Lamb of God Interview
by Mark Hensch
With 2006's Sacrament album driving Lamb of God to the forefront of the American heavy metal scene, I recently had a chance to talk to lead singer Randy Blythe early into the band's last tour in support of said album. The versatile growler touched upon a number of subjects, from metal to the future to success and back to metal again.
Mark Hensch for Thrashpit: First things first. Thank you so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule and shooting the sh*t with me today! Lamb of God is a favorite of mine and this is in many ways a dream come true. You guys just released Sacrament: Deluxe Producer Edition. What made your guys decide to let your fans mess with the Sacrament audio tracks in any way they want?
Randy Blythe: Our drummer Chris Addler actually came up with that idea one day. To our knowledge, no one had done it before. He felt it would be a really neat way to give something to the fans. Also, these days there's a lot of declining record sales. What with downloading and the laziness of the record industry, you sometimes have to do something special to get kids to even buy an album these days rather than download it. He came up with this idea then, and I thought it was pretty genius. The way things are with technology these days, people are going to take things and twist them and mold them anyways. There's so many computer editing tools, we were just like "f*ck it man, give it to them and let 'em have it!" We think it's a very good idea.
Thrashpit: Having not heard the fan-produced version of the album yet, what kind of surprises can we expect with the tracks fans turned in?
Randy: I actually haven't heard it yet either what with the tour and all. Our sound guy Dougie was in charge of the process and says we have a nice, broad catalog of music now. He told me about one song we got in where the person had put some effects on my vocals, and made me sing a song as if I was breathing in helium. I supposedly sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks! It is honestly f*cking ridiculous! For all I know, there's a techno remix on there! I might not like that kind of music personally, but I do think it would be kind of funny. Let people take it, I don't care. Do whatever you want with it, we find it entertaining and funny.
Thrashpit: Speaking of Sacrament, I'd like to ask you a question or two about that. It seems like the lyrics on this album are much more personally confrontational than on previous Lamb of God records. What kind of headspace were you in when you were writing the lyrics for the album?
Randy: We had two highly political records we wrote with As the Palaces Burn and Ashes of the Wake. With Palaces we'd been having a hard time over in the Middle East and with the Bush Administration of course. With this one, Mark and I were like "well, we might want to step back from politics on this one." I'm a political science major and I'm a punk rock kid, and punk rock and politics generally go hand-in-hand, so we were worried after Palaces we'd get branded as a political band. After Palaces we wanted to write something not as political but the climates at the time were still pissing us off enough that we again wrote it politically. We generally write about issues that anger, sadden, or depress us. Again, when Sacrament came around, we wanted to move away from the political thing. We aren't a political party and we conscientiously wanted to try something a little more personal and a little more accessible. We wanted fans to be able to take a song and give it their own meaning, maybe put their own personal experiences to it. That's just how our music goes though---we just don't want to write the same album again and again!
Thrashpit: Vocally, I think Sacrament is the best work you've done. What are some tips that you would offer aspiring singers at home?
Randy: Well, thank you! First of all, if you're looking for a job singing, don't. If you're looking for a job in the music industry, don't do it. It's the luck of the draw partly, and only some talent and hard work. There are bands much better than us that will never go anywhere and languish in the basement. You can't look at music as a job. For us, it's turned into a job, but it is first and foremost a passion. It is a passion that has turned into a job, but a passion nonetheless. As far as someone singing, my best advice is what any good guitar player or drummer would give any aspiring guitar player or drummer---listen to all kinds of music and see what you can learn from it. Don't be narrow-minded in your tastes! I listen to EVERYTHING---hip-hop, reggae, jazz, country, hardcore, punk rock, heavy metal, classic rock, all of it. You should try and learn to take what is best from each aspect of it. That's the best advice I can give to any aspiring musician. The other advice I can give is be prepared to eat sh*t for a long time and practice, practice, practice.
Thrashpit: What is your favorite song off Sacrament and why?
Randy: Do I have a favorite song on Sacrament? One of my favorite songs to play live is "More Time to Kill." I get to say "GODDAMIT!" and Chris, our drummer, came up with that. Hell, I don't even have to say it live, I can just hold out the mic and people will yell back "GODDAMMIT!" It is a nice little hook that is fun to play live. Overall, "Rise" is my favorite song though. It is a direct, personal experience song for me about these people or kids who think its fun or cool to portray themselves as White Trash or poor. They wear f*cked-up jeans and trucker hats that look kind of sketchy and think it's cool. There's nothing really hip about poverty. You ask any motherf*cker in Appalachia if they like being poor or wear f*cked-up jeans as it is all they can afford as they're on welfare and they'll say there's nothing fun or hip about it. That song is kind of a response then to the scenester-type people. I guess that's a greedy, narcissistic song then as it is directly from my personal experience but hey, if I enjoy it, I enjoy it.
Thrashpit: Maybe it is just me, but it seems like Sacrament has lots of religious or spiritual undertones. Was this a conscious effort?
Randy: Well of course! All our albums have had some religious symbolism. It is traditional of heavy metal, and it goes back to Black Sabbath, the first heavy metal band. The Bible is a really cool book, and it is just an awesome vehicle to convey metaphors that people understand.
Thrashpit: How did it feel to be nominated for a Grammy alongside other awesome bands like Slayer, Mastodon, Slipknot, and Shadows Fall earlier this year?
Randy: Those are our friends, so it was nice I guess to be nominated with our friends but I don't give an f*ck. A Grammy means nothing to me. My band went to appease their wives or whatever, but I didn't even go. Who cares if some industry schmuck wants to give me some little golden statue? I don't need it for validation of what my music means to me.
Thrashpit: You also sing for Halo of Locusts. What can you tell us about that project?
Randy: Of course my primary focus is Lamb of God. As such, it is hard to do anything with those guys as I'm always with Lamb of God. Hopefully this next year Lamb of God will take a little break as we need to recharge a little bit and make the new record. I hope that in that time I'll be able to settle down and do a little something with Halo too.
Thrashpit: What bands do you think have influenced Lamb of God the most?
Randy: Growing up, the thing that really turned me off all the pop bullsh*t was the Sex Pistols' Nevermind the Bollocks. I was like "wow, this sh*t is smart man---they're actually saying something. " They might not have been the most talented musicians in the world, but they were passionate and saying something relevant whereas on the radio, it's the same thing you've heard for 20-40 years now. Basically, boy meets girl and who gives an f*ck? Let's talk about something relevant. Anybody can fall in love and live together in happiness. It takes something with a socially-conscious cranium to create something relevant at the time. I liked a lot of punk rock when I was younger. The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, the Misfits, The Bad Brains, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, all of them were very political and yet I loved their sound.
Thrashpit: What are some bands around now that you think people need to hear about?
Randy: France's Gojira is someone we've toured with and needs to be heard. Philly's A Life Once Lost is another band. We've been supporters of Byzantine from West Virginia---those guys never seem to catch a break which is disappointing as they deserve it. All those are great younger bands.
Thrashpit: Lamb of God has often been associated with political themes. With this in mind, how do you feel about the state of things in our world right now?
Randy: Things are fucking worse since Ashes came out! There's just apathy. I'm not saying we'll never write another political song; it's just after two albums full of big "f*ck yous" to the Bush administration and big money corporate interests controlling our governmental policy we just feel it would be a little boring now. Sadly, this is how it's been since the beginning of time. Who has the money controls everything. It just seems to be getting worse. I've been around the world three times in the last year-and-a-half and you see people in other countries who seem much more aware of what's going on than Americans do. Americans have cable TV and their niceties and are comfortable. They've never really been bothered to step outside the box. Only 20% of Americans have a passport! You've got to go out and open your mind! But really I love our country. I just think its getting boring with our music. We said what we had to say, and we decided to look at ourselves a little bit for Sacrament. Maybe the next album will be a mix of both.
Thrashpit: I always like to ask bands if they have any crazy touring stories. What's the most outrageous thing you guys have ever done to kill boredom on the bus?
Randy: Haha not really. We're kinda old and tamer now. If you want good touring stories, read the Motley Crue book. They've kinda ruined touring in the 1980s for everyone else.
Thrashpit: The tour you guys are on is really wicked. How did you, Killswitch Engage, Devildriver, and Soilwork all end up on the same bill?
Randy: It's gone really well. We're playing lots of shows, tons of kids are coming out, and it is a pretty reasonable ticket price for a kickass tour lineup. Come out with your friends and have a good time!
Thrashpit: For all those fans at home reading this, how would you describe the Lamb of God concert experience for those that have never seen it personally?
Randy: It is just really wild, carefully orchestrated aggression. It is just no frills, no bulls*t heavy metal. That's what I would describe it as.
Thrashpit: Last question. What does the future look like for Lamb of God?
Randy: We're gonna at least do another record. Hopefully we won't become too prolific and write records every year ya know? We're kinda a career band---we've been around for 13 years already and we have a lasting fanbase with us. Hopefully it will last another 13, lucky number 13.
Thrashpit: Thanks so much dude! It's been a blast. Go out there and crack some skulls.
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