Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dave Lombardo: Unlocking the Mysteries of Rhythm

Photo by Christy Borgman 

Earlier this year, former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo was walking around New York with avant-garde saxophonist/sometime collaborator John Zorn when the two stopped by Christie's to check out some artistic creations. Shortly after returning home from the trip, Lombardo – a longtime fan of modern and abstract art – was offered a unique opportunity to create his own magic on canvas.

Thanks to a collaboration with the Los Angeles-based visual team SceneFour, Lombardo recently unveiled Rhythm Mysterium, a fine art series comprised of 12 different pieces. After accepting an invitation to be one of SceneFour's artist drummers, Lombardo was photographed in the dark using an array of drumsticks and rhythmic accessories that produce light, much like a painter utilizing brushes and oils. The movements featured within the captured rhythms were then studied and developed into abstract artwork. Lombardo selected and named the dozen pieces featured in the collection, while each numbered canvas in the series is signed by the man himself. (Lombardo's in great company: Legendary Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward created his own art series, Absence of Corners, with SceneFour last year.) 

Dave Lombardo signs "Mantis" (Courtesy of SceneFour)

From the moment he first sat down to do the session, Lombardo knew it would be an unforgettable experience.

Where we photographed the pieces was very inspiring,” he says. “It was in a kind of warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, so it sounded really good. It was just a big, cavernous room. I just went off, and they started snapping pictures...At certain points, as I noticed the way they were shooting the pictures and everything, I realized, 'Wow, I could really make this picture look better if I give it my flair or my style. When I’m on stage, I’ve noticed that I swing my arms a little more. My movements are more exaggerated. I don't restrain myself when I play; my arms are swinging all over the place. So in this environment, instead of just doing a solo for myself, I gave it that live performance feel. That's why I feel that these pictures show a little more excitement, because of the way I approached the drumming.”

Not surprisingly, the art aficionado was thrilled with the imagery created by the unique environment.

 I was very surprised,” he recalls. “I really liked the tones and the colors that were captured, and we were able to alter them, make them a little lighter, darker or more prominent. I was impressed; I was really liking the way you were able to see other images within those images. When I go to an art gallery, I'll sit and look at a piece for several minutes and kind of absorb the colors and vibrations of the piece and what the artist tried to create.”

While each of Rhythm Mysterium's 12 pieces offer something special to the viewer, “Mantis” and “Broken Angel” appear to take on a vastly different persona than the rest.

I really like abstract pieces,” Lombardo explains. “There are some where you can actually see the drum set and make heads or tails of what's going on, but there's also other pictures [where] you don't know where the drums are, the sticks are or where everything else is. I really like those. 'Mantis' especially had a different vibe that was really interesting to me. When I look at art, I look at these pictures and try to look deeper into them and try to find other images within the actual image they're in. 'Mantis,' to me, looks like a side view of a praying mantis! I don't know if anyone else would ever see that, but see that, and that's what inspired me to title it that.”

"Mantis" by Dave Lombardo (Courtesy of SceneFour)

As for “Broken Angel,” it was clear to Lombardo that the piece represented spiritual regret.

To me, that's an angel on his knees,” he offers. “It's like a bright view of an angel on his knees with his face in his hands like, 'I just fucked up!' That's why I titled that one 'Broken Angel.' These images have other images within them. You can really let your imagination go when you're looking at these.

"Broken Angel" by Dave Lombardo (Courtesy of SceneFour)

The unveiling of Rhythm Mysterium caps off an especially active 2014 for the perpetually busy Lombardo. In addition to his ongoing work with his band PHILM, he reunited with Zorn and bassist Bill Laswell last March and May for the first performances under the Bladerunner moniker in more than a decade.

I didn't expect it,” says the drummer of Zorn's invitation to perform Bladerunner's shows in Australia, New York City and Chicago. “When [Zorn] said, 'Let's get together,' I was just floored. It was like, 'Absolutely! Sure, I'll fly 14 hours to play 20 minutes on stage!' When I flew to Australia and we did a gig, it was like 25 minutes. We tore it up.”

Lombardo also found time in 2014 to return to FantĂ´mas, an experimental supergroup featuring Faith No More's Mike Patton, Mr. Bungle's Trevor Dunn and The Melvins' Buzz Osborne. Earlier this month, Lombardo hit the stage at the Rockout Fest in Santiago, Chile for his first performance with the group in ages. 

Man, it was like riding a bike,” he says. “We loved it; we had a great time. It was a great week where we were able to bond again as a band, and we really enjoyed ourselves. It was killer; it was great seeing Buzz and Trevor, and of course Mike. He is so inspiring to me. I have nothing bad to say about these guys; these guys are just great.”

Although a great deal of Lombardo's recent musical exploits have been experimental in nature, that's not to say that he's done with Metal. Anyone who picked up Sepultura's blistering 2013 album The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be The Heart was treated to a special appearance by the timekeeper on the track Obsessed.” Always open to new experiences behind a drum kit, he jumped at the chance to create something special with his old friends.

I was basically walking on the beach with my dog and my daughter, he remembers. I text messaged Ross Robinson, who was the producer of their new record. I said, 'Hey, man. How are you? I'm here with my dog. Can I go by? I want to introduce my dog to your dog.' They're both kind of the same; one's a Labrador and the other one's a Pointer. He said, 'Do you feel like playing drums?' That's how he answered; he didn't answer me with, 'Hey, man. How are you?' It was like, 'Hey, wanna play some drums?' I was like, 'Of course!' He said, 'Okay, come on over.' I went upstairs, and there were all the Sepultura guys, and they were setting up two drum sets face to face. That's when I met [current Sepultura drummer] Eloy [Casagrande]. I had seen video footage of his performances, and I was definitely impressed. We got together and started jamming, and we recorded that little section. Man, it was good fun. It was spontaneous, and it was creative. I thrive in that environment. I don't need no preparation; just put me in a situation and let's see what happens.”

Lombardo's longstanding relationship with the band will carry on well into 2015, as both Sepultura and PHILM are set to perform as part of the Motorcycle Rock Cruise in Brazil this February.

As for PHILM, Lombardo is looking forward to continuing his work with fellow bandmates Gerry Nestler (Civil Defiance) and Pancho Tomaselli (WAR/Tower Of Power).

 I love these musicians I'm working with,” he shares. “Gerry and Pancho are just phenomenal players; they're at my level. I don't surround myself with musicians who can't keep up. These guys definitely have what it takes to be on the big stages.”

PHILM. Photo by Alex Solca

In addition to plenty of recording and touring with PHILM (as well as a Bladerunner performance at LA's Royce Hall on May 2), Lombardo is planning to explore more soundtrack work in the months ahead. Recently, he worked on Insidious: Chapter 3 with composer Joseph Bishara.

More than three decades after launching his career, Dave Lombardo is enjoying his most productive and satisfying time in the here and now. From Rhythm Mysterium to his ongoing performances with PHILM and others, he stands as an example of what one can do in the music business by maintaining a healthy, optimistic spirit.

With my entire little circle of musicians and friends, I've weeded out a lot of negativity,” he says. “There's just so much positivity around, I don't know what to do with it!” (laughs)

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.