Lamb Of God: The Calm Before The Sturm
Lamb Of God guitarist Mark Morton greets our first question with a laugh, admitting that he doesn’t get asked about the past stages of his band’s career much anymore.
“I don’t think it really represented where we were going,” he opens. “It seemed like the name tended to garner more attention than what we were doing musically, so I think, after much deliberation, we decided that we wanted something that represented the band. We kind of fell into the legacy of the heavy metal and hardcore punk bands that we looked up to, but there also wasn’t much shock value because we felt like – and I still feel now – that the attention should be placed on the music that. Because that is the most important part.”
Morton is, of course, talking about Lamb Of God in the years of 1994 to 2000, when they were known as Burn The Priest – also the title of their debut album. It’s a period which he cherishes, and believes laid the platform for what was to become Lamb Of God.
“Given the stage, and the level of visibility that the band had at that point in time, there are probably only a couple of thousand that got to see Burn The Priest – the lucky few. I can tell you that Burn The Priest was an absolute tornado of energy. It was a phenomena; it was a juggernaut, and it’s something that I was super proud to be a part of. But Lamb Of God: when we changed the name, we sort of changed our focus, and it became it’s own thing. For me, I lived through all of it, so I don’t really draw lines between the two.”
When Lamb Of God came to life in 2000, the music world was in a bit of turmoil. The potential Y2K bug was still on everyone’s mind, Metallica was filing a lawsuit against Napster, Limp Bizkit released Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water, and Linkin Park debuted with Hybrid Theory. While Morton concedes it was a turbulent time to break into the music industry, he also believes those times helped shape the band into what it is today.
“For us, I consider it a big asset that we’ve had that continuity.”
“Back then, we were playing basements, and warehouses, and coffee houses and pizza shops – pretty much anywhere that we could play,” he recalled. “I definitely remember doing shows where I was setting up my amp next to someone’s living room couch. I remember nights that I was sleeping at a rest stop on top of my equipment… That’s what it was like. We were just these wayward musicians that were living off of beer and whatever someone would give us, and we were just living to play our music. The fact that we’ve attained the kind of success that we have now is nothing short of a miracle.”
In an age where a majority of bands see lineup changes as almost a way of life, Lamb Of God are in the enviable position of maintaining the same lineup since their inception – a fact which is not lost on Morton.
“I think it’s absolutely huge and I appreciate you pointing that out,” he beams of the fact. “The only change has been that there was a guitar player other than Willie (Adler). There was a gentleman named Abe Spear that played on the Burn The Priest album, but left the band shortly thereafter – Willie was actually a member of Burn The Priest when we changed the name, though. I think that it’s a huge part of our ability to keep things going, because I think that when you change members – and I don’t want to take anything away from, or criticize bands that do that, because sometimes you have to – but for us, I consider it a big asset that we’ve had that continuity. It allows us to develop and mature both as people and creatively, so we can always build on what we’ve done with the album before or the tour before – it gives us a really, really stable base to build off of. It can’t be understated how important that is to the success of the band, and what we’ve been able to achieve creatively.”
Lamb Of God return to our shores this week for a string of shows supporting Slipknot. They’ve also got a couple of their own headlining shows locked in, and Morton says that the fact they are here primarily as a support act has no relevance to the band.
“It’s always an honor to play with Slipknot,” he enthuses. “We’ve done it quite a bit all over the world, so it’s cool to be able to get in front of that many people and do our thing. I think we share a lot of the same audience with Slipknot, so it’s going to provide us the opportunity to connect with our loyal, dedicated fanbase in Australia, and maybe pick up a couple of new fans as well.”
While conceding that Slipknot and their music have had an indelible effect on the world of music, Morton also stresses that while they have been a major influence on countless bands, it is important for Lamb Of God to attempt to carve their own niche.
“I certainly don’t have a trademark on the things I derive from that, but it’s something that makes us unique, and I think all bands should strive to have a diverse set of influences.”
“I can’t really speak for other bands,” he says. “I would say that for our part, with all due respect, I think our influences probably pre-date Slipknot. We’re in the same age group as those guys, so while I am absolutely a fan of Slipknot’s work – and I very much look up to what they do – certainly on a performance level and on a musical level, I think that if I had to lay out my influences, we probably have a lot of the same ones as those guys. I feel more than anything that we are peers.”
In line with those statements, Morton said there is a fine line between playing to your influences, and being musical clones.
“As an artist, a writer and a creative person, you have to be aware of your influences. I think the goal is to have your interests, on a personal level, diverse enough that when you combine them, they make their own sound. I think anyone would be foolish to believe anything other than the fact that there’s only twelve notes in Western music, so pretty much everything has been done. I think diversity comes from a depth in the kind of musical influences that you have, and the reference points that you choose. For my part, I’m very vocal about the fact that I’m a big fan of British blues, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Blind Faith – bands like that, and so while my band sounds nothing like those things, if you listen closely, there is a kind of bluesy element to what I bring to the table. I think that’s something that sets us apart from our peers. I certainly don’t have a trademark on the things I derive from that, but it’s something that makes us unique, and I think all bands should strive to have a diverse set of influences. I think that’s where our identity, musically, comes from.”
Lamb Of God are one of the rare bands that have transgressed musical genres, and have found success on mainstream charts, with Ashes Of The Wake debuting at #8 on the Billboard 200, and Wrath coming in at #2. While not being able to pinpoint exactly what it is that enables them to achieve this, Morton says there are a number of traits which would definitely contribute.
“I think it’s a couple of things,” he muses. “I happen to think that we are a really good band, and we are good at what we do. I think I’m allowed to say that, because our body of work supports that statement. I also think that there is absolutely an honesty about what we do creatively, and sometimes to a fault. We are open about who we are and what we are as a band, and we really let our fans into that. The fanbase really identifies you when you are being yourself. That combination of being good at what we do, and the magic that happens when the five of us plug in to play music together – combined with the honesty that we are willing to let go of when we’re writing – that connects with our audience. Those things combine into the phenomenon that is Lamb Of God.”
Slipknot / Lamb Of God / In Hearts Wake
Monday October 31st – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Lamb Of God
Saturday October 29th – Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
w/ Se Bon Kira
Monday October 31st – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
w/ Sanzu and Claim The Throne