Chris Adler: The Irresistible Force
Chris Adler is flying.
The sun is setting over the blurring canopy of oak and sycamore trees, a lush palette of oranges, reds, yellows, and purples, as Adler’s four-door sedan speeds down Interstate 64, the Blue Ridge Mountains disappearing behind him. Just how fast Adler is going on this two-lane stretch is unclear; he’s definitely over the posted 70 mile-per-hour speed limit, but the ride on this nearly empty two-lane road remains surprisingly smooth — after all, there are but a few lone tractor trailers on the road and the wheels on his gunmetal gray BMW 325is don’t begin to shimmy until at least 120.
Adler is hardly in a rush. He knows this road well, the major artery that connects his home in Richmond with Charlottesville, where his mother lives. He grew up here, in Virginia; the eastward transition from the mountains to the flatlands is comforting and familiar. And now that he has a three-year-old daughter, Adler appreciates more than ever the otherwise mundane commute that ends on the asphalt driveway in front of his house.
In six weeks, Adler will trade trees for tour buses and Dad duties for drums as he returns to “The Project,” as he calls it, the groove-metal band Lamb Of God. For the next 20 months, Adler will pound the drums nightly in support of “Straight For The Sun,” “Ghost Walking,” and the many new songs on the band’s latest full-length album, Resolution. It was only a year ago that he returned home to Virginia after two long years of touring; now, he’s preparing mind and body to hit the road once again. “We are very much in the calm before the storm,” he admits as the last rays of the ruddy sun wink beyond the treetops.
If this trip down I-64 is any indication, it promises to be a fast, smooth ride — with luck, returning home in 2013 just in time to see the leaves turn colors once more.
It came on hard and strong in March.
Outside, winter’s grip was receding from view, giving way to birds and flowers and the warming Virginia breeze. After a solid four months at home playing husband, Dad, and son, Adler felt his vocation begin to stir — an insistent impulse to play drums again, but not the kick drum, hi-hat, and snare combo he keeps at home to teach his daughter the basics.
He called his younger brother Willie, rhythm guitarist for the band. Willie felt the itch, too. Phone calls were made, pen met paper, and by July, Adler found himself sitting 350 miles away in a recording studio in Long Island City, Queens, scratching the terrible itch. For days and days, he laid down drum tracks that Willie, bassist John Campbell, lead guitarist Mark Morton, and vocalist Randy Blythe would build upon. His weapon of choice: the same massive, double-bass Mapex Black Panther kit he used for the albums Sacrament and Wrath.
It took an awfully long time to get through basic tracking, Adler admits. But for a mid-career musician, it is pleasure, not pain.
“It’s not lost on me that when we started this, the drums were done in ten hours. I’m still ready to knock it all out in one day, but our producer insists that you do two a day and go home and refresh. The studio is a luxury for me [now]. It makes for more creativity on the spot. If anything’s different than previous records, it’s that. When you get to the studio, you have to perform perfectly right away. There’s no time for overdubs. Get it right, or it will live on the recording. This is the first time that I came in and realized that I don’t have to kill myself that hard — I know 99 percent of what I’m going to do, but I can improve a fill along the way.”
Call it a perk of being on your seventh album in 13 years. Under the low lights of Spin Music Studios, Adler particularly relished the idea incubation — that creative give-and-take between producer and musician — that the extra studio time afforded him. Whether through headphones or on Spin’s plush, overstuffed tan leather couches, Adler embraced the experience as a time to meditate on his chops.
“It’s fun for me to not come into the studio so immediately focused on every part. You’re open to entirely new things. If you have time in the studio and you’re not in love with everything in the song, that’s a really good place to be in.”
The song, of course, is everything to Adler now. Like many young metal drummers, Adler was swept up in the beats-per-minute arms race early in his career, playing ever faster and more complex in a subconscious effort to demonstrate supremacy. Now, at age 39 and well past the point where he needs to prove himself to his peers, Adler has developed a laser-like focus on serving the music — not the ego.
“These are guys that oftentimes flow in and out of bands and are on 20 different albums by the end of their careers. This has been my only project ever playing drums. When you’re only in one project, that project is very much ego-driven for everyone in the band. I’ve really tried to get rid of that and step back and be objective and understand that it’s not about you or the capabilities of the band, but what is best for the song and the album. That’s played a big role in my progression as a player in the recording process of this record.”