Dead Cross Is Slayer Co-Founder Dave Lombardo's Heaviest Band Yet

Dead Cross is Mike Patton, Michael Craine, Dave Lombardo and Justin Pearson.
Dead Cross is Mike Patton, Michael Craine, Dave Lombardo and Justin Pearson. SAWA
After drummer Dave Lombardo ended his side project Philm in late 2015, he wanted to start a hardcore band that was harder and heavier than other bands he’d been in. That's saying a lot: Lombardo co-founded Slayer and tours with Suicidal Tendencies and the Misfits. Nonetheless, he wanted to take things up a notch and form a group that was like an out-of-control freight train, or a semi-truck that lost its brakes.

Dead Cross is that band. Now fronted by singer Mike Patton of Mr. Bungle and Faith No More, who collaborated with Lombardo in Fantômas, Dead Cross makes music as brutal as it comes. Hear for yourself on the act's self-titled debut, released last August on Patton’s Ipecac Recordings.

Before Philm disbanded, Lombardo had booked shows and lined up studio time. Instead of backing out of those arrangements, he formed Dead Cross, in part, to honor those commitments. The first bandmates were Retox guitarist Michael Crain and bassist Justin Pearson. In its earliest days, the Locust's Gabe Serbian sang with the act. One problem: The new band didn't have any songs and was under the gun to have something to play at those gigs.

Lombardo says it was urgent. They came up with nine songs – a mere twenty minutes of material. Producer Ross Robinson, who’s worked with Korn and At the Drive-In, started recording them. Pearson suggested that the bandmembers add Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi Is Dead” as a filler for shows, since they could extend the intro and the ending, and they liked it so much, they kept it on the album.

In 2016, Serbian left Dead Cross to focus on his family, and that spring, Patton joined the group.

“There’s a distinct difference in what Patton is bringing to the table and what Gabe brought to the table,” Lombardo notes. “Not taking away anything from Gabe’s style, because it was cool – we loved the direction of what he was doing – but Patton is Patton. The guy has a six-, seven-octave range. What more can you say about that? I really loved what Gabe was bringing to the recordings and everything. I wouldn’t take anything away from that process that we went through, that whole period, because we learned a lot, and I’m sure Gabe did as well.”

Lombardo says Patton’s lyrics deal with the state of the world, whether it’s political or ideological. But Lombardo says he doesn’t like politics — it’s not his thing. It’s just pisses him off these days.

“And just everything...with terrorism, having to look over your shoulder as you’re walking through the streets of Europe — it’s feelings I’ve never experienced before,” Lombardo says. “It’s unnerving. I don’t like it, but it is what is.”

With all the shit going on in the world today, Lombardo says playing in a hardcore band gives him a healthy release. And just because he's getting older doesn't mean playing hard and fast is more demanding than it used to be. In fact, he says, he’s dialed it in.

“You try to improve that feat where I’m at, where I work on stage, behind my drums,” Lombardo says. “You make sure everything is set up properly. Everything feels as best as it can. If something hurts...let’s say, if your shoulder hurts, your arm hurts when you hit a certain cymbal, fucking move that cymbal. I don’t give a fuck if it looks good. ‘Oh, I just put that cymbal there. It looks great. It evened out the drum set. But it’s fucking up my arm, doing the same motion in the direction of that cymbal.' It’s just stuff that drummers don’t realize and haven’t homed in. I feel like I have. That’s a big part, I feel, of longevity and making sure that everything works like a part of your life.”

Dead Cross, with Secret Chiefs 3, 9 p.m. Saturday, September 23, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue, $27.50.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon