Don't Call Dead Cross a Super Group

There is nothing slow or gentle about Dead Cross.
There is nothing slow or gentle about Dead Cross. SAWA
How's this for a ringing endorsement?

"I’m excited to play live with this band," Dave Lombardo says of Dead Cross, who are scheduled to perform at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Saturday, August 12.

Dead Cross is Lombardo's brainchild. The musician also plays drums in Suicidal Tendencies and The Misfits, and he's a founding member of Slayer and Fantomas. In Dead Cross, he's joined by bassist Justin Pearson (Locusts, Retox, Head Wound City), guitarist Mike Crain (Retox, Festival of Dead Deer), and guitarist Mike Patton (also a founding member of Fantomas). Initially, Gabe Serbian (Locusts) was slated to sing for Dead Cross, but personal commitments made it necessary for Serbian to leave the project. That opened the door for Faith No More, Fantomas, and Mr. Bungle frontman extraordinaire Patton to join the band and lay down vocal tracks for their self-titled debut album.

At first listen, Dead Cross is more than just a group of famous and semi-famous guys getting together to play aggressive music. After multiple spins, the album continues to grow on the listener due to the sheer energy emanating from within. Dead Cross delivers the goods on their first record and the addition of Patton drives this over the top. The enigmatic frontman is in top form, laying down line after line of hyper-macho witticisms drenched in his usual humor. Lombardo's drums propel the band to the expected heights his fans will enjoy while Crain and Pearson more than hold down their end of the bargain.

If you are not as familiar with Pearson and Crain's work, spend some time their collaboration known as Retox or any of their other projects, especially Pearson's Locusts and Crain's Festival of Dead Deer, and you'll see why this band is going to be important to the heavy and noisy music world.

We caught up with Lombardo and Pearson over the phone and here, is what they had to say about their new band.

New Times: How did Dead Cross come about?
Dave Lombardo: Ross Robinson called them over into the studio to record on a project that Ross was putting together. I had booked some time with Ross in the studio, and when I saw Pearson and Crain, I was really excited. I told the guys that I had some shows booked and I was going to do those shows and asked them if they wanted to perform the Dead Cross songs live and get those shows under our belt.

Then we got Mike Patton to do the album.

Justin Pearson: It’s weird because nothing the band has done yet is traditional. Robinson is a friend of mine and asked me to do a session for a singer/songwriter.

The three of us were the band for Poppy Jean Crawford. We tracked a few songs for her in that time. Dave mentioned that his band had split up and he had to fill these dates that he had booked, so he said, “Do you want to put a band together?”

That's awesome. Dave, were you familiar with Retox at all or any of Crain and Person's other projects?
Lombardo: With Fantomas, we took the Locust out on tour with us. I became a big fan of Gabe Serbian’s drumming and the Locust in general. Then a couple years later, I received a package in the mail and it was a Retox CD, and I recognized the names on the album and I instantly became a fan. When these guys walked into the room, it was really cool. It was great to see musicians I was familiar with and then I got to perform with them.

How about for you, Justin. Did you ever think you would play with Dave?
Pearson: (Pearson chuckles slightly as if shaking his head) Not to downplay it at all, but so much weird shit happens to me all the time, good and bad, and I’m psyched to play with him. He’s one of the best drummers in the world. If you’re just open to things and put that out there into the universe, things will happen.

How long did you guys jam before playing the first set of shows last year?
Pearson: It was very unconventional. We had 12 days to put together a live set. We asked Gabe Serbian if he wanted to sing. It was supposed to be three shows and then it turned into nine shows. We started recording our album as well. Then Gabe had to leave the band. He didn’t have the time to do a (full-time) band, so then we got Mike Patton to join and then we recorded the album and now we’re going on tour.

How did current tour come about?
Lombardo: After Patton had written the lyrics and did the vocals, he was excited about it and the way it turned out. He said he would be into doing some touring. Our schedules were able to free up and we were able to set up some dates where everyone was free and excited to do this, so here we are. I never thought we were going to be able to tour with this album to begin with.

Have you guys even had a chance to play together so far?
Lombardo: No. We haven’t even in been in the studio with Patton yet. We’re getting together on the 2nd of August and will rehearse all the way up to the tour.

What are your expectations for the tour?
Lombardo:  It’s really going to be interesting to see the stage energy of this band. I already know what to expect from Crain and Pearson, and Patton, to some extent, too, but in Fantomas, Patton was caged behind his amplifiers, his little work station. In Dead Cross, there’s nothing between the drums and the crowd except Patton. You can expect some of that [Mr. Bungle] insanity on the Dead Cross tour.

Justin, did you ever think you would be playing in a band with Mike Patton?
: I never thought I would be in a band with [Patton]. We were pretty good friends with him. We did the ATP [All Tomorrow's Parties festival] that he and the Melvins curated. We had some pretty cool guest vocalists with the Locusts, so I could have seen something like that happen, but doing a full album … I never could have seen that happening.

Even when Gabe left the band, we thought, we have to get a singer. Patton’s name came up, but we thought he would be too busy. We didn’t think he would be able to do it to the capacity that he is.

It’s like putting together, what’s that shit that they do? It’s like putting together a fantasy football team.

You've both done a lot of projects and bands over the years, what is the major difference?
: A project is usually when a producer will call you in and have you lay some drums down. A band becomes a band when you spend more time creating not only the sound, but also the imagery. There is a lot more involved. With a project, you come in, do your job, and you leave.

You should have that kind of camaraderie (when doing a band). I try to have that kind of camaraderie with everyone I play live with. I do shows with John Zorn around the world. We do duets at jazz festivals around the world that are 30-minute improvisations that are one-offs, but there is still that connection between us.

How was it working with the Misfits, Dave?
It was a lot of fun doing the Misfits reunions. I was able to spend a lot of time with Jerry Only. I lived with Jerry for several weeks at different periods rehearsing at different times. At that point, I felt a part of their band. He made me feel very welcome in his home. It didn’t feel like a project. It felt like a band.

My interest in punk came after the Misfits and I really didn’t listen to them much. I got into the faster stuff like Minor Threat and Dead Kennedys and DRI. When I got to really listen to the Misfits songs, I realized the melodies and the structures …(pauses) they’re classics. I hope the band decides to do more shows someday.

What do you think of being called a "super group?"
: I don’t know that it’s super. It is kind of funny when people call it a super group. It’s such a weird concept trying to figure out someone’s stature. The world is aware that Slayer and Mr. Bungle are some of the best music to ever happen, but I also think that Festival of Dead Deer is also some of the best music to ever happen, but nobody knows who Festival of Dead Deer is. I don’t expect people to know who I am, but it does get presented that it is a supergroup and people say how lucky I am to play with "those guys." It’s weird.

Are you getting in a van and doing it old school?
Pearson: [Laughs] Everyone is pretty practical. The first shows we did, we were cruising around in a van and a car. Unfortunately, Lombardo’s kit doesn’t fit in the Retox van. A tour bus is fine, but we’re a new band. It’s not like we are going to be out doing this forever. I’ve never been on a tour bus, except one time when I got really sick. I don’t know what I’m missing out on…

A big expensive bill at the end of the tour…
Pearson: [laughs] Yeah, for sure.

Dead Cross are scheduled to perform at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Saturday, August 12. Tickets are $25 and up through Lucky Man.

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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon

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