Lamb of God’s Chris Adler Talks U.S. Tour, Randy Blythe’s Incarceration, Dimebag Darrell + More
It’s been a roller-coaster year for Lamb of God, who released their latest album, ‘Resolution,’ in January, but spent much of the summer dealing with the very serious allegations against frontman Randy Blythe. The vocalist spent five weeks in prison after being accused of manslaughter stemming from an alleged incident at a 2010 show in the Czech Republic.
While that case is not over yet, as Blythe will likely have to go back to face trial, Lamb of God are back on the road headlining a U.S. tour with support from In Flames, Hatebreed and Sylosis.
We recently caught up with Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler, who discussed a wide range of topics concerning the band. In part 1 of our interview, Adler talks about the band’s current U.S. trek, their experience in the Czech Republic and Europe in the days following Blythe’s arrest and how the situation compared to the Dimebag Darrell tragedy of 2004.
You’re headlining a U.S. tour with In Flames, Hatebreed and Sylosis, which is an impressive bill. Can you talk about your relationships and experiences with those bands?
With Hatebreed and In Flames, we’ve toured the world with those guys two or three times and become good friends and there’s poker buddies among us. We really have become on good terms with a lot of those guys so it’s a lot of fun to catch up with them again, and Sylosis is a band from England that got off in 2008 and they’re such a huge band. I think they are a good band that’s kind of modern day thrash and I thought they’d be a great add-on to the bill.
Lamb of God played Knotfest shortly after Randy Blythe’s release from a Czech prison, but after all the band and Randy went through this past summer, do you think this headlining tour serves as a cathartic experience of sorts?
Knotfest was almost therapeutic in a way. There was so much frustration and just general questions about what was going to happen for so long, so it made us all certainly anxious. At least for me, I felt very energized and awakened to the idea that what we do is very fragile and it could be gone very, very quickly, and every night that we play onstage, where we do the thing that we love to do, is special. Sometimes when you do these kind of things for a long time, you just get caught up in the day job aspect of it and while it’s a great job, it becomes a job. To have something happen like what happened with Randy to derail us so violently; it was a wake-up call for me to really get back to that energy that brought us together to begin with, and that definitely came out at Knotfest from the band and the crowd. It was crazy to hear the crowd chanting, “Randy is free, Randy is free, Randy is free,” over and over again. That energy mixed with the kind of renewed sense of, I don’t want to call it ‘innocence,’ but the idea that we somehow bring out that initial motivation and that initial drive that makes us do this, and we had the opportunity to do it. Going forward, I’m looking at every night on [this] tour as a very special night.
We’ve heard a lot about Randy’s experiences during the five weeks he was incarcerated, but what was that time like for you and the other band members?
It was frustrating. I’d think that would be the closest descriptive term. We were of course primarily concerned about our friend and our bandmate’s well being and getting him out of there, and we all believed that kind of sense would prevail and he would be out any second. We just couldn’t believe what was going on and on and on. We weren’t allowed to speak with him, more or less see him, so it was only though his lawyers that we found out that he was doing well and he told them specifically to tell us not to worry. We did what we could to help and so we knew that he was doing well. Of course, then the question is, “Is this guy, who’s 41 years old … when he gets out of prison is he going to want to get back onstage and be in a band even if they don’t convict him for this?” And he definitely let us know that he wants to keep going and he wants to be back onstage soon as possible.
And then of course we kept jumping through hoops to do our best to respect their system and to come through with their requests. It seemed like every time we jumped through a hoop, there was another delay and another hoop in front of us so it was very frustrating to try and piece together how this could have happened and what it could lead to, especially because there was no reserved time as to when he could get out. It’s still a very difficult situation; he’s slated to go back in January for the trial. It’s not over and it’s still very scary as to how this all happened and I think back here we were just trying to pool our resources and make sure we had the best people we could working on the case and trying to do what we could to get him out. The day that he got out we had no idea; we were told the day before he got out that it was going to at least be another week because his paperwork had to get through his guy or something like that, which is what we were told for four weeks straight. But the day that he got out, it was a surprise call saying they let him out. So even though it was good news, it was unexpected.
What was your personal experience like in the Czech Republic during the initial hours of the detainment?
Confusing. We got off the plane and we were corralled together. Our band and crew were taken into a side room off of the jet way and told that what was about to happen would scare the shit out of the other passengers on the plane. They put us in a room basically with a SWAT team. I mean guys with machine guns, knives, full out body armor. It was like these guys were ready for the apocalypse and right away we knew something was very, very wrong. At that point, I didn’t know it had anything to do with us. I thought we were going to be questioned for something or somebody that did something wrong. We knew somebody did something wrong and we’ve found out about all these spectacles that were done in Europe and maybe they are questioning everybody, maybe they saw something. We weren’t even sure about what happened and then they gave us this piece of paper that explains what the charge was and where it came from and they explained to us that they were keeping us all for questioning and that they needed to go through the entire crew and the entire band. They were taking Randy to jail immediately and it was just shocking.
Two things were kind of added to the mindset. One was that it was the first time that we heard that someone was brutally injured at one of our shows, so there was immediately a sense of sympathy for that person’s family. It was a very depressing feeling comes over you; “Oh my god, I can’t believe this happened; it’s the very last thing we would ever want to happen at one of our shows.” We play in this band because we love doing it and the people that come and see us, hopefully they have a good time and they have a good story to tell when they leave. This is the last thing we would ever want to have happen, so we’re kind of caught up with that and then to add to that, they’re arresting Randy now, so of course we’re forced to be somewhat defensive and say, “Hell no, how could you possibly arrest our friend and how can you stop our business? How can you do this? This doesn’t make any sense!” And so, those two things don’t really mix well together; sympathy and being defensive about it at the same time. We were heartbroken about the situation so it was very confusing.
The following day was an entire day of interrogation with the police, which took hours. We had a band and crew of about 12 people, so it took the entire day and that to me felt somewhat routine and you know, this person’s doing a job that needs to be done and I’m sure we’re all going to get out of here and they are going to let Randy go after they piece things together, but this was obviously a random accident and they didn’t let him go. Then the next morning, they didn’t let him go and we started getting a message from our legal representative there in the U.S. saying, “It might be smart for you guys to cross a border, just in case the situation gets worse or extends to other members of the band.” We drove to the German border and stayed there for two days thinking that they’ve got to come to their senses soon and let him out and we could come back and pick him up. We had tour dates planned but at that point we were just confused on how they could be holding him for this, especially after the testimony everybody had given. I think most of us thought we would continue the next couple of shows only, and it got to be the second day in Munich when we were sitting in Germany where we heard it was going to be a week, if not more before anything was going to happen. There was going to be no official statement about anything and they had complete capability of keeping him at least until any sort of charge or orders. So at that point, we were just hemorrhaging money to sit there for a week, so we sent everybody home early and from there and just tried to pull our resources and get him out of there.
We interviewed Vinnie Paul from Hellyeah and Pantera, and a lot of people liken this situation the Dimebag situation. This is what Vinnie Paul told us: “After this happened to my brother, none of us thought there was an evil bone in that guy’s skin when he came up onstage. He looked like a security guard or a cop, and 10 seconds later, four people are dead. You don’t know whether it’s going to be a high five or a loose cannon with a knife.” And he went on to say, “If Randy did anything to protect himself, he had the right to as far as I’m concerned.” Obviously you guys didn’t know what happened until this summer, even though the alleged event occurred two years ago. But now that you’ve heard about the incident, can it be compared to the Dimebag Darrell case?
I think a lot of things changed that day [that Dimebag was slain]. I think that the way performers now look at the stage itself and the idea of people coming on it has changed because of that date. Since I was a kid, I don’t remember ever going to show, you know my very first shows, as a kid, where I didn’t see people jumping on and jumping off. It’s just such a normal part of the hard rock culture to have that involved. For us as a band, what happened to Dimebag certainly made us take a step back and take note that maybe, it obviously doesn’t reign as a thing that happens, but it certainly is a wake up call that it could happen and that you need to be careful of. The rules we have are in place just to protect ourselves. I think for the most part, it wasn’t that bands were deciding, “Okay if you’re going to be onstage you’re going to be attacked,” or something like that.
So at this particular [2010 Lamb of God] show, and I’m only speaking for myself, I don’t remember that specific show. I’ve seen videos of that night and I’ve seen kids jumping off the stage and that is totally not unusual of any other Lamb of God show in the last 16 years that I’ve been the drummer for the band. So there was nothing at all that stuck out that night that was unusual, so it’s kind of the other way around, but to have any sort of altercations or fights or some sort of threat; that would have stuck out. I would have remembered an act of violence whether it was a kid or Randy or something and it’s just people doing what people normally doing at our rock show and it was just such random series of events that I don’t think that we would have had a 10-foot high barricade or chicken wire on the stage or a rule that’s in place that nobody was allowed on. I don’t think there was anything we could have done to change this scenario and it was just so random. It wasn’t something that we came there to do, obviously. We’re trying to have fun so I don’t know what we could have done differently.
Is the band taking any special security measures on this current tour?
Well, everything that we had in the past is staying in tact, which is that in all of our contracts and all of the paperwork that goes out for management and booking agents, to the clubs, and to the promoters and it calls for security that ensures the safety of all those in attendance. There’s not much more we can do. I don’t know that if we made everybody sign a wavier when they walked in the door, or put the band in bubble suits … I don’t know if that would have saved anybody’s life. I really think this was a random set of circumstances. Of course, you won’t want this to happen again and we’re certainly going to be working with the crew and having security maybe every night at the venues. Certain things are not allowed, and that kind of thing that we’ve always done, but I don’t think people should be more or less concerned whether certain things are enforced. They can do whatever they want to have fun.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Chris Adler interview, in which the Lamb of God drummer discusses the album ‘Resolution,’ the band’s plans for a follow-up disc and more.