Entering the musical adventures of Dave Lombardo will take listeners on quite a journey very few expected. He has built up his then-side project Philm into something unique and created sounds that longtime fans may have found to be out of this world.
Philm is his longtime project he had started with guitarist/vocalist Gerry Nestler in 1998. Much of their earlier material were included on their debut CD Harmonic were longtime songs they had been performing at shows around the Southern California area, and giving audiences a taste of what they are about. Bassist Francisco “Pancho” Tomaselli (also of WAR) joined the band in 2010 and slowly worked his way into the fold.
Fire From The Evening Sun is their second full length release (out now via UDR Music), and they spent much of 2013 working on newer material and building upon their ideas that they had set into place.
“Like half of the songs that we recorded on the first album, or recorded pre-year 2000. So when Pancho came into the picture we had to write some more songs. The band was really getting comfortable playing with each other. We decided to create some of those improvisation movements on there. On this album, the band had more time to create songs that are more cohesive and…not say radio friendly but for your average radio listener friendly. Avant-garde music, experimentation and improvisations are a little left field for most,” explained Lombardo, about how the album came together.
“That’s how our improvisations are. We were determined to write music in the beginning, when we were creating songs. There were a lot of songs on Harmonic that were created between 1995 and 1998.”
For those unfamiliar with Philm, their free form, avant garde style sound shapes them into something music lover can easily nibble on. The songs on Fire From The Evening Sun became a gradual evolution of the band’s sound, where they began to find their voice within the music.
“I think this album is more from the source and from the three musicians, so we didn’t have other songs that were inspired by another bass player in the band. All of these songs were inspired by our own improvisations and then we elaborated after we improvised with all three of us in a room by ourselves. Then we’d take those parts and create songs around them. That’s how we get the complete songs. This album is definitely a band effort,” he said.
With his split from his longtime band Slayer being a thing of the past, he has been able to place all of his focus upon Philm. “I mean time helps with band’s evolution and how they gel together. They mix, especially with music and personalities. It takes time. I think the first album was inhibited by the fact that I was playing in Slayer. Slayer does take up a portion of your time. But now there’s no stopping this band.”
Unlike other bands, Philm creates music based on improvisations and gradually building the music into what eventually becomes a song. The three members bring their ideas in and their writing sessions slowly evolve into songs for their full length releases.
“All the songs recorded came from improvisations. Then later as we’re adding parts to them, then Gerry will come up with a riff, because he has to. But the initial idea or the initial body or the embryo of the song, for example “Train”, that song opens with the drums. That all started with that drum beat, because it felt like a freight train or a steam engine. Not so much a freight train, but that drum pattern came from just soloing. It felt really different and that’s how they created that kind of a rhythm and the guitar work around it.”
This writing process is quite the opposite of how he wrote with Slayer. Compared to how Philm writes their material, Slayer worked better individually and piecing songs together once they are done forming their ideas to present.
“They would have the riffs. They would work on the riffs at home, and then show up at rehearsal. Then I would create over those riffs. It’s whatever I felt. One guitar riff has six to eight different variations. With those different variations, what direction do you want to go in? Upbeat, downbeat, synch pated, half time – there’s so many different directions you could go. So it’s up to the guitar player or the band to figure out which is the best drum movement to add to that musical melody.”
Lombardo says improvisations and free jams are fun, but is easy to get lost within the music. In many ways, time flies when you’re having fun, in their case. “It’s not that you don’t know when to stop, you don’t realize you’ve gone on that long. You get lost in the moment. You get lost in the zone. You’re in the rhythm. You’re in the tornado. So the rhythm’s going and you’re in the middle of it, and 20 minutes could go by, and when you stop and look at your watch or a fellow musician comes up – ‘we just did 20 minutes!’, like what John Zorn did. We played in Chicago and he comes back and goes ‘we just did 20 minutes. That’s a third of our set. We’re almost done.’ All we had to play was 60 minutes. It was kind of cool. I was like ‘really? That sucks. I really want to continue to play.’ It just happens that way. You just get lost in the music.”
While Fire From The Evening Sun is relatively still a new release, this does not stop them from working on another release. “We have another new album probably in March or April. We’re almost done wrapping up the vocals. We have a couple more songs to record on. We already have six pieces.”
Interview By Rei Nishimoto