Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe on Following Slayer and Surviving Trump

Jon Wiederhorn
Writer
Randy Blythe of Lamb of God (photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Currently, Lamb of God are performing visceral, high-energy sets to roaring Slayer audiences on their summer tour. When Slayer toured with Marilyn Manson in the past, the crowd was divided. Select fans enjoyed both bands, and cumulatively the groups packed venues. But Slayer and Lamb of God are cut from the same bloodied cloth. Fans who love one probably dig the other. And while Lamb of God’s style of metal is more about social injustice and personal shortcomings than Slayer’s — whose favorite topics are serial killers, war, and anything sacrilegious — the two along, with death/black metal tour opener Behemoth, present a rear-window view of the evolution of metal since the mid-‘80s.

Other summer rock bills may offer more bands, but Slayer’s tour provides three of the loudest and heaviest groups in the genre. In addition to discussing Lamb of God’s history with Slayer, Blythe talks to Yahoo Music about how performing metal is a cathartic release from the pressures of living in a critically divided nation.

YAHOO MUSIC: What do you think about the current political climate in America?

RANDY BLYTHE: I think we’re reaching a critical mass of noise about Trump because every day something new comes up. It’s a… I don’t even know, man. Why does it matter what I think?

Well, you’re well read and politically aware, and you’ve written about social and political issues in the past. Metal fans look up to you and want to know your opinions, because they feel like they relate to you.

Reality has become entirely subjective. That’s why it doesn’t matter what I think. I will say this. Me not voting for Trump and voting for his Democratic opponent was strictly a choice of the lesser of two evils. This is one of the worst, if not the worst, most bizarre, brutal electoral seasons I’ve ever seen. And I think it’s been the craziest in the lifetimes of many people who are way older than me as well, you know? There were d*** jokes in the primaries. They weren’t metaphorically comparing penis size. They were actually doing it. This is what politics is right now. Regarding our Tweeter in Chief, people don’t care about the veracity of his statements. But I think really it’s a matter of kind of waiting for him to be impeached.

Is he that dangerous, or is he just like a reality show host run amok?

Of course he’s dangerous. Any person who is the President of the United States is dangerous. You have the codes to the nukes; that makes you a danger. And if you’re the President of the United States, I don’t care who you are, you’ve got to be a little off, because no sane person would want that job. I don’t even know what to say, really, other than people need to learn to communicate with each other again on both sides of the political spectrum. We can’t be a bipartisan country to the degree of severity that America has become. It just can’t be that way, because nothing is going to get done.

There’s a lot of fodder for late-night television like Saturday Night Live.

It would be hilarious to me if it wasn’t also horrifying at the same time. You know, we have this infuriated orange bowl of sherbet in the Oval Office. If you’re going to be a politician, at least be slick about it. But I don’t know. Maybe he’s brilliant. The way he got elected with this blitzkrieg of napalm across the misanthropic synapsis of middle America is kind of genius. We’re going to make America great again? Whatever. It means nothing. I never thought America was bad in the first place. But he instilled a massive amount of fear and then said, “I am the Messiah.” So, you know, when America doesn’t become great again, what’s gonna happen?

During the election, he portrayed the nation as a corrupt, collapsing dystopia that needs to be saved.

President Trump sold this fantasy that we’re going to return to the 1950s and be in some sort of idyllic Beaver Cleaver world that was only good for middle-class white Americans in the first place. And that idea is gone. It’s dead and it’s not a valid option in this modern world. We’re not going to batten down the hatches and shut the rest of the world out. Life doesn’t exist that way anymore. Basically, the world is a mess and all you can do while this s***storm is going on is try and be a moral person, at least, and not pay attention to too much of that noise. I do my best to do the right thing in my personal life because I sure as f*** can’t change what’s going on in the Oval Office.

Are you encouraged that there’s strong opposition to his policy agenda, whither it’s women marching to protect their rights or people protesters gathering to speak out against immigration policy?

Yes, I am heartened by the fact that when he makes some of these ludicrous promises and then attempts to execute them, that people are making their voices heard, whether through protests or calling their congressman or attending town halls and being like, “What the f*** is going on?” But it’s still really early in the game to guess what’s going to ultimately happen.

Enough about the state of the nation. You put out an EP, The Duke, last year, and the title track features the most melodic vocals you’ve performed with Lamb of God. It’s the perfect follow-up to the semi-melodic track “Overlord” from Sturm Und Drang. Was “The Duke” something you did for that album but didn’t finish, or is it an entirely new song?

We had it and we knew we’d use it in the future. When you’re sequencing a record you have only have so many tracks you can put on there. Or you can put everything you have on the record, which is problematic these days because I believe records are too f***ing long. Just because you demo 18 songs doesn’t mean all of them should go on the record. So when we recorded the album we voted to use “The Duke” later, which was fine by me. It wasn’t like the song isn’t good enough for the record. But you go, “Does this fit the record, or will it be better in a standalone capacity?” And I’m glad we put it out as an EP because it got a lot more attention that way and we were able to do some good with it, which was to raise some money for leukemia and lymphoma research, which I was extremely excited about.

The song is about a man named Wayne Ford, who suffered from leukemia and who you became close to before he died. Tell me about him.

I met Wayne at a show in Phoenix a few years ago. A friend of his said, “My buddy has had leukemia for a year or two. Now he’s in decline. Can you give him a shout-out?” I was like, “Yeah, sure.” And I gave him a shout-out during the concert and then met him afterwards. We talked briefly and I told him that my wife and I were already on the bone marrow registry. He was happy about that and glad I knew about it. So, a few years go by and then I get an email from the guy that first contacted me, saying, “Remember my buddy, Wayne? You gave him a shout-out a few years ago. He’s going to… He’s not going to make it. Could you get the band together and maybe say hello to him?” I said, “Well, we’re recording an album. We’re in different parts of the country right now. So that’s not really possible, but I’ll certainly give him a call.”

Did you talk to him?

I called him and we did a couple of video chats when I was in the studio. I Skyped him so he could check out some of our new stuff. Then I had this idea. He knew he was dying and I said to him, “Do you have anything you want to say or would want to be remembered by? Maybe we could record a phone call and I could layer it into the album so you’ll be kind of immortalized in music.” He thought that was interesting and wanted to think it over. I never heard back from him. I don’t know if he wasn’t into it or just hadn’t thought of anything he wanted to say. He kind of had other things on his mind. You know, the dude was getting ready to pass.

Did you hear from him after that?

No. I got a call that he had passed away. We never got to record him and he never told me anything he wanted to say. So I wrote a song for the guy, because he was really inspiring. He was very calm and collected in the face of his own mortality. He was a young man, too. I wrote from my limited understanding of his perspective and dedicated it to him. And when we put out the EP, we did a fundraising drive to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and raised $30,000 for them.

Trent Reznor is releasing a batch of music in three separate Nine Inch Nails EPs, and other musicians are releasing songs one at a time. What do you think of the EP as a new method of marketing music? Was The Duke a prelude to that? 

Not at all. This was just a special thing for us to do because it was centered around the song. As far as exposing people to new music, I really don’t give a f*** about the modern climate and how people market things. There is so much music out there now, so what good is putting out a couple songs and then a couple more songs and a couple more songs? I would rather sit down and write a bunch of songs that conceptually work together, and sonically are good, and then put it out as an album. I think they last the test of time much better than just a collection of single songs. Call me an archaic throwback, but I like the concept of an album. You can feel the progression as the songs play. You aren’t going to able to see the progression between 15 songs put out at different times.

You’ve been in this game a long time. What memories do you have of your first show as Lamb of God? 

We went out with GWAR [whose costumed members claim to be warriors from outer space, and who perform theatrical shows colored by mock decapitations, castrations, and other acts of bloodletting]. We opened the show, which was tough. Their fans will get you off the stage, so we learned to play very fast and not give anyone a chance to build up any negativity towards us. You just go out there and hit them – Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! — and then you’re done. That take-no-prisoners mentality has worked well for us and I think, maybe because of that, we’ve never had a problem with a Slayer crowd.

Yes, now you’re out on the road with Slayer. You know it’s going to be loud when Lamb of God is the mellowest band on the bill.

Yeah, you know, this is a pretty solid, crushing stuff. There’s no filler. There aren’t any of those more melodic bands that sometimes play metal festivals along with really heavy bands. I’m not knocking any of them, but this is just 100 percent straight-up aggression.

There’s an unwritten law in metal that if you’re not an exceptional or top-charting band, you don’t play direct support to Slayer. But Lamb of God did just that more than a decade ago and lived to tell the tale.

We crushed that rule the first time we opened for them. But you know, if you come out and you’re weak before a Slayer crowd, you will get your ass handed to you, because the audience is there to see Slayer. You can’t screw around when you’re playing with Slayer because their fans will chant you off the stage.

Any good stories about the glory days of touring with Slayer? 

Back in the day, there were tons of drinking shenanigans because they always had Jägermeister and that stuff’ll make you crazy. But you know, I don’t drink anymore, so that’s all in the past.

Can you recall a particularly entertaining Slayer shenanigan?

Well, I was too wasted to remember a lot of them. And then there are others that I won’t tell in a public forum. It’s like, man, I’ve been touring for 22 years with this band. I’ve learned that some things are best left to yourself.


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