Nuclear Assault interview with Dan Lilker: From the Vault

D.U. ran the following piece in archive ‘zine issue #40 in 2009, and we thought, why not put it on the blog here. The archive piece, which your editor wrote, was itself a reprint from Curious Goods ‘zine #5 in 1991. Enjoy.

Here we are once more at the backstage area of the 9:30 Club, with the beat up, old, rusty, squeaky couches. The focus of this article is Danny Lilker, bassist of Nuclear Assault [and Brutal Truth, but we’ll get to that later].

Curious Goods: OK, question number one, I read somewhere a while back that you were on bad terms with Anthrax.

Danny: No, not really. There was something that came out, I dunno, a year ago in a magazine, where they were saying stuff as a joke, and it looked like they were insulting us. But that’s because the guy who wrote the article hated us, so he goes, “What do you think of Nuclear Assault, bla bla bla,” and totally entrapped them into saying something.

No, I mean, I don’t have any problems with them. Shit, it’s seven years since I got thrown out. What, we’re gonna stay mad forever? No, no problem.

Do you ever say to yourself, “I’ve played the 9:30 Club 10 times; I’m getting tired of it”?

No, it’s always fun here, you know? It’s always a wild show. I’d rather play a wild show here than some big theatre and just have people have to sit down or some bullshit. I mean, yeah, there’s bigger clubs where you can stand, but no, this place has a good vibe, you know? That’s why we come here. It’s always crazy. So it’s no problem.

Do you ever feel that, since you’re playing clubs, you’re not reaching enough people? That if you sold more albums, you could get your message out, and plus, make some money while you’re at it?

Well, yeah, that’d be nice, but anything I wish for is always gonna come after the musical desire. I mean, sure, obviously you wanna fuckin’ reach as many people as possible [with] your message, but there’s no reason to wimp out. You wanna do it by still making it Nuclear Assault, you know?

So, our rationale for that is that, you know, the people know it’s there. They can read the lyrics and shit. If fuckin’ Poison put out an album with environmental lyrics, then that’d be kinda weird, wouldn’t it? Who knows. I dunno, man. You wanna reach as many people as you can, but you still retain your musical integrity, so you still gotta be intense.

What’s the deal with you guys jumping labels all the time? You were on Combat for a while, then there was Under One Flag, then In-Effect—

Under One Flag is just people who license it in Europe. Then we got the I.R.S. thing where we had to go back and forth—

Oh, yeah, I forgot about them.

So the first two are on Combat. Then we have to go back and forth between I.R.S. and Combat. So Survive came out on I.R.S. and Handle With Care came out on In-Effect, which is basically the same thing as Combat—the same company. Now we gotta go back to I.R.S.


Yeah, ‘cause it’s just the way the contract is. They won’t let it go.

Oh, you’re trying to get out of it?

Yeah, but you can’t always. You’re stuck with something you sign.

Do you not dig I.R.S.? You’d rather be on In-Effect?

They’re just more, you know, into what we’re doing. They know how to promote a thrash band. I.R.S. is more like an experiment for them, you know?

What was your initial reaction when I.R.S. came up and said, “Hey, man, you’re doing a video for MTV”?

Well, they didn’t really say it like that. We said, “Yo, we wanna do a video.” We wanted to do the video.

Oh. One of the printings of Game Over didn’t have “Lesbians” on it, right?

The cassette of Game Over had “Lesbians.” It was weird. And then we re-did it for the back of the Good Times, Bad Times deal.

Did you want to remove “Lesbians”?

No, no, it was just put on the cassette as an extra track, that’s all. It wasn’t ever on the Game Over vinyl.

How did you hook up with the People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, anyway? The last time you were here, they had a booth set up in the hallway and were passing out pamphlets.

[To himself] How did we do that? I think—I think we had that song, “Surgery,” so I think we sent it to ‘em and said, “Look, we’re kind of talking about the same thing, and since you’re based in D.C., why don’t you come down and do that.” So I think we got in touch with them, as far as I remember.

How did you dig the Handle With Care video, the “European Tour” thing?

Oh, Dark Angel, that one?

No, the one that—

Oh, the video?

Yeah, the home video, thank you.

Oh, yeah, that’s cool. I mean … [pause]

Did you dig how it came out and stuff?

Yeah, we had to fuck with it a few times. It’s pretty cool. They don’t show much of me, but then again, I’m kinda boring. First I was, like, what the fuck? But, you know, it don’t matter.

What made you decide to pick up the bass when you were little?

I just listened to a lot of Zeppelin and Sabbath an’ stuff—

***Time Out***

Some of the walls backstage at the 9:30 don’t reach all the way to the ceiling, so if you stood on the back of a couch, you could see over the wall, sort of. So John Connelly [the band’s frontman] started throwing trash at us over the wall.

Danny: Just cut it out! John’s trying to annoy the rest of us, but we’ll just ignore him! So what’s the question?

John Connelly: Oh, thanks!

***Time In***

Why’d you decide to pick up the bass when you were little?

‘Cause I listened to a lot of Zeppelin and Sabbath and I loved the deep tone. It just seemed natural, just, it was meant for me. So I started piano when I was a kid, got an electric guitar. But it’s like, I got a bass, it just sounded cool, so I was just into it. Besides, you know, bass players are hard to find, so it’s easier to get in bands, right?

That’s true, I know. What’s the deal with Glenn [Evans, drums]—does he own Arena Records?

It started out as a tape label. Then he got a lot from a lot of bands and shit, started putting out seven inches and shit. An’ then, eventually hooked up with people in Europe and got CDs and everything like that.

So that’s his whole thing?

Yeah, he runs that completely.

You gotta ask me about my solo band later, so I can plug it.

Oh, yeah. Why don’t you tell me about your solo band, Dan?

Oh. That’s funny that you asked that. Since there was nothing to do, I started a death metal band called Brutal Truth, because—

Really? [laughs]

Yeah, really. I wrote a lot of stuff that wouldn’t fit in Nuclear Assault. It’s much more aggressive death metal type stuff. And I figured, Glenn can put out a solo album. Why the hell can’t I? So I had a bunch of songs, I got a couple of guys—one of our roadies, Brent [McCarty], plays guitar—and just did that. We did four shows already and we’ve got demos and stuff.

Sounds happening, sounds happening.

Yeah, it’s really death metal, but not like graveyard/Satan.

[in guttural tone] Rrh, rrh, rrh.

Oh yeah, it’s got all those “brruulh,” but the lyrics are right on, though. The lyrics are more social/political. ‘Cause, you know, I’m fuckin’ 26. I’m not gonna sing about graveyards and Satan.

Do you feel morally obliged to write social/political lyrics?

Well, I don’t feel morally obliged. I do it ‘cause it’s important to me. Well, yeah, I guess a little bit, but not like it’s a whole big design to do it. It’s kinda like, a lot of people look up to us, you know? People like 15-year-old kids are very impressionable. If they really like Nuclear Assault or Brutal Truth or whoever the fuck, and look up to it, you might as well give it something cool. And also I can say that, it sounds corny, but you’re doing your little bit, you know, to help.

When you look back on Game Over and you have these songs like “Stranded In Hell,” with the evil lyrics, do you think, “God, I can’t believe I wrote that,” and you duck them live?

Yeah, pretty much. We didn’t know any better back then, that’s all. That’s before we got exposed to a realistic lyrical approach. It sounds like an excuse, but it’s true, you know? I wrote that when I was 17. Not to say people are stupid when they’re 17. I’m just saying I was.

How do you decide on a lyrical subject to write about?

You just see what’s going on around you. I mean, things that piss you off and things you think should be mentioned. You know, you see shit around you, like racism, intolerance, people gay bashing, fuckin’ anti-abortion people, all sorts of fuckin’ idiots. And, you know, you just want to make your statement about it.

On the new album, there’ll be a song called “Hypocrisy,” which is a pro- abortion song, which not many metal bands have written about. ‘Cause I don’t think anyone has the right to decide what a woman could do with her body, you know? I mean, it’s your own fuckin’ choice.

Yeah, right on, man.

Yeah, well, that’s the way it is. That’s such a personal decision, you know?

You guys sound like liberal Democrats or something.

I’m not really a politician, man. I just know how I feel.

I read this interview way back where John said, “I’m a registered Republican.”

Well, John probably is, man. That doesn’t mean you can’t have liberal views. Being a Republican isn’t the same as being a conservative. It’s just, kind of, part of it.

What’s a song that you got a lot of backlash about? Like “Lesbians”— did the Gay and Lesbian Front or somebody call you up and say, “Dude, man!”

No, nobody ever said that. You can tell it’s just a stupid song.

Was there ever a song that people got pissed off about?

No. Well, yeah. “My America” off the first album—all the hardcore people got pissed off about it. Remember Ed Anger and the Weekly World News? He had a column called “My America”?


Okay, remember the Weekly World News? It’s still on newsstands. It’s like the National Enquirer, but, instead of having Hollywood gossip, it just has complete bullshit, like “Baby Born With Three Heads” and, you know, shit like that, and it was such a joke newspaper. They had a column by a fictional character called Ed Anger, and his column was called “My America.” And all he was just this total patriotic idiot.

So we just did a play on that, and people didn’t realize that, and they thought we were sayin’ it for serious.

All the skins got on your back about it?

No, not the skins. They’re the pro-American ones. They loved it. It was the fuckin’, you know, peace types, the liberal types, which is understandable.

Oh, the ones that do the marching in D.C.?

Yeah, they didn’t realize we were having a laugh, you know? They figured, “Oh, these guys are fascists.”

Here, get this on tape.

Danny starts bouncing on the couch, making it squeak.

It sounds like somebody getting laid.

[laughs] Do you still do gigs with hardcore bands?

Nah, we haven’t done that for years, man. There’s hardly any good hardcore bands around anymore.

You think? Are there any from the New York/New Jersey scene?

Oh yeah. Nausea, Insurgence, oh, there’s a lotta killer hardcore bands and stuff. But the thing is, it really died down as a scene because the CBGB thing isn’t happening no more. I mean, just once in a while. Just all sorts of alternative shit. But we don’t play with hardcore bands like we used to, no, not at all.

Do you miss it, or is it just, whatever?

Oh no, I liked it, I miss it. But, it’s just kinda like, now we end up getting on Testament tours and shit, so you really can’t bring the Cro-Mags along with you, you know?

I guess the labels have the say on that, too.

Well, In-Effect has fuckin’ Sick Of It All and Agnostic Front and all that shit, so they’re certainly not gonna tell us not to play with hardcore or punk bands. It’s just that we’re playing bigger shows now. I’d still like to.

Well, that’s about it. Do you have anything to sign off with?

Well, we’ll have a new album out, eventually.

You have any stuff written?

Yeah, we have two songs complete with lyrics, and then about four or five ones that are just music. You know the last one we did in the soundcheck that you were going, “What the fuck is that?” That was a new one, yeah, where we stopped in the middle ‘cause we forgot how long it was.

What song was that?

That doesn’t have a title yet. It’s got lyrics. I’m not sure.

Are you gonna put the root note on the title and call it “F♭”?

I don’t know how much longer we can keep that joke going. We’re running out of fuckin’ sharps and flats. We could call it “F♭,” but that would be E. But no non-musicians would know that.

Back when Survive came out, I didn’t know what that meant.

Yeah, it was F with a plus sign, right? Well, it was in F#. We didn’t have a title for it, so we just called it “F#.”

Then there was “New Song.”

Yeah, oh yeah, “That’s the new song.” But then the other one, F♮, that song is in G but it starts on an F chord, so it’s like, call that F and keep the joke going, really. So, alright, well, I guess that’s it. Don’t forget to plug my other band. ■

Related: Nuclear Assault playing Maryland Deathfest in 2011 on our Tumblr.

Photos: D.U., from the gig that night.


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