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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Lamb of God instantly struck me as being a band that plays the kind of music Pantera should be playing. Lamb of God is heavy and muscular, but has a dynamic brutality that this kind of music really requires. I was lucky enough to be able to catch this rapidly growing Virginia-based band as they came through town on their tour with Mushroomhead. The following interview was conducted with Chris (drums), Willie (guitar), Randy (vocals), Mark (guitar) and Dusty (sound guy).

Maelstrom: What's it like to tour? As Mark was saying, you'll only be here (in San Francisco) for a day at the most. Is it just like "same shit, different day" all the time?

Chris: Although there is a routine about it, the best part about it is what's different every day. We're lucky enough to be on a bus this tour. Basically, you wake up every day and are in a whole new place with different shit to see. Meetin' new people and seein' the town. It's awesome. You couldn't ask for a better vacation: doing what you love and do it everywhere across the states.

Maelstrom: (to Chris and Willie) You two guys are brothers, right? (they nod yes.) Your sound guy Dusty was saying that you guys had played here at the Pound before, and it wasn't that great.

Willie: I know that I said that last time it wasn't all that.

Mark: Really? I thought we had a great show. It's hard to adapt. Like, for example. Last night in Portland we played the Crystal Ball Room. It holds 1500 people. It's more or less a hall. Then, 24 hours later, we're playing this, which is really a small rock club. It's cool; it's just a different kind of show. Last night, the barricades are like five feet away, and the kids are a good ways in front of you. Tonight, they're gonna be in your face. Last time we played here I literally butted heads really hard with a kid in the front row from bangin' heads.

Mael: As a fan, what would you rather go to?

Chris: As a fan, I'd definitely rather be here.

Mark: I think so too.

Maelstrom: Why is that?

Chris: The first stuff we did out of the basement was in clubs like this. That's what I'm used to. So when Mark is talking about the difference between a hall and this place, there's an evolution that goes on where you learn the difference between the two.

Mark: If you got 10-15 feet to cover, your night is going to be very different from a night like tonight, where you're lucky to have a hole to stand in.

Maelstrom: You were talking about getting on bigger tours. You mentioned earlier about playing House of Blues (in Chicago) and Harpo's (in Detroit). Those are about the biggest places you can play in those cities. Was this unchartered territory for you guys to be on a tour this big?

Chris: The past three tours we've had, we've been really lucky to play in really nice places and get the response we've had.

Maelstrom: (to Randy) I was asking these guys what the "D" stands for in your credit on the CD.

Randy: Dah-veed. David. Dumbass; dickhead. Whatever.

Maelstrom: They were saying "dickhead," and I was thinking "how a propos that you're touring with Mushroomhead." (to Chris) You mentioned about your garage days. How long ago was that?

Chris: We've been together in one form or another since '94. [The garage days] are still goin' on. Our favorite place to play in Richmond is a shit hole of a bar called The Hole in the Wall. If you fit 100 people in there, you're breakin' the law. It's packed every time we play: There's beer spillin' all over everybody. It's a great time. The four tours that we've done that have gotten us out of that level have been in the last two years.

Maelstrom: How long ago did you change your name to Lamb of God?

Chris: It was right around the break of 2000, when we switched guitar players with Willie.

Maelstrom: Is that what made you think "this is a different band, we have to change the name"? Or, did you just not like Burn the Priest (the band's original name).

Chris: It's one of the things. I think we kind of got burnt out the name after six years of doing it. We'd always be getting put on bills with Satanic grind bands, and we got labeled in that scene. With the music that we're doing, we write it purposely to not be put in a corner. "Here's the Lamb of God record. It's heavy metal." It's not any kind of metal.

Maelstrom: Talk about a completely different meaning of a band name. Something that's pretty anti-Christian to something like Lamb of God, which is pretty misleading in itself, isn't it?

Chris: True.

Mark: It's a little more ambiguous.

Chris: It's not so much of a sledgehammer to the face. I guess the way we figured it was to flip the coin on its head. We'd played for six years, and we were gonna change our name and shoot ourselves in the foot. But it was important for us to do it. Since then, man, no regrets.

Maelstrom: When I first heard your record, it struck me as the kind of music Pantera should be playing. You know? Pantera is tough guy and muscular, but they're not that brutal considering how tough guy and muscular they are; to my ear, anyway.

Chris: We all grew up on that kind of stuff. It impressed us years ago and I'm sure it finds a way into what we have goin' on.

Maelstrom: Is this tour supporting new material? Are you going to be playing songs that aren't on New American Gospel?

Chris: We got four or five written for the next record. We'll be playin' one of 'em tonight. The plan is: after this tour, to go home and try our best to turn down any more tours in hopes of getting material ready for the record.

Maelstrom: Wow, it's a hard spot to be in, huh?

Chris: Well, yeah, we love to tour, but at the same time, you know... We want to get some material on a record. We've got a great record deal with Prosthetic/Metal Blade.

Maelstrom: Is Steve Austin going to be helping you with this one, too?

Chris: It's certainly possible. There's a bunch of people we've been talking to. Dave Shipman is comin' to the show tonight to check us out and meet us. Devin Townsend came to the show in Vancouver. He was interested in the project. I know Steve's definitely interested.

Randy: Who's Shipman?

Chris: He did the System of a Down record.

Maelstrom: (to Chris) You either co-produced the <New American Gospel> record, or...what did you do?

Chris: We all really had a pretty heavy...

Maelstrom: Your name is on the production credit. There was Austin, and then you.

Randy: [Chris] never leaves the control room.

Willie: Chris stays in the control room the entire time

Randy: He's a masochist. I couldn't sit there.

Chris: Yeah, we were just <bleeding> to get this record done. We had a small amount of time and small amount of money. Considering the work it took, it was incredible.

Maelstrom: It seems like you put it out really fast. You said you changed your name in 2000, and then you had this record.

Mark: We recorded the record in nine days.

Chris: Yeah, it all happened pretty fast.

Randy: That includes mixin'.

Maelstrom: Oh, my god.

Mark: That's another thing that I really look forward to about the next record: not only is the material taking a sort of different direction, but just knowing that we're gonna have three times longer to do it and really pay attention to the things that we didn't have the time to work on before and that we didn't necessarily have the wisdom to look for.

Maelstrom: Like what?

Mark: It goes all the way down to how we're writin' songs. We're arranging songs differently now. They're a little more smarter....more smarter. Uh... (the band laughs)

Willie: Where are you from, Vuhrgeenia?

Mark: Our guitar parts: when we wrote that record, Willie and I had been playing together between six and nice months. As soon as we started playing together, we started writing songs. Now, we've been playing together two and a half years, the stuff we're comin' up with is way more sophisticated. It makes it easier to turn down tours because we know we're gonna go home and make our new record.

Maelstrom: Has this tour been your high point so far?

Mark: Every tour seems to have gotten better.

Randy: A lot more people come out to see <us>.

Mark: It's our first time to be in the main support slot.

Maelstrom: I'd never even heard of Mushroomhead before this tour. I was looking at this [Mushroomhead] t-shirt and I was like, "wow, it looks exactly like Slipknot."

Chris: (laugh) comment.

Maelstrom: (laugh) ...ok. I always like to hear tour stories, like, the worst fucking show you've ever played, or the most hilarious show you've ever played, or like the stupidest show you've ever played.

Willie: McAlinn, Texas was pretty crazy. The stage setup was huge, it was like an arena-style stage. There was so much room. The [crowd] barrier was a good six feet out. There were so many kids packed into the place; like, 1600. This was opening for Six Feet Under.

Maelstrom: Any comment on them? (laugh)

Chris: (smile)...Cool dudes.

Wille: Nice people. (nods)

Chris: But, that show looked like a Bon Jovi video. Kids trying to pull our clothes off...

Randy: I was stage diving, and they wouldn't let me back onstage. They ripped my shoes off. I was having to kick people. "Give me back my fucking shoe!"

Willie: There's a lot of places we go to where the kids seem starved for any kind of musical culture. They just lose their lids.

Maelstrom: The last song on New American Gospel is this long acronym. I wrote it down: "O.D.G.A.B.F.E."

Randy: It's very fitting that you asked me that in this town. A long time ago, I used to ride freight trains, and squat.

Maelstrom: So, you were like a hobo?

Willie: (laugh)

Randy: Pretty much. In the summertime. That song stands for "officer dickhead gets a black fucking eye." It's about me getting the shit kicked out of me by the cops in San Francisco. They broke a couple of my ribs, fucked me up really good. It was raining, and I was in the lower Haight. A bunch of us were squatting. The cops came in and carried us all off to jail, and beat the fucking shit out of me.

Maelstrom: (to the rest of the band) So he ran this by you: "I got this idea for a song called 'officer dickhead gets a black fucking eye.'" And you're like, "alright, let's do it."

Chris: Yeah, Randy has pretty much the creative control on the lyrics.

Maelstrom: When you think of metal, what's the first thing that comes to your mind?

Mark: Slayer!

Randy: Slayer.

Willie: Annihilator or Slayer.

Maelstrom: "Metal," Chris.


Maelstrom: You're thinkin' too much.

Willie: About $5,000 at your house?

Chris: Meshuggah, early Queensryche stuff.

Maelstrom: Interesting couple of picks, there. How about you, Dusty?

Dusty: Lamb of God.

Maelstrom: Did you put your life on hold to do this tour?

Dusty: I'm here because my life was put on hold by other people. I figured: "I don't wanna be on hold, so I'll be with these guys for a month and half a good time." I'll get back and my life will be in full swing again.

Chris: Are you having a good time, Dusty?

Dusty: I'm having a wonderful time, Chris. Thanks to you and your bunk last night.

Maelstrom: Do they give you beds on that bus?

Chris: Yeah.

Maelstrom: (to Chris) I wasn't too surprised that you had co-produced the album, 'cause the drums are really powerful on it. From a drummer's perspective, what's the best tension to put your pedals on?

Chris: I fooled around. My playing has come out of sheer determination; to go faster or to hit right. I'll stay and practice for hours and hours and hours and hours, and work things out that I can't even begin on a Monday, and by Friday it's tight. I really put my all in to it. I set the bar ahead. When we write a new song, I always try to come up with a part that I can't play.

Maelstrom: Where do you get the inspiration to do this?

Chris: I can hear a rhythm in my head that my body can't necessarily do yet. As far as pedal tension: I was struggling for a while with keeping consistency. The thing that worked best was when I picked up the pedals from the shop, put 'em on my drums - didn't even touch 'em - and they were as fine, if not better than if I tighten them all the way, or loosen them all the way. I used to be really, really anal about making sure they were exactly the same. Now, I've found out that I can tighten one up all the way and loosen the other all the way, and I'm still able to deal with it.

Maelstrom: You have the same sound live as you have on the record. It's really, really high and pops a lot. How do you get that sound? My snare doesn't make that sound!

Dusty: You gotta use a torque wrench. You gotta put about 1,000 pounds of pressure behind it.

Chris: On the Burn the Priest record, I had a piccolo snare, and I couldn't even get <that> one to the level I have now.

Maelstrom: The one you have out there is pretty deep.

Chris: It's a 12x5 Mapex Tenor Birdseye. It's just a mater of buying as thin a head as possible, without going right through it, and cranking the shit out of it. (a short conversation ensues in which Dusty talks about how bass drums have been getting smaller and smaller over the years.) Actually, the toms on the kit - now that I've been playing long enough to understand these things - are smaller. It really facilitates me being able to tighten up the kit and to be able to move around. I've go a 12", a 13", a 14" and an 18" floor tom.

Maelstrom: How did you guys meet, and what was the impetus that made you guys say: "let's make this metal band."

Chris: Well, we all came to school in Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth University) - other than my brother. John, Mark and myself ended up living in the same dorm, on the same floor. We pal-ed around, getting stoned and drunk. We've known each other for 12 years. Actually, Randy was our drug dealer in the dorms. (Randy laughs). I came to find that Mark's a big metalhead - into the old Trouble stuff. We fooled around, but really started jamming in the winter of '94, with a space heater in the back of my house. The reason we wanted to do it was: I remember going into record stores at around that time. I could have $100 dollars in my wallet and not find a single record. You couldn't get anything. It wasn't that there wasn't stuff out there: it's when metal was falling apart; nobody was pushing it, record stores weren't ordering it; no one knew what was good anymore. We were sitting around saying: "compared to the stuff that's coming out, I think that we could write some better stuff than what's going on." Not on purpose or to teach anybody a lesson, or anything, but so that we could have some good music to listen to.

Maelstrom: Do you guys get burned out [touring]? It's different for me: I go see the show, and it's the only day. You know? Get geared up and go see the show. But for you, it's every day.

Randy: Every now and then some of it gets kind of old, but we think about: "Fuck, dude, I'm on a tour bus. It's about rock n' roll. If I was at home, I'd be at work." There's no reason to whine.

Chris: Whether you're not feeling good that day, or haven't had a shower in a week, you can get pretty run down. But we can never take for granted the fact that we're in a place that a lot of people never get to. You gotta make the most of that.

Maelstrom: If you could open up for any band, who would it be?

Chris: (whistles while thinking)

Randy: I would lose my mind to play a Slayer show.

Chris: My goal would be to get Slayer to open up for us. (laugh) I'd love to play shows with Testament, Meshuggah, Soilwork.

Randy: I come from a different musical view. We got to play with Eyehategod. That's my favorite band.

Maelstrom: That wraps it up. Please tell us when the next record is expected.

Chris: We're really hoping to have it finished recording by the fall. It'll be up to the record company to work on the schedule. It's a pain. We were talking to guys last night that were signed three years ago, and are having their record come out next week.

from left to right: Willie, Randy, Chris, John, Mark.




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