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Interviews Nuclear Assault

Interview with bassist Danny Lilker

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: March 12, 2015

"Here Lies Nuclear Assault, The Band that Brought Social Awareness and the Speed of Hardcore to the Thrash Metal Paradigm". NY's Thrash/Crossover veterans Nuclear Assault aren't quite finished yet but that would be a fitting obituary on their tombstone when they decide to put the band on ice for eternal rest, wouldn't it?

Nuclear Assault have been slowly but surely working on new material plus preparing for their "Final Assault" world tour that they will embark upon before it's time to say goodbye to this band and give it final peace. They are hoping to bring this final tour to as many places as possible so if they show up near you, be sure to catch them live. As the name of this tour states loud and clear this is Nuclear Assault's very last tour.

Bassist Danny Lilker took some time to explain Nuclear Assault's plans regarding the band's last releases, their touring plans, about the magical, unwritten chemistry between him and John Connelly and Glenn Evans as well as some past memories about being in Nuclear Assault.

Luxi: How's life Dan? Are you prepared for some intense touring this year? Nuclear Assault's "Final Assault" tour is about to begin for the Nuke team within just a couple of months and this is supposed to be the last tour the band will ever do, correct?

Dan: That's the plan for now although we are playing it by ear. If an offer comes up to do Australia for example, we'd consider that since we've never been there. But it definitely won't be like Brutal Truth, who reformed back in '06 and went on for 8 more years. We're pretty old by now, y'know.

Luxi: Every time I see the words "final" and "assault" I think of Finnish Thrash/HC-Punk act Final Assault, a band you'd undoubtedly like. Ooopss, I am sorry about this shameless free advertising 'bout them, eh! ;o)

Dan: Ha! Did they play with Rattus (nope, but I imagine they would have loved to play with them - Luxi)?

Luxi: Back to Nuclear Assault, which is what this interview should be all about in the first place. The recordings for the band's last album, Final Assault, are over but instead of offering a full-length studio album you chose an unusual solution to get all these new Nuke songs out to your fans. Could you kindly explain your plans for these Final Assault songs?

Dan: Well, we realized that we wouldn't realistically have the time to write and record a full-length album that would be out in time for the shows we have booked, so we settled on writing a 4-song EP. We're a lot more spread out geographically than we were back in the day, which makes it harder to get together to write and work on new material. We thought this was a good compromise and at least we'd have something out. We also know that people are going to want to hear a bunch of the old stuff anyway, so this way we can rotate a few new tunes in to the set and get them all in. If we would have pushed and tried to write, record and release a whole new album, we might not have pulled it off and made sure every tune was killer.

Luxi: When you started thinking about a new album did you feel like everyone was on the same page as to how it should be approached; packed with sheer enthusiasm and willingness to give it the best shot and that this band deserves one more serious chance before you are done for good?

Dan: Yes, and we needed to make up for the mediocre Third World Genocide release from 2005, which was uninspired and sub-par, in my opinion. As they say, "not going out like that."

Luxi: When you started writing new songs did each of you have a crystal-clear vision about how this final Nuclear Assault album should sound?

Dan: It just had to be hard and fast, mostly. I personally don't put a lot of conceptual planning into songwriting; it's more intuitive than that. You just go for it.

Luxi: Illegal downloading has eaten a really big chunk of music sales, negatively affecting both labels and bands. It's sad that people would rather download their music for free than pay the artists for what they created. Does this make you miss the past when only tape and vinyl were real and tape trading was how you heard new music?

Dan: Yeah, it's different now for sure! At least back then when someone home-taped a record for their buddy it was more personal, as in "dude, you gotta check these guys out!", rather than anonymously uploading a torrent file. You have to roll with the changes and adapt.

Luxi: You had a guy named Vince Blackburn with you at the studio in Rochester, NY as assistant engineer. How big role did he play in these final Nuclear Assault recordings and what led you to hire him to help with this last Nuke release (or preferably releases)?

Dan: His name is actually Robert Blackburn (ah, my bad. Sorry for the mistake - Luxi) and it is his studio, Black Dog Digital, here in Rochester and it was a convenient studio for our purposes since we're rehearsing here. He definitely helped out a lot with his studio expertise and I think people will like the result for sure.

Luxi: In 2015 it will be 30 years since Nuclear Assault solidified its lineup. It happened with the band's second demo, Live, Suffer, Die, which had Connelly, Evans and you together for the first time. Obviously things started clicking and the rest is pretty much history...

Dan: Yes, it is crazy how time flies! I remember those days. It was a very exciting time and I'm really proud of the fact that all this time later people still dig us! If you had told me back then that I'd be playing festivals with this band at the age of 50, I'd have been quite surprised.

Luxi: How did you get to know each other back in the day? Obviously, you did had a lot in common with each other, like sharing similar tastes in music and stuff and even having similar drinking habits, ha ha!!

Dan: John and I lived near each other and met in high school, so we went a decent way back. I only met Glenn at his audition. He was from southern New Jersey and was introduced to us by our then-guitarist Anthony Bramante. But we clicked right away as you said previously.

Luxi. What, in your humble opinion, make Connelly and Evans such ideal band mates for you personally? I mean, 30 years is helluva long time to travel the road together, no matter how many times Nuclear Assault has broken up and reformed again.

Dan: It's just the chemistry we have both musically and personally. In a (non-sexual) way, being in a band is like being married to a bunch of dudes; you have your ups and downs, but ultimately you stand the test of time due to friendships that trump any squabbles you might have. It's a bond.

Luxi: Those 30 years contain of lot of tours with memories both great and not so great. I still remember your show at the Lepakko Club in Helsinki at the end of October 1989 and the unfortunate episode that happened there. The whole place was over-booked; there were too many people and after a while there was a girl standing in the front row that went down on the floor because other people were pushing her against the security barricade and it was simply too much for her. Fortunately, John decided to stop the show because he saw this unfortunate incident and an ambulance was called to bring that poor girl to the hospital. Without John's help that girl would have probably died. Do you remember this show and have there ever been similar incidents at any other Nuclear Assault shows over the past three decades?

Dan: I totally remember that. Poor girl. Sometimes things get out of hand, especially with shoddy, thrown-together barricades and 1,000 metalheads going crazy. That was one of the bad ones but most shows have been cool and if there's a fight for any reason that's time to stop and see what's up.

Luxi: What about some of the more joyful and funnier memories you have from your shows with Nuclear Assault? Which ones have stuck in your mind?

Dan: Nothing in particular, just watching the crowd go nuts and enjoy themselves. Maybe sometimes there will be humorous incidents like some drunk chick coming onstage and gyrating or something...

Luxi: Let's have some more touring talk before we change the subject again. If there is enough demand do you believe you'll keep the "Final Assault" tour going on as long as it is financially doable?

Dan: As of now we have the European stuff for they summer, a couple of shows here and there in the States and South America in August. We shall see if anything else comes up, we don't have a big plan for now.

Luxi: In the best scenario, do you plan to invade every continent on this planet during this final tour, even distant countries like New Zealand/Australia and even China, perhaps?

Dan: I'm up for anything but John is a high school teacher and can't get away for too long other than in the summer.

Luxi: Are there some places in the world that are always important for you personally to go out and play for your fans?

Dan: That would be hard to answer, as I don't want to play favorites. Obviously Japan is always a treat because it's always so well organized and the fans are insanely appreciative, but besides that I'd like to play Ukraine because one of my grandfathers is from there, but I don't think this is the best time for that!

Luxi: People naturally want to hear many Nuclear Assault classics on this final tour so do you have any personal message to send to them like "don't worry, you'll hear a plenty of classic Nuclear Assault songs on this tour, just make sure you come and see us. It's our very final tour, after all..."

Dan: Well said. I can't really improve on that mate.

Luxi: Have you already made some decisions as to which songs will be on the set list?

Dan: Yes, but that list will be refined soon. Obviously we're going to play a bunch of songs that we've always played live, but maybe we'll unearth a few we haven't done in ages. We'll see.

Luxi: Glenn Evans has always compared you and John (Connelly) to The Beatles' core songwriting team, calling you the "Lennon/McCartney of Thrash Metal" because of the killer material you've come up with for Nuclear Assault. Can you tell us about the songwriting chemistry between you and John? Do you find it strange that you connect so well as far as Nuke's songwriting process is concerned?

Dan: Very flattering! Well, like I said earlier, we don't live near each other anymore. The songwriting process these days is different; people write their own songs and bring them to the band, at which point whatever necessary tweaks are made when we're together. It used to be John and me getting together with some beers and writing together but it would be time-consuming to write on the spot when John's only up here for 48 hours these days over a weekend.

Luxi: Glenn used to write a lot in the past but I guess he wanted to focus on playing his nuclear batteries more and more and let other band members take the songwriter's role, right?

Dan: Yes. Glenn is certainly a good songwriter and an all-around talented musician, but these days I think he prefers to just play drums and write his own solo stuff, which is not as thrashy as what he used to write.

Luxi: Are there some Nuclear Assault songs that always make you feel proud?

Dan: Sure, "Critical Mass" and "Rise from the Ashes" come to mind. It always feels good to be a part of creating something you enjoy over and over.

Luxi: When the day comes and it's time to put Nuclear Assault to rest for good, it's quite obvious that you won't be retiring from the music scene but will continue doing music with some other projects. What have you planned to do after the tour is over or haven't you made any specific future plans yet?

Dan: No plans as of now. I play in two local bands here in Rochester and I still do Venomous Concept when the time is right for everyone so I'm still fairly active.

Luxi: Do you have any plans to put together a Nuclear Assault DVD package from the "Final Assault" tour so that the fans can have something to remember it with afterwards?

Dan: I'm sure we're going to try and document a bunch of these shows. It's really easy these days with GoPro cameras. It certainly would be cool to put something like that together.

Luxi: If you look to the past and all the time that you have spent with Nuclear Assault what are some of your dearest and/or craziest experiences and memories with the Nuke team? I have to believe you have a pocketful of them so would you mind sharing a few with the readers of The Metal Crypt?

Dan: I can never rise to the occasion when asked this question. The best I can do is just say that playing exotic locales everywhere from Finland to Brazil to Japan with these dudes has been awesome.

Luxi: Just one more question and then I'll let you go. When the funeral ceremonies for Nuclear Assault have ended what would like see written on the tombstone of the pioneering New York-based Thrash/Crossover band better known as Nuclear Assault?

Dan: I guess "Here Lies Nuclear Assault, Who Brought Social Awareness and the Speed of Hardcore to the Thrash Metal Paradigm."

Luxi: Thank you so much for your time Dan and good luck with Nuclear Assault's final tour. The last words rightfully belong to you...

Dan: A big fucking "CHEERS" to all the Thrash Metal freaks who are still demanding more punishment. It really does mean a lot to see that people are so psyched about the band playing and recording this year. We couldn't have done it without you!!

Other information about Nuclear Assault on this site
Review: Third World Genocide
Interview with bassist Danny Lilker, guitarist Erik Burke and drummer Glenn Evans on August 29, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)

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