Exclusive Interview: Lamb Of God Drummer Chris Adler on Randy Blythe’s Imprisonment, Upcoming Tour and the Future of the Band
It’s been an insane year for Lamb of God for reasons that certainly don’t need to be repeated again here. Who better to talk to about all the craziness than drummer Chris Adler, the man who’s always been the one making shit happen behind the scenes and who describes the band as “my baby”?
After the jump,
we grill Chris Chris talks at length about Randy Blythe’s imprisonment, the crazy emotional roller-coaster that followed, the band’s upcoming tour with In Flames, Hatebreed and Hellyeah, and what the future holds. And because we couldn’t resist, we asked him about his inclusion in both the 25 Best Modern Metal Drummers list and Best Beard Bracket, too.
Can you tell us what’s in store for Lamb of God? Starting with the fallout after the Dethklok tour was canceled, and the events that led to the new tour and the bands that are on it.
Yeah, well, we held onto that tour as long as we could. As well as the Mayhem cruise that we had been offered for the end of the year. But everyone — booking agents, promoters, management of all the other bands — started getting pretty nervous that Randy wasn’t going to get out and we couldn’t answer that question because we didn’t know either.
The situation there has been very unexpected from the moment I landed in Prague, so it became exceedingly difficult for us to answer what was going to happen next. After a month of him sitting over there — although everyone was very supportive — people needed to move on with their lives and the Dethklok and Gojira guys needed to find a way to keep the ball rolling and earn their living, with our blessing, given that we had no idea how it was going to turn out. Randy ended up getting out on bail — if you want to call it that — and has to go back for the trial in January, which he wants to go to. He wants to face the charges or at least answer the questions the family has about what happened.
As a group we don’t feel particularly guilty about this. While it’s a tragedy, and it’s something we’re all sad about, it’s a seriously random event that I’m not sure could have been avoided. We know there are questions to be answered and we are ready to do answer them. But as far as moving on, once Randy got home the first question that came up was, “Are you still up for working with the band? So you still want to do this? If so, how soon will you be ready to get on the road?” Obviously we had thrown out all kinds of plans this summer, not only disappointing the other bands on that particular tour but the livings of the rest of the crewmembers and their family and on down the line it goes. Randy was ready to go in about two weeks. We we’re lined up on the Knotfest in Iowa and Wisconsin. That was a pretty incredible experience, to have everybody back together and have the crowd screaming Randy’s name. It was great for him and cathartic for the band to be on stage.
During those five weeks where we didn’t know what was happening, each of us — and certainly myself — considered that this seriously could be all over, this could be the way it ends. In a blink of an eye on a random circumstance, possibly the end of a 17-year career. It was daunting. In that moment on stage at Knotfest we all had the refreshing realization of how fragile and special what we do is and how much people appreciate it.
Then, of course, we started working behind the scenes to try and get something going for the fall. We invited both Dethklok and Gojira to put it back togeher, but they had moved on with their plans. So we put the word out that we wanted to get out and do the U.S.; we hadn’t done a full U.S. tour on Resolution since it came out, which is insane for me to think about it. It’s certainly overdue for us to get out there and do it, so we put a good package together. We’ve always been one of those bands, even from the early days, where we’ll go out with any kind of weird lineup to try and break up the bill, try to do something different so people can see varied bands and find something they like.
So we put the word out to a bunch of our friends to see who was interested. In my particular case I was very interested in putting Sylosis on the bill. I had gotten them on a show we had done in Ireland before everything went to hell in Prague. They played and totally blew me away. I’m such a huge fan of their album, Edge of the Earth. I had to see them live, and they pulled it off and it was even better than the record. I was bent on getting them over here.
They already had a tour booked but were interested in doing the U.S. since they don’t get to do that very often, so they skipped over to our tour. Our management and booking agent helped us put the rest of the tour together. We’re good friends with the guys in every band; we’ve been in the same circles for a long time so it’s certainly going to be a fun time backstage every night, I think it’ll be even better in front of the stage.
It’s kind of a silver lining, but it’s still daunting to think about what could happen. This very well could still be the end. We have this window of opportunity to get to work and try to get some money together to help the bills that come in for this case, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in January. We’re looking at it as if we’re lucky to get to work, but every night is going to be pretty special because we don’t know how long we’re going to be able to keep going.
Can you talk a bit about what you personally were feeling during those five weeks when Randy was locked up? Some people are worriers, some people throw their hands often and let whatever happens happen, and some people deal with things other ways. How did you personally deal with the uncertainty of the band’s and your friend’s future?
We were all active in trying to figure out ways we could help, even if it was just reaching out to other bands or friends in the metal community. In no way did we want to speak for Randy, but we wanted to show that there was some sort of support system here. It was becoming more obvious all the time that this was at worst an accident and it really wasn’t fair was going on. We were all just trying to do our best to get him out. There was not a moment that went by when we weren’t trying to figure out a way to help, whether it was to help pay the legal bills, to make a stink about it to whoever we could speak to, or even on a local level, keeping in touch with Randy’s wife or talking to our lawyers here. “Is there anything that we haven’t done that we can?”
We were taking every step we could take; I even got on the phone with the guys in Metallica for their advice. It was one of those things where you just didn’t know what to do. I am more of a worrier than I am the type of person that would just throw their hands up. I think we all are; we all want to stay active and not just forget about it. It wasn’t going anywhere, our friend was in jail, and we had to do whatever it took to get him out. Somebody asked me yesterday, “If he simply decided to quit would that be it?” I said, “If somebody wants to go sell vacuums for the rest of their life and decides to move on with everybody else’s blessing it would be one thing, but with somebody locked up we can’t just replace the guy.”
It’s just not going to happen. For us, we were all pretty hell-bent on making sure that this would happen and doing whatever we could behind the scenes to help out. It was very frustrating, because every piece of news that we got was contradictory to the news we had gotten the day before. It seemed that whatever we could come up with was not helping. They posted bail, we paid it the next day. We waited two weeks and they did it again. It almost seemed the faster we did it the more they would ask for. It started to get pretty scary.
On a personal level, it certainly made me question what comes next. What if this does go down in some sketchy way that doesn’t make any sense to us? What am I going to do? It certainly had me thinking about plan B and C. Which is not something I’m interested in. Plan A has always been the band. It’s been my baby from the beginning and I put everything into it, I’m not done yet, I’m still having a good time and I want this to continue. It was dramatic but it was also a wake-up call.
I know a lot of bands don’t get to be bands for 15 or 16 years like we have, but when you play 10,000 shows you start to forget the innocence about it and how lucky you are to be doing what you’re doing. When you get this kind of slap in the face or a wake-up call you’re reminded of how quickly it can all be over. It really brings you back to that moment when you first got in the room and wrote your first song that everyone thought was cool.
What we do is really special, and to be reminded that it’s as fragile as it is kind of rejuvenated me and inspired me to want to play even more. That’s where I’m at; I’ve been rehearsing every day getting myself ready for this upcoming tour.
How did it feel to have all the support of the metal community at large rally behind you guys during that whole process?
It was nice. We had done some really varied tours and crossed a lot of lines as far as different subsets of heavy music. To see all the people that came out and to see bands canceling shows and donating items and wanting to be a part of the auction — or sending money to the legal fund donation thing we had set up — it was really humbling. But I was kind of surprised that it didn’t get more national attention. Especially because we were told that the officers in Prague had told the U.S. Department of Justice what was going on two years ago and they never notified us, so it does seem weird as to why this case didn’t get bigger.
But, inside this little metal bubble we all seem to live in, it was overwhelming. Even guys that you wouldn’t expect. I cross paths with the guys from Machine Head and Devil Driver three times a week, so I know they’re our buddies and they’re going to come out and say something. But guys like Slash and Ozzy that could probably live the rest of their lives without ever thinking about this, having them come out and donate items was really humbling.
What’s your sense of how Randy’s doing now that he’s back?
We’ve had minimal contact. We want to make sure he has his space and is able to connect with his family. We did meet him at the airport and obviously we did the shows, and we got to sit down with him during those things. But you know what, he’s doing surprisingly well. Much better than I would have done given the same circumstances. I’m sure I would have been a wilting mess and wanted to call my mom, but he really seemed to keep his act together.
He spent a lot of time in prison working on himself. Working out physically, spending a lot of time reading. Our lawyers in Prague were telling us that they couldn’t get him enough books. I know he wrote a bunch of stuff, probably about his time there, and also a few ideas that he had even before going in such as writing a book about his life and experiences. He also had some thoughts for new songs; none of us are much to sit still for a long time and those guys have already starting to put some stuff together. He’s doing really well, but for all of us it was a real big wake-up call.
To be honest, he went in with his shit together. He was in better shape than I had seen him in in probably 15 years when this went down. Mentally he weathered the storm rather well. I know he’s excited about getting back out on the road. When we did these two shows it was therapeutic for the whole band, and mostly for him. To be free and back doing what he loves to do.
Did you feel like at those shows there was a special energy coming from the crowd? You know, that everyone sort of knows what the situation is and they’re ecstatic to have you guys back?
It’s hard to think about it. I guess you could put your marketing hat on and write a bill that this is sort of a comeback or reunion, but it really hasn’t been that long. We’re not taking it there. But it was definitely tangible at those shows that we just did. A lot of people were there to see this go down, to see us back on stage together. We haven’t done a proper U.S. tour in two years.
Certainly with all the information that’s available it does make it a little more exciting for the fans. It certainly was for those shows, and I know for us. I think we’re going to respect the ability to be on stage and live every night, knowing how fragile it is. I don’t expect or think that we deserve any special treatment but it’s nice to know that the metal community has our back and will come see us again. I can assure you that we are very happy to be back on stage as well.
What are you working on outside Lamb of God? I know you have your hand in many pots, with the record label – ReThink?
EMI runs a Christian record label called ReThink and they put their foot down. So we’re working on that behind the scenes and trying to make something out of it. For the moment that’s on pause.
I have a four-year-old daughter that I’m doing my best to keep up with and spend the summer with, which has been nice. Normally I’m not home in the summer. Connecting with her has been a really big part of my summer. Just started digging into writing the third Ashes of the Wake book, the making of, from my perspective. Working around the house, hanging out with my wife, being a normal guy.
What about drum-wise, doing any promotions or clinics?
I’ve done a couple of big interviews for DRUM! Magazine and Modern Drummer is bringing me up to NY in October. I think they’re doing another cover with me later this year which is super flattering. I’ve been talking to the different drum companies about some drum shows around. There’s one in London in November and another in February.
My passion is playing drums and trying to be as good as I can at what I do. Every free moment I get is spent playing and not trying to outshine anyone else by myself. I believe that we’re going to work as hard as we can until we can’t work any longer. If next year turns into a situation where the band isn’t able to function on all levels, I may do some more clinic stuff or get more into drum education or teaching. But now the focus is definitely the band.
Of course, we have to talk about you being ranked higher than Dave Lombardo on the prestigious MetalSucks Top 25 Modern Metal Drummers list.
That was pretty much the highlight of my career. Other than coming in dead last in the beard competition; my entire family was devastated.