lördag 12 november 2011

Intervju med Randy Blythe och Mark Morton i Lamb of God!

I torsdags fick jag möjlighet att sitta ner med Randy och Mark i Lamb of God. Två roliga och trevliga killar från Richmond, Virginia och intervjun blev mer av ett avslappnat samtal där vi snackade om lite allt möjligt. Randy gav inledningsvis ett något trött intryck efter dagens alla intervjuer, men vaknade till liv och deltog i samtalet och hävdade mot slutet att min intervju hade varit bäst under dagen. Sådant är alltid kul att höra 
Kommande plattan "Resolution" släpps i januari och självfallet pratade vi om den, men även bl a om religion, varför de bytte bandnamn, varför spela in skivor, Ozzy och Black Flag.

The artwork? Is that some kind of Iraq thing going on there with a burning oil well?

Mark: Yeah, everybody´s taking it that way! No, not specifically, but it´s cool that it certainly can be. I thought of it more like… some of the themes on the record about pity oneself against one selves self-destruction and isolation, detachment in different forms and to me it was more of an interpretation of that. Kind of being the last thing left. But really, there was no stage in the game where we called Ken Adams and said “Hey, we want a stark white album cover with a barren wasteland and a fire in the back!”. It´s not. It´s more like we talked to him about concepts and really broad strokes and it sort of comes from his mind. Ken´s done every album cover, so it´s almost when it comes to that, that´s his time.

Does he go through a lot of different ideas and present them to you?

Mark: Not this time! The first one was a hit. Sometimes we´ll go through sketches like… “Ashes of the wake” took forever and he a had a lot of sketches and a lot of ideas and this one, if you saw the original draft you´d be surprised how close it is to the final one.

The title then, “Resolution”? How long does it take to come up with a good title that works? Do you go through different titles?

Mark: (laughs) This time was the worst for that! The title “Resolution” appeared very early, but it just took a long time for everyone accepting it.

Randy: Yeah, I´d forgotten about that!

Mark: It was early in and everyone else was just like it took them a very long time to sign up on it.

Randy: Management loved it.

Mark: The thing is… it´s not that titles haven´t come from the other guys ever before, because they have, but
Randy and I write the lyrics so a lot of times, unless dudes are paying attention to the lyrics, more or less we have like a theme that we´re talking about. It´s almost like pinning the tail on the donkey. If they just come up with an album title out of the abstract, it doesn´t necessarily apply. I think that was our big argument this time, was that “Resolution” really kind of relates to a lot of the themes and things we were writing about. Be it clarity, like resolution first and then clarity or being the finality of a phase or the end of a conflict and a new beginning or something. Or just having resolved or having the determination to see something. All those are parts of the themes and the things we were writing about. My idea for it came from a line in a really old song of ours called “Ruin” and there´s a line that I wrote that says “This is the resolution” and at that point of time it was about knowing that I was never going to do this particular thing ever again. I think that idea popped up again.

Do you google it and find out if there´s another album out there with the title you´ve chosen?

Mark: Ultimately you do. But I don´t think 38 Special are gonna sue us. (laughs) But they might…

Randy: They can´t sue you for an album cover. We called ourselves 38 Special. (laughs)

It´s a good band by the way!

Mark: Damn right it is!

These days with record sales being what they are, is there going to be a deluxe version, a vinyl version and so on?

Randy: Yeah, you got it!

Mark: I would assume so.

It´s interesting these days when it comes to record sales. Sales these days… a hit sale today is nothing compared to 10 or 15 years ago. Tommy Lee from Mötley Crüe mentioned that there´s no point in making another album, but instead record a song or two and release that.

Mark: Doesn´t that depend on how you look at it? Maybe it´s no point for him if he doesn´t like making albums. Nothing against Tommy Lee, but I like albums, man! I don´t just wanna make two songs! If I make two songs I´m gonna make eight or ten more so I´ve got an album. We were talking about this in another interview earlier, “Resolution” isn´t the best song first and the worst song last. For lack of a better word, it´s a journey! You follow it all the way through and it takes you different places and brings you back. It´s what a good album does.

Randy: Also on this record there´s like an instrumental interlude that´s right square in the middle and we were talking about the old days when you used to talk about album sides. “What´s your favorite side of the album?”. If you say that to a kid today, they would go “What are you talking about?”. Coming up how we came up and our age and I guess we´re dating ourselves in a way, but as old as we are, when you think about that in that sequence and giving that kind of flow.

I work as a teacher and at the school I work, I don´t think a single kid has ever bought a CD and these days they download everything to their phone and it´s a song here and a song there and there´s no way they have the…

Mark: Attention span?

Exactly! … to listen to 60 minutes of music. I talked to Steffan Chirazi, who runs Metallica´s So What magazine, and we said just that, that kids can listen to a song or two, but it´s not like in the old days where you sat down and listened to the whole album and you looked at the credits and who the producer was and so on.

Mark: Look at us old guys sitting around the table talking about how it used to be! It´s not like that anymore, is it?

Randy: No, but it´s interesting because, like your saying, Tommy Lee… his a very significant shift in the music industry and he says there´s no point in putting out a Mötley Crüe album, because if you look at the history of the music industry, the first recordings were singles. Then they figured out, if they slowed the revolutions down and made a bigger record, you´d have the 33 rpm and that allowed people to expand on themes throughout a body of music. Like Elvis was one of the first guys to AN album and that changed the whole game. That allowed bands to go in a direction and develop an identity and you weren´t just a flash in the pan. I think kids today, by not listening to albums aren´t able to get a grasp of what the band is all about!

Mark: And from a selfish point of view as an artist, if you wanna call it that, I don´t wanna write one song! I wanna develop thoughts and themes. There´s a craft to this, damn it! (laughs)

There´s so much of that lost in a download.

Mark: Are you gonna hear Tom Petty say he doesn´t wanna do an album? Fuck no!

Same thing with promos these days. You just get downloads and I haven´t downloaded a single song so far in my life! I still buy albums and I buy a lot of old stuff because there´s so much to find about.

Mark: You never run out.

Right, but kids these days don´t know about album artwork or producers and they don´t know about The Beatles or Elvis.

Mark: It´s crazy!

Yeah, and it seems like they´re not even curious. They listen to a song and then they throw it away.

Randy: It´s a disposable culture!

Mark: Is The Beatles on iTunes now?

Yeah, it is!

Mark: They held out forever. (laughs)

Randy: Like for me, one of my favorite bands is Black Flag and at first they only put out singles because that was the only thing that was affordable to them at that time, but then once they got… after the first two or three years of doing singles and having legal trouble with the name and all this other shit, they started putting out records. So when you talk about the Henry Rollins era of Black Flag, you talk about different albums as eras.

Mark: That´s a band that definitely had different eras!

Randy: Or The Misfits! Each album was an era and you get a picture of where the band was and you can see how they grew throughout that and you can see where they came from. With a bunch of singles, like you´re saying the attention span is so short, what are you gonna say in one song?

Mark: Still there´s three old guys sitting… (laughs)

Randy: How are you gonna be a relevant artist with anything important to say when you only get one shot and it´s gonna get thrown away?

Mark: Check it out! Was it Warhol that said “In the future everyone´s gonna be famous for 15 minutes”? It´s like, how did he fucking know? Like this YouTube shit phenomenon that´s popped up! They´re legit stars and you google their name and it pops up. You remember “Chocolate rain”, shit like that? Or Boxy or whatever her name was who got so famous she had to go into hiding… those are legitimate phenomenon man! They´re famous for a flash second and that shit´s true! We can make all the 14 songs and 55 albums we want and be glad we´re doing it, but not everyone´s gonna pay attention and that´s just the reality of the music industry as it is today. We are fortunate to still be operating.

What does Josh, the producer, bring to your sound and to your work ethics and stuff like that? Could you do it without a producer?

Mark: We could, but I don´t think the results would be as well. I think if we thought they would, we´d do that. We´d save a hell of a lot of money! (laughs) Josh Wilbur brought a lot. I think the reason we began working with Josh is because we sort of felt like we were in a sense capable of doing it ourselves and Josh is an engineer by trade and very recognized. In a relatively short career he´s done a lot as an engineer and been very well received. Having worked with him in that capacity we felt like we were gonna self produce it as it were anyway and we just needed a really competent and qualified engineer that we trusted as a peer. With “Resolution” Josh was very aggressive about playing a role in at least evaluating the material and prioritizing material and keeping us focused and you mentioned work ethics and that was a big, big thing he brought to the table and at the very end, as if he needed to punctuate the whole thing, he slam dunked it by bringing in the idea of the opera and the choir stuff and strings on “King me” at the end. That was really something Josh championed.

Randy: It was his idea!

Mark: Right, and man he took that song to the next level! So, go Josh! (laughs)

Working in a studio these days with all the technology, are guitars, drums and bass and so on, is it all separate?

Mark: Yeah! It´s based on a live tape. We write and rehearse as we´re writing and everybody´s standing in the room together and we´re all playing the song and we´re recording ourselves playing it, so when the drums are tracked, he´s basically redoing a real live tape that we got. It´s all done to click and stuff like that and even when we´re doing it live, so it all can be cleaned up. He´s basically recreating his drum parts to a live tape and then we go in and replace our parts, but yeah, it´s done separate.

This album has 14 songs and do you go in with like 20 song ideas…?

Randy: We came in with 17 this time.

You recorded it all?

Randy: One was recorded instrumental and the vocals never made it. It just wasn´t there yet and we were running out of time.

Mark: That´s not the first time that´s happened. There was single, “Hit the wall” and that was a left over from the “Wrath” sessions. It was never finished because there wasn´t a good lyric for it or a good vocal. It didn´t have the final treatment. It´s not the worst thing in the world when there´s stuff left over! (laughs) It´s not that it´s a bad song, it´s just that it´s not done. We recorded 16 and we put 14 on the record. One goes to Japan and one´s for iTunes. Best Buy gets an exclusive too and they´re getting a bunch of live stuff, so they´re getting a whole live album. You guys have Best Buy?

No, not yet! We don´t even have Starbucks. There´s one in all of Sweden, at the airport here.

Mark: Starbuck sucks!

Well, everything else is Americanized over here so… I was kind of wondering about the name, because I don´t know the whole history of the band, but Lamb of God? Biblical thing going on there? I know you changed it.

Mark: Yeah, the Lamb of God thing is only Biblical in the sense that historically, heavy metal uses religious imagery and I just think it´s a nod to that. It´s a cool name for a heavy metal band. The change was a little more motivated by the fact that “Burn the priest” was a name that I came up with when I was a 22 year old kid and making screaming, grinding music and it was perfect. But when we became a serious band and really stated putting ourselves out there and started taking it more seriously, it was harder for us to process that and it was certainly harder for me to process that. I just didn´t feel comfortable with it and there were some tension about if for a while, because we had gotten a little ways with it. We´d already put a record out and stuff and we bit the bullet and decided that it was now or never and we changed it to Lamb of God.

So changing the name was not just a commercial thing, that it would be easier with a less…?

Randy: We were getting ready to sing with a record label and we told them that we wanted to change the name and they were like “No!”.

Mark: Yeah, they were going “You´re going to ruin the whole thing if you change your name!”. I remember because Chris (Adler) was on the phone EJ(?) and he was like (big sigh) “What´s the new name?” and Chris goes “It´s Lamb of God!” and he was like “Alright, cool!”. (laughs) I can´t believe no one had ever used it before!

Would it have been difficult in a country like America, with that name?

Mark: It would never have happened! The thing is… even at that stage, there was no way we were gonna be on a major label, playing arenas, be on a tour bus, come to Sweden, play with Metallica… there was no way! Have you heard the Burn the priest record? Have you heard “New American gospel”?


Mark: There was no way that was gonna happen. That was not even a thought.

Randy: We never went “We´re gonna change our name so we can get big!”.

Mark: We changed our name mainly because I was stomping my feet, bitching about it that I thought it was stupid if we were gonna be serious about it. I wanted a name that I could tell my cousin without blushing. The headspace was in a different place. It was four years later.

Ok. I was thinking that religion is a bigger part of society in the US than it is in Sweden. I mean, nobody cares about religion here and nobody goes to church, really. Very secularized.

Randy: What about Norway?

I guess Norway is kind of the same. The whole of Scandinavia is in a way.

Mark: Do you mean that people are atheists or they don´t practice organized religion?

They don´t practize organized religion and I think a lot of people are atheists or agnostics. I am and when you talk to people no one really believes in god. It´s also interesting in a way, what made us this way. How come Scandinavia turned into this godless place? Then we have the black metal thing in Norway where they burned churches and killed each other off.

Randy: Why do you think it turned into that?

The non religion thing? I really don´t know! I guess you could trace it back in history. We used to be a very religious country back in the old days. Then it was a big part of society. These days religion doesn´t play a big deal at all.

Mark: It must be very convenient for your politics?

It is!

Mark: It´s got everything to do with politics in America and it´s a real drag because as some of those who have faith in god and that is a part of my psyche and my life, it´s so fucking hard when it gets in the way of common sense and legislation. America is founded on the separation of church and state and it was born because of the desire for separation of church and state and we´ve become this country that has let our fear of god or our belief in god, however you characterize it, contaminate our common sense when it comes to running our country, to the point where if someone is running for president and say that they don´t believe in god, they´d be off the ticket in a second. Like Obama´s father, I guess, was a Muslim and that was a huge thing for people to get over with

I know! I just read something about an anti abortion law in Mississippi or something, where they would vote for making abortion illegal even if it was rape or incest.

Randy: Good luck with that!

Yeah, it´s just medieval!

Mark: (laughs) Yeah! Is this an interview or are we just… (laughs)

I know! (laughs)

Randy: It´s kind of cool! (Referring to the interview, Editor´s note)

Do you live in Richmond these days? How big is it?

Mark: It´s small. Like 200.000 people or something. It´s got a rich history and it´s played a pretty pivotal role in our country´s history, but it´s a really quiet kind of a town. There´s a pretty big college there and they had a pretty hip art program for a while, so there´s a lot of creative people around and it´s pretty fertile in terms of artists and that type of scene. Similar to Athens, Georgia. These small southern towns where there´s like a bit more of a creative mindset. There´s a little bit of free thought going on.

What´s been the most fun tour so far?

Randy: I think the most fun I ever had on a tour, was touring with Slipknot!

Mark: That was fun! That was dirty! (laughs)

Have you read Corey Taylor´s book, the one about the sins?

Randy: Parts of it.

Mark: Is it good?

I found it a bit boring actually. He´s very well spoken though.

Randy: It´s like Corey when he´s excited!

Mark: That´s the thing. I know Corey and I like Corey. I don´t know him well, but I do know him and I like him, but I don´t know… I haven´t read his book! (laughs)

Randy: I´ve read parts of it and I got it and it´s very Coreyesque, like when Corey is pumped up. Very manic. I had a great time on that tour!

Mark: There´s been a lot of fun ones. The first Ozzfest, that was big! That was the first time where it was like “This is gonna be something!”. We´d been on the tour bus and played some shows, but when we hit Ozzfest, things started clicking. It was like “Dude, we´re on a roll, Jack!”. Then… really the whole Metallica run, but when we first got out with Metallica… like we played Vancouver and we just burned the fucking house down!

On tours like that, like Ozzfest, is there interaction between all the bands?

Mark: On a big tour yeah! Like on Ozzfest the parking lot was just like a big ground where everybody was grilling and drinking and rolling dice and shit.

Did you get to meet Ozzy?

Mark: Yeah, met Ozzy. Not like you throw down with Ozzy. (laughs9

Randy: You don´t cruise over to Ozzy in the dressing room and say “What´s up Ozzy?”.

Mark: Not even like with Metallica. With Metallica you can roll by and go “Hey guys, what´s up? Hey Kirk, you wanna have a beer tonight? Alright, cool! Have a good show!”. You don´t do that with Ozzy.

Randy: Ozzy is… if you´re gonna meet Ozzy, it´s arranged. (laughs)

Mark: There´s people that let you in the door and so on. As it should be, right? He´s Ozzy! You know who was a fucking sweetheart? Ronnie James Dio! Funny fucking dude! Wicked sense of humor1 Great guy and a beautiful person and I´m so fortunate to have been able to meet him. I used to… that tour was so fucking boring! I would watch them every night because it was like “Am I gonna go sit in a cold wet parking lot in England and drink another can of fucking Stella Artois or am I gonna go watch Toni Iommi play guitar and Ronnie James Dio sing?”.

Dio´s one of those guys where verybody says he was such a nice guy. It was pretty funny when some fan…

Mark: Filmed him and talking about Vivian Campbell. (laughs) I´m a big fan and he´s a blues guy and he´s like my role model in terms of…

Randy: What did he say?

He said that Vivian could go die or something.

Mark: I don´t think he said that!

No, but he was really mean and sticking it to him.

Mark: Dude, when he said that he didn´t realize he was being filmed and they would put it on YouTube. (laughs)

Finally, Sweden then? The album comes out in January. Are you gonna start off in the US?

Mark: We´re gonna go back to our families and spend time with them during the holidays and stuff and we´ve got a pretty heavy work schedule starting around late January, early February. We haven´t announced the dates yet, but we definitely are gonna be in Europe for the festival season.

Cool! Great album by the way!

Mark: Thank you!


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