Interview with Rob Dukes, new vocalist of the mighty EXODUS

This Q & A was conducted by e-mail with Rob in February 2005.

Congratulations on stepping right into EXODUS -- one of the most important and influential thrash metal bands of all time. How does that feel?

I'm fuckin' stoked, it's an honor. It's like getting a chance to sing for The Rolling Stones of metal. Exodus started it all...they're fucking legends and they are heavier than ever...

Metalheads world-wide are very curious about "who is Rob Dukes?" So, who is Rob Dukes? Can you give us some info about your musical background and where are you from?

Who is Rob Dukes?...a lucky motherfucker...I've been playing guitar since I was about 16. I made a couple CDs, one was with my friend Craig Cefola, he played the drums and I did the guitars, bass and vocals. I was in another band in New York for a couple years, I just played guitar in that band, I had fun just playing guitar.

I would assume you've been a longtime Exodus fan yourself. What are some of your fan memories regarding Exodus?

The best show I ever saw was in '86 somewhere in FL, they came out playing Bonded and the pit started, the stage collapsed and broke one of the security guys legs, they only played 4 songs and Anthrax never got to play and a riot broke out, it was nuts but fun as hell. I think me and my friends caused most of the trouble, we were crazy...

Who are some of the other artists you like and are influenced by?

I grew up on Hendrix, AC/DC and Sabbath and The Doors. My parents were hippies. Then I heard The Clash and realized, "fuck, I can do that". Punk made me realize that I could be in a band. I was never a good guitar player, I was mediocre but whatever, I was having fun. Randy Rhoads was a huge influence but it took me a month to learn Dee, I found out I could sing sitting in my room with an acoustic. I liked Maiden and Priest but could never sing that well, then I found Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, SOD, Anthrax, Misfits,..."I can sing like that". I also liked punk and hardcore, I really could identify with their angst and attitude and it wasn't complicated music like metal was,"3 chords and scream...I can do that". I like a lot of different kinds of music, I'm a musician. I listen to a lot of music but my favorite is standup comedians. I have about 30 CDs of different comedians -- Bill Hicks, Pryor, David Cross... When I write music or lyrics, I don't listen to music. That's how I got into listening to standup.

What was the turn of events which led you to becoming Exodus' new vocalist?

I got fired from the band I was in in NY so I rode my motorcycle to California (it took 5 months, I took all back roads and stopped to see family and friends, I went 11,000 miles). Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to do...I thought about just getting a job teaching scuba diving or something. I just wanted to surf and live at the beach. I ended up living in Hollywood and working at different clubs. I had been living in Hollywood for about 2 months, I started guitar teching. I was guitar tech for a few different players. I did a show at the Key Club and met this dude Jeff Hickey. We became friends and he got me a lot of gigs loading bands. He's a long time friend of Exodus and he called me one night and said "can you leave for 6 weeks and be ready to go in 2 hours? Exodus needs a guitar tech." I said, "fuck yeah" and that was that. Thanks Jeff. I got along with the crew and the guys very easily (except the guy who got fired), we are all from the same mold. Being on tour we would sing on the bus to our favorite CDs and at soundchecks and stuff, just fuckin around. I played Gary, Rick and Tom a demo I did in '96 and I guess that's what gave them the idea to call me.

Once you got the official offer to join, did you need to think about it at all or were you ready to jump at the opportunity? When you jammed with them were you checking them out too?

I think my exact words were "Fuck Yeah". I was about to puke from being nervous. I was just trying to remember the words and not puke, plus, Bill the drum tech for Exodus was sitting in front of me staring at me..."we are friends and you have nothing to be nervous about", that's what they were saying to me, but here I was auditioning for Exodus...FUCK!!!!!!!

How has your life already changed with Gary's announcement that you have joined Exodus?

Life is the same. I'm working on my vocals, strengthening my voice, writing lyrics and watching cartoons, playing Playstation, XBOX -- everything is the same...just focused. I have a job singing for fucking Exodus, how fuckin cool is that...?

Filling the shoes of such greats as Paul Baloff and Steve Souza is a big job. Fans are expecting a lot. Gary and Rick seem very excited about you joining the fold and fans do trust them. Will you be singing the classics live in the style of the original vocalists or make them your own? What is your approach here? Will you choose the classics you want to perform? Will it be a group decision? Will you just go with the fan classics?

Paul had a distinct voice so I will mix it up with his styling on the older stuff with my voice. I would guess that everything is a band decision about the live stuff, I don't know yet.

Along with Gary's announcement of course came Exodus fans who question your ability and the trolls on Blabbermouth have already been a little rough on you even without having heard you yet. Is that tough for you to suddenly be in the metal public eye and being scrutinized so? I imagine one needs to develop a thick skin pretty quickly and not get sucked into responding or being effected by premature nay-sayers. From comments I've seen you make, you seem to be a fairly confident guy.

I don't give a fuck what people think about me. Gary would have never called me if he thought I sucked, so whatever...

In regards to your singing style, I read where you said "I'm a musician so my influences are diverse, but when I sing, I'm angry". From where do you draw that anger? What pisses you off?

I don't know..I'm just angry...fuck off.

Given the problems Exodus has had in the past with vocalists who have difficulty balancing their personal lives with the responsibilities of being in Exodus, fans wonder how your personal life is and if you can commit to the duties at hand. How will you avoid those common pitfalls?

I have no kids, no girlfriend, no house, no bills...my job has been working with bands out on the road for a while and before that I was in a band. I live for this...music is all I ever had and all I ever wanted to have. I tried other shit jobs when I needed to eat, I tried to get a real job when the disappointment got real depressing and I needed to eat but music was always my salvation.

What kind of things do you enjoy other than singing in your personal life? I notice you mentioning snowboarding. What are your other passions?

I like sportbikes and snowboarding but I'm kind of geeky too. I read a lot, play video games and watch cartoons. I scuba dive and I started surfing when I got to California.

I read some of your comments about enjoying instigating things - for example, sporting colored hair. What other kind of antics like that can we come to expect from Rob Dukes?

Whatever. It's a spontaneous thing, it's not contrived.

What's your poison?

Blond, blue eyes, big tits, tattoos...

What is immediately ahead for Exodus? What is the timeline on now that you've joined? Are you guys hoping or already planning to tour soon? Will a new record come before a tour? Are you contributing to song writing? When will the fans get some samples of your work?

We are writing the record, that's what is happening now, other than that I have no idea.

Do you have any final comments about anything?

Don't be a sheep...think for yourself.

Thanks to Rob Dukes for his time. Hails Exodus!