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From Slayer to Tito Puente, drummer Dave Lombardo changes tempo

Drummer Dave Lombardo shows off just a few of the instruments he played on his debut solo album <em>Rites of Percussion</em>.
Ekaterina Gorbacheva
Ipecac Records
Drummer Dave Lombardo shows off just a few of the instruments he played on his debut solo album Rites of Percussion.

As the founding drummer of Slayer, Dave Lombardo was known for speed, precision and brute force. His double-bass pedals felt like they were hammering directly on a listener's eardrums.

After four decades playing in thrash metal bands, Lombardo released his first solo album — Rites of Percussion — and it shows a very different side of one of metal's most punishing drummers.

"It's a journey through my rhythmic mind," Lombardo told NPR's A Martinez. "It's something I've always wanted to do because I've been influenced by so many other drummers and percussionists that weren't metal or thrash, you know? I wanted to express how deep my influence goes with rhythm."

Lombardo found inspiration in Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart's work with his Planet Drum project, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, and even Latin jazz bandleader Tito Puente, who died in 2000. Strangely, Lombardo says he unwittingly felt Puente's influence during a key drum break in the classic Slayer song "Angel of Death."

Dave Lombardo was born in Cuba in 1965, but his family brought him to California as a toddler. Still, Cuban music was everywhere as he was growing up.

"My mom and dad used to go to these Cuban clubs. They would have matinees for kids, and then at nighttime, there would be a Cuban dance band for the parents," Lombardo recalled. "I would always sit and and watch the drummers, and they're just sweating, and people dancing and enjoying themselves. The horn section comes in and, you know, just the power! It was phenomenal. I'll never forget those days."

Lombardo says that influence is all over Rites of Percussion. "This album is inspired by my roots — and for the love of music from Cuba and the Caribbean in general."

Olivia Hampton edited the audio and digital version of this story.

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Phil Harrell is a producer with Morning Edition, NPR's award-winning newsmagazine. He has been at NPR since 1999.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.