While you were probably drinking green beer on St Paddy's Day, Mark Hensch was checking out a show with Lamb of God, Machine Head, Gojira, and Trivium. Before the show, Mark sat down with Lamb of God's Willie Addler. Here is their conversation.
antiMusic: First things first. As a Lamb of God CD, Sacrament had some mighty wicked forerunners to surpass. And, this is just my personal opinion, but you guys hit it out of the ballpark. Sacrament was one of my favorite albums of 2006. I love the older stuff, all the way back to Burn the Priest even, but this is incredible music to be sure. What was it like in the studio while recording this monster? What things did you do differently than on previous albums, or what set of circumstances produced the excellent, pummeling aggression that Sacrament has?
Willie Addler: We tracked the guitars differently. We re-amped them….we put the guitars through different layers. The guitars now have two tracks rather than four as well. We did recorded at the same studio and with the same producer, so besides that the only thing different about this album is the longer time we spent in pre-production. It’s a far more developed record in my opinion.
antiMusic: Sacrament is also interesting as it marks a lyrical shift away from the sociopolitical anger of Ashes of the Wake and As the Palaces Burn towards a more subtle approach focusing on more personal matters. Was this something you guys consciously chose to do, or did it just happen? What level of input does each band member have in the writing process?
Willie: I think it was a little of both. At the time we were recording Sacrament, we had arrived at a point in time when personal matters where more prevalent than political ones. We had already done two albums on a political bent, and we felt like we were beating a dead horse. Basically, we had said what we had to say about it, and from there we felt that the things going on with us personally far outweighed everything else…obviously, what is going on with you influences what you do creatively.
antiMusic: In my opinion a song "Redneck" sees you guys walking up to the throne Pantera vacated and sitting very confidently in it. You guys were nominated for a Grammy in the "Metal Song" category this year for that, alongside Mastodon, Slayer, and several other great bands. How did it feel to finally get that kind of recognition from the music community, which typically doesn't have enough balls for a band like yours?
Willie: You know, it was nothing we set out to do…it was never like “we have to go out and get a f***ing Grammy!” It is still an honor to be recognized though. It is nothing we necessarily subscribe to, but it is interesting being able to go to the ceremonies and be on the red carpet and stuff. Such a mainstream music thing as this, it is interesting seeing people like Mastodon and us get recognition and being there was kind of surreal.
antiMusic: Speaking of Pantera, you and your brother Chris have drawn plenty of Dimebag Darrelll/Vinnie Paul comparisons (Dimebag was Pantera's guitarist; Vinnie was drummer, for those keeping score at home). How is it being around your own flesh-and-blood in such a trying relationship as a band? Is there lots of tension or do things work out fairly well?
Willie: It works out great as he is this guy I can go to and rely on. I back him up; he backs me up. I’ll even go back him up when he’s wrong just because he’s my brother, and vice-versa! We used to brawl all the time as kids, but nowadays we get along great. It works out very well to have him in the band with me.
antiMusic: Your band's singer, Randy Blythe, really changed things up on Sacrament. He's lyrically more introverted, musically possessing a more varied range, and physically he's altered his image, recently going skinhead for example. What inspired such drastic changes?
Willie: As far as the music goes, we push each other to be better. Randy’s vocals are far more serving to the songs on this record for example. We stepped up to the plate and so Randy had to as well. As far as personal stuff, that is more a question for Randy and I don’t want to disclose anything.
antiMusic: I love the new song "Forgotten (Lost Angels)." It reminds me of the suffocating sh*thole of a town I grew up in! What kind of community did you and your bandmates grow up in, and how did it make you the person you are now?
Willie: Chris and I grew up in a town in Northern Virginia, about forty minutes away from Washington D.C., and as far as that area shaped us, it wasn’t so much the town as the metal. My mom gave me piano lessons and got me into music at a very early age. When we moved to Richmond, it was tiny town with little going on outside of town as far as music goes. We had trouble getting respect there, mainly because there weren’t many people there who weren’t snobby about their local music. It seemed like people there would go to shows just to be seen and not so much because of the music.
antiMusic: They say a musician is his own worst critic. What is your favorite Lamb of God song, and what is your least favorite, and why? Any album is fine!
Willie: The best song? “Blacken the Cursed Sun.” It is different because it is somewhat simple but great at the same time. The riffs are there and it all comes together better than any other song we’ve ever done. I feel like we’re not just all over the guitars and stuff just to do it, but rather because it works for the song. It started with a riff I came up, so I might be biased, but I fee l like it just came together really well in bits-and-pieces.
The least favorite song I have is “Black Label.” At this point, it is so old and we going to keep playing it because everyone loves it. I could play it in my sleep and it just isn’t exciting for me anymore. When we first wrote it, I thought it was great, but now it’s just like…(haha).
antiMusic: Sacrament has some interesting religious undertones to it...obviously the name for example, but many of the lyrics deal with deeper topics than physical existence. How do you feel about religion and its role in today's world?
Willie: To each his own man. If you can get by simply by believing in something, do-it to-it. If it makes you feel better by going about your day, good. I personally don’t subscribe to anything, but I believe there is some kind of God. If you’re into it, fine.
antiMusic: How about the political end of things? Are you happy with the state of America right now?
Willie: You know what man? I really don’t follow it now. I would get pissed off before and realized that there isn’t a point…Randy and Mark are more into it, but at this stage I don’t pay any attention because I feel like s*** isn’t really going to change.
antiMusic: Many of my non-metalhead friends are horribly surprised that Lamb of God can play circles around something much s***tier, like say Dashboard Confessional. What techniques have you used over the years to hone Lamb of God to the airtight band it is today?
Willie: Always play, practice your ass off. If you want to hear the kind of music you want to hear, you’ll obviously get better. If you practice and do things for the love of music rather than something else, obviously your style will develop and you’ll have things turn into your own style. This music is something I love in my heart and it is something I feel passionate about.
antiMusic: Here's a fun one----what five bands influenced you the most growing up and why?
Willie: In no particular order:
1.) Sheer Terror---Chris listened to some more mainstream stuff and I just wanted to get some hardcore s*** that was a bit heavier.
2.) Early Metallica---Kill ‘em All totally blew me away, turned my world upside down. And Justice for All was the BE-ALL END-ALL album for me, the only thing I could always listen to.
3.) Megadeth---Marty Friedman was a f***ing monster on Rust in Peace.
4.) Slayer---Reign in Blood scared me to listen to it. It ended up being one of the most evil CDs I’ve ever listened to, just a great CD.
5.) Vio-Lence---great stuff. I can’t believe that we’ve been able to tour with Phil Demmel (Machine Head).
antiMusic: I heard somewhere you will be involved with the next Annihilator album? What are you doing with that?
Willie: I’ve known Jeff Walker forever, and he was an idol of mine growing up. I was kind of scared when he asked me to do a solo over his album as he can f***ing shred and I can write riffs and play fast but solos a little bit harder for me. It was really cool and I’m always trying to learn new stuff.
antiMusic: I'm all out of questions for ya dude. I'm really excited for the show tonight and can't wait to see you, Machine Head, Gojira, and Trivium tear it up! How did the tour come apart and how is it going so far?
Willie: We really wanted to bring Gojira out. I love that music, great stuff. It is like the heaviest band ever! They’re one of my favorites right now. We’ve toured with Machine Head before and we really dig their new stuff that’s coming out. Trivium approached us through their booking agents, so we added them and it has all worked out so far.