Posted by: Necci – Apr 20, 2012
Lamb Of God, who formed over 15 years ago under the more inflammatory name Burn The Priest, have been the standard bearers for Richmond metal for quite some time now. Since changing their name in 2000, their profile has steadily grown, and they have become one of the most important bands defining the sound of American heavy metal in the 2000s. After spending two years on the road touring behind their sixth album, Wrath, Lamb Of God returned home to Richmond, devoting 2011 to the writing and recording of Resolution, the brand new album that they released at the beginning of 2012. Less straightforward than the stripped-down, sped-up Wrath, Resolution’s heavy grooves more closely resemble the band’s earlier work, but with a bluesier feel that strikes me as Southern in origin. Drummer Chris Adler doesn’t hear as much of that influence on Resolution as I do, though, as you’ll learn from our conversation below. Adler has kept himself busy over the past year with some non-musical projects as well, writing a series of books, each of which focuses on a different Lamb Of God album. I asked him about those books, download-only singles, and his adventures at the Grammy Awards, but we began by discussing the influence of Richmond, and the South as a whole, on Lamb Of God’s music.
Let's talk about the new record. My first impression of it is that it's more Southern-sounding than your previous stuff. Do you feel like that was intentional?
I think we kind of left room for everything. I think as we get more comfortable with ourselves and our ability to do what we do, some of those natural instincts or influences that you liked when you were a kid really tend to come out. With previous records, we always set a point on the horizon, like, this is gonna be a fast record, or it's gonna be aggressive, or we're gonna maybe do some studio tricks--different things that we rallied around. And on this record, because of all the different things we've done in the past, we felt a little more free to go in any direction. I think that maybe what you're hearing is us being a little more comfortable with ourselves.
Do you think being from Richmond, and being from the South in general, is a big influence on the kind of music you play?
Not in my opinion, no. I know that several of the guys in the band are fans of the New Orleans sound, and a lot of the stuff that has come out of that area, but we don't claim to be any kind of Southern band. I think the music that we all enjoy individually and collectively has some of those elements to it. Several of the guys in the band are big ZZ Top fans, and even of stuff like Lynyrd Skynyrd. That kind of stuff is the stuff we grew up listening to, and although we don't celebrate the fact that we are some sort of Southern band, I think that stuff certainly has an influence.
Richmond is a smaller city, and you guys have been pretty big for a while. Do you find it's harder to maintain a connection with the local scene once you reach a certain level of popularity?
It can be difficult. I'm still going to two or three shows a week, seeing what's going on. I'm friends with a lot of people that play in local bands. I think the bigger obstacle is just the fact that we're gone so much. We spent the entirety of 2009 and 2010 on the road, so it's very easy to miss out on what's going on. But we all grew up in the Richmond music scene, cut our teeth on the bands that were from here--Sliang Laos, Breadwinner, GWAR, Kepone--so it's important for me, and for the rest of the guys, to stay in tune with what's going on here. Even though, when we were coming up, it seemed slightly elitist, the scene is really healthy, with very capable players. That kind of influence helped us become the kind of musicians we are, and [have] the kind of work ethic that we keep. If we come to a show, a lot of fans know who we are, and people want to take pictures and stuff like that, so it's hard to be a little anonymous at these things. But it's still, in my mind, very much worth the time to go out and support what's going on.
Speaking of mainstream success, I did notice that you guys have been nominated for three Grammys in the past five years or so. I know you haven't won any yet, but what is that like? Have you guys gone to the ceremonies?
Yeah, I've been to two out of three of them, and it's fun. It's like looking into a fishbowl at a whole other world. As a metal band, you never expect to get there. It's not even a goal. To have America's version of the music industry giving us a nod--it's not something that I want to ignore, but it's not something that we were looking for. So it's hard to say that it's a really monumental thing for us. I think more so than for us, it's kind of the award show for our parents' generation. I flew my father out to the last ceremony, and we hung out for the whole thing. We ended up at the Beverly Hills Hotel bar later on; it was me, my wife, my dad, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow, and John Mayer, sitting at the bar having a drink. At the first one we went to, my brother was dancing around with Weird Al Yankovic and Smokey Robinson. So the craziest stuff... not like debauchery and insanity, but just the most random situations that you could ever imagine, happen when we get to go out there. It's a lot of fun.
So you guys do a lot of touring. I know you've toured with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, bands like that. Do you see yourselves as making that kind of lifelong commitment to being a touring band? Could you see yourself still doing it in another 20 years?
That's a tough question, man. Even coming into writing, rehearsing, and recording the new record, I think we all had to take a good honest look at ourselves and answer the question [of whether] we're still up for this challenge. [Including] the live record, this is our eighth record, and there's no point in tarnishing the work we've done before. If we can't somehow surpass--in our minds, anyway--what we've done, we should hang it up. And of course, every time we do it, that gets a little bit harder. I've never heard anybody say, “I really like fill-in-the-blank band. Their seventh record is my favorite.” It's always the first one, or the second one, or back when they were better, or more true to their roots, before they sold out or whatever. So that’s in the back of my head; I'm always challenged to take things to the next level, and keep evolving as a player. [I want to] give a seventh record, maybe an eighth record, maybe a ninth record, that is comparable to anything we've done before. I don't want to water down the legacy of it. And as far as touring goes, I'm in fairly good shape, and I don't think I'm physically capable of doing this in 20 years’ time. That would put me close to 60, and behind the drum kit, I'm flying around like a hummingbird most of the time. I'm dead weight after 90 minutes now. So add 20 years to that, and a few Miller Lites, it might be a pretty ugly situation.
I noticed that you wrote a book this year about New American Gospel, your first album, from 2001. I haven't seen the book. What exactly is in it, and what led you to decide to put that together?
We were doing a tour of South America, and we had a fill-in guitar player, because one of our guitar players couldn't make the tour. He was from the band Between The Buried And Me, and he and I became quick friends. [We] talked a lot about how he wrote music and studied music, which was very different from [Lamb Of God’s] approach. He's a very theory-based guy, and he's very much into tablature. He had written his own tab book. I thought that was great that he had done it, because we’ve seen so many tab books come to our signings and such, and the guitar players have never even seen ‘em. They contain a lot of incorrect information that is not double-checked by anybody in the band. These big companies just go ahead and try to make a dollar off of our tunes, and they don't bother to check. So knowing that, and hearing this guy's experience with doing it himself before somebody else did, I thought there was no better reason for me to do it. So I spent several weeks with a clinician from Baltimore named Travis Orbin, me sitting behind the kit and him sitting in front of me with a computer. He basically recorded every movement I was doing, to accurately transcribe every drum part from every album that we've done. I've written three books now--the second one, for As The Palaces Burn, came out about two months ago.
The idea initially was to put out my own books, making sure that the musical information was correct, and beat anybody else to it that was trying to make some money off of our stuff. In doing that, in spending two years on the road during the Wrath touring cycle, I also began collecting my memories. My wife and my parents have been after me for years: “You should write some of this down. Not everybody gets to do this kind of thing.” I just started writing down from the beginning what I can remember about the recording process and what I thought about when I was writing a song, the process of making the album. Then I had all this information together, and I just put the accurate drum information with my memories of the recording process. So that's what these [books] are all about. They’re self-published. I have purposefully not given it to the bigger publishers. I get the books printed in Pennsylvania, and there's an editor that I use in Charlottesville, VA, so I just keep my own quality control. I'm very proud of it. It doesn't have to make me a million dollars, but even if I were to lose money, I have plans to do one for every record. The third one is just about done, and the plan is as we get into the next touring cycle, just to keep writing. In the end, I'll have a book for each record that we've done. At that point, I may separate the two, and have a book of all the tabs for all the songs of everything I've ever done, and then [put] the stories behind each album into their own book. It's not the band's tell-all, it's just from my point of view.
So, about a year ago, you guys did the “Hit The Wall” single, and it was on a video game soundtrack and released as a digital download. Do you feel good about how the whole digital release went, and do you guys plan on doing more of that kind of thing? How do you feel about the whole idea of releasing music solely as a digital artifact?
I think that the industry is changing, and it's almost inevitable that [digital] is going to be the future of how people receive and share music. It's not something that we've ever fought against. In fact, my job before the band was as an IT director at VCU, and I worked very hard to make sure that the band was everywhere it could possibly be, for free, all over the internet. This was starting in 94, 95, when the internet was basically a bunch of IRC chatrooms. So right from the beginning, we were onboard with the whole thing changing. Of course, that doesn't translate very well with the record label, and the commerce of the music industry. My job is to make music, get it to people that enjoy what we do, and to get out on the road and play our music--share that live vibe, that can't be downloaded, with people that want to come see us. I'd love to say that our record is selling like crazy, [but] that shouldn't even be a way that people judge where music is at today, because the whole system is failing. [Sales are] not an accurate assessment of any product.
[“Hit The Wall”] was a B-side from the album Wrath that we had sitting around. When Sega came to us, they said, “Can we get you into the studio to do an extra track for this game?” We let them know that we had some extra material from one of the previous albums, and if they wanted to take a listen to that, we could certainly consider working something out. So that's how that ended up coming out. The reason it's not on a physical format was because, although I think the song's as good as anything on Wrath, for whatever reason it didn't make the vote to be on the record. Now, going forward, obviously the new record is going to be a [physical] record, on vinyl and CD, but by the time we get around to the eighth and ninth record, I don't know if that format will exist. It may be fully based on downloads. We'll have to wait and see.
There's a bonus live album coming with the early editions of Resolution. What led to that release?
We had the material. We recorded every night of shows on the Wrath tour--mainly for ourselves, so we could go back and listen to what we were doing, see how we could improve upon it, and make sure we were putting on the best show that we could. We realized we had a string of several hundred shows recorded, and the quality was just getting better and better as we went along. In today's marketplace, you really do need to kind of step it up a little bit. You have to deal with the fact that everyone is spoiled from getting free music. We put together the songs that, if you put a gun to our head, are the songs that we have to play in our concerts. We just picked the best versions of them we have from that touring cycle, and put it out. Hopefully it helps entice a few people [that are] on the fence about checking out the new one.
Do you know how many of the live record there'll be? Is it a separate deluxe edition, or included with the first however many copies?
I think it's the first one hundred thousand copies.
Speaking of live shows, the show you guys are playing in Richmond in January is your first show here since 2009. Are you excited about playing the hometown again?
Absolutely, man. Like I said earlier, I see all the guys at different shows, and we're such fans of live music. And to have such a killer venue here in town... The National saw that we were doing a tour on the East Coast, and they asked if they could get us in before the release [of Resolution]. It’s actually gonna be our first show in almost a year, and it'll be the first show for the new record. And of course, where better to do that than home? This is where our friends and family are, and we're gonna have a really good time with it.
Words by Andrew Necci
Images by Ken Penn