By Brian Leak
Chris Adler has been in several bands and played multiple instruments, but is most notably recognized as the drummer for American metal band Lamb of God. Chris is regularly featured in Modern Drummer magazine and is constantly touring and headlining festivals such as Ozzfest with his band. Chris’ fancy footwork and unusual stylistic drumming earned him a standing ovation at the 2005 Modern Drummer festival, which landed him a “Best of” spot on the festival’s DVD. He continues to mature and evolve as a drummer and it shows from record to record. Synthesis had the chance to talk with Chris about his drumming, his success, and some exciting upcoming projects.
Syn: You played many instruments before sticking with the drums. What made you decide that it was the instrument that you wanted to play?
CA: Well, I still don’t know if it is. It’s certainly my latest choice. I played guitar in different bands before Lamb of God, but it always interested me. The band would take a break and I would jump behind the drums. I always kind of wanted to but never really had the opportunity to fill that spot. Every band I was in already had a drummer and I already had all this guitar gear. It wasn’t like I decided one day that I’m gonna be a drummer. It was just circumstance that led to me getting behind the kit. It’s a lot of fun to play the drums. I guess that’s why I ended up choosing it, but I think that probably down the line when my body gives out I’ll probably pick a less physical instrument to rock out with.
Syn: Is there anything in particular that you enjoy about drumming that you don’t get with other instruments?
CA: I get to beat the crap out of stuff all day long (laughs). It’s a pretty good stress reliever. I think that if I didn’t play drums, I’d probably be a real dick. But because I do, I’m pretty mellow and easy-going most of the time. It’s a lot of fun. A lot of people talk about how they don’t like it because you’re in the back and they don’t get the attention of the singer or the guitar player, but I prefer that. When I was in college, I wanted to be the cameraman, not the guy being taped. I wanted to work behind the scenes with the audio and not be the guy with the microphone. I’m more than happy to take the back seat as far as that goes. As far as playing, it feels good to do what I do, especially when it turns out right.
Syn: What do you hope people will gain from the experience [of drum clinics]?
CA: That’s a good question. I’ve been to several drum clinics and I think they’re fun. It’s a different kind of experience. It’s somebody that is generally pretty skilled with the instrument and it’s not like the concert setting where it’s more about the t-shirt and the beer. It’s more in depth and involved. I’m not a teacher. I’ve never taken drum lessons and I don’t know how to teach. Most drum clinics that I’ve been to were very much teacher oriented. In my clinic, I hope that I am able to kind of share my experiences, show a few tunes, and what I really hope that I get across is to inspire people that are there to really want to go and play. Not in any particular way or fashion or genre or anything else but just to go and play because that’s the kind of thing that turns me on about the drums, is that wanting to play was not about lessons or books or DVDs or anything else. It was watching guys that are pretty good at playing, and that alone kind of made me want to step up my game. So I hope that I’m able to return the favor.
Syn: How are you enjoying the new Black Panther set?
CA: It’s pretty great. I’ve had the Saturn kit for a really long time. I’ve had it for…gosh, six years, and I really loved it. I mean, I think every drum company makes a really nice drum kit, but the Mapex with the walnut wood really makes for something special. For what I’m doing, like, what I wanna hear in my head, there’s really nothing that compares to that Saturn kit…or wasn’t. Now they’ve got this Black Panther Blaster kit which is really nice. It’s got the walnut hoops in it and it’s cool. I’m still kind of getting used to it; trying different heads and different things. It sounds just as good as the Saturn kit that I’ve been out on tour with since 2004 and recorded with. I’m looking forward to bringing it on the clinic and I’m gonna use it on the next record. The new Lamb of God record. I’ll definitely be taking it on tour on the follow-up to that. So yeah, I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
Syn: So I’ve heard that you also have a series of 6 books coming out?
CA: The first one is out. I’m writing basically the making of each album from my perspective and also including drum tablature that I’ve done myself. The first one is about 110 pages and I talk about each song. I talk about what it was like to make the album, what the studio was like, where we were at and what I was thinking as a drummer going into it. So that’s out and available now and the second one is for As the Palaces Burn. I’ve finished writing that and I’m gonna fine tune it in my lonely hotel rooms on this clinic tour and that should be available some time in April. The idea is that it’s not completely overly detailed but it’s a pretty in depth look at what it was like from my perspective making these albums, how we’ve grown as a band, how the writing’s changed, and what it was like in the studio with different equipment and different means of recording with different producers. It’s kind of telling a story that could have come along with the albums as reading material, but didn’t. I started writing so I would remember all this stuff. Stuff starts to fade away after a while.
Syn: What are you most proud of when it comes to your career?
CA: (Laughs) That’s funny. Ummm…it’s funny because this morning I was speaking to someone about how we’ve been so lucky and so fortunate and me, myself have been…well, I guess the best word is “blessed.” It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s also been a lot of luck, being in the right place at the right time and we’ve done very well with what we had. I can’t pick out a moment because I never allow myself to swallow the general idea that we were successful at anything. I feel like if I let myself think that I’ll get lazy or somehow interrupt the flow of this progress. I certainly don’t believe that we are done or even at the height of what we can do. I hope that we’re able to take it further and keep it together and put out even better music than we have before. That doesn’t mean that I expect more people to come to the shows or that we’re the next U2. For me, the evolution of the band is in the music and I think that we, and I, still certainly have a lot to offer. So there’s not really one shining moment.
Syn: So is there anything that you haven’t yet achieved that is a goal of yours?
CA: Whew…that’s a good question and a nice turn of events from the last one. Um, I don’t know. All these things that we’ve kind of been awarded with, like these plaques, statues, and Grammy nominations; those were never things that we sat around in rehearsal saying, like, “Oh, I hope we get that.” There’s not like this ultimate thing in the sky that would make it all perfect in the end. There’s not one thing that would tie it all up and be the one thing that’s missing. I think the hardest thing to achieve now is the momentum and keeping that together. It’s almost impossible to get to where we are and more impossible to stay there or get further.
Syn: Longevity seems to be a big issue for bands…
CA: Yep. Definitely. I’ve read that the average lifespan is 2 years and one album. We’re now up to 16 years with album 7 coming up.
Syn: Besides the books and the drum clinic, do you have any other projects you’re working on this year?
CA: Yes. We’re going to be writing the new Lamb of God album. We haven’t started yet and I expect it to be kind of quiet for a little while longer since we’ve spent so much time on the road for the last 3 years. The plan is certainly by the end of the year to have it completed. That’s gonna be a pretty intense rush once that starts up. It’s gonna be a full time job trying to out-do ourselves yet again. I hope and think that we can but I also know that none of us are getting any younger and if for some reason we can’t, I’m definitely not interested in putting out something substandard. I’d rather walk away with the legacy of the band as it is and not tarnish it with some sort of cash-grab. I hope to continue the evolution on this next one and do something we haven’t done before.