EXHORDER Front Man Kyle Thomas Opens Up About The Past, The Present And Surviving
Kyle Thomas, like many of us, has had his share of dramatic and life altering events. Surviving hurricane Katrina and witnessing firsthand the devastation on New Orleans, a city that had helped define him as an artist. There were a few other bumps in the road as well, but like all survivors, Kyle rose above it. He is witty, he is funny and he is one hell of a songwriter. With the return of Exhorder, who are playing multiple festivals this summer and selling out the limited shows here in the states, the vocalist was kind enough to take time to talk to us about music, life and Corey Feldman.
Exhorder is back, you have concerts selling out. Big festivals this summer. Did you expect this big of a response?
We expected a good response, because the interest in Exhorder is always pretty high. For whatever reason, this time around it is rabid. Credit goes to AISA, our management team, for exploiting that and getting the ball rolling downhill quickly. We knew it was going to be a big deal, but we’re stoked that it’s at this level.
There is a new generation of heavy music fans out there now. They seem to be finding the old stuff and embracing it. Are you seeing this with Exhorder? For the kids who haven’t really heard the band, how would YOU describe your sound?
That was what really stood out to me at Rock Hard Fest in Germany back in 2010. So many young faces chanting our name right before we took the stage! It’s very inspirational. I would describe our sound as a garbage truck flying down the interstate, dragging our listeners behind us. While they are being dragged, garbage is being hurled at them while fireworks are launched from the top of the garbage truck. That’s pretty much what Exhorder is.
Let’s go back in time. What was the point in your life when you decided music was going to be your career?
I’d say it was around 1983 when I got a bass guitar for Christmas. I was 13 and had already been playing the trumpet for five years, so I had extensive musical knowledge and training. I had been a longtime fan of rock and worshipped KISS, but I now had Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden in my life. Once I started in on the bass lessons, I knew what I was going to do, for better or for worse.
What was Exhorder like, as people, during those first two albums? I imagine a bunch of young guys, being drunk and wild. What are some good memories from those days?
We were probably some of the most horrible people to be around, to be fair! We weren’t always assholes, but we were more than we probably needed to be. Fights, broken shit, angry boyfriends, you know. We had too many good times to choose from, but to me the best memories were when things were going well and we all got along. Traveling the world with friends playing music and meeting new people was the most cherished part for me.
Engage the younger readers as to what touring back then was like, with no smart phones or internet. How many batteries did you go through for your Walkman’s, haha?
I used to carry a purse-sized travel case full of CD’s for listening. I could probably fit twenty in there, maybe? Imagine that being considered a lot of musical choices for a month of touring! Walkman and taking turns on the bus’s sound system was how we rolled. Usually we didn’t listen to a lot of metal- James Brown, hardcore, funk, and sometimes even ABBA got us through the day.
The lyrics for the first two albums are dark and angry. What is it like to sing them again? Is there an emotional connection or is it just more for fun nowadays?
It’s so reactionary for me- almost like muscle memory. I don’t have to think about anything playing these songs, only to make sure I can hear what the guys are playing so I don’t lose my place with the tempos. I think back then being angry young men, we may have believed in what we were saying a little more so than now. To me, it’s kind of like a horror movie, except I call it horror music. Most of it was always tongue in cheek, but we were pretty angry and spiteful then. Today when I sing, “See the infant, take its life- lick the blood up from the knife”, I can promise you that I wouldn’t wish that on any baby. Hell, I’m a father of four with a granddaughter! It’s just entertainment. Consequently, when I perform these songs, I really get into the delivery. If I were singing these lyrics without conviction it would be obviously a dial in. I believed in the songs then, and I believe in them now.
Is there any song from those albums that you don’t like singing? If so, please explain.
Not really, no. Performance wise, Exhorder is a lot easier for me to sing than most of my other bands. It’s a less demanding vocal style than what I’ve done anywhere else. What is more important is my physical conditioning. It is very demanding in that regard, so I try to stay in the gym to get my cardio so I can deliver a proper performance.
What was the best show Exhorder has played to date? What made it so special?
It’s hard to pick one, so I’ll pick two. The Milwaukee Metalfest in 1992 was insane. We only played 15 minutes, but the crowd went apeshit. It’s on YouTube. That was the biggest show to date for us at the time. After that, Rock Hard Fest in 2010 was special. We went on third to last right between Raven and Accept- two bands that greatly influenced Exhorder. That was the biggest show we’ve ever played to date.
You witnessed Katrina’s devastation on a city that is significant to music in general but to you personally as a musician. I am interested if you would feel comfortable on discussing that period in your life and the growth you got out of it as a songwriter?
That period was the darkest of my life. I was stuck in a shitty marriage that was destined for failure, but having two children in it, I felt trapped. After the storm came, it just seemed like I was being punished further. Never ask the higher powers if they are finished, because there’s always more coming. My home flooded, and the marriage ended. My children would now live in a shared custody situation. I began dating my current wife when we both returned from evacuation, and we fell deeply in love. She is the one I credit for helping me get back onstage and in the studio. I wasn’t used to my significant other not only approving of and encouraging my musical career, but actually pushing me toward it and building me up for it. I am forever grateful to her for that and for showing me what love really is. In retrospect, what I thought was doomsday in the wake of Katrina was actually a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to escape a future that probably would have killed me early, and also allowed me to raise my children in a home where both parents are treated equally with love and respect. The name Katrina means “pure, cleansed”. The opening track on Alabama Thunderpussy’s Open Fire album is “The Cleansing”, and that is exactly what that period in my life became. Sometimes the worst thing in your life becomes a blessing in disguise.
You have a lot of musical projects going on. You have a family, a job. How do you manage to balance everything?
I don’t know, but I do know I’m tired as hell. My weeks are scheduled out well in advance by calendar and I have to schedule quality time. It’s busy, but I’m happy.
Exhorder is part of some incredible lineups this summer. Anyone is particular that you are interested in seeing?
Of course! Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Destruction, and countless others!
I am getting into the habit of asking my seasoned musicians this question. What is your most “Spinal Tap” moment to date?
Moment? You must mean moments! Riding out to San Francisco and back on a Greyhound bus to mix The Law sucked beyond suck. We saw a man die, a man get arrested by the border patrol, and Oakland catch fire from wildfires. Floodgate got stuck at the Brussels airport for an extra eighteen hours because the “Chunnel” under the English Channel caught fire, and all traffic was forced to use the ferries. Our bus driver was caught in that jam, and we sat and waited right at the beginning of our tour with Sepultura on the Roots album. I had to once confront an audience member that felt it was a good idea to blast me with a super soaker at an outdoor gig while I was strapped to an electric guitar. Vinnie got attacked by a German Shepherd once walking alone down an old European cobblestone street late at night. We always joked that it was a werewolf. We’ve gotten kicked off of a good tour because of raucous behavior in the dressing room. I could go on and on…
One last question. Let’s clear the air. Why the fuck were you and Vinnie at a Corey Feldman concert? (backstory: the Exhorder reunion began when Kyle and Vinnie saw each other at a Corey Feldman concert)
Why not? I had to see it with my own two eyes, and I paid full admission for myself and my wife. The guy put on a great show, and his band was good. Sure, we wanted to see a bit of a train wreck and got it, but we also got every penny’s worth. People laugh and bag on that dude, and he’s a bit weird, but aren’t we all? He’s extremely talented. He didn’t get where he is today by having no skillset.
Exhorder tour dates and information on Kyle and Exhorder can be found at the following links: