Back in the late 80s and early 90s, there was an insanely heavy band known as Exhorder. Hailing from New Orleans, LA, they destroyed everything and everyone in their path with their sonic explosion of pounding drums, visceral vocals and the crunchiest of guitars. They released two monumental albums known as Slaughter in the Vatican and The Law, which had a huge impact on the thrash scene, influencing countless bands to this day. Unfortunately their tenure would be short lived, as the band would break up shortly after the release of The Law. Front man Kyle Thomas, however, moved on to other projects, such as Floodgate in 1996 and joined Alabama Thunderpussy in 2007. Exhorder reunited a few times during the last decade but have reformed for good recently. With that in mind, frontman extraordinaire Thomas discusses his experiences with the music industry, his personal life and the future of Exhorder.
Review Fix: What was it like when you guys made Slaughter in the Vatican and the Law? Who came up with the concept?
Kyle Thomas: Well, “Slaughter in the Vatican” came in 1987 when the song was written. It was Vinnie’s concept. The funny thing is he came up with it but, he didn’t go to Catholic school or anything. I went to Catholic school and Chris Nail (drums) went to Catholic school and so we knew firsthand the whole lifestyle of Catholicism and knew what it was like to be under the thumb of it growing up. I think Vince was more or less “Hey this’ll shock the hell out of everybody” (laughs). I’d been in the band long enough at the time where he was like “Okay I don’t need to write lyrics anymore so here’s an idea I had let’s see what we can do with it.” The fact that I had been in Catholic school my entire life I had every bit of knowledge about the whole topic and every right to feel frustrated about it. An angry young man handed that topic with all the experience of dealing with it was definitely a bad combination. (laughs) As far as “The Law” goes, that was kind of my idea, but I can’t take all the credit Jay Ceravolo was, for real. At the time we were reading a lot of Alister Crowley, getting into deep, dark philosophy. So “The Law” concept comes directly from the “Leiber Oz” writings. It’s basically his 10 commandments, or his answer to the 10 commandments. We actually quoted him. The opening line is a quote from him; it’s a very narcissistic and very self serving kind of theory of serving yourself before others and basically anyone who stands in your way is going to pay a price for it. At this time in my life do I live my life that way? No. Do I live my live in a “Slaughter in the Vatican” way? No. I’ve got kids, I’m 40-years-old. I’ve got kids in Catholic school.
RF: That’s a little ironic.
KT: Yeah, I know. The reason I put them there is because down here you’re not going to get the proper education in public schooling. The public school system is horrendous, so in order to get a proper education here, you have to pay. Your average private school – it’s expensive, it’s very pricy. Catholic school you have to pay too but it’s not as astronomical as some of these private schools so it’s kind of “Okay, well, I made it, I lived, I survived it,” but at the same time I don’t want to ram it down their throats. I want to give them the opportunity to make the same choices I did to decide whether it was right for me.
RF: What was the recording process like?
KT: Both of them were kind of disastrous and part of it was kind of our fault, but part of it was circumstantial. We didn’t have big budgets. We didn’t have that kind of know-how to make a good record. Slaughter was patchwork at best. We recorded a demo and the demo to this day, people who know it, swear by it and I have to agree with them. When we started recording the album it was under contract with a label that folded before we could release it. So then roadrunner picked it up and said “we’re going to put more money into it and were going to fix it” and we went through two or three more sessions trying to fix it before we really got it to where we needed it to be and by the time we were done with it, it was overdub central and the tempos are too fast and its really more of a death metal production than a thrash metal production and we didn’t really capture what we felt we needed to capture with that album. It’s not bad. I’m proud of it and Scott Burns did a really good job with it, and Monty Connor did the best he could with it to get a good sound with the budget he had. But in the grand scheme of things, it just wasn’t what we wanted it to be and we have to accept it and go on. Maybe do a handful of songs and re-do them wouldn’t be bad, but it just makes sense to write new songs and do a new album.
RF: How did you get known/build a following back then?
KT: Things are way different now than they were back then. Now there’s this flood of bands or artists. Some of the bands never even play live; they just record. Some of them are just one person. Back then, nobody had pro tools in their living room or access to all this great gear for a reasonable price. In order to make a decent-sounding demo, you had to find the right combination of musicians and I think we got lucky in that sense where the right group of guys met up at the right time. We didn’t have a whole lot of cares in the world and we had a whole lot to say and I remember in the beginning, people were like “y’all sound like Slayer” and if you compare the two bands, they have their similarities and at the time, there weren’t many bands playing that kind of stuff. But we really don’t sound like Slayer and they don’t sound like us. It was a measuring stick. At the time in New Orleans, there was a heavy metal scene and a punk/hardcore scene, and we tried to draw a line on both so we came out and appealed to so many different people and we were just so raw and angry, and I don’t know why, but I think we brought to the table attitude and musicianship and humor and not everybody at the time was put in one pot.
RF: The sound was obviously going to be the next big thing because other bands have borrowed directly from Exhorder’s style. What happened to you guys? Why?
KT: There were plenty of bands that took a flier off of what we were doing and it would be ludicrous to say that we invented it, because we have our influences and they have theirs. But there are bands to this day that are doing well and some of them are nice enough to give us credit for their influences, which is really nice. That thing that we can do for all of that is to start it up again and take another crack at it ourselves. Like I said, I don’t think we invented a wheel by any stretch I think we just put a badass tire on it and took it for a spin.
RF: The band broke up but did reunions is 1998 and 2003. Why did you decide to make your comeback now and not then?
KT: First of all, enough time has passed that the things that caused us to split have become so ancient that they don’t matter anymore, and there’s just so many people just bombarding us everywhere we go. I’ve done some networking on websites and throughout all the bands I’ve done all the albums I’ve recorded they all ask “When are you doing that? When are you coming around to that?” And it really just makes perfect sense. It’s the first thing that really exploded for me and everyone involved in it has almost become iconic and it’s scary when I hear the way people talk, and they put us on this pedestal and it’s like: man do you realize that it was only this short period of time and there were only two records and we have to go out and live up to this?
RF: While Exhorder was gone you were in the bands Floodgate in 1996 and then you joined Alabama Thunderpussy in 2007. What was it like in those bands and how was it different from Exhorder?
KT: Floodgate was more in tune with what I grew up developing into. I didn’t play instruments with Exhorder. I wrote very little of the music. When things weren’t going well and it seemed like it was time for a change, it just seemed right that I picked up an instrument again, so me and my brother, we learned together. He’s two years older than me and if I have a soul mate on Earth, it’s him. We just started picking up guitar and bass and writing songs and Floodgate was born. And before you know it, things fizzled out and we were dropped from our label. Nu-metal was in and we were out. It was similar to the Exhorder situation because when we were doing great, death metal came in and we were in the middle and with Floodgate the same thing happened with Nu-metal. When I got with Alabama, stoner music was in, which is what it’s called now; it wasn’t called that back then with Floodgate. And now people are calling the Floodgate album a milestone much like the Exhorder albums, so I’ve got these two bands that are considered legendary that have made me no money. (Laughs) Is it surreal that my literary hero is Edgar Allan Poe who died poor and everyone else got rich off of his work? I don’t know. (laughs)
RF: How did you get the gig in Alabama Thunderpussy?
KT: That was shortly after hurricane Katrina. I was living with my parents because my house had been flooded and I was going through a divorce and my children were all I was really focusing on, so I happened to answer an email one night. My friend Kerry, who is married to Mark Morton from Lamb of God, said “Hey what’re you doing’? There’s this band called Alabama Thunderpussy and they’ve got all these killer songs they’re working on and no singer.” And I said “Yeah, I’ve met that band with the chicks” and she’s like “No, no, no, that’s Nashville Pussy.” So I said “Well I’ve seen their fliers so I know of the two bands. What’s it sound like?” And she said “I’ll give you the number of the drummer, Brian.” At the time, I was in the middle of a lot of things and I said “I can’t do this right now.” About four months later, I was ready to do something so I gave him a call and asked “Do you guys have a singer yet?” And he said “No” so I did a demo of a song and they loved it. That was the one we did for the video for called “Words of a Dying Man.” They were just like “Man, let’s get you up here.” And I loved being in that band. I think the record I did with them was the most pure and complete record I’ve ever done. The reviews were good. Some loved us, others hated us of course, but we got three out of five in Rolling Stone and who gets that? So we worked really hard, toured a lot and ended up with nothing. There was turmoil in the band before I got there and it escalated. Then the record label turned sour and it all fizzled out. Good record; good band. Something could’ve come out of it and it didn’t
RF: Exhorder has not been playing many shows – mostly just local ones. Why?
KT: To a degree, we’re mostly just taking it slow, trying to see how things are going to be. I can’t see us going on a three to four month tour, but maybe a few days or a weekend. Then if that goes well, maybe a week or two week run, if it’s feasible. We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot and we want to make sure everything’s great for everyone.
RF: What is Exhorder doing now?
KT: Vinnie been writing his butt off and Chris has been playing around here with us, but he owns half of a music store that has six or seven different locations throughout the south so he’s incredibly busy. We’re just going into this trying to be smarter than we ever were. We’re writing an album now, which is going extremely slow because it goes through everyone. And I apologize because we’re not even close, but it’s coming; just sit tight. First it goes through Vinnie, he starts it, then the drummer, then me, and as of now it hasn’t gone to the drummer yet, so as of now, I’m just waiting for it to happen. Because Vinnie and I know he’s a perfectionist and it’s going to be quality, and I’m really hellbent on making sure it’s the best production we have. Having done so many different albums with different bands and different producers I’m really bent on a really good production, so that we don’t listen to it down the road and say “I should’ve done this. I should’ve done that.”
RF: Are there any bands you’d like to tour with? Why?
KT: Any band that’s pulling a lot of people (laughs). Any two bands I’d love to go out and support would be Lamb of God and Slipknot because the guys in the band are fans of our work and they’ve publicly stated that. I did a song with Joey Jordison (Slipknot) for the “Roadrunner All Stars” record and he requested me. So without him, I don’t know where I would be and I thank him. It’s definitely been a pleasure to work with him. I ended up working with Steve Digiorgio (Death, Sadus) who played bass on that record and I’d never met him until we did Death Metal All Stars. I’ve got a project I’m working on with him, Ralph Santolla ( Deicide, Death, Obituary), Jack Owen (Cannibal Corpse, Deicide) and Tony Laureano (Nile, Eulogy),and we’re doing all original stuff, and it’s going to be great.
RF: What are your thoughts on the recent Thrash Metal Revival and the Reunions of bands?
KT: I’m loving it because it’s opening up the door for me and I just haven’t stepped through it yet. When we were at our worst, it was dying, and no one cared. For some reason, it wasn’t cool anymore and now it is again, and bands are going on the road again that haven’t been out there for a long time, or if they had been, it hadn’t been as good for them as it is now. We don’t want to step through the door and just give them a half assed performance for 20 bucks a ticket. We want to give people an impression. We want them leaving going “Holy shit.”
RF: Is there any label you’d like to be on now?
KT: As of now, we’re not thinking about any labels because of the bad experiences. It’s come to a point where there’s a demand for what we do, so let’s just put out a good sounding recording, sell it ourselves and see what happens. I lost interest in labels 10 years ago. Once the internet exploded and I saw that it can be done without a label, I was like “Oh, it’s so on now.” I do not want to deal with a label. Since Floodgate, the only label I was on was Relapse with Alabama Thunderpussy. Every other project I did we’ve done on our own and we’ve done well. This project I did called Jones Lounge I did with a couple friends of mine, Jimmy Bower (Down, Crowbar, Eyehategod) being one of them. We did an album and sold it ourselves. We sold 500 copies for 15 bucks a head. Do the math; that’s not bad money.
RF: Can you give us a crazy tour story?
KT: How about getting off of our US tour with Entombed for a lot of reasons, but the final straw was one of the guys in the band defecated in a plate and stuck a fork in it and covered it with a metal salad bowl, like it was some sort of cafe or something. We were on tour with Entombed and Dead Horse. And Dead Horse will tell you that they destroyed the backstage area – don’t get me wrong, we did it, too – a little more than we did. But we took the full blame for it and got kicked off the tour and we couldn’t hang them out to dry for it because they were our friends, and they stayed on the tour and we didn’t. We also didn’t really get along with Entombed’s management. I guess we were judged the “bad seed” of the tour, but that’s what happens.
RF: Is there something you enjoy doing that people wouldn’t expect?
KT: I’m a hell of a good cook. (laughs) I love cooking. I grew up in a house where both parents cooked and both parents worked, so part of the duties of my growing up as a kid was to cook dinner because they were both working. I have a philosophy on it. It’s pretty simple and it’s really really primitive: I like to eat, and I want my food to be good. I cook on the stovetop; I just boiled 50 pounds of crawfish for my friends and family. I even bake from time to time. Yes. I bake cakes.
RF: What’s your favorite way to cook?
KT: To me, the best way to cook is a one pot meal you take a pot throw a few things in let it simmer and it tastes like you slaved all day and you really let the pot do all the work.
RF: Favorite food to cook/eat?
KT: My favorite thing to cook is probably crawfish. Like I said, I just cooked 50 pounds over the weekend, but my favorite thing to eat is probably a slice of good pizza in a real pizzeria with the best ingredients, but you can’t eat that all the time or else you wind up 800 pounds. But my favorite thing to cook is probably crawfish. I’m a southern boy. (laughs)