You can feel the energy and excitement in the air. All you can hear are the merciless chants of the crowd. The long awaited return of S.O.D. is upon us, and you better beware. The band emerges onto the stage, and an almost sold out house at Detroitís Harpoís music theater can take the anticipation no longer. The fans go wild, and the cheer is almost deafening. Billy Milano, former front-man for M.O.D., belts out lyrics with a fury that sounds like it is coming from an enraged god. Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, guitar player and drummer from Anthrax, play their instruments with more energy then ever seen in every Anthrax concert combined. The bassist, Danny Lilker, of the former Brutal Truth, jams riffs so powerful that I thought the roof would cave in. It has been fourteen years since S.O.D.ís first album Speak English or Die came out, but the fans have not forgotten them. Their new release Bigger Then the Devil erupted onto the scene and is replacing the legendary status of their first album. In addition to their musical talents, they are the most fun loving group of professionals that I have ever had the privilege to see perform.
This long awaited tour gave me the opportunity to talk to Danny about the band, their music, the new album, and the tour.
KELLY SHELLHAAS (GWRN): Whatís different about S.O.D. now as compared to ten years ago?
DANNY LILKER (S.O.D.): Weíre a hell of a lot older. When we did our first album, with an album title like Speak English or Die, even though we were just joking around, it was kind of rude with a sneer that big. When we did the lyrics (for the new record) they were still rude, offensive and obnoxious, but more in an across-the-board, nihilistic way rather than picking on certain ethnic varieties or something like that. So, we got a little older and more mature and realized that you shouldnít even joke around with sh*t like a ďspeak English or dieĒ and ďf*ck the Middle EastĒ 'cause a lot of people were getting the wrong idea and thinking were fascist or something like that. On the new record, the song is about handing out dirty needles to junkies so they all kill themselves. You know, thatís different isnít it? Thatís not picking on a certain nationality or race, thatís just picking on junkies, and that is across the board. Also, I guess musically weíve collected a lot more influences in the last fourteen years since the first record so maybe there is more variety, more eclectic sh*t going on in this record than on the first one. You have to progress somewhat. You'd better progress in fourteen years.
KELLY: What are some of the influences that you have picked up?
DANNY: For me its been drugs and black metal, but seriously... (laughs)
KELLY: There is nothing wrong with those. (laughs back)
DANNY: Well, I am the pothead of the band. Since the first album came out, itís been death metal, grind-core, black metal and all the stuff like that. I mean, I play in a black metal band, so I know how to do sh*t like that. Thatís easy. Like "Evil Is In," the evil riffs in the middle, I wrote that in about two seconds. Scott was like, "Write an evil riff." I was like, "OK, how about that?" The other guys have played all sorts of different stuff for fourteen years and it all kind of just combines and whatever meshes together with the four members of the band bringing everything to the plate. To answer the question directly, I guess that we just have a lot more variety and our lyrics have not been toned down, but they have been changed to the point where people canít call us Nazis or anything ridiculous like that. They could say that we are mean and cruel, but f*ck 'em.
KELLY: When you decided to write Bigger Than the Devil, I heard that Anthrax and Brutal Truth were out on tour. How did everybody get together to do it?
DANNY: We had to do it in just little clumps of time when everybody was available. We started writing in May. Weíd write for a couple of weeks. The first song we wrote was "Make Room, Make Room." Then we had to break for like six weeks. It was like, OK, Anthrax is going out for four weeks, comes back, and then Brutal Truth leaves a week and a half after that. Then Brutal Truth broke up after Australia and New Zealand last October, which freed my time up a little bit. Well, we just had to (write) it. Although Iíd say that the whole songwriting process took maybe three weeks, it was broken up over a period of months. You know, three days here, a week there. Then, in November, it was crunch time. By then, everybody was off tour, my band was over, and we all got together and spent more time then. We perfected what we had, wrote the rest of it, and by the time February came around, we went in the studio.
KELLY: When you are writing for S.O.D., is it hard not to incorporate music from your other bands?
DANNY: Not at all. In fact, a song like "Evil Is In" was very easy to write because those riffs had been knocking around my head for years, but I couldnít use them for Brutal Truth because they were too straightforward and traditional. Its like, "OK, weíre writing a thrash record now. Great. Iíve had this riff knocking around in my head and I can finally use it, get it, exercise it, and get it out of my body." So, it is actually really easy. Ironically enough, on some of our stuff, Iíll just sneak in grind-core black metal riffs and nobody will notice. I just play them differently.
KELLY: I heard that S.O.D. named this tour "The Killith Fair."
DANNY: (Laughs) Yeah.
DANNY: Because itís funny as hell.
KELLY: Are you ripping on Lilith Fair?
DANNY: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, Lilith Fair is a bunch of women artists, and thatís really cool and everything, but we are four obnoxious guys from New York.
KELLY: How did S.O.D. form together in the first place?
DANNY: Well, I had been in Anthrax with Scott and Charlie on the first record, but then there were some disagreements with me and the singer, and I was thrown out of the band. But I think that Scott had always wanted to jam with me again, and he regretted what happened back then. When those guys were doing Spreading the Disease they were up in Ithaca, New York, this was like spring of '85, they were getting bored sitting around the studio. Meanwhile, all this time, we were going to shows at CBís and meeting hardcore people like Billy. I got a phone call in April of '85 from Scott, he was four hours from where I lived in New York City, and he said, "Hey man, weíre gonna do this project band, really fast and hard-core, and we want you to play bass in it." I said "OK cool." I went up there, wrote a few songs, came back, then in July we went up and recorded it. As far as Billy, I had known him from around the scene, not too well, just someone you nod at and sh*t, but Scott knew him better. Scott pretty much pulled us all together. He asked Charlie. It made sense for me to be on it, as opposed to Frank, because everybody knew that I was into the really hard, fast sh*t and would be more applicable for it as far as using your bass like a weapon.
KELLY: You have changed record labels since Speak English or Die. How did you hook up with Nuclear Blast Records?
DANNY: Well, first of all, with MegaForce, it didnít exist the way that it did in '85. And as far as how we hooked up with Nuclear Blast, when the word got out that we were going to be doing another record there was a minor bidding war with them and another label, that I wonít mention... the Roadrunner (snicker). Roadrunner was looking at the whole thing like it was a business proposition. When Nuclear Blast found out about it, they were enthusiastic, they were totally psyched. It was much more like a personal thing for them. It was much more like fans expressing enthusiasm rather than just some guy in a suit and tie thinking about how much money he can make off it. So, when Nuclear Blast made an offer, it blew Roadrunnerís away right off the top. For me, personally, I remember the beginning of Nuclear Blast back in '87, so it felt like home for me. Thatís pretty much how that worked out.
KELLY: Were you expecting Speak English or Die to become as legendary as it has?
DANNY: Hell no. We just did that as a fluke. When we were mixing it, we started to make these faces like "Hmm, this stuff sounds pretty good, people are gonna like this." The next thing we knew, it was like BOOM. We didnít expect this at all. We just recorded it for three days, it was just a gag. But I think that might have helped it. I think the whole indifferent attitude helped because it just made it very casual.
KELLY: Did you go into Bigger Than the Devil with the same attitude?
DANNY: Yup. We werenít worried like, "Oh my god, we have to top the first one." If it takes more than ten minutes to write a song, then itís not worth it.
KELLY: So, how long are we going to have to wait until a third album comes out?
DANNY: Thatís a difficult question to answer, but I promise it wonít be fourteen years. How about eventually? (laughs)
KELLY: Thatís fair. So, what is S.O.D. doing after this tour is over in December?
DANNY: Weíre just gonna be chilling out for the holidays. Anthrax has some dates that start in the middle of January, briefly in the States. This is a six week tour that is two-thirds over with now, and Iím gonna go home and f*ck around on my Macintosh.
KELLY: How did you hook up with Skinlab and Crowbar for this tour?
DANNY: You should have been asking Billy, heís the road manager, he knows all this sh*t. Billy manages Skinlab, and as far as Crowbar, I am not exactly sure how that all came together, but I am glad that it did. They are really cool guys, and this is a really strong package. I mean, without sounding arrogant, S.O.D. could play with anybody and people would come to see us because we hardly ever play. Those bands have been going over real good. The original question I cannot answer, but I can mutate it and say that this is a really good tour, a strong package, and itís been killer. Thereís been some partying, everyoneís getting along and everything.
KELLY: Finally, what is some advice that you can offer to some local bands?
DANNY: Give me your drugs. (laughs) Thatís it.
KELLY: Thank you very much.
DANNY: Sure, no problem.