Ask any of his peers amongst the “Big Four” thrash bands—Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer—and to a man they will tell you that it’s really a Big Five, and that Exodus are that fifth band. And holding down the fort in that legendary 14-record act is guitarist and chief songwriter Gary Holt, the only continuous Exodus member since the band’s landmark debut album—in essence, Holt is Exodus like Lemmy was Motörhead.
Gary’s lurching and violent and yet exacting and quick-picked riffing, along with his razor-wire soloing style, have made him a thrash institution, with most of the Exodus years being spent as half of the notorious “H-Team,” along with co-axeman Rick Hunolt. And so it was no surprise that the mighty Slayer collared Gary to join the band upon the death of Jeff Hanneman, Holt distinguishing himself on the band’s long-awaited 2015 album, Repentless as well as demanding touring duties beginning with fill-in slots for Jeff in 2011, and full-time work beginning in 2013 upon Hanneman’s death.
Gary’s exhaustive and worldwide touring experience, enthusiasm for all things metal and his eager and respected mentorship, have blessed him with a seemingly endless network of friends in the community, resulting in guest slots with the likes of Hypocrisy, Heathen and Destruction, a production credit with Warbringer in 2009 (on top of production work with his own band), and an instructional video in 2008 called A Lesson in Guitar Violence.
An inveterate gear head, Gary closely follows developments in guitar, amp and effects technology, and has worked in the guitar realm with the likes of Yahama, BC Rich, Bernie Rico Jr. and Jackson, and for amplification, Marshal, Peavy, ENGL and Kemper. Having moved on from Schechter, Gary currently endorses ESP, who have produced for him a signature Eclipse model. Whatever his weapon of choice, count on Gary to represent the Bay Area thrash scene he fathered with conviction, creativity and wide appreciation for others determined to make metal.
Holt currently lives in the Sacramento area with his wife. In addition to forging thrash, Gary is an ardent student of classic rock and old school metal, also closely following film, American politics and geo-political events, which often become grist for his uncommonly thoughtful canon of song lyrics, lyrics that are of a rare quality in the metal realm—even more remarkable given that he is Exodus’ guitarist and not the band’ vocalist.
In the wider pop culture realm, Gary’s reputation is assured for his ascendance into the ranks of Slayer, but within metal circles, he will forever be heralded as the mastermind behind what many critics and deep fans consider the greatest thrash album of all time, Exodus’ 1985 album, Bonded by Blood.
Gary Holt, born May, 4, 1964 in Richmond California, will forever be remembered in metal circles for his helmsmanship of what many believe to be the greatest thrash metal album of all time, Exodus’ 1985 record Bonded by Blood. Having also distinguished himself as being the only continuous member of Exodus since 1982, Gary has appeared on 15 albums for the band, both as guitarist and chief composer and lyricist. Holt currently travels the world as guitarist for the mighty Slayer, having played with the band since 2011, while also appearing on their 2015 album, Repentless.
Just getting ready for the start of the Slayer farewell trek starting May 10th in San Diego. Getting the hands in top shape for the set!
2) What is your musical background and influences?
My background is in hard rock, things such as UFO, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC,Rainbow and Deep Purple, Sabbath and such. All that lead to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and also a lot of British hardcore punk. My biggest guitar influences are Ricthie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Angus Young, Uli Jon Roth, Neil Schon, and many more
3) What is the role of education in music?
Music is a great teacher, and it's been long proven that learning music goes a long ways toward improving one's education. I think we need music in schools, it's one of the first things on the chopping block, and that's a shame.
4) How do you feel about the current ‘state of the music industry’?
I'm very fortunate to have been around for so long, bands starting out now in the era of digital, it's very hard to make a living. We're all forced to tour more than we used to in order to keep the revenue stream going.