Gary Holt: I’ve Got Slayer Riffs Ready if Kerry King Needs Me to Contribute + New Exodus Material Is Written [Interview]
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Gary Holt was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio program. The guitarist spoke about writing new music for both Slayer and Exodus, how he keeps the two bands separate, how the German thrash bands get ignored in any Big 4-type talk and a lot more. Check out the chat below:
Let’s talk about Exodus first. It sounds like Exodus is going to go into the studio later this year to record a new album?
Yeah that is what we are shooting on. At the same time Tom Hunting and I are of the same mindset that however long it takes to make your sound what you want it to be is how long it’s going to take. Prior to the South American Slayer tour I had six months off so I really used that time wisely and just writing and jamming with Tom and putting stuff together. We’ve got a few songs done, several in the works and thousands of riffs it seems like. We’re real excited with how things are coming along and so we are looking forward to getting to that point when we can actually start booking studio time.
Creatively, what changes when you’re writing songs now that Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza is back in the band singing?
Nothing really. You want to write a song whether it’s for Rob [Dukes] or Zetro or much prior to that, Paul Baloff. I just try to write an Exodus song and take it from there. Obviously the boys [will] round it out and complete the song, but I don’t write differently whether it’s for one or the other, I just write riffs until I like them.
Lots of people regard Exodus as important enough to be included in a hypothetical Big 5 of thrash metal. What do you think the most important thing Exodus contributed to that genre?
That’s an easy one, the genre itself. [laughs] I mean we are arguably the first thrash band and the only other one you could really make an argument with is Metallica and I think at the time we were both starting to do our thing and neither of us knew the other existed. So yeah I mean we definitely made a big contribution because we helped create it. Big 4, Big 5, Big 10…I don’t know we were the first, so I think we have every right to be there.
I’ve always said when everybody talks about the big this or that they always like forget about the Germans. Kreator, Destruction and Sodom were there in the very beginning too and they were there earlier and before a lot of the American thrash bands that people like throwing in these hypothetical arguments. I don’t limit it strictly to United States soil. I think the Germans have should have a voice in this as well.
Let’s talk about Slayer. Repentless was your first album with Slayer and although you weren’t part of the songwriting, Kerry King has expressed willingness for you to be involved next time. How would you need to approach songwriting differently with Slayer compared to Exodus?
Don’t write 10-minute long songs. [laughs] I think that’s the first thing, I tend to… sometimes in the Exodus realm wander into some very progressive territory. And that’s cool, I think it’s all thrash in the end. I mean, I think the biggest difference between one band and the other and the next band after that is quite often just note selection. Slayer’s a band, like a lot of riffs are very chromatic and it’s just as simple as adjusting your style from one to the other.
I think after six-plus years in the band I definitely have as good of insight as anybody into how Slayer writes a song since I can play such a large amount of the catalog. When that time comes and we are ready for the next album if Kerry wants me to contribute, I’ve got riffs. I got stuff right now that I’ve written that I am not using for Exodus because they are like a kinda maybe just like unintentional subconscious thing, like it sounds a little bit too much like Slayer. So I push that aside and spend predominantly the bulk of my time playing in Slayer nowadays. I’ve got to make sure not to cross-contaminate. I’ve got to treat both bands like a crime scene.
You’ve been with Slayer for six years. But what sometimes feels surreal and new to you?
I don’t know that any of it does. I think it’s finally a little more surreal nowadays and I mean, it really sounds odd for me to say it, but it’s a little more surreal – we had a chance to go back and do Exodus [laughs]. Those guys are my brothers for most of my life and the Slayer guys are my brothers too. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I have two bands that I call family. It’s kind of like second nature. When I do get the chance to do some Exodus shows, it’s like, I’ve been away for a while. It kind of like, I have to remember that this is the band that I’ve been in since I was 17-years-old.
Politically it’s a tense time in U.S. history. Speaking as a musician who is also politically aware, what role (if any) should a band have in political discussion?
Heavy metal and thrash metal in particular has long since been a political musical genre. We’ve all written songs about nuclear war and the threat of nuclear war. All of a sudden now, people are like, afraid to touch it because the world is – music has completely polarized in opposite directions. It’s so partisan! I’m a liberal, everyone knows I’m a liberal, but I’m a liberal with really extreme right wing views on certain things like crime and punishment and I support law enforcement. But people are so afraid to speak their opinion because people will swear off their allegiance to their favorite bands.
I think Ted Nugent is a total idiot. He’s also one of my favorite guitar players of all time and always will be. Anytime he says something stupid it’s never going to make me go throw away my copy of Double Live Gonzo… never. That’s not why I love Ted Nugent. I love his guitar playing. Nowadays, people were like, “Oh they were my favorite band and now I disagree with them. I don’t want to listen to that band anymore.” It’s a touchy subject nowadays, which really blows my mind that people are so sensitive.
Between Slayer and Exodus it would seem like you have little time for much else. When do you step back from music and how do you recharge to go back to it?
I had six months off at home and that’s a rarity, something I don’t think I’ve ever had. I used that to decorate the house and nest and when I’m home, it’s all about my family — my wife and my kids, and when it comes to rehearsing, I map it all out in a very structured manner that it is kind of like, if I’m going to rehearsal, I’m going to work. If I’m writing songs, I’m going to work. When I’m done, I’m done. I don’t let it take over the entire day. I’ll set aside the time for it, use it and then my day’s work is done and then I’m just back to the spending time with my family. Hell, I’m going to be a grandfather here. I’m very excited about that.
Wow. Grandpa Gary.
That’s really exciting.
Yeah I couldn’t be more excited. The family is growing, looking forward to it.
Sounds like new Exodus music will hopefully be happening in 2018. Gary thank you so much.
My pleasure, thank you.
Thanks to Gary Holt for the interview. Grab your copy of Slayer’s ‘Repentless’ here and to snag Exodus’ latest, ‘Blood In, Blood Out,’ go to this location. Follow both Slayer and Exodus on Facebook to keep up with everything the bands are doing and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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