Housecore Horror Preview: Randy Blythe
Lamb of God frontman on his Kafkaesque manslaughter charges
By Richard Whittaker,
11:00AM, Fri. Oct. 24, 2014
When Lamb of God mouthpiece Randy Blythe signed up for the Richmond, Va., vets tour account As the Palaces Burn, he should’ve known things would get strange. He just couldn’t predict how much so. “It’s a documentary, not a Hollywood blockbuster,” he says. “Sometimes things get a little bit messy in the storytelling, just like they do in life.”
Messy is an understatement. In 2010, 19-year-old Daniel Nosek died from a brain hemorrhage after stage diving at a LOG show. Two years later, Czech police arrested Blythe and charged him with manslaughter.
The authorities claimed the singer had pushed Nosek off the stage during a Prague club gig. The tour movie then became a courtroom drama as Blythe faced decades in jail in a nation he barely knew. With the film screening at the Housecore Horror Film Festival on Friday in Emo’s Grindhouse Tent, 11pm, Blythe talked about his experiences – and will do so again at the same venue Sunday, 5:30pm.
Austin Chronicle: There’s the moment in the film when you were exonerated. The camera’s on you forever, and the look on you face, it’s like there’s 10,000 things going through your mind.
Randy Blythe: It was a very odd feeling, one I don’t want to ever feel again. I just wrote a book [Dark Days], and I wrote a lot about that moment. There were feelings of relief that I wasn’t going to be going to prison, but there was an over-arcing sadness within me. Happy was not an emotion I felt during that time at all, and still don’t.
I’m grateful I’m not in prison, but it’s not something I’m running around kicking up my heels about. It’s just a very tragic situation, and that stayed with me.
AC: It almost seems like a cruel joke. You’d gotten clean and sober, your bandmates were calling you the best Randy they’d ever known, and then this all drops out of nowhere.
RB: It’s no big secret I partied really hard for a very long time. At the end of my drinking, I was just, “Oh god, I might as well just be dead because I’m just a garbage can – an empty receptacle I pour alcohol into.” When I got sober, I learned about myself and trying to see the good in each moment, even when things are very uncomfortable.
So when I got arrested and went to prison – and the bail nonsense, and going back to trial – I think I was better prepared in some ways than someone who did not have the problem that I had learned to deal with it. For me, getting sober, I learned to stay in the present moment and say, “Okay, I’m six feet above ground. Right now, things are very uncomfortable. Right now, things are not going my way. Right now, I feel like drinking in order to escape what I perceive as an unjust world.”
That was a huge motivation for my drinking, or at least it was an excuse that I used. I don’t like the way the world is, so I’m just going to get drunk and forget about it. The world is going to be the world. It’s going to turn the way it wants to, with or without your approval, so you may as well deal with it.
AC: What was your learning curve on the Czech legal system like?
RB: After I paid my bail the first time, almost a quarter million dollars, the prosecuting attorney said, “No, we’re gonna object.” I went, “Okay, things are very different.” Because here in America when a judge grants you bail and you pay it, or you have a bail bondsman pay it, you’re free to go. If you don’t show up, they call Dog the bounty hunter to come and get you. There it was very, very different.
The Czech legal system is rather archaic. One thing you have to understand is that they were occupied for 1,000 years. First it was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Then they had their golden era of peace for 20, 30 years when they were an independent Czechoslovakia. Then the Nazis came. Boom, they’re under someone else’s rule once again. [Soon thereafter] the Communist Party came to power, and then at the end of the Prague Spring, the Warsaw Pact occurred, and boom, they’re under the Soviet powers until 1989.
So they’re still working the bugs out, and a lot of their legal code needs to be updated rather badly.
AC: What’s a Czech prison like?
RB: People kept asking me if it was as bad as Midnight Express, and it’s not as bad as that, but it’s not fit for human habitation. There are whole parts of it that are collapsing. The outside is painted pretty nice, and my wife showed me the website, and I started laughing. It showed guys in computer labs and in the gymnasium. That’s not the place I went to.
There was no ventilation in my cell, except a window. There’s no hot water. You get to shower twice a week. The food is not going to be winning any awards any time soon. It was an old dump. If it was in America, they’d atomize it and turn it into a Wal-mart immediately.
AC: You’d done tour docs before, but As the Palaces Burn started as a different kind of project: talking to fans around the world about how Lamb of God affected them. That’s still there, but then everything goes off the rail. What was the decision to keep that first half of the story, but then move on to the trial?
RB: Our manager, Larry Mazer, he came up with that concept to go and start interviewing the fans. We’d done a few DVDs, a fairly candid, open portrayal of what life is like with us. Of course you can’t know everything about being in a band from watching a two-hour DVD, but we were pretty honest about what we allowed to be shown.
There’s some uncomfortable stuff. Being in a band, everyone thinks you’re riding around in limousines, and hanging out with strippers, and flying in diamond-plated helicopters and that’s just not true. A lot of time the time, it’s just freaking boring, or it sucks.
We’re not pop stars, but we still make a pretty good living. So there’s something about this music that fans connect with on a very visceral level. That is not the case with your average pop fan, who is going to listen to whatever is thrown at them until the next thing comes along. Fans of our type of music are very, very, very loyal. It’s a lifestyle. They identify with the lyrics.
So we were like, “Let’s hear some of their stories, because we’ve told our story a bazillion times.” The movie was really going to be about the fans. We were going to be in it, but really turn the cameras away from ourselves and use the band as a vehicle to tell the story of these average people who listen to our music and all the music in our underground scene.
When the whole court thing happened, and after it was all done, that was the big question. How do we tie these stories together without making it a complete schizophrenic movie? There’s definitely a rather abrupt shift, but I think we still show the involvement of the fans, because the fans were, for the most part, overwhelmingly supportive of me even though I was accused of killing a fan.
Randy Blythe will take part in a one-on-one Q&A, Sunday, Oct. 26, 5:30pm, Emo’s, as part of the Housecore Horror Film Festival. As the Palaces Burn screens Friday, Oct. 24, 11pm in the Grindhouse tent.