INTERVIEW: Lamb of God’s Chris Adler

Lamb of God have been around long enough to to be practically considered elder statesmen of modern post-Metallica metal. No, no, it’s true! They formed in 1994, which means they’ve been together for 17 years. That’s five more than The Beatles. Or, to put it in more metallic terms, by the time Metallica were at that point in their career they’d released Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master Of Puppets, …And Justice For All, the Black album, Load and Re-Load. Lamb of God are at the point in their career where they could comfortably settle into a nice rhythm of playing their many classics, maybe throwing in the occasional new song, then going home to watch Letterman. But they’re not like that. With the huge success of Wrath a few years ago, LoG are ready to knock it up a level with Resolution. I spoke with drummer Chris Adler for Mixdown Magazine. The following is an extended version of that interview. I’m sure I Heart Guitar readers won’t mind some percussive insight.

 

What was the goal for Resolution?

“It’s a really special record. It’s a difficult thing to do, to continue doing what we’re doing at this point. Well, I guess it’s easy for some people. We’ve had some success and it would be easy to just copy what we’ve done, but to stay relevant and to stay important and to stay internally happy and satisfied it’s really essential to kind of kick it up a notch. One of the things that came into my mind with the process was, this is our seventh record. Obviously we’re very lucky to have a career that’s lasted this long. Who knows how long it’s going to last? A lot of people don’t get to be there this long, so we’re very lucky. And let’s take note of the fact that as a fan of many different types of music  – metal, rock, – I’ve never, ever said “Oh I love that band. Their seventh record is the best one.” Nobody ever says that! So I in the back of my head this was very important for me. It may not be that, but it was important for me to come up with a way to create a very record that, in a legitimate way, could be as good if not more important than our first, second, third record, whatever the case may be in the fan’s minds. So I wanted to push myself as a player and not rest on what we’d done before, not go for the cash grab or the label money or whatever. We don’t have to make metal records. We’re in a very fortunate spot and we don’t have to do this. We want to do this. But there’s no reason – because we don’t have to do this – to repeat ourselves, and there’s no reason to not try to step it up and do something that’s more than what we’ve done before.

 

How do you summon the inspiration to do that? What did you do differently? 

Well, there’s a lot of different things. I got sober for eight months. I started running 45 miles a week just to get myself into the shape I was in when I was 21, so my physical body can do everything I want to do. Now I have the mind, also, that I’ve gained so much experience from the albums I’ve done before, and the time I’ve experienced on the road, to be able to contribute that as well. I kinda felt like I was very determined to bring the best of me into this. And I started taking lessons with Matt Halpern from Periphery, who’s kind of a fusion drummer bringing that into metal. And I’m very much not a fusion drummer, so there was some ‘worlds collide’ ind of stuff going on there. I also kept my ear to the ground to see where things are going and understand what is important in the genre, and not wanting to become a legacy act. Trying to maintain some sort of relevance to what’s going on. So a lot of listening to new music, a lot of working on my physical physical being, trying to make sure I’m capable of doing it. I spend a lot of time making sure I’m not just relying on the old bag of tricks. Trying to really step it up, man. It sounds like ‘okay, I guess that most people do that.’ But in that it’s our seventh record. We’re now past our thirties and it’s not getting any easier. It’s very much a young man’s game and we all know that. We know there’s an expiration point for everything and there’s a time and place when we will know it’s time to walk away. And I’d rather walk away knowing that everything we did was important and relevant and strong, than just to be played out and have this kind of watered-down last-grasp-for-cash moment where everyone realises we’re kinda done. I don’t know exactly how to do it and I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I know you have to put in more than you’ve put in, not necessarily to continue to succeed but just to stay where you are. We’ve gotten to a point after sixteen years where we’re no longer the underdog band that everyone wants to pick on. We can’t really win in the critics’ minds, so it’s a hard one. It’s not that we want to appease everyone, and we really want to only appease ourselves, but it’s in the back of our heads, that we want to maintain that relevance.

 

Well you still have people looking forward to your new releases. For me, the hardest thing with a band I love is when they stop playing new stuff live. 

 

I was talking to somebody earlier about that. I would love to go see Megadeth, one of my favourite bands of all time – I’m a super nerd fan, and I would love to have seen the Rust In Peace reunion tour. That’s one of my favourite albums. But I saw today that Helmet is doing Meantime, a lot of bands are going back and doing these classic albums and I get it. That’s what the fans want and I understand it. But for me, I don’t want to be a legacy act. I want us to stay relevant. And it’s very hard to get that attention and reaction from a fan. The first time you do something – drinking or anything like that – you’ll never get that same reaction again that you got the very first time. The music that we’re writing is as relevant as anything we’ve done before and I refuse to become a legacy act or a heritage act where you have to go back and perform an entire album. I really want our new material to be as accepted. It has to be as relevant as anything we’ve done before or we should just stop.

 

The structure of the album is really interesting. It starts out relatively straightforward but from “Barbarossa” onwards you get these little hints that there’s something unusual below the surface. Then “King Me” happens.

 

There’s a lot of diversity, and that’s what we went for. Coming out of Wrath, we all felt very happy about that album. There wasn’t a reaction where we wanted to go in a totally different direction because we were unhappy about it or anything. After Sacrament we didn’t want a very produced record with all the studio tricks. We just wanted a very true speed metal album, which Wrath became. After Wrath we all felt like we’d accomplished the things we wanted to do. So where do we go from here? Should we hang it up? Should we stop? How are we going to do this? What’s the rallying point? And because there wasn’t a strict rallying point, a lot of different things made it into the album, and even things that may have been hinted at on previous albums are now being explored much more fully. Instead of saying this is a really fast album or a very rhythmic album, this was like, everything, anything, let’s explore it, and if it totally kicks ass then of course we’re going to keep it. And there were a couple of moments where it was like, “You know what, that is not cool. That is not gonna work.” We weren’t just letting anything in, but we were open to allowing different ideas to come in, and at least exploring them before writing them off.

 

I can really hear a progression in your playing towards more of an emphasis on the hands, which is rare for a metal drummer. It’s usually all about the feet. 

 

Yeah. “For me personally as a drummer, that’s been a goal of mine, and thank you for saying that. It’s a big compliment in my goal. Since Sacrament I began to feel that my feet were in pretty good shape and people knew me as a double bass guy. I’m not the fastest or anything but I’m doing some pretty weird stuff. That’s my little niche in the whole thing. But I felt like my weakness was my hands. They weren’t bad, but I’d spent a lot of time as a young player focusing on my feet. That element of the heavy metal side of things. So since Sacrament I’ve really been focusing on my hands. And coming into this record, working with Matt on doing some fusion work and trying to get the hands closer up to speed with where the feet were was quite a challenge. In what I’d done before, the hands weren’t really that important. It’s just bass drum and snare drum, and nobody really cares about accent cymbals, toms and all that sort of stuff. It’s just, where’s the beat, where’s the breakdown? As long as you’re kinda in the pocket on that sort of stuff, you don’t really have to, and please try not to, get in the way of all the cool guitar stuff. So that was my spot for a long time. But Josh Wilbur, the producer of this record, is a drummer and he knew that I was focusing on that in my rehearsals. And he really helped to push me and to convince some of the other guys. He said “You’ve got a really special drummer here and he’s doing a lot of cool stuff. We should really let this shine because it’s not happening a lot in what you guys are doing, and it’s going to help the record stand out. He’s dedicated to what he’s doing, so let’s expand on this as much as we can” So this record is very much an important evolution for me as a player, as much as it is for us as a band. I definitely think I’ve taken the things I’ve hinted at on previous records – including feet – and kind of brought it up to another level.

 

So what did you use in the recording of this album?

 

All Mapex drums. In the studio I use the Deep Forest all-walnut kit, which I’ve used on the last three records. I keep it in a climate-controlled storage environment and I don’t take it on tour. It’s just for the records. And there are so many great drumkits and companies and even software right now, just pristine recordings of pristine drums in pristine environments. But that particular drum kit does beat a lot of what’s out there. Mapex doesn’t pay me to play their drums. I play it because I legit feel that it is a superior product. I’ve used all Meinl cymbals, which I’ve used since 2003. I feel the variety in what they do far surpasses the other companies. Again I think all the other companies have great product – I’d never say anything bad about them – but Meinl more so than anyone really has their ear to the ground on what players are hearing or wanting to hear these days, and a lot of other companies are relying on the suits sitting in their office wondering what the trend is going to be, or putting colour on the cymbal, or something like that. And I just feel like that’s not the way things are going. I’ve used Aquarian heads for a very long time. They’ve always been a company that are certainly smaller than most companies but I realised as a kid that if I spent the extra dollar for the Aquarian heads I had a head that would last for months, rather than a head that would sound maybe as good, maybe a little better for a day, but Aquarian was the one that would last, and it was worth the extra dollar. So they’ve been loyal to me and I’ve been loyal to them.

 

Resolution is released by Roadrunner on January 20.