Chris Adler: The Irresistible Force

Like drum hero and jazzmaster Billy Cobham, Adler focused on the spaces in between — unusual for a professional metal drummer who revels in sixteenth-notes. Still, Adler’s rapid rise to success and a lack of formal training led to fundamental problems that he had to grapple with on the road.

“I’m left-handed, but I play right-handed. For several years, I was really having trouble with my right foot taking lead on a pattern on the bass drum. It was annoying, and so depressing. I thought there was a problem with my muscle group; I could not figure out what was going on. Then it came to me: I’m left-handed, what if I start everything with my left foot? Allowing myself to do it, coming up with these things, it just worked, listening to my body.”

Chris Adler

Adler's Setup

Drums Mapex Blaster (Walnut Burst)
1 22" x 18" Bass Drum
2 12" x 5.5" Chris Adler Signature Black Panther Snare (discontinued)
3 10" x 9" Tom
4 12" x 10" Tom
5 16" x 16" Floor Tom
6 18" x 16" Floor Tom

Cymbals Meinl
A 14" Soundcaster Custom Medium Soundwave Hi-Hats
B 14" Generation X Filter China
C 8" Classics Bell Effect Cymbal
D 8" Byzance Traditional Splash
E 12" Soundcaster Custom Distortion Splash
F 14" Soundcaster Custom Medium Crash
G 16" Mb8 Medium Crash
H 18" Byzance Brilliant Medium Thin Crash
I 14" Byzance Dark Hi-Hat (played closed)
J 17" Byzance Traditional China
K 24" Mb20 Pure Metal Ride
L 16" Generation X Filter China

Electronics Roland
M PD-6 Single-Trigger Pad with TD-7 Module

Chris Adler also uses Mapex cymbal boom arms, Gibraltar rack, Trick PRO 1-V pedals, Aquarian Clear Response 2 heads, Pro-Mark Chris Adler Signature sticks, and DB drum shoes.

Exposure was also an issue; the landscape quickly becomes familiar when you only play for one band. To keep his playing fresh, Adler forced himself to ring up peers and trade tips. It wasn’t an easy mental hurdle to overcome.

“I’ve been sitting down with different guys. A lot of the new trend has been bringing almost fusion stuff into metal. I also started reading tabs. That may be simple, but I never used to do stuff like that. It adds little tools in your tool belt. I want to be better on this record than I was on the last. If there has been evolution, it has been driven by me opening myself up to other peoples’ headspace and gaining an appreciation for different types of playing.”

The roles quickly reversed. This year, Adler toured the U.S. solo behind the “A Throne With A View” drum clinic. For a month, he had to play unaccompanied to hundreds of diehard drumming fans. Alone. The experience was sheer terror.

“In the past, I was so insecure in my playing that I was unwilling to sit down with anyone else and share my playing. It was honestly an embarrassment. Recently, I got out and did a clinic tour that was very well accepted — but it was torturous for me because I couldn’t believe it was happening; I didn’t feel I belonged there. Doing that — what I was afraid of, and conquering it — made a huge impact in my accomplishments.”

Success on the clinic circuit gave Adler renewed confidence to examine his technique, and on Resolution, Adler decided to retrain his focus from his feet to his hands.

“From the beginning, I had a natural talent for doing things rhythmically with my feet. It gave me kind of an advantage on an audio level. Now, I’m spending a lot of time with the hands and varying time signatures on different kinds of fills. I now really understand some of the math behind it. It’s really helped me expand on what’s available.”

When Loyalties Collide

When the seemingly endless string of shows that comprise a 20-month tour loom in front of you, preparation is key. Between clinic dates and recording sessions, Adler says he’s taken pains to do just that, readying his body and his mind to be even more resilient on the road than in the recording studio. It’s something he takes quite seriously.

“In a live setting, I’m harder on myself. Both really require a lot of me off of the kit. There’s a tremendous amount of practice, of course, but for me as I get older I need to stay in pretty good shape and avoid injury performing. The seven months leading up to the recording process, I didn’t have a drink, didn’t smoke, ran 45 miles a week in the gym — this is my job. I really want to do my job really well. It’s a matter of pride for me. I know when I get on stage, I want to be in top form — for myself and for the people paying money.”

For a seasoned pro, however, the grind is mostly mental. With a three-year-old daughter in tow, it’s getting harder for Adler to leave home for long periods of time — even if he’s doing something he loves. It’s something with which his bandmates are intimately familiar.

“It’s very difficult for us to leave our wives for that long a period of time. It’s not easy. It is emotionally torturous to be away. It’s very similar to military couples. It’s support for both people, because the wives are behind and wake up in the same house with the same chores to do. At least we wake up and there are people smiling and wanting to hear our art. It’s probably the most difficult part of the job. The tradeoff, though, is that if I didn’t do it — if I only stayed at home to be a Dad — it would really build a sense of unhappiness and regret.”

As Lamb Of God comes up on its 17th year as a band, it’s safe to say that the path of rock and roll is no longer paved with girls and beer. But it’s a rewarding one all the same — every night, under the Klieg lights, enveloped in the din of a thousand roaring fans.

“There’s an overwhelming commitment to both the instrument and the love of the art we create. A lot of people see past that and expect the glamour and limousine moments. But there’s a lot of time, effort, and loss to do it at this level. Being a musician now and trying to make a living by that, it is probably, other than real estate, one of the most difficult ways to try to make a living.”

It’s a long road. But at the speed at which Adler can handle it, it promises to be surprisingly smooth.

Next page: Chris Adler transcriptions with streaming music

Page 3 of 5
Get the How To Tune Drums Minibook when you subscribe to our newsletter