Interview: Dan Lilker, Brutal Truth
Dan Lilker is still far away from departure. As grind pioneers Brutal Truth gain momentum once again, the bassist continues to build his extensive track record of time spent with Nuclear Assault and S.O.D., among others. Despite over two decades of nonstop shredding, Lilker finds no better reason for doing what he’s doing other than metal is where his heart is. Between recent Brutal Truth shows, Lilker took a break in his Rochester, NY home for a phone interview.
In the recent Decibel feature of Brutal Truth, you mentioned the band falling under the post-mortem syndrome, under which a band becomes more appreciated or famous by breaking up. What are the positive and negative qualities of that syndrome?
I guess the cons would be you have to be inactive for a while for it to work. That just worked out with us anyway. There were problems within the band that were making it impossible for it to continue, which have since been resolved.
The pros are just the obvious, ironic ones. When you come back, all of a sudden people are like, “Holy shit, Brutal Truth!” The thing is, when we were apart, I was still active musically. I ran into a lot of people on the road at various places, and sometimes people would be like, “Dude, are you ever going to do Brutal Truth again? Do you have any fucking idea how important that was to the grindcore scene?” All these people would say stuff, and I would just smile and shrug and go, “I don’t know, man. I think it’s pretty much over.” As usual, I was wrong. I said that about Nuclear Assault and that’s what it did, too.
What is it like playing in Brutal Truth now compared to 10 or 15 years ago?
A lot of stuff is a lot easier because of this popularity we have now. We’re getting better money for shows, and that certainly helps. Some of the people in this band have families, and we’re not going to be in the same hectic schedule we were on back in the ’90s where we just hopped into a van and opened up for Cannibal Corpse for $250 a night or something. We don’t have to. I don’t mean that arrogantly. It’s just true. We’ve reached the level where we can pick and choose a little more. It’s really cool and a lot of fun. We’re doing things at a relaxed pace and it seems to be quite enjoyable so far.
What would you say is required for idle bands to reunite today?
You have to be good, and people are going to have to be interested in it. That’s one thing about Brutal Truth. When we realized we were going to do it again, it was after eight years. So make sure that you’re relevant. If you have to get a label again, I would take advantage of the Internet, which we couldn’t do 15 years ago. Promote yourself through MySpace and stuff like that. And, most importantly, be original. If you’re going to come back, stick to what you’re known for. Don’t get too radical or different.
How would you describe the difference in today’s metal community and that of your past?
Well, with or without technology, you still have people playing a bunch of crazy stuff, going out on tour, and putting out records. The difference is, grind has gotten a lot more varied now. Over the last 10 years, it forked off. You got stuff that’s a little more tasteless like goregrind and porngrind or whatever you call it. That stuff doesn’t bother me too much – it’s pretty much just entertainment. It’s kind of an extension off Cannibal Corpse, so that’s cool.
The whole technology thing really made it interesting. The fact that people can have recording software at home and record their own shit and promote their own shit – in a way that’s bad because it’s like a lack of quality control. It used to be that labels decided who got signed and who didn’t if they thought that they weren’t going to sell records. Now, anybody can put something out, so it’s not always that good, unfortunately.
What is the best thing you’ve learned thus far with your participation in Brutal Truth?
If you’re not careful, your promo CD’s will get sent to people in the press who upload them to a torrent site. Our album’s already on the fucking Internet. You have to be careful about some people in the music business who will seek to exploit you, and I’m not naming anybody in particular. I’m certainly not talking about our label. When you’re playing music, you [have] got to be careful because there’s people out there who don’t have the best interest in mind and they will fuck you. That’s just [from] over 20 years of experience.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known starting out in the early ’90s with Brutal Truth?
I wish I’d known that Earache Records was going to lose interest with doing grind for a while and kind of fuck everybody that was on the label. But that’s hard to predict. I’m not someone who feels a lot of regrets about shit.
Despite it all, do you still see yourself an optimistic person?
Yeah. I enjoy playing music. I’m really happy that I’ve gotten to do as much as I can. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m probably the only person in my apartment complex [that’s] been to Finland. I have a passport filled with cool-looking stamps and everything. That’s a really good fringe benefit. Of course, traveling isn’t what it used to be. I’ve had experiences in airports missing connecting flights, which can be extremely stressful. You [have] got to take that as part of what you’re doing.
[But] if you want to complain, just remember there are other people who have never been out of the country or have to pay to go on vacation, so who the fuck am I to complain? I just try to keep a positive attitude like that. I love going out and playing metal for a bunch of crazy people, and I’m going to do that for as long as I can.