Slayer had a rocky start in 2010.
After breaking in the new year with a stellar new album receiving rave reviews and a tour scheduled with Megadeth, Slayer had to postpone all their upcoming shows due to vocalist Tom Araya's need for back surgery.
Araya had the necesarry operation and then things quickly got back on track, Megadeth and Slayer rescheduled their cancelled dates - and the heavy metal carnage began just a few short months later.
In the midst of the American Carnage Tour with Megadeth, Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo reflects on Araya's recovery:
"He's doing really good," says Lombardo proudly, "he doesn't have any more numbness in his fingers; they definitely took care of the problem."
Despite the urgency for the operation expressed by Araya's doctors, the decision to reschedule the entire leg of a tour must have been a heady decision for Araya.
"It really was but that shows just how serious it was," explains Lombardo, "It wasn't something that was petty. It wasn't something that for whatever reason anyone would take off like that or the reason a musician would cancel a tour - this is real, this is something that was very serious. So what I'm glad is now that everything's taken care of we don't have to worry about it and we can go ahead and go out on tour and promote this record and play."
And one must admit it was pretty cool of Megadeth's Dave Mustaine to be willing to postpone the entire tour rather than simply choosing some other band to take out on the road instead.
"Well it benefits all of us, this tour. And for him not to accept this as something serious - I mean this is the first time in the, what? The 30 years that Slayer's been around, this is the first time that we've ever, ever had to postpone a tour," states Lombardo adamently, "So for somebody not to understand, or for agents or show-goers to be upset with Slayer in any way is wrong because we've never, ever postponed a tour. There have been other cancelations or postponements, but those were out of our hands - those weren't things that we caused."
So while in the midst of a major tour - with several months out on the road at a time - and after almost three decades of this does 'the road' ever wear Lombardo down at all?
"You need time to recharge. I think six weeks is good and then you have a two week break and go out another six weeks, and who knows, maybe have a four or five week break before we go out again. But the only way that touring tears you down is if you abuse your body - and that would be by either drinking or drugs. But if you try to maintain at least some kind of healthy routine, in my case I try to walk as much as I can and try to eat as right as I can, you tend to prolong that ability to stay on the road. But you know, some people don't work that way and they probably say they're exhausted either half way through or after a month. And I think that's why we usually go about six weeks, after a month we're at our peak. It usually takes us about four or five days to really get in the swing of things - especially after this hiatus. It'll take a little time but after we reach that it's good."
The American Carnage tour this year aside, anyone who might have seen Slayer on the 2009 Rockstar Mayhem Festival simply witnessed a killer set.
"Thank you. It takes a bit of energy. Before I go on stage I'm nice and dry, by the time that I get off every piece of my clothing is soaked. Like I jumped into a pool with my clothes on, that's the way it is, that's the way it's always been."
Released in November of 2009, the new album, World Painted Blood, has been appealing to both old-school Slayer fans and to music lovers who have never even been fans of Slayer before. But did the guys from Slayer know when they were working on these particular songs that they were sitting on something pretty special?
"Yeah," replies Lombardo in earnest, "When we were in rehearsal and the band was working together I remember saying to the guys, 'There's something special going on on this record.' And maybe now I'm a little more keen to pinpoint these little nuances, like there was something during the writing process. I think it was the camaraderie and the friendship that the band has that was really making this album special."
Any thoughts or concerns yet about how to top such stellar album with the next?
"No, you can't really do that. It's not really topping it, you're always trying to better yourself. You're always trying to be a better musician. So that should be the only responsibility you have - to be a better musician. Everything else will come naturally. If a band knows what they're doing there's really no thought about how we need to make this better, we already know we've made better musicians out of ourselves over the past two years or however long it was. So we've improved our playing ability in the last three years, and probably our song writing ability, and so then let's put it in motion then - let's create something, and then it will come naturally. But for a band to think or to try to top the previous record - because everyone's going to have an opinion of that record - but it's not really something to worry about."
And how does Lombardo go about making himself a better drummer?
"Maybe I'm contradicting myself here about self improvement, but by listening back to your previous recording and seeing what I could have done better this time around instead of the version I did at the time. But the weird thing is that on this record, on World Painted Blood, I'm going to have to really kick myself in the butt because this album has everything that I can possibly have thought of on a record. So for me now to say ok I have to look back at my previous recording - well I can't look back at that recording because that one pretty much has it all. So I guess I just have to - I don't know - do something to try to improve. Maybe listen to different musicians."
Many other professional musicians have commented on how much they like World Painted Blood - Henry Rollins was one who quoted in the press about how much he's enjoying the new album.
"The reason why he appreciates it - he comes from a punk background. And Slayer has not evolved into one of these death metal bands that always has the same bass drum sound. This is pure, raw thrash metal which was a branch of punk. So for him, it doesn't surprise me because he's knowledgeable about these things - so for him to say that it's like, wow, you know, that just strengthens our opinion, or my opinion because I'd felt from the beginning that this album was great - even before we set foot in the studio."
What has Dave Lombardo's personal Slayer-experience over the years taught him about life that he wouldn't have learned otherwise?
"Well being in Slayer - I wouldn't have traveled, well maybe I would have in another band but not as extensively as with Slayer. The diversity of fans, the diversity of cultures - the ability to work with other people, the ability to have to stay in a confined spot with the same people every single day - it gives you a bit of patience, and you learn to just be quiet sometimes because sometimes what you have to say is just irrelevant because it's only personal frustrations. You're just like cool about things. I've been taught tolerance, diversity, and friendship. You just learn and you understand people and you have a little more wisdom to wrap it up."
Anything else that Lombardo would like to accomplish is his life?
"Yeah, I'd like to hopefully push this band that I have called Philm. Right now we're in the demo stages and I'm hoping to - on Slayer's time off - I have something to work on and something to push. Instead of doing various projects one-off or things like that I'm now - since I'm living in Los Angeles - I'm able to really focus on a band that focuses on playing in L.A. and so on. We're on YouTube on Dave Lombardo's film and there are some videos posted."