With the January 24th release of their seventh album, Resolution, Lamb of God qualifies as one of metal’s elite. The band have been on a major label for five of those albums, and the new one has a decent chance to debut at #1 on Billboard’s SoundScan chart (a feat that 2009’s Wrath narrowly missed). Meanwhile, they remain a constant live draw, with a week of sold-out club dates coming before a Summer tour announcement.
Despite the band’s lofty perch at the top of the metal food chain, you would never get that from talking to vocalist Randy Blythe. Not only is he humble about his band, he’s embraced Twitter as a way to communicate with his fans. We spoke with Blythe about embracing social media, the way his voice has changed from album to album, his bid for Presidency, and SOPA among other things.
I’ve noticed that in the past six months or so, you’ve gotten a lot more involved with Twitter. What led to that?
I mean, the whole thing with social networking, [is that it’s] personal with Twitter. A friend of mine told me about Twitter when it first started. a woman who lives here in Richmond, and she was like, “you gotta get one of these things. It’s Twitter, it’s micro-blogging, it’s a blog post in 140 characters or less.” And I’m like ‘well that sounds really stupid,’ because what can you say in 140 characters or less? And I tend to be long-winded, as several of my Twitter posts illustrate. But I just started it, kind of on a lark really. And as I continued doing it, people started following me and I started noticing its potential and its downside as a communication tool. As its potential for talking to a fan base, it really is unparalleled because it’s an immediate response to a question from a fan or whatever. And it’s not like you have to e-mail them and you can answer questions all day long. My guitar player, Mark Morton, has a very different style of Twittering than me; I don’t know if you’ve seen his or not.
I don’t know that I have.
Well, he answers every Lamb Of God question, like again and again and again. Like “what’s your favorite guitar player? What’s your influences? What do you think of the new record?” Like all of that type of stuff. He answers it again and again and again. And he talks about NASCAR a lot because he’s a NASCAR freak. He’s amused by answering the same questions over and over and over again. And he uses it as a way to communicate with the fans about our music specifically. I almost never talk about Lamb of God on Twitter.
And I saw it as an instant communication medium with the fans. But also I began to see it in a way to de-mystify the whole rock-stars are like these bizarre entity type of things because I really don’t feel like a rock-star. I’m just a dude with a regular band and I think the perception of myself and the members of my band by our fans is very erroneous about our day-to-day lives. So I engage people on Twitter about different topics that don’t deal with my band for the most part. I’m not foolish enough to state that all these people are following me because they think I’m Einstein or something. But it’s a way for me to kind of talk to them on almost a 1-to-1 basis.
You have a management and a PR company. Do you vet what you say by them?
No, of course not! No way.
I kind of see you and Mark Hunter from Chimaira as the leaders of metal bands that have broken down the barrier of directly communicating with fans.
Well because when you think about it like this, I have a great job and I love it, but it is my job. I don’t want to talk about my job all day long. Now if I don’t talk to fans then they’re gonna call me out as a jerk. You know, “you’re a fucking jerk, you’re a rock-star motherfucker.” But that doesn’t mean that I can’t talk to them about something more meaningful than Lamb of God or something sillier. And that’s a big upside for me, and as I said I saw the potential for it to be a great communication tool. There’s also a huge downside: number 1, speaking face-to-face with a person communicates what you’re trying to say in the manner you say it far more efficiently than typing 140 characters. Nuances of speech are just lost and sarcasm is pretty much, unless you just make it so wrenchingly, blatantly obvious, it’s just lost in Twitter.
Absolutely, I’ve definitely gotten into arguments with people over social media after they misconstrued what I was trying to say, mainly via missed sarcasm.
Yeah, sarcasm has its place. I try not to rely on it too much, but it does have its place. And that sort of thing, that aspect of the human interaction, that person-to-person conversation, the use of our language, and even body language, is lost. So there’s a huge downside to it. And the other thing with me with Twitter is I actually like engaging people and discussing topics that interest me and might make someone’s head turn a little bit. They might think a little bit after arguing with me—I love arguing as well. And I do that quite a bit. And that’s another thing, it’s funny, a lot of people on the Twitter are like, “How can you argue with your fucking fans!” And I’m like “I’m not Mr. heavy metal robot. You don’t just press a button and say ‘rock on dude’.” If I want to say something, I’m gonna say it. And you’re a human being, you have a brain, if you disagree, you and I should talk and hash it out. And Twitter is kind of good for that. And with that being said I have something now approaching something like 24,000 followers, that’s a whole lot of people to discuss with. So it can get kind of hectic and I waste too much time on it sometimes. But it is pretty useful. I first announced my Presidential candidacy on there and it’s gone pretty good so far.
I was actually going to talk about that as well. What led you to do that? How much thought did you put into it before you decided to do it?
Well, you know, I always said, I would never want to be President of the United States.
Worst job in the world…
Yes terrible, his schedule is awful. . He has a team of 18 million people running around him at all times advising him on this that and the other. I’m a resistant to advice type of guy, unless I ask for it. I don’t particularly care for unsolicited opinions in my ear all the time. He doesn’t get much sleep, his family life is completely destroyed I’m sure. Looking at some of the Republican Candidates and their “debates” [Laughs].
If you can call them that…
Yeah, I’m like “Fuck It! I can do this, I’ll be the President, I can say whatever the fuck I want no matter how ridiculous because that’s what these people are saying.” LUDICROUS things! I mean, when you have a guy who was pretty tight in taking Iowa, his name is Santorum, who is widely known that his name has an alternate definition, I’m sure you know about that?
That’s pretty big. When you have a guy who is being seriously considered as a Republican nominee, we have a problem, a real big problem. Why shouldn’t I? So that was all the thought it took really, was looking at their debates…I was like “fuck it, Ill fix this place. I got ideas maaaan!”
Aside from the metal blogosphere , has any serious media reached out to you?
Not really. Not yet. I’m wondering when it will happen. My first campaign statements mostly dealt with, a very broad, all encompassing military policy. Which basically in a nutshell was like, we shouldn’t be where we don’t belong, where it is unnecessary, and that’s simplifying things a bit. I know it’s a bit more complex than that. But that was just my first campaign statement. Soon I’ll be making another one dealing with economic reform and probably this one won’t be so popular. I’m not going to say what it is, but I have ideas on how to fix the American economy, and they’re relatively simple. And we’ll see as I release further campaign statements to see whether or not it generates enough hoopla as it were, within the political sphere for maybe even, you know, FOX News to contact me. That would just be lovely. [Laughs]
Would you ever seriously consider running for office?
I am running for office.
I stand corrected [laughs]. So lets talk about the new album a bit.
The boring stuff!
Yeah I gotta get to it, enquiring minds and whatnot.
I know, I know. I wouldn’t have this wonderful platform if it weren’t for my melodious singing voice…
Absolutely, that’s actually one of the things I wanted to bring up. A radio station I was talking to said that on every album, your voice sounds a little different. Do you go for different sounds for each album, or is that more what Josh Wilbur or Machine or whoever your producer is pushes you towards?
No, I’m very consciously trying to sound a little bit different. And also, the fact of the matter is my physical instrument, that being my vocal cords, are changing. It’s as if you were playing guitar on one record, like you had a Les Paul, and it had a certain gauge strings. And then after you played it for three years on a tour cycle instead of breaking, the strings developed calluses and got thicker so you went to a heavy gauge of string. Therefore the guitar is going to sound a little bit different. I mean, that’s just the way it is in the style of music I sing. Maybe not for everybody, maybe everybody can maintain a linear vocal sound. But I appear to be unable to maintain a linear sort of vocal sound because my instrument is changing.
Mark Morton describes the different voices I do as different characters and each record we do we try to introduce a new character. He calls one of them, the “straight Randy dragon.” Then on this record it got into “mid-range” or “high dragon” or then even he’ll refer to my first band Furious George, which was just a train wreck. But he’s like, “try and do some of that Furious George shit, just yell like a idiotic punk rocker.” So, we try and work with the characters and Mark is really -both Machine and Josh Wilbur were definitely involved in helping me find those new characters in my voice. And Mark is really instrumental in that, in pushing me and saying “try it this way” because he hears things, as a musician, a real musician. I say I’m a musician, but really I’m a vocalist. I’m not Pavarotti or anything. But as a real musician he hears things that I sometimes do not and he encourages me to try those things. So we definitely work on the voice.
Do you still take voice lessons?
I haven’t been to see Melissa Cross in a while, and I would love to. I’m going to have to make time to do that on my own. I have kind of an open ended deal with her, where I really wanna work on stuff. But I do warm up, I use her warm up techniques constantly.
It’s been a few years since you put a record out and the industry has changed pretty drastically. Do you have any kind of take on it? With the Pandoras and the Spotifys of the world and the declining physical sales…
Well , it’s no big secret that I’m a huge fan of having a physical medium to hold, to look at the packaging. I mean, I love vinyl. I grew up buying it. The first recorded music I ever had was on vinyl. And I loooved buying vinyl and I still buy it to this day and I collect it. That being said, I certainly don’t wish everything was only on vinyl. CD’s, which I still listen to in my truck, because the fact of the matter is they sound better then a lot of MP3’s. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe it’s a subtle difference but if you really listen you can hear it (sometimes I analyze things too much). But MP3’s man, I mean it’s a great format. The iPod makes touring so easier for a guy because you don’t have to carry around all these CD books, which is what everybody use to do and your CD’s got completely fucked up. I re-bought many things.
So the MP3 format is great. My problem with it is that it’s killing the music industry, downloading. It really is. And that is not some wild conjecture; you can look at the numbers. And you have to see where that came from. It didn’t come from the recession. It didn’t come from all of a sudden, people wanted convenience. It came from the fact that people can get shit for free and they’re unleashed. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. We have the whole SOPA thing going around which I am not for as it opens up too many doors for corporate and governmental monopoly on what we get as far as media. NOT into it.
The other thing with the MP3 format whether legal or illegal that I don’t like is the fact that I think it is killing the concept of the album itself because back in the day musicians were paid per song when they put out a single. There was no album because they didn’t have the technology to cram that much on a 45 or a 78 even. So when they went to the 33’s it was like “holy shit we can put a lot of music on this!”. And dudes like Elvis and other guys and their songwriters started thinking, “we can make a larger piece of music that the songs relate to each other and their pace. And some of them, like concept albums, actually tell a story. Elvis did a Christmas record. That was one of the first, as far as I know, one of the first thematic records. People were like “holy shit he did a whole record about Christmas.” And that was a unique thing because before, people were use to consuming singles and the artist were paid per song. Then as rock n roll changed and people started putting out albums, people started really working on their overall song crafting technique, not just like “I’m going to make this an awesome sing along song” but like how this relates to the rest of music, the rest of my catalogue. And it created some great things. I mean listen to any Led Zepplin record, its amaaazing. And also albums defined eras of bands. You could see their growth, where their head space was by listening to an entire album and where they were in that particular moment in time.
MP3 now, kids and I think adults, a lot of them are just buying singles. So we are actually devolving, we are going back in time. And as a musician, and this is purely selfish, I put a whole lot of work into writing a record that is not a schizophrenic mess. That will work together. And I want it to say something. If someone is getting just one song, they won’t know what I’m saying. Of course that’s selfish… Of course I would love to sell albums and I would love to get paid for them because I’m a fucking musician and that’s what we do. [Laughs]
I don’t know if you know this but album sales are actually up from last year, year over year. Up like, 1.3% or something like that.
Interesting with the current economic climate…
Yeah, and digital for the first time went over physical, but that’s counting singles.
You know overall, I don’t foresee digital sales of albums increasing music sales, unless there are super draconian measures enacted by the government, which none of us want. For me, it would be great personally, just for me, Randy Blythe the singer of Lamb of God, a guy who makes his living in music. If the government said “BLAAM, you’re going to get fined heavily for this illegal downloaded music or whatever. You have to pay for this or we’re going to come after you and cut off your internet because its theft.” That would be great for me personally. However, there’s no way that is going to happen without opening up a whole lot of other really dangerous doors for those in power to control what we do.
It’s funny man, I think a lot of people think the internet exists in this vacuum, like it’s this magic place, and it’s not. There are corporations that provide services and those corporations, as of right now, aren’t really responsible for what’s put on their secondary liability. That’s how the downloading sites and safe havens and all that shit go, they aren’t responsible for what’s running through their servers. However, if they were, and people were fined, the corporations could then decide “well we only want to release this content,” and that is fucking up our freedom of speech and intellectual freedom, and I’m not for that. Money to me at the cost of liberty, no amount of it is worth it.
Absolutely…Shifting gears, talk to me about singing with Cannabis Corpse. Anything that you did differently to train for your show with them that’s coming up?
YES! I’ve been jamming with them this entire week [note: this interview took place prior to the performance]. I actually have practice in 3 hours now. The only thing I’m having to do differentl – it’s really interesting for me. We’re playing some of their older stuff and some of their more recent stuff. Stuff from their first record, singing it reminds me a whole lot of the old days being in Burn The Priest, when I was just learning to be in a band because their first record is the stuff from when THEY were first learning to be in a band. Andy “Weedgrinder” Horn wrote a TON of fucking lyrics. I have like flash cards, giant flash cards I’m using. Their lyrics are immense and long and it’s not like I can be like “ok now I’m going to sing the song about weed and then the song about something else.” NO, all the songs are about weed [Laughs]. So his phrasing at the beginning, it works, but it’s technically not correct. And when I listen to my old phrasing in some of the Burn The Priest stuff, it’s technically not correct. Some of it doesn’t fall where, technically, it should be, on the beat or on the downbeat. Some of it is just out in space . So for me to relearn his parts, I’m having to actually sort of sit back and be like “ok not everything has to be exactly perfect and make sense…”
So unlearning a little bit?
Yeah I’m unlearning, which is really cool. It keeps it really green for me. It reminds me of the days when I was first in a band. Their later stuff, he of course learned, like me while being a band, how to put things on the beat, on the down beat, phrasing, how not to cram too many syllables. He has so many lyrics and that was something I was guilty of back in the day, of trying to just cram every single word in a song possible. So that’s interesting for me. As far as my voice though, doing this stuff is just like, once again, being in Burn The Priest I can do this stuff all day long. It’s easy for me. It’s what I first learned to do. I sound like I did when I was a fucking…24 year old kid first singing for this band. So yeah it’s going back in time a bit…and a lot of fun.
I guess you’re comfortable with the point Lamb of God is at right now career -wise. You’ve definitely weathered some storms, stayed on a major label and put out a record I’m sure you’re very proud of… This sounds like a stupid generic question but what do you think the future holds for Lamb of God? Do you see the band existing 20 years down the line? Can you not even think about it in those terms?
[Laughs] 20 years down the line…
That would be awesome! [laughs]
It would be awesome but I mean… I never wanted to do anything that would tarnish what we have built. And if I’m 60 years old and unable to hop around, get down like I do now, I don’t wanna stand up there and look like an old man asshole who can’t let go of the fact that he can’t do those things anymore. But then again, there are guys like Iggy Pop, one of my heroes, who is still fucking crazy on stage. So maybe if I take care of, or should I say, continue to take good care of myself, don’t drink, tryin to quit smoking now, haven’t gotten intoxicated in a long time now. If I do that, maybe I’ll be good. And if Lamb of God, I don’t foresee us ever really having to break up. We don’t have to break up, unless we just implode, because we grow to hate each other so much, which very well could happen. But I don’t see us HAVING to break up. We can just take long, long breaks. I can be buried as an active member of Lamb of God.
Did you actually get some downtime in between the last album cycle and recording Resolution?
Yeah I got a little bit of downtime. We were home, when were we home? Towards the end of November from Australia. We were on tour with Metallica. I didn’t see those guys, I saw Mark some, cause that’s my homeboy, we kick it and hang regardless. But I didn’t see those guys in a musical sense till mid April. During that time I was doing a lot of other shit. Doing writing, I wrote a rough draft of the novel that I have to pick back up and start on the second draft soon, and just trying to be a regular family guy man. I don’t get to see my wife as much as I would like. Ya know, your women need attention, because if you don’t give it to them you won’t have one. And I like my wife, I like hanging out with her, shes cool! [Laughs]