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Interview: Dan Lilker from Nuclear Assault


As one of the pioneering figures in thrash metal, Dan Lilker carved out a name for himself in the 1980’s as a founding member of Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, and Stormtroopers of Death, and has been a member of many other cult metal bands throughout the years. With a portfolio as expansive as this there’s no arguing Dan Lilker is a significant part of the Heavy metal tapestry that built the platform that many bands today take inspiration from. We chatted with Lilker about his upcoming Australian tour with Nuclear Assault, the pros and cons of touring, and the albums he’s most proud to have played on!

This will be Nuclear Assault’s first time touring Australia, are you excited for it?

Yeah definitely, there’s lots of places that we’ve toured but I never made it down [to Australia]. I have made it down there with Brutal Truth but even then people have asked, “When are you coming down with Nuclear Assault?”, and I couldn’t give them an answer. So yeah, it’s cool that before we hang it up for good we definitely wanted to cross [Australia] off the Nuclear Assault bucket list!

Were there any logistical reasons as to why the band hasn’t come down under before or did you guys just never get the chance until now?

Well, it’s certainly quite a distance so that in itself is a logistical problem. You have to get a promoter who’s willing to bring you down because flights are quite expensive, so you have to be able to come home with a little something, so that’s the financial aspect of it. Of course you also have to get visas…certain countries like Japan and Australia you have to go through a visa application process and that can take quite a while.

But apart from that you just make a setlist and you’re all good. It was just that before now it had never really worked out for us to come down but now it’s finally worked out.

Is it safe to say Australian fans, many of whom have been waiting decades to finally see you guys play, can expect the full Nuclear Assault show when you guys tour?

Oh yeah, we’re not going to disappoint anybody! I mean, if you know us you know you’re not going to get a huge fancy lights show on the stage, but what you’re going to get is what we do best, which is just having a good thrash and putting on a good show.

We’ll pick out a setlist we think people will know, a whole bunch of stuff from the older records that we’re more known for from the 80’s, and y’know, one or two new ones. But hopefully we won’t let anybody down and everybody will enjoy it and it’ll be worth the wait!

Do you like touring yourself? What are the positive and negative aspects?

Well I’ve actually stopped touring as much as I used to, that was kind of why I was retiring. But in touring, the positive aspects are getting to go to cool places and meeting people all over the world, being in the international metal community, and even doing things that aren’t particularly metal like going to the Melbourne Zoo or something.

The negative aspect of it, which has been getting to me over the last few years, is the organisation around shows has gotten worse and worse in terms of on time performance, getting to where you’re going. It’s one thing if you’re going on vacation, but if you show up somewhere and get stuck in transit it can screw you up…especially if you’re going on tour and you need to be somewhere on time.

After a while I just realised it was getting more and more punishing and I just needed to cut some of this crap out. It was wearing down on me the stress of just trying to get where you’re going, so that’s definitely a big problem [about touring].

You formed Nuclear Assault back in 1984, did you ever think that the band would still be going over 30 years later?

No, I guess I didn’t picture back then how long it would last at all. I mean it’s been on and off for the past 30 years but it’s been more or less pretty much together. I was flattered that in 2016 going into 2017 people still give a sh*t enough to see us. So it’s quite cool that its had that longevity that over 30 years since ‘Game Over’ came out people still want to see us.

That’s sort of the same as thrash and crossover in general, the genre is as popular as ever right now which is great. I can definitely say I’m proud of the fact that 30 years later from forming the band and releasing your first record people still want to see it, and that’s awesome!

Do you have a favourite place or venue around the world to play?

Oh that’s too hard to say, there are different places all over the world that are awesome places to play. Like there’s a great venue in Santiago, Chile for instance, but different places have different appeal. There’s a big festival in the Czech Republic which is great to play at, and it has a natural amphitheater that fits up to 4000 people which is always awesome…

The world of metal has undergone a lot of distinct changes since the heyday of Nuclear Assault, but that being said are there any new bands you like?

Well if we’re talking thrash, they’re not exactly new but, there’s Municipal Waste…but they’ve been around for 15 years now so they’re not exactly new. I’m not really sure, to be honest I don’t keep track of stuff. I don’t seek much out, I don’t really have a good answer, in fact it’s just disappointing…

Yeah I agree, I usually find myself just listening to the good old stuff anyway, there’s not too many new bands that impress…

Well there you go. With the new bands you can definitely hear the influences and that could be a good thing but it could be a bad thing if it’s too obvious, there are some bands that can pull it off though and that’s great.

It’s probably too hard to choose, but of all the bands you’ve been in do you have a favourite album you’ve played on?

That would be hard because with the different bands it’s almost like having different kids or something and you don’t want to favour one too much. There’s definitely records I’m proud of that’ve moved things along like Brutal Truth ‘Extreme Conditions’, Nuclear Assault ‘Game Over’, the S.O.D. record. So I can kind of narrow it down to the bands I think rather than which particular album.

I’m proud of different records for different reasons, like the Brutal Truth album really shook thinks up in the grindcore scene and took things to a new level intensity wise, whereas S.O.D. there were crossover bands before us but we were the first ones to really in the heavier direction. So I’d have to narrow it down to a few, ‘Game Over’ we just came out all guns blazing instead of doing crossover stuff, Nuclear Assault was more of an organic evolution I guess.

I know you probably get asked about this a fair bit but I’ll just give it a crack, how do you feel about the 1984 album you did with Anthrax, ‘Fistful of Metal’?

Yeah I’m proud of that record, we were pretty young when we did that, I wrote a bunch of music on that actually, you can probably tell because the stuff after that doesn’t sound as evil. That was a bit of a strange record because I was actually chucked out of the band three days before it came out, so when that album came out it was kind of like it was a bit…y’know, here’s my first album that’s just come out but I’m not in the band anymore!

But obviously I didn’t feel sorry for myself because I went and formed Nuclear Assault pretty much immediately and got back on the horse so I didn’t stay angry. After all Scott (Ian), Charlie (Benante) and I formed S.O.D. after that. So yeah, I’m proud of that record too. When it came out I felt a bit strange about it but that was a long time ago and I’m over it (laughs).

Nuclear Assault ‘The Final Assault’ 2017 Australian Tour

Max Watt’s, Melbourne
Crowbar, Brisbane
The Manning, Sydney

Get Tickets HERE