D. Randall Blythe quit drinking booze years ago, but he may have had some sort of medical procedure to replace his blood with coffee. In the last six months, the Lamb Of God frontman launched the Show Me What You’re Made Of photography exhibition at New York City’s Sacred Gallery; starred in a Taiwanese action movie produced by the band Chthonic; laid down guest vocals on the forthcoming debut from Metal Allegiance, a supergroup made up of guys from Megadeth, Testament and Dream Theater; contributed to the forthcoming debut from Teenage Time Killers, a supergroup made up of guys from Corrosion Of Conformity, Slipknot and Foo Fighters; turned in the final draft of Dark Days: A Memoir (in bookstores July 14), a firsthand chronicle of his 2012 arrest, imprisonment, and eventual acquittal over the death of a fan at a Lamb Of God show two years prior in the Czech Republic; and finished work on Lamb Of God’s VII: Sturm Und Drang (out July 24). Two of the songs were written during Blythe’s imprisonment in Prague: “Still Echoes” and “512,” named for the singer’s cell number at Pankrác Prison, a draconian dungeon of sorts constructed in 1885. It’s a place where prisoners were hanged in the 1930s and where the Gestapo set up camp during the Nazi occupation of what was then Czechoslovakia.
Calling in from a hotel room in Sweden, an hour before the “lobby call” that would whisk him away to Lamb Of God’s next show, Blythe was candid, quick-witted and personal as he talked about his crazy schedule, pragmatic realties of the music business and his love/hate relationship with the internet.
Recently I traded tweets with [guitarist] Mark Morton, cracking jokes on the lazy questions often asked by journalists and the lazy answers often given by bands…
D. RANDALL BLYTHE: “What was your mindset when you went in to record this record?” My mindset was, “Fuck! Going to the studio again…” People don't like when I say that but I say it every time I’m asked that question. What kind of asshole likes standing there screaming the same word over and over for six hours until it's perfect? Not me! So, what interesting, non-generic questions do you have for me, man? [Laughs.]
During your court case, I remember thinking, “This dude is going to have so much to say on the next album.” You had a lot to get off of your chest, right?
Not really. [Laughs.] After I was arrested and went to prison, we immediately went right back on tour. Then I had to go to court. I was found not guilty. Then there were two appeals. The whole thing stretched on for like 14 months, in the middle of a two-year tour cycle. Once it was finally done, we were still on tour, and toured for more months. We finished touring in January 2014. A week later, I moved to the beach in North Carolina and spent the next eight months writing a 500-page book about the ordeal. I turned in the final manuscript, packed my bags, went to bed, got up and drove back to Richmond, Virginia, where we had a band meeting. The guys had been writing together. I went right into working [with them]. I did not have a single thing left in me to say about the whole situation. The lyrics for “Still Echoes” and “512” are almost three years old. I didn't really have anything [else] to say about it. I had gotten it off my chest. [Laughs.]
So was it refreshing to have that out of the way before making a record?
I wouldn't have written a whole record about the whole incident, even if I hadn't written the book. I used two songs I wrote while I was going through it and I think artistically that was a valid choice because they came from a very real place. Writing a song in prison is about as real as it gets. But it would have been very opportunistic [to write a whole album about it]. It was a tragic situation. It's not something I look to as some sort of “well” to draw creative inspiration from. That's kind of disrespectful of the situation. Also, I'm not a gangster rapper. [Laughs.] Really, my mind state when it came to writing the record was just one of absolute fucking dread. I just wanted to not do anything for a little bit.
I can imagine. So why are we graced with a new album now?
The unromantic, un-rock ‘n' roll thing about it is that we needed some money. When you've got bills to pay and you just laid out a whole bunch of money? It's time to go to work. It doesn't matter whether you work at McDonald's or you're a lawyer or a dude in a band. This is how I make my living, so it's time to go back to work.
Fans aren't always aware of the machinery it takes to operate at a certain level.
There are a whole lot of people that depend on us for a living. It's called the music business for a reason, not the “music-everything-is-free-and-a-party.” [Laughs.] They don't call it the “free-stuff-for-band-dudes-scene.” The gears of the “machine,” as you said, must be kept lubricated with money, or else the machine ceases to function. We had some pretty big expenditures and not a lot of money coming in. We didn't go bankrupt or anything, but motherfuckers are broke! Whether or not that fits into my desire to chill out for a bit, that really has nothing to do with it.
But clearly you didn’t sing on the Metal Allegiance album for the money.
No. 'Cause guess how much I got paid? Nothing! [Laughs.] I'm encouraging everybody to go out and buy that record because I think I get publishing on it if it sells any, so… I'm starting to get spread a little thin. It's all stuff I've been asked to do and most of the time, before they can even finish their sentence, I'm like, “Yes! I'll do it!” with no thought whatsoever as to whether or not I actually have time to do it. [Laughs.] Most of these people are my friends. I don't want to disappoint them. And I really like doing creative things with my friends. But it's getting kind of overwhelming. The photo exhibit was a huge amount of preparation. I have to build a website now to sell prints. I'm kind of waiting for the Lamb Of God machine to go on cruise control. Once we reach cruising altitude – we're on tour, everything's out and it's all good – then I think I'll be able to breathe a little bit, ya' know? Touring is really mundane. It doesn't require a lot of thought.
Wouldn’t you be even more anxious with nothing to do?
My wife tells me, “Honey, you would find something to do, some way to keep busy.” I want to be mad at her. “No, that's not true! I would just chill and relax and drink virgin piña coladas on the beach, and turn into Jimmy Buffet or something.” [Laughs.] But she's right! My brain would figure out something to fill my time. I don't think there's such a thing as “time management.” You can't really “manage” time. But I do need to work on how I allot myself in this overloaded space-time continuum we are traveling through. [Laughs.]
You famously quit Twitter in 2012. But you’ve since gotten on Instagram, where you write captions well beyond Twitter’s 140-character limit.
I might eventually burn out and have to leave Instagram, too, because as more people follow me, the stupider the conversation becomes. That's what happened with Twitter. I hope this doesn't piss anyone off, though I really don't fucking care if it does: I wish I could disable comments and likes. At first, the interaction was really cool, and sometimes it still is, but to a degree it's making me lose faith in humanity again, just like Twitter did. When you write to your character limit in Instagram, it's not even a full page of a regular book, right? But people are like, “I can't read this! This is too much!” I'm like, “Are you an idiot? You can't read a paragraph?” But that's only some people in this fast-forward, ADD, shortened attention span society we live in. With Instagram, I'm not taking pictures of my dinner. I'm not taking fucking selfies. Go fuck your-selfie! How about that? [Laughs.] The fact that “selfie” was introduced into the Oxford English Dictionary makes me want to smash my head through the wall. It's hideous. I'm taking real pictures of things and writing things [accompanying] them. I'm not trying to sound all highbrow and highfalutin, but it's art. When I write, I'm trying to drive the conversation. Some people have gotten heated about this, but people should know: my Instagram account is not a democracy. It's a dictatorship. It is a fascist cyber realm in which I am at the helm. If you're an asshole, I banish you. People say something stupid and they're like, “I'm just expressing my opinion.” Not anymore you aren't! BLAM! You're gone! [Laughs.]
Imagine someone coming to your gallery show and saying, “This picture sucks!”
[Laughs.] Exactly! “Cool! Get the fuck out!” The internet removes what I call “the impulsive thought filter.” People's fingers will fly on impulse. I have lots of impulsive thoughts. For instance, I'm in Sweden. This place is full of gorgeous, tall, blonde Swedish women. I'm walking to Starbucks this morning and I pass four or five slammin' Swedish girls. What would I really love to do? What does my monkey mind tell me to do? Walk out and slap one of 'em on the ass. [Laughs.] Because it's fun! I love smacking my wife on the ass. That's the male lizard brain working, right? But because I live in society, there is an impulsive thought filter that says, “You know what Randy? That's not a good idea. It’s offensive. It’s not cool. This chick isn’t going to like it. And you’ll probably be arrested. So you probably shouldn’t do that.” The impulsive thought filter––POOF! It's gone.
A person on the street is going to have an immediate, visceral reaction to you. A public figure becomes an abstraction to people staring into an iPhone.
It's ludicrous, man. That's one reason why I left Twitter. People would say rude things to me, like, overly familiar things, like they know me. I'd be like, “Go fuck yourself.” And they'd be like, “You can't say that! I'm your fan! I bought your record!” I'm like, “Take my records and shove 'em up your fucking ass. I don't give a fuck. You are a rude asshole I don't want as a fan. How about that?” And they're just like, “Oh, my God!” [Laughs.] I am a person, you know? I don't have some sort of anonymous internet presence. I'm held accountable for everything I say and do. People know where I am. I'm on tour! Just come to the gig. You'll see me sooner or later. I am not “@warbringer666” or whatever [Laughs.] on the internet. I'm me. The real me. So I act like a decent fucking human being, whether it’s via the internet or in person. Yes, I want to smack hot Swedish chicks’ butts. Who wouldn't? But I don't do it 'cause it's not cool. [Laughs.] . And I want to do it virtually! But I don't do that either because it’s not cool. People have one way they act online in this cloaked, anonymous world and then one way they act in the real world. Most people don't come up to me out of the blue and just say rude shit. They know they might get a fucking smack! Or at the very least I'm going to yell at them. Who are these people? I'd like to interview these people. Maybe I should do a survey: “Are you an asshole on the internet? I want to meet you and talk. How are you in real life? Are you starting to feel like you have a split personality? If you’re not, why are you such a dick?”
Are you able to breathe easier now that you’re back in the touring lifestyle?
No! There's no comfort in it. [Laughs.] We have two weeks off after Europe and for nine of those days I’ll be flying to L.A. and New York to do a bunch of press. Then I have two days before our eight-week tour with Slipknot. I'm running on three hours of sleep a night out here lately. The routing of this tour is berserk. It makes no sense. It’s cold and there are no fucking waves. I would rather be sitting on the beach going surfing right now. alt