Better Living, The Dan Lilker Way

My review of Dave Hofer's excellent Perpetual Conversion: 30 Years & Counting in the Life of Metal Veteran Dan Lilker -- out now on Handshake, Inc -- will appear in an upcoming issue of Decibel, but the book is such a crazy, inspiring smorgasbord of gonzo metal history/wisdom a distillation of a dozen of its most edifying moments seemed to be in order. Incredibly, these nuggets only scratch the surface of what awaits those who dare buy a ticket and take the cover-to-cover ride. All of the following are direct Lilker quotes, unless otherwise noted.

1. DAN LILKER MAINTAINS A SENSE OF HUMOR, EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS

On [the Extreme Conditions/Soul of a New Machine] tour Dino Cazares, the guitar player from Fear Factory, had his bunk over mine and he’s a big, chubby, Mexican dude. At one point, he had some girl in his bunk. I heard him fart and say, “Does that turn you on?” The funniest thing about Dino’s bunk being over mine was because he’s a big dude, I was constantly worried that the bunk would collapse and crush me. There was a song on the first Fear Factory record called “WOE,” which stood for “weight of existence.” The lyrics talk about being suffocated under the weight of existence, so I would joke with him and say it should be called “WOM (Weight of a Mexican),” just to josh around with Dino.

2. DAN LILKER DOES BEING A FOF (FRIEND OF FENRIZ) RIGHT

[In 1994], I somehow got Fenriz’ [from Darkthrone] address and wrote him to say that I dug his band a lot. Three months later, he wrote back on a postcard from an art museum. Every “T” was an inverted cross. He said, “I’m 24 and doing several bands (not sexual).” He told me later, when we met, that he thought it was really bizarre getting that letter in the mail because he had listened to my bands for years.

Between playing shows and vacations, I’ve been back [to Scandinavia] four or five times. Jonas Alver, who played bass in Emperor, lived in the same flat that Euronymous did at the time of his death. On the way up the stairs to his flat, I saw drops of Euronymous’ blood that had stained the concrete. It was pretty fascinating and I wish I had a cell phone camera at that time.

There was that [side of visiting] -- the more sensational stuff -- but then there was the stuff like taking acid with Fenriz in his farmhouse on the outskirts of Oslo. His mom would stick her head out the window and say, “Do you boys want waffles?” I was tripping, so I understood Norwegian and said, “No thanks, I’m not hungry!” He was like, “Oh, my mom and her waffles! No mom, we don’t want waffles!”

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3. DAN LILKER IS HONEST ABOUT THE LIMITS OF WHAT HE CAN DO FOR YOU -- EVEN IF YOU'RE NERGAL FROM FUCKING BEHEMOTH When Brutal Truth played at the Neurotic Death Fest in Holland in 2009, Behemoth was there from Poland. It was a large venue because there were tons of bands playing. We shared a room with Entombed, and Behemoth was sharing a room with Gadget. As I walked by that room -- I don’t know his real name, even though I’ve known him for a while -- Nergal from Behemoth looks up, locks eyes with me and has a laptop on a table. He said, “We’re mastering our new record and I’d like you to have a listen and see what you think.” I told him, “I’ve got to go onstage in 15 minutes, but I’ll come back when we’re done. Keep in mind, though, that I’m in a country with a lot of strong weed.”

4. DAN LILKER IS A BENEVOLENT DEITY

On the last Brutal Truth tour before we broke up in 1998, we were in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was near the end of the tour and we didn’t have a lot of money left. At the club in Christchurch, the beers they sold to the kids were in typically-shaped beer mugs, but they were huge, like 24 ounces or something. We had a 12-pack we were trying to make last, and people were walking around with these giant mugs of beer. A guy walked up to me at the bar and went into one of these spiels like, “Oh man, I can’t believe I’m meeting you! You’re a god to me!” I looked him right in the eye and said, “Well...god is thirsty.” The guy just started laughing and bought me one of those giant beers immediately.

5. DAN LILKER HAS AN EYE FOR EMERGING TALENT

I saw Scott [Ian] around school wearing an AC/DC shirt, but he was a year older than me so I didn’t actually meet him until I was a junior. The juniors and the seniors would have one big gym class together, and they would oppose each other in team sports like basketball or volleyball. Both of us would play volleyball, and I remember standing across the volleyball net from this guy that had sort of long hair. I thought, “Check out this dude! I wonder if he’s into hard rock?”

We got to talking and I said, “AC/DC is all right, but I like Black Sabbath.” He said, “No, they’re too slow,” and he made a funny face like an idiot and mimicked playing a guitar. This meeting happened while White Heat was still together, but since I was getting into heavier music and Scott lived walking distance from my house, it was a natural transition between playing in White Heat and jamming with Scott. We were both Jewish, too, but there was no breakdown like, “Only outcast Jews listen to metal.” Our Jewiness was purely coincidental.

6. DAN LILKER IS ONE CONSISTENT MOTHERFUCKER...

Via John Connelly (guitar/vocals, Nuclear Assault)...

Dan and I first met in high school. We both had a morning class in orchestral music. Dan was a fairly friendly guy who would always hit me up for some soda -- I had three or four music classes in a row and always carried a bottle. It’s like he always had a bad case of dry-mouth first thing in the morning, and he must have stayed up late every night because his eyes were always bloodshot! Weird!

7. ...WHO PERFECTED NAMING METAL BANDS IN HIGH SCHOOL

I remember being in Hygiene class, which was where they’d teach you sex education, the food pyramid and about different diseases. At the time, learning about diseases just seemed like something I was being taught because I was already in school and they needed to fill out the curriculum. It didn’t seem like it would really help me later in life, but it did, because when my teacher wrote “anthrax” on the board, it had a certain appeal to me. It’s great band name, because it’s perfectly metal: one word, two syllables and it has a negative stigma.

8. DAN LILKER IS MAYBE TOO GOOD AT BANDS

Via Chris Reifert (Autopsy)...

[T]he three of us in Autopsy decided to play a show at Maryland Deathfest after years and years of saying we never would, [so] we had to figure out who was going to play bass. We had a few ideas, but one of the earliest ideas was Danny.Nothing came of it then, because we were thinking, “Well, he’s in New York, and we wouldn’t really be able to rehearse.” Shortly after that, we just decided that Danny was the guy for the job, that he could handle it and that we wouldn’t have to rehearse a bunch with him. We’ll just tell him what to learn. I called him and asked him, and he said, “Yes, as long as it doesn’t conflict with Brutal Truth stuff”...

Danny figured out how to play everything at home and got out [to California] for rehearsals more prepared than we were! He studied hard! [Beforehand], he would send us audio tracks via email with messages like, “Here’s my bass for ‘Slaughterday.’ What do you think?” Our motivation was to not have Danny show us our own stuff once he arrived. [Then], my worst nightmare ended up coming true: Danny had to show us a couple of things that we fucked up! “No dude, this goes eight times, not four!” At least it was a minimum, because there were only like two parts he had to correct us on.

9. DAN LILKER UNDERSTANDS THE UTILITY AND WONDER OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In order to break Rich in, we went to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, which is where What About Bob? was filmed. It’s this big, summery resort where people would have their House On The Lake. Gurn’s sister and her husband had a house that they’d use in the summer. No one would be dumb enough to use it in the winter because it’s extremely cold in central, inland New Hampshire. The lake just freezes over.

Alex from Pungent Stench was booking a tour for us, them and Macabre which was happening in a few months, we had a bunch of songs that Rich had to learn and we were going to have to write for a new record, so we decided that the best way to immerse him into the world of Brutal Truth was to go up to this house in Meredith, New Hampshire for a few weeks in January of 1994.

Frigid and fucking cold, it was a perfect place for me to hear Immortal for the first time! I would just listen to Immortal and look out the window at the snow blowing around on the lake and say, “This seems appropriate!” A little black metal snuck into Brutal Truth’s style from there on in...

Once, Rich took his van and drove for an hour to Manchester, New Hampshire and back in a blizzard because we were getting a cheap ounce of weed. We told him that if he didn’t make it back, we’d be thinking of him.

10. DAN LILKER IS LIKE A METAL VERSION OF THAT GUY FROM "A BEAUTIFUL MIND"

The words “brutal” and “truth” both have the word “rut” in them. Nobody likes to be in a rut, no less two of them! If you take the word “rut” out of both of them, you’re left with [my name in Hemlock] “Balth.”

11. DAN LILKER WILL BRING YOU GREAT MIXTAPES IN PRISON (AND THEN SEND IT LATER VIA AIRMAIL WHEN THE PIGS BALK)

Via Bård Eithun (AKA Faust)...

I met [Lilker] the first time when he visited me in prison. I had visits from quite [a lot of] people during the years, but his visit was something special, [as] he was by far the famous one visiting me, that`s for sure! [laughs] I remember I was quite excited that I should finally meet this guy whom I had been aware of for so long. The visits were in a closed room where we could talk briefly with no one monitoring us. It was so bizarre, Danny made me this mixtape with some of his favorite songs: some black metal, some death metal, some thrash metal and some grindcore. He brought me this tape from New York. But when he tried handing me the tape, the guards said that I couldn`t receive anything, so the end of [the] story was that he had to bring the fucking tape back to New York and mail it to me from there! [laughs] It was a great mixtape, though, and I listened to it a lot.

12. DAN LILKER IS ALWAYS MORE PREPARED THAN YOU

Also via Faust...

Me and my friend Pete from Blood Tsunami were in England. We were piss drunk and I started to send out [text messages] to various people on my cell phone. I sent one to Danny. We figured it was in the middle of the night in New York, but we thought, “Let`s check if he is awake!” Then, after no more than one minute I got an answer. In other words: Danny is ready at every possible hour. [laughs]

Cover photo by Fursy's Photographs...

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