Interview with Chris Adler of Lamb of God - Friday, January 27th, 2012
Interview and photo by Mike Bax
Originally scheduled for 12:30pm, this interview with Chris Adler actually happened almost two hours late, after the tour bus carrying Lamb of God from Philadelphia to Toronto broke down at the Niagara Falls border. All of the members of Lamb of God were to appear at HMV on Queen Street for a 3:00pm autograph session and by 2:00pm, two other interviewers along with myself were wondering if perhaps all of Lamb of God’s press was going to get canceled in order to allow the band the necessary time to get to HMV and meet their diehard fans for their in-store appearance.
The tour bus literally rolled in beside the Phoenix and all five members of Lamb of God entered the venue and broke off into their respective interview commitments, with Chris Adler plopping down in front of me, holding an open can of Red Bull and wearing a crazy winter hat (complete with furry ear flaps), fingerless skeleton gloves, and a heavy coat.
We trimmed our allotted time of twenty minutes back to about twelve, jumping right away into some dialogue about Resolution, Lamb of God’s recently released seventh studio album. Chris is a good interview. he's very articulate. His eyes were still full of sleep, making it obvious that he had only been awake for minutes at best, and here he was smiling and ready to compose answers to my questions with only a few swallows of Red Bull in his system.
Patrons were already gathering outside of the venue, eager to get in and see Lamb of God play a club that is easily 8 times too small for them. The Phoenix show had sold out in minutes and fans were clamoring for tickets to see this very special theatre show. The band did their press interviews followed by their HMV meet and greet, then came back to the venue for sound check and a fan club meet and greet, and then went on to blow the roof off the venue for 100 minutes to an utterly packed crowd of attendees.
Resolution is an aptly titled album as Lamb of God showed nothing BUT resolution for their entire day in Toronto. I’m sure they went to bed tired. Resolution charted in the number two spot in Canada on its first week of release. The entire album is composed of material steeped in resolve, and it just may go down as the band’s career best - it’s that good.
Mike: It’s Chris Adler. How are you, sir?
Chris: Good. Glad to finally be here.
Mike: I feel bad that this is technically first thing in the morning for you, and you are getting plunked down in front of me right away.
Chris: That’s alright, man. I’ve got my Red Bull here. I’m good. I didn’t party too hard last night either, so it’s all good.
Mike: What happened with your bus?
Chris: Something’s going on with the transmission. We got to the border just fine, but almost immediately after getting through, it just stopped working. Every gear change from the border to here in Toronto was a grind, but we made it.
Mike: Do you have to be somewhere tomorrow night as well? Back in the States?
Chris: Yeah, in DC. We have one more of these shows.
Mike: Hmmm. You might be switching busses then.
Chris: Umm, maybe. It will be a hell of a cab ride if they don’t iron it out.
Mike: Congratulations on the new Lamb of God album, Resolution. It’s phenomenal.
Chris: Thank you.
Mike: Resolution certainly shows Lamb of God progressing as musicians. I feel like Wrath and Resolution rank amongst your best work, and not the other way around. You are putting out progressively better albums and resting so heavily on your laurels.
Chris: Well, thank you very much for that. There was definitely a concerted effort to be better musicians. Going into Resolution, that was very much in our minds. Not that we could just rest on our laurels, but that we really wanted to try and come up with an album that could break that barricade with our older fans. Even for me, the bands that I love; I love their first few albums and then they seem to trail off somewhere that I just don’t understand. And I think this may have a lot to do with the time in my life that I caught onto the band and maybe for the bands in question, the things they meant to do in their beginnings weren’t how they wanted to be in their later albums. There is evolution in everything, really.
For us, I wanted to try and create something meaningful. I pushed the guys and they pushed me throughout this recording to make something that a fan COULD say, “Oh yeah, I love that band. Their seventh album is the best one.” That’s a pretty daunting task considering what we have done before – six records that we are all very proud of as a band. There are very few things that we would go back and change about those older albums, so when you have something already that you really like, the question really becomes, “How do you improve on it?”
We were starting at a pretty high spot for this album. It was tough to do and it took us a little while to do. There were some hurdles for us all to jump on Resolution. Being friends, we were able to talk to each other like, “That’s a great riff, bro, but it sounds like something we would have done on this record or that record. How can we bring this forward into something that is even pushing you as a musician?” That was very much on our minds throughout Resolution.
Mike: Interesting. We talked by phone at the end of the touring cycle for Wrath, and I can remember you saying that you felt that if the material for the seventh album wasn’t shaping up to be something exciting, then you weren’t real interested in doing the album. You wanted it to be a challenge and a step forward even before you started to write it.
Chris: Absolutely. I didn’t want to be one of those bands that just did a maintenance album. I know we could have done that now and just made a placeholder album. We could have even just not done new records at all and just opted to tour until we are too old to do so anymore…we COULD do that, but I don’t want to be that kind of band or that kind of musician.
I want to be innovative. I don’t want to repeat myself. At the end of the day, when I’m talking to my kids or my family, and I am retired or whatever…even if we had to cut it short after Wrath or after Sacrament, I would want to know that our body of work didn’t get compromised by that notion; that we could do something less just to keep Lamb of God going.
Mike: Hourglass was a testament to what you’ve just said there. That was a great compilation of old and new, and a showcase for the band’s material over six studio albums.
Chris: Hourglass was also intended to be a document of that time frame. It was kind of a stop-gap for the amount of time that it took us to get to Resolution because of all the touring that we did around Wrath. At the same time we were getting pushed in many directions. They were saying, “You guys have done six records of stuff, a lot bands don’t get to that point. You should do something collective and have something for the new fan that maybe caught onto Lamb of God during the Mayhem Festival or the Metallica tours. Hourglass is something that they could pick up as a good start point to get an overview of our band six albums in. It kind of introduces new fans to our earlier stuff and allowed us to come out of the gate with something stronger with additional time to write and record Resolution. That was the idea behind Hourglass from our camp.
Mike: You have three families, Chris; the five members of the Lamb of God family, yourself and Willie as brothers, and then your respective family outside the band. Do you feel you have achieved a balance between all aspects of Lamb of God and your respective families?
Chris: Two of the three are very good. Willie and I are pretty much always really tight, that never seems to change. We have a very similar musical direction and both feel that this is what we want to do and what we both love doing. The band family, I think that because we are all kind of rallying around Resolution at the moment, everything is really smooth right now. We spent a lot of time on the Sacrament and Wrath tours and just that sheer amount of time minus any disagreements or normal things that friendships will go through…that amount of time stuck with the same people does tend to cause some problems. [It was] nothing that we couldn’t deal with, nothing serious. Just that kind of claustrophobic feeling that can come from years and years of being in a bus with the same guys.
Having the time off and rehearsing at our leisure to come back and do the Resolution thing, the band is really doing very well. So now the third family, the family at home, THAT is a tough one because now I have been home for a year. We wrote the record at home, and I have assimilated back into dad and husband mode. Now the machine is starting again and it brings up an emotional terror if you will. Now my wife goes back to being a single mom. When I came back home after the touring cycle from Wrath, it was very hard for me to kind of assimilate back into that role. We had to re-figure out our routines and get back into that mind-set. Now she knows I’m about to take off again and it’s difficult for me to essentially walk away from my daughter and wife and feel like I’m still doing my thing as a dad. The things I’m going to miss, it’s very tough. I love doing this and I know I’d regret it if I didn’t do it, and it’s - luckily for us - paying the bills at home and keeping us all fed and my kid in school. That probably takes more work than any other aspect of the band for me, keeping that connection at home up to where it should be.
Mike: I’ll bet that’s tough. When I first listened to Resolution, I felt there was one similarity to Wrath right away. 'Straight For The Sun' - much like 'The Passing' on Wrath - feels like an intro to the album. Almost like a mood setter, if you will.
Chris: That was intentional. We like the idea of some sort of mood setting introduction. We hear it on a lot of records we like, where it’s some sort of piece of creative audio that is supposed to be scary or hype or something like that. We’ve always enjoyed the idea of creating that musically somehow. Normally with us, there is this oddball song or tune where we don’t know really know what to do with it, and often times that winds up as the last song on the album, because we always try to end with a punctuation as well – although I don’t know if people even listen to entire albums anymore. But we also try to find something different but strong to put at the beginning of the album, something that is maybe not expected of us, and maybe break in a sound that is innovative or new for us as a band. 'Straight For The Sun' is one of those things. We haven’t really done anything like that song since the Burn The Priest record. We didn’t know what to make of it when we brought it into the practices. It was fun to play, certainly. It’s sludgy and it’s good, but it’s not the typical kind of speed metal that is showing off all the tricks we tend to put forward as a band. It turned out to be this really cool kind of a slap in the face to start off the new record.
Mike: There's some really interesting experimentation on Resolution. The nifty little blues riff in front of 'Ghost Walking', the instrumental 'Barbarossa', the harmonizing and orchestration included on the album closer 'King Me' is pretty wicked., there’s some female vocals and a bit of a symphony in there - pretty interesting material coming from Lamb of God.
Chris: I think that we came into Wrath not wanting to repeat Sacrament. Not that there is anything wrong with the songs in Sacrament, but we just felt like the production had gotten to a point that we were being pushed a bit into a more commercial arena on that album that we didn’t want to take any further. On Wrath we all kind of picked a point on the horizon and felt like that album was going to be a more aggressive record, and we wanted to try and sound a little more raw, pick up the tempos a little bit, and put out this declaration that we are a metal band. Coming into Resolution we felt like looking back over everything that we’d done as a band, and we’d covered most of the bases that a metal band might do. So now, how do we progress? All of those things that maybe weren’t allowed in the making of the prior records, how do we expand on those? Where did those ideas then go and how far can we take them and feel comfortable with them?
You mentioned ‘King Me’. The strings and the operatic sections in that song was a stretch for us. When we first heard some of that stuff coming back from our sessions, it wasn’t that we didn’t want to do it or that we don’t like the song now, but it was one of those things where on our initial listen we were all taken aback like, “Whoa…can we pull that off? Is this ok for us to do?” There aren’t really any rulebooks to what we do, but it was strange. The more we listened to it and spent time with it, and played the album without it, we realized how much stronger the album was with that track included.
Mike: It’s a good song.
Chris: Yeah, we can say that now. It is a good song.
Mike: It shouldn’t matter what the genre is that brings the track to the people either…
Chris: Right. It’s hard to get out of that mindset though. When your career is kind of based on one thing and one genre, it’s hard to say to yourself, “Well, it doesn’t really matter what we do.” I’ve seen other bands do that and it can not go over well. A band like Metallica can do whatever they want, and they just did something that was purely creative with Lulu. On a fan level that just didn’t work. We’re still out trying to do what we love and put some food on the table, you know?
Mike: And really, who’s going to say no to jamming with Lou Reed, right?
Mike: ‘King Me’, much like ‘Creature Lives’ on the new Mastodon album, is just an interesting experiment within the tapestry that you all have as musicians. And it could translate live in a very interesting way if you decide to give the song it’s day in court on stage.
Chris: Yes. We have been talking about that. We are just trying to figure out what that might look like. We add in an additional bus with strings and actually do it, or do we just run tracks. We never really run tracks on our live songs – so that song is a daunting notion to some of the guys.
Mike: You went back to Josh Wilbur as a producer on this new album. What do you feel Josh brings to the table for Lamb of God?
Chris: Josh is a young guy; very aggressive, stone cold sober, never had a drink in his life, and he just wants to be the best damn record producer there is. When he came into Wrath, my take on it was that his primary goal was to somehow outdo Machine (producer of Sacrament and Ashes of the Wake) on his level. Not that he was going to get all the reviews and all the press or anything like that. He wanted to take the band, sound-wise, into a place where people realized that it was a different producer at the helm. Coming into Resolution, he had really shed that need. So this time around things felt just a little more natural. Something we had never done before as a band, we brought him into rehearsals on day one - it was the first time we sat down and tried to work on the new record - and allowed him the sixth member status where he could say, “I don’t like that”. From the very beginning he helped. We’d record each day, so the next day, after he’d stayed up most of the night re-arranging everything, he’d have these suggestions. “What if we re-arranged these things, and then cut this part and put this here?” We’d listen to it and try to be objective about it where before, our producers were always given written songs. Even on Wrath, Josh was told we wanted the record to be faster, but with Machine and Josh, their ideas were almost always immediately shot down with the attitude that nobody knows this band better than we do, right? This time on Resolution, he really was allowed into the creative process and his opinions were not shunned at all. I mean, we did what we wanted to do, but he was allowed to have a voice in the record.
Mike: I’m going to clip this short, Chris. I know you have to clear out of here and get to your autograph session.
Chris: Thanks man. Sorry we were so late today.
Mike: Eh, shit happens.
Chris: It does indeed. (laughs) Often with us, it seems.