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The Jon Dette Interview

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With legendary Slayer and Anthrax drummers, Dave Lombardo and Charlie Benante, not touring Australia, their last minute fill in Jon Dette certainly had some big shoes to fill.

It was announced that Jon Dette would be filling in on drums for Anthrax a couple of weeks prior to Soundwave and then about a week later, it was announced that he would be filling in for Slayer too. Luckily, Dette is already familiar with Slayer’s songs after having played a brief stint with them in the mid-nineties. “It’s like riding a bike as far as playing the songs. It feels like we’ve been playing for years and… it’s just great hanging out with the guys again and we’re having a great time out here.”

Like the rest of us, Dette only found out that he was going to be playing with Slayer for the Australian tour a week before it began and he was about as surprised as everyone else. “I was [surprised]. Actually, I was taken back a little bit… Kerry basically called and asked if I’d be able to do this for them and of course I said yes… I’m going to be in Australia with Anthrax anyway.”

When asked if Dette would take up the opportunity to stay on with Slayer if that was a possibility, Dette indicated that we’d have to wait and see what the future holds. “It’s baby steps right now. I think it would be too early for me to make a comment like that at this time, but all I can tell you is that we’re having a great time. It feels great on stage and everybody that’s actually at the shows and seen the shows, not just the fans, but even the crew on the side of the stage all have smiles on their faces so I must be doing something right and I guess we’ll see what the future brings.”

Dette was on standby for Anthrax before the tour began, but it wasn’t certain whether he’d be filling in for Charlie Benante until last minute. “They were really trying to work it out to get him down here, but… it’s all based on whether or not he could get a work visa to enter your country and that was really the issue. Charlie was having difficulty getting a work visa so… I knew… maybe a couple of weeks ago, but… they had me on standby just in case they couldn’t make it happen for them.” Dette continues “Charlie has asked me to help him out for any dates that he can’t make and, of course, I’m not only a huge Anthrax fan, but also a huge Charlie fan and I told him that it’d be an honour and a privilege to help him out in any way I can.”

Slayer fans were up in arms when the news broke that Lombardo wouldn’t be touring Australia with Slayer, but Dette understands it from the fans’ perspective. “Lombardo has been such an integral part of Slayer and it’s only natural for fans to feel upset right now. I mean I’m a Slayer fan first and, of course, I… paused a little bit when I heard the news, but… you’re never going to please everyone and the only thing that I can do… is give it the integrity that the music deserves then I feel that I’ve done my job and that’s all I can do. If the fans accept it then they accept it, if they don’t, they don’t, but that’s out of my control really.”

Playing with both Anthrax and Slayer is a huge commitment for Dette. Not only were both bands playing the same day at Soundwave, they were playing back to back in a side show in Sydney. The physical commitment wasn’t so much of an issue for Dette, it was the logistics that was more of a concern. “I first wanted to know if… our set times were back to back because I was asking myself ‘how I am going to be able to do this?’ and ‘is it logistically possible?’ or ‘were we playing on the same stage together?’. As you know Soundwave is a very big festival and I didn’t know if Anthrax was going to be on one completely different area so once I found out that logistically we could make it work I think that’s what put me at ease the most, but as far as playing for both bands it’s definitely a physical challenge, but it was one that I attacked with a smile on my face. I was looking forward to it.”

Dette explained that the back to back Big Top gig at Luna Park in Sydney was a feat of endurance, but was well worth it. “Yeah that was definitely a challenge… they brought in a massage therapist for me and they were like ‘what do you need? Whatever you need we’ll make happen’ and I was just like all I need is some supplements to keep myself hydrated and, you know, that was really about it. I just made sure that I ate really well that day and I got some great rest the night before and… just paced myself. I was pretty toasted by the end of the night though, I’ve got to be honest. I did it with a smile on my face, what an amazing night it was… It was… physically challenging but the show was amazing.”

Dette, Dave Lombardo and Paul Bostaph have all drummed for both Slayer and Testament, but Dette doesn’t see it as that much of a coincidence. “With these bands everybody is like one big family. Everybody knows each other and so if there is something going on with another band there’s availability. Everybody basically almost has each others’ numbers so I think that with Testament they toured with Slayer even before I was in the band and I think that the styles are so compatible it just… makes sense for Paul to go into Testament and Slayer and Dave as well so… I think it’s a great choice for any of those drummers to go into either of those bands.”

With Dette having replaced or filled in for Bostaph and Lombardo in Slayer and with Bostaph and Lombardo getting to record with both Slayer and Testament where Dette has only played with the bands, we wonder if there’s any animosity or grudges held. “I don’t know how Dave feels. I haven’t spoken to Dave in a few weeks. I saw Dave back in January at the NAMM convention, which is a large music convention in California that happens every year, and… I’ve known both of those guys for years now obviously. I certainly don’t hold anything against them. There’s nothing to hold against them for the fact that they’ve recorded albums.” He continues “There’s no reason to hold a grudge on anything like that and as far as my history with Slayer in the past it’s just something that was so long ago. You know, it’s funny because when people start asking me questions about it again because of all of this has happened so suddenly I’m trying to remember because it was literally 16 years ago when I was in the band… I think that obviously Bostaph has done an amazing job with his time in Slayer and he’s done an amazing job in Testament as well and it’s great that he’s still on there playing and I’m sure regardless of what happens with Dave, if he comes back to Slayer, great, if he goes on and does other things I’m sure whatever he does will be phenomenal as well.”

Out of all the bands that Dette has played with, he considers Slayer to number one. “My favourite band -I have to default and say Slayer. Just for the fact that they’re one of my favourite all time bands… and I think again it’s just something about being on stage with Slayer and playing Slayer songs that’s just a magical feeling for me… there’s just something amazing about being on stage with Slayer that’s just an amazing experience.”

Photos by Lep & John Raptis

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