Exodus guitarist Gary Holt was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, chatting about the band's current tour with Anthrax and Black Label Society as well as the thousand-plus riffs he's piled up over the decades and a rough timeline on when he'll commence work on a new album.
Whether Holt will even bother to use all those riffs that are sitting around remains to be seen (and heard), however. For him, he says writing riffs is as easy as breathing and if he managed to lose all the recorded files, he'd just write new ones — no big deal. And that writing will start as early as this year once he gets off the road for a three-month break.
Regarding his older music, Holt is thrilled to see Exodus get nods in episodes of Cobrai Kai and The Righteous Gemstones will also applauding Metallica's big bump from Stranger Things while lightly joking that the band didn't exactly need a boost as they're already massively popular. But still, it's great to see thrash being acknowledged in the mainstream like this.
Read the full interview below.
Exodus are out on the road with Anthrax and Black Label Society. These three bands touring together is such a good cross section of everything we love about metal. What do you love most about this combination of bands?
Anthrax are the band I've toured with the most in my life, which is always awesome and fun. I've toured with them going back to 1987 through so many of the final Slayer tours. I don't even know how many times I've toured with them.
It's also my first time touring with Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society. Zakk is one of my all-time favorite guitar players, so it's awesome. I get to watch him put on a masterclass in guitar shredding every night and I get to hang out with a lot of friends, so it's a good time. We're having fun.
Exodus' debut album Bonded by Blood album is highly regarded in the pantheon of thrash metal. Why is it a blessing that Exodus have had a different trajectory than other bands?
I don't know… Whether it's a blessing or a curse, I don't look at it as either. I joined this band at 17 years old and I'm 58 years old and I'm still on tour doing what I love to do. That's absolutely a blessing. We've had our ups and downs, yet somehow we've persevered. We're lucky.
The references on Cobra Kai and Stranger Things TV shows are a sure sign that thrash metal has permeated pop culture. What's significant about that sort of acknowledgement for a band like Exodus?
Being a huge fan of Cobra Kai, sitting there watching the episode when the Bonded by Blood reference happened, I was like, "No way, awesome!" When it's happening on a show that you love and you're seeing it in real time, it's pretty awesome.
Sometimes these things happen. In the show The Righteous Gemstones, they stuck an Exodus poster on the kid's bedroom wall. I don't know whether that's just the set designer found a poster laying around that thought it looked edgy, but on Cobra Kai, they absolutely knew what they were talking about. I loved it.
Then Stranger Things gives Metallica this big boost, not that they need it [laughs] — like, they really needed a second wind on "Master of Puppets"… but it's cool and part of the dialogue now. Thrash metal, I guess, is maybe a little more mainstream than we think it is.
I think there's a lot of fans that are working in those industries now and they're like able to like slip in their little references when they want to.
I was watching Cobrai Kai with my wife and the guy told this person he was playing "shitty Metallica all night," and he said, "Yeah, that was actually Exodus' Bonded By Blood. But it's not your fault, you don't know the genre."
You're best known as a guitarist, but in the role of songwriter, you're a lyricist. What's fulfilling about communicating thoughts and feelings with words rather than riffs?
It means a great deal to me. I'm very proud of the lyrics I write. Writing riffs is easy. Writing lyrics is tougher — you spend a lot of time staring at a blank piece of paper. As a guitar player, when I'm done, that stuff is handed off to someone else, so a lot of people really don't even understand that I write most of it. It gives me a chance to convey what I'm feeling and express my anger and rage or whatever it is I want to. And then I walk away happy. It's like kind of like therapy for me.
Exodus, "The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)"
The economics of the music industry have completely changed the business of releasing albums. Why is making new music still important, even if it's financially uncertain?
There's only so much you can do playing the same stuff over and over again.
The simplest way to put it is I need to make new music. It's what keeps me motivated and keeps me interested. If I'm just going to do do tours and and tell myself I've got enough albums, we'll just make sure we vary the set list a lot and we don't need to make new music anymore, I would become incredibly bored, incredibly fast and I probably wouldn't want to do it anymore.
We make crushing, killer albums that stand up against any of the classic stuff. We're not out there force-feeding the audience a bunch of new songs they don't want to hear. People want to hear the stuff and I want to play it. It makes all of us happy.
ExodusMiikka Skaffari, Getty Imagesloading…
Is there any news you can tell us about new music?
I've always got a million riffs. I probably have a thousand that I didn't use on the last album. Sometimes it's just because I get OCD and I get caught up in the latest riff and I won't go back and bother to listen to the other stuff. And sometimes I'll pull up really great stuff that is decades old — wow, how did I not use that?
After this tour I've got three months off and I'm going to start working on the new record.
We've heard these stories of how artists have had all these riffs and then the computer crashed. Please back up your computer, Gary. We worry about these thousands of riffs that you have backed up somewhere.
Here's the difference between me and a lot of other guys — I'll just write new ones. I'll write a riff right now without a guitar in my hand — easy. Writing riffs is like breathing. It's not difficult if you love it. I've got my voice recorder on my phone and they are backed up. I've got so many riffs and some of the best stuff might not ever get used because I'll come up with something else and I won't feel like it's necessary to dig into the vaults for stuff.
Sometimes Tom Hunting makes me do that and then we'll find some real gems. Some of my favorite stuff on the record will be like that, but if I lost them all I'd just write new ones.
Thanks to Gary Holt for the interview. Get your copy of Exodus' latest album 'Persona Non Grata' here and follow the band on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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