2012 should have been a banner year for Lamb of God: they were touring behind Resolution, an album that was well-reviewed and debuted near the top of the charts around the world. Nearing the end of a world tour, they were set to begin their first proper stateside run for the album in August with Dethklok and Gojira. Then on June 28, as the band entered Prague, singer Randy Blythe was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter from an incident that had taken place two years earlier. Blythe remained in prison for over a month, and the tour was ultimately canceled. With Blythe finally back in the States, the band last week announced a new tour that kicks off next month. Metal Insider caught up with drummer Chris Adler to talk about what the arrest was like from the band’s point of view, writing new material, and if they’ll be changing any security efforts moving forward.
What was Randy’s arrest like from your perspective?
We’d been playing all these big festivals in Europe. We were about five weeks into the tour with just one day off a week. Every day we’d wake up and fly or wake up and drive for ten hours and set up and play. That’s what we’re used to, but it’s a little harder in Europe because it’s not our own backyard, so we were all pretty burnt out. We had maybe a week left before we went home and were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.We’d played the Hove festival in Norway the night before, and there were three flights to get to Prague. We’d left at 7 or 8 in the morning and got in around 7 or 8 at night. Of the seven days we were playing, this was going to be our one night off, so it wasn’t like we were getting off the plane and going right to the show. As soon as we walked off the plane, there were these two plainclothes officers pulling people aside. Initially, I didn’t notice it was only our band and crew, because there’s always random checks for passports or immigration. It was kind of odd because once the plane had stopped at the gate and the seat belt sign went off, it was almost an hour before they let people off the plane. I guess now it was the authorities trying to figure out how to handle the situation and not scare the shit out of people on the plane.
So we’re getting off the plane along with everyone else, and they’re pulling us aside one at a time. At first I didn’t think anything of it, and then they pulled me aside and I still didn’t think anything of it. Then I notice that it’s not random and it’s just the band and the crew. I still wasn’t thinking anything of it – since we all check in together, maybe somebody forgot something that they shouldn’t have put in their bag on an airplane and they’re going to want to talk to us all about it. Then once they had us all corralled together, the 12 of us, they opened a door behind us to another room, and I assumed it was just to begin the process of telling us what the deal was or what the fine was for carrying liquor or a joint in a bag or something.
So we walk in this room and there’s ten guys that look like they’re ready for the apocalypse. Scary, scary dudes with black ski masks on, huge machine guns, full body armor, guns strapped to thighs, calves and chests, and mace out. This is where it gets very scary, and we realized it was something far more than what someone had in their bag. The plainclothes officer explained to us in broken English that they were investigating a homicide. Even when they said that, of course it became much more serious than someone pissing in public, but still, we’d been flying around the world for the last 5 ½ weeks, maybe something happened at one of these festivals and they’re talking to all of the bands, or someone we know might be in trouble – we never thought they were investigating us. Then they hand us all a piece of paper that explains in broken English about the situation that happened in 2010. They said they needed us all for interrogation, but they’re taking Randy with us now. That’s when it hit us. No one had heard anything about this, it was very very scary to be involved in, and we realized with the SWAT team standing around us that there was nothing we could do about it.
And that’s exactly how we felt for the next five weeks. Every day the information that we got was different from the day before. They’d ask for a certain amount of money, they’d change it the next day, we’d pay it, then nothing would happen. We did everything we could from this side to try to get him out. We stayed there the next night and the band and crew was interrogated the entire next day. As soon as we were let out, we drove to the German border and stayed there for the next two days, assuming common sense would sink in and they would let him out, because this is crazy. The news from the lawyers was getting worse and worse, and we were advised to go home before anything might happen to one of us. So we did – we came home and did our best to pool our resources and do what we could from here to help out. We were all working very hard behind the scenes and hiring legal people and private investigators and trying to do what we could to get our guy out of there. As far as we were concerned, and still are, it’s such a random series of events that led to what’s obviously a tragedy. It’s very hard for us to accept responsibility for something so random.
How surreal was it for those several days when you were in a different country awaiting word of his fate?
There’s a mix of emotions. We were first told that someone passed away at one of our shows. That in itself is pretty devastating news. We certainly don’t go into our shows with any malice or wanting to hurt anybody, we’re having a good time. And the people that come to our shows are having a good time. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve heard about other incidents like these happening before, and I imagine how terrible the family must feel for something like this. But the band, and not just our band, but any entertainer, has to feel terrible, because that’s the exact opposite of why anyone would go there. At the same time, being given the information that it’s your fault, and we’re arresting you, and that could be the end of your career, you’re immediately defensive, like ‘what the fuck are you talking about, how could this be our fault?’ But you want to be sensitive to the fact that someone was hurt or died at a show. Those two emotions don’t mix well together, so it was a very confusing time.
While I’m sure it was the last thing on your minds, what was it like arriving back in the States and seeing the outpouring of support?
I never really try to think of ourselves as a big band, or as being particularly well-known. I knew the guys that we cross paths with a lot would offer to help in any way they could. But certainly, we live in this little metal bubble, and it was very humbling to see how many people supported us: in their comments, in cancelling shows in Prague, and donating items for the auction we had, and donating money to his legal fund, it was a great outpouring of support. In fact, in the metal community, I’m not immune to the blogs that are out there, and it was probably the first time that I’d seen that many people agree on something in the metal community for the first time.
Some even out of the metal community.
Yeah, like I said, there’s people we see all the time: Hatebreed, Machine Head, Devildriver, these are our personal friends. Of course we’d hope they would come to our aid if necessary. But people like Slash and Ozzy, who could easily sleep another day without worrying about us, coming out and saying something, it’s really humbling to know. It attracts that kind of attention not just because it’s the hard rock community, but it’s a very scary precedent. If this goes to trial, if Randy ends up being convicted, it sets a very dangerous precedent for performances, where anybody that is willing to take the stage is now somehow responsible for the general well-being of anyone that walks through the door, and that’s a scary notion.
How long before the tour with Dethklok and Gojira was canceled did you know it was going to be called off?
We knew about two days before the press release went out, and the only reason it took two days was to craft the press release. We were holding out hope that he was going to get out and that we were going to be able to continue on this tour. Every Monday, we’d get news that the paperwork was going through and he’d be getting out on Wednesday, and it just kept getting delayed. We did everything by the book we could do to get our guy out and salvage whatever we had remaining on the tour. We knew that we were going to probably push the tour – take the first 10 days or two weeks and tack it back on to the end, but both Dethklok and Gojira, while being sensitive to the issue, knew they had to keep their ball rolling. They waited for us as long as they could, and I think it got to the point where not only the bands, but the promoters, were getting really nervous about trying to sell tickets for a band that had a guy in prison in another country. And while we were hopeful for the best, the longer it went on, the more nerve-wracking it got. We finally decided we needed to make a call and do the right thing, not only for Randy, who we didn’t even know if he’d want to be in a band when he got out, but for the people that were waiting for us in order to make their next move.
Aside from Knotfest, have you been rehearsing?
I’ve been playing every day. I see the guys come in here and there, but we’re not sitting down to write anything new. As the tour approaches, we’ll get together and play some of the songs from the new album that we haven’t played yet. Right now, we’re in a big production discussion about how we’re going to do things differently for this tour. We’ve still got a month and a half before the tour kicks off, so we’re putting together a stage show. With the Dethklok tour, we were already in pre-production with that – we’d split the cost of the video screens with Dethklok, we had buses and trucks on hold, and our crew and their families were counting on that. So when that went out the window, there was a big trickle down effect. This time, we want to take some of the ideas we had from production for that tour, bring it into this one, and try to step it up. But those Knotfest shows were so therapeutic to get onstage. It seemed and felt like such an event for us to be back onstage and it’d been two years since a proper U.S. run. I think there were a lot of people interested in seeing the band in general, but with their support for Randy, it really turned into quite a supportive and cathartic moment onstage. So in looking forward to this next tour, I really think that from the general sense I saw from the fans in Iowa and Wisconsin, this is even bigger than what we might expect.
Is there a reason the band, even before Randy’s incarceration, waited so long for a U.S. tour?
Not really. The record had debuted higher than ever all across Europe, Australia and Asia. When we left off at the end of the last tour, it was with U.S. dates, so we wanted to get back to those other markets where it had been even longer. Going into this, we didn’t have the information that Roadrunner was going to be closing, and they had done an excellent job promoting the record. And Roadrunner’s not our label in the U.S., so we wanted to show a little love to them for doing such a great job. And knowing that there was a U.S. tour planned for the summer, it wasn’t like it was a big break for us.
Randy spoke a lot about writing while he was in prison. Have you discussed new material yet?
We did sit down and talk about ideas, and Willie said he’d been taking the downtime to write and come up with good ideas. We’re not very good at sitting still, so there’s been some creative progress there. And Randy did make good use of his time and do a lot of writing. So the creative elements are there for us to potentially begin some sort of project. But the record came out in January, and there’s a lot of people out there that want to see us, and we haven’t really gotten a fair shake at touring this record.
That happened to us on the [As the] Palaces [Burn] record, where within four or five months, Epic and Roadrunner were in a battle over who was going to sign the band, and it got to the point where whoever was going to sign the band wanted a product right away, so we had to go right into the writing process for Ashes of the Wake. Obviously, everything went great, but having that touring cycle cut short never really felt good for us; we never really got to properly promote that album, and we certainly don’t want that to happen with this record. We genuinely feel like this is some of our best material combined from some of our earlier records to make something special, so we don’t want to sweep it under the carpet yet. But when we do go into the writing process next year, we’ll already have some ammunition.
I’d imagine that a lot of people will be paying extra attention to the lyrical content of the album, knowing some of it was written in a jail cell.
I’m sure that’s going to be an overarching theme to the record. Right now for us, maybe it’ll be like some sort of therapy to get out there and get out some of the aggression we have about the situation.
Lastly, has the Prague situation led you to take a look at onstage security and second guess what you’re doing?
It has. We sat down and discussed this with our management. We talked about what we could have done differently, and what we could do differently going forward to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Basically, what we came up with is that we really are doing everything we can to make sure the situation doesn’t happen. In all the contracts the promoters get from the booking agents and management, it includes the need for proper security to put on a safe show. Even at the show we had there, there was security hired. This was just a fluke accident, and I don’t know that if we changed everything we did, and made everyone that walked through the door sign a waiver, and had the band walking around in bubble suits, and had the ground padded with foam, I don’t think there’s anything we could really do that would create an environment where something this random couldn’t happen again. It really was so far out of the realm of impossibility to begin with that I don’t think us changing anything would necessarily fix the situation.