Lamb of God's Chris Adler Talks About His book, Drum Clinic tour, and Mapex Drums
Band Photo: Lamb of God (?)
Lamb of God’s Chris Adler has been around the world and back several times and even has drum kits waiting on him in three different countries. Aside from the band and launching ReThink Records almost on his own, Adler has taken to writing and publishing a memoir/drum tablature book, titled "The Making of New American Gospel, Drum Tablature, Short Stories, and Reflections." As if he wasn’t busy enough between that and Lamb of God, the veteran drummer is about to go on a drum clinic tour through the US, called the "Throne with a View" tour.
Adler also managed to have some time to tell MetalUnderground.com a little about these things in an interview. We even recorded the telephone interview, streaming below.
Frank Serafine (Progressivity_In_All): Well, first off, I just wanted to go ahead and see if we can talk a bit about your new self-published book out, titled, "The Making of New American Gospel, Drum Tablature, Short Stories, and Reflections." Can you tell us a little about what readers can expect to hear in this book?
Chris Adler: Well, I guess it’d be better to kind of explain how it came to be, which would shed some light on what you’re asking. It’s been now, gosh, 11 years since that album came out – 12 years since we wrote it – and we’re very fortunate to have had the career that we have. For years, my family and friends kept telling me that I should write down all these experiences that we were having because I was going to forget them, and it’s not everybody that gets to do all this stuff. On the last, maybe, year of the tour that we did on the last album, I found myself spending a lot of time alone in hotel rooms across the world. There was not a lot to do, so I decided to start writing stuff down. They were right, I was remembering things kind of out of order and as I wrote things, I remembered others that I had kind of forgotten.
Slowly, the topics came together and I realized that, as I was writing, I was very much writing it as if it were to be read. It wasn’t just a historical outline for myself. It was very much a story that I was writing – maybe for my wife, maybe for my kids, who knows. I just kind of continued with that and told the story of how we became a band and what I was thinking when we wrote these songs, what I saw around us at the time, what it was like going to the studio, how we chose the studio, how we chose the producer, the experience that we had while in the studio... Then I went into each individual song and spoke about that and how we wrote it, kind of where my head was at with each different song, what was difficult about it, what was easy about it, and if it worked later when we played it live at shows or how long it stayed in the set list.
Then, a buddy of mine, Paul Waggoner from Between the Buried and Me, who had filled in for our guitar player Mark, on one of the tours that we did in South America, had done a tab book (tablature book) for guitar for a Between the Buried and Me album, and I thought it was really cool that he had done it. I’ve seen these big companies do these tablature books and they rarely, if ever, check with the artist just to verify if this stuff is right. We have even seen Lamb of God books that are just straight-up wrong on guitar. So I thought it would be cool to do a drum tablature. There really isn’t much of a standard for that kind of thing, and I don’t know that anybody would want it, but before somebody else did it, I figured I’d do it myself and make sure that it was right.
So it’s kind of a mix of two things that don’t necessarily mix, but there is really accurate drum tablature in there in case you want to play the songs, and then there’s the story of kind of the making of the album, song by song, and a general overview of where the band was at at the time and what we were into, hoping for, and thinking. That kind of wraps it all up.
The idea is that I’m going to write 5 or 6, 7 of these things – one for each album – and I’m finished with the second album. I’ve finished the tablature for the third album, "Ashes of the Wake," and I’m going to start writing that story while I’m on this clinic tour that’s coming up. The goal is to have one of these books for each one, the way I remembered everything going down. Each guy in the band remembers things differently than I do, so this is kind of just my somewhat-related stories.
FS: Right, so it’s kind of like a big epic series that’s going to be part memoir, part instruction.
CA: Yeah, I thought that when I was writing. At some point down the line, I am certainly interested in doing a massive memoir of the band and my experience in it and throughout it. I didn’t want this to necessarily take that place or somehow steal that idea, so I think this might be a fifth or a sixth of that whole story. Maybe when all the books are done, I’ll go back and take the "making of" parts and put them all together, which kind of would make the whole story kind of come together, and then add or subtract detail as needed from the much larger project at that point.
So this is something I hadn’t intended to be the be-all-end-all story of the band, but through that record, this was my perspective on it.
FS: I guess some people might not know, given the fact that we’re such a corporate culture, but this is actually self-published and financed by you as well. This book and all the drum tablature is straight from you, is that correct?
CA: Yeah, I’m kind of a (you can ask my wife) control freak and I’ve always been really hands-on with the Lamb of God stuff. I always tried to make sure that our product quality was the highest it could get. I didn’t really want to let go of this thing. Number one, because the model of what we’re talking about really isn’t out there. There’s nobody mixing memoirs with musical tablature – and I’m not trying to start some sort of revolution or something, but there’s not really an avenue for it.
At the same time, I really wanted to have the quality control over it so I hired the artist that does the Lamb of God stuff. I’ve worked with him on the art that you see in the book, the pictures in the book, paid the photographers for those, and obviously I wrote the whole thing myself. I didn’t get a ghost writer or ask anybody to try to remember things that I couldn’t remember myself.
I just wanted to be able to do it myself. The goal certainly was not to make a million dollars with it – I don’t know that anybody’s really interested in it. Again, this is just me making sure I didn’t forget all this stuff. It’s a really really nice way for me to remember, I guess. (laughs)
FS: I have to agree. Switching gears a bit with your drumming, you’ve had a long history with Lamb of God and Mapex drums. Your endorsement began back in 2004, is that correct?
CA: Yep, exactly. On Ozzfest 2004, we brought out my first Mapex kit and I remember the first day we had it, I had a buddy of mine who was a really great drummer and a great drum tech at the time. He actually lived with me for awhile and he was my drum tech. We both partied until late at night and he’d wake up at 8 or 9 in the morning getting things ready and making sure that the stage was set and everything. I would roll out of bed sometime around the same time the band did, maybe noon or two in the afternoon, and stumble over to the drum kit and prop it up. I remember we were on that Ozzfest with Slipknot and I remember the guy coming over – their drum tech – and complaining, not about my drum tech, but that "it's unbelievable that this guy can roll out of bed obviously intensely hung over and still have the best-sounding drum kit on the entire tour." (laughs) I was like, "Man, this Mapex kit really kicks ass."
FS: Right. Now that is a significantly different kit than you’re playing on right now. This kit that you’re going to be using for your drum clinic tour will be a Mapex Black Panther "Blaster" drum set, am I right?
CA: Yes. They gave me one at the end of last year and I started checking it out.
FS: Can you tell us a little about what’s changed from your last kit to this Black Panther "Blaster" kit?
CA: Yes, it’s really kind of all in the details. I normally use and have been using the Mapex Saturn kit. The standard for high-end kits is all-maple kits and the Saturn kit is all-maple, but it has a layer or ring of walnut around the inside of each drum. For me, that walnut provides a really dark crisp tone to each drum. So even the small toms I have on the drum kit, I don’t have to tune them really high to get a nice kick out of the drums. They can be tuned down really low. For metal and hard rock and what I tend to do for a living, I don’t really want drums that sound like Miami Vice, I really need that kind of fast, hundred miles an hour, everything-going-at-the-same-time really dark quick power, and the walnut provided that for me.
On the Blaster kit, what they did was they made the all-maple shell and removed the walnut layer from the inside but made two walnut hoops that surround each drum head on both sides – I guess the beater side and the response side. So basically, it provides the exact same thing. It’s kind of a different configuration and a much nicer finish on the drums themselves. It’s a really beautiful kit. I know some people like the sparkles and the big colors and all that stuff, but I’ve really always been a fan of all beautiful natural wood and this reminds me of somebody’s grandmother’s beautiful dining room table. You’d feel almost bad hitting this thing. It’s just a beautiful piece of work.
FS: How many kits and custom drums have you gone through over the years? Can you recall exactly how many?
CA: Let’s think about that. Well, when you think, "gone through," I have not gotten rid of any and none of them have ever really fallen apart. I still have all of them. I’ve got one that stays in Australia. I’ve got one that stays in England for European and English tours. I’ve got one in New York for US tours. I’ve got one in my rehearsal space right now that I’m using to prepare for the clinic and the next Lamb of God record, and I’ve got two in my basement. I lost track somewhere in there, but it sounds to me like 5, 6, 7 kits here and there.
FS: These are all the same kit?
CA: All Saturn kits. We did "New American Gospel" and the Burn The Priest record with a Pearl Prestige Select kit. So I went from there to the Mapex a little later. Everything after 2004, the bulk of my kits around the world have been Mapex Saturn kits.
FS: Your "Throne with a View" clinic tour begins on the 28th in Salt Lake City, UT and ends on March 16th in Hollywood, FL. What’s in a typical Chris Adler drum clinic? Do you focus on any specific styles techniques, or tell stories and really interact with the audience?
CA: Yeah, it’s new to me, too. I did the Modern Drummer festival in 2005, which was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Modern Drummer festival is kind of like the Super Bowl for drum clinics, right? I never had done a drum clinic before, so it was like, immediately, I got thrown into the big game and it scared the shit out of me, and I seemed to do pretty well at it. People kind of appreciated my perspective, which was a little bit different.
Willie and I did the Battle (clinic) thing across Europe in 2008, I think. This is kind of a continuation of that, where it’s going to be probably less technical. I’m not going to have hand-outs or tests or anything like that. I’m going to tell my story about how I started, talk about the gear that I use and why I use it, and I really am hoping for a lot of interactiveness… interactiveness, that’s not a word… interaction with the people that come because I don’t want to pretend to teach anybody anything. I’ve never had a drum lesson and I don’t think I could teach anybody how to play. I hope that, in the end, I inspire people to want to go and play as well, but that’s probably the most I could hope for.
I’m probably going to play 8 or 9 Lamb of God songs, talk about those songs, talk about the guys that inspired me to play, and then just kind of hang out and answer whatever might come up – how I got to where I am, touring the world, wherever. Rarely, if ever, does anybody ask me really specific drum questions. Nobody comes up to me and says, "Hey Chris, how can I get my snare diddles faster?" They’re far more interested in "What was it like when you were recording this album?" or "What happened when you guys played in China?" For me, these are far more interesting stories.
Now, I’m doing a drum clinic, so I know there’s going to be a technical aspect to that, and I’m certainly going to be able to share my warm-up tips and things that I think about when I’m writing songs. It’s more the technical aspect of what I do, but I’m a little less clinical, a little less up-tight and school-oriented. It’s more just kind of a hang-out.
FS: That’s very well-put. For MetalUnderground.com, we like to give a spotlight to the underground bands and sort of give a helping hand to underground metal bands. Are there any drummers that inspired you to play better than you were playing that you can give away right now?
CA: Yeah, there’s several guys. That’s interesting that you ask. I’m certainly well-versed in metal drumming and I admire the guys that are at the top of their game in metal drumming. There’s guys out there that just absolutely hands-down play circles around me. I know that I’ve been very fortunate to get where I am and I’m not delusional. I’m very much aware that there are guys out there that are significantly faster, stronger, and smarter in every way around the drum kit, but for me it’s always been about stylistic choices and the difference that I can make to a song in my particular band. It was never about being the fastest or anything like that.
So when I started playing, which was a little bit late, around 21, I had already had gone through those teen years where you idolize a certain band or certain guy or you fall in love with an instrument. I definitely enjoy playing drums, but it’s not, for me, the be-all-end-all. So, when I got around to listening to hear what I liked or didn’t like about certain drummers, it wasn’t about a particular band was cool. It was more about what the drummer was offering. It wasn’t even drummer-specific. It wasn’t always just metal players.
For example, like Stewart Copeland of The Police. Incredible player. Not because he’s showing off all the time, but because he’s offering something to that band where, if you took him out of that band, there’s no way that band would sound the same. He helps elevate the music by creating that voice on his instrument. There’s another guy, Billy Cobham, who played with the Mahavishnu Orchestra for several years and did the same thing.
As far as metal, which I’ve always been a fan of, guys that I thought were doing something unique and different, and made me want to play, first and foremost, was a band called Wrathchild America. The guy, Shannon Larkin, now plays with Godsmack and has played with a million people since the Wrathchild days. The stuff he did with Wrathchild America was the same kind of thing that any great drummer does – he was really elevating that music with his voice on the drum kit.
Another guy, Steve Shelton, who played with a band called Confessor, who never really had massive success, but this guy’s probably one of the most underrated and talented metal drummers I’ve ever seen in my life. He made me want to just learn as much as I could from watching him play and made me want to play the drums every day. And of course, there’s the masters out there just killing, guys like Gene Hoglan and Dave Lombardo. I think they’re geniuses at what they’ve accomplished. In all of that, I certainly hope in the end that I can offer some sort of unique style.
FS: Lastly, is there any instructional DVD in the works? Any talks of that?
CA: I have been approached by several companies that do that kind of thing, and I think, after doing the book on my own, and while it’s not by any means a runaway success, I think people that know and have picked it up are definitely enjoying it, and it seems to be doing better than I ever thought it would, and I’m very happy with that. Now I’ve got a little bit of confidence on doing something like that on my own.
Showing up on a sound stage and having a production guy telling me "do this" over and over… I don’t want it to be this DIY easy thing, either. I want to have a big production value, because nobody’s going to know better than me what makes my playing different than the next guy. If I was going to do a DVD, I would certainly want to highlight those things and I think I would have the best idea on how to do that. That said, I think, at some point down the line, if I can find the time between all this other stuff that’s going on, between the books and the clinic tours, and the next Lamb of God record, I would really really like to do that.
I think it’d be fun, too, to add with each book going backwards, once the books are done, to add the DVD showing how to play the songs on those records and how I wrote it and that kind of thing. Maybe I’ll put it all on one, who knows, but yes, it’s definitely something in mind.
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