Exodus pulled into Atlanta on their “March of Brutality” tour and I was lucky enough to have some one on one time with their drummer Tom Hunting.  Tom and I discussed what it was like having some young blood as openers on this tour, his love of Journey, playing in the country band Coffin Hunter with bassist Jack Gibson and life on the road.  I had a great time talking to Tom and I felt a real bond with him.  I hope you’ll enjoy this interview with a true pioneer and thrash metal legend.

I’ve been a casual Exodus fan since 1988, but the new album Exhibit B: just really hit a chord with me and has made me a full on fan. Now I’m digging through the albums that I let slip through the cracks. Are you seeing more of this kind of thing with this new album?

Thanks. So far the overall response to this record has been awesome. I’ve talked to a few people that feel like you, I get calls from friends that say, “You really did a good job on this one.” It’s cool. It’s good to hear man.

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It really is a spectacular album. Lyrically and musically all the elements of not just a great Metal album, but a great album in general are there. It’s thought provoking, emotional and it’s a really smart album.

[laughs] Damn dude, we’ve never been called smart before! I wouldn’t really call it a conceptual album, but there really is a lot of thinking to it. Gary put a lot of thought into the lyrics.

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The new album touches on so many eye opening stories and plays like a thrash metal CNN show. Was this album an attempt to bring some social awareness to the listeners and to wake them?

Yeah, I would imagine so. I don’t really take too big a part in the lyric writing, but when Gary writes stuff he lets me read it and I was touched by a lot of it too. It is very thought provoking stuff. Very true, very brutal and honest. We’re are the elder statesmen of thrash so we should know a little bit by now [laughs].

I have friends who are big time news media junkies. Do you feel like there is such a thing as getting too much news?

Our bass player’s like that too. He lives for Fox. Yeah, it’s all bad. Shit, a lot of people watch it all day long. As you see, I’m watching Seinfeld right now (points to TV). Ya gotta dumb down sometimes [laughs]. We watch the news, but this time of year it’s all about the NFL network [laughs].

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You’ve got one of my favorite bands on this tour in Holy Grail. How has it been having them out on this run?

I think Holy Grail is awesome. I love watching their set every night. Full of energy and we’re doing our best to keep up with them. There’s a lot of young cats on this tour and we’re like the old guys. [laughs]

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Even though Metal is the kind of music you play, are there any artists I would be surprised to hear that you were a fan of?

Me personally, I listen to a lot of classic stuff like Pink Floyd. I pretty much listen to everything. I don’t pigeon hole myself into just metal. I get a big enough dose of this on the road so when I go home, I try to broaden my spectrum of music a little bit. I like everything. Bluegrass, Allison Krauss and Union Station, that kinda shit. I listen to whatever moves me and I don’t give a shit what people think. When I was younger, it wasn’t cool to like the Journey stuff with Steve Perry. Now I go back and listen to it and I’m like “Fuck, that is really well written music.” “Open Arms” is a fucking beautiful song.

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My buddy back in Chapel Hill will be psyched to hear this. He’s a huge Journey fan.

[laughs] I like that old shit to from before Steve Perry joined the band. They were more of a Jam Band back then. I like Little Big Town, the country band. I like Brad Paisley. Jerry Reed. I’m really into anything with vocal harmonies. I like the early years of Heart with Michael DeRosier playing drums. Most of my style is adapted after the song “Barracuda.” Every drum roll I do is pretty much sped up “Barracuda” stuff. [laughs]

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Exodus was on the road with Megadeth and Testament earlier this year and you guys killed it here in Atlanta. We always hear mixed stories about touring with Megadave. Was this tour a good experience for you guys?

Dave has always been killer to us. Both bands have a relationship and we go back 28 years. We’ve known each other since we were all kids. As far as our working relationship with him, it’s killer. We’re all from the same group and the same era of time. I learned so much from Paul Bostaph too just watching him play every night. As you know, he was an Exodus member for a while. I adopted a lot of his warm up tips and things to do before going on stage. I would always go onstage cold and not warm up and he showed me that I should lower my drum stool a little bit. After I did that I realized I had been working way too hard [laughs].

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That’s great. You’re never too old to learn new tricks.

Megadeth’s Drummer Shawn Drover had an electronic Yamaha kit backstage that rarely got played so when I’d be backstage and saw nobody was on it I’d jump on that fucker and just wail for an hour before we played.

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You have such a distinctive style of playing  and after all these years you seem to still be able to play intensely enough without looking like you’re totally hurting yourself.

Yeah, in my younger years I just relied more on brute force and the vitality of being young. Now I try to apply a little more technique. I have a technique. I try to get in and get out on the snare drum. The faster you whack that thing with as much force as possible and the sooner you get out the more it’s gonna resonate. I tried to teach Drover that but he you know, he’s stuck in his glam metal [laughs]. Just kidding Shawn[laughs].

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If you could put a dream band together of any famous musicians (alive or dead), who would be in it and what would they play? You have to be in the band as well!

Oh that’s simple! It would be Trent Reznor, Jerry Cantrell, Cliff Burton and myself. They’re just musicians that I would give my huge left nut to jam with.

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You mentioned Cliff Burton. Were you guys close at all?

I knew him pretty well. He was a good man. We almost had the chance to jam together at a party one night in his hometown in Castro Valley and this dude who was playing drums wouldn’t let me play his drums. Dude, they’re drums. If someone steps up to me and wants to play I just hand them the sticks and say go for it. There is nothing you can do to a drum set that some other drummer hasn’t done. This was a couple of years before he passed. That’s a big “what if” on my list of “What Ifs.” Just give me 10 minutes of jamming with Cliff and that would’ve made me happy but I can still fantasize about it [laughs].

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Tell me about your side project Coffin Hunter. How did you get into this?

That’s mostly Jack’s (Exodus bassist Jack Gibson) deal. He does all the writing. It’s like trucker, outlaw, bluegrass, country. It’s like CW McCall meets a little bit of Jerry Reed influence in there. They’re just stories. Some of them true, some of them made up and imagined, but it’s good stuff!

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Is this something that we’re going to see a recording of anytime?

Yeah. He’s working on packaging right now because he’s going really slow with it. He wants as many guest musicians to play on the thing as possible that are schooled in the area of bluegrass. The CD’s virtually done and it’s just gotta be packaged and sent out properly. It’s fun. You’d be surprised the parallels between heavy metal drumming and bluegrass drumming are totally there. They are kissing cousins I think [laughs].

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That’s great. Maybe you guys could go out on the road with Drive-By Truckers or something.

I’m not ready to get back in the van though [laughs]. We’re too old to be touring in a van. I’m 45 and I need to be horizontal at the end of the night. I need my Honey Nut Cheerios, my book and my little lamp and my bed. [laughs] Some of these cats still do it though. Malevolent Creation are about our age or just a hair younger and they still do it. I don’t know how they do it because I need rest to do what I do [laughs]

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Being that this music is very physically taxing, what do you do to keep up with this without hurting yourself?

I try to eat as good as I can. Of course sometimes it’s hard on the road and you just get pizza and buffalo wings. I try to eat as good as I can and not eat too much before a show. I try to get good rest. I don’t work out because I get good enough cardio for two hours a night on stage. That is my workout and you gotta hydrate. Especially in climates like this you have to drink Gatorade before you think you need to.

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It seems like the Bay Area was the place where American Thrash Metal as we know it was being born where Hollywood and LA was where Glam Rock was prevailing. Was there a camaraderie in the SF scene or was it pretty much dog eat dog and did you cross paths with the LA scene much?

I don’t really know much about the Hollywood scene because I’ve been in Northern California all my life. There is camaraderie amongst the music. It’s a very small clique of people that are doing this and there’s friendly competition of course. I could do LA in 3 day doses but then I’ve pretty much had it and I’m ready to come back to some better air [laughs]. There’s some good people in LA. We started this tour in LA on Ozzfest and I got to meet Randy Johnson, the Hall of Fame pitcher. I had dinner with him and it was awesome. We talked about family. We talked about life on the road because the parallels of being an athlete and being on tour are there. You’re away from home a lot.

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Do you ever get tired of life on the road?

Um, I’d have to say yeah. I mean, it’s not as hard for me because I don’t have kids or anything but I feel for people like Lee (Exodus guitarist Lee Altus) our other guitar player who just had a baby boy. If this is what you do in your life you give up other things. A lot of people dream about doing this but some people who do this dream about having a family. If I did I wouldn’t want to miss anything so I would have to give all of this up. In the whole of things, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s what I’ve been doing most of my adult life and even in my teenage years. Shit, when I was in a crib I was watching Dean Martin’s variety show and Glen Campbell’s variety show going “I wanna do that someday!” [laughs]

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If you could bitch slap any band or performer, who would it be and why?

Hm, I would bitch slap anyone who didn’t treat what this is as a gift and didn’t humble themselves to it. Anyone who acts foolish and who acts like this is supposed to happen. It is a gift and you have to humble yourself to it because you’re doing something you love for a few hours a night.

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I’m a huge dork about collecting shit like guitar picks, Rock Cards, Carnival Mirrors with metal bands on them and shit like that.

Carnival mirrors? You mean those ones we used to drugs off of back in the day? [laughs]

Yeah. You know the ones that had stuff like the Screaming For Vengeance album cover on it?

YEAH! [laughs]

Are you into collecting any crazy shit like that?

Nah, not really. I like collecting good classic albums of course on vinyl because I think vinyl tells a better story. I’m a collector of snare drums. I love snare drums. I can’t get enough of those. Some of them should be on a glass case hanging on the wall but you have to hit them. I think guitars and snare drums make beautiful wall art. Just hang them up and look at them.

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What is it about heavy metal music that the Europeans totally get yet here in the States they just don’t get it?

I think as a whole there’s just more people there in general. I think for the most part American musical tastes tend to fluctuate more. I think they’re more fickle here. They like what’s trendy sometimes.

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Tom, thanks so much for talking to me. It’s been a real pleasure.

Hey man, no problem. Thank you!

About The Author

The Brainfart

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats (Drusilla & Coltrane) and dog (Cassie). He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, "No fucking way."

Simonhead says:

Cool interview! \o/ \o/ \o/

Another Exodus attack (this time from the guy behind the drums).

A good read! Thanks for putting in the work.

thegreatsouthernbrainfart thegreatsouthernbrainfart says:

Thanks for the feedback! I’ve added you to my Blogroll. I love your blog. Keep it up and thanks again for the kind words!

chris says:

Great interview. Nice to hear from the drummer for a change. Exodus just played in Louisville KY about 2 weeks ago. Awesome show as usual!

thegreatsouthernbrainfart thegreatsouthernbrainfart says:

Chris, thanks for the feedback brother. Tom was a really great dude to interview. Super chill and a really great guy all around. Not to mention that he’s funny as hell too. Thanks again for checking and please keep coming back!

that rocked. Great interview, definitely one of your best.