Lamb of God is one of those bands that Iíve always wanted to interview. Residing on the fringe of the metal scene theyíve long held an underground following. Years of hard work and touring can leave any band a little battered and bruised. And for most bands, the road is a light that blinds you as much as shows you the way. For Lamb of God, their way has lead them to the new record, "Sacrament."
I caught up with bassist John Campbell on one of the early dates of the "GiganTour." As we sat in the dressing room of the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, Arizona it was easy to understand his excitement. The record had just debut on the charts at #8, selling more than 60,000 copies the first week. This, on all accounts, was a substantial step for a metal band and Campbell seemed comfortable with the road that stretched out before him. Years of hard work had tempered Campbell, not with a burgeoning ego, but rather with a confident humility. He understood the potential of this record. And I know he was ready to embrace the reward that accompanies diligence.
DB: First of all, thanks for taking the interview. I appreciate it.
Campbell: Not at all, itís part of what I do.
DB: Congratulations on the new record. Debuting at #8 must have been very satisfying. What can you tell me about the new record?
Campbell: Itís called "Sacrament." It came out a few weeks ago and weíre all real proud of the work that went into it and what we got out of it. We started right after getting off the road from "Sounds of the Underground" (tour) last summer. We wrote though to our European tour last December and then picked it up again in January when we wrote until we went into the studio. We started pre-production in March and that recording process took us right up to the "Unholy Alliance" tour.
DB: Did this record seem to be a longer or shorter process?
Campbell: You can spend forever recording a record. This one we gave ourselves as much time as humanly possible. It certainly felt long when we were in the middle of it. But when you look back, time flew by. It was a really rewarding time spent recording.
DB: Once again you choose to work with Machine as your producer. Iím guessing you were pleased with the results of the album and wanted to expand on that relationship.
Campbell: I think we all got to the point with him that we felt we put out a good record with "Ashes of the Wake." And I think we felt that we could push that relationship even further. So we were excited about getting into the studio and working on some new material with him. I think we accomplished exactly what we set out to do.
DB: Did Machineís involvement change from the last record to this one?
Campbell: No he had the same level of involvement really. Actually we wanted him to get in deeper early on while we were writing. We invited him down to listen to what we were working on, to offer suggestions. Unfortunately he got caught up in some other projects so he didnít come in until the songs were written. He had some arrangement ideas and so we took, some we didnít. He worked a lot with the vocal and the lyrics getting them straight. Heís a real musical guy, real easy to work with.
DB: Itís always interesting to hear about the writing and recording process. As you know, some bands require a great deal of involvement from their producer while others slam the door.
Campbell: When we went with him on "Ashes" the door was pretty much slammed. Weíve never allowed any one to talk to us about our music. And thatís where we started with Machine. But he seemed to have some good ideas. So for this record we started allowing him to bring in ideas, some we liked and some we didnít.
DB: Writing processÖ How does the band typically write a new record?
Campbell: Generally Mark and Willie will write riffs or entire songs. Theyíll bring them into the practice space and show us what they have. Then we all kind of beat around what theyíve brought in until it all falls into place and everyone is comfortable. With Machine on the last few records, he comes in after weíve gone through this process and make more suggestions.
DB: I read that Randyís lyrical input came late in the writing process. In fact you were virtually going into the studio.
Campbell: Yeah, with a lot of the tracks the vocals were definitely arranged in the studio.
DB: That can certainly add to the challenge! Particularly when considering subject matter. The band tends to write from a more intellectual perspective. You speak on subjects ranging from politics to religion and substance abuse. Do you find yourself offering opinions or simply venting inner demons?
Campbell: We write about the things that capture our collective attention. In a lot of ways it can be cathartic in that we get out this negative energy towards things.
DB: It seems that, for people who donít listen to metal, itís easy for them to say that you donít have any kind of developed opinion, at least not a valid one.
Campbell: There are certainly enough bands out there that write about girls and drinking.
DB: Yes, I agree and itís refreshing to hear something with a little more depth. Letís talk about "GiganTour"Ö How is the tour going? Do you enjoy the festival type of tour? Why did you choose a festival style of tour to support your new record?
Campbell: Thatís easy, weíre touring with Megadeth. This is a great tour and a great opportunity. Obviously if weíre going out on the road to promote our new record we want to do it the biggest way we can. When the offer came in from "GiganTour" we were more than happy to promote ourselves in this way. We will be going out and doing some headline shows in the beginning of 2007.
DB: Are you enjoying the tour itself?
Campbell: Yes, we are just getting into the swing of things. Everything is falling into place pretty well. You know itís always hectic to live and work on the road but it beats washing dishes!
DB: Last years line up was rather eclectic with Dream Theater on the bill. They were kind of the odd man out. This year the line up seems a little more direct.
Campbell: If anyone was to get the moniker of the odd guy out this year it would be Opeth. But theyíre really good at what they do. Itís captivating music. I love standing on the side of the stage warming up and watching them play. And theyíve had a great response from the crowd.
DB: Youíve begun to re-release of earlier albums. Letís talk about that for a moment. I you hoping to introduce the music to a newer audience?
Campbell: Itís just that weíve got better distribution now. We are re-mastering some of these. Weíre going in and tweaking tracks that were left at a certain point when we released them years ago. There are some things that have always bugged us and so weíre making some stuff sound better than they did before.
DB: As youíve mentioned, you can spend forever in the studio if you chose to. It must be nice to be able to revisit the past and improve. Did these records ever fall out of print?
Campbell: I donít have any idea.
DB: I want to ask a question regarding file sharing. I know that this question can seem a bit worn but it became relevant for Lamb of God when youíre latest record was leaked to the Internet about a week before the release. Do you have any opinion about what happened.
Campbell: No not really. I think itís all kind of the way things are now. Even though it was leaked we still managed to sell 63,000 copies our first week. I think it effects the over all picture in that 63,000 sales will get a band into the Top 10 on Billboard where before file sharing it wouldnít have. We didnít come of age in a time before file sharing. Weíre not Metallica sitting on a pile of money that may not have been accumulated if they had come up in a time where people could freely share their music.
DB: I donít know, I still enjoyed the days when we went to the record store. We would browse through hundreds of records and looked at the artwork. We would read through the liner notes and just hang out on a Saturday afternoon.
Campbell: Oh absolutely! There was an interview that Randy was telling us about. Or maybe it was on a message board. He was talking about how people are downloading and telling them that they will never know the joy of going to the record store the first day an album came out. You would wait outside until the store opened and they let you in. And for the first time you held that record in your hand. Whereas today you download the music the moment itís available and never own the album art.
DB: Why donít you tell us about your new DVDs. I know you just released a handful.
Campbell: We have "Terror and Hubris," "Killadelphia" and now "The Making of Sacrament."
DB: Iím impress with the amount of access you give your fans. Do you find the camera an imposition?
Campbell: You know there are certain things that are not being shown, believe me! And I donít really want to talk about that a whole lot! The guy that makes those videos, well Iím surprised that heís made it this far with us. Thatís him sitting behind you. Heís a great guy and fun to have around. He brings out some ridiculous stuff in us and as far as how much access we give fans, weíve thought about that and we go only as far as we feel comfortable. But if youíre referring to some of the scandalous stuff that goes on like the fights as being the in depth personal stuff that we show people, without itÖ Well itís definitely a moment that youíll remember off that DVD! Itís almost like were making vacation videos and itís nice to include that as part of the record and we would like it if people would go out and pick up the DVD.
With that the interview ended. Lamb of God is currently touring Europe with Slayer and, as Campbell indicated during the interview, will be back in America during 2007. Donít forget to check out their Web site at www.lamb-of-god.com
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