Gary Holt is one of the sickest guitar players ever and will go down in music history for his contributions to the metal world dating back to the early days of his band Exodus. It was really no surprise whatsoever when Gary was selected by Slayer as the logical choice to fill in for Jeff Hanneman while Jeff dealt with some serious health issues. Holt has been putting in double time with Exodus and Slayer ever since and with the untimely passing of Hanneman has continued to do so. While it’s awesome seeing Gary continue to shred in Slayer, the fact is Exodus have been building steam with a series of of brutal albums featuring “new” vocalist Rob Dukes and have been working on a proper follow up to their critically acclaimed Exhibit A & B albums. I caught up with Gary to ask him a bit about playing in Slayer and what’s going on with the mighty Exodus, read on…
Legendary Rock Interviews: Thanks for taking the time to do this Gary, it’s an honor. It’s enough to deal with the goings on of one band, let alone two legendary thrash bands like Exodus and Slayer, how good have you gotten at managing your time these days, do you think you could have pulled this off twenty years ago?
Gary Holt: 20 years ago? Hahaha! Younger but not wiser! I think I take better care of myself now, although the joints were in better shape then! But I know how to keep things in moderation and make sure I’m prepared to work as hard as I have to in order to keep things moving and keep crushing!
LRI: Tom Araya recently made a lot of Slayer fans happy by confirming that there was indeed some newer material that Jeff Hanneman had sent the band which sounded great and could possibly be included on the next Slayer album. Obviously you’ve gotten very familiar with that “Jeff Style” of writing that Tom was talking about from playing the material this past couple years, you are obviously in a unique situation and I don’t want this to sound too “deep”… you have your own signature style, do you ever feel surreal onstage while paying homage to Jeff’s riffs and leads?
Gary: Surreal? That’s an interesting choice or word! Maybe since he passed, yeah, surreal would describe it perfectly. My only wish has always been for Jeff to have returned to his rightful place in Slayer, so when we knew that he was gone, things felt different for sure. I just try to do my part to keep his music alive and to pay proper homage to him whenever I take the stage with Slayer
LRI: It’s been a few years since the Exhibit A and B albums were released and it was mentioned in a few interviews that Exodus would like to get the follow up released in 2014. Is that still looking to be a possibility, how much has been written and how is the material shaping up thus far?
Gary: Writing is going great! I always, once the ball starts to roll, tend to write very quickly, Lee says I have riff diarrhea! I just crap em out I guess! But we are pretty close to locked in to a February start.
LRI: Thrash fans are not always known for their embrace of change or their favorite bands evolution but Exodus introduced new vocalist Rob Dukes with some of the most uncompromising material of your career with the Exhibit albums. The records were both well received by fans, did that help ease any of the transition for the new band members in your opinion?
Gary: Sure it does. Some people believe in revisionist history, the band should have done this or should have done that, I just try to keep motoring forward, keep crushing, no compromise, always out to prove ourselves, even after so many years.
LRI: The lyrical content of tracks like “Class Dismissed” and “Good Riddance” paired with the old school attack and new school sonics really kicked my ass, it is one thing to look back on old material fondly and it’s another to up the ante and come out heavier, meaner and better musically. Do you think those albums are a little difficult to follow or are you and the other guys chomping at the bit to do just that?
Gary: You simply can never repeat those old classics, now matter how bad some people want you to do it. It would be musical dishonesty to go back and basically steal from ourselves. We write what we want to write, and to me it always sounds like Exodus because literally, my writing process is the same as it has always been, me and a guitar and a riff. But meaner, yeah, we are VERY grumpy old men I guess you could say!
LRI: It is not a secret that Exodus has drawn inspiration from lots of different sources including politics over the years. With the current, childish fight going on in our country politically it would seem the time is ripe for some more biting social commentary, is it hard to NOT shake your head and throw your hands in the air when you’re talking about this stuff with your friends overseas and is it hard to not write about stuff like this?
Gary: I wish whenever I don’t get my way I could just stop whatever is going on around me until I do! Laws are laws, and when you can’t win in the democratic fashion, you can’t just take your ball and go home until the outcome changes, no what I mean?
LRI: Exodus released some kickass new TShirts recently that made me wanna go max out my wife’s credit card; you guys have always had creative ideas on the artwork and merch end. Thinking back to the old Bay Area “Murder in the Front Row” days, do you think a lot of you guys learned valuable lessons about being creative on the business and merch end that have served you well?
Gary: We don’t really get that deep into it, we just try to make kick ass merch that we would wanna wear ourseleves. Offend everyone and make it fun you know!
LRI: Exodus released “Let There Be Blood” a remake of your classic “Bonded By Blood” and it was very necessary in my opinion. As good as the original is, it was great to hear the benefit of modern production that just wasn’t available to you guys back in the day. Do you have any misgivings about any of the production on the Zetro era material or things you’d like to tweak on those classics as well?
Gary: “Pleasures of the Flesh” was so madly produced, we switched producers mid stream on that one, I wish I could do it over, but I am done re recording anything!!! Some people loved it, some hated it, some thought we did it for money, which is quite a joke! We could have actually MADE money if we had released it through conventional means, but fuck it, I’m proud of it, love it, it will never replace the original, and it paid homage to Paul, when no one else was.
LRI: You’ve always mentioned guys like Uli, Angus, Ritchie and Tony as influences on your work and I think that says a lot in terms of the melody in some of your brutality. Not wanting to sling arrows but do you think some of the younger new era Thrash players would similarly do well to not just listen to your playing but to the “influences of their influences” so to speak?
Gary: First thing I would say to anyone is learn to play rock riffs before you try to play shred shit, does you zero good to not know how to play a little blues!
LRI: Thanks for putting up with me Gary, last question….you did some production and have worked with other bands on that end in the past including Warbringer. Are you still involved in that type of work despite your lack of time and do you find that to be fulfilling in an altogether different kind of way than being in a band or being a live performer?
Gary: I do what time allows! I love being in the studio and it’s something I’d like to do more of for sure!
EXODUS is playing a hometown show at Slim’s in San Francisco December 20th for more info go to the official Exodus website http://exodusattack.com/