Lamb Of God’s Mark Morton Talks Us Through Every Track On His Debut Solo Album
On April 12 2017, Lamb Of God guitarist Mark Morton tweeted a picture of him in the studio working alongside Chester Bennington, with the caption “Sounds KILLER too!”. It didn’t take long for the news to spread – within minutes the Internet was set ablaze with rumours of a new supergroup. Less than three months later, however, the Linkin Park frontman had sadly taken his own life, and it looked uncertain whether any material from the collaboration – among the singer’s final recordings – would ever surface.
A year on, Mark eventually confirmed the collaboration would see the light of day to a fan on Twitter. “Chester and I made some really cool music together that we were both SUPER stoked about,” he wrote, adding “And you will hear it!” Finally, the wait is over. Anesthetic, the debut solo album by the axeman will be hitting the shelves on in March and features not only Chester Bennington on opening track Cross Off, but also Lamb Of God bandmate Randy Blythe, Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, Testament’s Chuck Billy, Myles Kennedy, Mark Lanegan and Alice In Chains’ Mike Inez among its star guests.
Of course, we had to find out more, so here’s the man himself explaining the story behind each of the 10 tracks.
1. Cross Off (featuring Chester Bennington)
“Like many songs on this album, this came from pieces and parts just sat around collecting dust in my files of ideas. As I’d go through, I’d evaluate them and see if they were usable for Lamb Of God – obviously that’s my main band. A lot of the music was the stuff I compiled out of things I liked but in no way could ever end up in my band. Cross Off started kinda on the fence, there are parts I could have fed through the LOG machine and it would have worked. When me and Josh Wilbur, my producer, initially started working on this project, this was one song we both gravitated to right away. It felt pretty hot, had a good groove, was both heavy and melodic… but it went through a lot of changes. That’s how him and I write, we’d sit on things for a few days and move things around a bit like Lego, seeing what we could build together. There’s a couple of party tracks on this album, this is definitely one of them. I was heavily involved with the lyrics, it was when I was coming out of a pretty heavy time in my life. I was thinking about rebirth and a fresh start… so the lyric references all of that, with a bit of ‘Fuck you!’ in there too, which mainly came from Chester!”
Papa Roach (Jacoby Shaddix, second right)
2. Sworn Apart (featuring Jacoby Shaddix)
“Jacoby is one of the sweetest guys around. He just oozes out energy and that’s just how he is. He doesn’t turn it on for when interviews start, he wakes up on the bus like that. There’s no point beating around the bush, this is a straight-up melodic radio rock track, which is why he’s on there. Me and Josh would literally be stood over the speakers scratching our heads wondering who would be best to sing on these tracks and it had to be Jacoby for this. It took a while to make it happen, he was busy and there were snags along the way but we stuck with it all like, ‘You are singing this goddamn song!’ and he killed it. He really loved the song and called me the day after we cut it super excited about how it turned out.”
3. Axis (featuring Mark Lanegan)
“This is my favourite song on the album and for several reasons. It’s really unique in that it has that looped drum sample with acoustic guitar and Lanegan’s voice… all these different elements that make it its own horse. I love the lyrics Mark came up with. I had sent him the demo with a working title – I don’t call songs number one, number five or whatever. I’ll pick a word and sometimes it might stay… Redneck was Redneck before we recorded it. The lyrics don’t contain the word ‘redneck’, nor is the song about one. The riff just had Redneck in its feel. I decided to call this song Axis, which is interesting because he had used that word in his lyrics… I don’t know if he saw it or was trying to reference that. There’s another funny story to this, I had originally sent him a different song. So he cut his lyrics to that and then I started having new ideas and rewrote the song around his vocals. The version on the album kinda started around his vocal and I wrote this whole new song underneath… which is backwards for me, usually it’s the way round! It’s my dream band on this track: Mark on vocals, Mike Inez from Alice In Chains on bass, Steve Gorman from The Black Crowes on drums and I get to play guitar. Also Marc Ford from The Black Crowes plays the solo, it’s not me playing lead, plus I have Myles Kennedy doing the ooh’s and aah’s on the chorus! Mike and Steve also play on another track called Blur. We cut the rhythms together at a studio in California, which was nice, a lot of times people are on tour so you end up sending each other files. We were all hanging out and trading stories from when they had played together back in the 90s. Funnily enough, when I asked Steve to do the track, he really didn’t know who I was. I didn’t expect him too, I never thought he was a modern metal guy… But he’s my favourite living drummer so I had to ask!”
4. The Never (featuring Chuck Billy and Jake Oni)
“Most of these songs didn’t fit the LOG mould. This one, however, is an exception, being more of a metal song. Josh was pretty adamant I needed some heaviness on the album because, to be honest, I felt I did metal in my main band and couldn’t do metal any better than that. It’s as good as I get, that’s the cream of the crop with me! I wouldn’t say we butted heads, Josh is one of my best friends and I really valued his input, but he stood his ground and explained my fans are naturally going to be metal fans that want to hear me playing metal. Eventually I understood it wouldn’t be right to do a record without some metal on there… and if I’m going to do it outside of LOG, I’m gonna get Chuck Billy and [Megadeth bassist] David Ellefson in my band. Ellefson actually did two songs, playing on the last track with Randy and Alissa. The people on this record is nuts! It was very humbling, having people willing to come work with me on this. Chuck’s an old friend, I’ve toured with David but I didn’t know a lot of the others before this. Myles and I had crossed paths but didn’t know each properly… I had a budget and it wasn’t a huge one, nobody did it for the money. I think they did it because they liked the songs and ideas. The Never is just a really cool, thrashy, heavy metal song – the perfect vehicle for Chuck’s voice. And I’ve been a fan of Testament since I was 15 years old, so three decades now, right?! To sit in the control room and hear him tracking his vocals was incredible. Thank you Chuck!”
5. Save Defiance (featuring Myles Kennedy)
“Myles Kennedy is a super talented musician. I don’t think people realise what a great guitar player he is, as well as having that amazing voice. He was so cool and professional about the whole process and really easy to work with. He’s another one who came instantly into our minds when thinking about which singers would be right. Myles wrote the lyrics and had been asking me what kind of things I wanted. I had to just tell him, ‘Do what you do, that’s why we want you on the track!’ That’s what I love about collaborating musically.”
6. Blur (featuring Mark Morales)
“He’s definitely a name people might not have expected on my debut solo album! Blur is one of my top three on the record and it’s because I’m a bit of a 90s kid. I was born in the early 70s so I was in my late teens/early 20s during that whole alternative grunge thing, whatever you wanna call it. I’d say it was my favourite time of music and ended up being a huge influence on me and the songs I write. Blur has that kind of vibe to it, this dirty pseudo-psychedelic groove thing. Like Axis, it had my dream 90s rhythm section on it and the vocals were a bit trickier because there were so many different routes we could go down. Mark was put on my radar by Josh, who kept telling me he was one of the best singers he’d worked with and could do anything with his raspy, soulful voice. I checked him out and it sounded killer, though – I’m sorry Mark – I was a little apprehensive because he’s not that well-known. I wondered if maybe we needed someone with a bigger name but after he took a couple of passes at it, I didn’t want anyone else on there… his voice was just too good!”
Buckcherry (Josh Todd, centre)
7. Back From The Dead (featuring Josh Todd)
“This song has this a real rock kinda feel, dare I say almost cock rocky… but in the best way! We needed a real vibrant rockstar guy, someone like Scott Weiland, a real star. I’d never met Josh, I didn’t even know if he was aware of who I was… and he didn’t at first! Then he looked me up and told me to send over the song. Within five minutes of playing that mp3 demo, I got a text saying, ‘I’m in!’ We didn’t really change a thing on this, other than cutting a pre-chorus in half. It was a perfect fit. I’m sure Josh is aware I don’t ride around in my truck listening to Buckcherry… but I appreciate what they do. I can listen to Crazy Bitch and tell it’s a very well-written hit song. I trusted his artistry and that’s why I asked him for this song – he’s the guy that had that thing we were looking for, so it was simple as, ‘Let’s call the dude!’”
8. Reveal (featuring Naeemah Maddox)
“I have a band with Jean-Paul Gaster from Clutch, Naeemah, Chris Brooks from Lionize and Yanni Papadopoulos from an underground instrumental band called Stinking Lizaveta who have been around for a long time. We have this band, yeah I guess I can call it a band, together. Naeemah is in Brooklyn, I’m in Virginia, Yanni is in Philly and the other two are in Maryland, so we meet in the middle every four or five months and write tunes. We’ve been recording in Baltimore as part of this ongoing project. I hope it sees the light of day, because there’s a little of taste of it here on Reveal. I love that project and wanted to include something like it. I don’t expect everyone that likes the Chuck Billy song to love this one but that’s kinda the point of this album. I hope people appreciate how good Naeemah is because she is amazing!”
9. Imaginary Days
“I broke out of my shell a bit and thought as it’s my album, I should sing a song. I pulled my pants down and showed everyone my ass! It turned out cool though, I really like it. We thought of a couple of people to sing it, but Josh pushed me on this and said I can do it and I should do it. So this is what I sound like, folks! I wasn’t too nervous because I have had to song on some LOG stuff in the studio before, but never at the forefront like this!”
Morton with Lamb Of God
10. Truth Is Dead (featuring Randy Blythe and Alissa-White Gluz)
“Randy is one of my best friends, he’s like a brother to me and everything that comes with it. I honestly think he’s the best in the world at what he does and just heard his voice on there. I wanted him to be a part of it. Putting him with Alissa for a heavy metal duet was really interesting. She was fantastic. He wrote his lyrics, she wrote hers and they all came together on this theme. The duality and juxtaposition of their voices is the most exciting thing about the song to me. She’s really trained as a musician so that beginning bit came out pretty ace. I was like a fan watching it all come together – obviously I did the music – but the lyrics and vocals was all them. For the most part, I just sat back and watched them take this thing I had worked on and make it better.”
Words: Amit Sharma
Anesthetic will be released on March 1 through WPP Records/Spinefarm.
Listen to Routes, Lamb Of God’s brand-new song featuring Testament’s Chuck Billy.
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