In-depth Interview With Exodus/Generation Kill Vocalist Rob Dukes

By Andrew Bansal

Formed by Exodus vocalist Rob Dukes along with Ex-Pro Pain guitarist Rob Moschetti, Generation Kill has been in existence since 2008, releasing their debut album ‘Red, White And Blood’ via Season Of Mist in 2011 and now getting ready to put out their sophomore effort ‘We’re All Gonna Die’ via Nuclear Blast Records on November 26th. In comparison to the debut, the band has expanded a great deal on their music this time, and for Exodus fans who know Rob Dukes solely for his contributions to that band, Generation Kill might come across as a pleasant surprise that offers something different and more diverse. A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to Rob about this new album amongst several other things, and it turned more into a conversation rather than a straight Q&A. Enjoy the chat below, along with some of the new music.

Rob, it’s great to have you on Metal Assault again. It’s been a while since I last talked to you. First of all, I noticed that Generation Kill opened for Death Angel in New York recently. What was that like?

It was cool, man! It was great to play in front of a crowd. We haven’t played that many shows in the States, only in our hometown in Northern Jersey and a couple of other towns in New York. We played a couple of New York City shows. Nobody knows about that band yet, but hopefully that will change when the record comes out and we hope people want to come see us and we can get a little more exposure. Sirius radio has been playing us a lot and we’ve been in their top 12 of their request list for like six months. So that’s kind of cool, to keep people plugging away and wanting to hear us. Hopefully the album does well enough when people hear the whole thing.

Talking of this new album, it’s called ‘We’re All Gonna Die’ and it comes out on November 26th via Nuclear Blast. I was listening to it, and I think it’s probably more diverse than Generation Kill’s debut album. Would you agree?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s more directed and more focused. The first album we did was really more like a demo. We recorded it in my house, and on top of that we recorded it in three different sessions months and months apart. Like we did 3 songs and then 4 months later we did another 2 songs and then 6 months after that we finished it. It was three different frames of mind in three periods of time, and the drums didn’t sound the same. So it was very much a demo. Season Of Mist bought it, they put it out but they didn’t do any press, we didn’t get any tour offers, we didn’t get anything back from that. So, the first thing we did when we decided to make a new record and got the chance to make the record was, we left Season Of Mist. They treated us like assholes, so for us it was like, ‘If you guys fucking hate us so much then just let us off the label.’ So they let us go. The producer Zeuss approached us and we paid for the album ourselves, and then we went out to play Europe. And because we did that, people in Nuclear Blast saw us live and we got signed. So now it’s all good and everybody’s happy. We’re stoked to be on that label because they are prolific as far as getting interviews and press and getting people to actually hear the album. On top of that, when you put the album in the right people’s hands and if they like it, you’re going to get more press and that’s basically what’s happening. It’s kind of snowballed into something really enjoyable. Every review I’ve gotten has been stellar. People are saying that it’s a great fucking album, it’s a lot different than Exodus, and they didn’t expect it to be so diverse. It’s cool to hear that.

You’re right about the lack of press for the first album, because I think it came out in 2011 and I don’t remember anyone contacting me and asking me to do an interview with you about Generation Kill!

I didn’t do a single interview for that album, dude. Season Of Mist did absolute zero for us. They were total fucking assholes and I have no problem saying that in the press because they can go fuck themselves. Why would you sign a band if you’re not going to fucking help them? What’s the fucking point, you know? The point of being a label is to kind of help the band get out there and do stuff. They were like, ‘Well, you didn’t want to do any interviews!’ That’s a total lie. Why wouldn’t I do an interview? I never said that. I do interviews all the time! Breaking out a band is hard work. You have to get out there, play shows, go on tours, you make no money, you leave your home and family behind. It’s hard work and huge risk. But I think this album is strong enough, I’m stoked that Nuclear Blast liked it and signed us for it, and I’m stoked that we have a home there. We’re already working on the next record, to be honest with you (laughs).

Awesome, man. This is why I like interviewing you. You don’t hold back.

No, I do not! (laughs)

So, we need to talk about your vocal range because people who know you only from Exodus and haven’t heard this band would not know that you’re wide-ranged with your vocals in Generation Kill. Was that a deliberate thing for you or did you just want it to fit in with the music more?

Well, I had a huge hand in what we were going to do musically. Me and Rob started the band together and kind of had a vision, which was, let’s do what we want to do without sticking to any formula and without sitting in any kind of box. I love Exodus, dude. Exodus is one of the greatest thrash bands of all time. But the truth is, they’re a thrash band and not just a regular metal band. They’re an extreme thrash band. That’s what they do, that’s what they’ve always done. Not that I love that, I do, but I also love early Black Sabbath, early Iron Maiden, early Judas Priest, Queen, Rush, Thin Lizzy and I like a lot of the old classic metal, along with bands like Pink Floyd. So, you take all those aspects of myself and the guys that I play with, we’re all from the same kind of mould. When Iron Maiden first started, there was a lot of mellow stuff on their first two records. Judas Priest had a lot of mellow stuff too. Sad Wings Of Destiny is one of my favorite albums of all time. There’s a lot of piano on that album. But you don’t hear people saying, ‘Oh, they’re not metal.’ They’re metal as fuck! They just tried other stuff too. Sabbath, played a lot of mellow stuff that people fucking love. When I was a teenager, that was the first music I found on my own, that was mine and wasn’t my parents’ or my older brother’s or sister’s. I found it, and that’s kind of what I still listen to. When I’m in my car I listen to Pink Floyd, old Sabbath, Rush, and old Maiden. So, of course the songs that I write are going to be a reflection of that because that’s what I love listening to. So we all got together on the same page, including Zeuss. We’re all from that era and we just decided to write songs that we want to hear. So that’s how it worked. It’s kind of a cool thing to do, to be able to express myself in a different way other than aggressive all the time. It’s just another part of myself and I hope people that never heard it before are pleasantly surprised. I hope they like it. If they don’t, that’s fine. Go listen to something else, man. There’s plenty of music out there.

Obviously, with Gary Holt on tour with Slayer right now, Exodus aren’t doing as much as they used to do. I remember three years back Exodus was such an active touring band. But that’s not the case now. Has that been one of the main reasons why you’ve been able to focus more on this band?

Yeah, I guess so. When we had started this band, I was still busy with Exodus so I was writing in between. But we were able to commit to this new album because I knew that I had off for like two months. Actually right in the middle of recording this album I left to go on tour for two weeks with Exodus in South America. So we did the drums and I left the day after we finished them. Then two weeks later I came home and they were in the middle of doing rhythm guitars. They were emailing me tracks while I was in South America too. So I let Zeuss do the guitars on his own, then came home and was with Zeuss for about 11 days. I did the vocals during that time, and then we went in for two more days and did all the guitar leads. Then we mixed the album and that was it! We went to tour Europe for a month with Heathen while he mixed the album. I came home and heard the mixes, made a couple of changes, not many, and then I went to his studio again to do one final mix, and the album was done. So actually, I was touring with both of my bands during the recording process of this album. It’s not hard to do two bands. You just have to find the right time. When Exodus is not touring, Generation Kill is going to tour. If I can and have to, may be I’ll link them together and I’ll open up for Exodus, I don’t fucking know. Anything is possible. But, Gary is doing Slayer so it definitely opens up a couple of doors of time and I need to keep busy.

Right, but would you be able to do two gigs in a day if Exodus toured with Generation Kill?

Yeah, if Generation Kill is the opener and there’s a band in between and I can relax for an hour then go back out to sing for Exodus, I think I can do it. To be honest with you, Generation Kill is harder to sing than Exodus, only because I don’t really ‘sing’ in Exodus. I just scream. It’s a different voice. The screaming is easier for me than the singing part. The singing is a real challenge because it’s just a different air moving through your lungs, a different style. You don’t have as much aggression, you don’t sing as loud. So the heavier stuff for me is easier than the mellower stuff. The hardest song I’ve ever had to sing live is ‘There Is No Hope’. That song’s just a really hard one to sing live but we pull it off and it’s great. I have to really concentrate on that one. It’s one of the very few songs that I sing using a mic stand. I rarely do that but I have to for that song because it’s that demanding vocally.

That’s interesting, man. In terms of the lyrics as well, a couple of singles that you’ve released for the album so far are each based on a different documentary. Have you done a lot of research for the lyrics on this album in general?

In general, I read a lot, at least a book a week if not two. I watch a lot of documentaries on Netflix, and I read a lot of history. As I read and watch stuff, I’m always taking notes. I have a notebook full of things that I write. I have a notepad and a voice recorder in my phone as well, so I can record stuff that I say out loud. A lot of times I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll use the notebook and pen next to my bed to write down something that I’m thinking of. There’s nothing worse than having a good idea and not writing it down. So I do that constantly and build it up that way. I do it for Exodus too. So when I get the opportunity to write lyrics, I have things to draw from, things that inspired me before, things that people said and quotes that I heard. There’s a lot of really negative stuff. The world’s a really dark place and I’m a student of it, I guess.

Right, you mentioned earlier that with Exodus being a thrash band you found that you were limited to that genre. Talking of the whole thrash revival movement with the younger bands these days, do you think they are limiting themselves as well by sticking to that genre?

Well, I can’t say that I listen to a lot of it, to be completely honest. I listen to Sirius radio and Liquid Metal. Even after a couple of hours of that, I’m thinking I’ve had enough (laughs). A lot of the stuff sounds the same to me. I sound like my parents did when I played music when I was a kid. The bands now are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. They’re taking it to a whole new level, and it’s not that I don’t get it, it’s just that it’s not my time. Every generation needs their own music and this is what they have. If they’re taking early Exodus records and expanding on it, then that’s cool man. I hope they’re having fun doing it. But as far as Generation Kill, I wanted this band to be more dynamic. I wanted it to be like Faith No More. Faith No More can play with anybody. They can play with Metallica and they can go out and play with a lot of different styles of bands because they have a plethora of music. If they’re going to do a heavy show, they have enough heavy songs that they can play, and if they have to play a mellow show, they have enough songs for that too. Eventually I’d like to be in that element where I can do the same thing. This is a band that started with the aim of not being boxed into one thing. The new bands that are doing thrash, if they want to keep doing that full time, then it’s on them. I’ve seen some of them. I saw Battlecross and Revocation the other night. Those bands are fucking great! Holy Grail, those guys are amazing. They are doing stuff that Exodus doesn’t do. They are taking thrash and adding little things on it that are amazing. Some of the harmony-guitar stuff they are doing is just mind-blowing. I watched Holy Grail last night with Orange Goblin. They were fucking great! But you know what, for me, I love watching it but I wouldn’t want to do that. I wouldn’t want to have two thrash bands, that’s why I’m doing Generation Kill. I’m already in a great thrash band. It will be silly of me to make another thrash band that would be better than Exodus, because I don’t think anybody is better than Gary Holt and Tom Hunting. Those two guys writing together are the epitome of thrash. But that’s one just one man’s opinion, and of course I’m also biased. They are some of my closest friends in the world. But yeah, as for the new bands, I appreciate what they’re doing and it’s cool and it’s great, but it’s just not my era. My era was a different time. I listened to Sad Wings Of Destiny yesterday in my car, on the way home. That album came out in ’76. It’s fucking old but it’s great!

You’re right about the generation of music listeners wanting what the present generation of bands are doing. Holy Grail is one of my favorite bands right now, so I guess it’s just a generation thing.

Yeah man. How old are you?

I just turned 28.

You’re 28, right? So when you were 15, what was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

Well, it wasn’t exactly at the age of 15 because I was in India at the time and there was no real metal albums to be found there, but the first album I bought was at the age of 20, and it was Iron Maiden’s ‘Number Of The Beast’.

There you go, man! Number Of The Beast was your first album, and even with the evolution of music that has happened since you bought it, that album is going to hold true for you for the rest of your life. When you’re 45 years old, you’ll look back and say, ‘Number Of The Beast was such a great album!’ When you’re in your 20s and early 30s, you’re shaping your mind. This is when you develop all your ideals and become smarter than you were ten years ago. You’re not an 18-year old kid anymore. You’re smarter and more worldly, you’ve experienced more in life and you’re going to expand upon your thoughts. If a band sucks, you’re not going to stick with them. I think there are a lot of bands that have moments of greatness but they’re going to suck in ten years! Do you really think people are going to listen to Staind in 20 years? Really? Come on. Creed? Come on man. That band sucks and they were never good and will not stand the test of time.

I agree, there are so many bands from the 90s nu-metal era that are still popular and it kind of bothers me. I wouldn’t name them but I sometimes wonder why people are listening to that shit.

I don’t like shitting on other people’s projects and their loves and music, because I don’t want them to do it to me, but music is like food. It’s an opinion. You like what you like! I like a lot of the new thrash, but it’s theirs. I’m not trying to keep up with it or challenge it. I hung out with Holy Grail last night. I love those guys. They are fucking good people and their band is phenomenal. That’s why we took them out on tour, because we like them so much. They’re fucking awesome. So, I can totally appreciate it but it’s not my time, it’s not my music. I come from a different era. The guys that I’ve surrounded myself with are the same way and it was cool to make this album because we were paying homage to the music that we loved. If you listen to it and open your mind, you can hear everything from Queen, a little bit of Rush and The Doors, a bit of Maiden, Sabbath, Priest, early Metallica and all of those. We expanded upon them and made it our own but we didn’t reinvent the wheel. We just wrote songs that we wanted to hear ourselves. I like listening to my own album because I’m proud of it, and it has good songs. You can’t ask for anything more than that, right? If the album doesn’t sell, I don’t care. I mean, I’m hoping that it does well because I would love to be successful, but it doesn’t, hey man, at least I know I made a good record.

Finally, what plans do you have in terms of touring? I know you do shows over there on the East Coast and you did Europe, but do you plan to do a US tour soon?

We’re trying. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. The guys in this band are just friends hanging out. We all have normal jobs and families. So basically what we’re trying to do is, if we have the right tour offer everything will be into it 100 per cent. It’s not even about the money or anything like that. If it’s the right tour, we’ll get in a van and tough it out doing the old-school way of van rides and playing shows in front of 50 people. We’re all down to do it, but it has to be at the right time. The guys can’t lose their mortgage on their house because we have to go play Phoenix to 6 people (laughs). We’re not saying that we’re not willing, but we’re just looking for the right situation for everybody. I think once the album comes out a lot of bands would want to take us out. I’m hoping we’re going to be successful. The album is good and live we’re phenomenal. We’re a great band live, we’re fun and we play good cover songs along with our own music. We play the entire new album, and we can play both albums in entirety if we had to, that’s just how much we rehearse and hang out together.

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