Gary Holt & John Tempesta Interview
San Francisco was the setting for the development of Exodus. Formed back in
1981, Exodus has gained the respect and attention of fans and critics around
Exodus has made their debut album for Capitol Records, titled "Impact Is Imminent." We
spoke with guitarist Gary Holt and drummer John Tempesta about their struggle
to be recognized.
Q. Exodus is being heralded as "the first band to bring thrash
metal to hungry, waiting ears." You also put out an album in 1985, which "laid
the ground work for thrash's eventual popularity." How about Metallica? Weren't
they really the first group to popularize this kind of music?
A. No. I wouldn't say that at all. They might have broke out with their album
first, but we were playing the clubs long before they'd even ever played or
relocated to San Francisco. As far as the Bay Area Sound, we were doing it
long before anybody else. We were doing it when it was primarily Judas Priest,
heavy metal type bands. As far as out and out thrash, Metallica is definitely
a thrash band, but I don't think there's any doubt that in 1985 our album redefined
what heavy was.
Q. Yet, Metallica continues to get all the credit and attention.
That must really bother you.
A. No, not at all. Nothing anybody says gets to me. For everybody who says
that, I read otherwise. We're very much different from Metallica. They were
really thrash with heavy motorhead roots. We took it in a different direction.
Nothing bugs me. I'm very confident in what this band has done. We pull in
bigger deals than most bands do, merchandising and record label-wise. This
album for Capitol is not a matter of catch-up, it's a matter of everybody else
trying to catch up to this album. In my opinion, they're gonna have their work
cut out for them, in order to-surpass it. In my opinion, also, this is the
album that everybody's gonna look at as the album to beat. Good luck to 'em
Q. When Kirk Hammett left the group to join Metallica that
had to hurt.
A. No, not at all. Some people think that, but we wished him the best of luck.
That was the turning point for Exodus sound because when Kirk was in the band
we had a definite crunch, but it was still more riff-oriented, like a slightly
heavier Judas Priest kind of thing. When he left the band, I took over the
song writing abilities, and it sort of put me in the driver's seat. You know,
we've never been ones to pout. We've been through more than anybody else. We
just wished him the best of luck, and had a big party for him, and wrestled
over a bologna sandwich. We all wanted to eat it, so we ended up wearing it,
'cause we were fighting over it. Kirk's never changed one bit as far as our
friendship to this day. We've always been really good friends.
Q. According to your record company bio, "The only thing that
held Exodus back from mega-success was the fact that they were on an indi
label which simply didn't have the power to give them the support they needed." What
kind of support were you looking for?
A. We were looking for major distribution, getting the album everywhere. The
budget we needed to record the album that we always wanted to record, which
is this one, even though our last two budgets were very good. And, just that
major label pull. Capitol has let us do exactly what we want to do. That's
a liberty that very few bands enjoy, is being able to do exactly what they
want. No one's out there telling us we have to have a ballad on this album.
We've never had a ballad and never will. Right now, Metallica does a ballad
because they want to, and they write brilliant ballads which are like finely
crafted pieces of music, very different, but they're all kind of dark images.
A lot of the other thrash bands now, it's like they have the one ballad because
their label demands it. If Metallica didn't want to do a ballad, no one at
Elektra is going to tell them to do it. Right now Capitol is treating us marvelously.
It's like amazing. We've got huge budgets, seven album deals, 100 percent of
our publishing, which is almost unheard of. Some of your biggest bands out
there I'm sure don't get it. I'm talking like mega multi-platinum bands, and
they may be millionaires, but they're not getting all of their publishing.
Q. It sounds like you're quite the businessman.
A. Yeah, I stay in touch. Nothing goes on without me knowing about it. They're
letting us do what we do best—thrash, 'cause they know that's what
will sell, not a watered down version of what they find in the first place.
Q. If Capitol Records was waiting in the wings for Exodus,
waiting for your first record contract to expire, why didn't Capitol just
buy your contract out?
A. They tried, since our second album. But, in order to buy it, someone's gotta
say, 'Okay, I'll sell it.' And Combat [Records] played this game of 'yes, we'll
sell it, no we won't.' We would have been on Capitol two albums ago, except
Combat didn't want to sell the band. But, the contract we had with Combat was
pretty amazing, considering an indi. label. Two albums long, rather than eight
or nine; great budgets. We got all our publishing then. We've been signed to
Capitol for some time now.
Q. Your record was produced by the H-Team. Who's that?
A. The H-Team is Holt and Hunolt [members of the band].
Q. You mean to tell me that a record company like Capitol
would allow a band to produce themselves?
A. Yeah, they left everything up to us. They didn't tell us to do anything.
We just did everything on our own. They actually didn't hear the record until
we started mixing it, without saying anything. They've been real supportive,
which is great. They're happy with it and we're happy.
Q. What is there about thrash that you like, and what is it
you think other people would like about the music?
A. Well, what I like about it is the energy. It just keeps going without stopping.
It's just like the adrenalin keeps going. It's kind of hard to explain. It's
like a big rush.
Q. What's the difference between thrash and hard-core music?
A. Thrash is like heavy metal, but a little beyond that, a little faster, Hard-core
is just like real fast, just speed all the way through. There's a whole different
meaning to it; songs they write about. To put us in the category of thrash
is what we are, not heavy metal. If we're in the category of heavy metal,
we'd be competing with the likes of Warrant or Motley Crue.
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