POPsessions: Lamb of God Guitarist Willie Adler

Jon Wiederhorn
Yahoo Music

When he's working with Lamb Of God, guitarist Willie Adler writes music that impacts like a fist to the gut. At the same time, he and his bandmates have always strived to incorporate groove, technical proficiency and melody. It’s a brutal, infectious combination that, over 14 years, has taken Lamb of God to the top of the aughts metal scene. But the band's reign could have come to an end in June 2012.

Vocalist Randy Blythe's battle with the Czech Republic legal system has been well documented. Here's the thumbnail version: Shortly after the band arrived in Prague to play a show, Blythe was detained and arrested on manslaughter charges for an incident that happened during a Lamb of God concert in Prague two years earlier. At the 2010 show, a 19-year-old fan who climbed onstage was shoved – allegedly by Blythe – back into the crowd. The teen later went into a coma and eventually died from head injuries.

A new documentary film, "As the Palaces Burn," chronicles the 2012 European tour, and features up-close footage of the trial and interviews with the band members and their management team. After enduring a full trial, Blythe was cleared of all charges and returned to the band to complete its 2013 tour.

[Related: Lamb of God frontman opens up about manslaughter case]

"As the Palaces Burn," directed by Don Argott, debuted February 16 in Philadelphia and marked the last opportunity for Lamb of God fans to see the band before they take a well-deserved break. As Blythe recently wrote on Instagram, "I will not be thinking about LAMB OF GOD, touring, playing heavy metal, writing new LAMB OF GOD material — NONE OF THAT STUFF AT ALL — for a good long while."

Adler concurred, stating the band has been through the ringer and earned a break. But the "good long while" may not be that long. He told Yahoo Music he’s looking forward to writing new material during the down time and expects Lamb of God to return to the rehearsal studio later this year. Without having any shows to practice for or new songs to learn, Adler was happy to sit down and discuss his early exposure to rock music, the creepiest fan he's ever met, and the merits of Nick Drake, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

What is the first album you bought with your own money and where did you buy it?

It was the Sex Pistols' "Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols" and I bought it in the northern Virginia Woodbridge area on vinyl at a record store called Waxie Maxies.

What was the first concert you attended and where?

I saw Rush on the Presto tour in 1990. I went with my brother [Lamb of God drummer] Chris [Adler] and one of his friends who picked me up from high school and drove us up to the Capital Center, which was a stadium in Largo, Maryland. Vinnie Moore was opening. I was blown away by Rush. I was a fan from the get-go, so to see them onstage was unbelievable.

What made you say, "I want to pick up a guitar, learn to play and be in a band?"

The [1988] Metallica album "…And Justice For All" blew my mind. I just thought, "Man, these guys can shred for a seven-minute song and keep it catchy and interesting." That really spoke to me.

Is there a song that made you go, "Wow, I wish I had written that?"

Yeah, tons of them. The one that sticks out is "Eruption" by Van Halen. It’s such an epic and it was like nothing I'd ever heard before. The way Eddie Van Halen finger-tapped these insanely fast parts was unreal and it changed the game for a lot of guitarists.

If you could duet with any recording artist, dead or alive, who would it be?

Nick Drake. I love the moody, depressive landscape vibe he created with his songs. Unfortunately, he died [in 1974 from an overdose of amitriptyline while being treated for a depressive illness].

What was your most unfortunate onstage mishap?

There have been a bunch. Most recently we played Brixton in England. The way the stage was set up, there was about eight to ten feet in front of the monitors. Beyond that was the photo pit and then the barricade and the crowd. So at the end of the show I was throwing picks to the crowd, and I went to the edge of the stage which was beyond where the monitor wedges were on the floor. I threw out my last pick, waved goodbye to the crowd, and as I backed up I felt my foot hit the back of the wedge. It was one of those kind of slow-motion moments. I was in victory mode a second ago, and now I knew I was going down and I’d look like an idiot. I tried to save myself, but nope, I went down backwards and had to eat s**t in front of 5,000 people.

What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever done for you or said to you?

There is a weirdo guy from the Midwest area. He doesn't strike me as the typical metal fan. Every time I've seen him in the past, I always chalked him up as an "eBay dude." Those are the guys who come in with 10 copies of one photo and they want you to sign all of them. They next day you see them all up on eBay. The "eBay guy" is not a fan. He’s just out to make money by selling signed memorabilia. But then I noticed that this guy was at every show and eBay dudes don’t come every night. He would talk to me after the show and he was knowledgeable about the band, so I thought maybe he was legit. Then he offered to buy me a Maserati. I laughed and shrugged it off. Then he showed up after another concert and said, "Dude, I bought you a Maserati. When can I deliver it to you? I know the city you live in and I can get it to you." That was creepy. I thought the dude was a weirdo to begin with and now there ain't no way I’m taking anything from him. That would be a weird debt to have to a dude I don’t know.

Do you have any special pre-show ritual?

After I stopped drinking, I noticed that I started to get anxious before we played. So one night while I warmed up, I started listening to jazz and lounge music on headphones to try to chill out. I played the best show in ages that night. So I've kept it up. For some reason it puts me in a cool, collected, and focused mindset.

What’s the strangest thing on your tour rider?

We’re getting older now, so instead of having crazy stuff on the rider we have a lot of Pedialyte, yogurt, and socks – old guy s**t.

What's your on-the-road must-have?

My iPad because it’s so much simpler than trying to drag my computer around -- especially overseas -- to try and stay in contact with home.

What's one genre of music that you would never try to do yourself?

Probably hip-hop, because I respect it to such a great degree. I would love to check out a rapper in the studio and be a fly on the wall to see how they work. I’m sure it's way different than the way we work.

What's your go-to karaoke song?

"Hello" by Lionel Ritchie. When I do karaoke, I try to go completely opposite of what anybody else in the room is going to think I'm going to do.

What's the most surprising song or artist on your iPod?

It’s gotta be Justin Timberlake. Lamb of God fans might be surprised by that. Even if you don't like him you gotta respect his talent. He’s a triple threat, man. He does what he does extremely well. I wish I could dance like that.

What’s the most recent album you've bought?

I bought an EP from a band called Opossum Holler, and they're out of Bowling Green, Kentucky. It's doomy, rocky psychobilly with some country thrown in. There's some cool chicken-pickin' on the guitar. I really dig it.

What’s the most recent concert you attended?

A few months ago, we were in Ohio on a day off and the boys were looking for something to do so we went to see Coheed and Cambria, who were in town. I was a fan but I had never seen them. I was very pleasantly surprised by how their songs translated live. I don’t usually go to shows that much due to the nature of the profession.

The Beatles or the Stones?

The Beatles. You can't beat the songwriting, as well as the moods and emotions they created. I'm not taking anything away from the Stones. I love the whole dirty, bluesy, in-your-face rock 'n' roll vibe. But you'll never convince me it's better than the dynamics and the melodies created by the Beatles.

Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly?

Oooooooh, man. I’m gonna go with Buddy. I mean, the King's the King, for sure. But Buddy slips under the radar because of that, and I don't think people give him enough credit.

Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera?

Hahaha, You know what? I’m gonna give it to Britney because she has had some terrible f***ing times and it seems like she has really bounced back and is doing fairly well. So kudos to her for her comeback. Anyone who can bounce back from what she's been through is cool in my book.

Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac Shakur?

I'm gonna go with Biggie because Biggie was a little bit more relaxed and a little bit more subtle gangster in the vein of Jay-Z. Tupac was great, but he was all about partying and kind of in your face, where Biggie just told it to you with a little more eloquence.