Travis Shinn

Randy Blythe of Lamb of God Breaks Down Vinyl Collecting, the Magic of Songwriting, & the Circle of Energy on Tour

“That’s all that really matters for the listener: how the music moves through your life.”


By today’s standards, Lamb of God is by far one of the biggest metal bands on the planet. They have shook the world to its core with their enormous sound and raging vocals – Randy Blythe has one of the most recognizable screams in the music scene. Any listener of the band can instantly recognize the personal flair he brings to every track he tackles. The Aquarian had the incredible chance to talk with Randy about the band’s new album Omens and so much more. 

Not only has Lamb of God been writing some of the most unique and recognizable metal songs of the decade, but the band’s frontman has also been involved in helping reforest the Ecuadorian rainforest. He has joined Cameo and used all his profits for environmental action. This isn’t a band doing it for the fame or money. Lamb of God simply love music and care deeply about the world around them.

Despite being a household name for music lovers and metal, Blythe is one of the most humble and polite people one will ever meet. We talk about enjoying music, the fun of concerts, and interpreting art in this conversation, of which is engaging and perfect for anyone who is a fan of heavy music and looking forward to the band’s new album come October 7. While on tour this season, as well, Lamb of God are coming to the New York area on September 9 at the Coney Island Amphitheater and following that with a New Jersey date the very next day at Camden’s Freedom Mortgage Pavilion. 

First off, I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk with The Aquarian. We are excited to be giving this new album a lot of love. 

No problem! You guys have always been good to us; from back in the Birch Hill [Club] days.

Absolutely! What is most exciting is Omens coming out on October 7 – a month away. How are you feeling? What’s going through your head? 

Not a lot! I don’t really think about a new album. When I’m done recording a record, unless I’m getting asked questions like this for press, I don’t think about it. It’s like this sort of compartment I put it in when it’s done and then it’s time for everybody else to get it. We’ll see how other people like it. For me, the record ended in February when we finished recording, so that was months ago. I’ve already toured the states and Europe! I’m getting to come to you guys in October. I leave in seven days, start in Coney Island. I’m thinking about that – not about the record, really.

That makes perfect sense. You know, you do one of the things I love and think other artists should do: you don’t talk about a record until it’s complete, until it’s fully done. I respect that. Sometimes in the scene you get artists that put an album out for pre-orders but is not even finished being written yet.

Yeah, which is ludicrous to me. To be honest, I think that talking about music…. Obviously we do press like this to promote an album, to promote a tour, and all that stuff, but I think talking about music too much has potential to ruin it for the listener. We write our music for five dudes. We love the fans, we love touring, we love all that stuff, but we write the music for us. Right? We want us primarily to be happy with it. That’s why we started the band, so we could write music that we like, then once it’s done it becomes everyone’s music. A person who buys our record and listens to it is a fan. [They] take it and interalize it. The songs mean something to them in their own life. This music is not like pop music. It’s not whatever comes on the radio. It’s part of people’s lives just like other bands are a part of my life. The songs they play remind me of certain times or certain people or certain situations and so forth. I think talking about the music too much could ruin it for a listener. The music should speak for itself. 

That’s a great point you brought up. Every single fan connects to a song because they base it on their own life – what they’re going through in their own individual unique story. If you outright say, “this is what the song is about and there is no room for interpretation,” it takes some of the magic away. 

Right! Mark and I write the lyrics. He and I are very consciously, especially as of late, less inclined to do that. I told management foe when they schedule stuff, “I’m not going to do this press where it’s a song by song saying what is this song about.” Yes, I wrote the song about a specific thing and yes it is about a certain thing, person, place, or whatever it’s about. But when another person takes that song, it can mean something very important to them. The biggest compliment I can get paid as a lyricst is when someone comes up to me (and this has happened many times) and say, “I was going through this really hard time,” and whatever it was from cancer, to divorce, to the death of someone in their family, and “this song really spoke to me. I used it to get through this, because this reminded me of this and this reminded me of that”. I’m thinking, “That is not at all what I wrote the song about but it’s so awesome that you were able to take that into your life and it helped you.” You know, that is just the biggest compliment I can get from anyone about our music. That is precisely what music did for me. 

Exactly. 

There are certain songs from some of my favorite bands over the years. I’m friends with these bands now. I can ask them, “What exactly is this song about?” But I won’t do that anymore. I’ve done it before and been like “Really? That’s what that song’s about? That kind of sucks. My interpretation is way cooler.” At least in my life, that’s all that really matters for the listener: how the music moves through your life. I don’t want to gift someone a ‘Cliff notes’ version of what this song is about, what that song is about, because it might ruin the song for them. 

I totally understand. It’s the beauty of music that the whole transcends any one chord, one note, or one lyric. That meaning means something to so many different people. 

It’s a beautiful thing. 

I want to switch gears a bit. Obviously let’s talk about this new tour! You guys are coming on September 9 to Coney Island and to New Jersey on September 10. You guys have one of the most stacked lineups I’ve ever seen in my life: Killswitch Engage, Baroness, Motionless in White, the list goes on and on. How did this come to be?

Management and booking agents normally come to us and are like, “We’re going to do a headlining tour” – finally, by the way, since COVID interrupted all the touring on the last record. “Let’s put together a good package,” they’ll say and throw out bands. We’ll say “We like this” or “We like that.” With this one, the interesting thing I like about this tour, purely from a selfish music fan point of view, there are rotating bands in the first two slots. We’ve never done that. It’s going to keep it very interesting for me. I tend to watch the band’s we’re on tour with. It’s going to keep it fresh. 

What’s cool is, Baroness sounds nothing like Motionless in White. It’s very separate shows. 

Which is something I also like a whole lot! One of the coolest things about going to Europe to tour on the festival season is you play with so many different types of bands over there in Europe that you wouldn’t get to tour with at home. So while this tour is definitely within the aggressive heavy realm, there is a lot of variety. I think that’s kind of the problem with a lot of tours now, particular in America… so many bands are too close to sounding alike. I really enjoy a bit of variety. One of my favorite tours we did in the sates was us, Clutch, and Corrosion of Conformity. 

That’s awesome!

Totally different package. I’m a music fan, not just a fan of underground heavy music. I’m a fan of music in general and I love listening to all sorts of different things. 

I want to ask with these shows coming up about how you guys have been a band for 20+ years. That’s insane. How do you keep up the energy live? How do you not just… get tired?

I do get tired! My body hurts from Europe right now! I’ve only been off tour for 10 days or something. We just did an insane three week run of Europe. I think for me, I’m a very aggressive performer live, a very physical person. I think it’s just… being in love playing before a live audience much more than being in the studio and recording or something. I love the communication that happens between audience and band. We start playing this song and it’s some words I wrote in a cheap spiral-bound notebook I got from CVS for 99 cents in my garage. All of the sudden there are 4,000 people singing those words back at me. That gets you pretty pumped up. The more an audience is responsive to you as you play, the harder you’re going to play. The more intense it’s going to be, is how intense it is every single time. Luckily we have pretty intense audiences. I’ve walked on stage so many times (I hope this doesn’t bum anybody out) and thought, “I don’t want to do this today. I am fucking exhausted.” I’m old, dude. I’m 51. I’ve walked on stage so many times feeling like that and then just had some of the best shows because of the energy of the audience. It wakes me up. It’s some sort of crazy full-body cup of coffee. 

It’s so great to hear you say that. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing a ton of different artists throughout my years, and there is one thing I always talk about. It comes up frequently in conversations. I call It the ‘circle of energy.’ You feed off of the audience, they feed off of you, and it’s this grand circle of excitement that just keeps getting more and more intense. 

Yeah! I can’t stand there and do nothing if the audience is going ape shit. Their energy feeds me. You’re exactly right – it’s a circle of energy and its a form of communication. We’re all communicating with each other. At the best times you really feel like there is no separation between the band and the audience. You’re all just one big organism, making this music together. That’s really the greatest feeling.

It almost feels like you’re part of something so much bigger than yourself. 

Well, you are something so much bigger than you. That’s why when I talk to fans after a show I’ll always say, “How was your show”? I won’t say, “How did you like the show”? It’s just as much the audience’s show as it is ours. Without the audience it’s not a show , it’s five hairy dudes standing around playing music. We can do that in our garage (which we do, when we’re writing and practicing and shit). It’s just a different thing. It’s everyone’s shows, not just ours. 

I completely agree. Switching gears and diving back into the record, I want to talk to you about – and tell all of of our readers about – how there are some really cool vinyl variants of this new albums. Some cassettes and cool physical media, too. I feel like in the music industry I’ve seen a shift back towards physical media. Streaming will always be relevant and important, but I feel like we’re going back to that ‘having the album in your hand’ kind of feeling. Have you, as the artist, noticed this?

I think so, yeah! It’s obvious to me. In order to get a vinyl record made, you got to get orders in way in a advance. The mastering job for this particular record, we were touring and approving mixes on tour. When the record doesn’t come out for months, why are we in such a hurry? You have to get vinyl orders in super early now because everyone is doing it. As you said, no matter what my feelings are on various streaming services, they are here to stay. Not everyone is going to go back to having a cassette player in their car, or an 8-track, or even a turntable at home. I think for people who have grown up only knowing streaming and so forth, when they actually get to hold a record, or look through a vinyl gate fold, or touch something tangible, it’s satisfying something that internally they didn’t even know they were missing. I grew up before CDs existed and before the internet. There was no digital music. It was all physical medium. I used to stare at record covers for hours and read the [thank you notes] and look deeply at the artwork. The smell of a record when you open it? It’s just amazing. That’s a whole aspect of the process off listening to music that has been missing. 

I’m a huge music fan myself and there is nothing like owning a record – actually having it, saying “I own this record.” You might have heard it 1,000 times over, but when you have it, it’s just a different feeling.

Hell yeah, man! I’ve collected vinyl off and on since I was a kid. Regrettably, back in the broke days, I sold a lot of vinyl that made I would kill to have right now. Not just because it would be worth a lot of money, but because it would be a cool thing to have. But I needed to make rent, so off you go to the record store. At the start of the pandemic, I started buying a lot more vinyl. There is a local record store here in Richmond [Virginia] called Vinyl Conflict. It’s punk rock owned. The guy who owns it can find the weirdest stuff. He’s gotten me some really good records. I enjoy just sitting back and spinning/flipping through the record. 

Absolutely! I know our readership in New Jersey will agree there is no shortage of vinyl record shops here. Everywhere you turn you can find a new one. It’s incredible. 

Vintage Vinyl closed down, didn’t it?

It did! It’s so sad because that was one of the best in my opinion. I will forever miss it. 

Yeah, it was a fantastic record shop. We actually played there [in] 2000 I believe it was. We played at Vintage Vinyl, man. I bought many records there. RIP Vintage Vinyl. 

RIP. I remember going on the week that it announced it was closing. I’d say it was announced on a Monday, I went on a Tuesday. Everything was all out. Everybody in the tri-state area was like, “Oh, it’s closing, I’ve got to get down there tonight.” Now you just talked a bit about the importance of an album cover. I want to talk about Omens‘ album cover. Lamb of God is known for having some pretty incredible album art. It’s a staple off the band. When you’re writing the music are you thinking about the visual element at all?

I tend to think visually about lyrics but just internally. Things I see a lot, because I’m all a photographer… I see a lot of images in my mind and try and sort of write in a way that can paint a picture in someone’s mind when they’re listing to this song. Everybody is going to paint a different picture. As far as as album artwork, though? Man, I don’t think about that at all. We’ve used the same guy, Ken Adams [K3N Adams], who we’ve known since Burn the Priest days. 

Wow!

He designed the Burn The Priest album cover. He’s from Delaware. We used to play in a warehouse in West Philly with his band. He was just like the local punk rock artist guy. We’ve kept with him the whole time. What happens is, first management will say “We need the lyrics, Ken needs to start drawing out this album,” and sometimes before all the lyrics are done. I send him lyrics and he looks at it, looks for themes, and then he’ll do various mock ups of ideas he’s having. He gets pretty much free rein. Sometimes Mark or I will talk to him a little bit more about what we think visually would be a good representation of that record, but for the most part its him interpreting lyrics and stuff we give him. 

Obviously Lamb of God is extremely collaborative as a band, but it is cool that you even have different mediums to be collaborative, as well. 

Yeah, we’re very collaborative. I’m a big fan of art in all forms, whether it be visual or music, photography, writing, dance. Different parts of art feed each other – that’s why my favorite people to hang around are creative people. 

OMENS, THE NEW ALBUM FROM LAMB OF GOD, DROPS OCTOBER 7! FOR DETAILS ON THEIR TOUR, WHICH STOPS IN THE TRI-STATE AREA THIS WEEKEND, CLICK HERE!