EXODUS Guitarist GARY HOLT Says Giving Up Alcohol Has Been 'Quite Easy'

September 3, 2021

EXODUS and SLAYER guitarist Gary Holt has once again opened up about his decision to quit drinking alcohol. The 57-year-old musician, who resides in Northern California, discussed his newfound sobriety in a new interview with Revolver magazine.

Holt said: "I feel fucking great. It's actually been quite easy; I mean, I'm not saying that I'm anything special, but it hasn't been hard for me. I'd been seeing signs for a while that it was time to do this — before the pandemic, usually if I would drink at home, it'd be like because we're having a big barbecue, or I'm having like two or three beers while watching the fucking 49ers game. But now I'm living here in the hills, and it's really beautiful and the weather's really nice, and my wife would be at work and I'd get all kinds of shit done; so then I'd sit to have a beer, and the next thing you know I'm on number twelve…

"When we were making the [new EXODUS] album ['Persona Non Grata'], during one of our first nights with everybody there, Tom [Hunting, EXODUS drummer] goes to me, 'Man, your beer-drinking level is impressive.' [Laughs] I'd drink eight or nine of these really strong double IPAs, the 10% alcohol beers, and I wouldn't even appear drunk. But it was just getting to the point where I was just drinking way too much, by myself, being kind of a dickhead around my wife, and sometimes it led to depression — I guess it's because my whole livelihood been taken away from me, and I didn't know how much I would miss it until it was gone.

"So basically, my wife said, 'It's time,' and I agreed. I am smoking a little bit of weed again though now, and that's all right. [Laughs] I have found that one of the things that prevents me from being triggered and helps me deal with stress is the taste of beer — it's not even the alcohol in it — and there's some really good non-alcoholic beers out there now. Like, they had a benefit show for Tom in Sacramento, and I felt a little bit overwhelmed walking into this tiny club; but I grabbed a non-alcoholic Heineken and drank it, and it was like, 'Okay, I got this!'"

Asked if he thinks he will be able to maintain his sobriety once he goes back on the road, Gary said: "Yeah. I'm kind of stubborn in my own belief of not fucking shit up, you know? And since I've already publicly stated it, I'd look at it as a total abject failure now if I had another fucking beer. [Laughs] But you know, I'm fine about it. I've been partying since high school, and the party isn't over — just the alcohol part. And we're talking some serious drug abuse, too. I quit all that, and I quit smoking, and quitting drinking was a lot easier for me than quitting meth or cigarettes!

"There is part of me that might be a little nervous about getting back on the road, not about slipping and drinking again, but just, 'How am I going to deal with other people when they're wasted?' [Laughs] Because someone's really ripped — your best friend, a complete stranger, it doesn't matter — they're always annoying. But, you know, three-fifths of us are alcohol-free now, and Tom's not drinking right now because alcohol absorption is completely different when you don't have a stomach. And when I came out publicly about not drinking, I received a lot of support from a lot of guys in bands that I didn't even know were sober. So there will definitely be people that I can hang out with."

Holt's announcement that he had given up alcohol came seven months after his wife Lisarevealed that she had quit drinking in 2012 after using alcohol since she was 13 years old. She also thanked her husband and credited him for making her "want to be a better person. I definitely wouldn't have him or anything kick-ass in my life today if I hadn't made this choice [to quit drinking] 8 years ago," she wrote.

In Wiederhorn's book "Raising Hell (Backstage Tales From The Lives Of Metal Legends)", Holt reminisced about the lengths he and his onetime EXODUS bandmate Kirk Hammett (now in METALLICA) would go to nearly 40 years ago in order to get free alcohol.

"Near where we lived, we had a local liquor store called the Wagon Wheel that burned down," Holt recalled. "We had nothing to do with that, but we waded through the burnt rubble of this condemned building, risking life and limb to get to the alcohol. The bottles with plastic caps were all melted. Kirk had this old Buick Skylark. We called it the Skymobile. And we filled his trunk with gallons of whiskey bottles with these black melted caps on them. We were scavengers. It's part of what made EXODUS great, that hunger and ambition."

Holt began filling in for SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman at live shows in 2011, and became the band's full-time co-guitarist as of 2013, while remaining a member of EXODUS. Holt played on SLAYER's final album, "Repentless", which came out in 2015.

"Persona Non Grata" will be released on November 19 via Nuclear Blast Records. It will be the follow-up to 2014's "Blood In Blood Out", which was the San Francisco Bay Area thrashers' first release since the departure of the group's lead singer of nine years, Rob Dukes, and the return of Steve "Zetro" Souza, who previously fronted EXODUS from 1986 to 1993 and from 2002 to 2004.

"Persona Non Grata" was recorded at a studio in Lake Almanor, California and was engineered by Steve Lagudi and EXODUS. It was produced by EXODUS and was mixed by Andy Sneap.

In July, Hunting underwent a successful total gastrectomy in his battle with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the stomach.

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