Lamb of God’s John Campbell and Director Don Argott Discuss ‘As the Palaces Burn’ Documentary
In 2012, director Don Argott (‘Rock School,’ ‘Last Days Here’) began filming a Lamb of God documentary. It was originally supposed to focus on stories about the band’s fans across the world as Lamb of God were on a tour in support of their latest album ‘Resolution.’
But everything changed once frontman Randy Blythe was arrested in the Czech Republic, charged with manslaughter in the 2010 death of a fan at a show in Prague.
The film and the lives of the band’s members immediately shifted course. The resulting documentary, ‘As the Palaces Burn,’ gives the viewer an inside look at Blythe’s initial 38-day incarceration, his return to the United States and the band’s return to performing live. Then it takes the viewer to Blythe’s manslaughter trial in the Czech Republic and eventual acquittal.
The film will be shown in theaters around the world beginning this month. The U.S. premiere will be Feb. 16 in Philadelphia.
We recently spoke with the film’s director, Don Argott and Lamb of God bassist John Campbell about the documentary. Read our exclusive interview below:
After Randy’s arrest, did the band consider pulling the plug on the filming of the documentary?
John Campbell: The band, we were in shock and Don reached out to us to say, “Hey, as part of my craft I feel a responsibility to the story that’s going on and telling the story.” We thought about that and how soon we’d be ready to resume our individual roles and interviews and stuff like that. In my mind, I never considered that the movie would not continue. We have an immense respect for Don’s work.
While this was all going on in Prague, you guys are back home and there was just a huge groundswell of support for Randy, the whole “Free Randy” movement. Were you surprised at just how strong and large that movement was?
JC: I absolutely was. The fan support immediately and throughout has been enormous and unexpected. It was really nice that people picked up the cause and gave voice to what was going on. I think the larger thing is that a lot of people are involved in music and heavy metal and this type of music, and they felt like he was being unfairly persecuted, regardless of whether they were technically fans of our band or not.
During the trial itself, Randy, while waiting for the verdict, said in the film that he thought they would convict him of a lesser offense. Having a front row seat there, Don, did you feel the same way?
Don Argott: Oh, yeah. I think that was what was so staggering about the outcome. Exoneration was always on the table, obviously. The lawyers would be foolish to not at least put that out there just to have there be a semblance of hope. I think that everybody really felt that the manslaughter thing, based on the evidence was probably unlikely, but there was more than likely going to be some kind of punishment and some kind of charge, a lesser charge.
Negligent homicide was the thing that got thrown around quite a bit and it’s obviously better than manslaughter, but still it’s still accepting blame and fault. I think nobody was prepared for the verdict, as evidenced in how it comes out in the film. Nobody could believe it.
"Because there was that weird ‘lost in translation’ moment, everybody had kind of resigned themselves to some kind of punishment."
Because there was that weird ‘lost in translation’ moment, everybody had kind of resigned themselves to some kind of punishment. When the translation of the verdict said that he was cleared of charges of manslaughter everyone was like, “Yeah, okay, I got that, but what else?” It didn’t come across right away, “You’re free!” It didn’t come across that way at all.
Lamb of God played the Slipknot’s Knotfest gathering in Iowa when Randy was still in limbo. John, compare your emotions playing that show to your first show that you played after his acquittal.
JC: It was great to be back to what we were doing after having gone through the psychological shock of wondering whether or not this thing we’d spent half of our lives doing was done. So it was just amazing elation at the KnotFest that we played. Then once the acquittal came, it was more like, “Okay, now we can get this behind us and get back to the business of heavy metal.”
Don, as someone that came in as an outsider then got to know everybody in the band and got deeply involved in the situation, what was your takeaway from the whole experience?
DA: I’m continually impressed and really blown away by how everybody handled the situation. The way that Randy handled it, the way that the band handled it, the way that management handled it. I think that, if nothing else, you start to think life’s going to be full of curveballs being thrown at you and it’s just how you deal with those things.
"[After] watching this film, you can see that if you stand up for what you believe in … you’ll figure out a way to get through it."
I think that if you take nothing else away from watching this film, I think you can see that if you really stand up for what you believe in and you have a core set of values that guides you through life, I think as hard as things get, you’ll figure out a way to get through it. I think that was true in the band’s case, and certainly in Randy’s case.
Tell me a little bit about the red carpet premiere that’s coming up in Philly later this month.
JC: The movie’s showing at The Trocadero, which is historically significant to the band. Our ‘Killadelphia’ live DVD was filmed there. We played there a number of times and the city of Philadelphia is really the place where, outside of Richmond, we actually started to gather a following. So to be able to go there and do that just seemed entirely appropriate.
Our thanks to John Campbell and Don Argott for taking the time to discuss the ‘As the Palaces Burn’ documentary. For more information on the movie, visit the film’s official website. And to see a list of theaters that will be showing the documentary, click here.
Watch the Trailer for ‘As the Palaces Burn’