Dave Lombardo Discusses First-Ever Solo Album, Favorite Drummers, Many Projects

Dave Lombardo Discusses First-Ever Solo Album, Favorite Drummers, Many Projects

By Greg Prato

Apr. 19, 2023

Photo Credit: Eketarina Gorbacheva

Without question, one of the most innovative metal drummers remains Dave Lombardo – whose groundbreaking double bass work, rapid fire fills, and relentless energy certainly left an indelible mark on other timekeepers. Several decades into this career, it is only now though that he has gotten around to issuing his first-ever solo album, the all-instrumental drum showcase, Rites of Percussion. Which (spoiler alert) is not a metallic smorgasbord, but rather, experimental, avant-garde, and even soundscape-y at times…yet still displays his exceptional skills.

First rising to prominence as a member of Slayer, Lombardo played on the group's best albums, including the metal masterpiece Reign in Blood (among countless other titles). Additionally, he has contributed to a variety of other projects over the years – Fantômas, Dead Cross, Mr. Bungle, Misfits, Testament, Suicidal Tendencies, and many others.

Lombardo spoke with AllMusic shortly before the release of Rites of Percussion, and discussed the making of the album, his favorite drum recordings, upcoming projects, the modern state of rock drumming, plus Slayer's most intense tune.

AllMusic: What made you decide to release your first-ever solo album now?

Lombardo: "It's been in the back of my mind for years. I've always wanted to do something like this. I was inspired by drummers like John Bonham – who created a song called 'Bonzo's Montreux,' that was released on Led Zeppelin's Coda album after he passed."

"Also, Tito Puente – a Latin jazz percussionist. I knew he had created these little drum songs in the past, but I never attributed it to a particular album. And Mike Patton – back in '98 or '99 – found out that I was into Tito Puente, and said, 'Oh Dave, you've got to listen to Top Percussion.' I'd never heard of that album. And he turned me on to it."

"So, I knew of other drummers who had created something like this but never an entire body of work…well, I think later I heard that Hal Blaine had created one – but nothing to this extent, with this direction. It's been a while, and finally it's here and I'm really excited."

AllMusic: Which tracks are you most proud of?

Lombardo: "One that sticks out is 'Interfearium' – where there was a spontaneous moment in the recording studio. Not in my personal recording studio where I recorded the bulk of it, but when I went to Studio 606 and recorded the bulk of the overdubs, I had just a fleeting idea of opening up the piano, putting a sandbag on the sustain pedal, and reaching inside of the piano box – not touching the keys – and grabbing some mallets and playing the piece that you hear."

"It was just a thought – 'Oh, I'm going to try this and see what happens.' And I had one of the assistants dim the lights in the room in the studio, I lit a candle, and just started playing. That's how that piece came up – and that's one of my favorite pieces."

AllMusic: How did you go about composing the songs? Did you start with a beat and then build on it from there?

Lombardo: "Yeah – that's basically how it started. I would just start with a particular drum pattern. And sometimes it's not the drum pattern that you hear begin the song. Sometimes, it can just be a simple rhythm played on a table top with my hands recorded by my phone, and then I would download it into Pro Tools and develop it from there. And then what you're hearing is a completely different rendition of the song – the final piece is totally different to how it started."

AllMusic: I understand that your son, David A. Lombardo, mixed the album.

Lombardo: "Well, I've worked with him on a couple other albums in the past. We're both gearheads…actually, both of my sons and I love music gear. We'll sit and chat about it all day long if we were able to. And my oldest son, David, he used to help me when he was a really little kid. I used to tell him, 'OK. Punch me in when the machine says 0124.' And he would do that."

"And then when he was 18, I gave him a Pro Tools MBOX, and we recorded a couple of albums together. He was recording his brother's band, demoing their songs, and eventually got a job at a recording studio. And now, he's mixing movie trailers for Netflix, United Artists, and Universal."

AllMusic: What are some of your favorite drum albums of all-time?

Lombardo: "Mickey Hart's Planet Drum, Babatunde Olatunji had a couple of really cool albums that were very percussion-based. I really like Smithsonian Folkways – their compilations of really deep African drum rhythms. Haitian Vodou drum rhythms. Those are all on Smithsonian Folkways, I believe. Hossam Ramzy, a Persian percussionist – he's amazing. I really like Milford Graves – a percussionist out of Brooklyn."

AllMusic: What are your thoughts on modern day hard rock and heavy metal drummers, by and large?

Lombardo: "By and large it's fascinating how it's evolved. I enjoy a lot of it. They're talented and younger and younger as we age. Their chops are on point."

"There's a lot of great drummers – one of which is Daru Jones, who plays with Jack White. Very unique. Ian Chang who performs with Son Lux – he's also an amazing drummer. New, upcoming avantgarde drummers that work with a lot of my friends in New York City – Kenny Grohowski, who plays in a band called Imperial Triumphant. He's amazing. Also, Ches Smith from Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant."

"There's countless – it's just a matter of discovering and sifting the mass amounts of drummers that are out there and promoting their work online."

AllMusic: Planning on playing live shows in support of Rites of Percussion?

Lombardo: "No. That's simply a piece of art. It would take so much work and bringing in the right musicians, and I would really have to think about orchestration. It's not impossible, but I'm not sure if I want to tackle that – at least right now. It might change, you never know – if the right offer comes along that can change my mind."

AllMusic: Any talk of recording a new studio album with Mr. Bungle?

Lombardo: "No, that hasn't been discussed yet. We haven't exhausted this album that we just released, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. But it could be possible – I wouldn't doubt it."

AllMusic: How is Mike Patton doing? I read a while back that he was dealing with mental health issues.

Lombardo: "He is much better. He's doing so well – I'm really proud of him, the steps that he's taken. We did a South American tour last December and he kicked ass. He was in great spirits, he was on point, he was in his traditional 'Mike Patton form.' I'm so happy for him and I'm looking forward to this upcoming tour."

AllMusic: Speaking of Mike Patton, Rites of Percussion was issued via his label, Ipecac Records. What made you decide to go with Ipecac?

Lombardo: "Mike Patton's love and support from day one. I could not – would not – give it to anyone else. There is no other record company that would understand something like this and how important a body of work like this is than Ipecac."

"Mike Patton, the first record he put out on Ipecac was the first Fantômas album – that I was a part of. That company and his support has been an integral part of my drive to complete this body of work. I remember telling Patton, 'Hey man, I'm almost done!' And when I sent him the file with all the songs, he came back, 'Finally! After all these years!' I just had to find the right time and I had to be in the right headspace mentally. And we were able to capture it."

AllMusic: Which other projects do you have coming up?

Lombardo: "Well, I just released a single from Empire State Bastard, a new band I'm working with from England [which also includes Biffy Clyro members Simon Neil and Mike Vennart]. They're big fans of hardcore music and they put some music together and presented it to me with a demo back in 2020 – around the same time I was recording my drum record. I didn't want to take any other projects on – I was just really focused on Satanic Planet [another band Lombardo plays in], on my drum record, I think I'd recorded 'Colors' for Body Count, and there were other projects."

"And when I heard Empire State Bastard, I was like, 'OK. I have to do this. This just has my name written all over it. I can get behind this.' So, that [a full-length album] is going to be released hopefully at the end of the year. We released a new single called 'Harvest' and we played a few showcase shows in London, Manchester, and Glasgow. I think we might be doing something in the States – touring."

"I'm in the process of editing a video for a very slow, down tempo love ballad project [Venamoris] I put together with my wife Paula. She sings and writes a lot of the music. We're going be releasing a video soon – I don't know exactly when, within probably the next month – for the last song on the record, called 'So Good.' And I have some tours coming up – Mr. Bungle, Misfits, and Empire State Bastard."

AllMusic: How would you describe the music of Venamoris, the project with your wife, Paula?

Lombardo: "We just released an album and several videos. No touring – it's just a singer-songwriter duo, creating some dark…they call it 'trip hop.' It's almost like Portishead, a little bit of Halsey in there. But it's the most left turn I could have taken, musically. I play brushes, I play with rimshot, I play the slowest tempos you could ever hear from me. And her voice is gorgeous – her voice is stunning, it's amazing. Beautiful harmonies. Great songwriting. It's something attached to the Lombardo name that you can play for your parents or your grandmother. It's something very, very chill."

AllMusic: Lastly, do you agree that Slayer's "Angel of Death" remains the most intense metal song of all-time – both musically and lyrically?

Lombardo: "Yes. That song is intense. If there's a picture or a song to go along with that description, yeah, that would be the song. I could see that. I can't disagree on something that I'm so proud of – that would be sacrilegious. It's some great stuff right there."

See what Lombardo is currently up to via his Twitter page.