Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe: It’s ‘Impossible at This Point’ for Metal Bands to Fix Any Sort of Political or Social Divisiveness [Interview]
Lamb of God‘s Randy Blythe was the guest on Full Metal Jackie‘s weekend radio program. The singer discussed the band’s upcoming summer tour with Slayer and Behemoth, how much the metal scene has grown since he was a teenager, his passion for writing and photography and more. Check out the chat below.
How you doing Randy?
All right, good talking to you.
I’m very excited about the tour that you guys are on this summer with Slayer and Behemoth. It’s pretty tremendous I have to say.
Yeah it’s a super strong bill when it was presented under a management probably in Tokyo and they were like, “Slayer, let’s pair you up with Behemoth and do a tour” and we were like, “That’s awesome, it’s a solid bill.”
Lamb of God has been going nonstop for the last few years now. What’s the secret to avoid burnout when the band has to be your priority with all this touring that you’ve done?
For me it means a break; that’s what it’s got to mean and I have other aspects in my career that I attend to. My agent and my editor and my literary company are like, “Where’s my next book?” And I have a few different photography galleries confirmed and need to get together.
For me I had this realization that I’m never ever going to retire a while back and I had this sad moment where I thought I’m never ever going to retire. I’m never going to be that guy that gets the condo in Florida and fix the air conditioner and draw these pensions, but then I realized retirement would drive me crazy because I would always have to be doing something.
If you have too much free time you have to fill it with something so for me when Lamb of God gives me a break, Lamb of God is just one part of my life. When you go on a break it’s certainly physically and I would think emotionally a relief for me a break because when you’re away from home constantly just performing night after night after night it wears you out.
I’m 46-years-old and my body hurts and the thing is I don’t just stand there and play. I’m kind of active and as well just being with all these guys on the bus. I want to see my wife or do other things, so for me it’s certainly a relief at the end of a long tour cycle to take time off. But at the same time I’m not just taking time off to go out and play golf; I’m going to be working on other things.
You grew up listening to punk and your sensibilities as an adult still reflect a non-conformist punk perspective. How has all of that proven to be ideal for a career in metal rather than punk itself?
Well I think it’s important to look at how the band came up. Our band didn’t start out playing metal shows, because unless you’re from the Bay area or New York or [New] Jersey, they had a strong thrash scene. Bobby Blitz [Overkill] called me the other day and unless you’re from a large area it wasn’t overwhelming to the metal scene like it is today.
When a tour came through, when a Slayer came through — I saw Slayer and Testament in 1990 — that was big show. There weren’t all the things or all these metal bands touring all the time. It’s grown greatly I believe. When we started we weren’t trying to be a metal band so much as we were trying to play in our hometown which had a lot of really good instrumental bands. There’s a lot of complex really executed sort of smart metal music that was based in the punk scene and like everything came out of that punk scene.
Our first shows out of town were all in Philadelphia in warehouses and squats and stuff with punk bands, so we were kind of like — we weren’t this metal band, we were the punk rock band with metallic caliber. Obviously the guys in the band are fans of metal and I think the band has grown more and more more metal as the years go by and also, as I said before, the scene has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and there are a bunch of metal tours out that didn’t exist when I was a kid or even in some place like Richmond, Va. or Raleigh, N.C.
You got one or two metal shows a year, but you didn’t get a metal package tour every month and now you do from smaller club levels to larger levels. I think for me having grown up in the punk rock scene I didn’t think it would serve me in the metal world because I didn’t think I was going to the metal world. I was just trying to play with the good local bands in Richmond. We wound up playing CBGBs and there were still some metal bands that were still coming out so that’s where we come from originally.
I think the metal scene grew larger as we moved along and I think that’s pretty evident in a lot of things today and in hardcore as well.
We’re talking about the upcoming tour this summer with Slayer, Lamb of God and Behemoth. It’s a pretty aggressive tour package. What would teenager Randy have liked most about bands like that together for the same show?
Well I mean teenage Randy saw Slayer with Testament so probably just — I don’t know. At the time I was a teenager I was listening to Slayer. They were, out of the Big 4, they’re obviously the most aggressive, I think, of all those thrash bands. I just loved their darkness or whatever, so going to go see the Slayer — I saw them with Testament in Richmond — it was kind of funny to me because I was kind of like a fish out of the water. I was used to going to punk and hardcore shows or shows; there’s just tons and tons and tons of metalheads.
Like I said earlier, it was a big show and there weren’t that many of those because the metal scene wasn’t that big. So I think what teenage Randy would have enjoyed seeing these bands that none of the shows are seated because when I saw Slayer and Testament when I was a teenager, regrettably they played a seated venue. It drove me crazy. You couldn’t move, there was security that were afraid that they’re going to burn this freaking place down.
It was a place in Richmond that used to be called The Mosque. Iggy Pop played there in the basement years ago, but I don’t know I think I just enjoyed the atmosphere of a place to get out some aggression just like any show.
Randy, there is so much tension and divisiveness right now in this country. In your opinion what should the role of a metal band be when there is so much social uncertainty?
I can’t really speak on what the role of metal bands would be. I can just speak on what I would do. It’s our job to play music. Some people, myself included, have used the musical platform to make political commentary at times. A lot of it has been misunderstood I think through the art, through the lyrics and so forth, but it’s our platform.
In times of uncertainty, I mean really a band when we go on tour — what is our role? Our role is to get up onstage and play music. That doesn’t change just because everything became incredibly bipartisan, but news is just mind-staggeringly bizarre every day. It’s like you guys check it every day like what is going on you know and I check different viewpoints as well; I don’t just check CNN, I don’t just check Fox News, I don’t just check BBC. I’ll check out Al Jazeera you know overseas. I want to see what everybody’s perspective on this this whole craziness that’s going on that is America under the current administration.
So far nothing has settled down, there’s no predictability to anything. There’s no stability to this situation, there’s no real moves being made to push an agenda forward one way or the other without everybody else going with it or blocking it or whatever and really there’s nothing you can do as a band to change that I don’t think. As soon as you voice an opinion people go nuts they’re just like, “You’re a right wing fascist” or “You’re a libtard” or like whatever. They just go nuts because they don’t have a brain. They aren’t adults and can’t sit down and have any sort of open dialogue about our differences.
Regrettably that’s the world that we live in. That’s what Twitter has brought forth, I think, sound bite sized thinking. Any time you talk about something more than three minutes people are convinced you’re ranting. No I’m not ranting. You’re just too stupid to pay attention long enough to understand what I’m saying. So as far as the role of a metal band getting up onstage and trying to fix any sort of divisiveness, that I think is impossible at this point.
Randy you have said that your next book will likely have an ecological perspective to it. What first got you interested in ecological issues and even ecological activism?
Well I grew up in the country, I enjoyed a childhood playing in the woods. That was my playground; I didn’t grow up in a city where I went to the playground, I grew up out in the country where I went out into the woods. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors. At the beginning of this interview I had to come in because the wind was too hard. You asked, “Is it windy out there? Can you come in to record this?” I said sure because I like being outdoors. For me, I think if you look at where I come from, the punk scene, there’s always been sort of an aspect of questioning the power structure and what they’re doing.
If you go back to a few records ago you have a song in one of our records called “Reclamation” and that’s about how we’re basically a virus upon the planet and I think that like any good mother organism, any good host, eventually the Earth, if we don’t stop screwing it up, will purge itself of that virus, that being us by one way or the other.
If you look at our situation right now with the head of the E.P.A., it’s a complete and utter unmitigated disaster. He spent the last few years suing the E.P.A. How can he be the head of it? You know he wants to strip restrictions away and they’re just leaving our natural resources, our parklands, everything — trying to leave them unprotected basically. He’s not saying that, but that’s what’s going on. It’s vested interest of energy company and so forth.
For me right now, after my last book it was kind of heavy. My agent was hitting me up and asked where’s another book and [groans], “I can’t write another depressing book because the last one almost killed me.” He said, “Why don’t you write about something you like? Why don’t you write about surfing?” I said, “That’s great, but me writing a surfing book about me going surfing, that only goes so far. So I’m like, “What kind of point can I make with this? What kind of point do I want to express?” And lately my concern has been a lot about the environment.
Randy your creativity is multifaceted. You’ve got music, writing, photography — how is inspiration and the creative process different for you depending on the outlet?
Well it’s very different. With music there’s much more of a feel to things when I write music both lyrically and when I write music on my own. It’s much more an emotional thing I think. I’m trying to express emotion artfully; with photography it’s much more of me trying to step back and be a bit more objective and you can’t be entirely objective in any art form, that’s nonsense. I don’t think you can be entirely objective period in life, but with photography I try not to be so subjective. I pull back and notice my environment around me and I try to take note of the things that are beautiful to me whether they are traditionally beautiful or not.
With writing prose and stuff — my favorite thing is writing, above music and photography. It’s what I’ll be doing the longest, long after my vocal cords give out and my eyes give out I could still write, I could narrate a book. I’ve been doing that the longest since I was a kid; everybody has. For me writing is the real work, it’s the most important thing it and it requires the most craft and the most discipline. It’s a story about inspiration and it’s attributed to various different people but I think one of the people it’s attributed to Tennessee Williams.
I’m sure he’s not the one that said it, but this quote has been attributed to various different people. He says, “Yes I only write when I’m inspired. Luckily I’m inspired at 9AM every single morning when I sit down at my desk and that’s what writing is. It’s discipline.” Sit down every day at the desk and write and for me that’s the real work. Writing songs is comparatively child’s play to writing a long form piece of prose and photography, it’s very instinctive for me. It’s a lot less subjective, so I don’t know. They’re three very different things. I don’t know, I’d like to combine them all one day and see what happens.
Thank you so much as always for taking the time.
Sure thanks good to talk to you.
Thanks to Randy Blythe for the interview. Pick up Lamb of God’s latest album, ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’ currently available at Amazon or iTunes and for a list of the band’s summer tour dates with Slayer and Behemoth, click here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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