Fresh Blood: Thrash Metallers Exodus on Their New Album
The band’s guitarist Gary Holt on reuniting with former vocalist Steve Souza and working on new material with Slayer
American metal guitarist Gary Holt has seen and been part of thrash metal’s growth from the smallest clubs in the Bay Area in San Francisco in the Eighties to now being a part of two of the biggest metal bands – thrash metallers Exodus and Slayer. Says Holt about the Bay Area thrash metal scene, “I think we were part of something special – a true, blossoming music scene, you know? Now, I think some of it has to do with the Internet and people talk so much shit.”
The guitarist does sound like an old timer when he starts to recall times spent with fellow bands like Metallica, which included former Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett. Holt, who turned 50 in May, reconnected with Hammett while Slayer and Metallica were performing at the same festivals and even got him to play on Exodus’s tenth album, Blood In, Blood Out, Hammett’s first studio contribution to Exodus despite his previous tenure in the early Eighties. Says Holt, “We kinda connected on that 17-year-old, kid level again. We did nothing but swap stories and make people piss their pants laughing at shit we used to do. One thing led to another, and I told him, ‘You should play a solo’ and he was more excited than anybody. For him, it was like coming home to this band.” Hammett plays on “Salt the Wound,” but Blood In, Blood Out also features another former Exodus member returning to the fold. Vocalist Steve Souza aka Zetro, who first joined in 1986 and left in 1993, helming vocal duties again between 2002 and 2004, rejoined earlier this year after Exodus parted ways with Rob Dukes. Holt says Dukes and the band just “weren’t on the same page any more.”
The last thing the band would want after a lineup change was hecklers. Holt says that he didn’t have to face too many hecklers when he took over as Slayer guitarist last year, after founding member Jeff Hanneman passed away two years after contracting a rare skin tissue disease from a spider bite. Says Holt, “I got like three or four hecklers [after joining Slayer], and if you’ve got just that many, you’ve done a pretty good job.” Now that all recording work is out of the way with Exodus, Holt confirms that he will be part of the upcoming Slayer album, slated to release next year. Says Holt, “I haven’t done any tracking yet on the Slayer record, but I will be starting some lead tracks soon. Working with them as a band is awesome. They’ve become my second family, from the top all the way to the bottom.” While Holt and Exodus spent the early part of this year – between January and March – writing Blood In, Blood Out, both Exodus and Slayer, along with hardcore punk veterans Suicidal Tendencies, are on tour through November and December. The guitarist says playing with two different bands on the same night is going to be a challenge, considering he has been facing problems in his hip joint recently. Adds Holt, “There are times when I’m suffering on stage, but it just makes you look angrier, you know? You’re in pain, so you look pissed off. You get through it, get some rest and try to stay on your feet.”
Holt probably would need to exert himself, considering Blood In, Blood Out is a step up for the band – with faster thrash metal that’s also lengthier, with at least six songs on the 11- track album clocking in over six minutes. Says Holt, “Some people say it’s old school, others say it’s super modern. No one can make up their minds about what the band’s doing. It’s one of those funny things. To me, the songs are done when they’re done. I never say, ‘Oh this is too long, let’s take this out’.” The music remains, just as the best thrash metal is, very aggressive – to the extent that it’s got them banned from a few venues in the US. Says Holt, “We did have to stop shows in the past when people in the crowd were beating up kids – we then invited everybody on stage and kept the power. Shit happens, you know?” After raising hell with Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies on tour, Exodus doesn’t have any shows confirmed, but are looking to get back on the road after the winter break. Says Holt, “I just hope to get Exodus over there [to India]. I was there with Slayer [in 2012] and I’d love to return.”
This article appeared in the December 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India.