Willie Adler and Jeff Kendrick Talk New Lamb of God, DevilDriver, AllAxess, and More
Tue, 16 Jul 2013 08:19:36
Lamb of God brought guitar virtuosity back to the forefront of heavy metal. As one half of the seminal band's two-pronged six-string assault, Willie Adler dispenses mind-blowing riffs and ass-kicking grooves like nobody's business. Given that prowess, it's no surprise that contemporary and friend Jeff Kendrick—DevilDriver guitarist—teamed up with Willie to launch an official site via AllAxess.com. Willie's official site launched recently, and it's the spot to keep up with everything's he's got going on. Moreover, together they've launched a groundbreaking lesson.
For $7.99, you can get Willie's first "Destructional" lesson here. Not only do you get a lesson from the Lamb of God shredder, you get to ask him questions in a chat, and even jam over unreleased material. No other guitar company offers that.
With all of this incredible guitar action going on, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino sat down for an exclusive interview with both Willie Adler of Lamb of God and Jeff Kendrick of DevilDriver. They talk everything from the "Destructional" lesson to new music.
What attracted you to AllAxess, Willie?
Willie Adler: Well, Jeff, Mike, and myself have been friends for quite a while. Since we met in 2004 on our first OZZfest and theirs, we've come up through the ranks together. When Jeff and Mike proposed this idea of a company that was all-encompassing in terms of musicianship and especially guitar players, I knew that they would do it right being guitar players themselves. I also knew they'd have my back being that we had this long history together. It was a no brainer to me because I knew that we could work together and make something really special.
Was there anything in particular that stood out?
Willie Adler: It was completely different. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. I was kind of foreign to any and all kinds of social media, when we first started really going hard and heavy on it. They broke that horizon for me, and it was extremely beneficial. I saw the benefits from that. When the whole idea for an instructional video came up, they had this great vision unlike anything I had heard of or seen before. It was absolutely something I wanted to be involved with. I was extremely flattered they chose me to be first.
AllAxess.com brings an emphasis back to the guitar. Lamb of God and DevilDriver are two bands that have both shone a spotlight on the instrument. There are some incredible active musicians out there now, and you guys are great examples.
Willie Adler: Absolutely! That was another aspect of it. It was really cool. Like you said, they brought the fact that there are players out there like myself, Mark Morton, Jeff and Mike, Adam D. and Joel Stroetzel of Killswitch Engage, and other guys. They're still killing it in the same vein as all of the guys we looked up to. That emphasis was made extremely clear through AllAxess.com. They're focusing on these new guys who are doing it and doing it extremely well. That was huge for me. It was like the icing on the cake. I thought, "This is a really relevant company and web site to get involved in right now".
Willie, how did you approach the lesson? Also, Jeff, what was your vision for it?
Jeff Kendrick: Willie had worked on things prior, but we came up with a lot of the ideas on the spot. It's really a testament to his playing and his ability. He goes over some riffs that he plays warming up. I know the Lamb of God catalog well. When we were coming up with ideas, I was like, "Why don't we do a riff like 'The Faded Line' or 'Ruin'?" It was cool. These guys are some of my closest friends in any band I've met. We've toured so much together. I also love the music. We sat down and came up with some ideas. We put the time in, and we got the right takes. We made sure everything sounded right. For a first stab at doing a video like this, I feel like we did a really good job. Everyone's contribution helped out from the way it was filmed to the ideas and preparation. When it comes down to Willie's playing and ability to come up with great ideas, it was really a pleasure. In addition to the lesson, we're going to have an extra ten minutes of guitar and drum tracks you'll be able to download. You'll be able to get the session files and learn the riffs because we're going to tab them out. You're also going to be able to upload solos over sections, vocals, and things like that. It's really interactive. I knew that having that in addition to the instructional part would be really cool. These days kids want new things. They want exclusive tracks they can jam over and improve their playing. In essence, you have a major part of Lamb of God, Willie, and you can step in like you're in a band with him. You almost become involved with the band so to speak.
Willie Adler: Absolutely, I think we knocked it out of the park. When Jeff got to my place where we did all of the filming, it was daunting. I was extremely nervous because I had never done anything like this before. It was all new and fresh to me. I really wasn't sure how to approach it or what we were going to do with it. As it unfolded, it was grueling. Some of the ideas that hit us on the spot are awesome. It's something I've never seen before, which is why I think it's so cool. Being that is so interactive, I think a lot of the people buying this video can get a sense of possibly being in that actual rehearsal or recording studio. They can give their two cents and feel like they're a part of the project. At first, we thought we were going to do it in a day—like eight hours of filming [Laughs]. It turned into about three-and-a-half days. That was a great thing though. We made sure we had everything down right. We didn't leave anything on the table.
Do you guys have some surprises in store for the Google Chat?
Jeff Kendrick: You'll be able to get online and talk with Willie in the foreseeable future about the lesson. You can ask him questions. These chat rooms will be set up, and Willie will be on a web cam from his computer. You can see him answering the questions or speak. If kids have a question about the lesson or guitar playing in general, it's another element we're offering for these kids to purchase. They're not just purchasing a lesson. They're purchasing extra tracks, and they'll purchasing access to this chat. We wanted to give users a lot of bang for their buck. For your money, it's really a great buy. You don't see many things put out like this. You get a great lesson, have the ability to upload your own music on top of provided tracks, and you're able to speak to the artist and ask questions about all of it. Willie's a very interactive guy. He's eloquent and very into speaking with his fans and communicating with the people who love him and his band. He's really a perfect match for this. This is a great thing to do as a musician. It's very different. When you're on a record, you're surrounded by all of the other instruments. When you're playing live, you're surrounded by all of the other instruments as well. There's a safety net. When you're really putting yourself out there with you and your guitar and speaking about things, it's daunting, but it's a great learning experience. Once you do it and get it down, it's like, "Wow, I can do this". In this case, not only is this a great lesson, but it's a great time and vibe. We want to put out high quality pieces and be a game changer. It's a digital download. It's cost-effective, and it's a solid situation for all involved.
Willie Adler: It's really cool. As Jeff mentioned, when you're done with it, you've surprised yourself that it went so well and you actually did as well as you did. With the chat we're going to do, it's the icing on the cake. It's like, "Well shit, I'm watching the video and now I have the opportunity to chat with the guy behind it?" That is so cool to me. I would've given my left nut to be able to chat with Dimebag Darrell or talk with Kirk Hammett or James Hetfield when I was a kid. That would've been the coolest thing ever. It adds another element to that next level project or idea. The lesson in and of itself is really cool but having all of these added accoutrements with the extra tracks and chat following is incredible.
What's the story behind the AllAxess app?
Jeff Kendrick: We just finished it in the past couple of weeks. We're getting it instituted it with all of the respective artists. It's going to be a great tool. With the whole web site, it's awesome, and we connect all of the social media. Obviously, Facebook and Twitter have these really great apps, and they make it really easy for artists. We created a media uploader app where artists can upload content and write copy about it. They can upload videos. A couple of guys are already using it. It's another way to drive traffic. We're building web sites for everyone. We want those to be the center of the respective artist's social media world. Everything is connected with that. The more traffic driven to the site, the better it does. We've written an algorithm into the app. When we build a web site for an artist, we don't only build a web site. We manage his or social media too. We've gone online and created an official Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. When you upload content via the app, it goes to all of the media. Not only is it a site, it's a myriad of different media. It's about an entire social media universe for everybody. All of those things are connected together. We want to help every artist build a brand online. It's a relativity untapped world. There are no restrictions. We can work with people across the board. It's really cool.
Willie Adler: I'm excited to try the app!
What's up with the merch line?
Jeff Kendrick: AllAxess.com is going to be releasing its own merch line called Black Harmonix. With Willie, we're going to work on putting his clothing line out there. He has a bunch of ideas for t-shirts and various other things.
Willie Adler: It's something I'm excited about. It seems like everybody and his mother has a clothing line so I really wanted to do something different that would really stand out. With how all-encompassing AllAxess.com is and how much momentum it has, it's natural to make these ideas and visions I have come to fruition, and I wouldn't want to do it with anybody else. Jeff and I have gone back and forth for years now. We're really close friends. The trust there is so great that I know it's going to come out awesome and will stand up to everything else out there.
Jeff Kendrick: We want to market this properly to really get the name out there and bolster the brand's identity. AllAxess.com is a growing network. We're getting bigger and bigger every week. If you're going to put out a clothing line, you might as well maximize it. This is a great way to do that. At the end of the day, we love to make shirts, but selling a few of those isn't a bad thing either [Laughs]. It helps everybody. We're all friends, and like Willie said, it's a no brainer. Willie's really the first. We've been talking about this for over two years. He was the first guy to have his web site up. It's not only a great relationship because we're longtime friends, but he's been on board since the beginning. It's fitting that the first lesson is his. Finishing his lesson gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment on par with anything else I have done in music.
Willie Adler: Absolutely! It felt like we had just gotten done recording a record [Laughs].
Jeff Kendrick: Yeah! It definitely was like that. The lesson sounds great. Mike Spreitzer is becoming a very accomplished producer, and he's re-amping the tone. We use some digital guitar effects processors in the studio. We can take Lamb of God's amp sound and get the tone almost identical to what it would be on the album. We can sample that and blend it with the gear and create an awesome sound. Not only is it going to be a killer lesson, it will be pretty much the exact tone Willie uses in all of his playing.
Who made you both want to play guitar?
Willie Adler: I was stuck in metal [Laughs]. My brother Chris is about four years older than I am. We were listening to Led Zeppelin, and I guess I wanted to be a little rebellious towards him so I started listening to Sex Pistols. That vibe punk rock put out and the aggression are what really drove me to be involved in music. When Kill 'Em All came out, I thought, "Holy shit, you can get that aggression but be as technical, proficient, and prolific on your instrument as you want to be!" As much as you want to practice, you can get there. The early Bay Area scene pushed my style and the way I approached guitar early on and to this day.
Jeff Kendrick: Metallica was the game changer for me, picking up a guitar. It was Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield. I had Metallica bootlegs when I was a kid. I remember watching Kirk Hammett solo, and I couldn't even comprehend how that could happen [Laughs]. When you're a beginner guitar player and you hear any kind of playing or soloing, I remember watching his hands and thinking, "I can't see how this is even possible!" I wasn't overwhelmed or discouraged. I was intrigued. I was full engulfed in learning how to play guitar because of Metallica. They were the gateway band for me, if you want to call it that. After I got into them, everything followed like Slayer and Megadeth. It was really that. Hearing Pink Floyd back in the day, I'd listen to David Gilmour's solos, and those were big. I'm sure there are other things I can attribute to making me want to play guitar, but it really was Metallica. They were the driving factor to become a guitar player. It's cool. You decide you want to do something as a kid, and you follow through. Whether it's throwing a baseball ninety miles per hour or playing guitar for a living, you start out with a simple idea for what you want and take it as far as you can go. Willie and I definitely have. Lamb of God and DevilDriver have definitely made their marks in the metal world. We're survivors too. With the scene and all of the bands we came up with, Lamb of God is massively successful. They're probably the biggest metal band in the underground world. They're right at the top. DevilDriver isn't too far behind. Regardless, we've both left our respective marks. Most of the bands we've come up with are on the decline or they're done. There's no calling it quits for us in the near future.
Willie Adler: Like Jeff said, our two bands have really survived the storm. In 2004, you can really say there was this renaissance of thrash and a collective group of bands we all came up with. Both DevilDriver and Lamb Of God as well as maybe a handful of others have survived the storm so to speak and made it through to the other side. That said, you have band like Testament who are coming back into the scene and really killing it once again. It does come full circle. As far as the early two-thousands go, DevilDriver and Lamb of God made an impact, and we continue to grow and further our legacies.
What new bands are you guys listening to?
Willie Adler: We recently did a tour with the English band Sylosis. I can't stop listening to those guys. I think the guitar playing on their two records is phenomenal.
Jeff Kendrick: Whitechapel, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Lamb of God—I listen to their music all the time. After the Burial is a great band, they're really technical.
Do you guys use similar tunings?
Jeff Kendrick: We're in relatively higher octave tunings in comparison to what's going on these days. I'll mess around with a seven-string guitar, but I have no desire to play an eight.
Willie Adler: Me neither, if you feel you have to go to eight, you're doing it wrong.
What song would you want to be remembered by?
Willie Adler: For me, it would be "King Me" the last song on our most recent record, Resolution. It was in different parts. During the writing process, I went back and forth on everything. I'd go home and stay up till four in the morning just to make sure I got it right—even though I had to be at rehearsal in the morning. That song came together so beautifully to me. When Josh Wilbur our producer brought up the idea of orchestration and opera singers to complement it, that was really scary for me, but I'm glad we went that route because the song is so grandiose that it lends itself to that kind of treatment. When all was said and done, that's been my masterpiece up until now. I'm so proud of that tune and stoked I was able to pull it off.
Jeff Kendrick: That song rules. Similarly for me, "The Axe Shall Fall" off The Last Kind Words is something I put together.
Willie Adler: That's a fucking brutal song , man! I love that tune.
Jeff Kendric: Thank you! The ending had this clean guitar part, and it went on forever. We were like, "What are we going to do with this?" We had a friend of ours who's a very accomplished classical pianist play the Hammond organ on the end of it. It ends the record with a cool outro. It was unexpected as a listener. A lot of friends I played it for were like, "Wow, that's really different". It was stepping outside of our comfort zone. It was argued about a lot. Certain members weren't sure. We didn't know if we wanted a piano or an organ. We settled on the Hammond. It's really cool, and it gives the album an unexpected turn. That's cool these days. Lamb of God's "Grace" has a long clean intro. Seeing them do that live is incredible. We all love instrumentation and things that are beyond heavy guitars all the time.
Willie Adler: It's a scary process sometimes, but you're super stoked in hindsight. As artists, it's something we feel compelled to do. DevilDriver and Lamb of God could make these brutal songs all day long. To push ourselves to make dynamic and different songs but still contain each band's signature element is so challenging and really necessary as an artist. You have to push yourself to see exactly where you can go.
Have you begun writing for the next Lamb of God?
Willie Adler: We've dabbled here and there. I'll play some riffs occasionally. Typically, the writing process doesn't really start for us until the tour cycle for the previous album has been completed. Our downtime in between tours isn't that long. We try to focus on spending time with our loved ones. The writing process doesn't kick into full force for us until we have been off the road and have a designated time to write the record.
What are your favorite Lamb of God and DevilDriver songs?