Interview: Lamb of God's Mark Morton and Willie Adler Discuss the Band's New Album, 'Resolution'
Mark Morton and Willie Adler discuss Lamb of God's latest album, Resolution.
What are your current amp setups this time around?
ADLER: I’ve been running a [Mesa/Boogie] Mark IV for a while, but lately I’ve been getting into the Mark V. The Mark V seems to have a little more range as far as bringing up the bottom end and having a little more gushy-ness. So right now I’m just combining both of them.
MORTON: I recorded most of the basic rhythms with a Mesa/Boogie Mark IV. Then late in the session my friends at Mesa sent me a Royal Atlantic [RA-100], and I fell right in love. We only had a week left of guitars, but I took it right into the studio to record with. I’m gonna start using the Royal Atlantic live, too. It’s the perfect blend of the creamy, smooth, tight saturation that I love about the Mark IV, but it’s got a tight, modern bottom-end sound that the Mark IV needed help with. The Royal is so easy to navigate, too. I love that amp. So I told Mesa to send me eight of ’em. [laughs]
What are the main guitars and effects in your arsenal right now?
ADLER: It’s pretty straightforward: just my signature ESP Eclipse, the Mesa/Boogie Mark IV and V, and the DBX 266XL compressor/gate.
MORTON: My setup has changed for the first time in awhile, and I’m pretty excited about it. In the studio I use my Jackson Dominion signatures and my ’75 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe goldtop. Someone before me routed it out for PAF pickups, which made it worth nothing. But it’s a killer guitar. It looks like a piece of shit, but it has sound and soul for light-years. I also used my Fender Tele Deluxe ’72 reissue for some clean stuff, my Guild D-55 acoustic for a couple intros and a Jackson Soloist for most of the solos.
I’ve also just developed a new signature DiMarzio pickup, called the Dominion. The idea developed because I’d never found the right balance of attack, sustain, thickness and mass in any other pickup. We tried so many different approaches, but when we finally hit it, everyone involved realized that we had a really unique piece. I’m glad it’s going to be available to other players.
As far as effects, in the studio we have a couple milk crates with stuff that we try. I use a lot of MXR pedals, like the Carbon Copy delay, and I’ve started using this Green Rhino overdrive for a little bit of a solo line boost. Live, I usually use a Dunlop rack wah, but lately I’ve been into the Jerry Cantrell wah. I also use the DBX 266XL compressor/gate rack unit in front of my preamp to tighten things up a little bit.
Let’s talk about some specific tracks. The solo break in “Ghost Walking” is really well constructed. You move from sweeps to blues to a blazingly fast climbing run. Is that tedious to piece together? Or are you playing it off-the-cuff?
MORTON: I didn’t know what I was gonna do with these solos when I came in. I only knew where they were gonna be. When it came time to record, Josh would roll tape and I’d improvise stuff for a few passes. Then we’d put a comp together, and I’d work on nailing a final take based on that comp.
ADLER: That one, in particular, was funny. I was in the other room recording a track, and Mark walks in looking like he’d just run a marathon. He was all red in the face and sweaty and goes, “Dude. I just wrote the best fucking solo of my life.” [laughs]
MORTON: Yeah, Josh and I were pretty pumped on it. But I’m not sure it’s the best solo I’ve ever written. I think “Grace” [from Wrath] might be a little more lyrical. But this one is up there. I’m pretty proud of it.
Willie, what is a standout moment on this record for you?
ADLER: “King Me” is definitely one. At first the whole beginning of that track was tied into a different song, but it wasn’t sitting as well. It sounded more like two halves of a song instead of one complete piece. Josh was like, “This front end is so killer. Go home and work something out for it.” So I went back and wrote the real choppy verse, bridge and chorus. Once we started tying those riffs together and everyone got involved, we knew it was going to be a monster epic.
MORTON: We all knew it was going to close the record, because it had these big landscapes and a dramatic vibe to it. It was already a great song, but when Josh came up with adding the choral vocals and the strings, that really launched it into the stratosphere. It became a completely different tune, to the point that even the writer was a little uncomfortable about it. [everyone laughs]
ADLER: A little bit, yeah. We were going back and forth listening to different mixes with different levels of the strings and the opera singer. I was nervous as shit. It was really one of those moments like, “Can we really get away with this?” Josh, Mark and Chris were like, “Dude, it’s fucking perfect.” I trusted them, and the more I listened to it, the more confident I became about it.
The instrumental track “Barbarossa” acts as a nice interlude that breaks the record in a traditional LP style.
ADLER: I had written that at first as an intro to another song. But we realized it worked great by itself to separate the two halves of the record.
MORTON: This is very much an album, not just a collection of songs with the best ones first and the worst ones last, and “Barbarossa” sits where it does because of that. It’s a perfect reset and cleanses the palate a bit for the second half of the record. We’ve always tried to have ebb and flow to our records; Resolution is probably our best job of doing that.
Mark, “Cheated” is one of your more punk rock songs, and it even gives a nod to the Sex Pistols with the lyrics “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” [a quote spoken by Johnny Rotten at the Pistols’ final show]. As a young player, were you inspired by Seventies punk?
MORTON: I’m into punk, but more like Nineties punk, like the Jesus Lizard, Shellac and the Touch and Go and Dischord scenes. I played in punk bands a bit when I was younger, but it was “punk” in the avant sense: heavy, oddball music with offensive tones. But I do think “Cheated” sounds very much like the traditional Seventies punk of the Sex Pistols.
Randy and I have always tried to put some element of punk in all of our records, with songs like “Contractor” [on Wrath] and “What I’ve Become” [from Ashes of the Wake].
The song “Terminally Unique” is a crazy drum workout with a really great groove to it. How did that it come together?
MORTON: That’s an interesting song. Josh pointed out that we were missing a track that had that 6/8-time feel of “Laid to Rest.” He also wanted us to write a song together, rather than just doing songs that Willie or I brought in. So we all wrote it together off the cuff. But because it wasn’t a song that one of us brought in, no one was really championing it.
ADLER: Initially, that was the throwaway song for me.
MORTON: Same with me. But as the vocal got completed, the song really started to grow on me.
“Visitation” has a really burning, yet grooving, Randy Rhoads–on-speed type of solo. What’s the thought process behind composing a solo like that?
MORTON: I’m never gonna be the fastest guy on the block, and I don’t even wanna be in that rat race. I just want to connect with the instrument, and I’m libel to bend a note and hold it for two bars. I’m not scared to do that. There’s a liberating feeling that I get from just playing what comes out. I think my biggest goal as a lead player is for someone to hear a solo and say, “Oh, that sounds like Morton.” I’d rather have a recognizable sound than be known as the fastest alternate picker or the guy who knows all the modes. To me, it’s more important to have a style and a sound.
I try to make it a memorable part of the song. Because if I just keep trying to play one fast lick after another, I’m gonna run out of licks really quickly. [laughs] My favorite guitarists have always been the guys that aren’t the most technically proficient but who have a signature style and character to their playing. I’ve definitely always worn my influences on my sleeve. Anyone that listens to me can tell I’m into Jimmy Page, Hendrix, Zakk Wylde and Randy Rhoads. I definitely reference the people who I enjoy listening to. I certainly wouldn’t put myself in the same category with them, but you shoot for the stars and see what you get.
Photo: Travis Shinn
Artists:Lamb of God
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