(originally appearing in Modern Fix Magazine issue #54)
-interview by Bushman
Lamb of God out-pitted Slayer.
Those that fly the horns regularly might not believe such a statement, but at a recent stop at the Sports Arena in San Diego, CA, Randy Blythe and company did something most metal fans wouldn’t think possible. They created a pit larger and got more reaction out of the packed arena floor than one of the most respected metal bands in history.
No, it’s not a competition, but when one has seen Slayer multiple times, one knows few can even come close to the intensity of a Slayer show. So when this hard working band called Lamb of God blew the place apart, it was noteworthy.
This was no freak accident. The band has been carving a deep mark through metal since their inception as Burn the Priest and self-titled 1998 album. When drummer Chris Adler recruited his brother Willie to replace a departing guitarist, the core of Lamb of God was born. Through the next three albums, the band continued to hone their assault of punishing metal, holding true to their roots while pushing their sound to find its own definition. 2004’s “Ashes of the Wake” was a milestone in metal showcasing the Adler brother’s expert command of complex time structures wrapped in severely aggressive metal riffage. Bigger tours, bigger albums sales and a DVD made infamous by a drunken brawl between singer Randall Blythe and guitarist Mark Morton elevated the band beyond packing clubs to becoming regular fixtures on the metal arena tour circuit.
Late 2006 saw the release of “Sacrament”, the newest and most ‘accessible’ Lamb of God album to date. Purists might find some complaint in the bands first single “Redneck” as showing a little too much Pantera, but for those who were paying attention, Dime Bag influences are not that hard to spot on previous Lamb of God albums. The newer songs are a bit leaner, and stripped down, but still bleed with head-banging intensity and guitar chops that land the two six-stringers on numerous guitar magazine covers.
As part of the NWOAHM (New Wave of American Heavy Metal), their peers that get mentioned in the same breath are Shadows Fall, Unearth, Killswitch Engage and God Forbid. For all apparent measurements, it’s these five bands that kicked the shit out of nu-metal and saved the new crop of American metal heads from having bands like Disturbed and Godsmack ‘representing’ what our shores can produce in the way of heaviness. Because, y’know, most of Europe was laughing at our ‘metal’ scene in the late 90’s.
But now, they got Randall Blythe and Lamb of God to contend with. And after sitting down with him backstage pre-set at a show in which, mere hours later, they would outshine metal demi-gods Slayer on the stage, I found having him as a spokesman for American metal a comforting thought.
Do you like to do interviews?
Randy Blythe: As long as they’re good ones. We’ll start out that way.
Views on press in general?
I can tell this is already a good one. I hate it when… let me ask you this: do you have a question that goes: “What’s it like to be on tour with Slayer?”
Alright then. It’s gonna be a good interview. Because that’s one of the stupidest questions in the world. So my view on press right now has already gotten better with you. I hate doing interviews with people who don’t do their research. I hate people who don’t do their job. If you are a journalist, your job, if you are interviewing someone, is to research so you can provide an objective, informed picture of your subject. When journalists call and say: “When is Ashes of the Wake coming out?” (Our last record that came out two years ago), I’ve gotten that on this tour. Or they call and are like, “Hold on, can you talk slowly, I’m writing the answers down.” And they are unprepared, that pisses me off and that press is a waste of time. But as far as people with thought provoking questions, it’s great. I myself dabble in the art of the interview.
Who have your interviewed?
Kerry King (of Slayer). I did that for Decibel. I’m starting to do video interviews for this British internet radio site and it’s a lot of fun. I like to know my subjects.
‘Sacrament’ is the new album. What aspect of this new release has you most excited?
The fact that we are done recording. (laughs). It’s a very unhappy album, lyrically. It’s very introspective. I’ve only listened to the album once since it’s been done. It’s so different. I’m very intrigued by the question of how the record is going to be received. It’s definitely Lamb of God. It’s not a radical departure, but it’s so much bigger in my head. The whole sound, the whole layout of it, I did some different things with my vocals. I have no trepidation. I don’t care if people hate it. I’m just curious.
Your lyrical style is not too concerned with rhyming or rigid parameters of timing. Who do you admire as a lyricist?
Very much so, I admire Nick Cave. You ever hear of a band called Jawbreaker? I liked Blake’s writing from the first Jawbreaker album. There was a band from Richmond, VA called Sliang Laos. I really admire his writing style. The person whose writing I admire the most, who sings almost none of the lyrics, is Mike Williams from EyeHateGod. He’s a twisted genius. His writing is so dark, and I hate to use the word ‘poetic’ but it really is.
Do you feel people pay enough attention to the words?
No. Absolutely not. That’s based on people’s stupid attention spans because they watch too much TV. Everything is a sound bite. It’s like pop radio. People sing along with the latest hooky chorus. They sing the words but they probably don’t ever think about them. Of course with pop music, it doesn’t really matter because it’s all the same thing anyway. I’m always extremely flattered when I meet someone who talks to me about my lyrics. They draw something out it. Whether it’s what I intended, or it’s something applicable to their life… I really dig that. I like it when it’s loose enough for people to interpret.
You are known for your rather distinctive vocal presence and strong opinions. Have those strong convictions ever led you down an incorrect path from which you had to admit your wrong?
Lyrically, I still believe in everything I’ve ever written. Everybody can grow and change in their personal life. But when I put something down on paper, I’ve thought about it a lot. That’s not going to change. I still hold most of the same beliefs when I was a 15 year old punk rock kid growing up looking at things. If anything, I’m becoming more misanthropic with each fucking day.
Why is that?
Because people fucking suck. They are assholes.
Are you a brawler?
It’s probably so much from the “Killadelphia” DVD. (Referring to the drunken knock down between himself and guitarist Mark Morton.)
That part got a lot of press.
Yeah it did. It made our DVD go gold. That’s what it did. Not to take away from the music or anything. And also that fact that it’s so fucking brutally honest. When I’m standing up, and not falling down drunk, yeah I’m a good brawler. Most of the time I’d rather just not deal with anyone you have to fight. It’s stupid. It always hurts, even if you win. It’s annoying. Also, I quit drinking. Haven’t had a drink for quite awhile. I had to quit drinking. I had a really really good run of drinking. REALLY good. Like, leading the pack good. Leaving the pack behind good, most of the time. You need to know when to lay back for awhile before you do something stupid. Plus, it wasn’t making me happy anymore. It was just making me depressed. So it’s been an interesting tour. It’s been my first sober tour. Trying to quit drinking on tour, this tour particularly, would be like if you are rock addict and moved into a crack house to try and quit. So I live in a moving bar. But it’s all good. All my friends drink. It doesn’t bother me.
What was with that Battle for Ozzfest sequence where they made you guys out to be the dicks of the day by pushing that one guy really hard? Was that a set-up? Were you told to do that or was that just Randy Blythe letting loose on some poor sucker?
They were afraid I was gonna kill him. Ok, this is what happened. They had these fucking kids, and the guy that I got, who is actually is a very nice guy, and we treated him very well (and his band ended up winning). A very cool dude, he was never a shit. But a lot of those fucking kids on that Battle for Ozzfest, were real shitty, snotty little fucks. So that morning… they weren’t supposed to talk to other bands, they had to do all this stupid shit, because it was the rules for the Battle for Ozzfest. See, I didn’t go on a TV show to get on Ozzfest. I ate shit for eight years before we got on Ozzfest. With this band. I have been doing bands since I was fourteen. There was no reality TV program. This is my life. So it kind of irked me in the first place that that was happening. I don’t like television period. And I don’t like reality TV. These kids, after awhile started to get cocky. There was this band on Ozzfest called Magnum Five. They were from Las Vegas. They were really the oddball band on Ozzfest. They were more of a rock band than a metal band. They really didn’t fit in on the second stage. I loved their music, but some of the hardcore metal heads just hated them. So they kind of had a hard time. But they were some of the nicest dudes on that tour. We’re really good friends with them now. They were the only ones on that tour traveling in an RV. They didn’t have a tour bus. They didn’t even have their record out yet. So they were just cool dudes and we kicked it with them all the time. So MTV came to me that morning and we were supposed to get someone from Battle for Ozzfest that day to do whatever we wanted to do. Their singer Mike came up to me, “Dude, those little fucking shits this morning… we tried to be nice to them. They mooned us, threw shit at our RV, talked shit to us and they ran away on their bus.” And I’m like, “Done. I’m gonna take care him.” So, I got the kid. Regrettably, it was that kid. I wish it had been one of the other ones. I didn’t know him at the time. He turned out to be a really nice guy. His name was Marc from A Dozen Furies. I’ve talked to him since then. But I worked him like a rented mule. The Ozzfest people were scared. I had my bullwhip. I have a whipmaker in New Jersey who makes me these really expensive whips. I came up there and I fucking worked him. He was throwing up all over the place. I was screaming at him. People were getting autographs from the bands in back at their tables, I know Superjoint Ritual was back there. And nobody knew what I was gonna do. They thought I was fighting someone. So people got up and were coming to back me because they heard me screaming at this guy. This one guy I know who was side stage, didn’t know what was going and he eventually yanked the kid off the stage and was kicking him like, ‘Get the fuck out of here.’ Everybody thought the guy was fucking with me that didn’t see it. So he got off, threw up, exhausted. It scared the fuck out of him.
I’m sure you saw the sequence on the show. He was pretty tore up. He was one of the nicer kids.
He was one of the best kids. But after that, we kidnapped him. They weren’t allowed to have cell phones so they couldn’t talk to their family. So we just told Sharon (Osbourne) that were gonna kidnap him. And they started to bitch about it, and we were like ‘You can’t penalize him or whatever’ and just took him for a couple of days. Got him on the bus, got him fucked up, let him use my phone to call his family. Got him real food. We hooked him up.
Did MTV give you specific instructions on what to do?
No, no. They were scared. When I carried him on stage, they saw me and could tell I was pissed. They were like, “You aren’t gonna…” and said, “Don’t fucking worry about it.” And I had this seven foot bullwhip in my hand. They were severely concerned. Afterwards, Sharon was hanging out. And I said, “Yeah, I worked that kid pretty hard.” And she said, (in Randy’s best faux British Sharon Osbourne impression) “No Randy. You abused him.” And I was like, “Hey man, you guys told us to do whatever we wanted. So I fucked him up.” People thought I was a total asshole. I loved it.
Most people know that reality shows are spinning it whatever way they want. Where you comfortable with how they showed that?
Absolutely. I Full Metal Jacket’ed his ass. When they found out why that happened, those fucking kids wouldn’t look at me. They’d be in the porto-johns and I’d get out with a bullwhip and crack it against the door. Pow! It sounded like a fucking shotgun going off. They were terrified. They didn’t smart off one bit to nobody after that.
What did you think of this years Ozzfest lineup?
I have friends on the tour… this years lineup sucks. I think it’s time for Ozzy to take a break. He’s tired man. He needs a break. I know he loves doing it, but shit. He did the Osbournes, the Ozzfests, all this other shit, he’s paid his dues. Let him rest on his laurels a little bit. I think Ozzfest is suffering because Ozzy’s not there. They should have taken a year off and then come back with a stronger lineup.
Would you do TV on any level? As an actor or your band?
I wouldn’t do a stupid reality TV show, unless they let me do it, and decide how to do it, which would never get past standards and ratings.
What about movies?
I love movies. When I went to college, I was there for the first year as a theatre student. I’m doing a movie when I get home. An independent movie. I know these guys that were in a kung fu school in Richmond. One of the guys is a filmmaker and he’s doing a zombie kung fu movie.
How about music videos? Do you think they still hold the magic they did in the 80’s before technology made them accessible to every band on every level?
I never watched videos in the 80’s. I didn’t have a TV in my house until I was in the 11th grade. Our TV blew up when I was in first grade during a lightening storm. So I started reading books. I wanted TV for a few years, but after awhile, it was like, fuck TV. But I don’t think music videos have the impact they used to. We finally got to do a fun video for our single “Redneck”. It’s such a not-tough guy Lamb of God video, it’s awesome. It’s so stupid and funny. All our videos have been pretty dark. This one was the only good time I’ve had shooting a video. Most videos now are just dudes being tough in a garage or something. Who had those crazy animated videos… Korn? See that’s cool. That’s exploring the medium and showing what you can do with it.
Who is most likely to end up in jail tonight?
If I was drinking still and my friends and family from Solana Beach are here, it would definitely be me. But I’m not drinking tonight… or for a long time. So I’d have to say, Willie. Because he’ll get drunk and do something stupid.
What areas of metal do you find fresh and exciting?
I don’t listen to metal that much. I find playing our music live fresh and exiting. Seeing a good metal band live, that puts on a kick ass show, that makes me, at 35 years old, want to raise some ruckus, I find that exiting in that live experience.
What areas of metal do you feel should hang it up?
Nu-Metal is definitely over. That should have never been or had the word metal applied to it in any way shape or form. There is a few of bands like us, Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, God Forbid, have been branded as the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. Journalists came up with that. We don’t say that. It’s just a group of us that came up together. Some of us came up further and some of us got to a medium level of success. We aren’t rich by any means. But at a certain point in time, it’s done with. There are a lot of young bands today that are sounding like Shadows Fall, or Killswitch Engage, or Lamb of God and that’s their idea of what metal started with, because they are so young. Whereas for us, metal is old Slayer, old Metallica and Megadeth and stuff. And we waited years after the fact. These kids that are playing this stuff now, we’re still around. That point, that time, that moment that it kind of happened for this scene, the original part of it, is over. It’s into the replicating second and third waves. The scene is really good right now though.
Do you consider yourself a role-model for younger bands?
Do you realize that you are looked up to as one anyway?
(hesitates) Yeah. It’s weird. This tour it’s gotten really weird, we’re getting more and more popular. It’s not something we were ever striving for. I’m just a regular dude from Virginia. I don’t like being swarmed and signing autographs. I don’t like going to New York and Los Angeles and hobnobbing. I’m not impressed by rockstars. The only aspect of myself that I would be proud of being looked at as a role model is that I definitely think for myself. Everybody is influenced by other people and their surroundings, but I am not brainwashed by mass media. I have a very strong, independent thought process. I ask my friends for advice, but I don’t blindly follow things. People need to think for themselves.
So you feel you band hasn’t peaked yet?
No. Not even close. I can feel it happening. It’s going to get crazier and crazier. It may not be like this in two years. But unless my gut feeling is wrong, and it almost always never is, it’s gonna blow up. I sit back and think about it a lot. Especially on this tour and not drinking. One of the reasons I drank a lot was to try and cope with some stuff. I’m not good at being a rockstar; I’m good at being a drunken ass.
That’s often one in the same.
Exactly. But I’d rather just go hang out with my boys and go fishing.
As a world traveled musician, what’s the most fucked up thing you’ve ever seen?
Recently, was when we went to New Orleans. A lot of bands aren’t going there because the numbers aren’t there. The French Quarter is still intact, but it was pretty deserted and you never see that. The kids were so appreciative of the show. They were so fucking stoked. We didn’t have the time to check out the Garden District and shit. But when we were leaving New Orleans, you could just see that it was just fucked. Hundreds and hundreds of cars underneath the expressway just destroyed. Whole neighborhoods with no electricity, no running water. It’s fucked. The American attention span being so short, people have forgotten about it already, and people are still fucked up down there.
What do the kids need to know?
I’m going to sound like a grumpy old fart, but the kids today need to know that they are not special. Today, parents aren’t allowed to discipline their kids anymore. It’s such a politically correct world. You can’t discipline anyone in school. Parents don’t raise their children anymore. They put them in front of the TV. If something’s wrong with them, they send them to a fucking shrink and he puts them on drugs. Kids need to know that they are not the be all end all. You can live life successfully without going to shrinks. And it’s ok if your pop whups your ass every now and then. You’re not precious. Kids need reality. A dose of reality. It’s slipping further and further away. Kids don’t go outside anymore and play in the woods. They sit there on computers. They need to know that there is something else. I don’t even know how to express it. In America, the state of raising our youth is fucked up right now.
Have you seen any other countries that are seemingly doing better?
Yeah. It’s kinda sad dude. In Canada, the fans there, except for in Montreal, they’re fucking French Canadians, fuck them, diet France, Paris light, I fucking hate them. Canadian fans, so polite, they still have manners up there. The fans in America, the kids have gotten really rude. They’re like, ‘HEY! HEY! HEY!’ always yelling and screaming and rushing you and its like, ‘Dude, I gotta go to work.’ They are rude as fuck. They think you owe them something. You gotta get to the point where it’s like a business transaction. You bought a ticket, I’m gonna put on a show. That’s it. I don’t owe you fuck. So fuck off. Kids in Europe were more polite. The culture there is much more deeply rooted. America’s culture… we’re building a cultural identity and I think it’s partly falling to pieces. We’re still such a young nation. You go to England, they been there forever. They have a cultural identity and they still have respect. American kids are disappointing these days. They need to know they have no manners anymore.
2006 Sacrament (Epic)
2004 Ashes of the Wake (Epic)
2003 As the Palaces Burn (Prosthetic)
2000 New American Gospel (Prosthetic)
1998 Burn the Priest (Legion)