I was impressed when I caught Lamb of God at Ozz Fest last year. They took the stage with gusto and gave the crowd a worthwhile show, so when I had the opportunity to speak with vocalist Randy Blythe, I didn't hesitate.
Blythe shares the LOG spotlight with guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton, bassist John Campbell and drummer Chris Adler. They are currently touring in support of their release "Ashes of the Wake" (Epic). The group is based in Richmond, Virginia and Blythe told me how he came to join them.
"I was with an ex-girlfriend and I saw them playing at a party and they didn't have singer yet," Blythe recalls. "I looked at her and I said, 'That's the band I'm going to sing for.' I kind of forced my way in there and they've been too lazy to get rid of me ever since.
"A guy I knew was in the band and he had asked me to sing for them two months earlier, to try out." Blythe continues, "And I was out hopping freight trains across the country during the summer, just being a bum traveling that way. I cam back from traveling all summer and I just walked up to him after the party and said, 'Let me try out to sing for you guys.' They said, 'Cool' and a week later I was in the band. That was eight years ago and it's all been downhill ever since."
The group originally had an even more controversial moniker, but I don't think that that is necessarily the motive for a name change.
"We had replaced a guitar player and the music was changing," Blythe tells me. "Also, our old name, Burn the Priest, pigeonholed us. You'd hear the name Burn the Priest, 'Oh, that's a metal band,' we wanted something a bit more enigmatic. Lamb of God, people question it, 'What are they? Are they a Christian band? Are they what?' It's just a name. We felt like it was time to switch the name."
"Did you sing when you were growing up?" I ask.
"In the shower maybe," Blythe quips. "In high school I was in a couple of punk bands, but they never really did much. That was it, it was cool."
Blythe admits that he did try other instruments, "I used to mess around with the drums and I got semi-decent, I guess enough to hold a steady beat for a boring band I would suppose, but no where near the caliber of our drummer."
All of LOG's players, except Willie Adler, attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Blythe majored in English literature and minored in creative writing, so I wonder if it helps his lyric writing.
"Yeah, all right. But I think you learn how to write by living, not by studying," Blythe says.
Even though LOG has been doing well, many bands hang on to day jobs for a while.
"Up until a year or two ago we all had full-time jobs," Blythe tells me. "I did roofing, a lot, a lot, a lot of rooftop work, cooking, washing dishes, some construction here and there; refinishing houses."
In his free time, Blythe enjoys both deep sea and freshwater fishing, as well as fly fishing.
"I like to go fishing, skateboard, drink a lot of beer, read book a lot and hang out with my girlfriend," Blythe shares. "I'm a pretty voracious reader, I read a whole lot of stuff, a wide variety of things, from fiction to social analysis. I like reading biographies of interesting people."
When it comes to creating LOG's material, Blythe writes most of the lyrics.
"I write probably 60 percent of lyrics and my guitar player, Mark, writes the other 40, sometimes we collaborate and put our lyrics together on one song." Blythe explains the rest of the song work, "It's pretty much a group effort. Sometimes somebody will come in with a whole song written, but most of the time somebody will come in with some parts and somebody else will throw something in. It's a pretty collaborative effort."
At first listen, "Ashes of the Wake" appears very politically-fused, but Blythe clarifies the band's base.
"We aren't a political band, we tend to be branded as one because some of the songs have a political slant," Blythe states. "I would not call us a political band, basically we aren't a very happy band, we write about stuff that disturbs us and pisses us off. This political situation is not a pleasant thing and it makes us unhappy. I'm not a real big fan of our administration, so that creeps in. You write what you know."
That said, I ask Blythe if riding the rails like a hobo helped his writing.
"Anything I've done in my life helps writing," Blythe says. "Whether it be traveling or working or reading a lot, it all ties in. I think traveling makes you a more well-rounded person. I love where I'm from, Richmond, it's my home, but I think it's good to go out and see other places."
What sparked the adventure?
"I don't exactly know." Blythe thinks and then offers, "It was just something I wanted to do. My grandfather did it when he was younger. It's kind of a unique way of traveling, but it's dangerous, I wouldn't recommend it for anybody. It's really easy to get killed if you argue with a freight train and lose, but it's a great way to travel. Good times."
Aside from Blythe's wanderings, the band has other intriguing factors, such as two of the members are brothers.
"Chris and Willie, the drummer and the guitar player, have been playing music together since they were kids, so they have a unique bond where they play together and almost know what the other one is going to do before they do it. So they're really tight," Blythe comments on working with the two. "I guess it affects the way they write music. But everybody comes in and brings stuff to the table. It's a special thing for them to be in a band together, write together and to be brothers."
As always, I like to get the insider's take on the music scene.
"In our particular music scene, I think it's very healthy right now. There's a lot of really good bands. Kids are getting really good at a very young age, they're becoming technically advanced quite young and I think that's good because it's pushing everyone to be better." Blythe then reflects on Southern living and its scene, "It's relaxed. There's a very healthy music scene with a lot of good players and everybody's friends. There's a lot of good music in the South, we aren't just a bunch of rednecks."
He also offers a thought on the Web, "The Internet's cool. It's a good tool to gain exposure when you're starting out."
The future for LOG is filled with touring-- summer festivals, probably the big festivals in Europe and England, then Australia, New Zealand, South America and Japan. Followed by more U.S. touring and the U.K. Finally, back home in time for Christmas.
Blythe ends our conversation with a final thought on "Ashes of the Wake," "Buy it, so I don't have to go back and wash dishes."
Catch them in your town by visiting www.lamb-of-god.com
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