Bassist Dan Lilker on 30 Year Career, Brutal Truth
Legendary bassist Dan Lilker continues to build his extensive musical career. With thirty years in this business, his contributions to thrash, speed metal and grind speak for themselves. Beyond the Dark Horizon recently chatted with Lilker regarding his vast career and Brutal Truth’s latest onslaught, End Time.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Hi Danny, thanks for speaking with Beyond the Dark Horizon. How’s it going?
Dan Lilker: Everything’s going good. I’m chilling out at home here in Rock Chester, New York. It’s almost dinner time, so after this I’m going to have some dinner.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I wanted to start off touching base on the fact that you have 30 years of activity in this business, music is obviously important to you. Give us some back-story on your musical journey. Did you come from a musically inclined family?
Dan Lilker: My parents weren’t very musically inclined but my grandparents were. I remember growing up with music in the house. In the kitchen, whenever we were having dinner there was always music playing in the background. I can honestly say that was very influential for me. We had a guitar and piano in the house. There was always something to listen to or an instrument laying around that I could pick up and play. It was just a question of getting into rock music and eventually metal. But yeah, it’s true I’ve been doing this for a while now, thirty years since Anthrax formed. Crazy but true.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: As a founding member of Anthrax, what comes to mind when you look back on early experiences?
Dan Lilker: That was a very exciting time. Thrash had just started. It’s really exciting when you’re kind of at the beginning of a new type of music like Thrash metal and Hardcore, but applying fast tempos to metal was so fucking new at the time. Yeah, I have a lot of cool memories, everything was totally underground. It was rare when you found someone who liked the same music as you did but now Metallica is a household name. It was great to be part of something that was just evolving.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: And what’s also amazing is that you kept that door open to experimentation having played everything from heavy metal, thrash, death, grind. Heck you also recently launched a black metal band, Nokturnal Hellstorm. How is that going for you?
Dan Lilker: Yeah, like you mentioned, I’ve played it all. Nokturnal Hellstorm actually has rehearsal tonight. It’s been going good. We have eight songs recorded and at this point we are leisurely looking for a label. Our next gig is here in Rock Chester with Immolation. It’s fun playing that stuff because its real intense and something different than grind. There’s a little more atmosphere to it. I’m really into it and as long as I can play it well, I’ll continue down that route.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: There seems to be a growing wave of black metal here in the states. The genre is finally receiving some momentum.
Dan Lilker: Well it has been going on for quite some time but people are finally learning about it. It started off here with what people called, “bedroom black metal.” You know Xasthur and Krieg. I mean black metal is always viewed as a European thing but there’s plenty of good black metal here. The stuff we do in Nokturnal Hellstorm might sound European because that’s where we took our influences from-Norwegian, Swedish black metal. People did not take it serious here in the mid-nineties. People thought you had to come from Norway and Sweden but when you think about it, Venom was from England and Hellhammer was from Switzerland…so technically there really is no specific region where it came from.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Considering that you have been around since the beginning of Grind, what was the scene like then and what do you think of the genre today?
Dan Lilker: Well back then I guess there were not too many bands and the bands that were around had their own identity. Today bands are doing it everywhere and many of them sound a little similar but it’s also understandable because the longer a genre has been around, the more difficult in becomes to come up with original stuff, I guess. But then again we never had a problem. I can say we still have a very unique style. Another thing with today is that bands are taking advantage of technology. When they record they become lazy, as far as moving all the kick drums over. I think an album can lose some of the feel like that. Things need to be a little sloppy I think. But there still are plenty of good bands playing out here.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: With Brutal Truth, did you ever feel that people had to catch up with the times, in a sense-considering what Brutal Truth was doing back in the 90’s?
Dan Lilker: Absolutely. That has to do with the fact that we broke up. You know we had some issues, took a break but we came back in 2006. But within those years our status as a band went up remarkably. It could have been the whole syndrome where people don’t seem to give a shit about you until you’re not around anymore. But not just that, especially our later releases in the 90’s we got more “whacked-out” for lack of a better term and now it’s just straight up grindcore. I think it took some time for people to figure out what we were doing. People were able to catch up while we were gone. I’ve run into lots of people, when I’m doing Nuclear Assault shows and people would run up to me and say, “Dude are you ever going to do Brutal Truth again?” They would be like, “You don’t know how much me and my friends are into grindcore” and I’m here thinking we would never get more that eighty people at our shows [laughs]. So I think people seem to get us a little more now.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: They’re able to digest it as a whole now [laughs]. Well I remember picking up the Sounds of the Animal Kingdom cd when I was a teen and what intrigued me was the cover art. I purchased that album on pure impulse and ended up checking out earlier albums. I remember thinking, “Wow, these guys are out there,” but in a good way, ya know?
Dan Lilker: See well that’s awesome. Not many people today take the risk to check out new music. I’m glad you discovered us.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Well as mentioned, the band has been reunited for a few years now. Was it easy picking up the pieces from where the band left off, considering that the music industry changed drastically during the bands inactivity?
Dan Lilker: Yeah but the music industry never really had an effect on us anyway. We did what we did and we had to interact with the industry but as far as our chemistry, we did not have to start a new one. Our original guitar player did not come back but you know, he settled down earlier compared to everybody else in the band. He had two kids growing up, a job and stuff. We started off with Erik Burke on guitar but he’s such an amazing guitar player. He was fully immersed in the grind scene that he clicked immediately. That was an entire new chemistry on its own. But yeah, we did not have any issues. We had to adapt to a few things, like now everything is online. But overall nothing became a distraction. We actually got back together because we agreed to do a track for the Eyehategod tribute album. We did a cover of theirs and once people found out about that, it morphed into us doing a few shows and things like that. And when it came time to work on new material, we just all got together and did it.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Awesome. Let’s talk about the new album, End Time. Very angry yet upbeat, what do you think defines this album musically?
Dan Lilker: I can never really answer questions like this. When you’re that close to it, it becomes difficult to sit back and analyze it. I have read some online reviews already and I find it interesting when people say, “Oh it’s a very intense record but they decided to throw in some sludgy numbers that threw the record off.” I think when we came back with Evolution Through Revolution, in 2009 even though we never talked about it constantly, I think we felt the need to come out with this full-on grindcore record. Our status had gone up and people were really looking forward to the new album. We just felt that need to kick total ass and I think we really did. With End Time, we wanted a record that was still intense but we wanted to throw some other stuff into this. You can still be brutal and intense but don’t have to be playing eight thousand miles an hour. It can be really heavy and ugly no matter how fast you’re playing. I think subconsciously we might have sprinkled some slower numbers in there but as far as describing it, I don’t know it’s just Brutal Truth’s music. I’ll leave that to journalists and listeners as yourself.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Well the album has its moments and there is a rock vibe to it-somewhere underneath, which I thought was cool. And it just goes further to show the maturity and progression of the band.
Dan Lilker: There’s definitely some rock and swig in there. And because we are a grindcore band, people expect us to play real fast but if you do that 100% of the time, it gets boring for us as musicians. We like to add more contrast and break things up a bit. We like to break things up and throw different shit in there, something for everyone.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Brutal Truth is confirmed to make ears bleed, mid-November at this year’s Goregrowlers Ball in San Antonio, TX. Are you looking forward to that event?
Dan Lilker: Oh yeah, I was psyched when I found out that we were doing that. We have not been down there in a while and we always have such a great time when we’re in Texas. There’s tons of grind freaks out there and I think it should be a great time. We can’t wait to get down there and make some fucking noise for you guys. Do you guys plan in being there?
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Oh hell yeah and we’re really looking forward to that event as well. Exhumed, Suffocation, Goatwhore and a shit load of other noteworthy bands will be sharing the stage with Brutal Truth, should be insane.
Dan Lilker: Oh cool! So umm it should be even better making noise with a bunch of those other bands. Should be tons of people, hopefully somebody cool out there will hook us up with a bunch of weed.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: [laughs] For those who have never experienced Brutal Truth in the live situation, what is to be expected?
Dan Lilker: Well we’re probably more intense live than on our records. We just try to be relentless, play a few songs in a roll without stopping. We like giving people less time to breathe. This is grindcore, it’s a genre that is meant to be seen live with total intensity and we take advantage of that. There’s not going to be a light show, fog or some kind of special presentation. We’re just going to go out there and try to punch people in the head as hard as possible-musically anyway. That’s what we do, so hopefully people will dig it.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I’m sure they will. Well, we’d better wrap this up and let you get to that dinner of yours. Thanks once again for speaking with us, anything we should be on the lookout for? Any last words for your fans?
Dan Lilker: If people want to see what Nokturnal Hellstorm sounds like, just Google us. There’s a link to Decibel mag that features some of our tracks. And you can probably find all the bands I’m involved with on Facebook. I hate facebook, it’s gay. I realize that it’s a media tool but I refuse going on it myself. I had an account once and those fuckers would not let me deactivate it.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Yeah, once you sign up, they own you.
Dan Lilker: Yeah I went through the entire process of deactivating it but then a week later I get this email saying, “Two thousand people on your friends list are waiting to say hi to you.” What the fuck! I got rid of that shit. So now I feel like facebook is becoming a stalker. But right on, we’ll see you guys in November. Everybody stop and say hi when we get down there.