(August 2010 Issue)

Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler, who answers more reader emails in the August 2010 issue of Modern Drummer, recently produced the searing new album by This Or The Apocalypse. In this MD Online exclusive, read what Chris has to say about working with drummer Grant McFarland, and about the recent Lamb Of God box set, Hourglass. But first check out this video of McFarland performing the track “Charmer” from TOTA’s just-released album, Haunt What’s Left.

Grant McFarland [This Or The Apocalypse] playing “Charmer” from Alejandro Zapata on Vimeo.

Chris, what role did you play in the recording of Haunt What’s Left?
I got involved very early and was working preproduction sessions while on tour with Grant, using Logic and DFH. We rearranged a lot of the music and got it into a form we were both excited about. Once the recording process began in NYC, I flew in several times for instrument tracking and vocals.

I spent time with each member discussing their interests, likes, and dislikes, and tried to help weave a consistent idea within the band of what each song would mean to the album. I was free with my opinions, and I was also free for discussion and discourse about them and about the ideas the guys had. It was far from a heavy-handed role—these guys know what they are doing, and I was there as a soundboard and voice of experience.

What kind of suggestions would you make to Grant during the recording?
The drums are the backbone of all recordings, but in modern music, especially metal, they can become very static and vibe-less. My suggestions to Grant, once the parts were arranged and connected, were based on bringing life and aural motion into the tracks. I didn’t care if the tracks were perfect, I wanted to hear feeling and, in some cases, desperation. These drum tracks are complicated and well thought out. My goal was to give them life in the recording.

What do you feel Grant’s strengths are?
Grant is incredibly multifaceted. Not only does he play an enormous role in writing all the material, he’s a monster on the drums. He has the ability to marry complex rhythms with the idea of a song that doesn’t confuse and turn off the listener. I’ve not seen many songwriters, especially drummers, do it as well as Grant. He’s an inspiring player and a genius writer.

Each member of This Or The Apocalypse can do and play anything they want. They’re still very young, but they have complete command of their instruments. I felt like my role was to help each of them focus his abilities and energy into the songs. Most kids with the same ability and age take off into ego, and the songs suffer. I tried to help them find a place to land with each piece of music that both turned them on as players and had every potential to crush the listener. They all have it within them, they just needed an objective opinion they could trust.

Lamb Of God has a new box set out. What do you notice in your own playing when you listen back to older material?
I love hearing myself as the twenty-three-year-old player—all the energy and angst in the world, and the tracks are screaming it. There’s an abundance of ability, but the focus isn’t sharp. It’s nice to have been successful enough in a project to have the ability to look back. In many ways I’m jealous of those days, in others I hear how much I’ve grown as a player and a member of the band. Building blocks.

Why release a box set now?
We’ve been very fortunate to not only be a band for fifteen years, but to be a band that has continued to grow for the entire ride. I attribute that to our dedication to our music, but even more so to the fans who have stood by us and shared our music across the world.

We’re not fans of “greatest hits” packages. We feel they are a label cash-grab. We came up with the idea and insisted that we develop something cool enough that our fans would not feel burdened by a catalog piece that they could put together themselves with Roxio and MS Paint. We insisted on multiple packages at all price ranges that all offered something new. It’s a hard line to ride to make everyone from the first-time listener to the long-time fan happy, and we tried our best to do exactly that.

Due to our insistence over packages, options, and inclusions, it was a very hard sell to the label. The profit margin is basically zero for the label and the band. We did it because we all feel the industry is in decline and we wanted to give out the options, on every level, for any fan of the band to own something unique. I’ve never seen package options like it, I’ve never seen bands release the kind of material we included, and we all hope that it feels special to everyone who picks it up—regardless of which one they decide on. We plan on continuing and getting even heavier with the next release, but if it all ends tomorrow, this retrospective of sorts is intended to stand on its own, and stand the test of time.