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.

 

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INTERVIEW: Amanda Palmer on the power of the ukulele

The ridiculously, unfairly talented and stupefyingly affable Amanda Palmer is one half of The Dresden Dolls. She also has a rather successful solo career, encompassing everything from big shows to sudden public ninja gigs. She has an addictively percussive piano style and expressive vocal delivery, but of late she’s become quite the ambassador for the humble ukulele – partially through her oh-my-god-that-makes-so-much-sense cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” and partially through her song “Ukulele Anthem.” Palmer’s not out there to prove she’s the ultimate uku-shred virtuoso. She simply reminds us that playing music is fucking good fun. Observe:

So why the ukulele? 

The beauty of picking up the ukulele a couple of years ago was, I’d finally got past the stage of piano playing where I didn’t know what the chords were. Probably around my teen years, when I started studying jazz and chords and theory, and not even learning to read music so much but understanding what an A Minor was verses a D Major and knowing what the notes were called – it kind of stripped some of the mystery out of ‘Well this shape sounds pretty, and this shape is scary,’ which was basically the way I learned. When I picked up the ukulele I had no idea, because guitars were really frightening and foreign to me because of the fretboard being laid out very differently. And when I picked up the ukulele I got to go back to the very beginning, of making shapes with my fingers and having no idea what the chords were, just knowing that they sounded nice.

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INTERVIEW: Keith Strickland of The B-52s

There’s only one B-52s. Sure, they’ve had their stylistic changes, and they weathered the tragic death of original guitarist Ricky Wilson, but whether slamming out quirky angular guitar pop (“Rock Lobster,” “My Own Private Idaho,”) radio-friendly chart megahits (“Love Shack,” “Roam”) or danceable, electronica-tinged club-ready tracks (“Funplex,”), there’s no mistaking who you’re listening to. And a large part of that sound is Keith Strickland. Originally the band’s drummer, shifting to guitar after the 1985 passing of Wilson, Strickland is a lifelong multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and one of the nicest chart-toppers you could ever hope to meet. B-52s have just released With the Wild Crowd: Live in Athens GA, an 18-track live album, with a DVD and Blu-Ray to follow next year.

I understand there’s some special significance attached to the timing of the concert that became With The Wild Crowd?

We did that this past February in Athens, Georgia. A booking agent had booked the show and then we realised it was close to February 14th, the anniversary date of our very first performance. It was a few days later but we thought ‘Let’s make this an anniversary show!’ And it was also a benefit for the Georgia Theatre, which is this venue in Athens, a theatre that had been converted into a performance place. It had burned down, so a portion of the proceeds went to rebuilding that. So it was just coming full circle. We played the Georgia Theatre in our early days before we actually recorded our first album. It was also interesting because we realised, ‘Wow, 34 years and we’re playing Athens again…’ But it really wasn’t set up that way. It was just, well, here it is! We turned it into an event celebrating coming full circle, so to speak.

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INTERVIEW: Megadeth’s Chris Broderick

Th1rt3en is Chris Broderick’s second album in one of the most coveted guitar jobs in the world: Dave Mustaine’s sparring partner in Megadeth. Broderick has some pretty big shoes to fill (Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Glen Drover), but that’s old news: he brings his own style, feel and technique to the band in a way that they hadn’t really had since the early days of Friedman’s reign in the 90s. Th1rt3en finds Broderick once again shredding with the best of them and weaving in and out of classically Megadeth riffage with confidence and ease. I caught up with Broderick to talk Th1rt3en and, of course, guitar.

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Hi, is this Peter?

Yes it is. Nice to meet you again! I met you a couple of years ago NAMM.

Oh did you really? Where at? What booth?

The Ibanez booth.

Oh nice! Very cool.

And now you’re with Jackson. How’s your new signature guitar working out for you?

It’s awesome! Dare I say, it’s perfect, for me personally. Because you have to understand, when I approached Jackson they were the only ones that never said no. They said “Yeah, we can do that, and we can do that.” So I built that guitar from the ground up thinking about everything I could from the ergonomics to the weight distribution to the placement of the tone knob. Even the placement of the pickups, in addition to the fretboard radius, the stainless steel frets, extremely tall narrow frets. I built that guitar up to be exactly what I’d want, so for me it definitely is the perfect instrument.

Are you using the seven-string version with Megadeth, or is that more of a ‘just because you can’ thing?

No. Well, I’ve always been more of a seven-string player than a six-string player, ever since they were available in the late 80s, early 90s. So for me I’ll always be playing more seven-string stuff. But since Megadeth is more of a traditional thrash band we stick to six strings just to keep those traditional thrash roots more in focus. So whenever I’m onstage with Megadeth it’s always six string, and when I do my own stuff it’s definitely seven-string.

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INTERVIEW: Kenny Wayne Shepherd

There was a time when Kenny Wayne Shepherd was thought of as a blues wunderkind. His deft Stratwork and powerful delivery brought obvious comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan, as did his use of SRV’s rhythm section of Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. But KWS was never an SRV clone. His work has tended to lean more towards the rock aspect of blues-rock than SRV’s did – although that never stopped him from exploring more traditional blues fare as well. New album How I Go, his first studio recording for Roadrunner Records and first since 2004’s The Place You’re In, finds Shepherd exploring both extremes.

There’s a strong rock feel to the album as well as the blues stuff.

I feel like it’s a good balance between blues and rock. We put several blues songs on there – “Backwater Blues,” the Albert King cover “Oh! Pretty Woman,” even the Beatles song “Yer Blues” and several others. I tried to strike a balance between that and the blues-based rock I like to do. I just felt that the last record, The Place You’re In, was a real straight-ahead rock record, and then we did the 10 Days Out project, which was completely traditional blues, and then the Live In Chicago record had a lot of blues on it. So I felt it was time to get back to the middle of the road between the two.

There are some tracks like “The Wire” and “Come On Over” where if you played them a certain way they could almost be 70s-style heavy metal.

Well certainly, but I like to show some dexterity and try some different things, have some different sounds on each record. But the thing is, when you listen to the whole album it still sounds cohesive. Every song sounds like they belong together.

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INTERVIEW: Joe Satriani on Chickenfoot III

Chickenfoot III. You know the joke by now: the band feels so comfortable in what they’re doing that they feel like they stepped over the difficult second album and went straight to the third. The band – Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith – are indeed in fine form on the newly-released album. It still sounds like the Chickenfoot who whipped up such a frenzy with their 2009 debut, but it’s at once more relaxed and more intense, heavier and more detailed.  [geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]CLICK HERE to buy it from Amazon.com)[/geo-out]

The first thing that really struck me about this album was that there’s a really identifiable Chickenfoot sound. It doesn’t sound like a Joe Satriani album, it doesn’t sound like a Sammy Hagar album.

That’s great, I’m so happy to hear you say that. That’s something that I’ve always felt that we were very lucky to naturally stumble upon. But we didn’t want to overthink it or intellectualise it. Just do it naturally and let it happen.

This album is almost like an essay on the right hand of Joe Satriani – there’s a lot of great rhythm stuff going on. 

As I was writing the demos for this record I was once again conscious of trying to not hold back and to use as much as I had to flesh out a lot of the songs. It’s a funny thing, because when we’re away, we’ll maybe be taking a flight somewhere and we’ll be talking about what kind of songs we like as a band, and that’s one thing, but when we get together to play there’s really no time for discussion or any of that stuff. We basically have to record very quickly, and everybody has to bring all their stuff to the table and just do it. And so I hate to talk about it and give the wrong impression and that we thought about it, because we didn’t, but I all I can tell you is that I prepared for the experience by making sure that everything I knew how to do was fresh on my fingers and ready to be exploited at a moment’s notice. So I like to say that I’ve taken all the good stuff that I’ve ever heard from any guitar player and I’ve tried to learn it and to use it and to understand it. So a lot of my roots come out when I’m making a Chickenfoot record.

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INTERVIEW: Machine Head’s Robb Flynn

The Blackening was an unstoppable juggernaut of metal power for Machine Head. Conceived in 2005 and released in 2007, it kept the band on the road for quite literally years. But all good things must come to an end. And so finally, in the year of our lord 2011, Machine Head present Unto The Locust. Produced by Robb Flynn at Green Day’s Jingletown Studios, it’s a surprisingly diverse album which tempers its thrash edge with classical influences, wild mood swings, laser-focused precision, blunt-force-trauma riffage and some of Flynn’s best ever vocal performances. It may be hard to ever forget The Blackening and the way it captured the charred hearts of both modern and old-school metal fans in equal measure, but Unto The Locust its own animal and it makes neither concessions nor apologies for its history-making predecessor. It simply gets on with it in its own kickass way.

So I guess the question everyone wants to know the answer to is, did you have The Blackening‘s success in mind when you started working on this one, or did you try to ignore it? 

We definitely didn’t have The Blackening in mind at all. We lived that moment for so long. It was an amazing moment, but when it was done, we were really excited to start writing again. You’ve got to remember, when we started writing The Blackening, it was August of 2005. And we started writing for this record in June of 2010, so five years had passed. We were ready to write, and we were ready to create a new moment.

It was almost like that album wouldn’t let itself die, y’know? It just kept going and going.

Yeah! It was amazing. It was an incredible moment. The Slipknot tours, Metallica tours, Grammy nominations. It was an endless stream of good news! It was really amazing, but it just went on for a while. We were lucky enough to finish the tour in Australia. That was the last dates of the whole album cycle. The last show we played in Sydney. It was killer, a great way to end it, and we totally went triumphant into the writing sessions. We were really charged up.

I really dig the classical guitar influence on the new album. I understand you actually took classical lessons?

I did. I actually took classical guitar in high school. It was an elective I had to take and I mainly just smoked a lot of weed and played Black Sabbath songs. Haha. I got a C minus, which isn’t a very good grade. It’s below average. I guess I showed that teacher, huh? Haha. But it really got my mind into that mindset of playing it, and once I really started playing I always leaned towards classical players. Like, I always liked Richie Blackmore, and Randy Rhoads in particular was a massive influence. Randy Rhoads on the first two Ozzy albums brought a lot of classical vibes and that was a huge influence. So between that and Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, those were pretty much my main masters.

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INTERVIEW: Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher

Mastodon’s Crack The Skye is a hard album to top. Heavy, progressive, psychedelic, multilayered, complex – any concept album that knits together such disparate elements as Rasputin and astral travel has gotta be followed up by something pretty big. Just like Crack The Skye, The Hunter finds Mastodon doing what they do best – combining lyrical and musical creativity – yet the approach is different, the songs are shorter, the themes less interwoven and the results more eclectic. The Hunter is a crucial album for the band. After the strength and influence of Crack The Skye, The Hunter has to prove it wasn’t a fluke – it just has to. Guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds are one of the most interesting and creative duos in modern metal, and I spoke with Kelliher a week before the album’s release. But first we have even more important matters to discuss, about a shared interest… 

(Oh, and, uh, language alert.)

Before we get into talking abut the album, there’s something I wanted to ask you because we both have this in common: what do you think about the new Star Wars Blu-ray and all the changes they’ve made?

Y’know, I’m a fuckin’ Star Wars fanatic. I’ve got all the tattoos, all the toys… It’s like Beyond Thunderdome with the fuckin’ toy collection. I didn’t really know what was going on with the Blu-rays until I paid attention. I don’t really watch too much TV. And I turned the TV on and saw a commercial for it. My buddy had just told me about the spoiler – Darth Vader saying ‘Noooooo!’ as he’s throwing the emperor off the fuckin’ thing, and he was like ‘Fuck all that, it’s a bunch of bullshit. Can’t they just leave it alone? But I’m gonna buy it anyway.’ And after I saw the fuckin’ commercials, the advertising for it on television, I was like, ‘Man, it looks so awesome!’ I’m not gonna lie, I was completely sucked in by George Lucas once again. Just the little scenes that they showed on television, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to watch the whole thing.’ I’ve already seen the movies like fifty trillion times. I’ve got them on every format – Beta, VHS, LaserDisk – you name it. I’ve got every version. And it’s a shame that they had to fuck with the originals. They should have a Blu-ray of just the original movies separately if you want to watch those. Don’t fuck with it, man. Don’t put fuckin’ Hayden Christensen in where Darth Vader’s ghost was at the end of Jedi! What the fuck is that? Everybody aged except for him? What the fuck does that mean? Why? That’s just a sell-out. It makes me mad! I can go off on that shit. I was like, ‘What is that, a Walmart fuckin’ special?’ Maybe they should have done a young Yoda. Maybe Phyllis Diller or somebody could have done that. I don’t know. It’s ridiculous!

But the thing is, when people always ask me, ‘What do you think of the new movies,’ well, they’re fuckin’ horrible, but then again I’m not an 8-year-old boy any more. And when I was an 8-year-old boy – my kids are young, my son’s name is Harrison, for god’s sake – my other son’s name is Cohen, so I’m a little nerdy with the sci fi stuff. But the thing about Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, they’re still cool to me when I’m 40 years old. The new movies to me, they’re horrible. The fuckin’ fart scenes, where one of the creates farts, the whole Jar Jar thing, it’s fuckin’ retarded. But my kids, they think it’s awesome. They’re like, ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing ever.’ And when they watch Star Wars they think it’s kind of boring. They know the characters and they’re interested, but movies have changed so much since when we were kids. I tried to watch that movie Transformers when it came out a couple of years ago, on a small television on our tour bus, and I could not even watch it, because a) there’s way too much shit going on, because kids these days need to see like 50 bazillion laser beams and explosions happening on a TV screen at once rather than an actual story, and, like, feelings and script going on. It’s just all about the action and something happening on the screen. And I couldn’t watch it. I was like, ‘I’ve got to turn this off. This is shit.’ Everything’s in focus, everything’s CGI, it doesn’t look real, I just can’t stand it. So who am I to say anything about movies these days? Let them release it. I don’t have a Blu-ray player but I’ll probably buy one just so I can watch the movies again and boo at the parts they redid.

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