Lamb of God Singer Randy Blythe Delves Into New Album ‘Resolution’ + More
Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe appeared on Full Metal Jackie's radio show over the weekend. He talked at length about the band's new album, 'Resolution,' which drops on Tuesday (Jan. 24). If you missed Jackie's show, check out her full interview with Blythe below:
We’re obviously here to celebrate the release of your amazing new record ‘Resolution.’ It was recorded in the earlier part of 2011 but when did you guys actually start thinking about the new music and coming up with ideas?
Well Mark and I have talked a lot about this recently, Mark and Willy are guitar players so what they do is play guitar all the time and I write so I write all the time. The big difference with this record is that frankly it’s the ability for us to capture the music on the guitar end via laptops. We were kind of late coming into the 21st Century or whatever, all of this technology and as home recording tools are made more and more available to anyone with a laptop I figured it out like, “Hey I could just carry my laptop on tour and plug the guitar in on a day off at the hotel room.” I mean really there’s not much to do on days off, you just sit around in a hotel room in the middle of Indiana somewhere and look at the corn fields grow so why not record some riffs.
So that process has been going on pretty much the whole time we’ve been touring on our last record ‘Wrath’ and we toured on that two to two and a half years so they were documenting ideas and I was writing lyrics here and there but as far as all of us getting into the studio or the practice together that happened for them about four months after we got off tour in November, we finished up the ‘Wrath’ tour with Metallica in Australia and then they got together at four months and they’re like, “We’re in the practice space,” and I’m like, “No way you guys have fun, I’m taking a few more months off.” They got together with our producer and just went through all these ideas they had already recorded and just started weeding through them, winnowing out the ones that were unacceptable and that was in March maybe, so that’s when we started pre-production. We’ve been writing some of this stuff for a few years now.
What could you tell us about the song ‘Ghost Walking’?
I would think it’s a more typical Lamb of God song which was probably the reason why we decided to put it out their first as the “single.” It starts with a nice blues riff and Mark and I co-wrote the lyrics, he wrote most of the music. Basically the song is about when you’re going through a hard time, you have to do things to get through hard times, sometimes uncomfortable things you got to do what you got to do as they say but after you’ve surpassed whatever obstacle your facing sometimes the old behaviors remain and they’re only useful at certain times. This song particularly, Mark starting writing from the viewpoint of a Vietnam veteran who had gone over to fight in Vietnam which has always been a fascinating era to me, that era of our country’s history, and while over there picked up a nice heroin habit in order to deal with the stress of combat and then came home and retained that habit.
None of us went to Vietnam, I was barely born but it’s real life stuff and I know some Vietnam veterans and they certainly had some problems after coming out of there and they weren’t doing any sort of psychological preparation for them at that point in time to deal with the stress of combat or what happens afterwards so we kind of used that as a metaphor for doing what you have to do to get though times of extreme duress. Once those times are over you have to move on and I don’t know there’s a lot of guys coming back from the Middle East, I don’t know if our government is preparing them well enough to return to civilian life which I think is really criminal.
When these guys sign up, they sign a contract, they agree to a job and we should give them every benefit possible when they return to civilian life whether that be psychological help or medical help any of that stuff. They go over there, train real hard and do a deadly job then come home sometimes and it’s really hard for them to integrate back into normal society. It would be hard for me if I spent nine months in Afghanistan getting shot at to all of a sudden be going to Walmart. It’s two different worlds so that’s what that song is about, I hope that wasn’t too long winded of an explanation.
You mentioned the ‘Wrath’ record earlier, what expectations did the success of ‘Wrath’ create from the fans and also from the band itself?
We get asked a lot about that, about expectations, do you feel any pressure to exceed your past success, however you define that. Really we don’t feel any pressure from anybody else other than ourselves, there’s a lot of internal pressure and it’s not internal pressure like, “We have to sell more records or we need to chart higher or we need to go on bigger tours.” When we write a new record we feel pressure to write the best record we are capable of at that point in time and we certainly want a record that we feel shows growth from the last record, we don’t want to write the same record again and again and I certainly don’t want to have to come on the radio and say, “This new record is almost as good as our second one, maybe some of you will like it.” [Laughs]
We want to write a banger each and every time so we’re really, really self critical and it’s a pretty drawn out in that time and it’s a painful process, so we feel a lot of internal pressure but as far as from everybody else, not really, we kind of just block all that out. We love our fans, we love being able to tour and all that stuff but we started this band because we’re five guys who wanted to drink some beer and play some heavy metal, we wanted to write stuff that we wanted to hear and that is the bottom line to why we still do it today. If we’re happy with it, then we’re happy, external pressures aren’t really a factor.
What can we expect in terms of U.S. touring for 2012?
Well that’s being decided right now. In 2012 we’re starting in Richmond Va., and then we will hit the east coast of the United States, the northeast coast, we’ll do D.C., Philly, New York, Boston and one Canadian gig up in Toronto and from there, they’re just warm up shows in small clubs so as to give the fans a more intimate taste and for us to get our chops back up and it’s always a lot of fun in a smaller venue when you can actually see the people and interact with them. After that we go to Asia, Australia, South America, over to Europe for some summer festivals and as of right now the plan is to be doing some touring in the U.S. hopefully in the late summer of 2012 and that’s as far as I know right now. The touring packages and so forth are being nailed down as we speak.
During the 2012 World Tour Lamb of God is going to be shooting a feature film, documenting fans and their personal stories. Who’s idea was that and how did that come about?
The film basically shows the other side of Lamb of God because for me music was so important as a young man, underground music, it was the first time I felt identified with anybody. I was not identifying with whatever people were listening to on Top 40 radio, no way, it was garbage so I found a community of like minded people via the punk and metal scene and I used that to deal with growing up and all that stuff and I still do today. We’ve done a bunch of DVDs where it shows what it’s like to be in our band and we’re pretty honest about that. We aren’t only trying to show the glitz and glamor and stuff. Our manager kind of came up with the idea for this, he’s been thinking about it for a few years and he’s like “let’s turn the camera outward” let’s show how this music affects your fans and particularly in areas of the world where perhaps there’s some tension, whether it be political or economic strike.
It will turn the camera outwards from us and put it back in the hands of the fans which is pretty cool to me because we’ve always been a really hands on band and have had a pretty open line of communication with our fans. It’s kind of giving them a little bit of camera time not just us, de-mystifying the whole rock star aspect of things, we wouldn’t be doing this is it wasn’t for the fans so let’s hear some of their stories because we’re getting tired of ours.
There’s some stuff on our website where people can write in and I’m really looking forward to meeting some people and talking to them. The greatest compliment I can get from our music is when some kid comes up to me or anybody comes up to me and says, “You know what I was going through a really rough time in my life and your music helped me get through it,” and I’ve made a few really good life long friends that way. Music helped me so much so if I’m helping someone in some way then I consider my job done and done well. So I’m looking forward to doing the movie stuff.
What could you tell us about the song ‘The Number Six’?
‘The Number Six’ basically is a song about envy and it seems like today, particularly in the Internet age with all these anonymous commentators, anytime anybody does something or tries to do something with their life whether it be in music or politics or building any sort of organization even a charitable organization, there’s always some jerks on some message board tearing them down anonymously. There’s no face to face accountability and it’s easier to tear someone down than try to do something yourself, all of that comes from fear based envy and the chorus of this song, the last few lines are “the number six / Leviathan.”
The sixth deadly sin is envy and in the Middle Ages they personified each of the deadly sins in order to make them seem more scary to common people and they gave them each a demon and the sixth deadly sin envy its demon was Leviathan so “the number six / Leviathan” is just a fancy poetic Medieval way, how metal, of saying envy. If you don’t like something change it or do it better yourself, that’s what that song is basically about.
I can only imagine that putting together a Lamb of God record is a process, is there anything that you can tell me about whether it’s a song or even something non-musical that affected the finished album the most?
What affected the finished album the most, well a few things. For my part laying down the party hat after years and years and years, I recorded the last record ‘Wrath’ sober but had on and off periods of sobriety since then. It’s been quite a while since I’ve imbibed any mind altering substances, substances substances, sorry flash back. It’s been quite a while so things have been improved on my part, my attitude and my ability to write sharper lyrics, that’s kind of affected to overall arch of the record. Mark played some solos, I’m not a guitar solo guy, I really don’t care about them. A lot of the times I think it’s kind of wanky stuff but he played some stuff I really liked and another big thing on this record that really changed and made it a lot more cohesive was Willy really stepped his game up as a song writer, he became a song writer. Willy was always the insane riffer guy who can write crazy riffs and stuff but this time he really brought his A game to the writing process and I think the record really reflects that. It’s a lot more cohesive than our last record, in my opinion and it’s just my opinion.
Overall it just feels like a more solid record to me and I think that’s the result of everybody being in a room, in a really good serious headspace about their parts when they brought it to the table. Also we brought in Josh Wilbur, our producer very early in the pre-production process so he kind of acted as a buffer between the sometimes tumultuous escapades that occur when we write a record. When you write a part and you spend so much time on it, sometime you really don’t want to let it go, so you’re like “oh it’s my baby” having an objective, outside observer who while we had the final call, we trust Josh it’s the third record we worked on with him and having an outside observer saying “you guys are crazy just play this” or just saying this or that, better is better without us getting ego involved in the way was really helpful to the process.
It must be hard to have to let go of parts that you’re attached to that any of the members create that either the other members of the band or your producer says “No, lose that.”
I believe it was William Faulkner, don’t quote me on this, but he said the writer you have to murder your darlings meaning when you’re writing a book and you have characters you can’t become so enamored of them, so in love with your own creation with your own creation that you can’t see that they don’t serve the greater whole, they don’t serve the purpose of the book. You can love a character you create just like you love a song you create but if it doesn’t fit in the whole you gotta kill it, you gotta “murder your darlings” so I think that’s what we tried to do. We have a saying “better is better” not my part is better, your part is better, I like this better but better is better and we really try to live by that now when we’re writing music.
Tell us about the song ‘Insurrection.’
‘Insurrection’ is in the interest of fairness because Mark and I co-write the lyrics, I decided to pick a song that Mark wrote, not just all ones with my lyrics; this was his baby. So I can’t comment that much on the lyrical content because I don’t want to speak for him, other than the fact that sometimes we find ourselves caught in repetitive patterns that are not to our best interests, detrimental behaviors and I’m not just talking about drinking or whatever. If you let something make your angry, like if the dog is pooping constantly in one corner of the living room and you let that make you angry over and over again instead of just blocking off that part of the living room or changing something then you’re wasting your time.
I picked this song also because I really like the dynamics of it, I think it shows some interesting guitar work, I’m not a guitar player so I’m always in awe when I hear things and I’m like “wow, I wish I could do that.” [Laughs] I really like this song for that stuff and there’s almost what can be considered a tiny bit of clean vocals at the beginning. It’s funny people are like “don’t ever do clean vocals” well whatever you know we’re not going to turn into the Backstreet Boys or anything. We’ve never limited ourselves but with this song just at the beginning it’s not a chorus, it’s not even a whole verse it’s just part of an intro, there’s some slightly clean vocals. So I’m pretty interested to see what the backlash is on that from the diehard metal purists.
You’re a guy that has appeared on a lot of other bands album, Gojira, Overkill, Shadows Fall, Jamey Jasta just to name a few. What’s the comradery like between bands in the metal community today?
I can only speak for myself, it’s great. [Laughs] I have friends from all over the world and we keep up with each other via email, telephone calls, twitter all that stuff, all the time. I talk to people literally from every continent, from bands on a weekly basis and it’s really incredible for me to be able to do that being a guy from a small town in Virginia where I just dreamed of going to New York City one day. Having had toured the world and made friends with all these people who are doing the same exact thing as me, it’s just something incredible. I just feel really lucky and really blessed to be able to do this. I try not to wake up in the morning and go “oh we’re awesome, we’re in Lamb of God” actually I don’t have to try most of the time I wake up and go “Ah I have to go cut the grass.” I wake up and I’ll start talking to people and at least two or three times a week I stop and think “wow this is crazy you get to do this stuff.”
When you go to Europe in the summer and you get to play the festivals, which we do really have that in the states, these huge two or three day festivals with bands from all over the world metal, punk all sorts of stuff mixed up. I see people that I haven’t seen in a year, it’s just crazy. I love the festivals just for the fact that I’m going to see all these people and it’s awesome. I get turned on to a lot of good music, there’s always a lot of music swapping like “what have you been listening to?” It’s amazing, I think it’s really cool to be a part of that community because I don’t think that the average person whose rollin’ down the road listening to the, what is popular? I don’t even know what’s popular, is Britney Spears still around?
I guess Justin Bieber.
Yeah that guy, God everybody hates him. People on my Twitter are like “what do you think about Justin Bieber” and I’m like I really don’t think about him much. I don’t hate him because he has zero effect on my life. Let’s just use him as an example, I don’t think that the large community of Justin Bieber fans can go, which anybody in the metal scene can do, can go to pretty much any country on the earth find out where the show is, walk in and even if you don’t speak the language, you’re gonna see some freaky people with black t-shirts and tattoos and long hair or just normal looking people at the metal show and you’re going to know that you guys are going to connect on something. I’ve made a lot of friends that way, I don’t think the Bieber heads of the world get that. This type of music is much more of a lifestyle thing rather than whatever’s in ‘Vogue.’ People live it, people live this stuff, so I feel very fortunate and very blessed to be a part of it.
Tell us about the song ‘King Me.’
This is the album closer and when I heard it in its first demoed form, it was immediately in my mind the album closer. This record had been introspective for me, I’m 40 years old and I still maintain all the core beliefs I had when I started forming in my teens. I’m known as a bit of a mal-content sort of guy I guess and I’m still that way. I’ve had to calm down a little bit in my expression of those views, this song if kind of about me looking at where I am in my life and making a decision to just stay on the same path but do it in a wise manner. I was in New York recording the vocals and the song was almost completely written and I was missing a little bit and it was late at night, I was walking through the Lower East Side and all of a sudden I realized I was in front of where CBGBs was and it’s some high end male designer fashion place and I just stood there for a second and I felt like I was going to puke all over the place. This was gross because CBGBs since high school for me was this legendary club and it was. Tons and tons of great bands have played there.
The first time we played there I was in awe, we were first on like a 20 band bill at 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, I just thought it was the greatest thing ever. We kept on playing that place and we sold it out several times and it was really an important part for me and I think for my band as part of our musical growth, it was a milestone to play this legendary place. I was looking at it that night and I’m just like “oh this is gross” and it just bummed me out so I wrote about that, there are parts in the song that are about that and I realized when I was thinking about those things.
I can’t really engage in nostalgia too much otherwise I’m not moving forward in today even thought I’m really glad I was there and was a part of that history I can’t sit here and piss and moan and say “oh things were so much better then” and not deal with the reality of now. So that’s what that song is kind of about, just taking a look at now and trying to make now better no matter what’s going on or no matter what’s gone. I enjoy it plus it’s got a pretty neat opera singer in it, she’s singing parts of Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ I selected some passages from that, she’s singing that in Latin underneath the verses. Then underneath the chorus she’s singing a Latin translation of my chorus “King me is killing me” and there’s some strings like there are real strings not computerized stuff. So it’s a pretty different song for us but it works and I think it’s a hell of a way to close an album.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will talk to Cannibal Corpse guitarist Alex Webster. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.