“It’s not like Exodus where it’s 95 percent crunching guitars. I had to really concentrate on not playing so many notes”: Rick Hunolt on his cinematic second act with DieHumane

Rick Hunolt
(Image credit: Provided/PR)

Between 1983 and 2005, Rick Hunolt played on six full-length Exodus studio albums and regularly toured with the top-tier thrash band. However, during a period of intense personal turmoil in 2006, Hunolt was replaced by Heathen guitarist Lee Altus, and aside from a couple of guest appearances, he remained largely MIA for 15 years.

“Once you’ve been in one of the best thrash bands in the world, it’s pretty hard to figure out what to do next,” Hunolt says. 

Then in 2021, Hunolt’s childhood friend, Skinlab vocalist Steev Esquivel, referred the guitarist to a melodic, cinematic Texas band called DieHumane that was looking for a lead guitarist. Hunolt received rough demos of two songs and couldn’t stop listening to them.      

“I was blown away by the big choruses, strong melodies and spacious arrangements,” Hunolt says. “I thought, ‘Man, I could see myself playing to this.’ It’s a big change, but if I’m gonna do something outside of thrash, this is exactly what I want to do.”

He contacted DieHumane’s multi-instrumentalists, Joshua Vargas and Greg Hilligiest Jr., and convinced them to give him a shot. The result is The Grotesque, a multi-dimensional escapade that blends industrial textures, percussive guitar riffs in drop B and drop C, evocative guitar lines, and atmospheric jazzy embellishments into a wide array of psych-metal soundscapes.

“Stepping into the studio with DieHumane was a different experience because they leave so much space in the songs,” Hunolt says. “It’s not like Exodus where it’s 95 percent crunching guitars. I had to really concentrate on not playing so many notes to create parts that worked with the emotion of the songs.”

The Grotesque was half-finished when Hunolt joined the band, but with the help of Vargas, Hilligiest, and veteran producer Ulrich Wild, Hunolt helped finish writing the tunes and added rhythmic flourishes, harmonies, and guitar solos

 “At first it wasn’t easy,” he says.  “Everything I played had to go along with the peaks and valleys in the songs. But I found that when I shut my eyes and really listened to the song, I was able to get into the right headspace and everything clicked.”

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Jon Wiederhorn

Jon is an author, journalist, and podcaster who recently wrote and hosted the first 12-episode season of the acclaimed Backstaged: The Devil in Metal, an exclusive from Diversion Podcasts/iHeart. He is also the primary author of the popular Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal and the sole author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends. In addition, he co-wrote I'm the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax (with Scott Ian), Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen (with Al Jourgensen), and My Riot: Agnostic Front, Grit, Guts & Glory (with Roger Miret). Wiederhorn has worked on staff as an associate editor for Rolling Stone, Executive Editor of Guitar Magazine, and senior writer for MTV News. His work has also appeared in Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Yahoo.com, Revolver, Inked, Loudwire.com and other publications and websites.