PURE AMERICAN METAL -
An Interview with Lamb of God
Interview by Christopher J. Kelter - November 17, 2000
For a while it appeared that I'd fallen for the seductive power of
European metal. I kept wondering exactly when I might find an American band to really get excited about. Aside from Shadows Fall
and Garden Of Shadows there really wasn't much out there until Lamb Of God's "New
American Gospel" showed up on my desk. I was hoping for something halfway interesting and what I got was
an unexpected surprise. Lamb Of God blew me away.
I joined the entire band for a chat during their recent stop in Baltimore for a concert. Drummer Chris Adler, vocalist D. Randall Blythe, bassist John Campbell, guitarist Mark "Duane" Morton, and guitarist Will Adler were engaged and energetic as we discussed the band's transition to Lamb Of God, the subsequent buzz surrounding the band, the Richmond scene, the reception for "New American Gospel," and the inspiration behind the lyrics.
Rough Edge: Why the name-change from Burn The Priest to Lamb Of God?
Chris: There are two things, in my mind, for the name change. First, towards the beginning of the change away from Burn The Priest we got Will to replace a guitar player and the band as a whole just took a huge step in momentum and what we were able to do.
Rough Edge: So is it a case of 1 + 1 = 3?
Chris: Actually, it was a case of 1 + 1 equals a different looking 2 than the 2 looked like before Will joined.
D. Randall: We really consider the Burn The Priest material and the Lamb Of God material in very different ways, especially in the approach. Even though you can listen to the two records it's almost like you're listening to two different bands. The way the band operated for Burn The Priest and Lamb Of God are two succinct, unique things.
Chris: We also took a lot of flak for the name Burn The Priest - having
a controversial name probably helped us more than it hurt us - but it had taken on something that we never really
intended. Unfortunately, we were classified or grouped together with a bunch of bands in black
metal. The band did not want to get backed into a corner that we couldn't get out of - we were
moving through all kinds of music and the name Burn The Priest was really hurting us. So we
turned the name of the band on its head and made it a little less of a sledgehammer in the
face of what we're all about.
D. Randall: We were able to let the music speak for itself a little bit more. A lot of kids I know probably picked up the Burn The Priest record as said (assumes evil guttural voice) - "these guys must be the most brutal Satanic death metal ever!" (everyone laughs)
John: Well, it wasn't Satanic or straight death metal either ...
D. Randall: You're automatically stamped with "EVIL" on your forehead
with a name like Burn The Priest.
Rough Edge: Given all that, the band still chose a name that has some religious connotation or imagery to it. Is there any particular reason behind the use of religious imagery?
D. Randall: The comedy of the absurd.
John: I don't think it's necessarily that. There was a project that Mark was working on that never really got 'out of the garage,' but I think Lamb Of God was fronted as a possible name for that band. Mark was definitely pushing for a name change.
Mark: The dichotomy of the two names is appealing to me. I don't think it was necessarily something we focused on and had as an agenda.
Will: At least for me, Lamb Of God doesn't mean anything religious whatsoever. The name is more like a symbol of the rebirth of the band.
Mark: It was a little bit spiritual for me; I wouldn't say it was
religious. But it was somewhat personal and like I said earlier it wasn't part of the band's agenda.
Chris: We'd like for people to figure it out themselves.
Rough Edge: Not too many people think of Richmond, Virginia when they think of hot spots for metal. What did Richmond have to offer that turned you guys into this metal beast that you are? Or, perhaps, what did Richmond not have that turned you guys onto metal?
John: When I think of Richmond I don't necessarily think of metal, but I do think of all the great musicians. There are all kinds of great bands in different musical styles in Richmond. Mark actually plays in a country band in Richmond; they're all phenomenal musicians.
Chris: We could talk for two hours about the Richmond community, about the caliber of musicians there. Richmond has a very tight, closed music scene; but there is some really heavy stuff in Richmond. There are a lot of bands right now that are heavy; there's a huge legacy of great bands, too.
Mark: If you're not from Richmond you wouldn't necessarily think of it being a music town, but we've been there for ten years and we've paid a lot of attention to the music scene in Richmond.
John: We have to 'step up' and play in front of those same people. If you don't come to Richmond with your shit together, people will laugh at you. If you're not 'on it' with you own material Richmond is a tough place to play.
D. Randall: Even if you're not that good Richmond people will still hang out and drink with you! (everyone laughs)
Rough Edge: My only experience with Richmond was that it seemed to be a family-oriented city. People went to work in the city and then went home to their families. I got the impression that the city shutdown in the evenings and there wasn't much of a nightlife or a vibrant music scene.
Chris: There is a problem with a lack of places to play. Richmond does have a bad reputation for bands that want to tour. There's not a lot of clubs around right now.
Mark: Ten years ago there were six clubs on Grey Street alone; there was a show every night in every club.
Rough Edge: How was it working with Steve Austin on "New American Gospel"? Steve Austin has his own legacy and his own history with Today Is The Day.
John: That all came together in a funny way.
Chris: When we did the Burn The Priest record we really had a tight, tight, tight budget to go up there and record 14 songs in 4 days ...
John (with sly sarcasm): We had exactly 7 dollars. (everyone laughs)
Chris: When we originally sat down to discuss the producer for the Burn The Priest record there were lots of 'money' names that we wanted to try out. We had played with Today Is The Day a couple of times before and we sent him some material - Steve got back to us right away and we really wanted it to work no matter how much or how little we had. Steve was a fan of the band at the time. I really wasn't too psyched about it because I didn't think he had an ear or a sense of what we were as a band. But, as it came down to it, he was the best option of the bunch. Knowing he was a fan of the band swayed us to go up there and do it. Since that experience I don't think there is any way we can do anything without Steve being somehow involved in the project. Steve totally became a member of the band. He's an amazing guy with a lot of talent and he was behind everything that we were trying to achieve.
John: He's as fucked up as we are and that works for both him and the
band very well. (everyone laughs)
Rough Edge: If you read about his trials and tribulations in the studio you always end up hearing about trouble with noise ordinances and cops showing up - anything like that happen while you were there?
John: We had the cops out one night.
Will: It's not that exciting of a story, really.
Mark: I had nothing to do with it! (everyone laughs)
John: We were outside the studio drinking in the parking lot; I think a couple of cops that were just sick of sitting around found themselves something to do.
Will: It's a conservative town without a lot of tolerance for things getting out of hand.
Rough Edge: I get the sense that the response for "New American Gospel" has been pretty good, everybody is onto the "New American Gospel," and there are positive reviews everywhere you look. The band looks at it from a different angle because it's your work that you've put out there for everyone to hear, critique, etc. What is the band's perception of the response to the new record?
Mark: We're all very psyched to see how well people are responding to it.
Will: Yeah, people's responses have been strong and immediate.
Mark: We're amazed at how people have responded to it. It's cool because we feel the same that others feel: we're really excited about "New American Gospel." We're really proud of it.
Will: Playing live and playing those new songs is great.
Chris: I haven't seen a bad review yet, but I'm sure there's many bad reviews out there. When we play a live show and we can get the songs as tight as we originally recorded it we're very happy even if we get booed off the stage. To be able to play together, to have the kind of family that we have, and to keep doing what we love. Although it's great to see good review, we never really expected to see too many good reviews. We never expected to be on a label or touring - we do this for fun.
John: One of the things that we learned on the tour we just did was that we aren't like some other bands that might be doing something that's a bit contrived. We have a totally different approach; if I had to pay to do this - which I have done - it's actually kind of nice to have someone come up and give us a free beer!
Chris: Every one of us is a very big fan of music. We're making the music we want to hear, the kind of music that nobody else is doing. Sometimes you'll see a band that is in music to be in the business and it's disheartening; whereas we're here to have fun and do what we want to do.
Rough Edge: "New American Gospel" has an interesting blend of power and technicality - how did the band achieve this combination?
D. Randall: Richmond! (everyone nods in approval)
Chris: One, I don't want to be bored with what we're playing - what we play isn't boring to us. Second, the guys that influenced everything that we're doing were the guys going in that progressive direction.
John: Not everything we do is technical, but a huge part of what we do is to see how clean and tight we can get.
Chris: We like to keep it interesting, but we like to rock out, too.
Mark: A lot of what you're hearing is the blend of musicians in Lamb Of God. Everything that happens in songwriting in this band is collaborative. Everyone's got a vote. Everyone brings different things to the music. Will does certain things on the guitar that I would never do because I necessarily didn't listen to the record that he was listening to and ripped it off from. (everyone laughs) The point is that everyone is different; Randy isn't from a metal background at all. Somehow it all works even if we all come from different angles. It's awesome.
Chris: Four guys writing the music coming from four different perspectives although at the same time we're really all into heavy stuff. We're going to have some jumpin' around and some crazy shit goin' on in the music.
John: We are all on the same page with a lot of stuff so that's why it all comes together and eventually works itself out.
Rough Edge: The band's lyrics seem to deal with a) the clash of the sacred and
the profane, and b) confrontation of the past/present versus the future - comments? Or maybe I'm reading too much
into the lyrics?
D. Randall: The clash of the sacred and the profane is an interesting comment. Basically what I write about is complete discontent with the way power structures are in every society. The name of the song "In The Absence Of The Sacred" is taken from a book from a guy named Jerry Mannard about how native Indians have lost their way of living due to technology crashing onto them. My life is kind of like that: we live in a very secular world, but I have my own spirituality and at the same time I have a computer. It's a big paradox. The past/present versus the future I don't necessarily see.
Rough Edge: I think the technology issue is what I was driving at. I think when we see the word 'technology' we think of the future despite the fact that we've had technology for thousands and thousands of years. People associate the word 'technology' with change and how we're all going to be better off tomorrow. People think technology has advanced more in the last five years than it advanced in the twenty years previous to that.
D. Randall: I think technology is moving too fast for people to catch up to. It's like today's television generation - everything is from television. The attention span of children now is shorter than ever. Everything is basically cut up into thirty-minute segments; on one extreme it's thirty seconds and on the other it's sixty minutes. We're not given a chance to sit back and think about it.
John: People aren't encouraged to sit back and think about anything.
Chris: What I got from the lyrics after sitting down with Randy is that the lyrics bring out a lot of things that are purposefully ignored - the lyrics bring everything back to the surface.
D. Randall: Maybe I see things that are happening that are really ugly and no one wants to pay attention to them or even choose to ignore.
Rough Edge: How was the tour with GWAR?
D. Randall: It was great.
John: It was a great experience because we learned a lot about doing a show in front of a lot of people.
Rough Edge: A lot of new bands when they hook up with a big tour don't realize that it may be the only big tour that they ever do.
John: We know a lot of the guys in GWAR. It was almost like a big brother taking a younger brother under their wing.
Chris: It was a great learning experience because it was the first time we'd played in three thousand seat rooms. Hopefully we can use what we've learned in the future as we've got some things lined up in the future including a tour in Europe.
Rough Edge: What about the fans - where you able to meet the fans all across the country?
John: Absolutely. People from the Towson show and the DC show on the GWAR tour are here tonight - that's very cool to see new fans show up the next time you're in their area.
Mark: We'd heard some horror stories before the tour about opening bands
on the GWAR tour were going to catch a lot of shit so we weren't exactly too sure what to expect. Things turned out far more
positive than we could ever have imagined.
Chris: There wasn't a bad night on the GWAR tour - that helped. Response to us was great everywhere.
Rough Edge: Who is Frank Pollard?
D. Randall: Frank Pollard is a great friend of mine from Chicago - he's a crazy, insane artist. Every time I see him, and I stay with him every time I'm in Chicago, something insane happens - he's bizarre. The song "Terror And Hubris In The House Of Frank Pollard" is about showing up in Chicago at Frank's house and everything just exploding. He's art is some of the best and most amazing stuff I've ever seen. I felt he deserved a song in his honor.
Rough Edge: There is such a connection between music and an album cover. Or, in this day in age, there's a connection between the music and a video. People remember what the cover of an album looks like when they hear a song. Or even when you see an album cover you start hearing the songs in your head. It's very interesting when music and art is talked about, because music is an art form, yet another art form is used to promote music.
Mark: Ken Adams at K3N is an amazing artist. He's done both our album covers and they're both in very different styles. He's done a lot of things for a lot of people, but we know his artwork has had an impact for us.
Rough Edge: Any last words?
D. Randall: Send me more beer. (everyone laughs)
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