“I’m doing OK!” says thrash metal drummer Jon Dette from his hotel room a few hours before his show with Anthrax in Melbourne. “So far, so good, man! I’ve been looking after myself like an athlete would: plenty of water, good food and supplements.”

The healthy regumen is absolutely necessary for the forty-two year old musician as he pulls double duty on this tour, featuring as the stand-in drummer for both Anthrax and Slayer as they travel the country with Soundwave. His most difficult assignment, as recorded by our scribe Paul Southwell here, was the day after the Sydney festival when he had to perform in both bands less than an hour apart at the Big Top.

“There’s a three hour gap between Anthrax and Slayer at Soundwave,” Dette says with a hint of humour in his voice. “It gives me plenty of time to rest. But at the Sidewave show I only had thirty minutes between sets! And because it was more of a headliner show for both bands, I had to play longer. Slayer only play for an hour at Soundwave, but the other night it was an hour and a half and Anthrax got 50 minutes. I was starting to feel it towards the end, but it was a great show.”

Fortunately for Aussie fans, Dette had plenty of prep time for his gig with Anthrax. With Charlie Benante taking a Sabbatical from the band for personal reasons late last year, Dette spent two months with them as they opened for Motörhead. Prior to that, he jammed with Scott Ian for two weeks.

“It really didn’t take long to learn the songs,” says Dette. “We are playing the same songs in Australia as we did in Europe, so that makes it easier.”

By comparison, his re-introduction into the Slayer line-up after sixteen years was a trial by fire.

“With Slayer,” he explains, “I had one day to go over all the songs by myself and then I had three days in the studio with Kerry. The first time I played with Tom was when we walked out on stage at Soundwave. I wasn’t nervous. I knew all the songs, so it was nothing new but it was exciting. It really was just like riding a bike.”

A highlight came for Dette early on, when he looked to the side of stage at one point and James Hetfield was standing there with Chris Jericho, watching him.

“Jericho told me later that Hetfield said he was blown away,” Dette says, somewhat proudly.

Dette’s tour of duty with Anthrax will continue after Soundwave. Benante, he assures me, will be back in the fold at some point but while he continues to struggle with personal issues, there’s no timeframe for his return. With Slayer, it’s a different story.

“Slayer is a case-by-case thing,” Dette says. “Personally, I hope they can resolve their differences with Dave one way or another.  As a fan and a friend, I would like to see a good result for everyone.”