By Daniel Marsicano. Published on 10/3/2012.
Lamb of God has had a rough year, with the much-publicized arrest of vocalist Randy Blythe in Prague, the capital of Czech Republic, this past summer. Things seemed to be on the upward trend for the band beforehand, releasing their well-received seventh album Resolution earlier in the year. They had a U.S. summer tour with Dethklok and Gojira in the pipeline, but that was dissolved soon after Blythe's arrest. Metal fans came out in support of Blythe, and there was a unity that extended beyond Lamb of God worshippers alone. Everybody waited on eagerly for word of Blythe's situation, all the way until his eventual release.
With Blythe out on bail, the band is now able to jump back into touring mode in support of Resolution. A new U.S. tour package has been put together, with bands including Hatebreed, In Flames, Hellyeah and Sylosis coming on-board. The tour will take up much of the rest of the year once it starts up on October 30 in Phoenix, Arizona. I had the chance to speak to drummer Chris Adler last week over the phone, where he went into details about Randy's possible trial, going back on stage during the Knotfest shows, and what this new tour will be like for fans.
With the whole situation with Randy resolved for the time being, is it nice to be able to push that all aside and get back to playing music?
Yeah, we're certainly in preparation for the tour we have coming up the fall, and we're pretty lucky to put something together to salvage the end of the year for us. The focus is definitely immediately there, and we just did a couple of shows with Slipknot in Iowa, Wisconsin. The energy there kind of renewed the freshness of being on stage together and having a general appreciation for what we do after getting that slap in the face. It was very refreshing and almost therapeutic. It was a pretty special moment, and I know we're going to treat every night that way on this upcoming tour. To say it's resolved for now is I guess a fair statement, but it's far from resolved. Randy has a court date in January, and nothing really has changed, other than him being home, which is better than him being there. The reality of the situation is still very present.
While this is a tragic situation on both ends, for both the band and the victim's family, was it frustrating for the talk to be more about Randy's situation and less about the band and Resolution?
It's hard to really balance it out. There's so much frustration about it, but at the same time, there's so much not wanting to be crass about the situation. Somebody lost their life, and the family wants answers to their questions, and that's not something that we're going to avoid or ignore. It is important that this is discussed. Yes, we had an album come out in January that did very well, and we certainly much rather be talking about that and playing shows, but sometimes, shit happens and this was very big shit. We're just handling this the best we can and doing what we think is right. Randy is absolutely planning on going back in January, and answering any questions that there is. We all believe that he is innocent of this, and that we will clear our name, and we can get on with our normal day jobs.
You mentioned he has to go back in January. Is there a firm date set for when he has to go back to Prague?
From what I understand, there is currently discovery going on with the judge in the case. When I say currently, it's scheduled to happen at the end of September. Once that goes on, once the prosecution shows the judge the evidence that they have collected to try and prove their case - which we have not seen yet and I've not been privy to in any way - then the judge will make a decision. Right now, the case is scheduled for January, assuming that the judge will decide to take it to trial. If the judge sees state evidence and believes, like we do, that this was a horrible and random accident that really was not due to intent or malice, hopefully everything is dismissed. For right now, on the book, the trial is in January.
How much involvement does someone like yourself have in this situation? Are you helping out Randy get prepared for this? Are you guys lending a hand to make sure Randy deals with this the best that he can?
While he was there, our main focus was to get him adequate representation, to be able to defend himself. At the time, that was not the easiest thing to do. The day we got off the plane and they took him into jail, we were all scrambling, not knowing what to do. Tying to find anybody who spoke English was difficult enough, never mind finding a homicide attorney that spoke English and could drop everything and get to work. For us, it's been very much behind the scenes, trying to make sure we're doing the best we could for him. Certainly, we all showed up at the airport when he got out. We're on the phones every single day with the lawyers both here in the U.S. and overseas in Prague, on conference calls with the whole band coming up with, 'What do we do next?'
It was incredibly frustrating, because we would get certain information, and then the next day, it would be very different. We would pay a certain amount, and the next day, it would be a different amount. It became so frustrating that you had to put your head down and keep jumping through the hoops. We still don't have a clear understanding of their legal system. We just have to do the best we can. Yeah, it's been frustrating and I think we've all just tried to be here for him. We were writing letters to him while he was in prison and we picked him up at the airport when he got back. We've been in discussions about production for the tour. I know he is super excited about getting back out on the road. The two shows we did with Slipknot were really special moments. I know he is doing very well, considering, but it's been a very difficult time.
Run me through in your mind what it was like before you hit the stage on Knotfest. It had been a while since you guys had played a show. Were there any nerves? Any wondering what may or may not happen, how the crowd is going to react to you guys?
There was. Overall, it was a very positive event. It was run very well. We had a great time with the bands that were there. We knew most of the bands that were there. Before we went on, everybody was just kind of hanging out. It was very much a festival kind of vibe. So we very much liked that. It was no different than any of the other European festivals that we have been playing. For me, and probably the whole band, there was a renewed sense of excitement and a realization of how lucky we are to be doing what we're doing and how fragile it is to be able to have the kind of success that we have doing what we're doing.
When a situation happens like what happened in Prague, it's a wake-up call that this could be the end; after 17 years, this could be it. No one thought we would get to 17 years anyway, so I guess anything could happen at this point. None of us ever think, 'Well tomorrow, it's all going to be over.' When you're looking down the barrel of that, it is very much a wake-up call. I wasn't nervous about playing the show, but I had an overwhelming sense of excitement about being able to get on stage with the band again and to do what we do.
Right before we went on, the crowd...was screaming in unison 'Randy is free, Randy is free.' At shows, we often get the Lamb of God chants, but this was really all about Randy at the show, and how much people really supported us and wanted to see us back together doing what we do. We would never market this situation; that would be somewhat crass to do, but the crowd was giving us the reception of some sort of reunion. It was tangible man, and to look across the back line, sitting behind the amps and getting ready for the intro to roll, we've done it for years and years and you can take it for granted. With those shows, and I imagine very much the same with the tour we have coming up, looking across the back line and seeing the crowd, it was a special, 'hair on your arms standing up' thing.
That revitalized energy the band was feeling during those shows, do you think that will play a hand during this upcoming tour with Hatebreed and In Flames?
I do. I think we've all been shaken up a little bit and realize how fragile what we do is. Especially like I said earlier, with this trial in January, we don't know where things are going to go. For now, this is the work we have in front of us. We're excited about it. You never know what is going to happen. We certainly didn't expect what had happened that day in Prague to happen, and I can't even pretend to tell you what's going to happen in January. I'm very excited to get on stage the first night in Phoenix, where we start, but I think every night is going to be special, especially because of the way the crowd reacted at the shows in Iowa, Wisconsin. For our own tour and the people that really know us and are coming up just to see us, I think there is going to be a level of anticipation and excitement on both sides, backstage and in front of the stage.
Tell me how this tour came together. Was this the band's idea? How much influence did you guys have in getting these bands involved, if at all?
We had a summer tour planned that we were all excited about, with Dethklok and Gojira. We held on to that as long as possible, but the promoters and other bands and management started to get a little nervous about how many tickets they were going to sell for a headliner band, in which their lead singer was in jail in another country. We had a deadline that was really going to be difficult to pull it off, as we didn't have everything in a row. While we all certainly expected Randy to be out by that time, he wasn't. So we had to let that go and let those other bands go about their day, make a living, and make sure the promoters didn't lose money on that tour.
As soon as Randy got out, and as soon as we knew he wasn't interested in leaving the band or that he was done with music, he said he wanted to get back on stage and see if we could get something together in the fall. When a summer tour like we had gets cancelled, it has a trickle-down effect. Obviously, there's a loss of income for the band, which people can argue one way or the other how important that is, but our crew has families and it trickles down all the way. There's a lot of money spent to begin the process of a tour like that; you rent trucks, you start to build production, video screens to share with Dethklok. We had the crew, who turned down other jobs, to come out with us. Things like that, and it's kind of a disaster when you have to pull out of that stuff; you don't get the money back.
We wanted to try to make good for ourselves, for our fans who wanted to see us, and for the people who rely on us to make a living and feed their families. We wanted to tour, so we put the word out through our normal channels that we wanted to do it, gave a list of a couple of cool bands we would be interested in if they are free, and see what comes back. We got really lucky that we're going out with some killer bands and guys we've been on the road with many times and are personal friends with. I think it's going to be a lot of fun backstage and I think it's going to be more fun in front of the stage.
You mentioned a few minutes ago that once you knew Randy wasn't going to leave the band, that all of this fell into place. Was there a time when you thought that the band was done, even after Randy got out?
Not once he got out. There were letters back and forth from prison where he expressed his interest in continuing and, 'Don't worry about me. I'm taking good care of myself. I'm using my time well.' He made sure to let us know things were going to work out, but there was certainly a time when you approach 40 years old and 17 years in the band, at some point, nothing last forever. We don't know if it's the end. If you get locked up in Prague for something that happened at a concert, do you want to get back up on stage? We didn't know those answers. We weren't allowed to see him after they took him off the plane in Prague. We weren't allowed to see him before we left the country or direct contact with him throughout the four or five weeks he was stuck there. It was really kind of a guess.
Other than seeing Randy free and you guys playing together, what else can fans expect from this tour? Anything special in the setlist? Anything else in mind?
Yeah, we currently kind of debating the set list and trying to do something interesting with that, but I think on a different level, with most of the tours we've done in the past, we've filled the stage up with amps and done the classic 'big heavy metal band' kind of production. This time, we decided to do something entirely different. We're putting more money than we ever have into the production. We're bringing out all kinds of neat little tricks. There's not going to be any lasers or dragons or anything like that, but we definitely are investing more into the show than we ever have before. We're trying to make it certainly an event every night for everybody to come down and try to do something special that we haven't done before.
In the past, has there been hesitation by the band to invest that kind of money into the production values?
There was, because all along the way, you never know what's going to work and what's going to flop or if this is our last tour. You spit out an album, and the first week sales are crappy, the record label drops you and you're gone...for a long time, I think we were like, 'Oh, there's no way this is going to last another three or four years. If we can get out and play a show and make a little money to save for the college fund, let's do that now.' Now, I think we've gotten to a point where the seventh record that we've done has done as well as any previous record we've done. So we have to really stop ignoring the fact that we have a career doing this, and instead of just going out and playing the songs, I think we need to start investing in the show and bringing things up to par with what our fans probably expect to see us do. Not to say we're making up for shows we've done in the past, but I think it's just time we have to realize that we'll probably be around for a while, and step it up a little bit.
Are you surprised that so far into the band's career that the albums sales have been keeping pretty consistent?
I'm personally shocked. I'm kind of a scholar of metal. I'm still a huge metal head; I listen to it everyday. It's in my blood. When we came into this record, I had to sit down with myself and be honest with myself. I don't know any metal bands really that have put out seven or eight records, and I certainly don't know any metal bands that when they get to their seventh or eighth record, you hear, 'Wow, I think their seventh record is the best one.' I've never heard anyone say that about a band.
Coming into this record, we certainly had to try and define those odds. Whether we did or not is subjected to one's opinion, but for us, it was important to not just rest on our laurels or keep repeating things, like "Redneck" part three or five. We really wanted to keep pushing and continue to evolve and not try to bore ourselves as musicians, and not to bore our fans who have stuck with us for a very long career. We don't want to take any very strong left or right-hand turns, and do something entirely out-of-the-box. I think we all realize that we're pretty good at what we do, and we should probably continue to do something very similar to what we do, but we also want to be able to grow a little bit too.
In looking back over the past seven records, I went back personally and tried to find special moments that maybe weren't hit songs, but were interesting musically and challenging for me as a player, and get those back up to speed where they were and improve on those. We don't want to expect that it's going to be received well; that would be pretty audacious. We don't know what's going to happen. We're probably one of those bands that could tour forever and play "Laid To Rest" for the next ten years if that's what we wanted to do, but that's not what we really want to do. We want to continue to make important music and relevant music we really enjoy. That's certainly what we want to push every time we go to write.
If you could back in time to the New American Gospel-era of the band, what advice would you give your younger self, knowing what you know now about the music industry and drumming in general?
I think I was probably a little too hard on myself, and maybe even my bandmates, early on, micromanaging every little decision and being very hard about the shows and how proficient we were, or how much energy there was on stage. I think I was kind of a Nazi cheerleader behind the scenes, and I don't think I needed to be. I don't think that hurt us growing up and keeping our chops tight, but I think the guys in the band already felt that and didn't need me up their ass about it. I would probably just tell myself to just relax and enjoy the ride a little bit more.
Last year, you did a drum clinic tour. What kind of satisfaction do you get from a tour like that compared to a standard Lamb of God one?
It was a lot more intimidating to be in the spotlight, especially to be handed a microphone and expect to do something with it. Most drummers' second best talent is probably not public speaking. It was a challenge for me to get up to it, but we had some time off before we were planning on beginning the writing process and I wanted to challenge myself. Events like that, and the Modern Drummer Festival in 2005, were things I really didn't want to do. I wanted to turn them down, but I purposely kind of made myself do it. Both of those things in particular built a lot of character and a lot of confidence in what I do.
Although I was really scared to do it, it turned out really well. Every night, everyone was happy with the whole thing. It was just intimating to do it, and I'm being asked now to get ready to start doing that kind of thing again. It's still intimating to do, but I think the satisfaction of pulling it off and have some of the crowd that came out to see me do it was shocking, honestly. It wasn't any more or less satisfying than playing a good show with the band, but for me, I think it was important to get out and prove to myself that I could do that.
Are you surprised that people come out to see you at a clinic, or that there are many drummers influenced by your work?
It was. It was shocking. The clinic lasted about an hour and 45 minutes, and for the next sometimes three hours, I would stand and talk to everybody and sign stuff. I would talk to kids who were coming up and adults who got turned back on to playing drums because of our band or my playing. It's very humbling to see that. Most drum clinics that I've been to, there's 10 or 20 guys there who are drum scholars. The ones that I did was a much larger fan base. There were dads who played drums that brought their kids who played drums, and wanted to learn what it was like to be on a tour bus. I treated it very different than a normal clinic. I was able to not be as clinical and not be as specifically drum-focused. Of course, I played some tunes, and I talked about what I was thinking when I wrote them, but it also a lot of stories about doing what I do and being in the music industry and what it takes to where we are. It was more of a storytelling kind of evening with drums involved.
If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
You know, I have tried for 10 years to put a tour together with Meshuggah, who I absolutely love. I love them from very early on. We've played many shows with them and get along great with the guys. They are fun guys, and I still think they are one of the most important metal bands of the century. I'm going to keep trying. We keep making offers to them, and we're always constantly at the opposite ends of our record schedules. They are in the process of being in the studio, while we're just beginning the touring process. I think at some point, the timeline will line up and I can't wait. I think that tour will just be devastating.