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Danny Lilker

Interview with bassist Danny Lilker

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: June 9, 2024

Danny Lilker probably doesn't need an introduction, not for us old-timers at least who first heard him performing on iconic thrash metal albums such as Fistful of Metal, Game Over, and Speak English or Die back in the eighties. He has also become known in the metal scene as a very laid-back and easy-going fellow over the past four decades, with no ego bullshit or rock star attitude, which is why so many people have a huge amount of respect for him.

In case you were born yesterday, google to learn more about him as we don't want to give a history lesson about Mr. Lilker here on The Metal Crypt as it would undoubtedly be a good-sized book.

Lilkerfest happened in Tampere, Finland, on the 31st of May and we wanted to join to party. Before Dan and his Finnish boys conquered the stage that day, yours truly managed to sit down with him to have the following conversation...


Welcome to Finland, Dan! How did your tourist tour go in Helsinki a few days ago? Did you go to see some special places?

Dan: Thank you, glad to be here. I had a good time in Helsinki even if it was very cultural but touristy. It was cool. I met Janne Sova of Barathrum, so that was cool because I never met that guy before, and I remember hearing about that band in like 1991 or something.

Yes, you were hanging around him a little bit at the Beaver bar, from what I heard...

Dan: Yes, it's the Beaver bar where I met him. Apparently, he almost lives there.

Yes, I know. It's his like his second living room.

Dan: Yes, well, we're going to go back to Helsinki tomorrow. I'm not sure where we're going to go when we get there. His band is playing tonight at a different venue so that kind of sucks.


Can you tell me about Lilkerfest and how it started?

Dan: That would be Örkki who originally started talking about the concept of it. He had wanted Nuclear Assault to play his Speed Metal Party festival. He started contacting me in 2019 or something. The problem was that the band was almost going to be over then. I was hesitant and then COVID came, and it was like, "oh fuck, this isn't going to happen." By the time COVID stopped and it was safe to travel, Nuclear Assault was really winding down and we didn't want to do too many more shows.

He came up with this idea, and it's just a cool and unique thing that he went to the trouble to get all these musicians who, as you've already seen, have done a great fucking job as far as backing me up. I don't know if you're familiar with the show, it's an old American television show called "This Is Your Life."

I have heard about it, yes.

Dan: Right, and they show various stages. They meet somebody from high school that you haven't seen for fucking 40 years or something. So, this is like the musical version of that for me.

Was it easy to decide which songs you would do for this Lilkerfest?

Dan: When I was in touch with Örkki, he just said, "Well, it's up to you. Choose some songs from your bands and try to make it so it's a complete live set, like, you know, 60 minutes, 70 minutes, whatever." I made the decisions about what songs and said, "Okay, these guys have to learn these songs." They rehearsed amongst themselves, I'm sure, a lot. I knew almost everything. I had to go back and listen to "Soldiers of Metal" and "Death from Above" from the Fistful of Metal album. For obvious reasons, I've played "Metal Thrashing Mad" a bunch lately and "Death Rider" a couple of times recently in South America. You know what I'm talking about.


Yes, I know. You replaced Frank Bello on bass on the recent Anthrax tour in South America.

Dan: Bello, yes.

How was the tour over there? You also played a couple of shows in the States, right?

Dan: Yes, in Florida and Ohio after that. Oh, that was really cool. It was a unique opportunity because Frank couldn't do it. I'm not really playing in bands anymore at home, so when Scott sent me some text message like, "Hey, can you do these shows? We could use you." I said, "Yes, sure, why not?" I've never been to El Salvador or Costa Rica, Ecuador or Uruguay. I had four more I could cross off the list of places I've been, but more importantly, it was just fun playing some metal.

I bet all those venues were pretty crowded...?

Dan: Definitely. I think it was four festivals and four club shows. It was evenly split like that. The club shows, we had like 1,500 maniacs or something like that. The festival in Uruguay was a little smaller, but the last festival was the Summer Breeze in São Paulo, Brazil. That was like over 10,000 because I think some of the other ones were a little smaller like the one in Ecuador, but Chile, I can't say enough good things about Chile. I love that fucking country. It was great to have an excuse to go down there and play again. It was fun to play distorted bass with Anthrax.


How did you decide who would play which songs? Was it easy in that sense that some of these Finnish musicians felt closer to some Nuclear Assault than Anthrax, for example?

Dan: Well, to be honest, I let Örkki handle most of it because he's the one who was organizing everything. When I heard, "Oh, the Rotten Sound guys are going to play Brutal Truth," I'm like, "well, that's fucking perfect." Obviously, him having been in the scene for 35, 40 fucking years, he would know all the appropriate people. Since he had the idea to do it in the first place, I said, "Okay, so then you have to find the right guys." Then he did all that work.

Oh, cool. It seems like that was quite a lot of work from him.

Dan: Yes. I trusted him. He's the one who wants to do it.

Did you guys gather in both Helsinki and Tampere to ensure your jamming sessions paid off and you made the songs sound good enough for a live situation?

Dan: Well, we did rehearse in Tampere. We did one little Nuclear Assault rehearsal on Wednesday night and then yesterday we had the whole set. We had all the musicians. They all came to the Prestige spot in Nokia and we did all the work, but it was fucking hot there so we kept it quick. Maybe it won't be perfect, but it's all about the spirit.

Was it hard for you to pick up the songs from each band that you are playing? I mean, you have a time limit to play the songs that you want, so obviously that gave you some sort of a time frame to fit in those songs, right?

Dan: Sure, it was easier with Anthrax and S.O.D. because I only played on one Anthrax album, and there was only one S.O.D. record. Well, there was a second one, but it never had the same impact. As far as the Brutal Truth, Nuclear Assault stuff, I just picked what I thought was maybe 20 minutes from each of those. Maybe I should have chosen "Pussy Whipped" because I like playing that song, but it's too late.

Yes, that's a great song.

Dan: I know, and I forgot it. Otherwise, with Nuclear Assault and Brutal Truth, I just said, "Okay, these songs would be cool." I picked songs that we played live a lot that I wouldn't have to relearn. I had to relearn "Soldiers of Metal" and "Death from Above" from Fistful of Metal. "Death from Above" was never fucking played live, dude, so this was the first time ever.

Oh, cool...

Dan: I'm almost positive about this.

In my opinion, this Lilkerfest seems to be so much fun. It's a very unique concept. Do you believe that you might continue this concept somewhere else in the world, like in Sweden or somewhere in Europe? As a concept, like I already said, it's really fucking unique.

Dan: Well, once this happens, people in other countries will see it on YouTube. I was joking with a couple of people in Norway about that because I'm sure the Darkthrone guys would like to play the Game Over record. You know? The big joke is I just want to have it in my backyard because I hate traveling.


As you are known as a Jack of All Trades as a musician, having been involved in so many bands over four decades, which of them has been the most rewarding and dearest band out of them all and why?

Dan: I know, and I always have to duck out of this question because the real answer is that those are all different bands and I enjoy different aspects of each. With Brutal Truth playing so fucking fast like there's lightning in the air. That is an indescribable feeling playing eight million miles an hour grindcore. Then if you're playing like old school Nuclear Assault thrash and playing "Radiation Sickness" and watching people flip out in a circle pit, that has a certain appeal too. This is why I always say that's an unfair question because that's like saying which of your kids do you love the most?

Very true indeed. It's really hard to pick your favorite among your own kids because we have to remember they are all your kids in the very first place...

Dan: Right, what kind of father would I be?


Just a wild thought but would you do one more Stormtroopers of Death album if Scott Ian asked you to participate one day?

Dan: Sure, but that's not going to happen. Of course, I'll say sure, hypothetically.

Why do you think it's never going to happen?

Dan: The same reason we haven't done shows for over 20 years. Billy wants nothing to do with those guys. That's all I'm going to say because more would be gossip.


That's completely OK, of course! You are known for your love of hardcore/crossover/thrash stuff. What's your take on that scene nowadays, with a bunch of new bands trying to keep it alive?

Dan: I'm glad that it's still going and the whole spirit is there. If it's changed, it's also changed because of technology where bands get lazier because they can record at home and make a Facebook event, so there's less effort. I'm just glad that it's still out there because it makes it legitimate. It could be in the musical history books next to jazz or whatever that thrash metal wasn't just some quick trend. I don't pay attention, obviously. Warbringer are cool, bands like that. Even those bands are 20 years old now.

Yeah, exactly. Do you check out new bands regularly when there's a new name popping up on your radar that is trying to emulate some nostalgic-sounding '80s crossover/thrash stuff?

Dan: I don't pursue that stuff, but let's say I'm at a venue and there's a band like that on the bill, like a support band, and I go check them out and go, "Hey, look, that's cool. The flame is still burning." I don't actively pursue it and follow anything, no.

Is Nuclear Assault 100% over, or would you rather say, "never say never"?

Dan: No, it's 100% over for various reasons I'm not going to go into.

No worries, I hear you, Dan. Is there anything else you'd like to do band-wise? Would you be more into doing some occasional band projects or joining some band full-time that you might reveal something more about?

Dan: No, not really. For the first time in a very long time, I'm not really playing in a band. I wasn't doing shit. Then Scott Ian texts me and says, "Do you want to go do this?" I go, "Sure, why not?" I know I said that before. No, I don't have anything waiting in the wings that I'm going to reveal or anything, no. It would be fun. A couple of my friends back home, Erik from Brutal Truth and Nuclear Assault. We were talking about doing like an old school, early Napalm Death type, just primitive grindcore. That would be fun. I don't know when it will take shape.

What about this grindcore band named Blurring from Rochester, New York?

Dan: Yes, Eric was the drummer of that band. We kind of finished up. Scott got more interested in doing another band, WaldHexen. That was insane, atonal, evil grindcore. That was some of the most complex stuff I've ever played in my life.

Are you still involved with that band?

Dan: Oh, no, that band broke up, I don't know, a couple of years ago. That's why I said I'm not doing anything now.


Even though you have been in many bands and projects over the years, many people don't realize that you were also the bassist for German thrashers Holy Moses (R.I.P.) in 1993-1994 and played on their album, No Matter What's the Cause. Can you still remember how you joined the band some 30 years ago, and how was it to make that album together with Andy Classen and Sven Herwig?

Dan: I was minorly involved. I'd been in touch with Sabina. This was before the Internet, so it was more of a pain in the ass, but I'd met Sabina in New York, and then Brutal Truth had finished a tour in Europe, so I was already over there. I was able to change my flight to a couple of weeks later to go home. It wasn't like they spent all the money to have me come there. We finished our tour in England, and then it was arranged with those guys.

Sabina wasn't even in the band then, but she arranged it. She said, "Hey, do you want to come and play on a Holy Moses record while you're in Europe?" I'm like, "why not? That would be cool, playing with a little German thrash band." I just went out there, and of course, it helped that Andy Classen had lots of hash, so he knows I like to smoke. I hung out with Andy and partied and even helped write some music. The drummer, what's his name again? The guy from Riker's?

Sven Herwing, or Meff...

Dan: Yes, I remember him by that nickname, Meff. Anyway, he's the guy from Riker's. He was a great dude, great drummer and so we just had a good time and recorded some metal. Yes, it was just a random cool thing to do.

What are your overall thoughts about the current metal scene and what is going on right now? Do you still follow it the same way you did back in the day, or have you kind of got tired of following it for one reason or another?

Dan: Yes and no. I'm too lazy to do it now because it's much more with the Internet. People can make music so much more rapidly. I don't know. It's an interesting question to answer, because I never thought about it, stepped outside and analyzed how you approach things. Whatever interested me, I would listen to. When I first heard Napalm Death, I'm like, "Oh, this shit's awesome, and I wanted to play it." Then when I heard Mayhem and Dark Throne in '91 or whatever, although that Mayhem record took a while to come out, but still, they're mysterious, that is. When certain important records came out that were in underground, extreme metal, I would gravitate toward it and try to find bands like that. I was never a tape trader. I'm not a record collector. Nothing like that.

Okay, if you needed to pick the three most important albums that you have been involved with over the decades, either some project bands or in real bands whatever, what would they be?

Dan: Okay, three. If I had to pick the three records, I was on that I'm most proud of, I guess it would be Speak English or Die, Handle with Care, and Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses.

Game Over was good but Handle with Care showed a band that had gelled. With Brutal Truth, the other complex stuff later was good, but I just like Extreme Conditions... because it's like a hammer, the stuff we're doing tonight. I didn't think S.O.D. would have had this big impact and it did, so it's good memories. Those three, I guess.

Well, I think that's everything I had in mind for this conversation, so thanks a lot for your time, Dan and wishing all the best for tonight's show as well.

Dan: Awesome... thanks, man!

Now go and kick everybody's asses out there.

Dan: Will fucking do. Perkele!

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