EXODUS/SLAYER Guitarist GARY HOLT Opens Up About Decision To Quit Drinking Alcohol: 'I Was Becoming Miserable To Be Around'

July 1, 2021

EXODUS and SLAYER guitarist Gary Holt has 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 the "Backstaged: The Devil In Metal" podcast hosted by author and music journalist Jon Wiederhorn.

Holt said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Touring is a party. Everybody's having a good time. We're a bunch of repressed adolescents out on tour with too much downtime. And some people just have the best time on earth when drinking, and some don't. I always did have the best time until fucking deep into this pandemic, and all of sudden I started becoming a cranky drunk. But I wasn't a cranky drunk when I'm social-drinking with friends; I was, like a lot of guys in the pandemic, sitting around at home and drinking by myself. Drinking by myself prior to the pandemic meant cracking open two or three beers watching a 49ers game. I came home and barely drank. And then now I was drinking more than I ever did on tour. That's why I quit.

"I'd never been anything but a happy drunk," he continued. "EXODUS, we always partied hard. There were times when we'd party hard and get fucking obnoxious, but we were having fun [laughs] — maybe at other people's expense, but we were having fun. But it kind of got to not be fun. And I saw signs I didn't like, so I decided to quit."

Asked what kind of signs he is referring to, Gary said: "For instance, I had a birthday party here. My birthday's on May 4th, and I actually drank in moderation. I got nice, pleasantly drunk and I had a good time. And every time I have a party, all kinds of alcohol and beer gets left behind. And I always mock people who drink White Claw [alcoholic seltzer water beverage]. About eight White Claws got left behind, and, yeah, I drank every last one of them [laughs], 'cause I ran out of beer. And I drank it down to the last White Claw. It was fucking horrible, man. It's just terrible. And just the emotional change. Sometimes alcohol turns on you after a while. When I'm on tour, I drink in pretty fucking good moderation — I never get ripped anymore. I'm kind of a control freak now and I view that as not being in control. Then I come home and I don't hardly drink at all. Well, I'm drinking more than I do on tour now; what's gonna happen when I do go back on tour? Am I gonna flip the script and drink less? No. I'm probably gonna drink twice as much, 'cause I don't drink hard liquor at home and barely ever on tour other than the occasional small, baby-sized shot of Jäger[meister]. Well, the way I was drinking, I very well might have went back on tour and started drinking a lot of Jäger. Who knows?"

Holt went on to say that he started behaving like a typical alcoholic by explaining his excessive drinking in a way that makes it more acceptable.

"I was solo drinking, getting hammered solo, for no social purpose whatsoever, and kind of becoming miserable to be around for my wife," he said. "And I haven't been able to do what I love doing for over a year — perform. And I had nothing but free time. So all I did was sit around outside and get hammered… I quit for a couple of weeks, and then [I'd be], like, 'Look, I found this new beer. It's only four percent alcohol… The box with the six-pack says, 'When you've still got stuff to do.' Perfect. I had become that guy… My wife would say, 'Don't you think you're drinking a little too much?' 'No. I only had four beers.' Yeah, I had four giant-sized beers [with] 12 percent alcohol. I found myself purchasing my beers based on how fucking drunk they'd get me, and then rationalize it that I only had four — four giant bottles which, on a just per-ounce basis, adds up to fucking probably about eight beers, and the alcohol level is super high."

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.

EXODUS's new album, "Persona Non Grata", is tentatively due in November. 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.

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