Lamb of God bassist John Campbell gives us the inside track on how Covid-19 has affected arguably America’s most successful heavy metal band of modern times and on a more personal level, the impact of the pandemic on him. Buzzing after just receiving his second vaccine jab, and fresh from an invigorating bike ride in his native Richmond, Virginia, LoG’s only constant member since their formation in 1994 opens up to ZT inquisitor Paul Castles.
ZT: Hi John, thank you for talking with ZT. So, the band have recently released Live in Richmond, VA, a live album but one performed before a virtual audience. What was the mindset behind that performance at The Broadberry in Richmond and how difficult did you find it to get up for the gig without an actual crowd to feed off?
JC: It was certainly a very different performance. There was a lot of dead air in that room. When we do what we do normally there’s always a lot of crazy energy going on and it becomes something more than just playing music. That was definitely lacking in that experience but that said, we’ve recorded stuff tons of time without an audience, like making a video. But in a video you can focus on looking cool, you’re not even plugged in, so this was more pressure having to look cool and play! It was also more pressure as there were a lot more cameras but it was just great to hang out, play music and see some of the crew guys.
ZT: Most of the songs are from your latest self-titled album that came out during the pandemic last year – how disappointing is it that the fans haven’t had a chance to see you perform this new material in person?
JC: Of course, there is a bit of frustration at our end as we feel our latest album is our best work to date and yet we haven’t been able to play it live. So this recording was monumental in a sense. It’s been an incredibly frustrating time and the longest I’ve been at home in 20 years.
ZT: You’re due back on the road in July with a US tour with Megadeth followed by a UK tour with Kreator in December. Do you feel anticipation is going to be ratcheted higher than ever by crowds starved of live music?
JC: It will be very interesting to see how the world emerges post Covid. I think every holiday from here on out, the first Easter, Christmas, Mardi Gras whatever since Covid is going to be immense. I’m looking forward to that energy exchange at the shows with that energy having been locked up in bubbles – I just hope people come out of the pandemic and focus on positive things. It’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and as the world comes together, I hope people enjoy it in a beautiful and joyous kind of way.
ZT: A LoG tour is a big operation executed with military precision. Do you ever hanker for those early days of just the guys in the bus?
JC: Those early days it was just the sheer adventure of it all. It was like Vikings in a long boat tootling along the highway and seeing what kind of mayhem you could create. It was pre-internet and was different but we can still find ways to get that same vibe when we have the odd day off to just go and explore a town for a day.
ZT: Are there many places around the world where you would still like to play?
JC: Alaska and Hawaii are the only two States we’ve not played so we need to check them off. We haven’t played the Middle East and there are people there who really like heavy music. The issue is with the power structures in place that don’t. There’s not an appetite for a band called Lamb of God to play a really religious country and ruffle their feathers.
ZT: On an emotional level how did you find living with lockdown?
JC: Like everyone, I’ve had some days better than others, some have been very difficult. But for the first time I’ve been home for more things like my kids’ birthdays which has been amazing for me. That is something as a touring musician which you just have to deal with, but missing things back home can weigh heavy on your heart.
ZT: How have the kids reacted to seeing a lot more of dad?
JC: I think it’s been great for them to have dad around and we’ll see when I go back out on tour if they’re relieved or miss me!
ZT: Have you taken up any new hobbies during your spare time?
JC: It’s still been mainly nose to the grindstone, staying busy with music. There’s been a few frustrating things that have taken a lot of my attention but a lot of people have had the same things in their lives. I’ve still been playing a lot of instruments and I just got an acoustic electric bass which is cool to have around. On my bike ride, which is something I have taken up recently, I have a music shuffle on and an old Violent Femmes song came on with acoustic bass. I just thought ‘tremendous, I’ll go home and play that!’ I live in a neighbourhood close by the James River which runs through Richmond and the James River Park is beautiful to ride through.
ZT: Are the individual friendships within the band as strong as ever?
JC: Sure, we’re still a family. We come together in person when we need to discuss serious things. Randy and I were sending each other stupid audio texts the other day, and I’ve seen Mark a few times and helped him with some stuff at his place. We’ve always got a plan for the future so there’s a lot of business calls and we’ll come together more once the pandemic is officially over. One of the worst things about being on tour is unless you spend time in your hotel room with a lock you never have any privacy because it’s their space too. That’s one of the most exhausting things about touring, I’m pushing 50 and I can’t get a moment alone!
ZT: If a kid hits you up for some advice at a show, what do you tell them?
JC: Just have fun, just making noise, building muscle, it’s a slow process and you get better with it over time. And don’t expect it to pay your bills. We never dreamt of succeeding on this level and that has been part of the key why we’ve lasted so long, just enjoy. We’re not a band who moved to LA to be successful we’re just dudes from Richmond, Virginia, who happen to be here at the same time and speak the language.
Lamb of God, Live in Richmond, VA is out now via Nuclear Blast as a CD/DVD digipack
UK dates are on sale now as follows: Tickets here 14.12.2021 – Bristol, O2 Academy 15.12.2021 – Manchester, Academy 16.12.2021 – Glasgow, O2 Academy 17.12.2021 – Birmingham, O2 Academy 19.12.2021 – London, O2 Academy Brixton
Thanks for dropping in!
If you’re here maybe you should think of adding Zero Tolerance Magazine to your arsenal of regular reading? We offer a 3-issue trial subscription to whet your appetite. http://store.ztmag.com