Florida is gearing up for a couple huge music festivals in the spring. The Fort Rock Festival will feature Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, A Day To Remember, Megadeth, Lamb of God, Anthrax, Sevendust, Ghost, Avatar, Disturbed, Shinedown, Bring Me The Horizon, 3 Doors Down, Sixx: AM, Pennywise, Bullet for my Valentine, Pop Evil, Asking Alexandria, Trivium, Red Sun Rising and more. To the north, Welcome to Rockville will have HellYeah, ZZ Top, A Day To Remember, Clutch, Cypress Hill, P.O.D., We Came As Romans, Texas Hippie Coalition, Issues, Sick Puppies, Collective Soul and others.
Guitarist Mark Morton of Lamb of God discusses coming to Florida in the spring for both the Fort Rock Festival in Fort Myers, as well as the Welcome to Rockville Festival in Jacksonville, which are both two-day festivals that will be going on simultaneously on April 30 and May 1.
Author Marisa Williams: Do you have any Florida stories, or are you look forward to anything while you will be in Florida playing the Fort Rock Festival in Fort Myers, or the Welcome to Rockville Festival?
Lamb of God’s Mark Morton: We started recently the Slipknot tour in Florida. We did a preproduction there, so I brought my wife and daughter down for the tour. In Orlando, we went on the big ferris wheel, the Orlando Eye. My daughter is five-years-old, and our guitar tech has daughter the same age, so he took his daughter, too. It was a real fun night. My thoughts on Florida are that it has a very historic death metal scene, with lots of legendary bands, Death being the most obvious. It has a really strong metal scene there. Bands in Florida know what they’re doing. It’s always fun to come down and play.
Marisa: Do you think it is odd that there are two major two-day metal festivals both happening on the exact same days in Florida, and do you think it will be a long jump playing Fort Rock in Fort Myers on Saturday, and Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville the very next day on Sunday?
Mark: Do I think it’s odd? Well, that’s not really my department, but obviously the promoters thought there was enough of a metal scene in Florida: enough to support two hard rock metal festivals there, and enough people interested to make it worth doing. I don’t doubt that there is. It’s quite a short distance for us to travel between shows. It’s not uncommon to travel 400-500 miles between shows the next day. That’s part of touring. A lot of times, we will be finishing at 11 p.m., have the crew packed up by 2 a.m., drive all night to next show, drive in the next morning. Staying in the same state, that’s nothing for us.
Marisa: The band was originally called Burn the Priest, and it was formed with guys you knew from attending the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. I am curious, what were you studying then, and what did you study when you left the band to pursue your Master’s Degree? Did you attend the same university for your Master’s?
Mark: Undergrad was from the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. My major there was in Political Science, and my minors were in International Relations and African American studies. From there, I enrolled at the Roosevelt University in Chicago for my Master’s in International Relations, so I left the band to pursue my Master’s degree. Part of the way through, I felt like I hadn’t finished everything I wanted to do with music. I was studying to be a government professor, but I felt I had more to do with music. It was not out of my system yet. I couldn’t focus on both, so I came back to Richmond, rejoined the band to see what I could get done. Millions of records later, we get our fifth Grammy nomination, so I’ve not gone back yet. Right now, it’s kinda of there’s still more to do with music.
Marisa: Do you think you will ever go back to finish that Master’s degree?
Mark: My guess would be no. I’ve been really blessed, had successful career with music, so as long as music will have me, I’ll stay here. At some point, life changes fast, so I’m not about to rule anything out; but right now, I really enjoy being a professional guitar player, so I’m still here.
Marisa: How did you first get involved in music? Did you come from a musical family? How old were you when you learned to play?
Mark: Oddly enough, no one in my family was a musician, but there was a lot of music in my home. People were always listening to music, particularly my mom. There was a lot of old classic country music, neighborhood soul and R & B, so I was really fascinated and exposed at early age. My brother is eight years older than me, so when I was at age 5 or 6, he was a teenager. It was the late 70s, so I heard a lot of what we now call classic rock, bands like Aerosmith and Molly Hatchet. Southern rock was a big thing, and I was exposed early on. I was drawn to it naturally, and I gravitated to it on my own. I got my first guitar at age 12, which was a nylon string acoustic guitar out of newspaper for $15, which I guess was kind of expensive back then for out of a newspaper, but I never put it down since.
Marisa: What is the writing process like for you? What comes first, guitars, drums, vocals, or something else? Have the musical writing process changed for you at all over the years?
Mark: Our writing process as a band is pretty consistent. It almost always starts with guitar riffs. We write instrumentalist first, so the music is written first. It almost always starts with music on guitar from myself or Willie (Adler), the other guitarist in the band. We show the band what we’ve been working on, and the band builds off those guitar parts. Lyrics, Randy (Blythe) our singer and myself write the lyrics, which are written separately. I’m always jotting stuff down in notebooks, and Randy does the same thing. Sometimes, we write specifically for a song, but often, we are compiling on our own to be used for lyrics. Once the band has songs instrumentally, we will come, take out our lyric books, skat lyrics over instrumentals written, and put stuff together, so it is done separately and paired together at the end.
Marisa: What is your favorite musical technique?
Mark: I think for me, maybe something people wouldn’t expect from a guitar player in a metal band, I’m very much influenced by British blues, stuff like Jimmy Page, Jimmy Hendrix, Peter Greene from Fleetwood Mac, Eric Claypton… Classic blues rock is probably the style of playing I most often reference, so one of the things I do is try to incorporate that classic blues rock sound in the context of a heavy metal band, to varying degrees of success over the course, and sets us apart from our peers. That’s a contribution that adds originality within the realms of being a heavy metal band.
Marisa: Can you pick a song, not necessarily your favorite, but one that stand out as far as the creative process goes, and walk us through what the production was like in creating the song itself?
Mark: We have a song called “Walk With Me in Hell,” and that is interesting on a lot of levels. It’s one of the songs I’m most proud of for a lot of reasons, such as how it wound up and manifested itself. It’s easy to misinterpret, as it sounds anti-religion, or conflicted spiritually, but it is actually a love song written to my wife, by me. No matter how bad things get, you always have someone with you and always have a partner to walk with you through the lowest points. I wrote the music to it as well, and it has one of the longest incubation periods. I worked with it for two years, not every day, but it took that long for all the pieces to be put together and get crafted into what became that song. Machine was the producer, and he took a liking to that song, so we worked together to make it sound very massive, echoing. There’s almost like a space age feel to the song. It has an incredible landscapish feel, with lots of elements, like panning from the left to right, both quiet and loud sonic quality.
Marisa: I toured on Ozzfest in 2002, and you toured in 2004 and 2007, so knowing how playful band members on that tour can be, I have to ask: were you ever subject to any pranks while on the Ozzfest tour, or on any other tour for that matter?
Mark: I don’t recall ever being pranked; maybe it’s time we were.
Marisa: What has been your most influential moment?
Mark: I think in life, fatherhood has been most life-changing moment for me. Becoming a father, if you do it the way I think you’re supposed to do it, your life no longer becomes about you. You can fall in love and get married, which I have done, but it doesn’t take your life as it was away from you. It doesn’t change your identity the way fatherhood does. It’s completely life altering. I made me aware of how selfish I was intuitively, forced me to make a welcome change, to make all decisions and actions more important than me considered first. Certainly, it has been the occurrence with the most immediate and drastic impact on my life.
Marisa: Do you have any advice for musicians who are just getting started?
Mark: For musicians getting started, it depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to make money, put down the guitar, drums, the microphone, or whatever it may be; put it down and start managing, because managers get rich off the music. If that’s not your interest, if being creatively fulfilled is your goal, then I suggest playing any music that comes from your soul, from you. Don’t chase a trend, because things change very quickly. If you don’t do what’s important to you, and I’m not really sure, as I have never done that, but I can imagine that you can be left unfulfilled. Play music that comes from emotions and your soul. If that’s something that brings you joy, not everybody has that. No matter what, I can sit with a guitar, play music, and that brings me joy; it’s fulfilling. To a musician, I would say don’t take that for granted; play honestly and purely.
For more information, visit www.lamb-of-god.com, www.twitter.com/lambofgod, www.facebook.com/lambofgod, www.myspace.com/lambofgod, and www.lambofgodvii.com. For more on the spring Florida festivals, visit www.welcometorockvillefestival.com and www.fortrockfestival.com. Marisa Williams earned her Master’s in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University; for more by Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.twitter.com/booksnbling.