You were only 18 years old at this time and you played the drums in the most popular thrash act, how do you explain this?
The timing was right I guess. They must have heard something that they liked in my playing
As I as know, Dave Lombardo got married, correct?
Yes he did and then quit the band soon after.
Was it a kind of initiation ceremony considering you became the new drummer?
No ceremony. Just 2 or 3 practice sessions and then they asked me to do the tour
Would you say, that Slayer were on its peak at this point and they did the ultimate thrash record with „Reign in blood"?
I suppose people still look at Reign In Blood as their pinnacle album. And it is one of the most important records in thrash history. To be honest I still like Show No Mercy the best. As far as my personal opinion for the ultimate thrash record, it is Bonded By Blood by Exodus. Nothing beats that for me.
As for yourself, to which extent were you familiar with Slayer's materials? Did you like all of their records, such as „Show no mercy", „Hell awaits" and „Reign in blood"?
I really liked Show No Mercy the best. Honestly, I kind of started losing interest in a lot of metal and really getting into hardcore right around that time. So I wasn’t really following Slayer like I did at the beginning.I started to discover that most metal bands could just not compete with energy of hardcore bands like the Bad Brains, the Cro Mags and Agnostic Front. The metal bands might have been better musicians overall but the hardcore music was just SO much more intense for me
How would you describe „Reign in blood”?
One of the best thrash records of all time
Was it hard for you to learn Dave Lombardo's drumparts? Did you have to practice a lot?
As I mentioned, I only had about two weeks to learn the entire Slayer catalogue before auditioning. It was a great deal of material to memorize. The drum parts for the songs were really basic, just played at an extremely fast tempo. Fast for back then anyway! They are actually very simple beats from a technical perspective, it’s just the speed that they are played at that makes them challenging. From a technique perspective, it is not in the same league as something say, Neil Peart of Rush or Bill Bruford from King Crimson or many advanced jazz/fusion master drummers play. That kind of drumming is very, very tricky to master and execute in a fluid fashion. There are various odd time patterns and polyrhyhms going on. It takes YEARS of serious study and practice to develop that type of style. The main issue with Slayer’s material is the speed obviously. Whiplash was fast but Slayer was REALLY fast! I had to try and build up my stamina to play those songs in a very limited amount of time and that was difficult.
By the way, were you meant to help them out or did they ask you to join them as a full time member?
I was only ever asked and compensated to do the tour, not to be a full member of the band.
How did the whole tour go? What were the highlights of the tour?
The tour was a great learning experience for me. We were playing some larger venues and the fans I met along they way were very supportive.
Did you get on well with Tom, Jeff and Kerry?
Yes, we all got along really well and had a lot of fun drinking and partying together. They are all really nice guys.
I have a lot of bootlegs from this tour and I have to tell you you did an awesome performance, was it an honour for you drumming for Slayer?
Thank you very much for the compliment. I really appreciate that! It was an honor to perform all of those classic songs with Slayer
Where was the last gig of the tour?
The last gig of the Slayer tour was in Portland, Oregon. It was a really fun ending to a great tour . I remember stagediving into the crowd after the set!
Did you remain in touch with Tony Bono and Tony Portaro after your departure from Whiplash? Did you keep an eye on their work?
Oh yes! We have always been great friends throughout the years. I still talk to Tony P and spoke with Tony Bono often before he passed away. Tony P and I actually played together in M.O.D. with Billy Milano for a while and Tony Bono and I played together with Cause For Alarm on a European tour back in 1998. Then we all got back together to record the Thrashback album with Whiplash on Massacre Records. I’m not sure if you haveheard that album but we are proud of how it turned out and I think it showcases the true Whiplash style even after all of those years apart!
Did you like „Ticket to mayhem” and „Insult to injury”?
I like them both but I would say I prefer Ticket To Mayhem since most of that material was written by Tony, Tony and I. I’d just like to say thank you for the opportunity to share some history with you. I am glad that we got in touch with each other! If you need any of the later Whiplash recordings or other stuff that I have appeared on just let me know. Thanks again for everything Leslie!
Didn't you think about to rejoin Whiplash after the finish of the Slayer tour? Were there any funny memories considering the tour?
No, I had absolutely no interest in doing that at the time. Tony, Tony and I were still great friends and there was absolutely no animosity. But, the record label Whiplash were on was doing absolutely nothing for the band (they never did) and neither was the manager they had. The band had such potential but never really got a fair shake. Tony Portaro was also having some personal issues that he was going through and I just didn’t want to be a part of any of that whole situation. I actually formed a new band called Zero Hour with bassist Pat Burns (Deathrash) around that time. It also featured Gordon Ancis (Agnostic Front, Leeway) on guitar and Robbie Goodwin (Massacre) on guitar and a guy named Joe Haggerty on vocals. We ended up doing a demo and ironically Roadrunner wanted to sign us to a demo deal to do more recordings but we lost our singer and things fell apart after that. That was a shame because I feel that Zero Hour could have really done well.
Then you joined a new thrash band called Deathrash which was formed in 1985 by Pat Burns (bass), Marc Grossman (drums), Pat "Nemo" Nemeth (guitar) and John Scherer (vocals), but Marc Grossman left the band in 1986 to pursue other interests, how did you hook up with them?
Deathrash was something I did as a favor. They had no drummer at the time and Pat Burns and the other guys in the band were good friends so they asked me to drum on their demo. I believe that was before Power and Pain was actually released. It was a great demo in my opinion.
With the help of you the band recorded the „Faces Of Death" demo, how did the recording sessions go? Were the Deathrash guys lack of studio experience or…?
It went really quick. We rehearsed a few times and then I went in and recorded the drum tracks. The band finished everything else after that. There’s a picture of me at the studio recording that demo on my MySpace page.
What we got here is a short headbanging experience, a nonstop riffing which keeps a thrashing rhythm without any break for breath or resting the listener's neck, correct?
Yes, like I said, I feel the demo came out great. It was nice and heavy!
The demo received worldwide acclaim through fanzines and college radio, does it mean, that it was the first step to make a name for the band?
I suppose so. I was not really involved with the bands activities after the demo. They did get a lot of great exposure from that demo tape.
The song „Buried Alive” from the demo was signed by New Renaissance Records to be on the compilation album „Speed Metal Hell 2”, was it a good opportunity to draw more fans attention to the band?
Yes. Compilations like that back then were very popular. They were a great way to introduce new bands to the public. Whiplash got a lot of exposure from Speed Metal Hell Vol.1
Do you still remember which bands were still featured besides Deathrash?
I think Flotsam and Jetsom were on that album. You can check out a picture of it on my MySpace page. It’s kind of small but you might be able to read it.
Did the label offer you a contract for a full length or for more ones at all? Do you agree with, that they were supportive of young and new thrash/speed bands back then?
As I mentioned, I wasn’t really involved with they day to day activities of the band so I’m not sure of all of the details.
Tim Scherer joined the band in 1986 on guitar and made the Deathrash sound even more intense, right?
That was after the demo. I always liked the sound of 2 guitars in thrash bands and Deathrash sounded great with Tim when I saw them
Known for your breakneck live performances, the band has shared the bill with such acts as Whiplash, Nuclear Assault, Hallow's Eve, Massacre, Sheer Terror, Caligula, Doomwatch and others, what about your live performances?
I actually never performed a live show with the band.
How did you view the NY scene at this point when more thrash/speed outfits started popping up, such as Caligula, Primal Fear, Ripping Corpse, Revenant, Fantom Warrior etc.?
Well, there were a lot more metal bands but none of them really stood out to me as anything special. Deathrash were definitely the best of the lot in my opinion. And Revenant were really good too. I became good friends with the singer for Revenant Henry Veggian at college.
As for Caligula, both John Sherer and Tony Portaro were involved in the group, correct?
I know John sang with them and Tony rehearsed with them but I don’t think he ever played a live show. I could be wrong.
Have you ever listened to their „Technical aggression” demo?
Yes. I don’t really remember it though
In 1987, on the verge of recording your second demo „No One Is Innocent” and with contracts in negotiation the group disbanded, how did the second demo sound like? Did you have more material written as well?
As far as Deathrash goes, you might be better off doing an interview with Pat Burns directly. He is listed as one of my friends on MySpace. His name on there is jerseydevilblues. Send him an e-mail and I’m sure he’d love to do an in depth interview with you. Deathrash is actually working on re releasing those old tapes as we speak. Pat asked me to write some liner notes about my experience with the band.
What did the other Deathrash guys do after the demise of the band?
I will have to refer you to Pat Burns for the answers. Pat and I formed Zero Hour and john sang with Caligula for a while but I’m not sure about the other guys.
As for as Zero Hour how did Robbie Goodwin get in the picture exactly? Were you familiar with the Massacre stuffs?
Pat Burns was friends with the Massacre guys and we all ended up going to see them play at a show in New Jersey. When we formed Zero Hour, Pat suggested we try Robbie. He was a very good guitarist and a really nice guy.
Did he move to New York?
Yes he moved uop and lived at my house in New Jersey
What about the three tracks demo as a whole?
The Zero Hour demo was recorded at the rehearsal space at my house. Gordon (Ancis) the guitarist had purchased a new portable recording desk and we recorded right there. The sound wasn’t the best since we didn’t have all of the benefits of a pro studio and Gordon was learning as we went along but the songs were very good. We were pretty happy with the end result from what I remember.
You played then in a lot of bands, such as Ludichrist, Cause For Alarm, Raging Slab, Sheer Terror and Mantra, can you say us few words about these bands?
Ludichrist – I did a couple of small tours with them. They were a hardcore band. The guitarists were great players. I was friends with their original bassist Chuck Valle (who was later tragically murdered in California) and he was a great guy. He asked me to come and play with the band. They were all really good players and I liked their material.
Cause For Alarm - After Whiplash, Cause For Alarm is the band closest to my heart. I recorded 3 albums and played with them on and off for a many, many years. I was asked to join that band back in 1985 when I became good close friends with guitarist Alex Kinon (who had just finished playing with Agnostic Front). He was the one who originally started Cause For Alarm before eventually joining Agnostic Front. Cause For Alarm had many different members in the band throughout the years and I felt that we really all made some incredible music together.
Raging Slab - Raging Slab was a basically a southern rock type band along the lines of Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd with some heavier influences. This was a really great band and it was a lot of fun! I joined them after playing with Ludichrist. I recorded their debut album for RCA records with them and played a bunch of live shows before I left in 1989 to take a little break from music. I was really burnt out on playing music and touring by this time even though I was only 21 years old. The Raging Slab album got a great deal of acclaim around the world. We had a popular hit single here in the U.S. called Don’t Dog Me that was from that record. It was very successful for the band and it was an honor to have played on it.
Sheer Terror – Playing with Sheer Terror was another awesome experience for me. They were always one of my favorite hardcore bands. Pure, in your face heavy, heavy music! I did a few different tours with them including a very memorable U.S. tour alongside Napalm Death.
Mantra – Mantra was a project that was formed by me and my good friend Peter Iterbeke who was the guitarist of the Belgian band Channel Zero. The music was a cross between Alice In Chains and Metallica if I had to try and describe it. We tried to make ait work but it ended up just being too difficult to try and have a cohesive band with members in countries so far away. It’s a shame that didn’t work out because the music was fantastic!
These bands were hardcore outfits, does it mean that you prefered hardcore better than thrash metal?
Originally , I loved thrash but eventually gravitated more to the hardcore scene. Most metal bands that I knew (especially around the New York/New Jersey area) were really arrogant elitist people, who were always in some kind of competition with each other to be faster, heavier, thrashier etc. That was a real negative vibe. The hardcore scene was the complete opposite. Everyone was there to have fun and enjoy the music and there was, more of a brotherhood. A way more positive environment.At least that is my opinion.
Tony Portaro and you played also in M.O.D. on the 1993 tour as guests, how did it happen? How did the tour go?
That tour was great! That was a great lineup .I knew Billy for years and we always got along well and we would always see each other. The original lineup of M.O.D. was actually conceived in my rehearsal place in New Jersey back in 1985 or 86. Right after S.O.D. came out. Not many people outside of the local area know that. It was Billy, me, Alex Kinon(Cause For Alarm) and a guy named Zowie (Leeway, Circus of Power) on bass. We all ended up sticking with the other bands so that lineup didn’t really get off the ground. We had about 5 or 6 songs written though. Billy ended up getting some other local Jersey guys and made the U.S.A. for M.O.D. record. We always ran into each other and eventually asked me again to play in the band. We needed a guitarist so I called up Tony Portaro and he was available. That tour was full of great shows and memories!
What were your views on the metal scene at this point? Would you say, that traditional metal was almost dead and new trends popped up, such as grunge, pop/punk and later nu metal?
Yes, a lot of trends popped up and thrash kind of died out for a while.
Do you always keep an eye on what's going on in the underground?
I used to and I still do to some degree.
How do you view the reformations of classic '80s bands, such as Heathen, Death Angel, Agent Steel, Nuclear Assault, Forbidden etc.? What do you think about it? Have you ever listened to their comeback albums?
Well, that’s an interesting question. I guess I would have to say that if the bands really feel that they have something musically valid to contribute again then it’s a good thing. If they just get back together for money or the nostalgia aspect then that’s kind of lame.
How do you feel about the reformation of Whiplash with Tony Portaro, Joe Cangelosi and Rich Day?
Here is my view on the matter and for the record Tony and Joe both know where I stand. I think it is unfortunate that they are going to call the band Whiplash. They should issue the music as a Tony Portaro solo album or under a different name. My opinion is that Tony, Tony and I started the band way back when and Tony, Tony and I ended it with the Thrashback album. That was the final chapter and the official end of the true Whiplash as far as I am concerned. It cannot ever be recaptured and the Whiplash name should be laid to rest once and for all. At the same timethere is absolutely no bad blood or any kind of animosity whatsoever. Tony and Joe and Rich are my brothers and they all know I love them all very dearly and I know they will make some great music together!
Unfortunately Tony Bono passed away in 2002…
Yes he did. It was a tragedy.GOD bless his soul!
As for Whiplash, Dutch label Displeased Records re-released all of the Whiplash albums and two demos with live recordings, how much were you involved into the making of these re-releases?
I was pretty much the one who dealt directly with Displeased and helped them put it all together. All of the live recordings were tapes that I had in my personal collection. They are good guys and did a nice job, especially with the demo and live show compilation Messages In Blood.
Is it a good opportunity to introduce Whiplash for the young fans?
Yes, I think it is!
Nowadays is a retro thrash movement worldwide with bands, such as Toxic Holocaust, Farscape, Merciless Death, Avenger Of Blood etc, are you familiar with these acts?
How up to you these days? Are you involved in several outfits?
I play once in a while with a local blues/southern rock cover band down here in Georgia but I haven’t done any metal or hardcore in a long time.
In your opinion, how much did the metal scene evolve or change compared to the early '80s?
The metal scene went through many different phases. The early 80’s are just a distant memory. You can’t really compare it all.
Are you proud of being the part of the glorious '80s?
Absolutely! It was an historic time!
How would you sum up your career as a whole? What can you tell us about your experiences as musician?
I feel that I have really been blessed to have been able to have been part of so much great music over the years. It is a great honor to have performed and recorded with so many great bands and musicians and to have made many great friends and fans. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to have done all of this in my life!
Are you satisfied with your career or could it have been better?
I am very satisfied and fulfilled with everything and I have absolutely no regrets!
Tony, thanks a lot for your answers, anything to add what I forgot to mention?
Thank you very much for taking the time and being so interested in all of the details! Take care and keep in touch!