Playing with massive 80´s/90´s bands, no more crackers, international festivals and an incidence with an overexcited, one-legged fan armed with a colostomy bag: Lamb of God´s drummer, Chris Adler gives us insight to the making and character of their latest album, ´Wrath´.
So how is the tour going?
It´s good, this is kind of a mini-tour we´re on now.
How do you cope with the stress during tours; meditation, yoga or just good old fashion drugs and alcohol?
Hehe, no there´s no drugs involved, I have actually taken into training. I took a bicycle with me on the last tour and that´s my way of dealing with the stress.
Six Saltine crackers in one minute? Anybody else in the band have a skill as useful as this?
That´s something we did for the DVD. I just randomly did it that one time and I haven´t been able to do it again since then. As for the other guys, I think they´re just good at the normal Heavy Metal thing; drinking and that kind of thing.
What about touring, what´s your favourite line-up, who do you like playing with?
Wow, well we´ve been very fortunate in playing with some amazing bands and one of the things we never thought would happen, but it did. The four big bands from the 80´s and 90´s; Anthrax, Megadeath, Slayer and just recently now, Metallica. We´ve also done things with Black Sabbath, Dio, with Ozzy. Becoming from this small company to someone who´s touring with all these bands, we have been very honoured and flattered to play these stages with these bands that obviously influenced us. But the biggest thing for me was Meagadeath, as I used to be a huge fan. That was kind of a treat for me to meet those guys and to hang out with them. But we have learned quite a bit from the bands we played with, most recently Metallica. It´s a very class-act, it´s very professional. They were very friendly and hospitable, not only with the other bands, but also with their whole crew. They could bring their families and had good food, everybody was enjoying themselves. That is very hard to find, especially with Metal bands; there´s negative people in the bands themselves, in their crew, there´s negative people in the venues. So that was pretty much a role model for us on how to do things and treat people and we´ve adopted that into what we do and how we treat people after how we´ve seen how people treat each other, so we try to stay away from that and give some positive energy in the tour. And seeing how a huge band like that does it is truly an inspiration to us all.
Well, how about festivals and cities, do you have any favourites?
A couple of years back we were just beginning to learn about all the different festivals. We´ve done several of them; last year we did the Rock am Ring, Rock am Park and Download. This year we´re doing Soundwave in Australia. But really because of our record label that we had before Roadrunner -this is actually the first album we are doing with Roadrunner- our previous record label; Sony Epic Records did a miserable job of helping us here. All we did was without the record label and just word of mouth, people talking over the internet that there is this new band from the U.S. While they did a good job in the U.S, they did a horrible job outside the U.S, so it´s been a slow grow for us, so we´re looking forward for Roadrunner getting us into many more of these festivals. I think we´re planning on Rock am Ring and Rock am Park this year. Playing Download was included in our DVD; that was a quite a remarkable experience and I remember – well actually I can´t remember as when I came off my chair I was genuinely asking people how it was, because I kind of blacked out and just let my muscle memory do what its supposed to do. If you look out and think about what you´re going to do, and see all the people, it gets really scary.
Just talking about the progression of the band itself, after listening to “Wrath”, I´m pleased to see that you are sticking to what you do best. A lot of bands have problems re-inventing themselves, but still remaining in their primary sound -take for example Slayer: Their latest album was interesting because it sounded just like good old Slayer, but still new, and it was really brilliant. Do you have any specific methods how to keep fresh?
It´s difficult ´cause it´s the same five guys, and we´re always going to be a Heavy Metal band and it´s only so far you can stretch those boundaries, but with every record we go into it´s been a discussion and the first goal has been to somehow evolve -as what you said- to somehow maintain the integrity and purpose of this unforgiving Metal band, but somehow not get stagnant and do the same thing over again. We go into each record keeping this in mind; to push it in different directions, and with this time it really depends on the song, we push each other. We are very determined to evolve and we also keep in mind when we write a few songs or go into pre-production, we listen to it and when we don´t feel like we´re not moving forward, or just staying even, we drop those songs and possibly drop the idea of doing a record because we don´t want to do the same thing again. Over here we´re still a new band, but we´ve been together as a band for 15 years. So in the end I´d rather look back and say we did 6 good records and that was an amazing career, than say we did 8 records, but only 5 or 6 were good. I´d rather stop the project and have it be that we were proud of what we did.
Going onto your latest album, is there some underlying theme, because I found some religious references, so are you going into a religious or socio-political theme?
Well, ´Sacrament´ was a very personal record for Randy, I guess he had some daemons he exorcised and some personal issues, but the two albums previous to that (´Ashes´ and ´As the Palaces Burn´) were very much political and so with this record, we decided since we did two very political records, we would not do it again so we needed this to be a bit more turn inside and talk about the personal things that were affecting us. So with this record (Wrath), instead of saying we are going to do this and not going to do this, we decided to leave it open; there are political songs on the record and some more personal songs, and the last song on the record, ´Reclamation´ is a message about what kind of a world we live in and how we treating each other and the planet itself.
Going into political, is there any reference to the new president?
Well, most of the records were written before the elections and we are not shy about talking about our political interests and beliefs. At the same time we are not trying to be a political party, or to tell people what to think or who to vote for, but it is important for us to people to think about it and be educated and for people to make their own decisions. Personally I am very happy that for the first time in 8 years I can travel the world and not be embarrassed.
I kind of feel that I have to congratulate you on that one. Keeping on the album, it was produced by Josh Wilbur. Looking at what he produced before; Kid Rock, Bloodhound Gang, Lil´ Kim…
Hehehe! I think he took part in a Steve Earl record and won a Grammy for that. All the records that you mentioned, I think he worked as an assistant engineer in that, and he did not produce any of the records, nor would have we worked with anyone who had.
My follow-up question onto that is did you have any fears with taking on a producer with such a label on him?
It´s actually quite funny as the answer is quite the opposite of what you might have thought. In the last two records we worked with the producer ´Machine´ and we felt there was some push from inside the band to do something aside from Metal, and there was definitely some push from Machine to be more than just a Metal band. To somehow find a way to make a very aggressive, almost unlistenable Metal act to somehow find a way to sell that to everybody and make it a little bit more widespread. In the DVD of making of Sacrament, you can see that there was some discontent in the band to some of the ideas and it was somewhat uncomfortable. In the end we were very, very proud of ´Sacrament´, it was our most successful record and I don´t want to make it seem that we were in any way unhappy, we were not, BUT in that process we learned a lot from Machine, we learned a lot about ourselves, how we write songs and we wanted to get away from that idea. We wanted to explore what more we could be than what we could be than just a Metal band. We lost some of the edge, the aggression from some of the earlier material; we wanted to capture that back. So the reason we chose Josh is that he worked a little bit with us on ´Sacrament´, he did the drum engineering and tracked a little bit of the guitars and we overheard some of his discussions with Machine and he was not arguing, but disagreeing with some of the decisions and directions that were being taken and he saw in us this aggressive animal of a band that was being caged and initially talking to him, he was very interested in bringing that out and letting us be what we wanted to be, now armed with the new experiences we learned with Machine in the other two albums. This is Josh´s first real Metal album he has produced, and no, I was not concerned that he was going to make us more commercial; we chose him because we knew he was going to let us be more aggressive.
Going on to the aggressiveness of the music, it kind of sounds like some of your songs were specifically made for moshpits; they´re really heavy, really fast, really aggressive. Are you doing that on purpose? Are you doing that to pass on the aggression just to see what the people would do?
No, were asked all the time “Do you think ´Wrath´ will be as successful as ´Sacrament´ and what do you expect from this record?” and honestly we never know what is going to happen when we write these songs. We´re not thinking about people listening, we´re no thinking of playing them, and we´re not thinking on that level, we´re not even thinking if it´s going to sell. All we care about when we are writing is when we five are in a room we all have to say this makes me feel something; it makes me want to punch something, or drive fast, it makes the hair on my neck stand up, or something about it makes you feel something inside. If you take these demo tapes into the car and you can imagine yourself in a concert, it´s like what you said, it´s a lot of energy and we are as a listener, as a fan of Heavy Metal, when we write these songs, we think of what we want to hear and put that onto the record. So its more about we have to feel happy and I´m glad that you think of those things when you hear it and its cool for me to hear this because it´s just the five of us making ourselves happy and I´m glad to hear that it makes other people happy also.
Do you have any plans on re-enacting your stage dive playing, well, not maybe you, but Mark or Randy…?
Yeah, well I think Randy pulled that out of his ass at the last song in that show we did in our hometown and that was a very, very scary, crazy moment to see how this is going to work but a lot of fun and I think when the guitar players came back on stage, I remember them saying “don´t ever fucking do that again”, so I don´t know, Randy is a pretty crazy guy; maybe he´ll push that idea again or come up with something even crazier.
I have heard some of your songs being played in some softer radio stations, so how do you feel about some more pop-orientated listeners hearing your music?
I never heard of that. It doesn´t bother me if we can somehow make the ugly, aggressive music that we make somehow making itself into pop radio, maybe it somehow shows how the music culture is changing to more real music. We are not for some pop success, but if pop radios are playing our music maybe that shows that more people are into the heavier stuff -for me that is a positive sign.
Well that already happened to Slipknot, they´re on MTV.
Yeah, well, were not going to be making any sing-song-songies about girls, I don´t think that´s going to happen quite as fast, but…
As for the review of the album, I kind of feel that I should write two reviews; one purely objectively, not acknowledging that this album is by Lamb of God, or any other band for that matter, and the other specifically as yours, referring it to previous productions…
That´s an interesting process, why on earth would you do that?
Well with the first part, the pure objectiveness is clear, but with the later, the more fame a band gets, the higher the expectations get. When a band has made some good albums, and then releases a new album –as you´ve done- the expectations for that new album are greater. Do you get nervous because of this?
No because the pressure we put onto ourselves to create a better album is much greater than what anyone else can put on us, if that makes sense. We are very, very critical to ourselves and each other in writing these songs and we push ourselves into uncomfortable places because it makes us better and we disagree and we argue because we care a lot and when you get us five to agree on anything, it tends to be good and this process has worked for us in the past. I do understand what you are saying; being a fan, I expect some things from bands that I like and being a part of a band, as far as the public are concerned, there is no room for error, but when I write these records, it is not in hopes of selling a million records. As I walk away from the project I can later in life look back and be proud of the integrity of the project, and we did it for ourselves, not to make somebody else happy.
That sounds really good. What was the most memorable thing that happened on your last tour?
Well I will tell you a stage story: It may have been from the “Ashes of the Wake”-tour. We were playing in Phoenix, Arizona and this was a rather big place, maybe 3000 people, regular photo-pit barrier security fence, a lot of big security guys and half way through, I notice that somebody had gotten through the barrier, through security and is now on stage. And now he is coming to Mark, and Mark is not a very touchy-feely person. With the tragedies that have happened on stage before, this kind of situation can be very scary, and I´m looking at Mark and wondering what´s going to happen and the song keeps playing and I look the other way to see if security in going to come on stage to get this guy away. Normally when kids get on stage they wave to their friends and they jump back. But this person has his arm wrapped Mark and jumping there and I´m surprised that Mark is not pushing him away, and even Randy is moving away and I look at security and their mouths are hanging open. So I´m looking closer at this guy and I guess that he has recently been in an accident and only has one leg and somehow hopped with one leg on stage, but obviously was a fairly recent accident because he has a backpack with a colostomy bag on his side, but it has fallen down and is somehow wrapped around Marks guitar cable. Nobody wants to go anywhere near this guy because this shit and piss could spill at any second and is just lying on the ground; Mark is horrified and I am kind of smiling at myself and being glad that I am the drummer in the band. After the song was over they sorted it out, but that was definitely one of the craziest moments.
It looks like we are out of time, so I would like to say that after listening to Wrath, I really like it and I hope it will be as successful as your previous albums.
Thank you, I feel particularly proud of the fact that after ´Sacrament´ we were given the choice to go a bit softer and I am proud of being a member of a band that chose to go the other way.