I recently spoke to Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo for a piece that'll be published in a week or two. Obviously, not all of our conversation made it into the final piece. So here's some interesting stuff that got cut.
What's your monitor setup like onstage? What are you listening to while performing?
That’s an interesting question I’ve never been asked before. Of course I have my drums, but I use a lot of the sound onstage. I’ll listen to my drums without anything, and then I’ll tell them to add some more kick and snare. I find a nice balance with the guitars. I try to keep it as low as possible, but real punchy. 'Cause your hearing starts deteriorating after being on tour for so many years, I’ve learned to just turn it down. It doesn’t need to be loud. I’ve had monitor guys put huge PAs behind me, but I’m only one guy. [I'll tell them] Please, just give me a couple of wedges, that’s all I need. So it’s basically gutar, a little bit of vocals, and drums.
What about the other guys? I've heard that they're listening to you, and you're driving the band from behind.
It’s kick and snare for them. I don’t even know if they have guitars in their monitors. Usually kick and snare is all I hear them saying they want in their monitors. It’s true, I do drive them. I’m known as the engineer, the locomotive driver. I’m driving this locomotive, and we’re onstage playing, going mach 10 downhill, and we’re about to fall off the tracks, but somehow I always seem to guide the band right back in, whether it’s [with] crazy drum rolls or I’m just locked into the zone where me and my drumsticks are one. That’s when I lose my mind sometimes behind the kit. The guys know it. They say that’s when the locomotive seems like it’s gonna go off the rails, but I always catch it and steer that in.
I don't know if you've seen it, but there's YouTube footage of Metallica playing the song "Raining Blood" in their backstage rehearsal room. If you talked to Lars Ulrich, how would you make him a better drummer?
First I would look at the position of the drums, I would look at his throne, how high his throne is in relation to him and his size and the drum set. I think it’s an ergonomic thing. The drums are so much a part of me or an extension of me that everything has to be properly placed for me to get as much energy or punch or attack velocity out of my drums. It has to be set up correctly. You can’t have an oddball drum sitting flat and trying to do a drum roll as fast as I do on an awkwardly positioned drum. If he would he ask me, ‘Dave, I have problems with this, what would you do?’ then I would explain kindly [like I would] to anyone who might ask me about drums.
The YouTube clip in question: