On The Line with Dave Lombardo

Dave Lombardo has been one of the most influential and highly praised drummers for over thirty years. Though well known as the former drummer for Slayer, he’s been up to a lot since his departure last year. Along with Pancho Tomaselli and Gerry Nestler, he is the drummer for the band, PHILM. No matter what band he is in, Dave brings his signature chops and with PHILM, the band’s chemistry is there in spades.

I had a great opportunity to speak with Dave about PHILM, drum clinics, his various influences, and a new project that may surprise you.

Alex Obert: With your upcoming clinic tour in Brazil, when did you originally start doing drum clinics? What did you originally take out of them?

Dave Lombardo: I think I did my first clinic back in ’95, it was the Modern Drummer drum festival. I did another one in 2000, then I started doing more as time went on. And now there seems to be a demand for them. What I took from them was that everyone doesn’t learn drumming the same way. I was self-taught. There’s a lot of kids and drummers out there that go to school for music. So I had to find a way to communicate with the fans and people that were interested in my drumming. The format that I use is more like a one-on-one with Dave Lombardo. I go up there and I’ll play along to some music and then I’ll go off and do a drum solo. Then I pick up the microphone and start chatting about my setup, what I use, the pedals I use, everything. And then we start this kind of question-answer presentation. The kids love it, they have a conversation with one of their favorite drummers. I’m pretty easy to get along with and the kids notice that right away. They pick up on that personality and we have a really good conversation.

Pretty much what others do is they bring the teacher/student format where they’re talking about all this stuff that I think fans get enough of in their everyday life when they go out to school and learn music. I’m focusing on giving them a different approach to drumming, not the same format. So what I’ve learned with other drummers and their clinics is that they’re the teacher, you’re the student, and I kind of drop that barrier. I don’t like that.

Alex Obert: Do you have any memories of playing in Brazil prior to this?

Dave Lombardo: Yeah, many. The fans are super passionate. They really love drumming and rhythms. And they love their metal, their heavy music. They really enjoy that. It’s a great country.

Alex Obert: How did music originally play a role in your life?

Dave Lombardo: I grew up on classic rock, punk, and Latin music. My second oldest brother, Danny, he introduced me to Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, several others. And that was when I was like five years old. Then you go on to thirteen, fourteen years old to discover your own style of music and what you like. I got into the same bands and a lot of the bands that were on the radio at the time in the seventies. It ranged from Ted Nugent to Black Sabbath, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Doobie Brothers, KISS, and the list goes on.

Alex Obert: What is your opinion on the drumming showcased in the fifties and sixties featuring names such as Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa?

Dave Lombardo: Well I saw Buddy Rich once on the Johnny Carson Show when I was a kid and he blew me away. His stamina, his energy, and his focus, it was on point. He was just amazing. I think that inspired me in a lot of ways. While I was growing up, my parents used to go to these parties where they would have Cuban bands play. Cuba is a very drum oriented culture, these drummers would perform. Watching these guys play with so much passion, it definitely influenced my style. Those drummers of the fifties and sixties, I mean Gene Krupa, Art Blakey, even in the late sixties, Ginger Baker was kind of the guy that crossed over from jazz to hard rock. All those guys are big influences and I still look up to them to this day.

Alex Obert: We talk about who influenced you, but I can imagine many young drummers that you influenced meeting you and telling you what an influence and inspiration you are to them.

Dave Lombardo: Yeah, I see kids like that and it’s pretty cool. I enjoy that. I’m glad I made a positive impact in someone’s life.

Alex Obert: Are there newer drummers that are blowing you away?

Dave Lombardo: There’s a lot of great drummers. The drummer Eloy Casagrande, he’s from Sepultura. That kid’s amazing and he’s only twenty three years old. But again, he’s incorporating his Latin culture in the music to the heavy side of metal. It’s great. I think it’s about time does something different instead of copying every other drummer that’s come after myself, Lars, these other drummers that have kind of paved the way.

Alex Obert: So I understand you have a project with Disney in the works.

Dave Lombardo: I’m scoring music for an eleven minute pilot. It was challenging because we’re creating music that is only one and a half bars, that’s it. And these are very short pieces. Though challenging, it was actually a lot of fun. And I think working with Mike Patton in Fantômas and creating that style of music has helped me understand the approach to composing for cartoons, sitcoms, or movies.

Alex Obert: Who are some of your favorite composers?

Dave Lombardo: There’s a good friend of mine and I’m a big fan of him, his name is Tyler Bates. He helped me a lot in my career recently with understanding scores and composing. He just did the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and I had worked with him back in 2004 on the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack. And I recently recorded music with him and Tree Adams for season seven of Californication. I like Hans Zimmer and John Carpenter too.

Alex Obert: What’s the feeling like in the studio working on the Disney project as opposed to being with a band and recording an album?

Dave Lombardo: Well obviously with a band you have songs on an album that extend over three minutes, three and a half, four, five minutes long. So it takes a lot of concentration to make sure that the songs are laid down in the studio and recorded tight and on point. With composing music for a cartoon, we’re watching the cartoon and of course they give us key points, little guidelines. They’ll say, “Right now, the character is thinking about something. So we have to have a clock ticking, some kind of curious sound or a curious note or tones that kind of create the feeling of thinking or thought.” So we have to search into our catalog of sounds and samples. And then we pull from that. It’s like, “Okay, this sounds like what they’re asking us to do.” Then we’ll apply it and we’ll create it. Usually like I said, it’s a bar and a half to two bars, three bars. And then that’s it. You have to time it correctly where it starts. “Okay, we’re gonna play this for three bars. It starts at this point and ends here.” We’ll create the piece and then the song will end on an upbeat, it’s kinda weird. But anyways, it’s a whole different process. But I definitely enjoy it.

Alex Obert: Speaking of new projects, does PHILM feel like a rejuvenation for you?

Dave Lombardo: Yes. It felt like a rejuvenation when I first got the band together back in 2010. When you’re in a band for over twenty plus years, it becomes a job. There’s hardly any communication with the band members. You rehearse with the band a couple days before the tour, then they fly back and that’s it. You see ’em on stage, but there’s really not much to it. With PHILM, we’re friends, we hang out, we have lunch together. Let’s say if we have a whole day of rehearsing and writing, we basically hang out. We’re friends. It’s definitely different from what I’ve experienced before.

Alex Obert: You put PHILM together in 2010, a big year for Slayer with the Big Four shows. That must be interesting.

Dave Lombardo: It was before the Big Four shows. It was when Tom fell ill because of his injury. At that time, I thought to myself that I needed to find something else to keep me occupied because these guys, they weren’t very healthy. I felt that it was time for me to get that band together and stay productive on my downtime.

Alex Obert: What are the plans ahead for PHILM? I heard about a potential new EP.

Dave Lombardo: Well we have a full album. The album done, it’s in the pressings right now. They’re waiting to release it, it’ll be out in September. And probably six to nine months after that, we’re going to release an EP or a full-length album, I don’t know. Four songs is considered an EP, anything more than that is an album. So I don’t really know what to call this and at this point, I don’t know if we’re going to add any more songs, considering we recorded these six songs at one studio. I really don’t want to bring in other kinks from other studios into this body of work.

Alex Obert: In closing, what are some of the tour dates ahead for PHILM?

Dave Lombardo: Well so far we have four dates confirmed in Europe. We have the Underworld in London, Arena Wien in Vienna, we have the Rote Fabrik in Zürich, and Feierwerk in Munich.

Alex Obert: And what are your websites at the moment for readers to check out?

Dave Lombardo: Well right now they can check out Facebook and search YouTube for our videos. We’re just on Facebook right now, there’s no website. All in time. We’ll eventually have that.

Alex Obert: Well I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

Dave Lombardo: Alright, dude. Thank you!

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