For most metalheads, Dave Lombardo’s name inspires pure awe and reverence. He’s been the propulsive force behind the drum kit for everyone from metal stalwarts Testament and Grip Inc. to punk and hardcore legends Suicidal Tendencies and The Misfits. Not content to rest on the laurels of traditional rock structures, he’s let his freak flag fly with notorious weirdos like Fantômas, Mr. Bungle and Dead Cross.
Those credentials make for an impressive resume as it is, but Lombardo will always be best known for his limitlessly influential and inimitable work with Californian thrash gods, Slayer.
Speaking with New Noise Magazine recently, the drum legend discussed how his cultural background had an impact on his style as a drummer, saying: “We would go to these Cuban clubs. When I was a kid, I never liked dancing. Cubans are very passionate about their dance. So I would at these parties; I would hang out backstage and sit there on the piano stool and just watch the interaction, watch the musicians just for the side of the stage and watch how passionately they played and how much fun they had.
“I had to have been probably 4 years old, 5 years old, and I have no doubt that inspired me to be a drummer and in a rock band. I didn’t want to be in a Cuban band. No, I was in America; I wanted to be in a rock band.
“I remember going to that Cuban club and watching rock bands in the afternoon. At 4 o’clock, they would have matinees for the kids. There would always be a rocker guy with long hair playing distorted guitar, and they would have the pop hits, but then they always throw in a rock song.
“I always loved when that guitar player started singing and playing his guitar because it was a different energy. So I was drawn into rock music from those experiences.“
Lombardo also went into detail about how Afro-Cuban rhythms influenced classic Slayer songs, explaining: “Let’s say, for example, ‘Angel of Death’ and that drum break with the double bass. Everybody knows that piece. I think the double bass is, like, 32nd notes. And then, over that rhythm, I hit a series of syncopated tom hits. I did a very typical Tito Puente, ‘de, dot, dot, dot, dot,’ and then it went back into the thrash beat. ‘
As he got older, Lombardo realized this inspiration had come from Latin jazz, saying: “Ginger Baker or Mitch Mitchell were very jazz-oriented, but those kinds of syncopated patterns are very Caribbean, or Latin jazz or Cuban based. So I later realized that I’m very influenced instinctually and unconsciously by Cuban music, or Afro Caribbean rhythms.”