Chris Adler's guide to death and thrash metal drumming
After a turbulent couple of years, during which time frontman Randy Blythe was on trial over the death of a fan in the Czech Republic, and was finally acquitted, Lamb Of God have come storming back with their new album, Sturm Und Drang, even as drummer Chris Adler has been helping out his hero Dave Mustaine with the new Megadeth record. So who better to talk about what it takes to be a metal drummer than the drummer of not one but two influential metal bands?
Channel your experiences…
“There was never a point in time when anyone felt guilty about the situation. We all felt terrible about the situation but no one felt responsible about what had happened [in the Czech Republic]. It was a random thing that could have happened anywhere in the world on any given night and I’m surprised it hasn’t more often at metal shows, but we’re not making music to keep people safe or to hurt people or to make people buy albums or not buy albums.
"I don’t think there was ever an option to tone it down. All the anxiety and being scared and just passionately upset about the situation made what I wanted to bring in to the record far more intense. I had more than ever to get out using my instrument, that’s because my voice is my drum kit. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much or as good of a reason to be fuelled up about expressing myself.”
Go old school with the drum sound
“I’ve been very lucky in that [Sturm Und Drag producer Josh Wilbur] is a drummer. He’s very particular about the drum rooms that we record in and we are lucky enough to have a record budget that allows us to actually record live drums and not a drum machine or program everything. It almost seems old school to have a band that records drums. Most modern metal bands are programming everything.
"Josh is with me, he insists on an acoustic set in a great room. So we’ve done it in amazing places all across the US. We did Wrath in Electric Ladyland which was Jimi Hendrix’s studio in Manhattan, Spin Studios was Resolution, which is a famous spot in Queens, New York, and then this record we did in NRG Studios in North Hollywood. So I’ve really been fortunate to have Josh as an advocate for drum sounds and performances.”
Don't use triggers…
“I never use triggers. That’s possibly changing as I’m going to be doing some gigs with Megadeth and they want triggers in their monitor mix, but I’ve never used them before, I’ve been really anti-triggers. Not because I think triggers are necessarily cheating and I’ve seen how much it helps in a live setting, but I just refuse to do it because we’re going 200 miles an hour for an hour and there are so many things that can go wrong. I’m holding my breath and crossing my fingers the whole set, so the last thing I want to do is start plugging in my drums.
"There are way more problems that could go wrong and I’ve seen it happen over and over. We’ve toured with many different bands that use triggers that are misfiring, the song’s over and the kick drums are still going, the guy is not even sitting down at the drums, it’s ridiculous, so I just don’t want to deal with it.”
Be a fan…
“Just being in Lamb Of God, I own it, everyone in Lamb Of God owns it. Coming into this, I felt like I was there to babysit somebody else’s kid but I’m a huge Megadeth fan. I want to come in and be honest and open about the things that I want as a fan, not necessarily as a drummer. That’s hard to do when you’re a session guy because you’re basically paid to play what you’re told, shut up and go home. But Dave was very appreciative and open to talking about those kinds of things and working on things, changing things, so I did feel like I was involved from the beginning.
"But Megadeth is a very different band than Lamb Of God. There’s a groove to that, where Megadeth has always been, to me, about the guitar. Always. Gar [Samuelson] who was their first drummer was a big influence of mine, and then going back and preparing to head down there to work with Dave and preparing now to do shows with them, studying the stuff Chuck Behler was doing on So Far, So Good, So What, what Nick Menza was doing, while it’s very creative and interesting, it’s comparatively very simple to what I’m doing in Lamb Of God, and it’s designed to highlight the guitar. I knew most of my bag of tricks is going to be checked at the door and I’m coming in to be a positive, creative influence on where I think Megadeth should go and then play the drums so they accentuate everything that’s great about what’s going on with the guitar.”
Keep fit, especially if you're doing live double-duty with two bands, Lamb of God and Megadeth…
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised the value of the gym, I quit smoking and all that stuff, and every day I run 10K. Today I rented a bike and I rode 50K so endurance-wise I’m not worried about the shows. I think I can give 110 percent to both, but material-wise I’m still a little intimidated on catching up with the Megadeth stuff.”
Adapt and survive…
“I realised that if I tried to bring my full style [to Megadeth] with splash cymbals and 10" tom stuff, knowing how particular Dave [Mustaine] is and how focused he is on the end product and how much he knows what he wants, it would have been an exercise in frustration because I would have been trying to put a round ball into a square hole. It wouldn’t have worked, so I had to adapt and it wasn’t begrudgingly.
"I wanted Megadeth to be the best they could be and the best I’ve ever heard Megadeth is when the guitars are just unforgettable and the reason they’re unforgettable is because everybody is working to make sure that they are. This is not about me, there might be a moment I can shine here or there, but this is about what can I do to make that guitar line stand out.”
Read the full interview with Chris Adler in the Summer 2015 issue of Rhythm, available here!