» Jack Gibson - Exodus
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Interview conducted June 04 2015
Interview published July 05 2015

"I mean, Rob's pretty mad, but I hope it all ices over in the end."

Long-time running bay area thrashers Exodus made a stop at Sweden Rock Festival in June and Metal Covenant met up with bass player Jack Gibson for a chat about a lot of different stuff, like the latest record, touring, record sales, the former singer and today's economical situation in the music business.

Tobbe: Let's talk a little about your latest album [Blood In, Blood Out], which was actually released like 7 months ago. In November last year and you're obviously still touring to support it. So if you look back at it now, what do you see?

Jack: Well. I mean, you always grow from album to album. You pick up new influences throughout the time. I think real musicians never stop learning, you know what I mean. So we hear somebody who we like and we go "What's that?" and start playing, you know, try their licks, and you know, that finds it way into your stuff. I think we do a pretty good job at still sounding true to the whole sound and having a little bit of modern in it. Not fucking each other up really. Like not staying too old school, but not being too modern at the same time, you know what I mean.

Tobbe: It's a very intense album. Was that something you talked about, to really pick up on the intensity?

Jack: No. I mean, it's just the way we are. I mean, we're just trying to outdo ourselves and each other. We just wanted to turn in the most fierce performance for the record that we can, in competition of each other almost even. I think it's an unspoken rule that, yeah, we want the most intense album that we can put out. Otherwise you're wasting some time, you know.

Tobbe: Exodus definitely belongs to a specific type of music, which is obviously thrash metal.

Jack: Absolutely.

Tobbe: So how are you able to find new stuff and not repeat yourselves at this point in your career?

Jack: Well, I think it's a fine art of being able to like rip yourself off and not sound like you're reusing everything. Like I said, I think the thing of never stop and learning is important. You know, we're always exploring new parts. You know, it's really Gary [Holt] and Lee {Altus] that do the riff writing for the band and I think it's just in their blood to know what sounds like Exodus and what doesn't.

Tobbe: So do you have any ideas for a forthcoming album already?

Jack: Oh yeah. I'm sure. I mean, it's pretty much those guys. Gary never stops making up new shit and Lee's never in a loss for new ideas either.

Tobbe: How do think that Exodus has adapted to today's tough musical climate?

Jack: We're just touring a lot more. You just can't afford to stay home anymore. We stayed home to make the record, but then you have to get right out on the road, and kind of stay there to make any money these days. It's just kind of an unfortunate truth. You know, there's no money left in actual record sales, so you try to go in and make a record as fast as you can and get back out there and start doing it again.

Tobbe: So this is certainly something you talk about a lot in the band?

Jack: Well, yeah, because if you stay home too long, you can't pay the bills and your bank account start drying up, and you have to keep putting money into it, you know what I mean. It's unfortunately the way of the world now. I mean, if you're mega-big, you make some money, but also I believe that the day of the mega-big artist is kind of over. Like there will be the Britney Spears's and the Miley Cyrus's that Disney puts out, but I don't think there's ever gonna be a band that can dominate like Metallica.

Tobbe: You obviously play a few gigs without Gary, but in the long run, will that approach last? You know, because Slayer's actually taking a lot of his time.

Jack: They are. Actually this year is gonna be pretty tight for Gary. Then we have Kragen [Lum], you know, here to do shows with us. I mean, Gary always will be back and he's involved in the business. I think Gary has no intention of leaving the band, but I mean, damn, being in Slayer is a pretty good opportunity, you know, and they treat Gary pretty well, and us, you know. So none of us fault him for doing that. I mean, it's good for him, and it's good for us too, because it puts our name into more places than it would normally.

It's just kind of a time where we have to make sacrifices for it and, you know, we have Kragen from Heathen playing with us and it sounds killer. Every once in a while there's one guy who's really mad 'cause Gary isn't there, but for the most part, everybody still likes hearing the songs. And you know, Gary should be proud that he created something that's bigger than just a person, you know what I mean? Like even without Gary here, playing the songs, we're out killing crowds with the music and it's just a cool thing to see.

Tobbe: Exodus has always been a band right outside the absolute top of thrash metal. Has that been a little frustrating for you guys, even though you personally haven't been in the band all the time?

Jack: I mean, yeah, sure. I think especially for Tom [Hunting], and Gary, and Zetro [Steve Souza] too, you know, who were around way back then. Of course there's a little bit of jealousy when you see Metallica rocking the entire fucking stadium, man. But, you know, I mean, hey man, that's the way it is and we're lucky to have the place that we do have. And also we're proud of people like Metallica and Slayer that did go so far. Like I'm proud of those guys, 'cause I remember seeing 'em in tiny little shitholes and stuff, you know what I mean, and to see 'em being that big is great. Of course there's like some jealousy, like "Damn. I wanna be a millionaire too.". But it's not like we hold it against anybody for succeeding so much. I mean, it's great.

Tobbe: Are there still actually any goals to achieve for Exodus?

Jack: Oh sure. I mean, we've never had a gold record and that's something we all like to do. You know, just like you said, we've always been just on the outside of mega success type of stuff. Who wouldn't want that? And I also think we probably haven't written our fiercest album yet. I mean, Gary seems to get better and Lee seems to get better too. What we lack in, you know, our youth and pure psychical force, man, I think we're making up for like in maturity and like in finding new ways of doing things. I mean, I'm excited about the music we still make.

Tobbe: If you look at the 18, 19 years you've been in the band and if you look at your own personal work, in what way do you think you have developed stylistically with your bass playing?

Jack: Well, I mean, I've gotten better and better, you know, every time I hit the stage. You know, you make yourself better and more comfortable. I think I've really grown a lot as a recording artist in the time. I engineered the last record, you know, for everybody, and it's like now I know exactly what I want. You know, basstone-wise and even listening for those guys and their performances and stuff like that. That's something I couldn't have done back when I first started. I had stars in my eyes and didn't really know what I was doing. So over the years, I've gotten better at recording and I know what I want now, so I think that's a big difference.

Tobbe: But isn't it a little funny? Because when you get older, you get more experienced. You get probably a better bass player or whatever. But still the fans love the early works, even though you weren't as good players as you are now.

Jack: Of course. There is a grittiness and a style to it. I mean, we all love Led Zeppelin I, you know what I mean. It's like barely recorded, you know, hardly when you think about the technology today. If we go back and listen to it, it's awesome, and it's like rough. So I totally agree with that, because my favorite albums are the old gritty ones.

Tobbe: So how difficult is it today to put together a list of songs for your performances? To pick what songs to play?

Jack: Oh, man. It's a fucking war every time. It's a fight. You know, a lot of the time, time dictates what it is. Right now we wanna give as many songs off the new album as we can, and still play the old classic stuff.

Tobbe: Yeah, you have like 6-8 songs that each has to be played.

Jack: Absolutely.

Tobbe: Maybe not for the hardcore fans, but more for the general fans.

Jack: Right. Totally, totally. You know, it's hard to cut anything out of the set, but you have to, or we'd have a 4-hour set.

Tobbe: That would be cool though. 4-5 hours.

Jack: Yeah, it would be cool, for the fans. But actually, you know, an Exodus show is such a psychical experience that 2 hours is just too long. Like somewhere between an hour and a half and 2 hours, the crowd loses their energy and that last half hour, we're just dragging 'em through the set. 'Cause we were playing a 2 hour + set for a while and we finally shortened it back up to like an hour and a half, because that's where the whole energy level took a dip and we just decided there's no reason for that, you know. We rather stop where everybody is still raging and wants to come back the next time.

Tobbe: It's more fun to play before an active crowd.

Jack: Yeah, exactly.

Tobbe: Is music something you could possibly retire from or will Exodus like continue until the bitter end?

Jack: You know, I remember an old interview I watched with Sammy Davis Jr., like asking him "When are you gonna retire?", and he said "Retire from what?". I mean, this is what I love to do and in this day and age, at the level that we're at, we're not gonna retire with money in the bank, you know, from this. I think it'll have to keep going and I'll be working as a musician all my life, for all I know.

Tobbe: But Exodus is actually quite a big band still. You're not exactly playing in the little league.

Jack: We're very lucky to still at least be on this side of the fence, you know, where it's enough of a name that people know. We can still kind of make a living off it. You know, because I see bands coming up today and I don't know how they're gonna do it, man. It looks really bleak for up and coming artists. There's gonna be Disney and underground stuff. I think that's all there's gonna be soon.

Tobbe: What do you think the future will look like for Exodus in the coming years?

Jack: I don't know. I mean, it just depends on what happens to the actual business, man. People are trying to land on their feet and some things are still just in the free fall. I mean, there are labels that are getting swallowed up by bigger labels. I think the label [Nuclear Blast] that we're on is pretty strong. But who knows, man? Who knows what comes? You know, I just saw a thing that Spotify put out that metal is the leading listened-to genre world wide for streaming, which pay zero to us. But if something could ever come of that, you know, fuck, we're back in the game. If we could ever get paid for streams, I mean, we'd be back in the game, man, you know.

Tobbe: Zetro has been in the band 2 times before. Have you talked about the possibility that he will actually leave a third time?

Jack: Oh yeah, of course. [Laughs] You really never know. We're happy to have him here, to make a good album this time. Those types of things are useless to try to predict, 'cause something is gonna happen, you know what I mean, so.

Tobbe: So you don't have a plan B?

Jack: No, man. You know what? We didn't have a plan when things didn't work out with Rob [Dukes, former vocalist]. We had a huge fight over the table about what to do at that time, so even Zetro wasn't a certain chew-in at that time.

Tobbe: So why didn't it actually work out with Rob?

Jack: I mean, we just had different opinions on what type of album to make and where things were going business-wise and personality-wise. It was just obvious that it was time to kind of part ways.

Tobbe: But are you still a little bit on good terms with him?

Jack: Not at the time, no. I mean, Rob's pretty mad, but I hope it all ices over in the end. Every time something like that happens, there's some animosity for a while, but time usually heals things, you know. I kind of hope so, 'cause I never had anything personally against Rob. In fact, me and Rob got along great. We were kind of comic book nerd buddies and stuff, so I hope for something good for the future.

See also: review of the gig the same day

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