David Thibodeau is the book “Waco: A Survivor’s Story” and was the drummer for David Koresh. David’s book is the basis for the miniseries “Waco” that has been trending on Netflix for weeks. David recently called into the Talk Toomey Podcast for a chat about the music being played at Mt. Carmel.
Toomey: Alright guys, we have David Thibodeau on he is the author of “Waco: A Survivors” story, and you can also check him out on drums on the latest Blast Addicts album. So David man, how are you doing?
David: I’m great man, I’m very good today, really having a good time, I’m glad you called and I’m glad I’m doing this with you. I don’t often get to talk about music, it’s often about the tragedy and fucking death and destruction, so this is nice.
Toomey: It’s got to be a whirlwind for you right now with Netflix kind of picking WACO up and it’s been trending every day for how long.
David: Yeah, I think ever since it started. I think we started a great website, we’ve got some photos on there from behind the scenes, and some interviews with some survivors at wacosurvivors.com, and it’s just been cool. There’s so much going on. I feel like I’ve been on the top of my house screaming for 27 years, and no one listened, and now everyone’s listening.
Toomey: I think growing up in the heavy metal, hardcore world, I think that the song lyrics and things like that throughout the years kind of touched on you guys, and I think it always portrayed it as the government always overstepping their bounds, so maybe that’s where I learned that throughout the years.
David: That’s true, the metal kids are always in tune with stuff, that’s why when we all get together it’s more like a tribe. There was an article awhile ago which I thought was amazing, it was a few years ago, and it was about how the kids from the ’80s that shared metal, and that had that comradery from going to concerts, seeing each other at concerts, getting to know them, we’re in this group, we like this particular type of music that our parents hate, that no one else gets, yet there we are. The article said that they’re amazingly well adjusted, they have kids and being a member of that tribal community-thing actually had some really good outcomes. I remember it well, it was just like you know, new Black Sabbath album comes out, Dio’s now playing with Black Sabbath, let’s get that album, Motley Crue album comes out, you know and you just get that CD, well back then it was tapes, and you listen to it with your friends. It was just awesome. When Appetite for Destruction I bought it the day it came out because I liked the cover, it just looked interesting, no one had heard of them. My friends and I played that album out for six months, we were sick of it by the time it got popular. Everyone is listening to it like, “Have you heard of Guns N Roses?” “Yeah, we’re on to something else now” because we had already played it every day for six months.
Toomey: By the time it became popular it was out for a year and a half before I think “Paradise City” hit. My little history lesson on you, it looks like you’re from Bangor, Maine, but ended up in California. How did that happen?
David: Well, I grew up between Bangor and South Portland really, and I just knew that I wanted to get out. It was the 80s when I was in school, I graduated in 87, I remember distinctly when Master of Puppets was released, it was you know albums like that, listening to the first three Motley Crue albums, Rush, all that stuff. I wanted to rock man, I would tell my mother “how come you didn’t move to LA when I was young?” because that’s where I knew I was meant to be. So the second I graduated, well, that’s not true. I wasn’t smart, I had a lot of fun in high school so I didn’t really save my money. I had to get a real job after high school and I spent a year working at a German car manufacturing place, and I worked in like this assembly line situation. I did that for a year to save up to go to Musician’s Institute in Hollywood and that was my ticket out. I was going to go to MI, and I was going to go to the drum school, and that was going to be my way into Hollywood. And that’s exactly what I did. I went, I got dropped off in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard knowing absolutely no one, I meant to MI, I went to the board, I saw a sign on the board for these three guys looking for a roommate. I made the call and that was it, I had a place to stay – first day – and I never looked back and I loved it.
Toomey: Who would be some of your classmates at the time? I know a lot of people have probably heard of your classmates, too.
David: The big story when I was going to school, was the Red Hot Chili Peppers had just hired Chad Smith, and Chad had gone to MI. So everyone was like, “hey did you hear about this kid he’s in the Chili Peppers, Chad Smith, Chad, he didn’t even have to finish the program because he got hired for the Chili Peppers.” All anyone wanted to talk about. So at that time Mother’s Milk had come out, and everyone bought it because it was like, hey man it’s one of us Chad Smith made it. It was cool, it was an exciting vibe. Going to school and you just felt like anything could happen at any time.
Toomey: I’ll be listening to podcasts now, and people will be on here and be like “yeah I just called down to MI and said I needed a bass player.” That’s how I got the gig kind of stuff, so yeah, people were definitely getting gigs out of MI and still are. ’87 LA had to be a great time.
David: It was but at the same time, the party was over. I showed up for the hangovers, I showed up for everyone passed out on the couches, and the cops are just at the door and everyone is running for their lives. Like seriously, the strip was just closing up, all the city ordinances were going on where people couldn’t fly around the strip and that was one of the funnest parts of the rock’n’roll lifestyle, was being on the strip and taking people’s flyers and throwing them down then meeting all the crazy people at Denny’s at 2 in the morning. I came at the end of the party, it’s kind of been a lifelong thing for me, too, always showing up at the end of the party, I don’t know what that is about me. What does that say, my friend?
Toomey: Did you end up playing in bands out there, anyone that we would have known of?
David: Nah, no one you knew of – well maybe, I played in a band YMI, we had some stupid names too, it was so hard to come up with… Like I was wanting one like Motley Crue, if I had that name, that just great name, it’s the hardest thing is to find a good name.
Toomey: Just think about now trying to name something.
David: Oh yeah totally. I played in a band called Sterling Bridge and we were doing the Whiskey quite frequently, my band YMI played at the Troubadour, the whisky, for a little while we were the house band for the roxbury we played every thursday night, and that was pretty cool. Our following wasn’t all the hotties or anything like that, it was the local musicians. Local musicians would come and see our band, like some of our colleagues, and that was really cool. You’ve got to be pretty good for musicians to want to come out and see you.
Toomey: Is any of that stuff on Youtube, or running around online, have you found it?
David: Nope, not any that I know of that are out there. There’s a couple demo tapes we did that probably now people might want to hear, I’ll tag my old singer and see if we can get a copy of those put out there somewhere. But I think on Spotify, the Blast Addicts CD is out there on Spotify for people that want to hear it.
Toomey: How prevalent was music throughout this journey you had with him?
David: It was very prevalent, the music journey, David was always into playing, he always wanted to jam and he wanted a band behind him. But what happened with Koresh, I’m answering the second part of this first, was early on he wrote songs, like that song “Mad Man in Waco” that was about his rival George, that everyone thought was about him because everyone called him the mad man in Waco, but it was actually about George Roden who ended up killing his best friend with an axe, this guy was really kind of out there. Koresh wrote that, so the fact is he was doing songs, but when I came in to play he was just jamming that was it, he would basically just jam very progressive kinds of guitar licks. His influences at the time that I came into the group were Joe Satriani, Steve Vai that kind of thing. And he was trying to emulate them, and trying to pursue his chops you know get his chops more in that vein. I mean, I was a pretty good drummer, but that wasn’t really my style, I was more of a Led Zeppelin kind of guy, with the feel and the laid back thing. As a drummer, being younger you want to stand out. What happened now as a drummer, I don’t want to stand out, I want to keep very simple beats and stay in the background and play for the song, and it’s probably taken me 25 years to do that. Now someone asks me to do a solo, I feel like I’m purple or something, nobody wants to hear a drum solo, dude, how about we just play the song and that kind of thing.
Toomey: That’s one thing I noticed about even the miniseries, and then the old photos of David, he’s got some very ‘80s metal guitars, so I was like man, he had to have had some awesome influences. It’s not just a Les Paul, it was always something crazy and pointy.
David: He also had Cliff Sellers, who was a member of the community who was an amazing artist, Cliff did a lot of work and he would airbrush guitars and just do these custom guitar pieces that were out of this world. It was really only for the group that he did stuff, so his artwork, all the motorcycles David bought for all the guys of course before I came into the group – what did I tell ya I’m always coming to the end of the party.
Toomey: Was David still listening to metal and all that stuff in the compound? Or was it kind of pase at the time?
David: I wouldn’t say it was pase, he was always a very focused individual. His chief focus was scripture, understanding of the scripture, pursuit of scripture, and more importantly teaching it because he believed he had all the answers, most of the people around him believed he had the answers that certainly we were unable to find on our own. Steve Schneider thought it was imperative to religions, just listening to Steve and Dave debate, or maybe Wayne Martin, and Steve and Dave talk was a fascinating thing being in that room and listening to them get to the depths of what like Isaiah is really saying, or what is Jeremiah really saying, and have Pablo come here and help us with this Hebrew word here let’s find out what that really means. All that stuff was really fascinating to me. David just focused on that or his own playing, like I said he influences were Satriani and Vai, but he believed that you shouldn’t listen to a lot of influences, and go out there and buy every record and listen to every record and try to emulate those people, because you’ve got to find your own style. So the best way to find your own style, is to sit in a room and play on your own and try to find what sounds good to you. That was impossible for me as a drummer because I was so influenced by music and I loved music so much that I wanted to listen to whatever I could listen to. So you could say I did myself a disservice by not finding my own drum style, but at the same time I also come through the back door a lot when it comes to rhythm. I’ll do things that people don’t expect, and I think that’s partly because I’ve listened to so much music, and not just one type of music, but you know fusion or what, there’s all kinds of influences out there. I’ve tried to do every form of music that I could play with other people, because that’s how you grow as a musician, but I’ve always been a rocker. So if there was a time I was personally in a jazz band, I would usually get fired within a couple of months because it would progressively get louder, or get progressively more rocky, or progressively get faster, and I just couldn’t seem to help myself. So I’m glad I took the challenge of playing those styles with different people, but deep down I’m a rocker.
Toomey: How often would you guys rehearse, was it kind of a set thing, or was it hey let’s go jam, or how did that work out?
David: It was every night. What would happen when you were on Mount Carmel, especially for that last year, before the ATF came in, we were pretty much solidly living in Waco at the property there that they call Mount Carmel, people call it the compound. Compound is a word that the government and the media used that helped to demonize the group, they tried to make it sound like we had a military compound. It was made of sheetrock and plywood, seriously, it was about as fortified as a dixie cup, so why don’t we say the church, the home, or Mount Carmel, I call it Mount Carmel because that’s what it’s been called for seventy years. We sell into a thing where we would work on the house or the property, and we would work during the day, then we would have dinner, and after dinner the musicians would be in the chapel area Dave would come in and want to play. We’d play for an hour, and as soon as the music stopped that was the key for the study and everyone would start filing in. So after the music was over, people would start filing in and David would give his studies. Sometimes those studies would go an hour, sometimes they would go three hours, sometimes they would go six or seven hours or well into the night, it all really depended on what was happening with David at the time. A lot of times what would happen with David, which was the really weird thing, he would be giving the kind of the same studies that he gave people over and over the Holy Spirit studies, study about the kingdom, there were all sorts of studies, but then often out of nowhere we’d all see something new. He’d say, “I was shown this,” and he would go into Isaiah, and he would have a different way of looking at it that no one had seen before, and yet made perfect sense. So he would go through a lot of periods of time where there was nothing, and then all of a sudden there’s something new. Everybody wondered how that happened, over the consistency of the two years that I knew the people, I saw that happen over and over again. For some of the older people it was even more astounding, because he was not only building up the framework of the Seventh-day Adventist church, and the Branch Davidians that branched off from the Seventh-day Adventist church, but he was creating or adding his own stuff scripturally that was just blowing people’s minds, it was just very interesting. I’ve just realized this was about the music, and I talked probably more about the scripture with you than just about any interview I’ve ever done, it’s very strange to me.
Toomey: The miniseries depicts that you guys play some shows, did you guys play shows in Waco, or did you get out and play? Did you guys have a band name or anything like that?
David: Wow. That’s a really good question. I don’t think we had a band name. God, I don’t remember. Maybe the David Koresh band? I don’t know. What David did, is David had a friend, Randall, who owned a place called Cue Stick in the town of Bellmead, and Dave got close with Randall, and he helped Randall build the stage in the place. Dave put on something called “Boo Night” and that was on a Thursday night, as I recall. “Boo Night” is where anyone can get up and use the equipment, play the drums, use the PA system, any band in town or any musician can get up and play. You can either get booed, or people would applaud. Everyone applauded, everyone was pretty cool, but that’s a place where all these bands could get up and actually play, it became hugely popular very quickly. That place was packed every Thursday night after just a couple of weeks of doing it, and that was because of David. I would get up and I would sing KISS songs with other people, and I’m used to being a drummer so it’s the first time I ever got to be a frontman, so that was a fun experience for me, because I’ve always protected and just quite comfortable behind the drumkit.
Toomey: As a frontman guitar player, how would you rate David as a singer, as a player?
David: As a player he got very good, unfortunately I don’t know of any tapes that exist of just playing during my period of time there. I know some were made, I just don’t know where they are or if they’re out there and someone has them, but I’d love to hear. I felt he got very, very good. I felt that I, as a drummer, wasn’t progressing enough. But at the same time, playing with him was very frustrating, because I wanted to write songs. I wanted to be in a band that had harmonies, specific lyrics, specific song structure, you know, a song, so that way we could play our songs for people. David didn’t do songs when I came into the band, he had some songs he played once in awhile with us, but he was a jam guy. That to me, that got old for me, I wanted to write songs, be in a band where I knew the backing parts I was going to sing, knew all the breaks. I didn’t want to be in Phish, I didn’t want to be in the Dead, I wanted to be in Def Leppard.
Toomey: Early Def Leppard or “Hysteria” Def Leppard?
David: Oh, first three albums man. Up to Pyromania was just phenomenal. Lady Strange, High and Dry, On Through The Night even, that shit was great. Just phenomenal. Pyromania, dude, there was no turning back after Pyromania. I saw that tour, I can’t remember if they were opening for Ozzy or Billy Squier, it was one of those, and I saw Def Leppard. They came out, Pyromania had not been released yet, so I knew Lady Strange, Bringing on the Heartbreak, those were the songs I was looking forward to, and all of a sudden they were playing “Foolin’” and I’m like “what is THIS?!” They played Rock of Ages, I’m like “what? That song’s great!” Then they play “Bringing on the Heartbreak” and I’m like “ah, I know this one, okay, I want the new stuff.” Not often do you go see a band and want to see the new stuff. That was the only band I saw where every new song they played I was like “Oh my God I’m buying that record the second it comes out.” They were phenomenal dude they blew me out of the water. It was phenomenal. And then of course, after that concert, “Pyromania” was released and it was the biggest rock album of the year.
Toomey: What were kind of the musical conversations between you guys hanging out?
David: Dave would be like, “so Thibs, how come you don’t play like this guy’s drummer? Look, ‘cause he sits really high up on his set, you sit low, you need to raise your stool way up so you’re playing on your tippy toes maybe get that double bass thing going the way he does. Come on dude, step up your game.” That was the conversation with Dave and me. It was always like, you know, how are you going to get better? And I’m like yeah, I’m trying.
Toomey: You’re like, who went to MI here?
David: Yeah, exactly, I was like dude you don’t even write songs, so shut up.
Toomey: What were your go-to songs? I’m sure he had a bunch of staples in the set.
David: He had one called “Sound of Thunder” which had to do with one of the seals, like I said most of the stuff that he had written early on, they were folky songs. Songs to God, “Sheshonahim,” there was a song about the prophet Nathaniel. These were all songs that were written on acoustic, so he was getting more progressive on electric, so that’s when he went from writing songs to just jamming. Now again, that was to me a period of frustration and such. I think he liked Hendrix, you know, people like that. He just wasn’t focused on newer music the way I was.
Toomey: I would have kind of liked to hear his thoughts, roughly the late ‘80s early ‘90s there was a big Christian Metal scene, you know Barren Cross, and Stryper, and Tourniquet, you know all those guys were coming out. I kind of wonder what his thought on that would be, if he would dissect those lyrics and be like, “no, no that’s not right.” Kind of get in that mindset there.
David: That’s a really interesting question. I don’t remember that ever really being a thing for him. I’m percolating something here, because that’s a really great question. He never really got into it. I think that he felt, I’ll be honest, David Koresh felt that most Christians were just skin on the surface. That they just wanted to accept that Christ said accept him as your savior, you’re saved, and that’s it. It’s pretty easy for Christians. David’s path was always like, “Listen, this book says something from Genesis to Revelations. There’s many prophets talking here talking about what God’s will is, it’s not that easy. If that’s good for you fine, but I know what the scripture really says, and it’s not what the Christians say that it says. There’s so much more, so much depth between the old and the new testament, that needs to be seen together as one as opposed to just the New Testament undoing what the Old Testament does, or the new coming. In other words, the new covenant of the New Testament you don’t have to follow all the laws of old, because Christ made the new covenant which a lot of Christians believe that.” David thought that the scripture is all about from Genesis to Revelations is important, so the old testament is just as important as the new testament and his whole message was about putting them together. It was what does the entire scripture say, and what’s the plan of God based on the entire scripture, not just based on one or two verses, and not just based on the Old or New Testament, but on both. So his teachings were far more complex than your average kind of Christian teaching, or your average kind of Jewish teaching for that matter.
Toomey: I think what’s fascinated me about this story, coming back around, I’m the type of person once I get into something I want to learn everything I can about it. I watched the miniseries, I listened to some Podcasts, listened to some interviews with you, and the thing that I’ve come to find as fascinating to me is what drew me to reaching out to you, was typically in any kind of Christianity the first thing to kind of go is music, music is evil. And it seems music was embraced by David and you guys.
David: Very true, there was actually a Psalm, there’s 150 Psalms, and it’s considered to be written about King David, and lowkey David believed that all 150 Psalms were about the final message, to be presented before the world for the Kingdom to be set up, so basically his group. So that means that there is a Psalm that we all loved, and that Psalm had to do with playing skillfully unto the Lord with a loud sound. And David Koresh interpreted that to me directly talking about playing an electric guitar was a loud sound, so a rock band. Koresh believed that scripturally that was worth being bought, being as good as you can with your instrument and playing it loudly, not just electrifying your guitar, but your whole heart and playing it to God. Everything he did he did for God, whether people believe that or understand that, but I’ve never met anyone more focused on God than David. He just was always there, he was always putting God first. It was overwhelming at first, I was actually kind of annoyed at times. I was like, “I just don’t understand how you can just think about God 24/7.” I think even some of his wives and survivors will tell you the same thing, he was 24/7 man.
Toomey: How do you approach David if he hits a wrong note, or if he plays a part wrong? Do you let it go or do you say something to him?
David: That’s the beauty of being in a jam band. Isn’t there a saying about jazz, there are no wrong notes?
Toomey: I think it’s if you hit a wrong note, hit it again and that’s jazz. I think that’s the saying.
David: Actually very similar, he never had train wrecks or anything. Even if he missed a note, he was playing so quickly often you wouldn’t even notice it. You have to have a pretty good ear for that. Frankly, I was always trying to keep the beat, keep the time, trying to come up with unique rhythm patterns in a 4-4 time frame. That’s another thing, I wish we would have worked on some different time patterns, different metered stuff, because I find that a challenge in life. I always love to work on songs that are in maybe 7-8, different time frames. Switching those up, that’s a lot of fun for a drummer especially, but it’s often hard to write lyrics around.
Toomey: Yeah, 3/4, 7/8 always got that swing, that waltz to it, it’s such good stuff. As we kind of wrap this off, I do want to ask you a couple things about the miniseries that everybody’s watching right now, I don’t want to get too much into it because I’m sure every interview you get – I heard some doozy interviews with you, by the way – is there anything you can take away from the miniseries that they got wrong, or took too many liberties with?
David: There’s a ton of stuff! Here’s what I say about the miniseries, personally I like it, I think it’s great writing. What people need to understand about the six-part series is it’s a drama, it’s not a documentary. Not only is it a drama, it is a work of fiction that is based on historical fact, so what that means to me is that all the important things are true and they did happen, and they are in it. However, many timelines were changed. I did not meet David in Texas, I met David in California. You had seven or eight major characters, and there’s 130 people in that building at Mount Carmel. So there’s a lot of characters put together into one character, two and three different characters. I did not bury Perry Jones’ body at the front of the building. That was Greg Summers burying Peter Kent’s body, Peter Kent was the guy that was shot by the helicopters who was on top of the water tower. He was buried at the front of the building, and then Greg Summers lined up the five dogs that were killed on the first day for the world to see. It was actually Clive Doyle who buried Perry’s body down in the underground shelter, so things like that. Hollywood made me look real good. There were some things that I did. I was the guy that found out that Ron Engleman was listening to us, that if we turned the satellite dish they could know that that happened. So you know there were a lot of things that were true, and a lot that weren’t. Hollywood, like I said, always makes you look better than you really are. I did write the book over 20 years ago, the book is my story, the book is the truth. If you’re wanting to find out exactly how it went down, the book’s the way to go. That being said, the series has done more important things for Waco than I could ever have imagined. It humanized the people and made them real, and it made them see what the government is truly capable of. In this case, how much they lied to you, and me, not only about that 51 days, but for the last 20 years. Can I talk about my website for a second, because there’s a couple things going on. Do we got a couple more minutes?
Toomey: Yeah go ahead. We’ll finish up with the website and how everyone can find you and all that good stuff.
David: Did you have anymore questions? I’m not trying to end it early.
Toomey: No, I’m good man. I was kind of coming at this with all the music questions, and all that stuff. Everybody can watch the docuseries, read the book, and go to your website to find all of the other atrocities that happened to you and your friends. Just let us know about the website!
David: Alright man, thanks. Because of all this, I should have done this a long time ago, but I got a website up. www.wacosurvivors.com, and when you go there there’s a lot of interviews with survivors, still working on some of the content. This is going to be a work in progress for the next several years. I want it to be a huge informational website. Right now there are some links to survivor interviews, behind the scenes pictures from the filming of the show, there’s what Mount Carmel looks like today, some pictures from the past, some FBI trophy pictures – we actually have pictures of the FBI posing for pictures in front of charred bodies. It’s just incredibly arrogant, some of these people when you see some of these pictures. We have pictures of certain negotiators posing in front of the building while the place is burning. It’s just kind of awesome the arrogance of these people, so that’s going to be made available. There’s an important thing, anyone who does buy my book from the website will get a signed copy from me. I spent a lot of time making sure that everyone gets a signed copy, that’s very important to me, and that money goes to obviously helping these people tell the story, but there’s also a donate button in the upper righthand corner, and that donate button is for the Mount Carmel historical and preservation society. We’re setting up a fund to help us get the land. IT’s currently owned by an individual who was not there when April 19th happened to February 28th happened. He was a former member under George Roden, he left when David took over, his name’s Charlie. He’s basically been squatting on the property for the last 20 years, kicked everyone off all the survivors. I was out there giving talks to groups, no one wanted to talk to him they were coming out to talk to me, so he told me I couldn’t speak to groups anymore. Basically told me to get off the land. So I need a legal fund to try to fight that. He’s saying that he is a survivor, and he is taking donations, that’s the worst. He is taking donations on behalf of survivors and keeping them for himself. He hasn’t given a dime to Heather Jones, who actually lost her entire family on Mount Carmel. The way I look at it is, Heather Jones should be living out there if she wants to with her family, any of the people who survived it that need a place to go, they should be able to come there. I would personally like to see that property maybe go to helping teens, or an abused women’s shelter – there’s all kinds of things that could be done to serve the community that are not being done with that property. More importantly, it needs to be a historical site. There needs to be a museum there where people can go, and find out the true history of what happened, and it needs to be a 24 hour memorial to those that died. And that’s what I want done. I’m willing to hire whatever attorney, do whatever it takes to get that done, but it’s going require a bit of money. If you have a few extra sheckles, I understand if you don’t at this point – so many people are out of work, and we just thank you for your blessing, thank you for listening – but if you have a couple extra bucks, if you could help out that would be great and we would really appreciate it. It’s going to a good cause.
Toomey: David, thank you so much for taking the time today. This has been a lot of fun for me, and obviously since I’ve been down my Waco rabbit hole, to get to speak with you has been an honor and a pleasure, man.
David: Thank you man, I really enjoyed this one.
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