@Planetmosh reviews .@TheDaveLombardo drum clinic in Belfast
A year after parting ways – for the second and what would seem to be most definitely the final time – with the band that he formed at the age of 16, Dave Lombardo remains an angry man. A bitter man. But, he is also a candid man. A defiant man. And an optimistic one. And it is his candour and defiance that feeds his optimism, and is helping to push his anger and bitterness further and further into his past, as he looks forward to pursuing the new avenues opening up before him – to re-inventing himself, as he himself puts it.
But, above all, it should be remembered that Dave Lombardo is an immensely talented drummer. An innovative musician. One of the most innovative of his generation and a man who, it can be argued with certainty, stands among the small band of pioneers who have helped to shape, and re-shape, the sound of heavy metal as we know it today.
And it was all of these qualities, both personal and artistic, which were on show for the 300 or so fans fortunate enough to find themselves up close and personal with the man as he delivered the second of only two masterclasses during a short stopover in Northern Ireland.
The format is pretty much fluid, although it does have a loose structure, based around play throughs, improvisations and Q&A sessions – all of which are revelatory. Lombardo displays both his honesty and his talent early on – the latter when he responds to an impromptu challenge to play some drum ‘n’ bass, and then demonstrates not only his love for integrating different styles but his uncanny ability to do so seamlessly by developing a Felix (D.R.I.) Griffin pattern into a d’n’b infused workout. The importance of listening to, appreciating and absorbing different styles of music is something that is obviously close to Lombardo’s heart – and, quite possibly, in his blood – and is a subject which he addresses right at the start of the evening, by following his opening salvo of ‘Psychopathy Red’ with a play through of the Ray Charles soul standard ‘Mess Around’, going on to talk about his influences, from the music of his Cuban background through Mitch Mitchell (“he just did such insane stuff”), Bill Ward and John Bonham (to whom he pays homage later with a beautiful interpretation of ‘Down By The Seaside’) to Phil Rudd, from whom, he reveals, he learned stamina by playing along to ‘Let There Be Rock’.
One early piece of advice he gives to musicians in the audience therefore is “to listen to a lot of different styles of music”; later, another is to “learn the business” and “take care of your shit”… financially he means. This latter advice comes as he discusses the end of his most recent tenure with Slayer… a subject he addresses with forthright honesty. He notes that ‘red flags’ had been popping up in his brain – even as early as 2004, when he stood in for the sick Lars Ulrich during Metallica’s Download set, as he reveals how he was approached by “my manager… no, Slayer’s manager… it turned out he wasn’t my manager, apparently” to fill the gap… He takes up the subject again after a short improvisation based around the intro to ‘The Four Horsemen’, lambasting what he sees as out-dated copyright laws which leave many musicians (but particularly drummers) vulnerable to abuse: “you need to be paid for your work” he comments, before dissecting the financial situation which ultimately led to the (final?) parting of the ways with his lifelong friends…
Defamation laws, and particularly those relating to reported speech, prohibit us from reprinting much of what Lombardo said, but both his bitterness and anger are evident: the former relates to the way in which his relationship with (certainly one half of) the band slowly disintegrated, while his anger is directed at the music business. In this regard, Lombardo has quickly become a fan of the independent business model which allows artists, via Pledge campaigns or other channels, directly to the fans, cutting out the “suits” to the benefit of both creator and listener.
Over the course of his two hours on stage, Lombardo – who sometimes struggles to both hear and be heard, due to lack of a microphone – addresses a wide variety of issues: from how listening to ‘Overkill’ on Motorhead’s ‘No Sleep Til Hammersmith’ inspired him to take up the double bass, to how playing left-handed makes it difficult for those who wish to do so to interpret his technique; from how all musicians should learn to play the piano (“if you can master its complexity, you can master anything”) to his relationship with Rick Rubin; from how the improvisational writing nature of his current project, Philm, differs from the extremely regimented style of Kerry King in particular, to how bands like Dream Theater and Rush do not impassion him.
One subject about which he speaks passionately is Philm and his bandmates therein: he also talks about other projects he has been involved in, revealing that an EP of previously unreleased Grip Inc material is in the pipeline – as is a possible tour, with Amen’s Casey Chaos on vocal duties. Also looking to the future, he reveals that he is about to further his interest in film and TV soundtracks by working on a new Disney series: “from Slayer to Disney – who’d have thought it?” he quips.
Of course, it’s not all talking: there’s music as well, with run throughs of two Grip Inc songs – although he screws up ‘Rusty Nail’ and has to start again because his earpieces aren’t in properly and he can’t hear the playback – and segments from Slayer’s back catalogue, with a quick run through of the break section in ‘War Ensemble’ – although he again displays his fallibility by accidentally seguing the intro of ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ into that from ‘South Of Heaven’.
All in all, it’s an insightful and educational evening, with Lombardo displaying his humility as well as his pride in all his achievements, both inside and (more particularly) outside Slayer.
Photos By Steve Dempsey – Down The Barrel Photography