The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Danny Lilker Nuclear Assault - Interview
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One of the most iconic bands of the US Thrash Metal movement, Nuclear Assault, will be coming to Australia for their first and last time in February 2017. Leaving behind a legacy that has influenced countless thrash metal bands worldwide, it's the end of an era for this New York based band that started with their iconic "Game Over" album back in 1986. We caught up with founding member and bassist Dan Lilker to discuss the tour and the final run for Nuclear Assault.



Andrew: So how's things with the band at the moment?

Danny: Well we're not very active. Actually going down there (Australia) is the next thing we're going to do and the last thing we done was last month when we played the California Death Fest which is kind of like an outdoor metal death fest. But we're pretty much wrapping things up, that's one reason we're coming down there because we never got to hit it so we gotta put it on the old band bucket list.

Andrew: Yeah definitely, it's great to see you in Australia after so many years. How is the feeling with jumping into a new territory like this? I know it's the end of the rope for you guys but it must be still pretty cool to do new stuff like this.

Danny: Absolutely! I mean we want to make sure that we go out with a bang so to speak, not a whimper and it's certainly cool to go somewhere we've never been. I've been down there with Brutal Truth which you might have known or seen but Nuclear it's pretty much been around since '84 and we've been known since '85, '86 and it's crazy that in 30 years we've never made it down there. I mean it's not easy getting down there, it's a long way but you know that but better late than never man!

Andrew: Exactly! So for all the hardcore Nuclear Assault fans in Australia, what can they expect?

Danny: Well the thing is we got (Nick) Barker on drums, Glenn (Evans) has had an arm injury for a while so he hasn't been able to play and Nick Barker is an old friend of ours, you know the guy from Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir and a million other bands and of course I've played with him in Lock Up sometimes when I've covered Shane (Embury) when he couldn't make it. The point being we taught him a bunch of songs that we had been doing and it's comprised of a good selection of all the stuff from the older records and I think one new song off the "Pounder" EP just to have one new thing. We avoided the records we did like at the end of my little tenure like "Out Of Order" and "Third World Genocide" which aren't really the best albums so we're basically doing pretty much the golden oldies. And as far as just the show, well anybody that likes us knows we're not going to have big fucking ramps on stage and light shows and fog and shit, we just go out there and thrash. That's pretty much what we do but I don't think anybody is going to be disappointed as long as you know what to expect.

Andrew: Yeah exactly. A lot of people have been waiting for so many years so it's good to see you coming down anyway regardless of what you guys will be playing. I know you guys had announced it a while ago but how does it feel to be on this last run and the general feeling between the band members at the moment?

Danny: Everything is pretty good as far as the general feelings, we all know that we're going to bring to a halt. John (Connelly) our frontman is actually a high school teacher now, you gotta do what you got to do to a certain time in your life where you realize - unless your fucking Metallica or something. If not, if you've played what you played and it's gotten you a don't get me wrong, we don't play music for fucking money or popularity...but money becomes more of an issue and it's one thing when you're carefree and you're living at your Mom's house in your 20's and not worrying about rent, the point being that it's gotten more difficult for everyone to get away and go out and tour for a month at a time because you gotta fucking stay home. And the thing is when you become a teacher, you gotta be home 10 months out of the year, you have a couple of vacations and OK, you got off all summer but the point being we can't do what we used to. We just have to be smart about it and enjoying what we're still going to do and just be relaxed about it. We know who we are now, we don't need to go off and hop in a van for fucking weeks at a time and don't go play every place in the world but as far as playing places in the world, yeah that's why we're coming down there because we haven't done that yet. There's other places we haven't been to so who knows in the future but we're just going to come down there and hit you guys for sure.

Andrew: Yeah it is unfortunate that is some of the reasons bands face today. I know you guys disbanded many years ago and came back together but do you think this time around this will be it? You can't see yourselves reuniting again in say another 5 or 10 years?

Danny: 10 years ago I was asked that question and I said, 'Na that's ridiculous, I'm going to be in my 50's if I'm still playing'. Probably not because certain aspects aren't going to change, if I win the fucking lottery and I don't have to worry about paying rent or have to work at a job then that would certainly free up my day. But besides that it's just different than when you are in your mid-20's and these guys have now got families too, we just have cats but there's just financial and domestic realities that have to be acknowledged which means we can't do what we did and that's pretty much it man.

Andrew: Is that also a state of the music industry at the moment or are there many other factors involved?

Danny: Well there is geographical considerations. We used to be based all pretty much in New York or New Jersey but I've been living in Rochester, New York for the last 15 years or so. Actually that's where Eric (Burke, guitar) is from, he's playing guitar for us and John is still down in New York City and right now Nick Barker is playing with us and he is in L.A. but he is actually British. So there is a saying that it's hard to be as functional a band and rehearse and write music when you're all spread out like that. That's mostly it, having certain realities to deal with. It's not like we're not getting along or anything, just practical and realistic considerations.

Andrew: Looking back on such an amazing career that you guys have had and having such an influence on many of the thrash metal bands today, is there any particular moment that you look at and say you were really proud of? Anything that stands out for you that you are super proud of?

Danny: Well there's some categories for that like albums and live shows and stuff like that. It was a big plateau for us when we got to headline the Hammersmith Odeon on the "Handle With Care" tour because everybody had that live Motorhead record and that was a big prestigious thing to be able to do that so that was really cool. The albums like "Game Over" and "Handle With Care" I'm quite proud of for different reasons, "Game Over" we were young and hungry and crazy and had just put out a really intense record, with "Handle With Care" we were kind of at the top of our game after doing a lot of touring and being song writers for a few years so I think that record was well put together. The first time we went to Japan, that was fucking awesome because they just go crazy and going such a long distance and being in such a different culture was really cool because it makes you more worldly. Not that I was racist to begin with but when you go out there and see that no matter where you go, maybe some parts of Africa I don't know about or anything! But besides that, or maybe fucking Greenland, I don't know what they do there, the point being you travel all over the fucking place and you meet people who just enjoy your music and have similar tastes, it's fucking cool! So just stuff like that really.

Andrew: Speaking of those kinds of things, what's the craziest thing you have ever seen at one of your shows over the years?

Danny: Well this isn't a good crazy but once way back before "Game Over" came out, we were opening for fucking Overkill at a show in Staten Island and there was some people in the crowd and one dude had a fight with his fucking girlfriend and he was all fucking drunk off his ass, he left the club and then we had played, Overkill was ready to go and we heard this big commotion and crazy fucking sounds in the front and this guy had gotten into his car and tried to drive into the entrance of the club.

Andrew: Oh wow!

Danny: Yeah and the big joke was Overkill blew up in their song and was like, 'Aren't you glad you came?' Besides that just nutty kid stuff, people doing sick stage dives and stuff like that. So it depends, there's a negative and a positive example.

Andrew: It's funny that thrash metal has had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years and a lot of bands not only credit the usual suspects like the big four but also you guys as well, especially with that first album you put out "Game Over". What's your take on thrash metal today? Do you still follow it or do you stay away from that kind of thing?

Danny: Well I don't consciously stay away, I just don't actively seek anything out. It will be interesting to see what bands we play with when we get down there. I think it's cool that there's been this resurgence because it proves the validity or legitimateness of the genre in general and that goes back to what I was saying about being proud of "Game Over" because it gave a kick in the ass much like "Extreme Conditions" but for a different genre. But the point being I think it's really cool because nobody's talking about Limp Bizkit these days right? The difference between a legitimate genre and just some crap.

Andrew: [laughs] Exactly, it's good that they aren't the talk of the town these days and it's more underground, at least in the metal community anyway. Who do you consider to be your biggest influence and getting you into music?

Danny: Well that whole thing started when I was a kid and my sister got me into stuff so basically before I was even playing metal, my sister was getting me into classic rock and that started with Hendrix and The Who and Cream and shit like that. This may be a familiar story, you got Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin then you got Priest, Motorhead and by the time Nuclear was making music for "Game Over", it was kind of equally influenced by hardcore punk like Discharge and Metallica and a little bit of Slayer who were a bit ahead of us. So stuff like that but it really depends on what period you're talking about.

Andrew: And what about playing bass? Was there any particular bass player that you looked upon that helped shape your sound and style?

Danny: Well that would be ironic because it's mostly to dudes Steve Harris and Geddy Lee but then if you listen to my sound now - well the again Geddy has a bit of a growl - but then for the tone when I heard Rainy from Discharge's tone on "Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing", I was like 'Man that is the shit', so I tried to imitate that. And I had this old bass head that for some reason always distorted well, generally bass heads don't have a setting where you can fuzz it out and this one did the same we did with the guitar amp. The reason I first started playing bass was through rock which really doesn't sound like what I do now but you got to start somewhere.

Andrew: Yeah exactly and it's great to see kids today picking up an instrument and being influenced by the pioneers and originators of the genre. We're looking forward to seeing you in Australia, it's going to be a massive tour and while it's your last run and it's sad to see you guys go, it's still good to see you in Australia. Have fun on tour, we look forward to it!

Danny: Alright cheers man, see you down there!


Wednesday, February 22: Max Watts, Melbourne
Thursday, February 23: Crowbar, Brisbane
Friday, February 24: Manning Bar, Sydney

Tickets and tour details can be found at Hardline Media.

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on November 18th 2016