Rob Dukes is one of the more interesting guys in heavy music. Plucked from near obscurity to be the front man of the most influential thrash band ever, Exodus, he has never been one to boast about himself. In the ten years he has been in the band, they are bigger than they ever were, putting out new classics such as The Atrocity Exhibition, Exhibit A and Exhibit B: The Human Condition. In the meantime since those albums were released, Dukes put together a side project, Generation Kill, which is not quite a super group, but does have a who’s who of New York state metal and hardcore talents (Meurarder, Pro-Pain, M.O.D., Mutilation). With a new album out, We’re All Gonna Die, and a new label (Nuclear Blast), Dukes chatted with Ghost Cult about the making of the new album, musical diversity, and a status update on the next Exodus record.
We caught up with Dukes from home on a quiet Sunday morning. He was really friendly and excited to talk about the differences between the first Generation Kill album Red, White, and Blood, and the new one:
The first one, I look back on it now, the difference was I am more hands on now. The first one I was touring much more with Exodus at the time. We recorded it over three different recording sessions. Three different spaces in time. On that one, I really only wrote three of the songs with the guys. And the rest they wrote, sent me the final product, I put vocals on it, and we were done. I had a hand in writing ‘Red White, and Blood’ and ‘Dark Days’ I wrote on the acoustic guitar. But for the most part I thought it was cool to have a group of friends get together. And at the time I had a nice recording studio with a sound booth in my house. I said “let’s just start recording shit!” That’s how this band started.
This album we were all together for all of it. We wrote it all together at one time. We knew who was going to record it the whole time. We worked really hard in the months leading up to the recording. We sent demos back and forth the entire time to the producer. I had a vision in my head of how I wanted it to go the entire time. Sometimes that vision doesn’t add up. But it definitely exceeded my expectations for what I wanted to do.
There were some lineup changes in Generation Kill in the few years between albums. Now the it’s a much tighter group of friends making music together and seems to be more like a band, rather than a side project.
We started off a little better this time around. I changed drummers, because I know Jim (DeMaria) my entire life. He is one of my best friends. Sam (Inzerra) is great, but he is a death metal drummer who wanted to play fast all the time. And I’m from the old Cliff Burton school that says you don’t have to play fast, to play heavy. Adding Jim in the band makes the band more dynamic and to be able to do the things we wanted to do. Sam is a great drummer, but I wanted Jim in the band. Jim was our original choice, but he couldn’t do it at the time
As far as Velez, Velez is just a superior songwriter compared with the last guy. That guy was just kind of a mess personally. We wanted to go with someone more stable mentally. Jason is another guy, I know most of my life, since high school. He has always been a good guy and a good guitar player. When he came back in the fold, I didn’t know how much he had been playing or anything. We gave him a shot, and he came in and he killed it.
The band definitely has an 80s/90s New York hardcore and metal pedigree with its members. Dukes dispels the idea that the band is a super group or that it is limited musically to the musical history of its members.
Moschetti, he gets the whole hardcore deal, because of the bands he was in. but I knew Rob before, when he was starting out, he was much more of a Metallica and Suicidal Tendencies guy. He was playing in a band playing, Mutilation, at the time and he got a job playing for M.O.D. So he got the chance to join M.O.D. And to play music for a living, and not have a regular job. That was awesome for him. So of course people are going to call us a hardcore band, because we are all bald because we’ve lost our hair. (laughs) Of course we are all from New York, so people will make that assumption. But we are all just old-school metalheads. One of the covers we were going to do for the album was ‘Charlotte the Harlot’. Maiden and Priest always did a ton of mellow stuff. Listening to Sirius radio as often as I do; I am not taking anything away from the new bands, and a lot of them are great. But they all sound very similar. I thought let’s just do what we like doing. So we not only wrote songs we like playing, but stuff we wanted to hear.”
Let me put it this way, I’m already in a thrash band. So if I was going to get some guys together, I wanted to do something different. Also the object of this band was this, I am already in Exodus. Let’s do something different. I am an old-school doom fan. I’m a doom guy. I love bands like Kyuss, Clutch and Orange Goblin, old-school Sabbath, bands like that. When you hear a song like ‘Death Comes Calling’, I wrote that one on the guitar. I am not a very good guitar player, but everyone once in a while I come up with a riff the other guys like. We mixed a lot of different styles together and it shows. I just wanted to hear stuff like what I love. I even hear some Rush and Pink Floyd in there.
Rob’s vocal performance on We’re all Gonna Die, is nothing short of astounding to those who only know him screaming on Exodus albums, and his renditions of their thrash classics live. Able to explore different vocal styles and different types of songs was liberating to him:.
“You know exactly what Exodus is going to give you when you hear the record. It’s the same thing with an AC/DC record or a Pennywise record. When you get an Exodus record, you know it will be fast, crazy, and weird riffs. Gary is one of the most prolific songwriters in metal. Listen to the diversity in the riffs on the albums, it’s not the same thing over and over again. But at the same time it’s always thrash, and it’s always full bore. With Generation Kill I want to do different things. Honestly thrash, that is part of my life, but not all of me. This band is part of the way I do. I didn’t plan on being on a label and making records. I was just hanging out with my friends in New York. None of us really party or drink and do drugs. Maybe just have some fun, play some songs and drink a couple of beers and smoke a little weed. How we got here today… we just said “let’s do it, fuck it!” (laughs). To be even able to sing different styles, it’s just what I do. I didn’t know I could even be the singer of Exodus. I never did it before in my life really. I showed up, was given an audition, and made. it. But with this band I thought “let’s do different things, experiment, and try stuff and see what works.”
Chris “Zeuss” Harris produced the album. Even though he wasn’t the original first choice for the job, her certainly delivered a great sound to match these fine songs:
“He was amazing dude. Honestly, me and him have been friends for about ten years. When I first joined Exodus on the first tour, I met him. We have always spoken periodically and stayed in touch. I had Peter Tägtgren all lined up to record this album. Peter was home, on a break from Hypocrisy. And we were all set for Peter and he had the time, but we just couldn’t afford him. We had just opted out of our deal with Season of Mist. Anyway, it was really expensive to go to Sweden to do the record. I called him up and said, “Peter I can afford you man.” And I asked him what he thought of Zeuss, and he said oh, that guy is great, go for it. We paid for the recording ourselves. And having Zeuss on board was great. He was a similar guy, the same age like us, who played guitar and had similar influences. We said let’s write eight songs. We’ll keep it short and to the point, and do the best eight songs we can do. Zeuss said he would help us trim the fat. He was great a director for us get the record out we wanted to. He let me do whatever I wanted. He let me do overdubs, and triple voices. I said hey I want to do something Beatles-esque, and he was all for it. Any idea I had in my head, he let me try it. And if it didn’t work, he said so. But it was great to have that kind of freedom. We were stoked to do be doing a record together.”
The band spent some time last summer in Europe opening up for Heathen. We asked how will Generation Kill will find the time to tour extensively in the USA with Dukes and others so busy?
“I’m doing a new record with Exodus in February. So it’s going to be March or April, maybe next summer or next fall. This band will have to tour when Exodus is not on the road. One good thing about Gary, since Gary has been so busy with Slayer, there is a lot of free time now. I’ve been talking to to some bands, talking to Orange Goblin about doing a tour. I’ve been talking to Death Angel. I’m hoping to do a good 6-8 week tour of the U.S. and Canada. Do this small thing, do it in a van, and do it the old way.
Eventually talk of the status of Exodus, could not be avoided. When we last saw the band in person, on the 2013 Metal Alliance Tour, several members of the band expressed doubt as to when the next album from the venerable band would see the light of day. Now we have word of a confirmed writing, and recording sessions. A release is already planned for next summer/early fall:
We have wanted to get back to the studio and write and record. They are doing that now. Rehearsing and working on shit, while Gary is on the road. We just built a new studio and they have been rehearsing. They are writing and writing and writing, and I will join them in mid- January. And we’ll record in February. I don’t know who is producing, I don’t know any information, but I know we’ll be making a new record.
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Keith (Keefy) Chachkes