Flammable Material: Randy Blythe And Jason Aalon Butler Go Head To Head
This summer, Lamb Of God vocalist Randy Blythe posted a series of images on Instagram titled Respect. The arty, black-and-white snaps showed three men running riot onstage, hurling flight cases into the crowd, ripping up carpets and emptying bins over each other. That was just another day at the office for FEVER 333, but Randy was so captivated by what he witnessed that he wrote a message praising the band for their energy and music. “Real recognises real, motherfuckers,” as he eloquently put it.
A few weeks on from that chaotic set, Randy has now become firm friends with FEVER 333’s Jason Aalon Butler. Bonding over their shared passions and outspoken attitudes, both men’s thirst for revolution is legendary – often putting their system-smashing rhetoric into their two distinct brands of heavy music.
Despite coming from two different worlds – Jason, the streets of Inglewood, California and Randy on the opposite coast in Richmond, Virginia – they share similar worldviews and use their platforms to encourage positive change.
“People are like, ‘Musicians should stick to doing music,’” spits Randy, today sat opposite Jason on a cosy leather sofa. “That’s the most asinine, inane mentality I’ve ever heard, and it displays an astounding ignorance about the role of music throughout history. It’s been an agent of change for as long as we can remember. So when people say, ‘Just stick to music,’ I say, ‘Well, go fuck yourself!’”
Today, Kerrang! is attempting to play referee as Jason and Randy put the world to rights and discuss their individual journeys towards being modern-day missionaries for said change. Let’s dive right in…
You each discovered alternative music through punk rock. Was the idea of music with a message instilled in you at a young age?
Jason Aalon Butler (FEVER 333, vocals): “There was a visceral appeal to punk rock and hip-hop for me. At first, it was the way I felt about it, then I started seeing people like Randy wearing Bad Brains shirts, so I’d go to the store and buy that record. It was really a communal, tribal thing at the beginning, which spoke to various ideologies that were way more inclusive than we give them credit for.”
Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God, vocals): “The first real music I remember hearing that moved me, was when I was in 7th grade and this kid gave me a cassette with the Sex Pistols’ Holidays In The Sun on it. I was like, ‘Okay, these guys are pissed! They feel the way I do.’ I wasn’t even a teenager, but I thought it was awesome and I started researching – this was before the internet existed – finding out about what these people were talking about. I also remember being on the bus in high school when someone played Public Enemy and I was like, ‘What the fuck is that?’ It was abrasive as shit. I listened to Chuck D because he had a message.”
Jason: “Public Enemy is the one. Fear Of A Black Planet changed the way I looked at my life as a mixed-race kid in Inglewood who was light-skinned but only knew black culture, and only knew that struggle. There other thing is, I was going to shows when I was 12 because of skateboarding. Skateboarding is what got me into punk rock.”
Randy: “And that’s another crossover between hip-hop and punk rock.”
Jason: “They all share DNA. That’s what I hope people understand. At the nexus of it all, it’s about change on some level. It doesn’t need to be some hyperbolic idea of, ‘We’re going to change the world tomorrow.’ We’re real people, we know it doesn’t start like that, but the catalyst, like Randy said, and anything that precipitated change has always been art – art, music and expression.”
Do each of your bands strive for similar, liberally-minded goals?
Randy: “I would definitely call myself politically more liberal, but I also have some conservative tendencies. I don’t like to be shoved into a box, especially if you look at the U.S. right now, everything is so divisive, it’s almost like sports.”
Jason: “That’s exactly what it is.”
Randy: “As I get older, more and more I see that liberal and conservative are both sides of the same coin. The American political system is not representative of the masses, that’s why you have the Electoral College, which was set up by the founding fathers, saying they don’t trust the commoners to make the right decision. There’s problems with every political system, but right now where we live is pretty fucked up.”
You also each have Scottish heritage, right?
Randy: “On my father’s side there’s some Scottish. I love Scotland, I have friends in Larkhall, outside Glasgow. Every time I have a day off I immediately jet to the Highlands.”
Jason: “My uncle lives in Inverness, and my mom’s whole side of the family is over there. She just moved from Glasgow to live in Los Angeles, though.”
Randy: “Your mom is straight-up Scot?”
Jason: “Oh yeah, my mom’s from Sighthill.”
Randy: “You’re a Weegie?”
Jason: “Hell yeah, bro!”
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Where do you draw the line between preaching and getting your message across?
Jason: “I think about that all the time. We were in Italy recently, in a stronghold for people who were opposing the occupation during World War II, and I wanted to talk about it because I felt that energy, but I can’t tell other people what to do with their systems or their government because I don’t live it.”
Randy: “I think that’s a huge thing about us as humans, as a global community. As Jason’s saying, he doesn’t live in it so it’s not his place to tell people what to do, but what’s important for understanding on a global level is that we have to talk to each other; to have honest, open conversations, to not get butt-hurt when someone says something we don’t agree with – to have some empathy with people.”
Jason: “That’s why he’s my guy. What I try to encourage is empathy. When I’m onstage, I’m not there to push my agenda, because my agenda can be very radical and not easily implemented in a larger population. A lot of my ideas are for myself – my dietary choices, or what I choose to consume – but what Randy’s saying is the answer. When I was younger I used to identify my sadness with anger, so I would get into fights, hang out with my gangbanging friends, go to shows and fucking destroy things. Now I’m an adult and I have an emotional discourse with myself, I think that open, honest conversations are uncomfortable, but they yield a better result than pulling punches.”
Randy: “You don’t have to be abrasive when speaking your truth, you can have a little social grace, but it’s important to be open and honest. For this to happen it needs to start on an individual level. If you’re feeling helpless and stuck in a place where nobody understands you, you can reach out to someone who does. One on one is where change starts. When I saw FEVER 333 for the first time, the thing I appreciated the most was Jason saying, ‘We’re not asking you to agree with what we say, or to believe what we believe, but thank you for giving us this space to express ourselves.’ Being dogmatic, no matter where you’re from, turns people off.”
Did you enjoy your recent protest of the Westboro Baptist Church, Randy?
Randy: “That wasn’t a protest, that was a party. You can’t counter-protest those people, it’s pointless. I showed up with a bunch of people, 200 kazoos and drums and we made so much noise that nobody could hear a word they said. Everybody was smiling and everybody had a good time. A friend of mine, Danica Roem, was the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislature in America, and I got wind that the Westboro Baptist Church were coming to be assholes in our state capital, I was like, ‘No, not in my town – we’re going to party in your face!’”
You’ve also been involved in protesting, Jason, haven’t you?
Jason: “I’ve felt rubber bullets and mace.”
Randy: “I love the smell of tear gas in the morning!”
Jason: “With protest music and action, you’re asking people to put themselves in seemingly hazardous conditions, but I’m not asking anyone to do anything more than what Randy said. The most local change you can make is within yourself.”
Randy: “The change within myself, for me, is about asking some hard questions. ‘Why do I believe this? Why is this distasteful to me? Why is this attractive to me? Is this pressure to confirm put on me by my environment or is this what I truly feel?’ The ancients said it best, ‘To thine own self be true.’”
How do you feel about the landscape of rock and heavy music in 2019?
Jason: “To be honest, the homogenised, towing the line and safety aspect of heavy music in my generation isn’t even troubling, it just doesn’t attract me. I don’t think it’s sustainable. Authenticity comes in different shapes and forms, and to carbon copy the last thing you saw that was successful is like if you’re breeding something and getting the worst parts each time. That’s how I feel about the heavy music of my generation.”
Randy: “To be honest, I don’t listen to a lot of heavy music, I listen to a lot of ‘70s dub reggae (laughs). But I really like a band from Arizona called Holy Fawn, they put out a great record called Death Spells last year, and it’s like if My Bloody Valentine met Converge. They’re beautiful and soundscapey.”
Are bands too scared to say things that could potentially jeopardise their career prospects?
Randy: “In today’s world, there’s a culture of outrage. If anybody does anything that people don’t agree with, immediately there’s a lynch-mob mentality, where people will pile in on someone. But I don’t give a fuck! I grew up before the internet, and I’ve done things that have pissed people off and I’m still here. The outrage-of-the-day mentality is not conducive to artistic growth and inhibits people from taking real chances. Do what you’re gonna do, and if you’re real about it, it’s gonna prevail. If I was worried about what other people thought I would have given up way before now.”
Jason: “That gatekeeper mentality of punk rock, metal and hardcore is one of the most dangerous and degenerative things.”
Randy: “It’s antithetical.”
Jason: “It’s the antithesis of what punk and metal are supposed to be about. When you can’t be inclusive with these things, you’re literally going against what we thought the founding pillars were to this music. This gatekeeper mentality is more akin to things that we oppose and stand against, like racism, sexism and ignorance.”
Randy: “And that’s actually why all this stuff started in the first place. I don’t want to do what you tell me to do. I don’t want to look like you tell me I should look. I don’t want to listen to what you tell me I should like. I don’t believe what you believe. I don’t want to be in the mindless fucking herd or the hive-mind. I want to think for myself. That’s what I found in the underground music scene and that’s why I first got involved, because I was a fucking freak in high school. If you’re sitting behind a computer screening and judging people, that goes against everything this music stands for.”
FEVER 333 and Lamb Of God are touring the UK in November and April respectively.
FEVER 333 UK tour 2019
01 Bristol SWX
02 Birmingham O2 Institute2
03 Manchester Academy 2
05 Glasgow SWG3 TV Studio
06 Leeds Stylus
07 London O2 Kentish Town Forum
Lamb Of God UK tour 2020
21 Bristol O2 Academy
22 Manchester Academy
23 Glasgow O2 Academy
24 Birmingham O2 Academy
25 London O2 Academy Brixton
Lamb Of God’s first UK headline tour in a whopping eight years has – unsurprisingly – been pushed back to late 2021.
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