Year in Review: Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe
Metal’s most formidable frontman talks new EP ‘The Duke’, writing, photography and his favorites this year
It’s a chill day for Randy Blythe, the frontman of American metal giants Lamb of God. Over the phone from his home in Richmond, Virginia, he mentions he’s going to rake the leaves in his yard. It’s probably that kind of ordinary life that makes Lamb of God one of the most fan-friendly giants in the metal world. He says with a laugh, “We’ve always just been regular dudes. We’ve been playing shows for well over 20 years now. We’re not rock stars, we don’t fly around in helicopters or anything.”
Like the documentary film As the Palaces Burn (2014) that followed, in two parts, the band’s difficult ordeal of when Blythe was charged with manslaughter after a fan died due to an injury sustained at their show in Prague as well as a profile of fans across the world (including India), their latest EP The Duke is a dedication to a fan. Comprising two new tracks and three live cuts, The Duke is inspired by a fan, Wayne Ford, diagnosed with leukaemia, who Blythe became close to in the years that led up to the fan’s passing away in 2015. He says about their fans, “All the fans everywhere, are the same. There’s a bunch of people with long hair and black t-shirts who like to get down to music, you know? I got to know this fan [Wayne] before he died and it was an inspiration in a way.”
In addition to the EP release and promotion, Blythe also got into writing and photography in a much bigger way, working on a magazine called Unbuilt, joining fellow editorial metalheads such as guitarist Alex Skolnick (from thrash kings Testament) and vocalist Alissa White-Gluz (from Swedish melo-death band Arch Enemy). He says about his work ethic as a contributor to Unbuilt, “The magazine comes out twice a year – the editor who started it – we’re all co-editors. He has come to me and pitched ideas, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ Sometimes, I’ve been said yes, sometimes I’ll say, ‘Well no, I’ll do this instead’. It’s really a collaborative effort.”
In an eventful year that also included touring with sludge metal masters Eyehategod and more travels, we quizzed Blythe about his favorite moments of 2016.
The most uncomfortable but in retrospect, fun thing you did this year:
Gee. I do a lot of uncomfortable things, it seems like. (laughs) I would say definitely the Eyehategod tour. We played 12 shows in 11 days, we got very little sleep. We were either constantly driving or flying to a different city. It was, in a lot of ways, in a nightmare. But even then, I was having a really good time. It was not an easy tour, but it was a lot of fun.
10.17.2016 “99 Miles of Bad Road” Well, that was completely insane- 12 shows in 11 days with the most screwy routing ever- but also completely amazing. Thanks Jimmy, Brian, Gary, & Aaron- it was an honor serving a tour of duty with you guys, & the most fun I’ve had on stage in YEARS- so freaking heavy & powerful. Y’all think good thoughts & send some good energy to our boy Mike IX Williams so that he can get better & back onstage with this band where he belongs! (Photo taken with my camera by @leicastoreboston ambassador @alanevansphoto. Thanks dude!) #eyehategod #nodoubt #piyah!!!!! #hailmikeix #leica
Favorite reaction to Donald Trump getting elected as U.S. President:
(laughs) I was in Mexico City when he was elected. We were there for a few days off before we played the last shows of the year. I think my favorite reaction was walking down the street and seeing the Mexican newspaper. One of them — I put a picture of this on my Instagram — is Donald Trump’s face screaming in just big letters, ‘FUUUUUUCK’. Then there’s one beside it, which it says, ‘Bailo Bertha’, which is Mexican slang for ‘Not worth a dick’, I believe? It means a situation that is very uncomfortable or very screwed up but there’s nothing you can do about it.
11.9.2016 “La Vida Loca” Mexico City, Mexico. Just in case any of you were wondering what the mood on the street is down here in ol’ Mexico. Regardless of what your political stance is, I gotta tell you: somehow, I don’t think these people are going to be paying for any wall. Just a wild hunch, America… #leica #leicacamera #leicacamerausa #leicam #leicamp #leicamp240 #summilux35mm #leicacraft #madeinwetzlar #🔴📷 #MyLeicaJourney #ratseyesphotography
It was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree. It’s the Album of the Year, in my opinion and it’s the best album I’ve heard definitely in this decade so far. It’s a really, really dark album and it comes from a dark place. Nick Cave writes because his 15-year-old son, one of two twins, dies in Brighton beach, England. The record is a sonic masterpiece in its emotion, it’s just incredible. I’m a huge Nick Cave fan, it’s not an easy listen. But it’s just amazing.
Best trip/tour stop:
I would have to say Tokyo, Japan. We were there for a couple of days. I love Japan, I had so much fun running around and did a lot of fun photography while I was there.
10.6.2016 “Kampai!” Park Hyatt, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. I’m not an extravagant person into throwing away money on a bunch of fancy-dancy clothes or sports cars or any of that crap- I live a pretty simple life. Every now & then though, you just gotta cut loose, flex the baller muscle, & go do some fly shit, just to let motherfuckers know who they are fucking with. Tonight’s post-show opulence involved carrying my homeboy @willadler to one of the best bars in the world for a round of very expensive non-alcoholic beers & some fresh octopus & sea bass ceviche. The view of Tokyo from the sky in the New York Bar on floor 52 of the Park Hyatt (the bar from Lost in Translation) cannot be beat. Not cheap at all, but views like this never are- sometimes you gotta live a little… #leica #leicacamera #leicacamerausa #leicam #leicamp #leicamp240 #elmarit28mm #leicacraft #madeinwetzlar #🔴📷 #MyLeicaJourney #ratseyesphotography
Best live show you attended:
Wow, let’s see… I’m going to have to say, but it wasn’t a band, but a Henry Rollins spoken word performance in Richmond, Virginia. I really enjoyed seeing him speak just before the election. He surprisingly enough, veered away from political content. But he told a great story about going to the South Pole and listening to Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power album at the South Pole. He’ll sit there and talk for two-and-a-half hours and you’re sitting there in an uncomfortable chair, but you don’t even care. Just the way he speaks is amazing, you know? Such an enthralling storyteller and smart guy.
Favorite photo you shot:
Wow, that’s a good one too. There are a few. One of my favorites was just shot recently, at the Standing Rock Zoo Reservation. I went up there and I just put it up on my Instagram yesterday. It was on Thanksgiving day and there was a lot of police on the ridge and people were crossing this river to go and pray on this area below the police, on the ridge line that’s called Turtle Island, a burial ground. There’s a line of heavily armed police, but they’re out of focus in this particular photo – they just look like dots. But there’s a Native woman standing in front of me holding up a turkey feather and flashing the peace sign. She just stood there and prayed like that for five minutes, in front of all these police and people chanting, praying, playing drums. It was a very tense moment being there, because we didn’t know what was going to happen, but she was a very calming presence to look at. I shot that from right behind her.
11.24.2016 “The Message” Turtle Island, Standing Rock, ND. Sometimes THIS works. The Army Corps of Engineers just announced that the Dakota Access Pipeline will not be routed through Standing Rock. We came together peacefully as one people & demanded that our voices be heard, & the world listened to us. But this is not enough- we as a race, the human race, HAVE to start embracing clean alternatives to fossil fuels, if only on a pragmatic level of limited supply- the oil WILL run out one day. We need to figure out how we will deal with this, & we need to figure it out now- the future of our race depends on it. Cheers to all my brothers & sisters who fought the good fight- I was proud to stand with you! One love- Mni Wiconi! #leica #leicacamera #leicacamerausa #leicam #leicammonochrom #leicamtyp246 #leicamonochrom #monochrom #summilux #summilux35mm #leicacraft #madeinwetzlar #🔴📷 #MyLeicaJourney #mkexplore #ratseyesphotography
Favorite photography equipment acquired:
Definitely the Leica Monochrom M. I got an MP Type 240 and a Leica M Monochrom Type 260, I think. I just started shooting, but I’ve been waiting for years since I started shooting, because it’s what [French photographer] Henri Cartier-Bresson shot with. There are a bunch of other photographers I really respect who use this too. I waited and saved and I was like, ‘This is an investment’, because I’m going to use it for a long time and I’m sure to have another gallery show and probably make some money off of them, eventually. But they’re not cheap. I have a relationship with Leica now, I got a professional discount from them. It was a hard decision to buy these things, but they are oh god, I’m a real nerd about them.