“A Lesson In Violence” - Exodus guitarist Gary Holt professes to Let There Be Blood's genuine bond
By Anthony Morgan
Hailing from San Francisco, California, Thrash Metal act Exodus released debut full length Bonded By Blood during 1985 through Torrid Records, and that specific record boasted the following lineup; Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt both handling guitars, Paul Baloff supplying vocals, Rob McKillop occupying bass, and Tom Hunting thumping drums. In 1986, Combat Records reissued the album. Following years of discussion and plans, it was revealed that Bonded By Blood's re-recording had finished by the time that early July 2008 had arrived, and issue was expected in late October via Zaentz Records. Lending the tracks the benefit of modern production was the aim, the project originally scheduled to include Baloff handling vocals. Unfortunately, on January 31st, 2002, Baloff suffered a massive stroke, and this induced a coma. At the Intensive Care Unit at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, Baloff was placed upon life support. As the result of loved ones' wishes, on February 2nd the man was taken off life support. To cut a lengthy tale short and shift the focus back to 2008, second vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza joined the group's ranks once again (Souza's vocals figure upon 1987's Pleasures of the Flesh, 1989's Fabulous Disaster, 1990's Impact Is Imminent, 1992's Force of Habit, and 2004's Tempo of the Damned), and departed in 2005 under mysterious circumstances. Rob Dukes eventually settled into the vocalist's position, and has sung for Exodus since 2005's Shovel Headed Kill Machine.
Bonded By Blood's re-recording was named Let There Be Blood, and Gary Holt oversaw production. At Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California, and at JKZ Production Studio in San Rafael, California, recording occurred. Dukes, meanwhile, laid down vocal parts at J. Rod Production Studios in New City, New York. Authored by Holt and former axeman Kirk Hammett (Metallica), bonus track “Hell's Breath” was amongst Exodus' earliest compositions, though never surfaced upon an Exodus album until now. Let There Be Blood's recording lineup is as follows; Dukes supplying vocals, Holt and Lee Altus strumming guitars, Jack Gibson occupying bass, and Hunting behind the drumkit once again. The re-recording's artwork was designed by Par Oloffson, and was unveiled during late August. At Derbyshire, England's Backstage Studio, Andy Sneap mixed Let There Be Blood. The re-recorded cuts “A Lesson in Violence” and “Metal Command” were made available for streaming via Exodus' official MySpace page in mid October, and “And Then There Were None” followed a week later.
To discuss Let There Be Blood, Exodus guitarist Gary Holt was interviewed via email. Areas of conversation included; Let There Be Blood, the motives behind the release, his response to critics, Dukes' feelings on the project, how each member has placed a stamp upon the album, the benefits of modern production and equipment, “Hell's Breath”, music video plans, the record's artwork, plans to perform all of Bonded By Blood live, and its influence upon the Thrash genre as a whole. Holt seems extremely passionate in regards to Let There Be Blood, and seemingly holds fond memories of Exodus' inaugural full length. A magnificent flagbearer for the genre as a whole, it's a shame that the crop of great acts within the Thrash domain lie under the shadow of Metallica et. al.
- Could you provide an introduction to Let There Be Blood, and discuss how it came to fruition? How did it develop from birth, and to being finished?
- For years, we'd discussed re-recording Bonded By Blood. We never had the time or the resources to re-record the album, however, since we wished to independently release the album. In 2008's summer, we had the time to enter the studio, and make the project a reality.
- While cutting Let There Be Blood, how has progress developed upon Exodus' upcoming studio album? Reportedly, four songs have been written thus far. Could you provide an update, and information such as song titles thus far, its musical style, and its lyrical content? For example, is it still going to be named The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit B?
- I've written every day, and the songs I'm working on at present are incredible. I'm extremely excited about where our next album is venturing. All I'll say is that the material is extremely heavy, and fast.
- What was Exodus' ultimate motives for re-recording Bonded By Blood?
- We wanted to show just how relevant these songs are by paying homage to the original. It’s our way of showing how, with the benefit of modern technology, these songs are as strong as any material issued today.
- In some quarters, the decision to re-record Bonded By Blood has been deemed "controversial". What's your response to critics who feel re-recording the album wasn't a great idea?
- I don’t get mad about the critics. It’s a compliment for someone to say our debut is such a classic that we shouldn’t touch it, though I tell individuals that very same thing; this doesn’t make the original disappear in a cloud of smoke. Bonded By Blood will always be there, should always be heard, and will forever be our shining moment. Consider Let There Be Blood as nothing more than a companion disc. Through this album, hopefully listeners might actually discover the original.
- You've said that the re-recording is a homage to Paul Baloff. What do you feel Paul's thoughts would be on re-recording the album, and what great memories do you have of Paul whilst recording the original? Got any great stories to share about that time?
- As long as it was something he couldn’t sing on, I think Paul would fucking love it. It’s a real testament to Paul that, after recording one album throughout his entire life, he’s rightfully considered a legend. How many people can you say that about? When Tom and I did the drum tracks, it brought back a lot of insane memories from the original sessions. We stayed at the studio on this big farm, and had insane parties every night, with friends fist fighting, shit getting broken, and general mayhem. After so much drinking, it was no small wonder we got such great work done in the afternoon. We were always about a good time though, and that was one of the best.
- Since the group opted to re-record Bonded By Blood, have you spoken to former members Rick Hunolt and Rob McKillop regarding the topic? Was them participating in the re-recording in some capacity ever considered?
- Robbie hasn’t played in a long, long time. When we reunited for the live record Another Lesson In Violence, we actually asked him if he was interested, but he didn’t even think he could play this material anymore. I haven’t spoken to Rick, but Tom has. I still want to record a 25th anniversary version of Bonded By Blood with different singers, and I hope Rick will play on that.
- Rob said he would rather it if Paul had been the one lending his vocals to the re-recording, something you and the other guys agree with of course? Initially, was Rob unsure about participating in the project? Did persuasion play a part before he was positive towards the project?
- He was more than slightly nervous about recording Let There Be Blood, but I told him to just listen to the original, let Paul soak in, and do him justice. I told him not to sound like a parody, but to bring some of Paul’s performance out, as well as his own style. I think he nailed it. We talked about re-recording Bonded By Blood with Paul before he died, but we were all so fucked up that we never got much completed. Plus, we need resources to record it ourselves, although not much.
- How has Rob imprinted his personality upon Let There Be Blood? What individual quirks do you feel he has added to the vocals, and how would you compare and contrast them with Paul's?
- Like I said, he needed to bring some of the minor things Paul did out, those things that were unique to Paul, while at the same time doing what he does best, but without sounding like he was impersonating Paul. The results are killer.
- Also, how has Lee and Jack imprinted their personalities upon Let There Be Blood? What individual quirks do you feel they've added to their respective parts, and how would you compare and contrast them with those upon the original album?
- Well, with Jack, the first thing you notice is there is actually bass on Let There Be Blood. None of us really put bass in the mix - back then, we didn’t really know how to find a home for it. As for Lee, he just brought his own style to the recording. Bonded By Blood was the beginning of Rick’s development into one of the world’s greatest guitarists. If you listen to each album we recorded after Bonded By Blood, you can really hear Rick's growth. I just told Lee to go crazy.
- How would you compare and contrast the production values upon Bonded By Blood and Let There Be Blood? In what ways do you feel production on the re-recording is superior to the original, and why?
- Well, the original has a certain charm to it for sure. The re-recording, however, has the power and low end that's available to us now. Back then,we didn’t really know what we were doing yet. Now, we have more of an idea of what’s happening in the studio.
- The re-recordings seem to be longer in length. Have the structures of certain tracks been modified, and certain parts lengthened?
- There are no changes whatsoever. Some of the slower tracks have been pulled back a bit, but songs like “Strike of the Beast” are much faster than the original. If anything, the length should be shorter. If anything is longer though, it would have more to do with little things, like held chords ringing out longer than anything else.
- In recording Let There Be Blood, what equipment did you opt towards and why? What benefits did modern day technology and equipment yield that couldn't be achieved back then?
- When I recorded Bonded By Blood, I used a friends HighWatt amp since mine took a shit on me right before we started. We had no cash then, so we made do with what we had available. Now, I have no shortage of amps and gear available to me, so I use my current amp rig, my Peavey XXX’s and some EQ equipment. Modern amps can do what the old amps took a lot of work to make them do, but only better.
- The track “Hell's Breath” originally featured upon a 1983 demo, but never surfaced upon Bonded By Blood's tracklisting. Was the length restrictions LPs have the reason it was omitted? Could you discuss how the track originally came to be written, and both its musical and lyrical content?
- We never recorded “Hell's Breath” back then, but decided to cut it this time as Tom and I finished early, and had some time to use. We said “Fuck, let’s record an old one”, and “Hell's Breath” is the old one. We wrote it back then, namely Kirk (Hammett) and I. Nothing unique occurred during the songwriting process, which just consisted of two guitarists writing some riffs. The lyrics are good old fashioned Exodus Satan type fare.
- Are there plans to film a music video in support of Let There Be Blood?
- We've raised the issue, though we're not sure if we will or not yet. If we filmed a music video, it would probably consist of live footage with some photos from the old days edited.
- Let There Be Blood sports new artwork. Who was the artist who handled the artwork, and how did they come to be chosen?
- The artist's name is Par Olofsson. The aim was to make the album design look like what we had imagined Bonded By Blood's artwork to look like all those years ago. I wouldn't change anything now in terms of the original artwork - it's classic, although it’s classically bad. In our minds, this is what the original artwork would have looked like. With this 2008 artwork, we wanted to retain the old school feel as well. We looked at some other artwork, though it was too modern.
- Two shows have been announced where Bonded By Blood will be performed live in its entirety. Why was this decision made, and are you looking forward to these shows?
- Right now, we're testing this at two shows. If the demand is there, I would definitely be receptive towards performing more such shows. Hell, we play much of Bonded By Blood's material live anyway. The only time we’ve played the whole album though, other than the early days, was last year at some shows in South America.
- With the re-recording, do you feel that fans and critics alikes will revisit the tracks upon Bonded By Blood, and reassess its worth? On its original release, do you feel it was somewhat underappreciated?
- I hope people revisit Bonded By Blood; I thinks it’s a genre defining record that deserves more credit, though I think it’s appreciated more now than in years past.
- Upon the Thrash genre as a whole, what influence do you feel Bonded By Blood had? What new elements do you feel the album brought to the table so to speak?
- I think it’s influence is felt everywhere - I hear elements of those riffs in new material all the time. We brought a level of anger and violence that was new to Thrash though, but paid homage to our own heroes all through, from Mercyful Fate, to Venom, to Angelwitch, and to Motörhead.
- In years to come, how do you feel those tracks will influence modern day groups?
- Without people even realizing, I think the influence will be there.