Exclusive interview with Dan Lilker
February 2006 - Interview by Sjouke Bakker for www.sod-mod.com
A short time ago, I asked Dan Lilker if he wanted to do an interview with me for my website. I had interviewed Billy Milano before and now I had the opportunity do ask Dan if I could ask him some questions. He agreed immediatly. I am very pleased that I finally got a chance to speak with this great musician.
Dan played in several bands like: Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth, The Ravenous, Hemlock and others. But most people here know him of course as the bassplayer of S.O.D., the Stormtroopers Of Death. This interview is mainly about Danny's time in S.O.D., but he also tells us what he's involved in at this moment.
Please introduce yourself…
Dan: I'm Dan Lilker, bass player.
Why and how did you become a bassplayer?
Dan: Being the old man I am, I was influenced at first by the classic rock bassists in Zeppelin, Cream, Rush, etc. As for how, well I knew the basics from having piano lessons at an early age, so I bought a bass at age 14, and figured the rest out myself.
What was the first band you played in?
Dan: White Heat, which was some guys I met at summer camp for the most part, We did covers of Zeppelin, Van Halen (our guitarist was quite talented) and a few originals in the hard rock vein.
In 1985 S.O.D. recorded 'Speak English or Die' in just 3 days. Where you involved in the writing process? If so, which songs did you write?
Dan: Once Scott invited me to do the band, I came up to Ithaca for a weekend and we finished the album since Scott had already wrote some of it. I helped write Pussywhipped, Milk, Pre-Menstrual, Chromatic Death, Milano Mosh, Speak, and Fist Banging Mania.
You were kicked out of Anthrax, but you agreed to do this project with Anthrax-members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante… Wasn't it strange to play again with 2 guys who just kicked you out of the band that you founded?
Dan: Yes, in a way, but I had a feeling a lot of that had to do with Neil Turbin, who they kicked out about 7 months after me. I think those guys wanted to play with me again in some way and this is how it worked out. I didn't let foolish pride stand in the way of a fun project, which was all it was before it came out.
When and where did you meet Billy for the first time? Did you know him before S.O.D.?
Dan: I'd seen him around at CBGBs, but I didn't really meet him until Scott introduced me to him and said "This guy is gonna sing for us."
Did you ever think that 'Speak English Or Die' would become the 'classic album' that it is now? I mean, the sound of that album influenced a lot a of hardcorebands, didn't it?
Dan: We had no idea the album would become so popular, but once we got to the mixing stage we knew we had something special. It was hard to step back and listen to it being so involved in the creation and recording of it, but when we did, we said "Oh shit, this sounds pretty fucking wild!"
It has been re-released a couple of times now, in 2000 as a Platinum Edition and in 2005 as the 25th Anniversary Edition. Your thoughts please.
Dan: The Platinum one had extra stuff on it, 2 new songs and some live stuff from Japan. The fact that that record sold over a million copies worldwide is incredible considering it was just done for fun. The 25th Anniversary release? I suppose it was a case of "why not", although I don't think it was much different than the original.
So, the first S.O.D. album was recorded in 1985. In that same period you recorded the Crab Society North Demo. What is the story behind that? When, where and why did you record this demo?
Dan: The Crab Society was originally Craig Setari and me. He was in NYC Mayhem, Straight Ahead, Agnostic Front, etc. It was just supposed to be extreme sounding, and we recorded it on a cheap tape deck with way too much input level so it sounded really distorted. It was called "Noise For Noise's Sake." I brought it with me to the S.O.D. recording session, the guys loved it and wanted to some more like that, although Craig wasn't there. It was recorded in the lounge of Pyramid Sound with a similar recording technique and was called The Crab Society North 'cos it was done upstate compared to the original that Craig and I did in NYC.
I have a copy of that tape, it's nice to have it but it doesn't sound that well. Was this tape ever meant to be released to the public?
Dan: It was never officially released and it's supposed to sound like that.
S.O.D. always played a couple of Crab Society songs live. In 1985 for example: 'Momo', 'Vitality', 'Taint' and even a Crab Society Medley. In 1997, 1999 and 2000 some Crab Society songs were also used in the S.O.D.-medley: '6 Songs In 9 Seconds'. But aren't those Crab Society songs in fact nothing less than S.O.D. songs?
Dan: Nope, they originally appeared on the "North" demo. S.O.D. played them live and popularized them, but they were Crab Society tunes.
With Nuclear Assault you also recorded a couple of short and funny songs like: 'Hang The Pope' and 'My America'. Did you have these songs originally in mind for S.O.D.? They sound kind of Crab Society/S.O.D. style in my opinion.
Dan: No, that's just a coincidence. Nuke was mostly serious but we had some funny stuff too, and being that I was in both bands, my influence must have manifested itself over both bands.
S.O.D.'s latest release was the DVD; 20 Years Of Dysfunction. It was released last year. Do you have it/did you see it? Do you think that Billy did a good job with this DVD?
Dan: It's pretty cool, but sometimes the audio and video isn't perfectly synced up. I was rockin' the short hair on some of that!
Billy also wrote new theme tunes for this DVD to introduce each member of S.O.D., what do you think of yours; 'The Lord Of The Dead Elk'?
Dan: Very cool. Billy is obsessed with my musical tastes and wanted to introduce me as such.
The DVD mainly exists of footage that was filmed by fans. There are lots of videotapes of S.O.D. shows left, so if you wanted you could release another DVD. Maybe you could select your favourite video footage as well, for another DVD from your point of view?
Dan: I think we've had enough DVDs! It would start to be somewhat of a ripoff to keep releasing live stuff done with fan's cameras. I have lots of live VCR tapes, but like I said, it would start getting a little excessive.
This spring Megaforce Records will release S.O.D.'s final album. It seems right, considering that S.O.D. released an album every 7 years (1985, 1992 and 1999). The last studio-album is from 1999, so 2006 ìs the right year for the next one. I happen to know that a show from the 1999 'Killith Fair Tour' will be used for this live CD. What can you tell us about this upcoming release?
Dan: Well, you know more than I do, so there's not much I can say here! Except that it was obvious that the 2006 release would not be new studio material.
In 1999 S.O.D. finally did a world tour. I saw you at the Dynamo Festival in The Netherlands. It was great to finally see S.O.D. live. What are your memories of this first and only world tour?
Dan: That was really great. I know people had waited a long time to see us, and you could tell people really enjoyed it. In general, it was awesome to finally play all over the place after so many years of people asking if that would ever happen.
Between touring, S.O.D. also did a studio-session in 1999. The songs 'Seasoning The Obese' and 'Raise Your Sword' were recorded during that session and released in 2000 as a single. I think that 'Seasoning The Obese' is one of the greatest songs that S.O.D. ever wrote. Do you agree?
Dan: This is impossible to really answer because I wrote the music for this song, and I am not in the habit of praising my work to the extent you have mentioned. I will, however, take this as a compliment and say "thanks".
Are these songs meant to be tributes to Slayer and Manowar?
S.O.D. recorded about 6 songs during that session, as far as I know… Which other songs, besides 'Seasoning The Obese' and 'Raise Your Sword' were recorded? What is going to happen with those tracks?
Dan: If this is the same session with "Identity" and "Go", those songs were on the Platinum Speak. I think we did a Negative Approach song too.
How many gig did S.O.D. do in it's existence? Do you have any idea?
Dan: I don't know, but besides the tours in '99 and the short one in 2000, there were only about 12 or so before that.
There is a story that the first S.O.D. song you ever played live in 1985 was out of tune? Please fill us in…
Dan: I think I forgot to tune my A-string down along with my E-string, which is required for "March" and "Sargeant". Blame it on the alcohol and weed! It also shows we weren't an experienced live band yet.
You created your own special bass-sound. How do you get this sound, what kind of gear and effects do you use?
Dan: On "Speak" I used Scott's TC Electronics distortion pedal and played really loud through an old Acoustic amp. Since then I got myself a Sans Amp GT2 distortion pedal that sounds very similar to Scott's.
Do you use the same equipment and sound for all the bands you play(ed) in?
Dan: I always use the Sans Amp pedal, which has a very distinct sound, and I get my tone from that pedal, so it doesn't matter what amp I use, it will always sound similar.
What is your favourite…
Dan: Dynamo '99.
Dan: Speak English Or Die.
Dan: Both are good but Kill Yourself: The Movie is better.
Dan: The ballad of Nirvana.
Dan: Tokyo '99 followed closely by Dynamo.
In which band(s) do you currently play?
Dan: Nuclear Assault is still somewhat active, but probably not for very long since John will be a teacher soon. I also play in CRUCIFIST, which is old-school 80's death/black/doom, you can hear our demo at www.crucifist.com and look for us on MySpace.
Are there plans to record and/or tour with one of those bands in the near future? Can we see you sometime soon on stage? Tell us all about it.
Dan: Nuke will play a festival in Spain the 2nd week of March, and CRUCIFIST is recording our full-length. Once we find a label and it's out, it is indeed possible that we will do some touring, but 2 of the members also play in the doom band ORODRUIN, so they are also busy with that.
What's your favourite kind of music to play? You played metal, hardcore, grindcore, thrash and black metal in all kinds of bands… which style do you prefer as a musician?
Dan: I just like playing extreme music, and I'm glad I've had the chance to play different kinds of it. Some people have seen this in a negative light and accused me of being a trend-jumper, but they can fuck off because I've always played music for the enjoyment of it, not 'cos it's cool at the time or whatever.
And what's your favourite kind of music to listen to?
Dan: Nothing in particular, anything except country, opera, and pop like Celine Dion or those fucking boy bands.
Any particular bands that you like nowadays?
Dan: Municipal Waste, Slough Feg.
Any particular bands that you absolutely dislike nowadays?
Dan: Just a lot of that new emo-metalcore whatever. Some of that stuff is Christian too.
If you hadn't become a bassplayer, what do you think you would you be doing instead?
Dan: I would somehow be involved in using my creativity in the performing arts or in recording music or even graphics or video. I'm a creative person, and I would try to involve myself in something that takes advantage of that.
In 2001 there were plans to record another S.O.D. studioalbum. I heard you say this in an interview at the Thrash Of The Titans benefit. So, at that point everything was still okay. Why did it never happen?
Dan: I believe that would be due to problems with the members getting along. Also, the more albums we'd release, the less magical it would get.
The Trash Of The Titans show was actually the last show S.O.D. ever did. Any chance of an S.O.D. reunion someday?
Dan: It seems highly unlikely at this point but you never know.
Would you do a new S.O.D. album with a different line-up, or do you think it should just be you, Billy, Scott and Charlie?
Dan: It would not be S.O.D. without the original members, so the answer is no.
Are you still in contact with them? Do you see eachother on a regular base for example?
Dan: We all live in different cities so we do not see each other, but I talk to those guys in email now and then.
Is there anything left that you want to achieve as a musician?
Dan: It would be fun to do a stoner rock thing like High On Fire. I'm known for extreme music, but it would be cool to chill out too.
Thank you very much for your time. It was really nice to finally get a chance to do an interview with you. Do you want to add something to this interview?
Dan: Just a big thank you to you and all the other freaks who have supported the band all this time.
Hopefully we'll meet someday when you're over here in The Netherlands. Thanks again!
Dan: You're welcome and perhaps I'll see you over there one day...
© Sjouke Bakker, February 2006
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