Photo by Bruce Getty.
Are your old amps collecting dust?
Altus: I don’t know what to do with the heads I’ve collected over the years. I put everything into the Kemper, and all the sounds are there. There are certain amps, like the Mesa/Boogie Mark III that they don’t make anymore, or my specially modified Marshall JCM800, that I’m definitely hanging on to, but for the rest it’s like, “I don’t really need you. Gotta let you go.”
Holt: My modded Marshalls are retiring. Fortunately, I’ve got a perfect profile of them now. If we’re flying into a gig, Lee and I just take the Kemper. We run direct out front when we use it, but I go through cabs, too, because I need some interaction with speakers. I have some random nameless cabs with really great speakers: Celestion Vintage 30s.
Altus: I’ll use any cab. It doesn’t really matter.
Gary, do you use the Kemper for Slayer as well?
Holt: No, I use the new Marshall DSL 100 heads. Three of them with six cabs—it’s awesome! I put a Maxon distortion in front just to boost it a little.
What effects did you use for Blood In, Blood Out?
Holt: I use a ton of different pedals. I love stompboxes—they’re like crack to me! I have pedals from Maxon, Dunlop, HomeBrew Electronics, Pigtronix. I use a lot of the Maxon Tube Screamer-type pedals. They made the original ones, so they have ones that are exactly like the original, sought-after ones, and they also have updated versions.
I also love the Boss Octaver. I’ve never been without one my whole life. Dunlop makes a bass octave pedal, which sounds probably even a little better and has a smaller footprint, which I also like. And I use a Voodoo Lab Ground Control. With Slayer, I’ve been using the Dunlop Jerry Cantrell wah. Kerry [King] uses the Zakk Wylde wah, so I wanted something to differentiate our wah sounds.
Altus: The Kemper’s got a lot of good effects. For solos I use a little bit of chorus and a delay. Sometimes I throw in a little bit of reverb. It depends where we play.
Lee, do you use any effects outside of the Kemper?
Altus: Not anymore. It’s all stripped down and simplified. I’m completely spoiled. I just wish they would make it smaller—like the size of an iPhone—so you don’t have to worry if an airline is going to lose it.
Gary, you’ve been playing live with Slayer and Exodus. How do you mentally recalibrate for each situation?
Holt: I’ve been doing it for some time now, and with Exodus the songs are totally second nature. It’s the same way with a lot of the Slayer songs, but then you have the ones that make their appearance every now and then on the setlist. For those I have to give myself a little refresher course before going out.
This footage from last summer shows Steve “Zetro” Souza back at the helm and slaying at the Antwerp Metal Festival
How do you prepare? It must be physically demanding.
Holt: Certainly. In November, we have a four-week tour where I’ll be playing twice a night. You just have to prepare and take care of yourself. You can’t sit there pounding down cheap vodka until four in the morning.
Are you doing intense warm-ups?
Holt: Yeah, you’ve got to stretch before you do this shit. I’m 50 years old, and pulling muscles is a common occurrence if you don’t take steps to prevent it.
Last question: Would you say Exodus is the greatest thrash band of all time?
Holt: Of course—only a loser would say we weren’t! [Laughs.] I’ve always said that the greatest thrash-metal album ever made is [Metallica’s] Master of Puppets. I think it’s the best metal album ever made. It’s perfect from start to finish. As far as pure thrash, I don’t think anything can top [Exodus’ debut album] Bonded by Blood. But you know, there are a whole lot of others. [Slayer’s] Reign in Blood is pretty fuckin’ killer, and so are [Anthrax’s] Among the Living and [Megadeth’s] Peace Sells … but Who’s Buying? There’s a plethora of awesome albums that can enter into any conversation about that.
Altus: I would say Exodus is one of them—definitely in the top three. But if you ask who started thrash metal, Exodus was doing it before Anthrax—they were power metal. Metallica were not even really doing it, and even Slayer were more like Priest. So if you want to get, like, to the beginning of time, you could say that Exodus was the first.