Brutal Truth's Dan Lilker
Published Apr 01, 2009It has been two years since the pioneering grindcore band Brutal Truth resurrected from the dead. The unorthodox and intense sound of grindcore was defined when legendary NYC bassist Dan Lilker (ex-Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, S.O.D., and multiple others) formed the band in 1990 and even during the band's long hiatus, they weren't forgotten. After a 2007 Eyehategod tribute and a couple of tours, the grinders - along with a new guitarist - decided to lay some new tracks down. Ten years after their last full-length album, Brutal Truth now unleash Evolution Through Revolution and are heading out on the road to support this highly anticipated release. The now 45-year-old Lilker discusses the reformation of Brutal Truth, the new album, and his undying passion for grind.
Why did you decide to reform Brutal Truth?
Initially it was to help out friends of ours in the band Eyehategod from New Orleans. This all started in January 2006, about six months after hurricane Katrina. What happened is Hurricane Katrina really messed up their rehearsal space with all of their gear in it. So somebody they knew decided to put together a compilation that would be in the form of a benefit where bands would cover Eyehategod songs and the proceeds would go to those guys to help them get their shit together. What this guy did was even though he knew Brutal Truth was over for eight years, he asked us figuring that that would definitely add to the profile of the record and we said "Sure, that sounds like a terrific cause." Then once we got together we just said "Hey, let's see if we can play some of our old shit" and we could. So we decided to keep going, although our original guitar player is no longer with us, so we have a new guitar player Erick [Burke].
What were the initial reasons for the break-up?
I've got to be a little sketchy there, it was down to personal stuff and people weren't getting along. We just said we weren't going to be super specific because we don't want to be airing our dirty laundry. But that won't be a problem anymore; without being overly obvious about it, we have a new guitar player now.
The new album, Evolution Through Revolution, is the first Brutal Truth full-length release in over ten years. How does it differ from the previous albums?
Well, for one thing with our new guitar player Erick writing a lot of stuff it definitely has kind of a different thing going on with it because he's really strong with songwriting. He's mastered all of the stuff we do and his contributions have definitely given things a little twist. Otherwise, I think that this album is kind of like an amalgamation of all our old stuff. With our first album we had very direct primitive death metal stuff on it that a lot of people liked, then our newer stuff got more twisted, and this is kind of like a mixture of all that. And we made sure that the production was really clear because the last album we released was kind of muddy sounding, so we made a point of trying to produce the hell out of it, in a good way.
After all that time, what was the writing process for the new album like?
It's a different writing process now, with a different guitar player and not just because of the way he plays, but also just our whole logistical thing. I now live in Rochester, NY, even though I grew up in New York City, so Erick and I are the only guys who live in the same town. Kevin [Sharp], our singer, lives in Atlanta and Rich [Hoak], our drummer, is still in Philly like he's always been. So the writing process was Erick and I exchanging riff ideas and we basically composed the skeletons of three songs or so in one session. Then about once a month Rich would fly up here and we'd show him what we got. We'd record in our rehearsal space and then send the stuff over to Kevin. That's pretty much how it worked this time.
Has it been difficult getting back into the Brutal Truth groove after such a long hiatus?
Not really, it's kind of like those riding a bike things. I guess playing grind is just very natural and no matter how long we were separated, it was just really easy to jump right back into it.
Did you find that Brutal Truth were able to pick up where the band left off?
I'd say so. In fact we even had more of an edge because over the eight years that we were broken up, I had a lot of riffs that were just banging around in my head and I was still really active musically doing lots of other stuff, but none of those particular riffs fit with that. I was like "Fuck, that's a grind riff, what am I going to do with that?" So when we finally came back I had a little backlog of stuff.
Apart from the other genres of music you play, including thrash metal, what is it about grindcore that appeals to you?
It's just the very visceral, intense music. It's kind of like being on fire in a good way. There's nothing like playing grindcore live and feeding off the energy of the audience that you in turn are feeding them. They're getting it off you and giving it back to you, it's just a really intense wild experience. There's no energy like grind and it's really cathartic too, I think a lot of people walk out of those shows and they don't have the energy to be mad about anything.
Do you think grindcore has been gaining more recognition recently? Or do you think it will always be the underground genre of the underground?
A little bit of both, it'll still be the underground just due to its intensity and the stuff that's marketable. But there are a lot of bands that say they're grind and get on MTV because they have a few blastbeats and stuff, but it's not the essence of grind, it's just more of the elements of it. But having said that, grindcore is really going strong now. The whole time that we were broken up I was still out on tour doing stuff and people would come up and say "Hey Dan, are you going to do Brutal Truth again, do you have any idea how influential you were to the grindcore scene, you guys were like gods, you inspired this band and that band." So it was really cool that we came back to see that people were really psyched about it and we seem to have gotten a lot more popular in the time that we were gone.
With all of your different bands going on at one time or another, how did you find the time and energy for multiple projects?
It's definitely a juggling act as far as having stuff going on at one time, but most of the stuff wasn't really happening simultaneously. It's just one of those things where you have to plan things out in advance so you don't go crazy and make sure you have a little personal time and it's just a matter of looking at a big calendar and seeing what fits.
In your career, when one project would end, you'd have another in the works. What inspires you to keep creating after all this time?
That's hard to say, it's not really something I think about. I guess playing music and writing music and playing it live is just really natural for me; it's just something I do. That's not the best answer, but it's an honest one.
You've been called a pioneer of thrash metal and grindcore. In that respect, how does it feel when you're called one of the most significant people in metal?
It's very flattering, I guess. I definitely appreciate that stuff, but for me just making music is not something I think about too much. I just do what I want to do and that's really cool that people look upon that as a great accomplishment. But I've always just done whatever the hell I want to do and just don't give a shit.
For the tour in support of Evolution Through Revolution, what can fans expect from the newly reformed Brutal Truth?
Just the same thing we've always been known for, just a live show that grinds you to a pulp. We will be coming up to Canada, which will be the first country we go to outside of ours after we have the new record. But just in general people can expect to have a good time and hear some really intense shit, it's what we do best. What we did once in Chicago was we played the whole new album and then we played a little greatest hits thing of another 12 songs. So we'll see what happens, but that still might be the thought because it's still fresh and new to everybody.
What does the future hold for Brutal Truth? Is this a permanent reunion?
I'd like to think so; we don't plan too far ahead. Right now the goal is just to support this record and see how well that goes and then do another record. But we just take it day to day, so we shall see.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I just really want to express my appreciation to all the people who have really welcomed us back. I mean we wouldn't be doing it if the people didn't give a shit and it's just been a really positive response from people that's really gotten us psyched and we just really totally appreciate that. So just cheers basically.