Behind the vicious vocals and biting lyrics of Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe, much like the metal genre, is an artistic depth beyond the abrasive first brush.
Blythe launched his limited edition, fine print magazine Unbuilt in April created with Tom Bejgrowicz and California thrash metal guitarist of Testament fame Alex Skolnick.
A writer, lyricist and photographer, the magazine offers Blythe a chance to explore other branches of art aside from music.
He isn’t sold on the diminishing value of physical media.
“I don’t think that print is dying. I think it’s changing and I think only super high-quality stuff will survive. There’s so much disposable media now, what with the internet and everybody having a blog. That’s great as a communication tool, but it doesn’t really lead to much deep thought, not a lot of attention given to detail, not a lot of real focus on craft,” Blythe said.
Blythe proudly declared that the twice-a-year publication is ad-free, and is a creative hub for himself and his arts-oriented colleagues.
Writing came long before music for Blythe, but photography is a relatively new venture.
Blythe’s first foray into photography came out of an idea for a documentary wherein he would unplug from the Internet for a year. He eventually bought a Canon 60D to shoot video with and after taking a few shots for fun, he was hooked.
“I immediately fell in love, that was like four years ago and I’ve been shooting ever since, had my work in a few magazines, did an exhibit in New York, it went really well,” Blythe said. “It just kind of happened by accident, I got a camera to do video and just wound up really loving photography.”
He was drawn to the ability to engage in visual art, after admitting that even his stick figures looked “crappy.” Blythe was introduced to most of his favourite artists through album artwork, and now he had the ability to step into the visual art realm.
“I was always around visual artists and thought it was really cool, but had no talent. So when I picked up the camera and discovered I had an eye for it I thought ‘oh cool, this will be a way for me to work in the visual medium,’” Blythe said.
It also offers a different avenue for expression other than music, Blythe said.
“When I write either prose or lyrics, I’m being very, very subjective, I’m pushing my idea through that process and through whatever I’m creating. It’s like I have an idea and I want to push this forward through the reader, but with photography it’s a way for me to sit back and be more objective and just sit back and notice the world around me,” Blythe said.
Two passions he found late in life, photography and surfing, have intersected in Unbuilt, which features a photo essay on surfing by Blythe, including photos of Bali surfing legend Rizal Tandjung. Surfing was something Blythe didn’t pick up seriously until he was 44.
“I’m only 45 now. Since then I’ve surfed in Indonesia, Australia, all over America, met some really cool people and while doing that I started shooting some pictures of surfers. Although I don’t do a lot of that because if there’s waves I’m going to be riding them,” Blythe laughed. “Something about it is really beautiful to me.”
He noted that his 30 years of skateboarding experience likely helped him transition.
Lamb of God started touring at the end of April with Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity, two bands that Blythe has quite different histories with. Blythe said Corrosion of Conformity’s 1985 album Animosity was a big one for him.
“Mike Dean and Reed Mullin’s vocals were really influential on me as a musician,” Blythe said.
Blythe has been going to Clutch shows since the beginning of their career, back when they used to “come down to Richmond to play for $5,” Blythe said.
“It’s nice to be going out with some bands that I’ve been a fan of and have known for some time,” Blythe said.
While not surfing or taking photos, Blythe is likely best known for his ferocious performances with Lamb of God. As a longtime metal head who has now been to every continent except Antarctica, Blythe has seen the same trademark metal fandom everywhere he goes.
As he describes it: “a bunch of people with long hair and black T-shirts.”
The metal fan base is the same across the globe because deep down, we are all the same, Blythe said.
“People aren’t different, period. People are the same wherever you go. It’s just our preconceived notions that they’re so different. This music scene allows you to see that, in fact, is bullshit. I’ve been all over the world, I’ve been to every continent except for Antarctica because there’s nowhere to play there and people are the same,” Blythe said. “People are the exact same, there’s no difference. That is what the world needs to understand is that people are the same everywhere. Then we wouldn’t have all this bullshit warfare going on because we would realize it’s not apples and oranges, you aren’t a different type of human being, you’re just a human being.”
Lamb of God come to the South Okanagan Events Centre June 2.