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Chris Adler’s new Resolution

Chris Adler, drummer of Lamb of God, talks about new album Resolution, his drum clinics, his new book and why he’s impressed by Indian metal act Skyharbor

Bobin James Nov 01, 2011
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The Lamb of God drummer on the band’s new album, Resolution, which he says is probably faster than anything they’ve done before, and how he is impressed by Indian metal act, Skyharbor

Chris Adler is a busy and hardworking man. Besides writing and recording for the next Lamb of God album, Resolution slated to release on January 24, 2012, he has also been juggling his energies across a guest appearance on the next Testament album, a drum clinic tour and a book. Over the American Independence Day weekend, and in between spending time with his family and taking his daughter out on a river trip, he took time out to chat with Rolling Stone India about all these projects.

So you’ve been spending a lot of time with family, have you?

Well, yeah. A little bit. The last two weeks I was in New York City doing the drums for the new Lamb of God record and a few songs for the Testament record.

Speaking about the new Lamb of God album, Chris, do you have any timelines yet?

Yes, I think it’s top of next year. Recording, it’s a slow process. We’re doing the drums now, the guitars are gonna go on in a few weeks and we are gonna take a long time on this one with our vocals, lyrics and arrangement and all that. We don’t have a deadline, really. We want to make sure that we spend as much time as we can making sure everyone is happy. But, we can’t take too long or else it becomes kind of this Chinese Democracy kind of a problem. So the plan is to deliver by October which would allow for the release on January 24..

I believe this album was written much more on the road as compared to the other albums?

Yes… Well, we wrote it together in our rehearsal space when we came home from touring. We were touring for the Wrath album for two years. So we put all the ideas together when we got home, when we were able to work together. But many of the ideas that came into the process started while we were on the road, with the guys in their hotel rooms and that kind of thing.

And is there any specific direction you are taking for this album? I remember watching an earlier interview of yours and Randy’s where you say how Wrath kind of straddled both political and personal bits while the earlier albums were more political. So where does this one go, in terms of themes?

Yeah… Lyrically, we haven’t really finalised the writing of the album. So it’s hard to talk about lyrical themes right now, because it’s not done. But musically, it is a bit different. With Wrath, we wanted to create an aggressive album after we had done Sacrament, which was a good dark album, but I think it was overshadowed by the song ‘Redneck’ and it was maybe a little bit down the path of being a bit too produced for a band like us. So Wrath was a little more raw and tried to harness what we do naturally as a band.

And coming into this one, musically, we weren’t reactive to Wrath in that there is not a lot that we would want to change. We just wanted to try and put out a better album. And I think instead of pushing an agenda, or instead of deciding what we wanted to sound like, we fell back on a natural kind of tendency to write a little more crazy, faster stuff. Some of the stuff on this album is faster than we’ve done on any of our earlier albums. Not on purpose… we didn’t say we’re gonna write really fast stuff, we didn’t say we’re gonna write really slow stuff. We just decided that we would see what comes out and not push in any direction. And a lot of it is much faster, a little more complicated.  Guitar-wise, it’s a little more progressive. I think it’s somewhere between the [As the] Palaces [Burn] record and Ashes of the Wake. It’s got the speed of the Palaces record but some of the complex riffs from Ashes.

Chris, I see you’ve been keeping a busy schedule with your drum clinic tour, your book, your record, the guest appearance on the Testament record. Speaking about the drum clinic tour, is it the first time you are doing a complete tour, as opposed to one-off clinics?

Yeah, my brother and I had done the Modern Drummer festival in 2005 and then in 2008, I’d done a small clinic tour of about 4 or 5 shows in New York. But I never had the time in the US to put something proper together. But the companies that I work with have been asking for years and years and years. Saying that people really want you to do this and I was always on tour or I needed to spend time at home with the family. After taking a year off to write and record the album, I finally gave the companies three weeks to go nuts. And so we did. I think it was 18 drum clinics all over the US. They all went great. It was surprising how well they all did. And I was nervous. It’s different when you are up there with a band than when you’re by yourself. But I think I did pretty well and everybody seems to be happy and we had a lot of people come out to all of the shows, so I think it went very well for everybody.

I also read that the way you are approaching your drum clinics is slightly different from most clinics. You’re not getting too technical. They are more like storytelling sessions, if I am not mistaken?

Yeah, it’s kind of an evening with [me]. Some clinics are about an hour long and they are very technical and they give little handouts to work on. But mine was sometimes two hours, sometimes two and a half hours and I would tell stories about what it was like on tour, or being on the road or learning how to play certain parts. Then I would play songs. If someone had a question about the songs, we could talk about the different parts and how I wrote them, but I didn’t want it to be like a classroom.

How did you arrive at that format?

I’m not a teacher and I’ve never been taught to play drums, so I can’t technically accurately tell you how to play, or how to play the parts that even I play. Some of the things I play I don’t even know what it is. I just hear it in my head and I practise as hard as I can with my body to do it. And I’m learning more and more all the time about what it is that I do. But [with] some of the things, I just hear something in my head and like I said, I just kind of picked the time and figured how to do it. I don’t know what it’s called, I would never write down in a book or give you an exercise to help you do it. But I can slow it down and explain how I’m doing it, which is what I did. So it was a very conscious decision to not make it a very kinda sterile, school oriented…

Any plans of taking this outside the US, Chris?

Yes, actually. Arthur Troy who’s the international artist rep for Mapex has asked me to bring this to many different countries on the other side of the world, including Taiwan and Japan and Singapore and I think it’s going to happen. We just have to have the time to do it.

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India is not too far off from Japan and Taiwan, you know…

I agree. I would love to come back to India. We had such a fun time playing the show that we did. It was too bad that we didn’t get to spend as much time as we wanted to in Bangalore and we didn’t get to see the place. We got to do the show and of course the people were very nice and the show went very well, but we didn’t get to really enjoy any kind of normal Indian culture or good Indian food from India. I would love to come back, either on my own or with the band, and spend some more time there.

Now that we are talking about the India show, we couldn’t get time to talk to you after the gig. So we’ve really have not had any post gig reactions from any of the bandmembers…

Yeah, I think [initially] we were all [a bit nervous]. Because on the way to the show, we had about an hour’s trip and we had never seen traffic like that – the crazy driving and all the little bikes. I think we were all a little nervous to realise that we aren’t in the US anymore. But we got there and the crowd was incredible. It was one of the highlights. Actually, India and Israel which were the two places that we thought we would never go to, are probably the highlights of the last three years of touring. [It’s] such a beautiful foreign land that we really want to get back as soon as we can.

How did you think the audience reacted to you? They were singing along to the songs. Did you expect that kind of reaction?

No. I mean, it’s hard. We never expect much [laughs]. That way if something does happen, then it’s a pleasant surprise. But coming to a new place – any new place – you can’t expect anything. And while we might be a big band in the US and the UK and some of Europe, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same if we travel outside. If we tried to go to India, who knows what’s gonna happen? So we didn’t expect anything but we were very pleasantly surprised to see a huge turnout of people. Now they tell us it was about eight- to ten-thousand people that came out. And they knew all the words and they were screaming for the songs. And they were very supportive of the opening bands that played during the day. The crowd was just very supportive of this kind of music and I think India especially, out of every place in the world, I think the market is there for this kind of music and for bands like us to come in. For some reason, I think it’s just been ignored or maybe the people’s voices haven’t been heard very well. We were honoured to be asked to come. And I really hope we can come back. The reception was beyond what we thought was possible with having never been there before. So I think for the second show, maybe, now we will have some expectations [laughs] but we will see what happens.

Did you manage to pay any attention at all to the opening bands?

Yes, I did. I was warming up the whole time, but I tried to check out every band from the side of the stage. I was very surprised because I didn’t know that there was really a metal scene in India. And since then, I have spent some time researching it and right now, I am very much into a band called SkyHarbor from India. And I’m really hoping that when we come back, we can do something with them. I was very surprised with how good the bands were. It wasn’t just that. I was surprised that there were heavy metal bands there because the press, the media doesn’t tell us in the US that there are. So that was a good start. And then to find out that they were not just little kids playing old Metallica songs – these are real musicians playing great original music. That’s awesome. It’s a great scene that’s starting to come up and there’s so many people in your country that I think that like how years ago, maybe in the Nineties, Sweden was the capital of metal for a while, India is about to explode with its own metal scene and bands coming in and out. So I think it’s a very very good thing.

In fact, speaking of Skyharbor, I don’t know if you already know this, but their debut record which is slated to come out later this year has Marty Friedman playing on one track, and it’s got Daniel Tompkins from Tesseract singing on another track…

Yeah, I got in touch with them right away and they sent me the demo of that and I love it. I listen to it everyday. So if we do a show, it’s going to be my suggestion to the promoter that we get together with them, and see how that happens.

You’ve also come out with a book, Chris – The Making of New American Gospel. Again, you have followed the same format, where you are not just putting down tabs. You’ve put in stories about the band, pretty much like your drum clinics. So this I am guessing follows from the same philosophy of wanting to share stories…

Well, I think there is a format out there for tablature books that does not allow for much personal interest in the subject matter. And I could just do a tab book and I’m sure some people would be interested in learning how to play songs or whatever. But I thought it would be more enjoyable to know stories about the songs. So it’s not really the story of the whole band or anything, it’s just my story talking about what I was thinking when I wrote the songs, any funny stories that happened when we played the songs, or when we were recording the songs… I tried to just remember the time we spent recording that album and the challenges and how hard it was and just kinda convey those messages along with the music. Because I think there is so much energy in that album, that kind of raw energy that the story is just as important as the music. And as a listener when you listen to the album, you can probably hear the tension and the energy and the rush in it. So I tried to tell the story as to why it sounds like that. And I’ve just finished the book for Palaces, so I’m gonna have that book out shortly too. And that tells the story of how the band started to grow and the tours we were doing and how each song came together.

So does this replace a possible biography, or an autobiography?

I don’t know. It doesn’t contain everything. I didn’t go into the band’s dirty laundry or anything like that. I just tried to tell my story as the drummer and what I was thinking. But I think, when I finish all the books, I think I will take all the stories and separate them from the tablature and expand on them, go into more detail and maybe put that out as a book. Maybe not a biography, but maybe tales from the road or something like that.

About Rethink Records, why did you feel the need to start a label?

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I am interested in so many kinds of music – like we were just talking about Skyharbor. I spend a lot of time listening to music and looking up new music and getting inspired by music. And some of these bands, like Skyharbor, don’t really have the opportunity or the chance or the marketplace to find homes or to work with the right people or take the music to the next step. I am not starting a label to make money. Labels are not doing well right now – it’s not a good time to start a record label. But for me, a record label is the way of connecting people and making something kinda maybe more acceptable than it was to people who didn’t expect it. So take, for example, Skyharbor. If I were to reach out to them and say, “Hey, I would love to do a US deal with you guys.” Then instead of them just being an internet phenomenon in India, now they might have the chance to come and tour the US. And it doesn’t have to be just metal bands… just anything that I enjoy that doesn’t have the normal chance. You don’t have to be friends with somebody at a record label or have your brother work somewhere to get a good deal. I am trying to be out there listening, and I know good music. Hopefully If I can work with some great artists and help them get their music out and do the thing they want to do and tour different places, I’ll feel like that I can kinda use my name and give back a little bit.

But Lamb of God still remains on Roadrunner Records?

Yes, outside of the US, we are on Roadrunner International, yes. And I would not sign Lamb of God to our record label [laughs]. I think if Roadrunner decides that they don’t want our records anymore, we will just do it ourselves. We have been very very lucky that we’ve been able to build such a big presence with the band and I think that people that like our band will come back to us. And maybe at this point, we don’t need the record label as much as they need us.

That brings me to one question I intended to ask a bit later. You guys have been around for a while now. When you started the band, what was the motivation? Did you think you would be here so many years down the line? Did you really think of music as being a career?

No, definitely not. It was an excuse to have a little party and get out of the house and go hang out with the guys and do something fun. No, in fact, I had given up really on playing music for a living. I had a full time job doing network engineering, I got my Microsoft certification, I got my A+ certification. I was in a fulltime job in working on computers and programming. I did that for ten years. And I had a retirement plan and nice little benefits. So I was gonna have my little house in the US with my wife and all that – the average US kind of setup. The music thing just started getting more and more popular. None of us were really trying to do it for the money or the fame. We just did it because we loved doing it. And I think that’s why it came back around to us, and allowed us to make a living doing it. Because we weren’t following a trend, we weren’t trying to do anything other than make music and have fun. And it happened that we got to make a living, which is very lucky and very rarely happens. But I think it had at least something to do with that we weren’t forcefully trying to do that.

You’re also guesting on the next Testament album. How did that come about, Chris?

Well, I have been – I guess for years and years – friends with Alex Skolnick, the guitar player. He appeared on our 2004 album, Ashes of the Wake and I had called him and asked him if he wanted to come and do a guest solo. And he said, “You know, I am kinda out of metal now and I’m doing my jazz thing and I don’t know if I want to do that.” But somewhat hesitantly he came down and met us and listened to the songs and he thought they were great. He said they reminded him of the early Testament stuff. So he was happy to do a solo for that. And we just kept in touch after that.

He’s the guitar player in Trans-Siberian Orchestra as well and so I’ve gone to see him do that several times and then I’ve seen him in Testament several times. So I ended up meeting all the guys, talking to [Testament vocalist] Chuck [Billy] every once in a while. And recently I became friends with Paul Bostaph, the drummer. And recently the doctor told Paul that his wrists were in pretty bad shape. They were so bad that if he continued to play, he could terminally injure himself and never be able to play again. So he had to take the time off. But the Testament record was due to the label and so they started reaching out to people that they knew and liked to help them with the drums. And I was flattered that they asked me to do it. From growing up, it’s one of the bands that made me wanna play heavy metal. So it is very exciting.

They got me two tracks while I was in the studio doing the Lamb of God stuff. And I did my best. I know that they have Gene Hoglan playing drums on the rest of the album and I think Gene is the king of metal drums. So it’s hard for me to keep up. I haven’t heard what he’s done and he hasn’t heard what I have done. But I’m sure he did a great job and I did the best I could and I hope it’s a great album.

I don’t doubt that. In fact, right now, as we speak, I have just received a mail from [Lamb of God publicist] Maria Ferrero, that you have won the Modern Drummer Readers’ Poll Award.

Ah yes [laughs]… 2011… which is crazy to me, because we didn’t even do an album this year. I guess I am doing something right. I don’t think it’s my looks. It’s very humbling.

I see Mark [Morton] and Randy [Blythe] are pretty active on Twitter. But I don’t really see you around. Is that a conscious decision to stay away from Twitter and Facebook and all?

I do have a private Facebook page for my friends and family and that kind of thing. And I do have a fan one as well that I check in and give updates on. But the Twitter thing, I think… I have a three year old girl, my little daughter. So when I am home, she takes up all my Twitter time [laughs]. I really don’t have time to do it. It’s not that I don’t know what it is or… well, I do have the Facebook fanpage and I do have chris-adler.com. So I am definitely trying to keep up. But I am also trying to keep up with my daughter. So sometimes when we are off the road, the daughter becomes the priority.

Thank you so much for your time, Chris. I am hoping you make another trip to India soon.

I think that’s the plan. I think we are actually talking about it in February or March 2012. See you there.

Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

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