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Interviews Nuclear Assault

Interview with bassist Danny Lilker, guitarist Erik Burke and drummer Glenn Evans

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: August 29, 2015

Top picture and live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Interview pictures by Terhi Lahtinen

Nuclear Assault is a band that needs no introduction. This New York-based band has been mixing Crossover and Thrash Metal since 1985 and has recorded some very popular albums (Game Over in 1986, Survive in 1988 and Handle with Care in 1989) and gained worldwide success with their opinionated, controversial and political lyrical approach (much like Sacred Reich). Nobody's safe from our beloved Nuke-men; they shoot straight and don't give a shit if anyone gets offended.

As with every band Nuclear Assault has had ups and down during their long career (the band has broken up and reformed three times). They released their last studio album, Third World Genocide, way back in 2005 a fact that has led many fans to think Nuclear Assault's recording phase is over. The year 2015 proved them wrong as Nuclear Assault put out a new 4-song EP titled Pounder, showing everyone that they still have the ability to make good songs and sound exactly like the Nuclear Assault of 25-30 years ago.

Nuclear Assault is currently doing their farewell tour (dubbed the "Final Assault") and The Metal Crypt caught up with the band at Porispere festival in Pori, Finland, on August 1st, 2015 with the intention of talking about the tour, their new EP, the world's situation with its many threats and crises and so on.

Luxi: How was your Wacken experience yesterday?

Danny: It's was fuckin' money. No, it was really cool to play over there. The last time we played over there with Nuclear Assault was in 2002 which was a different situation. It was earlier in the day and on the main stage and it was the first time in a long time that we had done a big show. Coming back 13 years later we played the tent stage. We played at like 11:20 at night and it was really cool, I think. Wacken was cold, colder than here by the way, but it was quite enjoyable and we got a really good video out of it too because the Wacken staff taped it and then gave our drummer a fuckin' thumb drive or something with the entire video edited and completed. That was cool. So it was a good experience for us all in all. It's just that we got no sleep after it while coming over here to your lovely country.

Luxi: Do you think it was one of your highlights on this tour playing at Wacken?

Danny: I would say one of them. We also played a couple of great festivals in Spain. We played at Dynamo and we did a festival in Serbia, one in Hungary and then some club shows, too. But, you know, everybody knows Wacken, so it's like a big accomplishment, I guess.

Luxi: Has this constant moving from one place to another been rough for you either mentally or physically?

Danny: It was stressful yesterday because we did not have any weed. You have to accept the schedule. You know, before you leave home, you look at the timing and everything and you go; "Oh shit, we have to play at Wacken," and then we have to be in a hotel lobby 4:30 in the morning to go to Finland and then go back to Germany again. But it's also enjoyable to play in front of a lot of people. It's worth it. Okay, you don't sleep all the time and of course all of us are getting a little older, but you know, you can go a couple of days with a little sleep before you fall apart. But we are ok for now...

Luxi: Does it feel sad that you are doing your last tour or do you think all good things must come to end at some point?

Danny: Well, yes and no. Sometimes it can be a "love-or-hate" thing. We really enjoy playing but sometimes you miss being at home, you know, with your wife and your cats. But we still love to do shows here and there. This is just the last extensive, long tour. We haven't done shit like this since the fuckin' late eighties, going out for one month. It's difficult because John Connelly is a school teacher so it makes it really kind of difficult to go out for more than a few days, except in the summer. I won't stop doing shows completely because I am still playing in local bands. We play in a band together with his drummer back home. The band is called Blurring, which is psychotic Grindcore. So I can still play music at home and it's in our neighborhood and our bar and after the show I can go and sleep in my own bed, but still play intense music, so that's also really nice.

Luxi: Since you mentioned the Wacken crew filming your show have you been filming any other live footage from this last tour of yours for a possible DVD release?

Danny: I don't know what other shows we have filmed with this kind of fancy editing and stuff like that, you know. I am sure it's all over YouTube already, people with their phone cams, but I don't think there are other shows that have been filmed. I think maybe Bang Your Head!!! in Germany had something like three songs but other than that I don't think we have a whole bunch of different shows of that kind of quality from which to make a DVD.

Luxi: You released a new 4-song EP titled Pounder this year so let's talk about it a little bit. When you first gathered together with the intention of recording again did you feel like everyone was on the same page as to how you wanted these new Nuclear Assault songs to sound?

Danny: We just wanted it to be better than Third World Genocide which wasn't a very good record. We just said, "Let's write some shit like the old days". Actually, because of the geographical considerations, I wrote the music for three of the songs myself and John wrote the lyrics. And then "Died in Your Arms", the slower, more epic-sounding song, that's all John. When it was time for me to write the fast stuff I just achieved this tunnel vision. It's difficult because I play Black Metal and Grindcore so I have to have a speed limit and it can't be too evil. I just said "it's gonna be just good 'n' old Thrash Metal" smoked a joint and I think it worked.

Luxi: Having heard Pounder several times now it's great for a longtime Nuclear Assault fan that you sound exactly like Nuclear Assault on these four new tunes. Are you guys pleased with how the EP how turned out?

Danny: Good, I am glad that you said that. A lot of people have said that too. I have seen many very good reviews over the internet that say this sounds like good 'n' old 80's Thrash and when I hear things like this I feel like I am eighteen again or something. I am glad it worked.

Luxi: Have you written any new material since the Pounder EP and have you had any talks about when you may enter the studio again to record some more stuff? Will it be another EP or perhaps a full-length?

Danny: Not yet, but we have a studio booked right after X-mas for another EP. When the touring is over and the fall comes then we are going to write some more.

Luxi: So it's going to be like the Pounder EP with three or four songs only?

Danny: Yeah, it's easier just to do four songs because we all don't live in the same area and we don't want to put out 45 minutes of crap. It is better to concentrate on 15-17 minutes of really strong stuff because we don't have the time to get together like the old days.

Luxi: As for the lyrical content on Pounder, the title track is about you, your fans and sort of your last mission on this final tour; to end it with pride, making a clear statement for the Metal world that Nuclear Assault stayed true to themselves and the fans for all these years, correct?

Danny: Yea, it's a "love song" to the fans. Normally we don't have lyrics like this. They are more social, political and you know, use-your-brain type of lyrics. But we wanted to write one song where, lyrically, it's just more about a "thank you" to the fans because it's kind of emotional for us. People still care, they still really like the band after all these years and that proves that we don't suck. So, we departed from the usual lyrics to have something that is a salute, you know, cheers to the fans, which is unusual for us but that made it interesting.

Luxi: You also have a song called "Analogue Man in a Digital World" which is directed at the new generation of kids who seem to be spending most of their time on the internet and not realizing that there is a world out there beyond their computer screens. Do you think young people are too dependent on the digital world and are you worried about this phenomenon?

Danny: Yeah, it's a different world now and that song is actually about John. It's basically about guys our age who find it amusing that people today, half our age, are only devoted to Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. They have a normal social life. They are just under their phones or under a computer with hashtag this and bla-bla-blaa. The only hashtag I wanna see is a store that sells hash and tags it "25 euros." That's a hashtag for me. Everything else...Fuck off!

As for the internet, I am just trying to find the right words for it. It's just a different thing now.

Erik: We have to interact with people. You cannot look at a screen all day long. That's not interacting. When I grew up, playing in vans, I jammed with anybody, anywhere, anytime, any place I could. I slept in my car, my drums with me, a set of clothes, that's all I had. So my life was devoted to playing drums and socializing with people and playing in bands. Now it's like, you know, it's not the same at all. You have to go out. I have played five nights a week for years and years, three sets in a night. That's a lot of fuckin' drumming. And people just think you can go on to Facebook and create a band and get out there and play in front of 50,000 people. It does not work like that, you know. I mean, sometimes you can but there's no longevity in it. We started a long time ago in 1986 or whatever, and 30 years, man. That's a long time.

Luxi: What do you think of the current situation the world is in at the moment with all of the economic crises around the world, famine, the Ukraine crisis, the terrorist organization called Isis and so on? There are a lot of bad things happening in the world these days...

Danny: There's always going to be a conflict somewhere in the world...

Glenn: I don't even watch the news, I don't watch television, I don't read newspapers, I wanna know nothing. I enjoy my life, period. If people want to waste their fuckin' time, you know, focusing on bullshit, negative stuff around the world, that's their problem. If people wanna waste their time burning flags just to get on the internet, get on the news, that's their fuckin' problem. They are wasting their life, you know. That's not creating anything for them. You know, I am saying it's not doing anything for their lives. It's not helping their lives and it's just distracting everybody else's life and what's going on. It's basically propaganda that everybody is so focused on, things like "I burned this flag and I burned that flag and we gotta take this flag down". "Oh my god, marihuana is legalized". It's like, "shut the fuck up brother and live!" You know... really! I am sorry...


Luxi: What's wrong with humankind, in your opinion? Are we so blinded by religion, money and political power that we need to kill each other over them?

Glenn: In my opinion, there's too much racism, too much segregation. If you are black and I am white, it's all bullshit, we are all humans and we are all on this planet together. We should all stick together, we should all get along and not let all this bullshit come our way, you know. I think it's ridiculous! The point is that when I went to school, obviously you had your people that hung out together and stuff but at the end of the day we are all human beings. We are just enjoying ourselves, you know, we really are and it's a shame. The way I look at it is we don't have much time on this planet. The clock is ticking every fuckin' day, so enjoy yourself. I mean, I don't wanna be bothered. Here's a good example; you are going to the airport and there's a thousand screens with bad news all over the place. You know, everywhere you go, like a friggin' gas station, and there are screens when you are pumping gas. It's like I don't want to see your crap...!! As far as that goes the information age is really destroying the society because people don't interact, people don't talk, people don't get along, people don't write songs, you know, and that kind of stuff. So what we are doing right now, we are back to square one; we are back to the beginning where we started when there was not that kind of bullshit.

Danny: The only thing that will unite humanity is an alien invasion.

Erik: Well, that's about to happen anyway. There are four hundred billion stars in our galaxy, you know, four hundred billion galaxies in the universe...

Luxi: Well, there are always groups that are waiting for an alien invasion...

Glenn: Maybe we are all aliens, who the fuck knows.

Luxi: We can always say that we are aliens to them and they are aliens to us.

Glenn: Yeah, but let's get together and have fun. No racism, no bullshit and no hatred. There's already enough of that in the world to go around. People are starving, people are homeless and people are living in the streets, so let's help people. We all have our trials and tribulations and the thing is you just keep going. You pick yourself up dust yourself off and keep moving on and go towards positive. You gravitate towards positive people and positive results transpire. If you go towards negative people you are gonna go down the fuckin' tubes. You don't want to be negative. That's my whole philosophy; stay positive no matter what. Believe me, there's times in the music business where things aren't rosy. We did not sleep at all, we went straight to the gig last night and we are here now without any sleep.

Luxi: Yeah, that's what Danny "complained" about a while ago...

Glenn: We were at Wacken last night and now we are here. A lot of people would say "ooo... this sucks!" and all that bullshit which is just stupid whining. What the fuck? This is fuckin' great! You know, I'd rather be doing this than working a backhoe, you know.

Danny: Working at the gas station or something...

Glenn: Working at McDonalds. I mean, even they complain. They can be replaced by computers but you cannot replace us, you know. Life is what you make of it, that's my whole philosophy. And if you wanna enjoy, enjoy. If you don't wanna enjoy, then that's your fuckin' problem (*laughs*)... Really!

Luxi: Nuclear Assault has always been known for straightforward and opinionated lyrics so when the time comes for your next release do you think you may put some emphasis on writing about all of this really bad and ugly stuff that is currently going on in this world?

Glenn. John is the lyricist. Danny writes most of the music. John writes a lot of the music, too, but he is definitely the lyricist for the band. And the thing is that because I come from a background of being a heavy hitting drummer, it drives his point home. When he writes a message, it hits home straight away. Between Danny and me, along with Erik, are the backbone and it all comes together. It shoves it down people's throats, you know. There's no way you can avoid it. And I am not trying to outplay anybody. I don't give a shit about that. I am a drummer; I am my own drummer. I don't care for anybody else's drumming. People are always like you gotta see this guy or that guy but you know what? I don't wanna see that; I just want to be my own drummer! I don't want anyone's influence on me. And that's the way I approach it. As far as John's lyrics, like "Died in Your Arms" which is a new song that he wrote, to feel the song build up and get to that part where it really kicks in, you know it. There's no question about it. That's Nuclear Assault. And, you know, a lot of the songs like "Analogue Man...", "Pounder" and stuff like that on our new EP, they are all great songs and we are gonna do more of them. It's just been a long time and we kinda derailed for a while and went our own ways but everything's back together now.

Luxi: I assume that we will hear a couple of songs off your new EP tonight, right?

Danny: Yeah, two of them.

Glenn. We are gonna play "Analogue Man..." and "Died in Your Arms", yeah.

Luxi: Have you set in stone when Nuclear Assault will play the very last show on this tour and what will happen right after that?

Glenn: We don't know yet. We are kinda taking it one day at time and right now we have some more shows to do and we are finishing up this run first. We have South America after this and then we have a show in New York City, which is our hometown. Then we have a show in Eindhoven, Holland, I think.

Danny: Yeah, that's in December. Before that there's probably going to be one weekend on the West Coast...

Glenn: ... LA and San Francisco and maybe Mexico City depending on John's schedule as he's a school teacher. Our next solid plan besides these tour dates is going back into the studio and recording another EP from December 26th through December 31st. And then I think we have a date in Vancouver on New Year's Eve.

Danny: Yes, we will play in Vancouver on New Year's Eve; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Erik: We will go straight from the studio in El Paso, Texas, to Vancouver and play that night, so...

Glenn: It should be interesting. We have already booked Maryland Deathfest for next year. Obviously it's going into next year.

Luxi: What about getting Nuclear assault to play the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in February 2016? Is that something that might to do?

Danny: We have actually been talking about that.

Glenn: I have never heard of it.

Erik. We are trying to get on it.

Luxi: In my opinion it's a really cool cruise...

Erik: Yea, I played there this year with Napalm Death. We will try to get the band in through the guy who also books gigs for Nuke, to get us on it. They've asked for us the past couple of years but we haven't been together to do it.

Danny: It's difficult because of John's schedule. That's almost impossible, unfortunately.

Glenn: Well, nothing is impossible. But obviously we have to have some kind of a plan. But that's the first I've heard of it but I like it, so hey, you know...

Danny: Yeah, we will see...

Luxi: I gotta ask if you have any plans to release one more studio album as Nuclear Assault?

Glenn: No, they are over. I think the full-length thing is over because there was always record label bullshit for us back in the day, you know. These days, but if I put on a CD, I don't listen to the whole thing. In my opinion the first four or five songs are always the best and the rest of it is filler.

Danny: The whole format is kind of old fashioned now. You have to make a 45-minute record. Before CDs, you had a record or tape and you had to have a side one and a side two and the first song on side 2 had to be really powerful; a real wake-up or something like that. Now we just say "fuck it," do four songs, put it in a certain order and that's it.

Glenn: Look back at The Beatles when they started. They had singles with just a B-side. They even didn't have a friggin' album out. They only had a single in the charts. And they had to make a record so they took their entire repertoire and they recorded the whole thing. George Martin pieced the whole thing together. You can go all the way back to that stage but its obviously way passed that now. I mean, let's put it this way; it costs a lot of money to make a record. For a good studio it's a lot of money and no record label is going to give you money anymore because there's no such thing as a music industry anymore. So what you have now is bands paying for their own shit. We pay for our own studio time, we pay for our own hotels and we count on the fans to help us out by downloading our tunes or buying our CDs to finance what we are doing. If they want more music they have to help us pay for it. We cannot pay for it alone, we just cannot afford it, you know. That's what's helping this EP. It has been licensed out several times and there's enough money to put us back in the studio to do another one. So, we keep on doing that, that'd be great, as long as people want to hear it.

Danny: We are just an analogue band in a digital world...


Luxi: Ha, ha now that was well said.

Glenn: But the next EP is going to be great! Mark my words. Pounder was good but it was like we had to break the ice again, like Game Over. But this next one is gonna be recorded at a great studio using great microphones and a great drum room so it's gonna sound killer. We have the cash to do it, we've got the town to do it in, we've got the songs written and everything's ready to go. It's just a matter of time now, play this out and see how it works. I think Pounder is fuckin' great, don't get me wrong, but the next one is going to be 10 times better than Pounder is, trust me.

Luxi: Pounder is also available on CD and vinyl formats. Do you still have any vinyl left as those tend to sell pretty fast these days?

Erik: We have been sold out the vinyl for a while. We don't have them anymore.

Danny: Yeah, I think we only have CDs left but I'd have to ask our tour manager.

Glenn: The vinyl thing was licensed out to a couple of labels and they only printed up so many thousands of copies and they went instantly. We did not think that we would sell much vinyl at all but now they are all gone.

Luxi: Because people are collecting vinyl again, which is cool...

Glenn: Yeah. We got it out as a digital download, CD and quite a few colored vinyl versions. Like you said yourself people are collecting vinyl again which we did not expect. But we just thought let's put out a vinyl version too to see what happens.

Luxi: When do you plan to get your next EP out?

Glenn: On June 1st, 2016. June 1st worked for Pounder when we started to tour and it worked fine.

Luxi: June 1st means the summer festival season is right behind the door so playing some festivals would be an ideal way to promote your next EP, right?

Glenn: It's up to John's schedule really...

Danny: Yeah, but I don't think we would do as extensive a tour as this one. We will be gone for a whole month. The set of gigs that we might be doing next would have to be more strategic. We will see. It's been great to play all these festivals.

Glenn: This has ruled; we've been playing show after show after show...

Danny: And the last time we played in Finland was in Lepakko in Helsinki, like fuckin' 1989, with Prestige as far as I can recall.

Luxi: Yes, true. The whole event was overbooked and due to that there happened to be a little accident...

Glenn: What's that?

Danny: There was the problem with the fuckin' stage and the security barricade. It had been made of this shitty wood and this poor girl almost got crushed. We said from the stage "stop playing, there's something going on in the crowd right now!"

Glenn: Yeah, now I remember. It was crazy!

Luxi: I was there and saw the whole incident. I am glad nobody died as you played in the front of packed crowd.

Glenn: Yeah. I have heard stories from bands when people actually got killed with stages collapsing and stuff. Shit, you just never know man.

Luxi: Alright guys, I guess that's it. Thanks for your time and all the best with the rest of your tour.

Danny: Thank you too. It was nice talking to you.

Other information about Nuclear Assault on this site
Review: Third World Genocide
Interview with bassist Danny Lilker on March 12, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)

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