LAMB OF GOD’S CHRIS ADLER: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
I’m not going to give you Chris Adler’s resumé the way I might in a normal interview intro. If you’re reading MetalSucks, you either know who Chris Adler is, or you’re my mom and you’re just trying to be supportive. Rather, I want to tell you a quick story about my experience interviewing Adler.
When I called him for our scheduled interview, he apologized and asked if he could call me back in a little while. “I’m just sitting my daughter down for dinner,” he tells me. When I later told him that I’m impressed that he actually still sits his daughter down for dinner, he chuckled and replied, “Yeah, dude, when I’m home, I’m totally Mr. Mom.”
And that’s Chris Adler in a nutshell: one of the most accomplished drummers from one of the biggest bands in modern metal is actually a really down-to-earth dude. And that’s not just hype; this is the second time I’ve spoken to Adler, and the second time I’ve walked away with the distinct impression that he is a sincerely nice guy who has managed to keep his head on his shoulders despite all his success. Isn’t that a nice change of pace for once?
After the jump, read my chat with Adler about this Sunday’s Grammy Awards, touring with Metallica, what the future holds for Lamb of God, and, oh yeah, the MetalSucks comments section.
2009 was another banner year for Lamb of God. You released Wrath, did some headlining tours, opened for Metallica, and now you’ve been nominated for a Grammy for the second time. Do you ever stop to reflect on all the success the band has enjoyed?
I kind of don’t let myself do that too often. Like you said, there’s this thing that we’ve achieved that most people hope to do when they start a band, and we continue to do it. It’s more than we ever thought was possible for ourselves, and I think it’s partially due to the fact that we continue to push even when, I guess, most people set a goal and kind of stop [once they’ve achieved that goal]. We never really had a goal to be nominated for a Grammy or to tour with Metallica. It was never on the list of realistic things that we might be able to do. So I think we just kind of keep our heads down, do our work, and these kinds of things seem to come to us. It feels great. I realize when speaking with other guys in other bands, younger bands that are coming up, kind of how far we’ve gotten. So I certainly understand how lucky and fortunate that we are, but it’s not something that I really dwell on too often because I just want to do my part to make sure that it keeps going in that direction.
I’m sure you’re aware that there’s a perception amongst a certain portion of metal fans that the Grammys are not as meaningful to metal as they are to other genres of music…
I think there are people that never forgave the voters for Jethro Tull and think that because the awards are not, by and large, voted on by metalheads, that it’s not as meaningful. Do you have a take on that?
I’m with those people. I’m that guy. I’m a metal fan that’s watched this award show kind of make a mockery of metal since it started… especially when it started. It was kind of like “Here we go, two separate sails on the first path.” Although obviously everyone hears the name of the bands, the actual songs, and those kinds of things, it seems like that the few people that do know what they’re talking about help out. Do I think it’s the kind of be all, end all greatest award for a metalhead? Absolutely not. Do I respect the fact that anybody recognizes us? Sure. It happens to be the leading organization for the organized music world. Did I think that when I started the band that maybe someday I’ll get a Grammy? Absolutely not. It’s not a goal.
I don’t want to say that it’s not a credible thing because any artist being in any way recognized for what they do is certain to be flattered by that recognition. Honestly, I am. I am honored, because of who they are.But even if we win it, I’ll always know in the back of my head that it was a little tarnished from the start. It is what it is.
Are you even planning to attend the ceremony, or do you watch it from home, or do you just not watch at all?
Last time we did, all of us attended except for Randy [Blythe, vocalist]. He had his own little personal boycott of it in the same vein that we’re talking about – thinking that it’s kind of a joke. This time, I think three of us are attending. Mark [Morton, guitarist] and Randy are staying at home. Randy, out of some personal protest, is not attending. I did attend the first time, and I am attending this time. It’s not that I’m going and thinking that we’re going to win. In fact, I’m fairly certain that we’re not. I think that there are several bands on the list that definitely deserve to win. For me, the after-parties and the show itself are just crazy. It’s so out of my world. I’m just this kid from Virginia that grew up listening to metal. Last time I went to the Grammys, I ended up at a party with “Weird Al” Yankovic and Smokey Robinson. Paris Hilton was there, Dave Grohl was there, and I’m looking around like, “How the fuck did I get in here?” [laughs]
Do they seat you with the other metal nominees so at least you’re close to the Slayer dudes and the Megadeth dudes and some of the guys you know?
Yeah. Well, the last time they did. We all kind of sat together and jeered each other on. At this point, we all know each other fairly well. It’s a pretty cool little community there.
Do any of these moments phase you anymore? I know you try not to dwell on it too much, which I think is probably a smart game plan, but do you ever stop and think “Jesus Christ, I cannot believe that we’re opening for Metallica?” Is there anything like that?
[laughs] Yeah. They all phase me. I’m far from being so jaded as to not realize how special these opportunities are. When the Metallica call comes in, it was just, “How is this possible, that we’ve come this far and on gotten on these guys’ radar?” That tour was great. Obviously it was great because we got to play in front of twenty-thousand people a night. It was also great because those guys really made an effort to hang out every night, took us out to dinner, took us out for drinks, talking about stuff, music, and they’re genuinely still interested in what they do and how they’re doing. It was a nice surprise on that level to meet a band that’s still pushing forward. They’re at the top of their game, but still down to earth.
Of course, the Grammys, the gold and platinum plaques that we get in the mail, that stuff is… I don’t know… yeah, I definitely take notice and it definitely affects me, but it almost feels like it’s not real somehow. Obviously it is. Maybe it’s because I really haven’t slowed down enough to accept it all. I think when I get older and the touring breaks down a little bit, I’ll definitely have some stories to tell.
It’s funny to me, to call you and hear you say “Oh, I’m just sitting my daughter down for dinner” because it’s like… you’re Chris Adler, don’t you have somebody to do that?
[laughs] That’s the kind of thing… I go to the grocery store, I go to the gym, I do the normal things that I think I would do if I was working a nine-to-five job. So my daily reality is not getting smacked in the face with being a famous rock star.
Although, out on the road when the kids are lined up at the bus at eight in the morning for autographs, obviously there’s something going on here. But our existence is not built on that. I don’t thrive on that. I didn’t get into this for the ego boost. It’s because I love this music, and I love the fact that we’re able to keep going.
That’s great, man. That’s the other thing: it seems like Lamb of God, maybe more than some of your peers, have really set an example for how to be on a major label and not sacrifice any of your artistic integrity. Do you ever feel, being a part of this big, shiny, flashy world with the Grammys and everything, any pressure to change your sound, or go off on and make a Black Album or whatever?
No. We get that question a lot, especially with the suits all up our ass about writing radio hits and that kind of thing. At this point, we’ve kind of, I think over and over, proven that we’re really going to stay a pretty heavy band. We know that’s what we know how to do well, so we’ll stick with it. It’s almost easier to do that than it would be to change things up now. I think we built a bit of a trust with our fans and friends of the band. For us to say at this point “Hey, let’s really go for the cash grab,” it seems silly. Like you said earlier, with the Grammys and the tour with Metallica, it’s like… how much more do we need to know that we’re doing something right? Why would we fuck with it now? You know what I mean? To change it at this point would be kind of silly. I think it would probably do us far worse than it would any good.
So where do you see the future of Lamb of God going now? I assume you haven’t even started thinking about the next album yet, you’re still touring strong behind Wrath.
Yeah, we started in December of 2008, and we’re going to November of this year. I was just talking to Mark, our guitar player, earlier today, and he has five or six tunes that he’s got kind of worked out, or at least bringing to the process. We’ve only had the month of January off from the whole touring cycle, but I’ve been still going to the rehearsal space playing drums for three hours a day. I’m definitely chomping at the bit to get going. I think the challenge is, for us, none of us are getting any younger and none of us really wants to leave the project with a last album that kind of stinks or that’s just rehashed, slowed-down crap. None of us want that. We really want to push and try and do something that somehow steps up where we left off. Obviously with Wrath, which I believe is a really kick ass album… It’s not watered down. As far as me going back and listening to the catalog, [Wrath is] as strong as ever. I think it’s important, for me, to even outdo that one in some way. That doesn’t mean faster or heavier or whatever, but as a member of the band, I think we all push each other. For myself, I definitely want to step up my capabilities of performing on the next one.
When you go back and listen to whatever the most recent Lamb of God release is at any given time, do you think that there are things that you want to do differently next time? Do you see ways to challenge yourself, or does that kind of evolve naturally?
From the day when we start writing the parts, I’m always second guessing myself. Absolutely. Even when the song is done in the studio, I’ll stay up all night just listening to the track to reassure myself that it’s the best performance and the coolest fill or whatever it is. Yeah, I have a personality that stays way too focused on the itty bitty details. I’ve learned with working with producers that that’s certainly the type of personality that you need to create that kind of product, but it’s also the kind of personality that keeps you way too in the fishbowl, and you never want to let it out. You always want to turn another knob or spend another hour on it. I kind of have to mediate that a little bit, but yeah, I’m always second guessing and always listening to what I can do better the next time or what seems to be lacking in whatever area. I’m constantly judging myself.
I know you just said that nobody in Lamb of God wants to go out on a sour note, but when you look at Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica, do you think “Man, we can easily do this for another ten years?” You said that no one is getting any younger… do you feel that there is a looming expiration date on Lamb of God?
Well, I suppose there’s a looming expiration date on all of us in everything that we do. It’s kind of battling the inevitable to tell you that we’re going to go on forever.
Personally, I’m fighting that with every feeble attempt that I have. I eat well. I’m always at the gym. I’m always playing drums. There are a million kids that are right behind us and want to be exactly where we are. I respect that responsibility that I have, with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got to do to keep going. I don’t want to be a slouch about this. If it’s my job, I better do it well. To think that I can do it forever? No. I’m realistic with myself. To think that I can do it for a couple more years and maybe perform as well as, if not better than, I have? I think I still have it in me. I know what you’re saying – when do I get to that point of “No, I can’t do it anymore?” I think that’s everybody’s challenge. The five of us are pretty brutal with each other in the writing room. I think when it comes down to it, we’re going to know either that someone [in the band has] gotten a little too slack or lazy or doesn’t want it as much anymore, and I think we’re going to have to call ourselves out on it at that point. As far as being able to tour and do what we want? I think we have this really loyal fan base where we could continue at this level probably as long as we want. I think we’ll probably shut it down before it falls apart on us because we really want to be proud of whatever legacy we leave behind.
So you’re home now, and you got the Grammys at the end of the week and then you guys are heading over to Europe. Is that right?
Yep, that’s it. We’re following up the Metallica tour. We’re doing our own headlining one over there, and we’re bringing some cool bands with us as well. I’m looking forward to that. We’re doing some crazy places all year long. We got some invitations from India. We just got an invitation yesterday from Turkey. We’re going to China and Russia.
Have you played those places before?
No, never. So sixteen years into the career and we’re still going to new places. Obviously we’re all really excited about that.
And I read today that you’ll be documenting some of that for a DVD?
That’s the plan. I got yanked around the neck for talking about it. I went against the master plan of releasing that information. [laughs]
Oh. Got it.
Yeah, there’s a little something in the works.
Okay, cool. Well, I want to let you get back to your family. Do you have anything to add for the MetalSucks readers?
I’m a fan, man. I’m always on the site. It’s fun to read the kids that’ll call me “an old poser.” So nothing more to add.
You can’t pay attention to those kids, man.
[laughs] It’s just funny to read.
Sometimes I stop reading the comments for awhile because I can’t take it anymore. So I appreciate that you still even read them.
Yeah, it’s always the best!