Written by Marc C. Pietrek 2020
[This interview/article is dedicated to the memory of Edward Van Halen]
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN, NOR DO I CLAIM TO OWN, ANY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND/OR VIDEOS USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS INTERVIEW/ ARTICLE.
The first link in the D.N.A. chain of TRUE extreme metal today is thrash metal, and no band is more responsible for it’s “Big Bang” than suburban Bay Area major rager’s, EXODUS. Now, before some fans start to get their panties all bound-up and start accusing me of blasphemy (and believe me, I get it), let us get some perspective: none of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (N.W.O.A.H.M. for short) bands, obviously consisting of METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH and ANTHRAX and is now more commonly known today as the so-called “Big 4” of thrash metal, were playing that style of music prior to EXODUS. Some may spray whatever hops/barley infused beverage they are chugging these days from their mouths and retort with, “No! No! MOTÖRHEAD and VENOM…” and blah blah fucking blah. Those two INCREDIBLE bands are more thrash-prototype bands and OF COURSE they did have a big influence on all of those bands, EXODUS included.
It was EXODUS’s left lane and hammer down, rapid-fire assault style (with deep rooted influence from the aforementioned MOTÖRHEAD and VENOM along with traditional heavy metal heavyweights, IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST and UK crust punk gods, DISCHARGE, G.B.H. and The EXPLOITED amongst others) that inspired the Dave Mustaine-era METALLICA, as well as SLAYER, to up their respective games and play heavier AND even more so, FASTER! This happening after both bands, at different times, had travelled from the greater Los Angeles area upstate to the Bay Area to play gigs with them. Tom Araya of SLAYER declared in the 2005 ‘GET THRASHED’ documentary: ” I remember when we did the shows with EXODUS. You hear about bands, but this was actually experiencing EXODUS. It was like, ‘We gotta play like these guys!’ It was intense!”. Current EXODUS frontman, Steve “Zetro” Souza made a similar type of statement on the JASTA SHOW podcast in late 2017 about the influence EXODUS had in the early days of the Bay Area thrash scene: “I started LEGACY, or Eric (Peterson) and Derrick (Ramirez, Eric’s cousin) and myself, we put LEGACY together to emulate what EXODUS was doing. METALLICA came up from Los Angeles to emulate what EXODUS was doing. Regardless of who ended up on top in the end, EXODUS did it first.”
Consisting of vocalist Paul Baloff, guitarists Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt, bassist Rob McKillop and drummer Tom Hunting, the metal commandos released the seminal thrash masterpiece, ‘Bonded By Blood’ (1985 TORRID RECORDS). To put it mildly, that album is considered as equally quintessential as METALLICA’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’ and SLAYER’s ‘Show No Mercy’ (both of which were released two year prior) if not more. From when even before this landmark album was released and all the way through the early 1990s and again (albeit briefly) in the mid-2000s, the firefight salvo guitar tandem of Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt, affectionately known as “the H-TEAM”, has left violent slashed-and-gnashed bloody knuckled fistprints on the ears and in minds of the collective worldwide thrash scene. Their performances on the historic debut and the subsequent albums (especially) ‘Pleasure of the Flesh’ (1997 COMBAT RECORDS), ‘Fabulous Disaster’ (1989 CAPITOL RECORDS) and ‘Impact Is Imminent’ (1990 CAPITOL RECORDS) have had a profound influence. From DEATH ANGEL and TESTAMENT to PANTERA and MACHINE HEAD to new generation thrashers, MUNICIPAL WASTE. Although Gary may be more of a household name among metalhead’s these days (both musicians and fans alike), especially since pulling double duty with both EXODUS and SLAYER (2011 to 2019), those who are truly in the know about the history of thrash will always point out how equally important Rick was to the success of the unit as a whole.
Rick, a Berkeley, California native, began his musical journey as a pianist at the request of his beloved grandmother. That experience only lasted a few years because once he heard Eddie Van Halen’s groundbreaking playing on VAN HALEN’s debut album for the very first time, he knew the guitar was not only going to be his musical instrument of choice, but also his life’s passion. He began taking lessons from world renowned guitar virtuoso, Joe Satriani, in Berkeley when he could not even play a bar chord yet. Basically, the guitar equivalent of baptism by fire. He stuck it out though, being influenced and inspired by everybody from Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young and Tony Iommi to Michael Schenker, Gary Moore and Uli John Roth to Randy Rhoads, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Steve Vai. After Kirk Hammett left EXODUS to replace Dave Mustaine in METALLICA, Rick joined the band and as they say, the rest is history.
During his tenure in the band, Rick enjoyed riffing and shredding on some very revered albums and performing on countless stages for the metal obsessed masses while on tour across the U.S. and around the world. Many with some of the biggest metal bands in world. The “rape and pillage” attitude and antics the band as whole displayed back in the day is the stuff of metallic legend. “Thanks to SLAYER for letting us trash their hotel room”, ring any cowbells? But as you may know, with everything good comes a price. That price was a years long methamphetamine addiction that most of the other members also suffered from themselves as well. Everyone has their own demons in one way, shape or form and Rick is completely one hundred ten percent transparent about his abuse of the mind-numbing, heart-withering and soul-crushing narcotic that has plagued millions of people going back almost eighty years. But unlike so many others who have not been able to, Rick conquered his demons and has been clean of the crash and burn crystal for over a decade. Now a rancher up in Lake County, California, this father of two seems very happy with his place in life and his place in metal history.
I reached out to Rick via social media a few weeks ago and he kindly agreed to do an interview via telephone. He kept his promise and on 09/25/2020 and again 09/27/2020, he called in and we conducted the following interview:
01.) M.P.: What inspired you to persue a career in music? Were there any particular bands/artists, albums or songs in particular that that made it an easy decision for you?
R.H.: Let’s see. My grandma wanted me to play piano when I was really young. So I played piano, not very voluntarily, because it was a formal teacher and she wanted me to learn music and this other stuff. So, I went along with it for a while, but I wasn’t learning to read music. It was just seemed to complicated. I was a youngster. She got me a piano and I took to it quite naturally and I stuck with it for, I don’t know, three or four years and then I just got burned out on it, dude. That would make me about fifteen or sixteen after I stopped actually taking lessons on the piano. I sold the piano because one day I was skating with some friends and the first VAN HALEN album came out. I heard Eddie Van Halen and was like, “Dude! This is what I want to do! I I want fuckin’ play guitar, bro!” [laughs], and the rest is history, really. So to answer your question, it was Eddie Van Halen who was my inspiration to play guitar, for sure. And I have to give my grandma credit, too. Absolutely love her to death!
02.) M.P.: Who are your main guitar influences? Who is your favorite guitarist, metal or otherwise?
R.H.: Wow! That’s a hard question. I gotta lot of great guitar players. All around guitar players, it would be Eddie Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaugn, really. There’s so many others. Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, Uli Roth, Angus young for sure, Ton Iommi. The list goes on and on and on.
M.P.: I have to ask you, being who I am, what about Randy Rhoads?
R.H.: Yeah, of course Randy Rhoads! He’s top ten for sure.
03.) M.P.: You are, like Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, Alex Skolnick (TESTAMENT) and Larry LaLonde (PRIMUS, ex- POSSESSED), a former student of Joe Satriani. When did you begin taking lessons from him and for how long? What was your biggest takeaway from that experience and did you apply it to when you were teaching your own students?
R.H.: So, Joe Satriani used to teach a cat named Phil Kettner, who used to play guitar for LAAZ ROCKIT. I used to go to Berkeley High with these cats. They were maybe one grade below me or or one grade above me. I’m not sure. I can’t remember. Phil was the bad-ass local guitar player because he had been taking lessons from Joe for like five years, since he was real, real young. I hadn’t even started playing guitar yet. I actually used to go see LAAZ ROCKIT at these house parties. It was pretty bad-ass! He’s teaching Phil and another dude named Danny Gill, who was one of his protégés, and Alex Skolnick and this dude name Eric Dinwiddie, who was this bad-ass jazz, blues guitar player from Berkeley. We’re all from Berkeley. I bought a guitar. I got Joe’s number from Phil. I couldn’t even play a bar chord, bud. My first experience with guitar was with Joe Satriani and it was tough, dude! [laughs] It was really tough because he had students that were good guitar players already and here I am come and I can’t even play barchord. He was an amazing teacher, bud, but he wasn’t easy. I was probably fifteen. I was at the age where I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do and guitar was…[slight pause] I didn’t practice very much and he would get mad. It was really stressful to show up to the lesson and not be practiced. He’d be like, “Dude! What are you doing here? Why do you even come here if you’re not going to practice?”, and that kind of stuff. It was difficult, so I lasted with Joe for about a year.
M.P.: Was Kirk already taking lessons from Joe at the same time?
R.H.: I believe so, but I did not know Kirk then.
04.) M.P.: Tell me about the the significance of Ron Qintana’s RAMPAGE RADIO show on KUSF 90.3 FM San Francisco and his D.Y.I. METAL MANIA fanzine played in the success of EXODUS and the Bay Area thrash scene in general.
R.H.: Ok, so this is way before METALLICA came up to the Bay Area and way before ‘Bonded By Blood’ was even out, so we’ll start from when Kirk left EXODUS and joined METALLICA in 1983. During that time, there was no internet. So, Ron Quintana and Brian Lew, who actually wrote “Murder In the Front Row” with (photographer) Harold (Oimoen), and Sam Kress were tape traders and they would trade tapes all over the world. I don’t think it was called thrash metal back then. I don’t think there was even a name for it. So, basically in my mind, they are solely responsible for creating the buzz that created thrash metal in the very beginning. Without those three guys and without KUSF RADIO, METAL MANIA, dude, I don’t know what the metal scene would be like right now today. I really don’t. They were HUUUUGE back then in the beginning of our scene, bro! Like I just said, things might be a lot different if they were never involved.
05.) M.P.: How and when did you become a member of EXODUS? When and where was your first official gig with the band?
R.H.: OK, I’m not too sure about all the years. It’s been a long, long time, but I believe it was probably late eighty three or early eighty four. I had got a call from a friend of mine, Adam Stevens. He was from Berkeley and he said that there was this band, EXODUS, that he was managing and he needed to borrow some cabs for a gig that they were playing at the Keystone Berkeley. And I’m like, “Yeah, dude. You can borrow a couple of cabs if I can get in free”. So, I went to the show and they borrowed the cabs. We hung out and it was cool. A couple of days later, I got a call from Adam and he said, “Dude, how would you feel about jamming with Gary and the band? Maybe audition for the band?”. And I’m like, “Really, dude? Let’s check it out!”. So, I drove out there with all my gear and I got ready to start playing with these guys and they started playing what was going to be the album, ‘Bonded By Blood’. I think the first thing we started on was “Strike of the Beast”. [laughs] And I was into VAN HALEN and JUDAS PRIEST and SABBATH and shit. I had never heard any music before that was this fast and I was like, “Whoa, dude! This is crazy!”. [laughs] But it turned out good! It was a great day for me and them. And that’s pretty much it. The first gig, let’s see, I’d have to say, was at WOLF GANGS in San Francisco. We were supporting LOUDNESS. I think it was in eighty five, I’m not sure. It was intense! It was the first time I had ever been onstage and it was sold-out and LOUDNESS was a really big band back then. It was like, “Wow! Really?”. Crazy.
M.P.: What did you think about (LOUDNESS guitarist) Akira Takasaki?
R.H.: I love him! He’s the Japanese Eddie Van Halen.
M.P.: Yeah, he’s bad-ass! Hey, I was going to ask you. There was a guy by the name of Evan McCasky who was in EXODUS before you. Did he end up committing suicide?
R.H.: Yes he did, bud. Rest in peace. I don’t know what happened with Evan. He’d did one or two shows with EXODUS, then his dad made him quit. I don’t know the story behind all that shit, but it was tragic. It was a really fuckin’ crazy thing.
M.P.: I did read something about him on the official EXODUS Facebook page. That’s just really fucking tragic, man!
R.H.: Ain’t it though? He was a really, really good guitar player, that’s for sure.
M.P.: From what I read about him, Gary said that he was a total shredder and he would have only gotten better.
R.H.: Oh, yeah. Absolutely, for sure.
M.P.: R.i.p., Evan McCasky.
06.) M.P.: In the hearts and minds of the eighties Bay Area thrash metal community, as much as METALLICA were loved and respected by it and already had two albums under their belt, in my opinion it was EXODUS who had the most die-hard, rabid fan base even before ‘Bonded By Blood’ was released in the Spring of 1985. Do you feel that is a fair assessment or not and why?
R.H.: I do. I think EXODUS was on their way to getting a good following in the Bay Area when Kirk was in the band. They were from a little town called San Pablo (CA) in the outskirts of the Bay Area…
M.P.: By Richmond.
R.H.: Exactly. They had the roots there in San Pablo. When Kirk left EXODUS and I joined the band, that’s when the Berkeley/ Oakland/ Bay Area scene really evolved. We stated doing local shows at the KEYSTONE (BERKELY), the STONE (S.F.), the WARFIELD (S.F.), WOLGANGS (S.F.), The WALDORF (S.F.), the “Mab” (MABUHAY GARDENS, S.F.) and ON BROADWAY (S.F.). All these great, little clubs. We would play all the time, bud. We’d play once a week it seemed like, all the time, bro. We were on our way to getting a huge, crazy underground following which was most of all just our personal friends. They would just show up and we would party up.
M.P.: That’s totally bad-ass!
R.H.: It was very cool!
07.) M.P.: ‘Bonded By Blood’ was released on TORRID RECORDS. From what I understand, METAL BLADE RECORDS, who already had SLAYER on their roster, had a major interest in signing EXODUS. Why did EXODUS decide to sign with TORRID, who I believe had a distribution deal with COMBAT RECORDS, as opposed to METAL BLADE?
R.H.: You know, I really don’t remember the reason why we signed with TORRID. I think that TORRID offered us a better deal I guess, which wasn’t very good anyway. We had distribution in Europe from MUSIC FOR NATIONS, and that was a big deal. Ken (Adams) and Todd (Gordon) are the ones who own TORRID RECORDS. They became friends of ours. They approached us, they flew out here and we decided to go with them.
M.P.: Did MEGAFORCE RECORDS ever approach EXODUS?
R.H.: “Johnny Z” (John Zazula, co-owner of MEGAFORCE RECORDS)? We may have talked with Johnny Z., but nothing ever came to fruition.
08.) M.P.: Tell me about what happened when EXODUS’s set at a backyard party in Southern California w/ SUICIDAL TENDENCIES was abruptly cut short and the band had to be escorted out of it by the members of SUICIDAL TENDCIES.
R.H.: You know, I don’t remember that, bud. I think that party that you’re talking about happened up here in the Bay Area.
M.P.: Oh, really?
R.H.: You know, I’m not sure. I maybe wrong, but from what I remember, SUICIDAL came up and played a concert with us right as ‘Bonded By Blood’ was being released I believe. It was called ‘DAY ON THE DIRT’, a really infamous show (at AQUATIC PARK, Berkeley). A whole bunch of SUICIDAL kids came up from L.A. with SUICIDAL and our crowd, our friends and their friends got into this big fight and it was just a big nightmare.
M.P.: Not good! Probably put the two bands in a really bad spot.
R.H.: Yeah, but we got over it.
09.) M.P.: In 1985, EXODUS toured the U.S. with VENOM And SLAYER. What was it like touring with those two bands and do you have any specific memories of that tour that stand out in your mind? What was your reaction when Paul Baloff told the crowd at the STUDIO 54 show in NYC, which ended up on ‘The Ultimate Revenge’ video, that they were “making San Francisco look like shit”?
R.H.: [Chuckling] Aww, man I don’t know. Well, the VENOM/SLAYER/EXODUS tour was the first time we’d ever been in Europe. The album was just released and man, we were living our dream, bro! It was the most insane thing. So, it was all new to us but it was all huge. We felt like the BEATLES and shit like that, only because the people over there knew who we were only because of Brian Lew and Ron Quintana because of the tape traders or else they wouldn’t have even known who EXODUS was. That was a big deal! We were stoked that they knew who we were and they were really into seeing us and it is a totally different world over there. Metal is huge in Europe! Even back then, it was way bigger than it was here at the time. That kind of metal anyway. And to be be on a bill with VENOM back them, it was just like, “God damn!”. It was like the equivalent of being on a bill with like VAN HALEN out here. [laughs] It was huge. As far as things that stuck out, you know what really stuck out to us, dude, was hanging out with VENOM and SLAYER and being in Europe with the European fans and everyday just gettin’ to know the fans and the different languages and hangin’ out. It was just awesome, dude! The whole experience was just insane. I felt so lucky to be involved with something like that, bud.
M.P.: Oh, hell yeah! What do you remember about the U.S. run? Do have any specific memories of the tour that you did over here with VENOM and SLAYER?
R.H.: Yeah, we started in New York, the infamous show at STUDIO 54, which was awesome! We couldn’t even buy booze back then, we were so young. We were just a bunch of young kids, partying like crazy. That’s about it. And SLAYER and VENOM were just totally cool. We all got along real well. A lot of respect going on. It was just an awesome experience!
10.) M.P.: Also In 1985, EXODUS played three noteworthy shows in the Bay Area. The first one was the ‘Bonded By Blood’ record release party show in May with the relatively new MEGADETH, along with CONTROL, opening at the KABUKI NIGHT CLUB in San Francisco. The second one was opening for MOTÖRHEAD at the HENRY J. KAISER CONVENTION CENTER in Oakland on Thanksgiving Day weekend, which I was at. And the third one which was the legendary New Year’s Eve show opening for METALLICA and also included METAL CHURCH and MEGADETH at the SAN FRANCISCO CIVIC AUDITORIUM. What are your thoughts and/or memories of those three shows?
R.H.: Man! That a long time ago, bud. The KABUKI show, the record release party with MEGADETH, was an amazing show because the KABUKI is a real special place to play, bro. It’s got this huge, huge stage where we had mega production. Tom, our drummer, was like on an eight foot riser. We had three stacks, three cabs high on risers so our whole wall of MARSHALL’s was just massive. We had crazy smoke and lights and it was bad-ass! It was just a really, really good show. The METALLICA show on New Year’s Eve was probably one of the best shows we ever played back then. We just crushed METALLICA…[slight pause] and it was awesome!
M.P.: I heard Gary say something about that. He basically said that James (Hetfield) told him, “Yeah, you guys aren’t playing with us again”.
R.H.: Yeah, that’s true. He said that and we never did.
M.P.: What about the show with MOTÖRHEAD? What do you remember about that show?
R.H.: I believe that was probably the first time we ever met Lemmy and he was a fucking nut, dude! We met Wendy O. from the PLASMATICS. That was a big show! That was at the Henry J. Kaiser. We were just fuckin’ star struck to see Lemmy. It was bad-ass, dude! It was the size of the show is what was the biggest thing for me I remember.
M.P.: I remember just being totally blown away by you guys as soon as you started to play! It was only my second concert I had ever been to. The first one being a few months before the Day On the Green in Oakland with METALLICA playing third on the bill. I was into all that hair metal crap back then and as soon as METALLICA started to play, all that shit went out the window and I haven’t looked back since. I feel very fortunate that those two shows were my very first ones. Definitely a life-changing experience for me, no doubt!
R.H.: Yeah, that’s awesome, dude!
11.) M.P.: Around the Spring of 1986, Paul was relieved from his duties with EXODUS. What do you remember about that and how did you feel about it at that time?
R.H.: Man, that was one of the hardest things we ever did. [slight pause] Dude, Paul…[slight pause] and don’t get me wrong, we were all partying really hard…[slight pause] Paul was homeless. He was living at our rehearsal studio and he wasn’t singing too great. [slight pause] It was the hardest thing we ever did, bud. I don’t if it was smartest thing we ever did either. I really don’t. I don’t know what would have happened if we kept Paul in the band. That was a big, big deal! A lot of people just said, “Fuck! This is crazy! We want Paul!”. And a lot of people like Zet. It was tough, bro. That was…[slight pause] heart wrenching!
M.P.: Yeah, I heard Gary say that it was pretty heartbreaking for him.
R.H.: Yeah, and I don’t know if it was the right decision. I still to this day question that decision, man. I really do. I have to be honest. I don’t know if we made the right decision. I don’t know.
M.P.: And that’s totally understandable. There’s a lot of people that are still “Team Baloff” and that is it! The discussion ends. I can imagine it must have been pretty gut wrenching for you guys.
R.H.: It really was because he was like family. It was tough.
M.P.: You still hear people talking about him and that proves how important he was to the whole scene.
R.H.: I agree a hundred percent. Absolutely!
12.) M.P.: Shortly after Paul was let go, “Zetro” took over on vocals and EXODUS released ‘Pleasures of the Flesh’, ‘Fabulous Disaster’ and ‘Impact Is Imminent’ with him as frontman. In my opinion, this was during the time that EXODUS and thrash metal in general was achieving its’ greatest commercial success. What are your overall thoughts about that period of time for the band as well as you personally?
R.H.: Well, like I said before, one might say that we were partying a little too hard. We never made a lot of money, bud. Ever. But given the success we had with ‘Bonded By Blood’, we were partying hard. You know, the whole drug scene and all this other bullshit. ‘Pleasure of the Flesh’ was a little different ’cause we had Zet. We had somebody that could sing a little bit, you know what I mean? So, we wrote an album that was maybe a little bit more singer friendly. I don’t know. It’s not as brutal and heavy as ‘Bonded’, but I think it’s just as good. Then there’s ‘Fabulous’. In my era, it was the most successful album we ever did. Maybe to date. I don’t know. I’m not really sure. We tried to go back to a little bit more heavy. We would always like to write catchy, groovy, crunchy riffs, you know what I mean? That was one of our big things. And be fast at the same time, which is kind of hard to do. So, when you’re in that situation and you’re writing music, you want to make the fans happy and you also want to make yourself happy and you want to sell albums. So, you’re torn. We just really tried to do what we do and not really give a shit. And I don’t know if it paid off or if it didn’t. It just depends on what your definition of success is, you know what I’m sayin’? Our’s at the time was we want to do what we want to do and that’s it. We want to tour and we want to party and have fun. The money wasn’t really a big thing ’cause we weren’t making any [laughs] until we signed with CAPITOL and then things changed a little bit. Not that we made a lot of money. We signed a merchandising deal deal with BROCHUM and we got a good chunk of money. We were able to actually get a check every month for two or three years to pay the rent and do all of this shit while we toured. Times have changed since then, bud. The internet really fucked music up when your coming from a band’s perspective like album sales and shit like that. I mean for sure, the internet puts your music in everybody’s house and the whole world, BUT they’re also getting your music for free. You’re getting exposure. It’s crazy…
M.P.: It’s a double edged sword.
R.H.: Yeah it is a double edged sword. And now, the metal scene the way that it is, it’s like a lot of people think that metal bands are just glorified tee-shirt salesmen ’cause that’s where the money’s at, selling tee shirts.
M.P.: Yeah, I can see that.
R.H.: Touring…[slight pause] it’s freaking hard work, bro!
M.P.: Yeah, I don’t know how some of these bands can tour for ages on end and just not get burned out on it. There’s got to be a lot of factors that play into them being able to tour like that.
R.H.: Man, it tough, dude. It’s really, really, really hard. It’s exhausting, bro.
13.) M.P.: In 1989, you toured the U.S. with ANTHRAX and HELLOWEEN on the MTV HEADBANGER’S BALL TOUR. Any particular thoughts and/or memories about that tour, including the ass-whooping that EXODUS handed ANTHRAX in a softball game in Maryland?
R.H.: Yeah, yeah. That was bad-ass! So, we were flip-flopping with HELLOWEEN . We’d support one night and then open up the next night. It was a big, big tour because it was the very, very first HEADBANGER’S BALL TOUR. Every ten seconds on MTV, it’s being pumped during a commercial. “It’s the HEADBANGER’S BALL TOUR!”. It was a big deal, and I think that a big part of why ‘Fabulous Disaster’ did pretty well. So, opening up for ANTHRAX. They were bigger than us. They were friendly to a point. They looked down on us ’cause we like to party and hang out with women after the show and drink and jus do all that bullshit. They would call us “potheads” because we would smoke weed everyday and all this other shit, so we challenged them to a softball game . We said, “Fuck this, man! Let’s play some softball!”. And we just annihilated them, dude! It was insane. They never really talked shit anymore after that. We became good friends, though, because we played a lot of shows together.
M.P.: Yeah, I had listened to Gary talk about it in depth on the the Rob Flynn (MACHINE HEAD, ex- VIO-LENCE) ‘NO FUCKIN’ REGRETS’ podcast a few weeks ago. I was like, “No fuckin’ way!”. One of the guys I interviewed when I first started doing this thing told me about a kind of L.A.thrash metal softball beer league where the members of SLAYER, MEGADETH and HIRAX would meet up in some park down in Southern California and play softball. I never knew that shit happened. I had no idea that a lot of the thrash bands were so into softball.
R.H.: That’s fuckin’ bad-ass!
14.) M.P.: In 1992, EXODUS released ‘Force of Habit’ and was met with not as favorable of a fan response as the bands’s previous releases. If I remember correctly, the band broke up in 1994. In your mind, what were the causes and chain of events that led up to that? In retrospect, do you feel that it could have been avoided all together or was it something that was just meant to happen?
R.H.: [slight pause] Man, I really can’t pinpoint an exact reason why that happened… [slight pause] ‘Force of Habit’ wasn’t doing very well. The whole scene was dying in our minds, you know what I mean? Tom was not doing well…[slight pause] Me and Gary, we were just like, “Let’s take a break, bro”, you know what I mean? When we signed with CAPITOL, we got dicked around so hard by them. We finished ‘Impact Is Imminent’. The album was done and recorded and that guy that had signed us to CAPITOL RECORDS quit, you know? So, here we are, sitting around with our thumb up our ass, no A& R person from CAPITAL, and they really didn’t know what to do with us, you know what I mean? It was just like, “Wow. What are we going to do now?”.
M.P.: Yeah. “Who are these dudes?”.
R.H.: They shelved the album for a long time. It was just a big, gnarly clusterfuck. The politics and decisions and just bullshit, man. We were done, bro.
M.P.: Kind of a side question. A lot of people attribute the decline of the scene to the grunge movement that was coming out of Seattle at the time. I have to admit, I liked a lot of those bands, but I still loved thrash metal at the same time. Do you feel that grunge kind of killed it?
R.H.: Well, you know, it gave the fans somewhere else to go, that’s for sure. Grunge, back then, was true to the art form. I was passionate. Real passionate. It was real. It was good music, man….[slight pause] Maybe, just maybe, thrash was getting just a little too commercial back then for it it’s own good, you know what I’m saying?
R.H.: I don’t know. It’s hard to say, bro.
M.P.: Any bands out of the grunge movement that you were a fan of and maybe still are a fan of?
R.H.: All of them. Anything with Chris Cornell for sure.
M.P.: Fuck yeah!
R.H.: He was a fuckin’ genius.
M.P.: Yeah, my second favorite vocalist of all-time after Ronnie James Dio.
R.H.: Yeah, Chris was bad-ass.
M.P.: I was heartbroken when he passed away.
R.H.: Me too, dude. I don’t get it. That’s a big, huge like…[slight pause] When I think about Chris Cornell, there’s just a big huge question mark, like “What the fuck happened, bro? God damn!”. I mean he had everything, bro.
M.P.: And not just him. Layne Staley as well. You just have to kind of wonder were things really that bad to where they felt like there was no way out?
R.H.: Yeah, I mean thank God I’ve never had to deal with depression or mental illness of any of that stuff. It’s no joke. It’s real!
M.P.: Definitely! I had a nineteen year nephew who committed suicide because he was so depressed. Only later on did we find out that he was talking about it on-line with people he had never met before but he never told his family about it.
R.H.: Yeah, that’s sad shit right there.
15.) M.P.: EXODUS reunited with Paul around 1997. The band did a shot tour and released the live album, ‘Another Lesson In Vilolence’ but then disbanded again. Do you feel that it was to due to the bands strained relationship with CENTURY MEDIA, in particular the song, “Crime of the Century” as reported in the media?
R.H.: I don’t know, bud. I’m just going to be completely honest, bud. We were doing a lot of drugs. Personally, we were all fucked up! That’s the bottom line. I’m just going to be one hundred percent completely transparent. We were fucked up on dope, bro, and…[slight pause] Fuck, man. It was bad! Thank God we all came out of it alive.
M.P.: Yeah, I talk to a lot of people who are into metal and when EXODUS gets brought up, some of them will ask me what I think it was that caused the band to not be more successful than you guys were. I just tell them that I hate to say it, but it was dope. That’s a band that really had all of the tools to make it really big, but unfortunately they fell into a deep trap where dope derailed everything.
R.H.: I think that it had a lot to do with it, which is sad, but it is what it is, bro. I mean, you know…[slight pause] You know, I gotta be honest, it was…[slight pause] One of the reasons why they call it speed metal is because methamphetamine was a HUGE, HUGE part of the scene back in the day.
M.P.: Oh, yeah it was!
R.H.: Not only us, but every band we played with and the all fans were high as fuck! It’s just like blue note jazz and all this music that’s powered by heroin. It’s the same thing, dude. The songwriters were high as Hell when they wrote most of that shit. [laughs] You could totally tell.
M.P.: Yeah, because of me being such a fuck up in school and with my father being in law enforcement and mother that was a school teacher, I really didn’t start going to a lot of shows until after I graduated because I was still living at home. However, I talked to a lot of my friends that went to the shows and they could not emphasize enough about how much meth was apart of the scene at that time.
R.H.: It was huge. It was a really, really was a big pat of it.
16.) M.P.: EXODUS reunited again with Zetro in the early 2000s and released the critically acclaimed ‘Tempo of the Damned’ (2004 NUCLEAR BLAST RECORDS), which is one of my favorite EXODUS albums. He left the band right before the band was to begin touring for the album in order for him to concentrate on his family life. This caused some serious bad blood between him and Gary. What are your though and/or memories of that happening?
R.H.: [slight pause] Oh, yeah and then we had to get Steve Esquivel (SKINLAB, ex- DEFIANCE)…[slight pause] I don’t know, dude. He was’t working hard enough and he didn’t want to get better and was starting to suck. He was starting to be an ego maniac, bro. He had an attitude and we were done. We just want to deal with it no more.
M.P.: Yeah, and it’s happened with so many bands, too.
R.H.: Yeah, I know, but it is what it is. I’ll tell you one thing. After all of the shit we’ve been through, I can honestly tell you that I like every one of the fuckin’ albums we did back then. Every one of them.
M.P.: Yeah, I can see why, man.
17.) M.P.: You stated that you left the band in 2005 in order to devote your time to your two young sons and to get clean. Gary, who obviously loves you like a brother, stated that at that time he was trying very hard to help you get clean and sober as he had already done but he could not seem to get through to you. What do you recall about that whole experience?
R.H.: I’ll tell you what I recall about the whole experience and this is straight from the heart, bro. So, Gary gets clean and I tried and tried and tried and tried and kept just falling off the wagon and I was basically a mess, dude….[slight pause] I think the thing that sticks out to me the most, and this means so much to me to this day, is that Gary never ever ever ever got on a high horse and never ever said, “Dude, you gotta get clean or else you’re done!”. He never talked shit. He was always…[slight pause] He was very patient, dude. He was very much like a brother, dude…[slight pause] He was awesome and it was ALL my fault. You know, I just couldn’t do it, man. I was was having such a hard time, bro…[slight pause] It was horrible. It was bad. So, I had to get away. I just had to drop everything and get the fuck away. Move out of town and just leave everything, you know what I mean?
R.H.: And I glad I did because I’ve been clean going on eleven years.
M.P.: That’s bad-ass, man! That’s bad-ass! I know what you mean. I never got into the hard stuff. The most I ever did was smoke weed and take acid, but I had friends who got into speed and crack and stuff like that and I saw how hard it was them to actually get clean. I remember them having to do the same thing. Basically drop and get away from everything that was dragging them down.
R.H.: It was really just so hard. Plus I have kids, bro. And I was like…[slight pause] The guilt I was carrying around every day. Gettin’ high around my kids. Not in front of them, but still getting high. It was bad. Bad bad bad.
M.P.: Yeah, I can’t even imagine what it was like for you.
18.) M.P.: You and Gary created one of the most revered lead guitar tandems in all of metal in general. How did the two of you decide who was going to do what parts in the songs? What do attribute your incredibly tight musical relationship you had and still have with your H-TEAM partner to?
R.H.: So, the writing process would be Gary would come up with a riff, a couple of riffs, and we’d jam ’em out and then I’d come up with a little guitar part that would go over that riff like “Me, Myself and I” or “Cajun Hell”. Just little tiny riffs that would go over the riff that he would play without playing the same thing.
M.P.: Like ” Braindead”?
R.H.: Yeah yeah yeah. A lot of the time, he’d be doing the rhythm and I’d be doing just a little guitar part on top of that. Of course, Tom had to be there, too. It was a collaboration. Gary wrote most of the riffs and he’d bring ’em to practice and we’d all piece ’em together. It was a pretty cool little way to do it. That way, we all got in out two cents worth.
19.) M.P.: In 2012, you re-joined EXODUS temporarily to fill in on tour for Gary while he was touring with SLAYER filling in for Jeff Hanneman (r.i.p.). How did you and (current EXODUS and long-time HEATHEN guitarist) Lee Altus decide on who would do which parts?
R.H.: Well, it was decided beforehand that of course, I’d do my parts and he’d do Gary’s. That’s just the way it was. Lee and I had a good time. Lee’s a good dude and an awesome guitar player!
M.P.: Totally an awesome guitar player and a good dude! I’ve talked to him on two different occasions. Once, when my bro’s were practicing at a practice studio in Oakland back in 1987 when HEATHEN was also practicing one studio space over and another time when he was working at GUITAR CENTER (S.F.) when I was looking to buy an amp head in 1993. Really good dude!
R.H.: Yeah, he’s a fuckin’ great guy! Hey, something about that tour. That was the first I had toured since I got sober…[slight pause] and it was a big deal for me, man. A lot changed. I thought I played a lot better. My head wasn’t as cloudy and I had a lot more stamina and it was really refreshing to be able to to go out again and be clean and sober, you know why I mean? And healthy. It was awesome!
20.) M.P.: You have been a guest guitarist with EXODUS on numerous occasions over the last few years and you look genuinely happy and in your element while performing on stage. Describe the feeling you get while performing with your old band mates again. If the band were to invite you to rejoin them and make it guitar trio like IRON MAIDEN or even LYNYRD SKYNYRD, would you accept the offer?
R.H.: OK, so first question…[slight pause] It’s always an honor to play with my band mates. I’ll always be in EXODUS, dude. I just might not record with them, but when they play, I don’t even have to ask. I just show up and play and it’s awesome. I love playing with them. We have a lot of fun. It’s very, very cool. It’s all about the fans, bud. And if I was to get asked…[slight pause] Three guitar players? I don’t know. I do well out here by myself. I got kids My kids are grown. Who knows what’s going to happen, man? Nobody knows what’s going to happen. But I would think about it. Put it that way.
M.P.: Yeah, I could see that. I don’t think it works too well with IRON MAIDEN, but with LYNYRD SKYNYRD, I always have thought they had that magic going on with three guitar players.
R.H.: You know, I never even thought about it. Everybody mentions IRON MAIDEN, but nobody mentions LYNYRD SKYNYRD having three guitar players and they were just bad-ass, dude!
M.P.: Yeah, I’ve been on a huge ZZ TOP and LYNYRD SKYNYRD bender over the last six months!
R.H.: SKYNYRD just rips, bro! Seriously!
M.P.: Yeah, man! Gary Rossington is seriously, seriously one of the most underrated guitar players in rock.
R.H.: Absolutely! Him and Steve Gaines, for sure, bud.
21.) M.P.: Gary, in a happy birthday Tweet post to you this year, stated that you are a much better lead guitar player than he is. Gary is no doubt one of the most highly respected guitarist in the metal genre. What is your response to him giving you such praise?
R.H.: [slight pause] I’m humbled, man. “Thanks, Gary!”. [laughs] I don’t know. I mean we have two different styles, you know what I mean? I never used a wah wah pedal . I used a bar a little bit on ‘Fabulous Disaster’ and that’s it. I never, ever used a bar and never, ever used a wah wah pedal. We have two different styles, that’s all. In the whole big picture, I think both of our styles accented each other perfectly.
M.P.: Yeah, the back and forth between you guys was always seamless.
22.) M.P.: There has been debate over the years as to how much you personally contributed as a songwriter during your tenure In EXODUS. What are some of the songs in the band’s catalog that you are the primary writer of?
R.H.: Well, I wrote a lot of “Toxic Waltz”. I wrote all of “A Lesson In Violence”, “Me, Myself and I”…[slight pause] “Deliver Us to Evil” …[slight pause] Let me see. I’m trying to go through the albums. “Pleasures of the Flesh” I wrote a lot of. “War Is My Shepherd”…[slight pause] I don’t know. Like I said, Gary came up with most of the riffs and I would add my little two cents worth and we just made a song. A lot of the time, if you listen, I’m playing different stuff than Gary is, you know what I mean? I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.
M.P.: Like I said, you guys always seemed seamless in your transitions.
R.H.: I miss playing with Gary. I really do.
M.P.: I think you guys are right up there with Hank Sherman and Michael Denner, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. All those guys.
R.H. Thanks, man. I appreciate that.
23.) M.P.: The thrash scene has lost more than a few of its’ musicians over the decades. Four iconic musicians from the scene who have passed on, besides Paul, were Cliff Burton of METALLICA, Jeff Hanneman of SLAYER and Gar Samuelson of MEGADETH. What thoughts and/or memories do have about those four individuals? In Paul’s, Jeff’s and Gar’s cases, do you feel they should be viewed as cautionary tales for guys already in the metal scene and ones aspiring to be?
R.H.: [slight pause] Yeah, I do. Now that I think about it. Gar was a heroin addict, really, really bad back in the day. Paul lived fast, dude, and so did Jeff. Jeff was a heavy, heavy drinker. He drank himself to death, you know what I mean?
R.H.: So, yes, absolutely I do. We almost lost Sean (Killian) from VIO-LENCE. He almost drank himself to death, but he got a new liver and now he’s a fuckin’ miracle. To the younger kids, PLEASE don’t get caught up in the alcohol and the drugs and the depression. If you do get drepressed, REACH OUT and get help, please! God damn! Don’t get lost in the dope! It’s bad, dude!
M.P.: Yeah, on my last web-site, I did a piece on Sean to try raise awareness for a new liver for him so money could be raised for it.
R.H.: Thank you. You didn’t mention him, but we also lost Chuck (Shuldiner) of DEATH.
M.P. Oh, yeah! That’s right! Chuck “the beast” Shuldiner was a bad-ass! What about Cliff?
R.H.: Man…[slight pause] Cliff was the real deal! I was the one who brought Cliff to MESA/BOOGIE for the first time they ever met them. I think it was the Summer of eighty four. They were looking to get some BOOGIE’s and I’m like, “Dude, I know some people that work up at BOOGIE”, because they’re only a couple of towns away. And they’re like, “Oh, OK. Cool. Let’s go up there”. So, we went up there and they ended up doing a big deal with BOOGIE and playing their shit for a long time. Cliff was a stoner, bud! Boy smoked so much pot. He was the real deal, man! He…[slight pause] He was just a humble, humble musician. He loved what he did and he was grateful to be in METALLICA. He added so much to METALLICA but it never went to his head. He was just a real good dude, man!
M.P.: Yeah, I interviewed Joey Vera (ARMORED SAINT, FATE’S WARNING) a few years back and asked him what his memories of him were and he said that Cliff was a incredible musician, who was very mellow and laid back and super approachable.
R.H.: He was the dude at the party with the big smile on his face and the beer in his hand and the bell bottom pants and the holey fuckin’ shirt. Just a fuckin’ headbanger. That’s all, dude. He was just Cliff and he didn’t give a fuck about nothin’ else! [laughs] He was the real deal! I honestly…[slight pause] I think all of us were pretty much like that, except for a few, but I’m not going to name any names, but I think most all of us back then were very approachable back then and still are to this day.
M.P.: Oh, yah! Absolutely! All of the guys that I met from the thrash scene were always extremely cool and you at least a minute of their time. I was on one of the Bay Area music fan pages on Facebook a few years ago and somebody wrote that ALL of the bands in collective Bay Area metal scene had each other’s back. One guy responded back and basically said that was not true about the glam metal scene. There was a lot of insecurity and backstabbing within their scene and he knows it to be true because he was a part of it and that the guys that were a part of that scene, their attitudes are even worse today when they reflect back on it. He said that it was not like that in the thrash scene because all the bands were very supportive of each other. I thought that was pretty cool!
R.H.: That IS very cool! And that’s a big deal when you come to think about it, man…[slight pause] That’s what made the scene so strong in the beginning. And Marc, the fans could see that. There was no pretentious bullshit. It was all just about the music. Have you seen ‘Murder In the Front Row’?
M.P.: Yeah! Twice!
R.H.: What’d you think of it?
M.P.: I thought it was really really good!
24.) M.P.: In my opinion, there were many really great bands that were a part of the Bay Area thrash scene back in the day. Three that I really like that maybe a lot of fans are not familiar with are BLIND ILLUSION, SACRILEGE B.C. and ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT. Any thoughts and/or memories you have of those three bands?
R.H.: Dude! Well, Chris Kontos, the drummer form ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT, is a dear friend of mine still to this day. We took him to South America to fill in for Tom on a MOTÖRHEAD run we did. These are bands we grew up with. ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT, SACRILEGE B.C. and BLIND ILLUSION. Man, Mark (Biedermann; BLIND ILLUSION guitarist and vocalist) has been through the ringer and back and now he’s healthy and clean and back on it, you know what I mean?
M.P. : Yeah, they have a new album coming out I read.
R.H.: Yeah, absolutely and it’s going to be bad-ass! Doug Piercy (ex- HEATHEN, ex- CONTROL) and Andy Galeon from DEATH ANGEL are going to be on it. It’s going to be good!
M.P.: Yeah, Andy “Fuckin” Ford from RAZOR RADIO (https://razoradio.com/) and I got on the subject of HEATHEN and I asked him what Doug was doing these days and he mentioned that he was playing in BLIND ILLUSION now. I said, “No way! BLIND ILLUSION is back?”, and he said yes and that Andy was their drummer now. I was like, “No fucking way! That’s fucking killer!”.
25.) M.P.: I know you are a huge fan of U.K PUNK legends the EXPLOITED, DISCHARGE and BROKEN BONES. What is about those three bands that makes you such a fan of theirs?
R.H.: I used to listen to a lot of that back in the day. When I first joined EXODUS, I wanted to get a flavor for that type of metal and the whole crossover and punk thing. I really don’t listen to that music anymore. I really don’t have time to listen to music these days, but yeah, the aggression. You know, the message they were transmitting, you know what I mean?
M.P.: Seeing you wearing BROKEN BONES tee shirt got me interested in them.
R.H.: Their bad-ass! I think BROKEN BONES were way ahead of their time, bro!
M.P.: Yeah, them and DISACHARGE…
R.H.: G.B.H. and DEAD KENNEDYS…
M.P.: What about BLACK FLAG?
R.H.: Yeah yeah yeah BLACK FLAG.
M.P.: I think that a lot of metal heads do not give the punk and hardcore bands enough credit on extreme metal in general.
R.H.: Well, I think the people that come from our era actually do. I thinks it’s maybe the youngsters that don’t because they’re not hip. Those are the inspirations that we had as O.G.’s, you know what I mean? We were into hardcore metal, but we also …[slight pause] Thrash is like crossover really, you know? It’s just more refined.
M.P.: Yeah, there’s a lot of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal influence in thrash, but there’s also a good amount of punk and hardcore in that formula that gave thrash it’s edge.
26.) M.P.: What is your current guitar and amp setup?
R.H.: Actually, I got a couple of Les Paul’s and am going through an old PEAVEY 5150, all souped-up from back in the day, and little half-stack with my effects. That’s about it, dude.
M.P.: What do you think about the EVH 5150’s?
R.H. I like ’em. They’re sick! The thing is, everybody is playing the same amp, brother. It’s kinda like …[slight pause] generic, you know?
M.P.: I think PEAVEY has made really good gear over the years, and yet the opinion of a lot of players has been if you’re not playing through a MARSHALL or MESA/BOOGIE, you ain’t got shit.
27.) M.P.: You are a metal concert promoter for one day/night and one/day only. You must decide on one thrash metal band, one death metal band, one black metal band, one doom/stoner metal band, one traditional heavy metal band and one crossover band. You can pick any particular lineup of each band you choose and must choose the order in which they appear. Go!
The LEGIONS (Lake County, California)