, lead singer/screamer for Lamb Of God
, is unapologetic about what he does. He is also very open about it. On Sacrament, he was dealing with addiction and various problems but managed to dig deep inside and found a way to channel the darkness. Lamb Of God
is not known for the level of their lyric writing but here the singer talks about the process of creating those words and putting them on tape.
Ultimate-Guitar: You spoke very honestly about your latest project in the DVD and the issues you went through at the time. How did you ultimately rise to the occasion to complete everything you needed to do?
Necessity, I suppose. After a certain point, you have to do what you have to do. It was just a weird time for me or whatever. But I mean, I've been in the band 11 years and those dudes were counting on me. Despite whatever personal problems or writer's block or whatever anyone may have, you have to get your job done. We have a lot of fans that would be like, "Oh, that sucks
" - if I hadn't been able to pull it off. But I did. I'm not the only person in the world. Being in a band is a relationship and you just can't drop the ball on your significant others. If you aren't feeling well or whatever, you can't just say, "Oh, fuck it.
" So that's it. Just necessity.
It was interesting to hear that you're not involved in the pre-production. Is that the way you've always worked?
To a degree, I've been involved. For the most part, I don't play guitars or drums. So it's like, whatever. They do their thing and I can't be super-duper involved in it. It would be nice for them, I know, for me to be more involved with the project and the writing. I think they kind of wish that was true, but it doesn't really matter because I can't write.
When you first hear a track like "Walk With Me In Hell," do the guys bring the track to you and you start coming up with ideas for the lyrics?
For me, it's like I write at home. I'm by myself a lot and they bring me music. I see what in my notebook I've laid out would possibly fit the scenario. If I'm having writer's block or something, Mark writes lyrics as well. Like "Walk With Me In Hell," he wrote those lyrics. They were for a different song, I believe. Then he wound up writing them and it didn't work out with the song he had written. So I took them and transferred them to another song. But if I write, I do it at home. They produce music and I try and set it to it. And if I'm having an arrangement problem or whatever, sometimes they'll help me with it with the phrasing and so forth.
On "Again We Rise," is there a little bit of a harmony on the word "rise"?
|"Being in a band is a relationship and you just can't drop the ball on your significant others."|
Sure, yeah, yeah. It's a multi-track.
Is that you doing the harmony parts?
Yeah. On "rise," it's me and I believe Machine did a few of the higher harmonies. I mean, I laid down tracks for all of them, but on that particular part there are so many voices, I don't even know how many we used. When I do it live, I stay in the lower register, but in key.
It's been mentioned that you're able to deliver your growls and screaming in pitch. Is that something that's developed?
It's something definitely developed. I've worked with Machine, our producer, and my vocal coach, Melissa Cross, on that aspect of it. It's definitely been something I've worked on.
How do you not blow your voice out?
I did choir when I was a little kid in church or whatever, so I knew some singing theory like breathing from the diaphragm and so forth. By going to a vocal coach, Melissa Cross - great vocal coach - she helped me with the actual physical placement in the throat. It's not pushing too hard. You push hard enough to produce the sound, but not so hard that you're just destroying your throat. Eventually I think you can only scream for so long. So far it hasn't burned me out. So, knock on wood, it won't for many more years. Her techniques have helped a lot.
What about a track like "Redneck"? Are you the person that you're singing about?
No, I am not. Mark wrote those lyrics. The record can be introspective at times in the stuff he wrote, and some of the stuff I wrote is definitely introspective, in what can be construed as a negative way almost. I talked to him about it. When he writes lyrics, I like to know what he's writing about and kind of put my spin on it. Generally, it's not about any one person in particular. It's about people in the music industry whose egos become needlessly inflated and they show it. It's a general song. It's applicable to anyone in their life. If a fan thinks, "Oh, well, this guy is a prick,
" go ahead and take it and make it yours.
I love the phrasing in that song. Do you hear the rhythm of the vocal or do you just try various ways out?
Mark wrote that song. He wrote the lyrics and the arrangement, so he's like, "Do it like this.
Was "Pathetic" written by you?
Partially, I believe. Some of them Mark writes and then some of them I write. We write some of it together. Primarily, I believe, that one was Mark's.
What about "Foot To The Throat"?
There are interesting images like "thief in an empty vault" and "hope in a dead man's dream, the sound of a bell that will never ring." Are those lyrical ideas that you had in your notebook and they were called up for that song?
The end of the song is "you're wasting time.
" That's a lyric. All those other things, I wanted to convey a sense of fruitless activities. Each and every one of those is a pointless object, like "a screen door on a submarine.
" Actually that's a joke I've heard for years. It's like, "Yeah, I need another whatever like I need a screen door on a submarine.
" That was the first lyric I wrote, and then the rest I came up with as examples of useless things.
Are you a reader?
A voracious reader.
Do you find yourself picking up imagery from the things you read?
Are there any authors in particular that you like to read?
|"It's like I write at home. I'm by myself a lot and the band brings me music."|
As far as prose goes, it's kind of trite. As far as prose goes, my favorite overall is Hemingway because he redefined prose. He really made an effort to cut out unnecessary words, punctuation, and so forth, and made it pretty linear. Some would say it's a bit too minimalistic, but his use of dialogue is amazing. If you read it enough and know what you're doing when you read it and know how to look at what he's saying in the few words he says, it's astounding, the efficiency.
What about other lyric writers?
I try not to rip their stuff, but I like their style. I like Nick Cave a lot, Nick Cave from the Bad Seeds. I like Iggy Pop, Johnny Rotten, the old punk rock dudes.
What about "Descending"? One of the lines is, "The river I'm bound to be found in/A rope chosen, bound for the hang." They are really good lyrics that might be overlooked by fans who simply see LOG as a thrash guitar band.
Over the years, the band has learned that it's actually important to have a singer. They were an instrumental band for about a year before I joined. They would write stuff and there just wasn't much room for a lyrical flow. Over the years, they noticed more people actually paying attention to the singer. He's not just a prop up there. They started to structure their writing a little bit more like, "Oh, I guess we'll leave more room for a verse or a half-chorus or whatever I hear, or that will work well with the lyrics.
" Whereas before they were focusing on the music because we were all still learning how to play and how to be in a band.
There's a massive amount of detail and attention paid now to where spaces should be. I'm very appreciative of that. I know Mark sometimes, on songs that he writes and the lyrics - whereas they write music and I come in later and put the lyrics to it - Mark will sometimes write lyrics as he writes the song. Or he'll write the song for the lyrics. That's a different way of thinking in writing that I'm not capable of because I'm not a music writer. But I know it's important to him as well. I think other people in the band are picking up on that, where to leave room for the phrasing and so forth.
Was the band called Burn The Priest during its instrumental period?
Yeah, we were Burn The Priest first and then I joined after they had been instrumental for?They started the band the winter of '94. I joined a little less than a year later and we were Burn The Priest up until 1999.
Did you go to see the band when they were called Burn The Priest?
I saw them at one show. The first time I ever saw them, I saw them at a show and I was with my girlfriend at the time. I looked at them at a party and I looked at her and said, "Okay, that's the band I'm going to sing for.
" She said, "Whatever.
" A week later I was singing for them.
What was it that you heard about them that made you think you were right for the band?
I was in a band with the old guitar player, Abe. He had asked me to try out for them. I was busy for a few months traveling and so forth. I said, "Look, when I come back from traveling, I'll try out.
" The night I got back from traveling, I went and saw them play at a garage behind some friends or our's house. It was a big party and they were just really, really loud, really tight, concise, and heavy. I'm not really that much of a metalhead. I come from more of the punk rock background, but I really appreciate good musicianship and I love heavy stuff. They're fucking heavy and they're tight and they're concise, so that's what attracted me to them.
Do you remember some of those early rehearsals? What was it like trying to put those two pieces together, the music and the lyrics?
|"Music industry people in Los Angeles are a bunch of f--king scumbags who are self-important, with inflated egos."|
At the first rehearsal, they gave me a cassette tape of several songs they had recorded and I tried out. I just listened to the cassette tape for a week. Then during that week I picked a song, I wrote lyrics, fit it to it, came in. They started playing and I started singing. The rest is history.
The song "Forgotten" says, "I can't write you a happy song/I can't write you a sing-along/The only catchy hook I've got is the one in my bleeding gut." I love that. Do you think you're incapable of writing a positive song?
Sure. The song is about specifically music industry people in Los Angeles. They're a bunch of fucking scumbags who are self-important, with inflated egos. They think the world revolves around them. The music industry is a huge money machine, and a money machine wants hits. Hits generally are not angry, introspective, or politically aware songs. They are boy-meets-girl and "la-la-a, I love you, baby
." That's bullshit. It's not real. It can be real in your personal life, but to present that as art, it's just audio pollution. You put that in music and it's audio pollution, except for the old soul singers. They were awesome. Like the old Motown, old R&B. But they said every single thing you could say in a love song. So that form is dead, pretty much, I think. It's vapid. I can't write that shit. It's not real.
But in a way, Lamb of God is part of that machine now. It's on a big label, big tours, and merchandising. It does sound that you went in and really made the record you wanted to make, though. How do you keep the balance?
What happened was we first met with Epic before we signed anything and we were very close to signing. I met the president and looked at her and basically told her not to fuck with us or we'd go elsewhere. I said, "Okay, let's get one thing straight first. You can't tell us what to write, how to write, to change anything, who to work with, how to do it. Don't bring us any of these stupid, clich?, rock and roll ideas or producers. We aren't trying to give you a radio hit. Be aware of that. Don't think you can make us do anything that we don't want to do.
" The rest of my band was like, "Oh, my God!
" But they were just looking at me in horror. The president looked at me and she started apologizing. She's like, "Oh, please don't think that!
" I'm like, "Okay, good.
" And so far they've been good to their word. They don't fuck with us.
In "Requiem" you sing, "Down, chemical sacrament." It's a cool line. Is that yours?
That particular line isn't mine. It's kind of weird hearing little pieces of these songs. This tour we're playing 6 new ones, and 5 out of the 6 we've never played live. So it's kind of like weird. It's like muffled memories, thinking of them again, remembering the lyrics. Just throwing stuff out of the blue, it's hard for me even to remember where the next verse is. Mark and I, we wrote a lot about getting fucked up basically on this record. That's what that one's about, I believe. That line specifically is Mark's. It's putting something in your body to make you feel something better, even though you know you really shouldn't do it.
What about "More Time To Kill"?
That one's mine.
"Each day you breathe, it's more time to kill." What were you thinking about for that particular track?
Someone in particular that I really don't like. It's entirely literal. You can read the lyrics and they're exactly what they say. It's this guy I really, really, really dislike, and could give a fuck less if he disappeared. Go fuck off and die. It actually pisses me off that the dude has pissed me off bad enough to write about him. But he doesn't know it's about him. That song also I'm worried that I'm like, "Oh, I'm devoting this energy to it.
" And then I was like reading it and I was like, "Wow, man! Everybody has somebody they don't like.
" So that fans can take this and make it their own. That's what it's all about, on this record particularly for me, lyrically. It's kind of taking things and making them so they could be generally applicable to anyone's lives. That way the fan feels a sense of connection with the music.
Talk about the last track, "Beating On Death's Door."
I've known a lot of people over the years with various substance abuse problems. Specifically, I've known a bunch of heroin junkies. None of us have ever been on smack or anything like that or heavy drug usage. But heroin junkies tend to be a rather useless lot. It's an amalgamation of my experience with several different people who dance with the needle and how pathetic and self-serving it is.
The last word on the record is "broken." Are things going to get fixed?
|"I don't like be constrained to just one thing."|
Not for that person. Brutality life sucks. Don't fuck up.
Was Halo of Locusts a side project of yours?
I started that band with a friend of mine, Chris McPhearson, maybe four or five years ago in order to do something a little bit different than what I do with Lamb of God. I don't like be constrained to just one thing. It evolved. It's my other band. We've done a tour and done some recording and stuff, but right now we haven't signed with anyone or anything because my focus has to be with Lamb of God. They're my primary responsibility. We're kind of on hiatus, Halo is, right now. When I get time from this stuff, I will put a product out and it will be something different from Lamb of God. That's for sure.
Will it present you singing in different ways?
I don't know. It's gonna be interesting. We'll have to see. Yeah, I'm sure the vocals will be somewhat different. It's a much rawer band and it's much more punk rock, a lot slower. I dig slow!
Would you ever get to the place where you might use a more natural or cleaner voice?
It would depend on what the song was like. So far I haven't had anything presented to me that would make any sense like that. So I sing the way I do.
Was Machine an influence and an important part to bringing out your vocals?
We were much more open to his suggestions and ideas this time around because we had worked with him before. We're a hard band to work with. We're a very self-contained unit, as it were. We don't let really anyone mess with us, with our ideas. We let him in more this time. He gave us some valuable input, as far as structuring some stuff, cutting some things that he thought were unnecessary, where to put choruses maybe. So yeah, he was a good influence also, sonically for me, as far as range and so forth, definitely influential.
He would push you to try different things range-wise?
Do you know the kind of microphone you use?
I have no clue of what he used. We used several different microphones, depending on what it was. I have no idea.
When your voice is on tape and it's right, do you know it?
Sometimes. It depends on how many takes I've done. If I've done 80 million takes, then no because it all becomes a mush in my head.
What will the tour with Megadeth and Children of Bodom be like?
Children of Bodom isn't on this tour. We're out with Megadeth, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Overkill, The Smashup, Sanctity, Into Eternity. I think that might be it. There are a lot of us. Today is the first day (of the tour) and the second band just finished playing. It seems like everybody's being really cool. We're gonna have a good time.
Do you listen to those singers at all?
No. I listen to some of the bands, but none of those singers. I don't really consider them an influence on me, personally.
2006 Steven Rosen