Ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo: “Would I join Kerry King’s new band? I don’t think he’d have the need to ask me”

Dave Lombardo wearing sunglasses against a blue background
(Image credit: Stephanie Cabral)

He calls himself “ADD Dave” due to his manic style, and is one of the busiest and most iconic drummers in the history of thrash metal, having worked with pretty much all of your musical heroes over his four-decade-long career. So Dave Lombardo was never going to be fazed by facing your toughest questions. 

For the next hour he is open and still clearly enthused by the many projects he’s involved in, coming across as a massive music-lover in general. He happily waxes lyrical about his love of punk, thrash, jazz, Lemmy, Mike Patton, duetting with avant- garde composer John Zorn and getting the seal of approval from jazz legend Miles Davis.

Metal Hammer line break

Was it hard to get your head around playing the Fantômas music live? Did it kind of feel like a metal piss-take?  @SpiritWalkTalk

“That’s an interesting question. When I first heard Fantômas I felt immediately connected. [Mike] Patton has always said he wrote those drum parts with me in mind. So when I heard it, I immediately understood it. We had to rehearse a lot of changes – tempo changes. I would have to pick up brushes and then hit a bell in the middle of a song, so it was challenging, but it was fun and it taught me a lot about music.”

What did you learn from playing with John Zorn?  Michael Butterfield, Facebook

“Freedom! Freedom to express yourself musically in any way you want, without any genre, without any borders. That whole: ‘Oh, I’m Dave Lombardo, I’m supposed to play this sort of music!’ Well, with John there is none of that. He made me feel comfortable in enjoying other music and to not be afraid. We played the Louvre, the glass pyramid, a duet between the two of us; that should tell you everything about him. I don’t have enough words to describe him. A hyper-intelligent dude.”

The producers of Stranger Things ask you to pick one song you’ve played on to feature in the show’s last season. Which one do you pick and why?  Kate Worth, Facebook

“I haven’t watched Stranger Things! Ha ha ha! It’s an 80s retro thing, right? So I guess I go for something I recorded in the 80s… Chemical Warfare. It’s a heavy song, it’s very 80s, it’s nostalgic and it’s got a certain vibe to it. In the 80s we thought we were in World War III. It captures that feeling.”

Dead Cross in black and white

Dead Cross, with Mike Patton (second left) (Image credit: Press)

Would you have signed up for Kerry King’s new band, if you’d been asked? @WKDPower 

“I knew that was coming! I am, right now, working on too many other projects and I wouldn’t be able to accept. New Dead Cross, Mr. Bungle… the pandemic put a lot of stuff on hold, so we need to play some catch-up there. Besides that, he’s got Paul Bostaph, and I don’t think he would have the need to ask me.”

How did you first meet Mike Patton and what is your favourite story about hanging out together?   Beckie Morton, Facebook

“We met at Faith No More’s last show before they took a hiatus in the 90s. Robert Trujillo was there. We were all sitting backstage. We met and started talking about music, what I was doing post-Slayer. Best memory? There are so many great memories with that guy, it’s hard to pinpoint one. Here’s one: with Fantômas, we’d play a show, walk offstage, and for the encore he had written a song that’s never been recorded, only played live. Patton and I would stay backstage. Buzz [Osborne] and Trevor [Dunn] would go out and they’d play this monotonous riff for two to three minutes. We’d just sit there and drink and chat. ‘Shall we go now?’ ‘Nah, just make them wait a little longer.’ And then we’d eventually walk out, hit that down beat and it was always an amazing moment.”

Who partied hardest in thrash in the 80s?  Jack Bullen, Facebook

“I would say Lemmy. Come on, man! Nobody could keep up with that guy!”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Grip Inc. after all this time – to me that is one of the most criminally underrated bands of the past 25 years. @mcshriek

“It’s unfortunate that [vocalist] Gus Chambers passed away. He was such a big part of the sound and songwriting that he’s irreplaceable. I loved that band, it was awesome. It was new, it was fresh, it was the first time I stepped out of Slayer and did something in my own direction. It’s so sad that I can no longer jam with those guys.”

If Slayer returned to the stage and asked you to play again, would you? @jagggarcia

“I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. But, yeah, I’d listen to whatever it is they had to say. That’s it, you can’t go any further than that.”

How did you end up joining Testament and what’s it like working with those guys?  Paul Guy, Facebook

“I woke up one morning and my wife says to me, ‘You wanna hear the gossip?’ I go, ‘No more Kanye! Please!’ She said, ‘No, Gene [Hoglan] left Testament.’ I picked up my phone, texted Chuck [Billy] and said, ‘Hey man, I don’t have anything lined up this year – if you need a drummer, let me know.’ He called me right away and we figured out the schedule. Here I am, doing the second leg of the tour in Europe and it’s been great working with these guys! Master musicians.”

What are your Top 5 punk albums of all-time?  @VOL4Bourbon

“An easy one there! Minor Threat’s Out Of Step, Circle Jerks’ Group Sex, Dead Kennedys’ In God We Trust, Inc., GBH’s Leather, Bristles, Studs And Acne. And The Exploited. Mr. Bungle covered Fuck The USA recently. That was fun.”

Do you know Miles Davis admired your drumming?  @Ignitor28626097 

“Yes, apparently his son was watching MTV in the early 90s. I guess it was around the time we released War Ensemble or Seasons In The Abyss. [Miles] came into the room and his son, Erin, thought Miles was going to get mad: ‘What the hell are you listening to, man?’ But he said, ‘Wow! That drummer is laying it down!’ Pretty proud moment. For Miles Davis to hear your drumming and say that… that’s awesome right there.”

Do Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only get on OK these days?  James Whiteman, Facebook

“They get along very well. I’ve never heard or seen anything negative from those two, it’s been a great experience. A lot of people comment, ‘You are really dumbing down your playing, Dave!’ But no, when you play that music, a lot goes into it. You have to be energetic, obviously; you have to be precise. The recording they did make with their original drummers, they didn’t follow a click track; they were rough, it was punk! They captured those special moments on record, but when you go out and play it live, I have 37 songs in my brain. Glenn calls them out onstage and you need to start the right song – you can’t fuck up.”

What are you listening to lately?  @RIP_restinpain

“A drummer recently rattled my brain: Daru Jones, who’s been playing with Jack White. He’s also in a band called Th1rt3en. These are bands I just come across on YouTube when I’m doing my late-night hangs with my wife, getting our drink on and going down these rabbit holes. Very inspiring.”

When are we getting the Misfits here in the UK?  Luke Long, Facebook

“I wish. I would love to do it. I’m sure I’ve heard people say, ‘We should get over to the UK!’ in rehearsals. We just have to get those massive pumpkins over there! When it does happen, it’s going to be off the hook.” 

Dead Cross’s new album II is out now

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.