Intro by Robin Linn
Dave Lombardo is an amazing drummer and performer. Born in Cuba and raised in L.A, his love and connection to rhythm was a fire that burned in him from a very young age. As a young student of drums, he was an innovator from early on. Lombardo’s passion and drive for making music saw him making records with Slayer in his late teens. Pioneers in metal, they carved out their place in rock and roll playing speed metal: All masterful musicians who took raw primal emotion and skillfully executed melodic ideas with a skewed sense of time and speed. It takes only moments to become a bonafide fan of all of his musical endeavors. There is a world full of metal drummers out there, but Lombardo brings imagination and a high level of physical performance to the table that surpasses most of his contemporary rivals. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential double bass drummers of our era and his passion for music doesn’t just lie in the realm of speed metal. Dave has breathed life into fusion, metal and Latin influenced rock proving his palette is broad and his abilities as a performer are diverse. His latest endeavor, PHILM, is nothing short of brilliant. His ferocious drum chops drive the heavy metal compositions into hard rock heaven.
PHILM is the musical incarnation of Gerry Nestler, Pancho Tomaselli and Dave Lombardo. Together they take complex heavy metal ideas to unexpected places. Their debut record Harmonic, is full of masterful demonstrations of the band’s ability to maintain that live feel in the studio. A few weeks ago on Friday, March 28th at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert, PHILM performed a powerful set of hard hitting, experimental progressive heavy metal featuring the “Godfather of Double Bass” Dave Lombardo.
by Tracy Dietlin
This interview originally ran before the PHILM show, however, after seeing them perform live at Schmidy’s I felt compelled to rerun this article so all the Coachella Festival peeps coming into town could read it and find out more about Dave Lombardo’s new band.
I have witnessed many hard rock and metal shows, but what I watched during that show was simply amazing musicianship from a powerful trio. I loved the way Lombardo set his kit up front and center with Nester and Tomaselli at his side, all three playing like a well-oiled machine. I was truly in awe of their performance and Lombardo has become my new drum hero.
CVWeekly: How long has PHILM been together?
Dave Lombardo: Well Gerry and I met back in ‘95 and we had the band until about 2004 off and on. Then I also joined Fantamas and Grip Inc. Then Slayer called and I was just swept in this whirlwind of touring with them and couldn’t continue with PHILM. Then the singer of Slayer went in the hospital for spinal surgery and I thought ‘Wow! This band is going to fall apart. I better get another band together.’ And I called Gerry and we’ve been together since. We couldn’t find the original bass player so that’s when Pancho came on.
CVW: PHILM’s music is described as experimental progressive rock on one site and post hardcore on another. What do you feel best describes the band’s sound?
DL: It’s really difficult but let’s narrow it down. It’s definitely heavy. It would lean more heavy into punk then metal. It has musicality to it. It has a lot of melody to it musically but not so much vocally and it has complex chord structures. I think the music is amazing. It’s really hard to categorize it.
CVW: After listening to Harmonic I feel like it is a musical gem and kind of runs the gamut and covers the full spectrum of everything. It kind of took me on a mystical journey.
DL: It even has elements of jazz and psychedelic. We were even calling it at one point funkadelic punk. So that’s the genre I would call it…with a punk attitude (laughing).
CVW: So Harmonic was released in May of 2012. And you’re working on a new disc correct?
DL: Yes. We’re actually working on the third album as we speak. The second is already finished and we’re looking to release it as soon as we clear up the details of which record label we’re going with.
CVW: How does the music on the second (to be titled: Fire From the Evening Sun) and third albums differ from Harmonic?
DL: The band has had a chance to grow musically. Harmonic had about 5 songs that were with the old bass player so then Pancho came in and the new songs were written with him after we had gone out on tour together and we’re more of a unit now. Now Pancho really understands mine and Gerry’s writing methods. The songs on the second album are more concise and structured.
The third album we have about 5 songs that are still in their skeletal form without vocals yet and are much heavier. And I’ve added double bass on the third album which I didn’t do o
n the first two. I’m kind of rediscovering myself and reinventing myself. That album is a whole different direction.
CVW: So when you come to the desert will you be performing any of the new material from the two new albums?
DL: No just songs off Harmonic. Although there might be one song off the third record but it’s more of a drum solo. It’s like a piece…a drumming showcase.
CVW: I know you have been involved in several bands over the years but would you say that PHILM is your main priority right now?
DL: At this point yes. I really want the world to listen to these musicians. They offer something new to music. I really like the style and the energy that this band has to offer and I think it’s really different from what’s out there in music today. I don’t think there are a lot of people focusing on the power trio like they used to back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Sometimes less is more.
CVW: Do you feel like you have more freedom for yourself in PHILM than other bands you’ve been in?
DL: Absolutely. On the second album there’s a song that’s all piano and some light strumming guitars that breaks down in the middle to this Latin session with some horns and percussion and it just shows how the musicians involved in this band are very well-rounded.
CVW: What do you feel you’re inspiration is with the new music?
DL: It’s all the music we’ve listened to throughout our lives whether it be funk, punk, Latin, metal, jazz whatever it might be all put together
CVW: I know you’re doing the smaller venues because you want to really bring this music to the people where they can really appreciate it in an intimate setting. Can you talk to me about the difference for you playing intimate venues versus big arena shows?
DL: Big arena shows you have all the lights, the smoke, the fire and all the bells and whistles to compensate for sometimes the lack of musicianship. But I think bringing it down to a small club level and getting the underground buzz going is more important. You really get to see what a band can deliver at that level and if they can do it there then obviously the big stage is not going to be a problem.
CVW: So you’re most well-known as Dave Lombardo the drummer from Slayer and have die-hard fans as a result. Is it sometimes hard to walk out from the shadow of that and get to be Dave Lombardo of PHILM?
DL: No. I’m really proud of all that I’ve done in my past with Slayer but the younger alternative fans will probably be more like ‘oh yeah he’s the drummer from Fantamas…yeah he used to play with Slayer’ but they relate to my music with Fantamas (laughing). It just depends on what genre fans are tapped into. Some people will always think of me as the drummer from Slayer and that’s ok. It’s all part of my body of work.
CVW: What are your future goals for PHILM?
DL: Just continue to write music and release records which obviously I love to do and to tour. You know I can’t believe that in all the time I was with Slayer that I only released 2 albums with them and here I am with PHILM about to release the third album and the band has only been together again for a few years. I love writing and recording because the albums feel kind of like milestones in my life to where I can look back and remember that period. So if I put an album out a year I have those memories. I like to put albums out as frequently as possible. It feels good.
CVW: What are your favorite songs on Harmonic?
DL: That’s hard because I like all of them… but I really like “Way Down” because I like the improvisations and it brings out the avant-garde side of me. It’s reminiscent of those old blues songs from the 60s that explode into the lead section and then back down into the Pink Floyd-esque kind of music. “Held in Light” and “Mitch” is good… and “Dome”. Ya…I guess all of them. (laughing)
CVW: Is there anything else you want people to know about you or PHILM?
DL: I’m here to stay. I will be drumming until the end. I’m going to keep touring so my fans can always count on that.