“The different types of music I’ve played have had satisfied different aspects of why I like playing extreme metal”

Interview with Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, ex-Anthrax, ex-S.O.D, ex-Brutal Truth)

Interview by Estelle at Brutal Assault on the 5th of August 2015 

Hey Dan, first of all thank you so much for doing this interview with me! First I’d like to ask, if you could go back to the very beginning of your metal career, would you do anything differently?

Dan: Maybe making decisions about signing to certain labels, but not artistically. I’m completely satisfied with the paths I have taken even though I could have maybe sold out and made money or something; but I couldn’t really do this, it would go against my heart. So now I can’t think of too much I would do different as far as a musician. Maybe some business decisions, but not as an artist.

Out of all the bands you were involved in, which one was the most fun to work with?

Dan: This is a difficult question because the different bands I’ve played with have satisfied different feelings inside me: thrash metal is fun, you’re drinking beer and smoking weed; if you’re playing black metal it makes your hair stand up (this is such a special feeling), or if you’re palying grindcore, it’s like there’s lightning in the air. So the different types of music I’ve played have had satisfied different aspects of why I like playing extreme metal. As far as having fun, it’s difficult to have fun playing black metal because you must stay in a very serious vibe – and it’s hard to because sometimes something happens and you have to laugh, something falls over or I don’t know. (laughs)

I’ve read that you are still kind of satisfied with how your first record with Nuclear Assault, Game Over sounds – as I’ve noticed that is not something common among musicians. Do you want to recreate the same vibe and sound both on an album and live or can you accept the fact that we don’t live in those times anymore?

Nuclear Assault – Game Over (1986)

Dan: Honestly, I think the guitar sound on Game Over is not distorted enough. But this was the analog days – and now we live in a digital world. We accept the fact that the old process of recording is different now, but we have technological advantages; it’s much easier to fix a mistake immediately instead of having to start from the beginning. The sound of analog recordings had a special real warm sound to them that’s hard to recreate digitally, but there are ways to imitate this.

John Conelly (vocalist of Nuclear Assault who just sat down next to us): How hard is it?

Dan: What’s hard?

John: Well, to recreate the sound of old recordings. How hard is it Dan?

Dan: Are you being perverted? I’m talking to a woman, have some taste for Christ’s sake! (John’s laughing)

[To John who was hoping that I’d do the interview with him instead of Dan:] Aren’t there any conflicts in Nuclear Assault because of Dan being the center figure?

John: Nah, no problems.

Dan: Nobody wants the attention, I just have to take it.

[To Dan:] Seeing the huge success of and interest around Anthrax counting right from Fistful of Metal, don’t you ever feel awkward for being fired from the band in ’84? Didn’t you ever think about going back?

Dan: I was asked to leave Anthrax – I didn’t have the opportunity to continue with them, they told me to go. So it doesn’t matter. I called up John and said “we have to start a band” and that’s how Nuclear Assault came. Anthrax’s music went to a more commercial direction than I think I would have enjoyed playing; but it’s all okay, everything happens for a reason – that’s what they say.

Daniel Lilker

Daniel Lilker

I’ve read in one of your earlier interviews when a guy asked you about your further plans with S.O.D. that you said “the more we do, the less special it becomes”. Is this a general view of yours or does it only apply to S.O.D.?

Dan: Absolutely. S.O.D. was kind of a weird thing where we just didn’t have any idea it was going to get popular, we just said “oh, we’re just gonna play some pop-rock songs and record them” and the more you try to recreate that, it would become less. We had a surprise attack at the time, you can never repeat that. So just forget it, just be happy with that and don’t try to milk the cow too much.

It’s clear that you do not like today’s metal – still, have you found any new bands (let it be thrash or anything else) recently that did surprise you or gave you something you haven’t really heard before?

Dan: I can’t think of anything in the recent past that I’ve heard that was totally original, but it’s understandable because people playing thrash metal in 2015 have a lot of influences. When we started, we did our own thing to get things from hardcore and maybe a couple of Slayer riffs or whatever, or maybe more Venom, Hellhammer or Discharge. The point being, it’s harder to be original 30 years later.

Nuclear Assault (1986)

Nuclear Assault (1986)

[To both of them:] What is the thing that you mostly miss from the old days when it comes to music?

Dan: I’m not sure I miss anything from the old days. Maybe just the fact that back then everybody knew each other. There was a community, and now it clearly is exploited.

John: We got to play with Exodus on a fairly regular basis. We saw the guys in Testament often too, great guys, fun to be around.

[To Dan:] You are not only a bassist but a really diverse talent as you also play the guitars, piano, drums and you’re a vocalist as well. Where does all this come from?

Dan: It’s the same source. I played piano when I was five years old and heavy just came in later. But playing music – whatever you’re doing –, it’s all from the same well. It depends on what instrument you are using at the time and of course I’m not the best guitarist or anything, I’m a bassist. But I write songs on guitar because it’s easier to explain to the other guys.

John: The nice thing is that we both have a qualification in classical music, we speak the same language. So if I tell Dan “do you need something in E-minor and 6/8 time signature?”, he knows what I’m talking about. A lot of people don’t even know what E-minor is – it’s odd because they are really good musicians. For Dan and I it’s like common vocabulary.

Do you want me to ask a particular thing from you?

Dan: “Why are you guys so handsome?” – I don’t know! Or: “Why do you do what you do?” – Because we don’t give a fuck.

Okay guys, thanks for taking the time and doing a quick interview, also thank you for your nice show!

Dan: Thank you!

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