Jon DetteSo it looks like Dave Lombardo is out of Slayer. Again. It seems he was dismissed from the band after investigating their finances and wondering why he was not getting paid. Interestingly, Slayer frontman Tom Araya was also part of this fact-finding mission, yet he was allowed to keep his job. While there are many layers to this, to me it reeks of a double standard for drummers, who are increasingly treated as an easily replaced commodity among heavy bands. Which leads me to the dark and mysterious past of Lombardo’s current replacement, Mr. Jon Dette.

Who the shit is Jon Dette, you ask? Good question. During the mid-1990s, thrash bands were shedding members left and right, particularly drummers. Some started playing alternative rock, some went to rehab, some just quit music entirely. The remaining members still needed to pay the bills, and therefore it was necessary to keep the band going, regardless of who was still in the lineup. This created an urgent need for replacement drummers, a need which was generally filled by one of the following two people: Paul Bostaph (ex-Forbidden) and Jon Dette, who originally came from the band Evildead.

Between 1994-1998, it was fucking impossible to keep track of which bands these two guys were playing with. Bostaph played with more bands overall, but also tended to quit them very quickly, which put Dette in the position of replacing Bostaph more than once. Dette kept the throne warm for Bostaph in Slayer, briefly, while Bostaph pursued his earth-shatteringly successful project The Truth about Seafood (nice career move, dude). And the two of them actually replaced each other several times in the ’90s-era lineup of Testament.

Eventually, the dust settled. Bostaph returned to Slayer and stayed put until Lombardo returned in 2003, after which he did an album with Exodus, and then went back to Testament (again). After his brief tenure with Slayer in 1996, though, Dette’s trail goes cold. And unlike Bostaph, who appeared on some of thrash metal’s lesser albums, Dette made no studio appearances at all during this time. In fact, other than a live album with Testament, Live at the Fillmore, there is almost no record of Jon Dette ever being involved with two of thrash’s most heavyweight bands. As the new millennium dawned, most metal bands cashed in on nostalgia and attempted to reunite their original lineups. In this reunion-centric era, there was no place for professional replacements like Dette.

Other than a few small projects, things were pretty quiet for Dette until just last month. It was announced that Anthrax had hired him to fill in for Charlie Benante on an Australian tour, while Benante sorts out whatever his problem is. Conveniently, one of the Australian dates is the Soundwave Festival, which also features the newly drummer-less Slayer. Guess who’s already in the building and knows a bunch of Slayer songs? You guessed right. Given that Slayer originally fired Dette over “personal differences,” I can only imagine that the current situation is pretty tense for all involved.

Could this be a new beginning for Dette? Perhaps a shot at appearing on a studio album, and proving once and for all what he’s capable of? Who knows. Given all the outrage over Lombardo’s firing, Slayer might just take him back (where the fuck were all you people in 1994?!). And I highly doubt that anyone will ever play drums on an Anthrax record other than Benante. Regardless of where this may lead, 2013 marks the comeback of one of metal’s ultimate replacement musicians, and one of the best drummers you’ve probably never heard.

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  • Interesting take. I have to admit I didn’t even remember his previous stints with either Slayer nor Testament and had to google him after the announcement was made. And by what I’ve heard on this post, he may not be Lombardo by any measuring but he is certainly competent at the kit.

    What it makes this dismissing attitude more strange is that to me Metal music gains a lot if the band has a competent rythmic section. Time and again I see rave reviews praising meaty bass tones and soulful percussions, yet most bands seem to think they only live and die by the pureness of their guitar tone or the adequateness of their vocalist.

    I have found myself following the exploits of people like Aesop Dekker and Arthur Van Nagel to mention just a couple of musicians that have blown me away with their work without being guitar players or singers. Yet of all the usually integral parts of Metal, proper accolades and respect seem to escape most drummers and bass players inside their own bands.

    As I said, I just find it a little strange.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      The rhythm section is super-important to metal, and all good bands know this. This recent attitude of drummers being replaceable (Lombardo, Benante, Bill Ward, Ray Herrera, etc) is complete bullshit.

      • Seems to me that this trend is even more prevalent in the mainstream level. I know some of the bands there may not be like this, like Mastodon or Gojira to name a couple, but most of them seem to think they are just a glorified pacemaker. Remembering now that you mentioned Herrera, I couldn’t get into The Industrialist at all because of those programmed drums, and that is music that it’s supposed to sound mechanic.

        • Ackerfeldt is probably a very polarizing guy to work with.

      • Even with all the crazy studio technology available today, you just can’t fake true skill and unique playing, even on a record. The transition between the last two Paradise Lost albums is a clear example of this. Peter Davin’s session drumming on Faith Divides Us was crucial for that album, while Adrian Erlandsson’s contribution to Tragic Idol was surprisingly unimpressive.

    • The rhythm section is what makes modern metal so much heavier, imo. We’ve just beefed up the drums. But if you think about the absurd skill it takes to play some of this shit, it’s crazy to me that these guys are seemingly as ‘expendable’ as they are.

      • It is crazy, I think that we as an audience have a very primal connection to drums and strong bass melodies and it has the chance to give a profound emotional response, but also we usually dismiss that when we give so much attention to sick riffs, catchy hooks and lenghty solos. The guitar hero culture that is so prevalent at metal is overpowering at some times.

  • DrChocolate

    Live at the Fillmore was actually the first Testament album I ever owned. A local DJ in SF, Uncle Nasty (who actually introduces the band on the first track), spun it on his late night metal show when I was a sophomore in High School. Haven’t looked back since. So it’s with extremely conflicted feelings that I say it’s nice to see Mr. Dette again. (Who the hell wants to replace Lombardo anyway?!? He’s as much a part of Slayers sounds as any of the other three, probably more than Hanneman if you ask me).

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      I thought Live At The Fillmore kicked ass. Always wondered who did that intro, too. Until now.

      • DrChocolate

        Yeah Uncle Nasty was the best DJ. His band Sucker Punch opened for Testament that night. Much of my metal intro’s was because of Uncle Nasty’s Mosh Pit. Slayer. Testament. Morbid Angel. Corrosion of Conformity. Dave Lomardo’s extremely underrated Grip Inc. Type O Negative. All Uncle Nasty. He spent one night breaking every “pussy” record at the station – Tom Cochrane, Green Day, et al. He played RATM’s “Killing in the Name” unedited constantly. He was my hero when I was 15.

      • soopermouse

        A horrible pity Dette will never play with Testament again. I value him more as a drummer ( and as a human being) than Hoglan.

  • Interesting that you name Bostaph, For me he is one o those great, amazing drummers, that because he tends to quit bands rather shortly and functions more like a mercenary, nobody tends to be serious about him. Kinda like Mats Levén, who is a great singer, sho ultimately goes from band to band, ust filling empty spaces. As for Dette..well, he’s good, but I think Bostaph’s better.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Bostaph is probably the better of the two, but Dette’s never even recorded with any of these bands, so we don’t really know. Bostaph was actually really good in Forbidden. But like you said, both these guys are mercenary as hell, and that’s why they may not get the respect they deserve.

  • Dette is incredibly talented and its one of those strange mysteries that he never ended up with a near permanent band of his own, sort of like all those revolving great vocalists Yngwie had. Anyway, the really curious thing here is the question probably hanging over both band’s heads: Is Dette going to continue to pull double duty if Benante doesn’t come back soon? I’m not sure either side will like that. And why is Tom Araya not crying foul on Kerry King or put in reverse, how does one person in that band have all the power?

    Honestly Slayer doesn’t interest me musically beyond their pair of classic albums, but this might be the most interesting metal story of 2013 (yeah I know its February).

    • The other stuff in the Slayer Saga™ is definitely very, very interesting. It seems weird as hell that Arya isn’t crying foul.

      • hubcapiv

        Yeah…but alas that probably means that Araya, et al are in on the deal – they probably have a stake in the management company they are paying, so they are paying themselves. And the deduction of expenses thing was a way of shorting Lombardo and anyone else brought on for the tour.

        I mean, one reason you don’t bother with an investigation is if you already know the answers.

        Oh yes, and band can be great without a great guitar player, but no band can be great without a great rhythm section. It’s no coincidence that Metallica started going downhill once they decided they wanted less bass than a black metal band.

  • Ah, I saw Evildead live back in the day. I think with Holy Terror.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      You just out-old schooled everyone in the room.

      • The appropriate response is to yell “YOU’RE OLD!”

        • I think the word you’re looking for is “seasoned.”

          • hubcapiv

            I saw Styx on the “Mr. Roboto” tour.

            Whatever the opposite of street cred is…I just got it!

            (In my defense I was very little.)

          • In your defense, you deserve some cred for that one. My sister still has the program for that show.

    • I also saw Slayer play with Tony Scaglione (Whiplash) back in 86 or 87.

  • Jon played on the last Animetal USA album, which was number 1 in Japan, and has played live with them before that….replacing Scott Travis…

  • I saw Slayer in front of less than 500 at a club in Birmingham for the Diabolus in Musica Tour and Bostaph’s kit was up in the rafters of the tiny stage. All I could see was this blur of arms flailing lol. What a great show nonetheless.

  • Bostaph might have contributed to some of Slayer’s lesser albums, but since his few studio record appearances include Forbidden Evil, Twisted Into Form and The Formation of Damnation, I think he’s fared pretty well when it comes to thrash albums in general.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      His performances on Twisted Into Form alone qualify him as a genius. He was OK on the Testament stuff too, but I feel like anyone could’ve played/written those parts.

  • scozzie

    Saw Anthrax and Slayer at Soundwave in Brisbane. Thought Dette did a pretty good job, especially Slayer. I thought being down two members would have hurt them but it was the usual consistent Slayer intensity.

  • Shane O’Reilly

    I like your take on things, but you need to do some fact checking.

    Lombardo rejoined Slayer in 2002
    Dette did a European run with Anthrax last November before the Australian dates
    Slayer got rid of Dette in 1996 because Bostaph wanted to rejoin

  • soopermouse

    Charlie Benante can’t leave the USA under judicial order- he beat the crap out of his wife.

  • Mark Messinger

    Let me put it this way, No one will ever drum for two of the greatest metal bands in the same night. Jon Dette is as great as they get.