The mod­ern-metal drum­mer re­veals the first song he learned to play and his big­gest on-stage night­mare

Rhythm - - CONTENTS - Words: Rich Cham­ber­lain pho­tos: Press

With Lamb Of God, Chris Adler has es­tab­lished him­self as one of the premier metal drum­mers of his gen­er­a­tion. That rep­u­ta­tion was en­hanced fur­ther when Adler joined up with thrash le­gends Me­gadeth in 2015 for an al­bum and tour. How­ever, rather than tak­ing a well-earned rest, Adler was back in the stu­dio ear­lier this year, track­ing the fe­ro­cious Le­gion:XX al­bum. The record, tracked by Lamb Of God un­der the Burn The Priest moniker, cov­ered the songs that helped shape the band’s early sound. Fit­tingly, given the time of re­flec­tion that went in dur­ing this process, when we caught up with Adler, we asked him to cast his mind back and an­swer our burn­ing ques­tions.

What was your first kit?

“It was a MX100 five-piece that I found in a lo­cal pa­per clas­si­fied sec­tion. To­tal piece of junk with duct tape ev­ery­where. The kind of kit that lets you find out if you re­ally want to play drums be­cause it was ba­si­cally im­pos­si­ble to play. The bass drum legs didn’t touch the ground at the same time and the rack toms were mounted to it so the whole thing wob­bled from left to right with each hit. It was like some kind of tar­get prac­tice! If you’ve heard our first record you’ve prob­a­bly no­ticed it’s not packed with tom work.”

Who was your first drum hero?

“I didn’t re­ally have drum heroes. By the timeI started play­ing at 21, I’d missed the teenage ‘hero’ con­cept in re­gards to drums. I had those ‘heroes’ you speak of, but they were gui­tarists like Sa­tri­ani, McLaugh­lin, Mus­taine and Malm­steen. I loved the idea of play­ing drums like I would play the gui­tar ifI had the same skill set. Your ques­tion begs an im­por­tant note – I was for­tu­nate to not have a drum hero. It al­lowed me to in­cor­po­rate every­thing I had heard with­out hav­ing to weigh it against what my ‘hero’ would do in that sit­u­a­tion.I can’t speak for them, but I hear the same thing in the drum­mers I re­spect the most –Ste­wart Copeland, Billy Cob­ham, Den­nis Cham­bers, Carter Beau­ford, Gene Hog­land, Shan­non Larkin, Lars Ul­rich and Gar Sa­muel­son. There are far bet­ter drum­mers out there these days than my­self or any of the peo­pleI just listed – but the idea of beter and the pur­suit of that con­cept is a fool’s er­rand. The drum­mers listed above made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the bands they were in. So much so I think it’s fair to say that if you were to re­move any one of them from the projects they were a part of, it would have likely been a fa­tal loss to said project. They cre­ated more than a beat. They brought in an es­sen­tial voice that had been cre­ated through their own grind­ing up and in­ter­nal­is­ing of mul­ti­ple in­flu­ences and spit back a unique per­sonal sound that wasn’t try­ing to mea­sure up to or sound like any one other per­son. The key to this whole thing – from in­flu­ences and re­hears­ing, even food and life it­self – don’t go down a rab­bit hole in search of one thing. Go down all the rab­bit holes and check all that s**t out!”

What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t live with­out?

“That’s tough. Drum­mers tend to be per­fec­tion­ists so if one thing is off or dif­fer­ent it can throw us into a weird and wor­ried headspace. So many things make up the way you want to present your­self it’s hard to pick one thing. I guess if I had to pick, it would be my cell phone. That way I can at least call my girl­friend, Su, and have her talk me off the ledge about show­ing up some­place crazy like In­done­sia, Rus­sia, or China and re­ceiv­ing one bro­ken pedal, The Wig­gles’ snare drum and a five-piece drum kit with bro­ken cymbals.”

What’s the big­gest on­stage night­mare you’ve ever had?

“That’s re­ally easy. Sim­ple 16ths tom roll from the snare down the toms and on ‘tom 2’ the stick tip split and bounced back at me sharp-end first into my right eye­ball. I felt the stick break and then whatI’d best de­scribe as a slap in the face, but I was con­fused as to what hap­pened and was anx­iously reach­ing for another stick to keep the song go­ing. As I reached down, my tech saw the thing in my eye and turned white as a ghost and started point­ing at me as if Alien was in front of the kit. Then I tasted the blood in the sweat from my face that made it into my mouth. I knew some­thing was f**ked and now I knew it was my eye – which is not a good thing to know mid-song – and panic set in.I fin­ished the tune and turned around to my tech yelling, “What the f**k!?!?? How bad is it?”He said, “It’s not good,” and kind of crawled away from me. I reached up and I felt the tip of the stick – about three inches away from my face – to the right a bit and in front of my nose. I gen­tly grabbed the tip with two fin­gers and I YA NKED it out! I could feel the blood start to run down my face so I grabbed a towel and started the next tune. It bled for a bit – maybe three songs – then slowly stopped.

Once the set end­edI ran to the dress­ing room to check the dam­age while the guys kissed ba­bies and shook hands. Turns out, the sharp end went right into the very cor­ner of my right eye, the in­side part right next to my nose. It went in enough to hold it­self there, but it hadn’t ac­tu­ally punc­tured my eye­ball and the blood was from the skin tears in the lit­tle area right there. I found a splin­ter or two over the fol­low­ing week, but I don’t know if I even told the band that it had hap­pened. Could have been worse. I tell my­self that a lot these days.”

What is your big­gest strength as a drum­mer?

“That I’m not re­ally a drum­mer. I have no idea whatI’m do­ing, there­fore I have no out-of-bounds. I love find­ing ways to ac­cent the mu­sic with syn­co­pa­tion – a skill I fine­tuned learn­ing Yes songs on bass gui­tar. Chris Squire should be a con­cep­tual ex­am­ple for ev­ery in­stru­ment. The guy is first-chair vi­o­lin and at the same time pur­pose­fully sit­ting this one out. Know­ing when to play is as im­por­tant as know­ing what to play. It took me for­ever to swal­low that – I wanted to try and out­play my band­mates and other drum­mers for years for no rea­son other than to prove to my­self that I was good enough to do this.Truth is, I was able to quit my job and play mu­sic full time im­me­di­ately af­ter I stopped do­ing that. The gui­tarists were the same way – com­pet­ing with them­selves and each other. There was a mo­ment when we ac­tu­ally dis­cussed it and agreed to stop try­ing to outdo each other. When we stopped play­ing for ego and played for the song, things ex­ploded for the band.”

Who do you see as an un­der­rated drum­mer?

“If we start rat­ing drum­mers we are all in trou­ble. I can guar­an­tee you there is some kid in his folks’ base­ment that hasn’t seen the sun in five years that could make Thomas Lang weep. Does that make him un­der­rated? Does it make me over­rated? Don’t an­swer that... The mu­sic we play and the things we play are very per­sonal to each of us.What might sound like s**t to me might be per­fect to some­one else. All drum­mers are un­der­rated. Could you imag­ine go­ing to see a rock band and the drum­mer wasn’t there? Just strings and vo­cals? I know I wouldn’t stick around. Yet they put us all the way in the back of the stage so they can pick out the cute girls first, com­plain all day about the warm-up noise, drink all the beer and never let you know when din­ner is up! I typ­i­cally cry my­self to sleep ev­ery night as do most tour­ing drum­mers.”

What was the first song you learned to play?

“‘Mes­sage In A Bot­tle’. Huge mis­take. Don’t do that. I prob­a­bly shouldn’t even have said that but con­sider it a warn­ing com­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence. Don’t start there. Go with ‘Back In Black’ or Glo­ria’.”‘

What’s the key to a great live per­for­mance?

“Be­ing able to fake con­fi­dence and con­trol. No one wants to see some guy bit­ing his nails and cry­ing in ner­vous­ness – but that’s what’s go­ing on in­side. I can as­sure you. And the guys that tell you, ‘Nuh-uh bro – not me. I know I’m gonna go out there and crush it be­cause I rule and you drool!” are liars, to­tal d**ks and you should delete their con­tact info. And I’ll put money on the the­ory that the more con­fi­dent they claim they are, the more in­se­cure they are.”

Chris Adler (far left): “I’m not re­ally a drum­mer”

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