This past Saturday (2), the doors opened for Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe’s first-ever photography exhibit, Show Me What You’re Made Of, at the Sacred Gallery in New York. That Blythe is a photographer shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that follows him on Instagram. His attention to detail, the privilege of being able to shoot around the world and his unique perspective, combined with the time he’s put into learning, has made him an excellent photographer. When we caught up with him on Monday (4) at the gallery, he discussed how he got into photography, what his forthcoming book will be like, and how he’s able to maintain wearing so many hats.
What got you started with photography? Did you have a camera growing up? Was this something passed onto you?
My dad got me a camera when I was little. I took two rolls of film, all of them were blurry, and I didn’t touch it since the 4th grade. Then, I got a Canon 60D prosumer model to shoot skateboarding footage about 4 years ago. I shot skateboarding footage in this documentary I was going to make about unplugging from the internet. I started shooting footage and interviewing people about technology and the way it affected their jobs. I was shooting my friend skateboarding, and then one day I was thinking, ‘why don’t I take a picture?’ When I was in my kitchen I saw my coffee pot, and thought’ well that looks pretty coo,l let me try and take a picture.’ So I put the camera on automatic because I didn’t know what I was doing then, pointed it at the coffee pot, and took a picture. Then I was like ‘oh, that’s really cool.’
That was it then?
That was it, four years ago. Poof. And I’ve been shooting ever since.
Was there a point where you decided this was a little bit more than a casual hobby? Did you ever think you’d be sitting in a room of your works in an exhibition?
After a while yes, but I would have never gotten here on my own. I’d probably think ‘this isn’t good enough; eventually I’ll do it one day.’ I’d show my pictures on Instagram from the beginning when I first started shooting. Then when I first started putting the photos up, some people who follow me who were fans of the band and happened to be photographers said “you have a good natural eye for it.” But they also asked if I knew about this thing called the rule of thirds, a compositional rule, and I didn’t know about it. I didn’t know what depth of field was or anything technical. So these photographers would be telling me to read up and they would leave me little comments on my Instagram and it made sense. So my Instagram, over the last four years I’ve had it, has shown in real time me learning how to be a photographer.
Your Instagram account has kind of became a must follow, not only for the images, but it’s almost like a diary for you.
Yeah. As you see from these images I write little blurbs with each one cause I’m a writer as well. So that’s part of what I like to do, but my Instagram started getting followers who liked my photography, not just the band. Then there are people who follow me just for photography who don’t know about my band. Even the gallery owner, he was following me for a while on Instagram just for my photos. Somehow he found me and he had no idea I was in Lamb of God. Until after a little while we were in an interview and I asked him ‘is it true you didn’t know I was in Lamb of God?’ And he said” no, I was just checking out your photography.”
Did he know who Lamb of God was?
Oh yeah. I mean, he runs a tattoo shop. He’s in the scene, but he was like “well that makes sense.” So he hit me on Instagram and he said “hey I’m a gallery owner in New York do you want a show?” This was about a year ago and I said ‘sure, no problem.’ That was a year ago. As things got closer and closer I thought holy shit I have to put together a gallery show. I have to start printing these things. This is the first time I ever printed my work.
Are all of these pictures that were initially on Instagram?
Not all of them. Several of them were, but not all of them. Some of them, when I found out I had a gallery show coming I decided not to post them on Instagram. That way it’s like’ hey you got to come to the gallery opening to come see it.’ The online catalog for the show is up now on the gallery sight, but that didn’t go up until after the gallery opening because you want people to come to the gallery opening.
How was the opening?
There was a soft opening for press and VIPs on Friday the 1st. The photographer Bob Gruen came and that’s a big deal for me. He was John Lennon’s photographer, he’s famous. He and his wife Elizabeth came, some of my friends from New York came, and different press outlets came and that was mellow, about a hundred people. Then Saturday night, there was a line around the block when it was time to open the doors. It was crammed in here the first hour and a half. I was just slowly taking picture after picture. By the end of the night there were about 50 people. This was kind of nice it mellowed out because the first hour and a half it was too much, it was just packed. But it went really well we sold several pieces.
There were four or five pictures I took while I was in Prague, getting ready for my trial. Those in this size and that print were an edition of 10. Because I thought they were beautiful shots, but once they’re done, I wanted them gone. Out of my life. I think they’re valid as art, I was trying to create art in a hard time, it helps me in my life. So once those are gone there will be no more in that size or edition, and I doubt many of them in another size even. Though there’s also that color one over there which is a print of one of two. It’s called” GWAR Will Never Die.” And I took that at the last barbeque, it’s the last show they played since Dave Brockie died. And I was standing on the side stage next to Jello Biafra watching them and that’s at the end of the show. There was just blood spraying everywhere and people were crying, I was crying. It’s a powerful shot and that’s an edition of two. One will go to slave pit, and that’s up for auction going to a charity called Art 180 in Richmond, Virginia. It’s a non-profit that brings art programs to kids and young adults age 8 to 11 who come from economically depressed backgrounds and don’t have access to a lot of resources. It costs money to make art. If you look at all this shit, it’s not cheap. It costs money to do this, and I think funding to the arts is the first thing to go in public schools. So, in honor of my friend Dave the gallery owner and I are going to donate 100 percent of that to this foundation. And I think Dave would be very pleased by that. He loved art that’s what he did. GWARwas art.
It’s performance art.
Yeah, I’d stop by and see Dave at the Slave Pit and he was always painting something, doing something, he was an artist. GWAR came out of art school so I wanted to do something for charity, and I want to do something to honor Dave. I knew he’d be please with it and a couple people, GWAR guys, I told about it they were pretty pumped on it.
That brings me to my next question. This is in New York, one of the art centers of the world, why didn’t you start out smaller, like in Richmond?
Because the owner of the gallery, Kevin Wilson, who is a wonderful person, comes from the music scene, he’s in the tattoo scene, all that stuff. He’s the only one who asked me if I wanted to have an art show. He’s the first one who asked, and so far the only one to ask, so I said yes. I’d love to have a show in Richmond, but no one has talked to me about it. I might have a buddy, Sanford Parker, who’s a producer, we were thinking of doing something for my book in Chicago with some of my photographs there. That’s all tentative. That’s the only maybe I have. When I started putting it up on Instagram people were starting to ask, “are you going to take this on the road?” But it’s not like a band. I’m not going on tour with 35 giant framed pieces.
That’s something else I was going to ask you too. How did you come to work with Greta Brinkman, who made all the frames?
Greta is old school Richmond punk rock. That’s how I know her. I can’t remember how I found out she was making frames, but I knew she was making frames before I even got this show. When he was talking about the show I was like well I got to get them framed, and I know a punk rock lady. I like to keep my money within my local economy, especially if I keep it in my community that raised me. Then I’ll do that. All these are old wood, and it’s also cool because we’re repurposing, not crushing new forests.
So you’ve done work with the ballet, you’ve got a book coming out, you’ve acted. I can’t imagine there was a plan to become a renaissance man so to speak. Have you ever looked back and been like, ‘I’m doing some kind of highbrow shit here.’
Yeah. I was in a movie in Taiwan in December, and I’m in a band and we’re working on new shit. There’s always something going on with music. It’s definitely weird. It’s not something I ever planned, it just happened. All the stuff that’s happened is not stuff that I said I want to do, it’s stuff people said” hey do you want to? Hey will you?” From my band, the old guitar player said “hey I want you to sing for my band.” So I tried out and that was it. I didn’t say ‘I want to sing for your band.’ I didn’t say ‘I wanted an art gallery,’ someone asked if I wanted one. I had to be convinced to write my book. I didn’t want to write that book because I didn’t think I was ready yet. For the ballet the choreographer asked if I wanted to do it. For the movies I’ve been in people were like “hey do you want to be in a movie?” I just say yes.
Teenage Time Killers I guess same deal?
Yes same thing. All of it, man. If it is for the right reasons then I think if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to you then you’re a fool.
Yeah, for sure.
But it’s burning me out a little bit.
So you have a book coming out in July.
That’s right around the time you’re going to be on the road.
I’m going to be in Europe all of June with Lamb of God playing festivals. I’ll be back in New York in the middle of June till around July 14th. That’s the release of the book. I’ll be back here in July to do extensive book promotion. I will do a lot of interviews about that because that’s when the book comes out. In August, we go on tour with Slipknot, beginning at the end of July, I believe. On the Slipknot tour, Corey Taylor has a book coming out a week apart from me. So there’s been talk of us maybe trying to set up some sort of event. We show up somewhere and make jackasses out of ourselves.
Have you talked to him about being an author?
Yeah we’ve talked a little bit about it. I know several authors, not just authors who are musicians. Basically, I haven’t had to ask for a bunch of advice. Like “how do you write ,”because I already know how to do that. The guys I know that write books that I have talked to during this process were just like “calm down dude you are going to survive.” After a while your brain starts turning to mush and you call your buddy who has written a few books and he says “dude it’s cool, you just got to get through it.”
Is the book essentially an autobiography?
It starts with me being arrested in an airport in the Czech Republic, and it ends with me not being arrested. It goes through that whole thing.
Will there be a photographic element to it?
There are photographs and journal entries at some part of each chapter. The majority of the book will take place in the present because there was a documentary done on the whole trial. It covered the story of the band, and it outlined the whole legal situation. However, there was nothing in that movie about being in prison. They don’t like cameras in prison. I think the majority of the book is the story from my perspective. A lot of it is what happened.
Show Me What You’re Made Of is taking place at the Sacred Gallery NY (424 Broadway) from now through June 30