Exodus + Slayer Guitarist Gary Holt Talks Splitting Time Between Bands, Jamming ‘Free Bird,’ Early Thrash Scene + More
Exodus and Slayer guitarist Gary Holt was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The axeman discussed his incredibly busy schedule playing in two of thrash's leading bands. He also talked about the dynamic inside Slayer, forming friendships and touring with other thrash acts and jamming "Free Bird" during soundcheck with Slayer. Check out the chat below.
How ya doin', Gary?
Doing well, how are you?
Doing well. Thank you so much for taking the time. Lots of course going on in the land of Slayer. I want to know what's going on with Exodus. First question is, do you ever sleep? [laughs]
I try to. It can be kind of difficult. [laughs] I'm not a deep sleeper anyway. I'm usually getting out of bed around 6AM, at least waking up. It keeps me busy. There are worse problems to have.
Talking about being in Slayer now, what did you never know about Slayer's band dynamic until you joined?
I don’t know, I don't think there is anything I didn't know. We've known each other for so long, it's kinda just showing up to jam with guys I've known since I was a kid. It wasn't anything really to learn. Seeing old faces and doing something different, but with people I've known since the whole infancy of thrash metal. It was an easy adjustment to make.
Gary, fans enshrine stories and events from the early days of Bay Area Metal. What means more to you now -- lasting friendships from people of that time or the lasting effect of what you all created?
To me friendships mean more than anything. I'm honored that anyone cared about the music we made all these years later. That's a bonus. I look back on the old days differently now than say the 1990s. Now it's a lot more nostalgia to it, fond memories of a simpler time when we played music without the need for such detailed things. That's not how I wanted to put it, as far as the business side of things. We were just kids playing in a garage making heavy metal.
Obviously playing in two touring bands increases your time spent working. What's life like when you have down time from both Slayer and Exodus.
When I have downtime, I just want to spend it at home with my wife and kids. Family means everything to me, especially, it's another thing, the added bonus of age. Your priorities are more in line. It's like, I can't tour constantly. Not 12 months out of the year, people close to me would kill me. Fortunately for Exodus, they've been super understanding and we also have a super amazing awesome stunt double in Kragen Lum who fills in for me when I can't be there. He's an amazing guitar player. He's part of the family and he nails all the parts as well as I'd ever hope to play them. [laughs] It's worked out and the fans have been real accepting of it. I hope to find some time to get back out there on the road with Exodus.
Can you tell us anything about a timeline or status or anything that's going on with Exodus right now?
They've got some summer festival stuff booked. I leave in about a week to go back out for a few more weeks of European festivals and then in early September I have my first Exodus (it's only three) but I have my first Exodus shows in quite some time. We're doing three shows with Killswitch Engage. My first San Francisco show back with Zetro back in the band. We played Oakland, but it's the first time in San Francisco. I'm looking forward to that, it'll be fun.
A few weeks ago we all had a chance to see this soundcheck from Slayer that surfaced a while ago with you guys playing "Free Bird." The video probably isn't what people expect from thrash bands. What's the least thrash music thing that's had the biggest impact on you?
I'm a classic rock guy. That was my upbringing before I ever evolved into heavy metal. I'm the youngest out of six kids and five of us are boys. I grew up listening to what my brothers were listening to, which included stuff like Skynyrd. Tom was the one who actually got that started and then we pulled out [Alex] Skolnick into it. That was some of the most fun I've ever had on the stage in my life, was playing "Free Bird" at soundcheck.
It was such a cool thing to see.
I'm known in the Slayer camp, Kerry calls me "Holtapalooza" because I'm the guy who'll pull out any random song out of my hat. I can play just about a little bit of any band on earth if you give me five seconds to listen to it. Whether we're playing Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" or if I'm just doing my own solo guitar version of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," I'll play a little bit of everything [laughs].
Los Angeles was perceived as the antithesis of everything happening in San Francisco when you started Exodus. What made you look forward to playing L.A. back then, and what do you look forward to playing L.A. now?
Oh my god, I remember the first time I played L.A. was at The Country Club. Gene Hoglan did our lights that night, [laughs]. We didn't know what to expect. L.A. was known as the place where people bands like us left — Metallica moved up to the Bay Area. Slayer was the only one that like, maintained a lock on the region. It turned out to be quite a thrash metal stronghold in its own right. It's only getting better and better.
There's this huge fall tour with Slayer. What can you tell us about your timeline with both bands and how's it looking for the rest of the year?
I'm pretty locked up for quite a while with Slayer. We just did seven-and-a-half weeks in Europe, got home, one day later flew down to San Diego to go Comic Con. Home for 13 days and then back to Europe. The fall U.S. tour is going to be awesome because it's the first time in several years, first time ever with my time in Slayer that I'm touring with my homeboys in Death Angel, some of my closest friends on earth. And you know, of course, we've done lots of stuff with Anthrax. Put it all together and it's gonna be a fun tour.
Again can you tell us what we're looking like on a new Exodus record?
We're starting to accumulate riffs like any creative process, especially for me, it can come in a flood after a period of nothing. I'm starting to get a real creative pull to start compiling more and more riffs and stuff. Start putting it together I find myself staring out at the wall thinking about lyrics. Usually if you see me looking at the stucco, it means I'm trying to get in a creative place. So hopefully next year we'll get in the studio.
Busy year for you, [laughs] in both bands.
Thank you for taking the time.
Thanks to Gary Holt for the interview. Catch Holt on tour with Slayer starting Sept. 9 and see a full list of dates here. Pick up Slayer's latest record, 'Repentless,' at Amazon or iTunes as well as Exodus' 'Blood In Blood Out,' also at Amazon or iTunes. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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