike Vennart, the guitar player for Empire State Bastard, I was blown away by his guitar tone. I was like, “How do you get this sound?” And he showed me the amplifiers, and it’s no secret, but it was just phenomenal.

It all inspires. It all collectively inspires me and keeps me motivated and keeps me going and keeps me excited. And somehow, I always look forward to the next new thing that’s gonna come my way. Even if it’s touring. I’m gonna go on tour soon with Mr. Bungle, and I’m ready to go! I felt the rehearsals that I went through with Empire really kind of helped me embrace and look forward to what’s gonna happen with Bungle. It all feeds the monkey. Music is like sonic food, and it just feels so good, and no matter what style or genre it is, it always keeps me inspired.

Rites Of Percussion is out 5/5 on Ipecac.

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