INTERVIEW – Books, Prison & Life with Randy Blythe

Randy Blythe Interview From December 2014 Vandala MagazineRandy Blythe is one of the most fanatically intelligent people in metal. Well read and always interesting to talk to, this may very well have been the best interview of my career.

Interview by Matt Bacon
From December 2014 Vandala Magazine READ MORE ARTICLES

How have you been?

Randy: I’ve been extraordinarily well and busy. Lamb of God got done touring in January in South Africa and I started writing my book. I started on tour but I couldn’t really write because it’s just too f*cking hectic. I moved to a small coastal town near where I grew up and I wrote for eight months. I finished writing the book not too long ago and sent it off to my editor and I’ll be getting corrections back soon. Now Lamb of God are writing a new record. In the meantime… Last weekend I was at Rock & Shock festival with Jamey Jasta and now I’m down here for Phil’s gig. I’m just hanging out! I’ve been busy and good!

You’ve sort of achieved this level where it’s maybe not rockstardom but you’ve achieved a level of peace and balance in your life.

Randy: I’d like to think so. I wouldn’t say it’s a Buddha like level of peace since I’m not that mellow. It’s been four years since I’ve had a drink of alcohol or any drugs. That’s mellowed me out a lot. I had some rough times with the whole Czech Republic thing, stayed sober through that. I’m pretty chill now. Just trying to stay focused and positive and do photography, write books, and make music!

One of the questions I had for you was about your photography, where did that interest come from?

Randy: I’m a skateboarder and I skateboard a lot back home. I skate with my friend Josh whose the drummer in Cannabis Corpse. He films skateboarding and I was trying to get into the idea of making some short skateboarding clips, just little things I found interesting. I asked the guys who helped shoot our movie “What’s a decent camera I can get that’s not super professional but that will take high def video” and they told me to get a Canon 60D which is like in between consumer and pro level and I got it and started doing a little filming.

One day I was in my kitchen about four years ago and I was looking at my coffee pot and I said “Let me see if I can take a picture with this thing and not just do video” I took it and I was like “Woah that looks f*cking cool!” It just happened like that! From there it’s kind of been an obsession of mine. I’ve spent too much money on shit. Photography is an expensive hobby, especially when you first get into and you want to try everything. I spent a little too much money on lenses and shit. I got nice stuff now. I shoot a lot and I have an opening in New York May 2nd, May and June we’re running it at Sacred Arts Gallery in New York City. I’m actually doing an artist statement right now that should be up soon! It’s been a weird sort of weird thing that I fell into. I didn’t think I had any artistic talent of any sort, I can’t draw or anything, I’m more of a music guy and a writer. Photography came natural to me.

I’m a huge fan of Versailles and the guys who shot in Paris. I’m a fan of street photography and all of that stuff. I like the old school street photography they were doing in Paris into the 1920’s. It’s just beautiful stuff, a slice of life and darker atmospheres. That stuff kind of influences me.

A lot of people have commented on how you’re a very lucid writer? Do you read a lot?

Randy: Constantly.

What are you reading now?

Randy: Right now I’m reading a book called Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. He wrote a book called The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay which won the Pulitzer. It’s about this college professor who was a published writer. A lot of writers have to take a side gig, and a lot of them go into education. So he’s teaching at this college and smoking a whole lot of weed and endlessly writing this novel. He’s been writing for ten years and he doesn’t know when to stop. I’ve been intrigued with the writing process lately and reading stuff geared towards writers.

Where any authors a particularly big influence on your book?

Randy: I’ve always been a fan of Hemingway’s economy of phrase, but I’m no good at it because I’m very long winded! There’s a guy who writes popular fiction called Pat Conroy and he’s extremely descriptive and at times long winded. He was really interesting and I was reading his stuff part of the time while I was writing the book. No particular author got me though. I tried to read some stuff that really pulled the language back and stripped it down, but it was really hard because I’m kind of verbose.

One book I did read that I hadn’t read in a long time, but thought about in prison, and then went back and read while I was writing about prison, was One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich it’s about one day in the life of a guy in a Russian gulag during the communist era. Really intense, short, terse, prose. I read that. Robert Ruark wrote a book called The Old Man and the Boy that I really enjoyed. He’s from Cape Fear in North Carolina I’m from there. I was reading his stuff in a place where he was from which was cool.

You said you moved back to a place you lived when you were younger, did that help the book writing process?

Randy: Yes, because I was in a sort of isolated area. Nobody knew I was the dude from Lamb of God, I’m just like this dude who surfs and writes on his porch a lot. It was really nice. Writing in Richmond was really rough because I have tons of friends there. I needed absolute quiet. Alex Skolnick from Testament can write in a cafe with stuff everywhere. I had this romantic image of Hemingway and Fitzgerald writing in the cafe’s in Paris in the 1920’s. They all went to the cafe’s and wrote. I wanted to be able to do that for years but I couldn’t. All I could do in the cafe was drink too much! (Laughter)

You seem to have a real love for American authors you mentioned Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Kerouac could even be mixed in with that… These authors get at the heart of America. Does that appeal to you?

Randy: That was just a romantic time and period, Paris in the 20’s. Kerouac I’m not the biggest fan of. My editor was like “Don’t go crazy like Kerouac did up at Big Sur!” He wrote in the woods and lost his shit out there. I read his stuff when I was younger. I read all the required things, Bukowski, Hunter S Thompson. All these people who were manly men and drank a whole lot and got women… I thought “I’m going to do that and be a writer” I’ve had this idea for years. So I did all the cool stuff that they did, like drink and fight and get women for years, and I did everything great writers did except for write!

You wrote Lamb of God!

Randy: It’s not the same. Writing a book is a sustained effort that makes writing the lyrics to a record look like preschool. It’s an entirely different mind state.

The amount of words that you use in a Lamb of God record is maybe two pages of text…

Randy: Exactly. I wrote an immense amount for my book. My contract was 80-100,000 words and I turned in over 200,000! My editor has it now and we’re going to start slashing away!

As far as being particularly American…. I am an American so I come from the American cultural viewpoint I suppose. I think that the uniquely American cultural viewpoint is disappearing because America is a young country and we’re growing up and developing our identity as we go along. Now there’s the internet where the whole world is completely behind. All the cultural identities are meshing, in art and music and everything. For a country like America which is so young and hasn’t really culturally established itself it’s going to be hard doing that from here. France for example has a cultural identity.

Being depressed and miserable?

Randy: I think that’s England! (Laughter)

I think that our cultural identity is going to be stunted by globalization. It’s happening and I think everybody’s will be. I think as far as coming from a cultural identity as a writer I think it’s important to maintain a bit of provincialism and to be a Southern writer. There’s a guy named Rick Bragg who is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist whose a Southern writer. Conroy, Faulkner, Edgar Allen Poe from my home town! All Southern writers! There’s sort of a Southern gothic thing. The Southern cultural identity is the strongest cultural identity in the states.

I think that might be because we’ve been here the longest. The United States was basically settled in the south. I think that’s where that sort of identity has developed. Also you have the Civil War which the South lost. I think that twisted the identity some and set it in stone more.

Even though the Civil War wasn’t about slavery it corrupted the image of the South as a racist place.

Randy: I’ve encountered racism all over America, New York, the Midwest, South California and I despise racism. I believe that the Civil War was certainly about slavery, but also certainly about economics in a huge way. I think that’s glossed over. When the South lost the war there was this sort of Faded Glory idea. I’ll probably be strung up for saying this but I’m glad the South lost the war because slavery was an inhumane institution. It should not be allowed to exist anywhere! I think the regional psychic hangover that occurred when the South lost the “War of Northern Aggression” as we like to say, the hangover form that cemented the cultural identity. There is some beauty in tragedy and defeat. I think you see that in a lot of Southern writers. For me it was important, although the majority of my book takes place in Europe, to use that Southern voice. It’s how I grew up.

It makes it more human!

Randy: Yes! And when I wrote the book I wasn’t trying to portray myself as anything other than I am. It’s weird. I went to trial and was found not guilty, and people were very supportive but some people were like “You’re a hero!” and I was like “What the f*ck?” This is a tragic situation! A fan of my band lost his life! I just happened to feel compelled by my own internal moral compass to do the right thing! That’s what normal people should do! You should do the right thing! I like any human though, don’t always do the right thing, and in the book I try to be very f*cking honest about that and not portray myself as some sort of hardass or something. I was scared dude! Scared shitless!

There was a good quote from Doc Coyle from God Forbid, he said “This is how a man deals with the situation” Do you feel that given your vaunted place in metal you’re almost supposed to be a moral example for the fans of your band?

Randy: I dislike it when people who are artists in bands try to be examples… It’s just rock and roll! I don’t think anybody should be put on a pedestal that high and should have that kind of responsibility put on them like “You need to be a moral example for the youth!” I do feel in my situation… That’s a good question. I don’t think I felt any responsibility to my fans to do the right thing because I don’t think anybody should live their life the way I do, it’s my life! Everybody has to follow their own path. I didn’t feel any sort of responsibility to instruct people or to proselytize or be dogmatic and say “This is how I’m going to do things and this is how you should do it!” I do think I had a responsibility to myself as a human being to do the right thing.

I think as an artist if at all possible I have a responsibility to not do something that’s going to lead people astray, especially younger people. I’ve done plenty of f*cked up things in my life. In the book I talk about some of that and the things I’ve done in my life. I’m not moralizing and telling people what to do, but I’m presenting my experience and saying “Hey you might be able to learn from this take it or leave it” If I take advice from someone I’ll listen to what they say, and be like “This guy is on to something” and try to get some wisdom and hopefully I can skip a few mistakes by listening to that person. If my story, without being preachy, can help someone skip a couple of the mistakes I made then I did some good! But I don’t feel the pressure to be an example of moral rectitude. If I did that I would start a cult and make money!

You above most other metal… personalities, you’ve always seemed to have a greater measure of wisdom. What do you attribute your wisdom too?

Randy: I don’t know if I am wise.

Everyone seems to think so.

Randy: I’ve made some really unwise decisions in my life. Anything I do correctly today is generally the result of a lot of pain and learned from doing the WRONG thing. That’s it y’know. Learn from your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m going to be making mistakes until the day I die, I just try not to repeat them as much.

Heading towards the end, I want you to finish this sentence for me, “I’ve never told this story before and I probably shouldn’t but…”

Randy: Oh man! I’ve got waaay too many of those! Way too many!

What do you love so much about music?

Randy: From the first time I really got into music it was the way it made me feel. The first band that really affected me was the Sex Pistols. I was like ‘This shit is real” When I talk about music I’m talking about real music, not the shit they play on the radio that other people write and some cute girl does twerking or whatever to it. That’s not music that’s garbage. Real music should speak to your heart. I love listening to it and I love making it.

Any final comments?

Randy: Check out my book! If you’re in the UK, New Zealand or Australia it will be coming out on Random House and if you’re in the States it will be coming out on De Capo press. It will be out sometime in 2015, no release date has been set yet because we’re still editing, but it should be a good read!

Lamb of God will be on Tour February 2015 and remeber to get your tickets early. Details and dates at http://www.lamb-of-god.com.

Also stay tuned with Lamb of God and Randy Blythe online at
www.facebook.com/lambofgod
www.twitter.com/lambofgodband

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