In the second of our new series ‘Gear Nerd’, we chat to LAMB OF GOD guitarist Willie Adler about how he got into playing guitars, his passion for the instrument and his set-up on stage.
Below is part one of this two part interview with the shredder. Here we learn how he got into playing the guitar, his influences and his career thus far. Head back on Friday (March 5th) for part two, where we learn more about his endorsers, set-up and his tips for budding guitarists…
RR UK: How old were you when you started playing guitar, and why did you choose guitar?
WA: I was 11. I don’t know why I chose guitar. I’d grown up playing piano from when I was about 6 years old and my brother had a guitar. I can’t remember where we were on vacation, but he brought it with him and I picked it up and just started playing and it felt great and natural, so it continued on.
RR UK: What styles have inspired you over your career, thing that you’ve toyed with and tried out?
WA: Definitely all metal, and I was a huge fan of Kirk Hammett back in the day, and Marty Friedman when Megadeth did the ‘Rust in Peace’ record. His style was just impeccable and just the runs he would use the crazy disseminate lines that were completely out of the box. I had never really learned any type of theory, so to me that was great because he was going all over the place. Even though they were actual scales, it wasn’t like major scales or just minor scales, he was just all over. That was definitely something I took with me.
RR UK: Now you’ve toured with many of the bands who originally inspired you and you’re considered at the same level as a lot of those people, who inspires you now?
WA: There’s so many young bands coming out now with dudes who can play circles around me, and it’s great to see. I guess part of it’s inspiration, but a lot of its like, “Damn, I can’t have these kids stealing my shit!” But yeah, it’s more of just keeping me on my toes, all these new bands coming out and doing this crazy stuff. It’s cool.
RR UK: You mentioned to me earlier that you didn’t really learn much theory, so were you self-taught or have you actually had guitar lessons?
WA: I had one guitar lesson and then I told my mum I wasn’t going back. I don’t think the guy wanted to rock and I wanted to rock, that’s all I wanted to do! So she let me cos I was enthusiastic about the instrument, it wasn’t like I was done with it. She knew that I would continue to play on my own for hours and hours a day.
RR UK: So what’s your practice and warm-up regime?
WA: Before a show? I’ll probably start warming up an hour before the show and I’ll just have a series of riffs of different songs from the set that are difficult to make, that I’ll just practice over and over again. Those riffs, they kind of embody every part of every riff we do, you know jumping around or going down the neck. There’s no finger exercises that I do or anything like that. I just play riffs.
RR UK: How often to do practice?
WA: While I’m on tour? Just that hour [when we’re on stage]! When I’m at home, I’ll pick up the guitar after I’ve been home for a little bit, I’ll just play for hours. You know just sit there and either be writing something or going through riffs. I spend a good amount of time playing guitar.
RR UK: So run us through your playing career, just briefly, first band you played in? How long between picking up the guitar and playing in your first band etc?
WA: I think it was in high school when we started messing around playing music together. So that was about 4 years after I started playing the guitar. After that, I started playing in a band my buddy had going on. I joined and I think we did 2 or 3 basement shows. Jennifer, the bass player in that band, went on to be in the band Kittie. After that I went to college, came back from college and joined Burn The Priest. And I was probably 22 or 23. We did some shows with Burn The Priest up in Philadelphia, then we changed the name to Lamb of God in 2000. The first national tour as Lamb of God was with Gwar in 2000. So at that point I was around 24 or 25, and then we just kinda did all of those crazy death metal tours, like Cannibal Corpse and Six Feet Under, where we had to open. We would go on 15 minutes after doors so we’d go off stage and walk outside and there’d be a mine of people trying to get in. Basically just paying our dues. So it’s been a long road and now we’re here.
RR UK: Do you remember your first guitar?
WA: I know my mum rented me an Aria Pro 2. It was blue, but I didn’t own it so we had to give it back. But my dad bought a BC Rich Bich as my first real guitar for Christmas and I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it. I still actually have the receipt; he got it from a pawn shop for $275. I played that guitar on the first tour with Gwar. I played it on other tours too, cos it was the only guitar we had. We weren’t making any money, there was no endorsers, no nothing. That guitar is still hanging up in my house, beat to shit!