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David “Dave” Lombardo’s early couple of years were spent in Havana, Cuba. At the age of two, Dave Lombardo moved from Cuba to the United States (U.S.), when his family traded Havana for South Gate, California. Although Dave Lombardo’s time in Cuba was cut short, his Latin heritage followed him to the U.S., where it ended playing a huge role in his future career.
Dave Lombardo began showcasing a natural predisposition towards music – more specifically percussion – when he was a 3 year-old toddler. Dave Lombardo did so by recurrently unleashing a wall of sound on his parents, with his mom’s pots and pans in tow. His brother was instrumental as well, by showing Dave how to play along to records. Dave Lombardo started with pencils and a cardboard box, and drummed his way through a toy drum set by the time he was 7 years old. At the age of 8, Dave Lombardo was already performing in front of a live audience. For a show-and-tell during one of his third grade classes, at the Catholic private school he was enrolled in by his parents, Dave Lombardo brought in a set of bongos with which he played along a Carlos Santana record.
“In the third grade, when I took my bongos and my Santana record to class for show-and-tell. That’s when I knew that this is what I wanted to be. It was as early as the third grade. My mom said that when I was 3 years old, I would get the pots and pans from the kitchen and start banging on them.” – Q&A to Tama.com, 2009.
This event inspired Dave Lombardo to keep furthering is knowledge of percussion. At the age of 10, Dave Lombardo joined the school band to play a marching drum and drum set. Seeing Dave Lombardo’s interest in percussion and music, his father bought him a Pearl “Maxwin” five-piece drum set. So, at the age of 11, Dave Lombardo began teaching himself how to play drums by playing along to records and television series like Hawaii Five-O. One of Dave Lombardo’s first big accomplishments as a drummer was playing “100,000 Years” from KISS’ Aive! (1975) in its entirety – including the drum solo.
During that time, Dave Lombardo was exposed to the playing of what would become one of his favorite drummers of all time, John Bonham. Dave Lombardo was well aware of Led Zeppelin, but listening to Led Zeppelin II (1969) was what really motivated him to listen and play along to their music.
“(…) Led Zeppelin II showed me a side of music that I wasn’t too familiar with, the Blues. An amazing amount of feeling was what this band had, and not only as a whole but the drummer John Bonham played with so much emotion that I felt I learned that element and took it with me through my career.” – From Dave Lombardo’s, now defunct, official website.
Playing along to the radio was another one of Dave Lombardo’s favorite ways of learning how to play drums. The radio show “The King Biscuit Flower Hour”, which featured pre-recorded broadcasts of live shows, was his favorite. Dave Lombardo often used the show as a research medium for new music. Once he heard something he enjoyed, Dave Lombardo would go to the local record store to purchase a physical copy of the songs, so he could play along to them whenever. Dave Lombardo had real drum lessons for a brief period of time. But after a week, he decided to go back to his old ways, and just keep learning by playing along to music.
“I asked my parents to let me take drum lesson’s. That lasted a week, I got extremely bored with LRLLRLRR. I went back to listening and playing along to records.” – From Dave Lombardo’s, now defunct, official website.
Between the age of 12 and 13, Dave Lombardo was heavily exposed to disco music, in which, surprisingly, he got into. Dave’s involvement in this music scene was more than just that of going to parties and listening to records. Dave eventually become a temporary DJ for a mobile disc jockey under the name of “A Touch of Class”. This experience of his was short lived thought, ending after his parents’ threat of putting him through military school, due to arriving at home as late as 4 in the morning.
In 1978, Dave Lombardo began gathering local musicians at his house to play renditions of songs by Jimi Hendrix, where he performed drum parts from another one of his all-time favorite drummers, Mitch Mitchell. After graduating from the private school he was going to, Dave Lombardo was enrolled into Pius X High School, Downey, California to attend the ninth grade. It was in that school that Dave Lombardo first gained popularity as a drummer. After performing Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” with guitarist Peter Fashing and a drum solo at the school’s talent show, Dave Lombardo became known as “David the drummer” due to his outstanding performance.
In 1979, Dave Lombardo formed a cover band called Escape, with two guitarists. They played songs from AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. After leaving Pius X due to poor grades, Dave Lombardo enrolled in South Gate High School, California where he found a vocalist for the band. They performed at a couple of parties under the name Sabotage, but nothing really came out of their efforts. Seeing Dave was only interested in music and lacked focus for anything else, his parents advised him to quit the band and find a job.
In 1981, Dave Lombardo eventually quit from the band and landed a job at the local pizza joint as a delivery boy. Having a paycheck enabled him to talk his dad into advancing him some money to buy a quality drum set at the Guitar Center in Hollywood. Dave Lombardo purchased a Tama Swingstar and a Paiste Rude cymbal package for $1,100. His new drum set wasn’t the only thing his new job provided him with.
“One day I was doing a local delivery and I remembered one of the guys that use to come over telling me about this guitar player that lived 5 blocks away he also told me that he had all these guitars that his dad bought him. I drove by the house and he was outside watering the lawn, I introduced myself to him by saying “hey I heard you play guitar I play drums do you want to jam?” he said,”yeah, Do you want to come by later and check out my guitars?” I agreed and showed up that night, and shared music and bands that each of us liked. His name was Kerry King.” – From Dave Lombardo’s, now defunct, official website.
Kerry King was actually looking for a drummer for his band. So he ended up inviting Dave Lombardo to play drums for what would become one of the most important bands of trash-metal, Slayer. Dave Lombardo accepted the invitation, and with that, sealed his fate as one of the most popular and influential drummers of the heavy-metal scene.
Dave Lombardo has recorded 7 studio albums with Slayer and is featured on 2 extended plays (EPs), 2 compilation albums, and a couple of live DVDs with the band. Dave Lombardo’s first studio album with Slayer was Show No Mercy (1984). The album became Metal Blade Records’ highest selling release at the time, selling around 20,000 copies in the U.S. and over 15,000 overseas. The success of the album led to the release of the EP Haunting the Chapel (1984) and of the second full-length album Hell Awaits (1985).
The recording process of Haunting The Chapel was a difficult one, since Dave Lombardo had to play his drum set without a carpet underneath. Gene Hoglan, a friend of the band, was actually in the studio holding the drum set so it didn’t move, while Dave Lombardo tracked the drum parts. Although it did not enter any charts, musically, Hell Awaits featured Slayer’s most progressive and innovative work – taking in consideration their previous releases – and is considered one of the most influential albums for a lot of the extreme metal acts of today.
Reign in Blood (1986) was Slayer’s first major label debut. This album was Slayer’s breakthrough album, bringing them to the attention of the mainstream metal audience. This was Slayer’s first album to enter the Billboard 200, peaking at #94, and has been certified gold in the United States. Slayer’s next release was the studio album South Of Heaven (1988). This was was Slayer’s second album to enter the Billboard 200, peaking at #57, and has been awarded a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. Much like the two previous releases, Seasons In The Abyss (1990) entered the Billboard 200, peaking at #40, and was certified gold. Only this time it was in America and Canada.
In 1992, Dave Lombardo left Slayer due to conflicts with other band members, especially Kerry King. Dave Lombardo didn’t want to tour in September of that year, so he could witness the birth of his first child. He gave the rest of the band a nine-month notice of his unwillingness to tour. However, in May, he was informed by Kerry King that Slayer would have to tour in September, with our without him. Dave Lombardo refused the offer, quit the band, and was replaced by Paul Bostaph, permanently.
After leaving Slayer, Dave Lombardo embarked in a series of projects. His first one was the groove-metal band Grip Inc., which he formed with guitarist Waldemar Sorychta. Grip Inc. has recorded 4 studio albums: Power Of Inner Strength (1995), Nemesis (1997), Solidify (1999), and Incorporated (2004). The future of the band is uncertain after the accidental death of vocalist Gus Chambers in 2008.
In 1998, Fantômas, an avant-garde metal supergroup, asked Dave Lombardo to join their ranks after the recommendation of Sepultura’s Igor Cavalera, Fantômas’ first choice. Dave Lombardo has recorded drums for Fantômas’ four studio albums: Fantômas (1999), The Director’s Cut (2001), Delìrium Còrdia (2004), and Suspended Animation (2005). He’s also featured on the bands’ live albums.
In December of 2001, Paul Bostaph left Slayer due to a chronic elbow injury that hindered his ability to play. To enable the band to finish their touring commitments, Slayer contacted Dave Lombardo to fill in for Paul Bostaph for a while. Dave Lombardo accepted the offer, and after a while was reinstated as Slayers full-time drummer. In 2004, while playing with Slayer in the 2004 edition of the Download Festival, Dave Lombardo volunteered to replace Metallica’s Lars Ulrich after he’d been hospitalized in Switzerland, and wasn’t able to make it on time to play on the show. Dave Lombardo performed the songs “Battery” and “The Four Horsemen”, whilst Slipknot’s Joey Jordison performed the rest of the songs.
In 2006, Slayer released the EP Eternal Pyre and the full-length album Christ Illusion, their first recordings since the reinstatement of Dave Lombardo. Christ Illusion entered the Billboard 200 at #5, which is Slayer’s highest U.S. chart position to date, and won two Grammy awards for the songs “Eyes of the Insane” and “Final Six”. In 2009, Slayer released yet another successful musical effort in the form of the eleven-song World Painted Blood. The album peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200 and #42 on the United Kingdom.
Besides his work with Slayer, Fantômas, and Grip Inc., Dave Lombardo recorded drums for Testament’s The Gathering in 1999, and was one of the featured drummers on the Modern Drummer Festival in 2000. You can re-watch Dave Lombardo’s performance on that show through the DVD Modern Drummer Festival 2000. Dave Lombardo has also branched out to world of drumming education with the release of the book Power Grooves (1999), which he wrote in collaboration with Chuck Silverman.
Over the years, Dave Lombardo has established himself as one of the pioneers of double bass drumming in the heavy-metal music scene. Dave Lombardo’s double bass chops were throughly developed over the years. However, drummer and friend Gene Hoglan had a direct and profound impact on the way Dave Lombardo developed his double bass chops. After watching Gene Hoglan perform double bass patterns with ease, Dave Lombardo approached him and asked for some tips on how to further develop his left foot. Gene Hoglan never really gave Dave Lombardo any lessons. He just told him to focus on his left foot at first, and shared some of the things that had worked for him, which could help Dave as well. Gene Hoglan is younger than Dave Lombardo, and was around 16 years old at the time. However, this didn’t stop Dave Lombardo from seeking his advise and knowledge.
Being humble about his drumming skills and about himself helped Dave Lombardo boost his drumming skills in this particular situation. Pride would’ve have kept him away from what mattered here, getting better. So, no matter at what level you are, or that you think you are, you can always learn from others. Keep an open mind and forget about pride and embarrassment. You’re not supposed to know it all. The more questions you try to get answers too, the better drummer you’ll ultimately be.
Dave Lombardo was one of the first American drummers to play skank drum beats. A skank beat is a 2/4 polka drum beat played at very fast tempos. This type of beat is also know as the “Slayer” beat or “trash” beat, and was very common in Slayer’s music. This was so, because Slayer was more of a punk band when they started it out. The use of a polka drum beat in a very fast and loud style of music comes to show what it’s possible to accomplish by taking drum beats from different styles of music and applying them to your favorite one. This will not only enhance your drumming abilities, your independence, speed, control, dynamics and overall technique, but improve your creativity as well.
Finally, there are two very particular features of Dave Lombardo’s playing that really makes him stand out from the crowd. Unlike most heavy-metal drummers, Dave Lombardo doesn’t use triggers and doesn’t record with a click track when tracking his drums for Slayer albums. Thus, his drum sound is very organic and his playing melds beautifully with the remaining members of the band, adding a great sense of groove to Slayer’s music. This is so, because Dave Lombardo reacts to what his band-mates are playing, instead of to the click. This very unique approach to heavy-metal music comes to show that you don’t have to play and sound like a machine when you’re dealing with heavy-metal music. Groove, as well as a great sounding and organic drum set can be as important to this style of music as it is to funk. Groove is an important aspect of ALL drumming styles. Don’t ever forget about it.