LAMB OF GOD Guitarist: ‘We Learned A Lot’ From Touring With METALLICA

Steven Rosen of recently conducted an interview with guitarist Mark Morton of Richmond, Virginia metallers LAMB OF GOD. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. You went out with METALLICA for the “World Magnetic Tour”.

Mark: We were, for several legs of it, for part of the “Wrath” tour cycle. It’s funny to do these interviews because I’m reminded of everything. You get back to your normal life and everything sort of just fades into the fabric of what our lives are. But yeah, now I think about it, “Wow, we went to India and we were on tour with METALLICA three times.” Pretty incredible. Yeah, we toured North America, Europe and Australia with METALLICA. They were incredibly gracious hosts and we learned a lot from those guys. It was just exciting to get to know them on a personal level and realize that they’re really committed, down-to-earth guys who are very serious about their music and very grateful about their position in the music industry. They take it seriously but they have a lot of fun with it as well. I think their outlook and the vision on the whole thing is one of the things I’ve carried away with me as one of the more inspirational elements of what I got out of that experience. Musically, did METALLICA open your eyes in any way?

Mark: Well, the thing is I’ve been a METALLICA fan since I first heard “Ride The Lightning”. I think I’ve been inspired by them on a musical level for decades. They’ve veered off into more commercial ventures over the course of their career and I didn’t necessarily follow them through all of that, just because of the timing and where I was in my own tastes, musically. And that’s fine but I have a huge respect for them, having done that. I think it was a big risk and they pulled it off like no one ever has and there’s a lot to be said for that. But I have a huge respect and admiration for their guts in doing that and how well they executed it. But my point is that watching them play, watching their set — and I watched them a lot — it’s not so much that anything was really new to me in terms of how they construct songs or that riff, “Wow, I’m inspired by that riff.” I already knew that stuff. It was more their attitude than the music?

Mark: I think what inspired me was the fact that these guys switch up their set list every single night. They practice and rehearse for 45 minutes to an hour as a band before they take the stage. I don’t mean like we’d strap on our guitars and warm up for 10 or 15 minutes. They have the luxury of having their own practice room but they set up and play as a band for better than 45 minutes before they ever take the stage. You’ll be walking down the hallway and hear them learning one of their songs that they maybe haven’t played in a couple months. Rehearsing it and getting it back up to speed because they’re gonna play it that night and they may not have played it for a month — or a year. I think they keep themselves interested and they certainly keep the fans interested by doing things like that. That is the kind of stuff that inspired me and that was the kind of stuff that made me take a look and see how we could get better. Why do you think METALLICA have had so much success?

Mark: I think it’s easy to understand up through “Justice” because they were one of the more accessible and very well-constructed thrash metal bands, in my own opinion. Bay Area thrash. And they were just kinda the most sort of polished and just a great thrash metal band — one of the best. I think when the “Black” record hit, which was the first record that kind of lost me as a fan but that’s because I was a fan through all that [other] stuff, I think the Black album was the perfect tie to all that sort of ’80s decadent — I hate the term — hair metal. You thought that was the transition?

Mark: All that ’80s glossy music, which wasn’t metal, it was pop but they had long hair and called it metal. But the Black album had that Bob Rock production and that slick song structure but it was still super heavy, and I still think it’s one of the best-sounding metal records ever made. Even though the songs, like I said, alienated me a little bit at the time. But I think it was just the perfect bridge between all that super-glossy pop stuff and an in-between to real thrash metal. It was just polished enough where it was acceptable and spliced-up songwriting-wise enough so it was accessible and hooky and catchy but it was still heavy. And, to me, it was almost like a parallel to — and this is a weird comparison — but the way NIRVANA took punk rock and made it accessible. That makes complete sense.

Mark: They were the other way around — it was pop music but it was just dirty enough and grimy and ugly enough and it had punk roots, that it appealed [to the punks]. They were kind of parallel successes even though the bands sound nothing alike. But they were just the perfect bridge between pop and this true underbelly, this true underground scene. And METALLICA and NIRVANA were both examples of bands that were able to sort of bridge that and still maintain their identity. I think that plus a lot of good marketing is the reason at least to me for the success on paper. But there’s also a very visceral magic element that you can’t construct.

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