Exclusive Interview: Lamb of God Drummer Chris Adler on Randy Blythe and the Upcoming Tour
If 2012 is the year that the world ends as predicted by the Mayan calendar, Lamb of God probably wouldn’t be surprised. Their 2012 has been a nonstop roller coaster of supreme highs and horrifying lows. In January, the band released Resolution, their sixth full-length, which garnered them praise from all corners of the metal world and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts. Then, in June, frontman Randy Blythe was arrested in Prague for alleged manslaughter due to the death of fan, who allegedly sustained ultimately fatal injuries at Blythe’s hands at a 2010 concert. Thus began a much-publicized legal battle in which the Lamb of God vocalist spent a month in a Czech prison, his bail repeatedly remanded by the case’s prosecutor, until his release in early August. During this time, the band was forced to cancel their high-profile US tour with Dethklok and Gojira.
Now, Lamb of God are back in the saddle, having recently played Slipknot’s Knotfest and preparing for a national trek with Hatebreed, In Flames, and Sylosis. When we speak to drummer Chris Adler, he is relaxed and articulate, obviously seasoned in the discussion of his band’s recent legal woes. He calls us from home, where he’s spent the summer with his daughter. “I’m a lucky man,” he says.
REVOLVER How are you feeling having your lead singer back safe and sound?
Chris Adler It’s good! It was a real scary situation, and it still is. Randy has to return to stand trial in January. But the process went from being very, very scary, when we first arrived in Prague, to a lot of frustration as we tried to jump through all the hoops put in front of us to get him home and try and make sense of the situation. By the time he did come home, we were very irritated trying to help, because we did everything we could and nothing was budging. It was most definitely a huge relief to meet him at the airport the other night, and just a few weeks ago we played the Knotfest in Iowa and Wisconsin, and it was great to get onstage and let that anger out. We would never market this as a comeback or anything, but there was a special energy among the crowd. They were really happy that we were there to do what we do.
How did it feel landing in Prague and being confronted with a situation like this as you step off the plane?
It was surreal. Let me just walk you through what had happened. We had just played in Norway, and we’d been out on tour for about three weeks, for six days a week, with one day off. This was our day off. So after three flights from Norway to Prague, we land at about 7 or 8 o’clock, and the plan is to go from the airport to the hotel, maybe have some dinner, lick our wounds from the road rash and be ready for the show the next day. We finally get off the plane and get out onto the jetway, and there are a couple of plain-clothes airport officers pulling people aside to check their passports. This isn’t unusual in Europe—people checking passports, visas, it happens all the time. And I get pulled aside and still don’t think anything of it, but I realize pretty quickly that it’s just our band and crew that are being pulled aside. I begin worrying that something has happened with someone’s family while we’ve been in the air, but I wasn’t thinking we were in trouble—or at most, that somebody had forgotten about something in their suitcase that they shouldn’t bring on a plane, but that was the worst-case scenario in my mind. So they hold us there, and once they have 12 of us there, they very cordially corral us into this room, where they have this line of guys who look like they’re dressed for the apocalypse. They’ve got black ski-masks on, all of them look like they could be linebackers for the NFL, they’re wearing all-black bullet-proof gear, they’ve got knives and guns strapped everywhere. They have enormous machine guns, not semi-automatic weapons but end-of-the-world type guns. The minute we see this, it’s like, Holy fuck, what is going on here?
So finally they say they’re investigating a homicide. So even then, it doesn’t occur to me that we have anything to do with it. I assume that something has happened in the five and a half weeks we’ve been on the road, that someone got hurt backstage, maybe somebody that we know got trampled or pushed too hard. We just got done playing to 110,000 people—things like that happened. But then they hand us a piece of paper, written in broken English, that explains that they’re investigating a homicide that happened at a show two years ago, that it was us, and a kid had died at a show. We’d never been made aware of it. So immediately, we’re all in a state of shock that a kid has died at our show, which is the exact opposite of what we want—we do this because we love it, we have a good time, we would never want anyone to get hurt at our show. So we all felt kind of terrible about that. And then they tell us that they’re charging us with this, specifically Randy. So then there’s these two emotions—the first is, How can you take Randy away from us? But the second is this sadness that a kid had died. So I think everyone was just in a surreal state for the next couple of days of wondering what was going on, how we got into this situation, and how were we going to get out of it. It was a terrible experience, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and I never want to go through it again.
That sounds nightmarish.
It was—especially for Randy, who was obviously there longer than us. But it was also frustrating for us because for all of the hoops we had to jump through, nothing moved forward. There’s certain expectations that you have, and we came away with a pretty good understanding that this is not the way things work all around the world. We’ve seen enough of the world, but it was still kind of a shock.
At least now you’re a scholar of the Czech legal system.
I’d like to think I am, but it’s still a huge mystery to me! After a while, it was just, Randy’s getting out Monday, now it’s Wednesday, now it’s Monday… And then it got to the point where we had to cancel the Dethklok/Gojira tour, because those bands had to get on with their lives and promoters were getting scared about selling tickets to see a band whose lead singer is in jail in another country. But we’re doing our best to respect their system, and I know that they have legit questions, and Randy is 100 percent interested in going back and telling his side of the story and clearing his name and meeting with the family. He really wants to see this through.
There was a lot of public support in the press and the metal scene, but did you take any flack for cancelling that tour?
Besides the odd ticket holder who had a problem with getting their refund from wherever they’d bought the tickets, not really. Those bands are our friends, and they really waited ’til the very last minute to cancel that tour, but they had promoters to deal with who didn’t want to sell tickets to a show where the headliner might not show up. It was disappointing for us because we were paying people to set up the show, talking about production costs with Dethklok about the video screens…so it was a disappointment for everyone. Us because we wanted to play this tour, our families because this is our job–this is how we keep the lights on, our crew who also have families, everyone. It has a trickle-down effect.
You’re about to embark on this tour with Hatebreed and In Flames. Is everything set to go on that?
Definitely. We’re already talking about doing some new things, bringing out some new tunes. We’re really excited to get out there—the energy we had at the Knotfests was really special. One of the silver linings of this situation, for me, was that when something like this happens, you realize how fragile this all is makes you realize how lucky you are to get to do it. I’m super-excited to tour with Sylosis—one of the my favorite bands right now, who we’ve traveled the world with. It’s going to be great.
You guys have grown up with In Flames and Hatebreed. Is it still a fun time touring with them, or are you guys over that? Is backstage still a party, or is it all just, “I have to get to bed, I have blisters you wouldn’t believe”?
[Laughs] Well, everyone’s a little bit older, but in general it’s still very much a party atmosphere. The reason we tour all the time together is because we really do enjoy each others’ company. There’s a poker game every night, and we sit around talking theory and bands. I’m usually on the bus jamming on some music with these guys. So we might not go as late these days, but we’re still holding onto the lifestyle.
Are there any other bands like Sylosis—more underground bands—you’d like to play with?
I’m a big fan of Decapitated—love those guys, classic death metal. And I’m a big fan of Periphery, who’re pretty neat. And most recently, again, I’ve been listening to the new Sylosis record. I can’t stop listening to it. Every morning, that and Edge of the Earth are my way of starting the day.
Resolution was a huge album when it came out earlier this year. Why do you think Lamb of God has remained prominent while some of these other bands have fallen by the wayside?
It’s hard to say. There are so many steps we could’ve taken that could’ve meant the end for us, or for any of these other bands. It’s not entirely a surprise. We’re lucky to continue to do this. Getting on best-of lists, putting out Billboard Top Ten records, getting Grammy nominations, that stuff is absolutely insane. I just don’t know where half of it comes from, because that was never something we tried to do. We just love to make music, we respect each other, we enjoy working with each other. So I think one of the missteps a lot of guys make, and it’s difficult to deal with when you’ve been in a band for 17 years, is keeping a consistent lineup. It’s easy to get fed up with each other, or the cycle—having to head out on the road, or be creative at a certain time. Or it’s the friendships. Through a lot of this, you’re in a metal tube of some kind traveling the world with each other 24/7 for years at a time. We’ve had that. But we really respect each other, and realize that together we are capable of so much more than any one of us individually.