Interview by Jordan Sibberas
Metal fans rejoice, USA metal legends Lamb of God are hitting our shores in October and November with a string of dates, both headlining and in support of Slipknot. Ahead of their tour, guitarist Mark Morton took some time to chat with Jordan about the upcoming shows and their latest album, VII: Sturm Und Drang.
MI: How are you today?
Mark: I’m doing alright man! We’re on a nice little break from touring, and I’m here at my home in Richmond, Virginia and I’m spending a day with my daughter.
MI: In October you’re coming out to Australia, and we’re thrilled to have you back! Without giving too much away is there anything special in store for fans?
Mark: We’ve got a really great rapport with our Australian fans! We’ve been touring there steadily for some time now and very rarely can I speak for all of us, but I speak for [Lamb of God] when I say Australia is one of our favourite places to come on tour in the whole world, especially because of the response we get from the fans there. The hospitality is great up there, and it’s really somewhere we enjoy going. However, it’s not really our tour, but the majority of this run is in tour of Slipknot so we’re very grateful to be able to support them. We’ve got a great professional and personal relationship with them, and we’re really ready to bring some of the new songs we’ve written over and to tour in support of Slipknot! How’s that for diplomacy? *laughs*
MI: Lamb of God took on more than the bare minimum on this tour, by travelling out to Adelaide and Perth to headline your own shows, and I’m sure I speak for those cities when I say the effort is greatly appreciated. I understand coming to Australia at all is an expensive and time consuming project for a comparatively small fan base to what you’re used to, what motivated you to take this on?
Mark: There are a lot of factors that go into touring such as the bands that are coming out, the status of the promoters, the timing of the tour and all that. The fans have always supported us though, so we’re thrilled to go out and support the fans in places like Adelaide and give back a little bit to keep the relationship going strong with those fans. We feel it’s the right thing to do.
MI: As a guitarist who’s spent hours studying your riffs and trying to learn them, it amazes me how strongly you are able to smash through the guitar work on stage when it’s hot and the crowd’s going nuts and everything’s happening, let alone in the comfort of the studio! What goes into your tour routine in terms of technique fitness?
Mark: Man, I wish I had some exciting answer for you but we’ve been doing this for so long, and we tour so much, that the hour and a half that we’re onstage is what we look forward to for the whole day. It’s just what we do. Those riffs are muscle memory, they’re what we do best and how we express ourselves, and really, getting onstage and playing part is really the easy part. It’s the traveling and the time away from our families that is difficult.
MI: On Sturm Und Drang, your work with Willie Adler produced some incredible riffs that had a texture you could feel and not just hear, did you approach the writing or gear setup differently this time around to produce that?
Mark: I think the big difference in the approach to our most recent album has been that Willie and I have previously, on the three or four albums before this, brought in much more completed songs. Maybe I’d bring in a four-and-a-half-minute demo song with an intro and a verse and a chorus and a second verse and another chorus and a solo and have it all laid out for the guys and everyone would kind of take a whack at it and make their changes to it, but previously songs were presented as completed pieces of music. On [VII: Sturm und Drang], I’m not too sure as to the reason why, but it was a lot different. We were bringing in, say, two riffs that worked well together but weren’t quite a song, and we didn’t know the direction it was headed and which riff was the verse or chorus, so the contributions were introduced when they were far less developed. This made for a much more collaborative album, and that was really across the board. Most specifically though, this was with Willie and I, where Willie brought in an idea and I completed it, or I brought one in and he added to it, and it wound up as a completed song. That was probably the primary difference in terms of the song writing difference on this album and our last few.
MI: Between you, Jim Root, Willlie Adler and Mick Thomson, there’ll be some serious shredding power on this upcoming tour, is there any chance of the four of you having a shred-off?
Mark: Yeah, I’m not sure, but I’m not opposed! Those decisions aren’t up to me this time around.
MI: Songs like Overlord drew a lot of positive attention to your ability to play diverse styles, as well as the rest of the band; has this encouraged you to explore your musical talents and interests outside of heavy metal?
Mark: Yeah absolutely! For my part I’m almost always writing, any time I pick up the guitar. I very recently released a couple of songs on Soundcloud that got a bit of press with J.P., the drummer from Clutch, and it’s sort of bluesy and jazz-influenced, with a bit of a fusion sound too. It couldn’t be further away from Lamb of God than it is. I also have a few side projects I’m working on that I’m pretty sure will see the light of day, but nothing I’m ready to announce just yet. A couple of years back we put out a documentary film, called As The Palaces Burn, which inevitably documented Randy’s experiences in the Czech republic, which I composed and arranged the score for. If you give the score a listen, it’s decidedly not metal as well. I try to stay busy writing music all the time, and generally a lot of it isn’t heavy metal.
MI: Have you taken on any classical theory training?
Mark: In my teens, and learning to play guitar earlier on, I took a few classical lessons, and a fair few jazz lessons. I wouldn’t say that I’m educated in theory but I do know a little bit, which comes into play here and there. Mostly though, I play by ear.
MI: Thanks for your time! Did you have anything you wanted to add?
Mark: Can’t wait to get down there and see the fans!
HQ COMPLEX, ADELAIDE TUESDAY NOVEMBER 1
METROPOLIS, FREMANTLE THURDSAY NOVEMBER 3
Also touring with Slipknot – tickets on sale now:
Vector Arena, Auckland Wednesday October 26
Brisbane Entertainment Centre Friday October 28
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Saturday October 29
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Monday October 31 (Melbourne Cup Eve)
Tickets are on sale now from http://lvna.co/LambOfGod16
For all its depth, diversity and cross-pollinated ambition, modern metal needs its figureheads, its heroes and its leaders. LAMB OF GOD have been blazing mercilessly away at the forefront of heavy music for the last 15 years, upholding metal’s intrinsic values of honesty, intensity and creativity while also daring to push boundaries and think outside the heavy box. Exploding into view with 2000’s seminal debut »New American Gospel«, the Virginian quintet inadvertently kick-started the so-called ‘New Wave Of American Metal’ at the dawn of the 21st century; and have notched up a succession of huge commercial hit albums and remorselessly toured the globe ever since. The combination of vocalist Randy Blythe’s excoriating growls and roars, guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton’s precision attack and the bowel-shattering rumble of rhythm section John Campbell (bass) and Chris Adler (drums) has both refined and redefined the notion of aggressive metal in the modern era. LAMB OF GOD’s most recent album »VII: Sturm und Drang«, released via Nuclear Blast Entertainment charted at # 2 on the ARIA charts being the band’s highest EVER Australian Chart debut.