It took a force of nature to bring seminal US deathgrind outfit Brutal Truth back together – but Hurricane Katrina couldn’t match their destructive force. We cornered bassist and Anthrax co-founder, Dan Lilker, to get the whole story.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was originally published on MusicTowers.com. It is re-printed here with their full permission.
“It was actually a direct result of Hurricane Katrina.” As far as reasons to reform bands go, it’s certainly different from the usual excuses – a desperate attempt to snatch back the limelight, or large bags of cash offered by nostalgic promoters to clear post-success debts. For Dan Lilker, Brutal Truth bassist, the reasons were certainly a lot more altruistic than most.
“[Katrina] decimated the Gulf Coast, which is where EyeHateGod come from. And it pretty much destroyed all their equipment, everything. So a tribute album was being put together to help those guys out. They asked a lot of current bands, and then they said ‘what the fuck,’ and decided to see if Brutal Truth could contribute, even though we hadn’t been together for eight years.”
Between 1990 and 1999, Brutal Truth took grindcore and used it like a sonic sledgehammer to batter audiences across the globe with pummelling chunks of metallic fury. New York, birthplace of Hardcore and East Coast thrash, provided the perfect spawning spot for their heady mix of hardcore punk and death metal.
“And everybody was tracked down, and said ‘sure, why not? I’m up for a good cause,’ The three of us – although not Kevin [Sharp, vocalist], as he lives in Chicago – me, Rich and Brent – they came up to Rochdale, New York, where I live now. Each of them had to drive for 350 miles in the snow – when they made it, it only took about half an hour to learn the EyeHateGod song, so we decided to see if we could play any of our old shit and it worked out. So we asked Kevin if he was interested and we set up some shows.”
Watch the video to ‘Dead Smart’ by Brutal Truth
“They went really well, especially the first show. That was our big ‘comeback’ show in Chicago. We rehearsed all summer, we had Jody [Roberts, of Salt This Earth, and stand-in for the US shows] on guitar, and he did a great job. Considering we hadn’t done a show in eight years, I think we came back really strongly. I don’t want to be overconfident, but we were pretty fucking good.”
Jody Roberts isn’t the only non-original member of line-up that’s set to hit the downtuned riffs and cause aural carnage since the band started playing again. The guitarist slot of the NY four-piece has developed a somewhat flexible membership.
“It’s gonna be Erik Burke playing with us in Europe – he’s a guy who helped Nuclear Assault on some shows over there, in 2003. Jody has to get some immigration stuff sorted out. Erik is a more than capable player. Brett [McCarty] he was unable to contribute to the EyeHateGod compilation as he ended up…being a bit more domesticated than the rest of us. He’s got a family, grown-up kids, a job – so it would’ve been very disruptive for him to just drop everything.”
This isn’t a big surprise; metal bands aren’t like U2. And by that, I don’t mean they peddle increasingly middle-aged rock and wear bigger sunglasses as they get older. Metal bands chop and change their line-ups almost as fast as the riffs that they play. Dan himself has been in a brace of bands that have all altered the very course of heavy metal. A founder member of Anthrax, who would later went on to pre-empt rap-rock by hooking up with Public Enemy years before Run DMC sampled ‘Walk This Way’, he was also a founder of highly-influential thrash combo Nuclear Assault, and controversial punk/thrash crossover, Stormtroopers of Death. A few years ago, it was Nuclear Assault that Lilker was helping to resurrect.
Watch a live performance of ‘Critical Mass’ by Nuclear Assault
“We have a fan in New Hampshire, a guy name Eric Paone, from the band Candy Striper Death Orgy. Ever since I left the band, he’d ring me up every few years and be ‘hey, do you want to do a show with the guys?’ but I’d always be too busy. But finally around 2002 he called – and by then I was married, and settled down, and wasn’t playing with any full-time bands touring or anything, so I agreed to one show that eventually led on to be more shows.”
And what of Stormtroopers of Death, the side-project formed with fellow Anthrax founder, Scott Ian, back in 1985? Speculation has been rife among fans, as the band seems to surface every seven years to release another controversial record. With “Bigger Than The Devil” from 1999 as the last release, history dictates another S.O.D record should be coming soon.
“That’s pretty doubtful. I don’t want to say for sure; I’ve put my foot in my mouth before saying I’m never going to do this or that again, but if we were gonna do it then it would’ve been last year, as that would’ve been ‘every seven years’ fulfilled. But as we didn’t do it then, I can’t picture us doing it now.”
While the chances of an S.O.D reunion have been ruled out, as far as demand for a reformed Brutal Truth, Dan is solid about the reasons behind their – and indeed the entire sub-genre’s – continued support from the underground.
“I think grindcore satisfying something that other genres can’t. It’s the ultimate intensity. Sure, you’ve got black metal, death metal, that are really, really fast and hard and almost approaching grind, but grindcore is a little bit more chaotic. Death metal and black metal can be chaotic, but the songwriting structure is a little different. People just have a need for something like [grindcore], which is why it’s so popular. There’s nothing else like it. It fulfils a gap or a void, which can only be filled with something so crazy and psychotically deranged and played at that speed.”
Watch the video to ‘Ill Neglect’ by Brutal Truth
Dan isn’t the only other member of the band that’s been prolific in spreading his skills. Drummer Rich Hoak, provides drums and vocals for Total Fucking Destruction – a band so heavy that their band name alone should be enough to describe their gut-rumbling intensity. And they’re booked as the support band on the forthcoming tour.
“Yep, he’s doing double-duty. Rich is a grind-freak. He can do that, and he won’t blink an eye. He’s into his playing, really intensely, and he wouldn’t take something like that on if he didn’t think he could do it.
“The band I play in here in Rochester, Crucifist, we only play around here, and every once in a while in Buffalo or Detroit. So that doesn’t take up a lot of my time; it’s not a full-on thing. And all Kevin has going on right now is Venomous Concept, the band with Shane Embury and Danny Herrera from Napalm Death. That, again, is a band where it only comes together when everyone is not busy with their other bands. We’ll manage to do it as all the other things we have going on are not bands that are constantly touring.”
If the bands’ other projects are all temporarily on hold, does that mean there’s going to be some new Brutal Truth records in 2007?
“We are planning on that sometime in the vague future. We no longer live around the corner from each other, so we can only rehearse every few weeks. Right now our priority is that we’re totally up to speed for the shows that we’re going to be doing. Besides playing the UK, we’re going to be playing some shows in Japan with Vader. Then we’re gonna do a couple of festivals in the US – like Murderfest at the end of March and Deathfest at the end of May. As long as we know that once we’ve done these shows and we’re totally kicking ass, then we can get together and write some music.”
The US isn’t the only place with extreme metal festivals though – you can’t move for them in Europe. Does the band have any plans for festivals this side of the Atlantic in 2007?
“We do, and there’s some stuff that’s almost confirmed, but I can’t announce anything yet. We have to let the promoters of the festivals themselves announce it. I can tell you that it certainly looks like, at this point, that we will be over for some stuff in early summer.”