Full Metal Jackie: Lamb of God’s Chris Adler and Director Don Argott Discuss ‘As the Palaces Burn’ Documentary
Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and film director Don Argott were the guests on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. They spoke with Jackie about the creation of the ‘As the Palaces Burn’ documentary, which started off as a salute to the band’s fans but morphed into something different when frontman Randy Blythe was arrested on manslaughter charges in the Czech Republic. The film is screening in theaters across the country. For a list of theaters, check here. If you missed the chat, here’s Jackie’s full interview with Chris Adler and Don Argott.
It’s Full Metal Jackie bringing you two full hours of metal each and every week. On the show with us we’ve got the director Don Argott and Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler, how are you doing guys?
Don Argott: We’re good, how are you?
Chris Adler: Yep, doing great. Nice to talk to you again.
Don, what was the specific moment in the making of this documentary when you felt you might have to choose between being a filmmaker with the goal of fully telling this compelling story and the humanity of being sympathetic of the band’s privacy?
That’s always the tough thing about making documentaries. You turn to people’s real lives and a lot of the times you’re dealing with people who are going through very difficult times. So, for us, I think luckily the way the project started was obviously not the manslaughter case in the Czech Republic. We had shot for a few months and I had gotten to know the guys pretty well and I think they trusted me and I think just because we had that level of trust within each other.
I think they felt that if the cameras were going to continue to roll during this tough period that I was going to treat it with respect and be as honest and respectful as I possibly could. I was making the film and that was a big deal for me to be able to walk that line, that delicate line.
Chris, throughout the course of Randy’s ordeal, how many times did you and the rest of the band say, “Enough! This is way too private. We’re pulling the plug on this film.”
Well, it’s a tough question to answer. It’s not the film we intended to make at all. It’s hard to do interviews about it because it’s such a tragic event that it’s hard to be somehow promoting the concept of it. Again, it really wasn’t our intention to make this film at all. But, at the same time, like Don told me at one point, these are the kinds of things that make great documentaries. We weren’t Don’s bosses. We weren’t in charge of the filmmaking. We hired them because of their credentials for making great documentaries and part of our job in that was knowing that there is no point where you cry uncle. There’s no half real. It’s all real or it’s all fake.
We did have to decide to continue the film when all of this went down. I think we needed to do it just to be honest with ourselves and our fans. I think there are people that are interested in the outcome. This movie isn’t about this band or metalheads or anything. It’s just a very interesting story about people that care a lot about what they do and a tragic incident that happened. So it’s far bigger than the band.
Even though Randy was acquitted, is it difficult for both of you to watch the movie now?
Don Argott: For me, it’s obviously a lot different than the band watching it on a lot of levels but for me, I lived with the story as we were shooting it and obviously for months on end in the edit room. So you get real sick of [it] — that’s just par for the course for any creative endeavor, I’m sure. Making a record is the same thing, once you’re done with it and you live with it for as long as you’ve lived with it, you’re not going to run home, put it back on and listen to it right away.
So, I think all these films that you put so much of yourself into and time, it’s obviously such a tragic story, it’s not something that you want to go out and watch again. You need some distance from it. It’s been really nice to be able to finish the film, put it out there and already get a fair amount of positive feedback, which is always nice when you create something. You lose perspective throughout the process and you don’t know how people are going to respond to it or take it. Luckily for at least the first couple of people that have chimed in and written about it, the response has been positive.
Chris Adler: As far as the band side goes, it’s very difficult for us to watch. Again, this is not the film that we intended to make. It took a direction that none of us wanted. In fact, on the last tour I was talking with Randy about the events that have happened over the past two years and just how much it’s changed the band and veered the course of any perception of who we are and what we could ever be from here on out.
And we both really agreed, and the band agrees, the night we played in 2010 in Prague, had we known what was about to happen I think every one of us would have voted to break up the band and not allow it to happen. It’s such a tragic thing that went down there and has happened to that family and that kid. It’s difficult to be excited or objective, but at the same time I realize I’m a small player in a documentary that is very well done and meaningful. It tells a real emotional story and I think it will answer a lot of questions and worth being seen. It’s really well done. It’s just hard being as close as I am to it.
Don, how did the circumstances of making ‘As The Palaces Burn’ change you for the better as a filmmaker?
I’ve been fortunate enough to make films for over 10 years now, primarily making my living doing documentaries. You learn on every project, I don’t care how long you’ve been doing anything. The moment you stop learning is probably when you should call it quits. For me, I felt like we had gotten really good at adapting to rapidly changing situations. This situation that tested us certainly in terms of, here we are making this one very different film and all of a sudden this insane event happens. The way you adapt to that and how you adapt to that very quickly is going to inform the type of film that it’s ultimately going to be. For me, that was really important that Chris said there was no way to do this halfway. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it. If we’re not going to do it, let’s not do it. But there was no halfway in doing this.
I give everybody in the band a ton of credit for agreeing to move forward with the film. It’s clearly not a film that anybody in the band is going to put on for family movie night, but at the same time I think there is some value in seeing how real people had to deal with a very tragic situation and I think everyone in the band, Randy included, handled it with a ton of grace and for me that was really inspiring to be around. We all have to deal with hard things in our life and you always look to other situations and how other people might handle that type of situation. I think this is a great example. When you have a good set of morals and have something that you stand for, you can kind of get through anything — any difficult time. That’s what this whole process taught me.
Chris, what aspects of watching the final cut have affected Lamb Of God for the better?
It’s interesting, great question. It’s such a difficult circumstance to have dealt with during the past two years on the resolution touring cycle, including that. All the crazy places we’ve visited around the world have really taken its toll on the band. But I think if there is a positive to be taken out of it, there is a point in this process, not to take away anything from the story or the events that happen during the movie, but there is a moment in all of that where we all realize that in the blink of an eye our career it is over. It is done. No one is going to continue the band while Randy sits in jail.
We are all left to figure out plan B real quick. So, in that we’ve been doing this for 20 years and I don’t think any of us have ever taken any of it for granted. But in many ways our lives have become very routine in what we do. We put out an album, we tour, we show up at a place, there’s a lot of people there smiling and happy to see us, we put on a show and then we go to the next city and the same thing happens. And when that is threatened it’s scary. Not because of how nice that is, but how anyone can be fired on any given day of the week. But when it’s that quickly and that deliberately taken away from you and out of your control, it’s very scary.
So I think the one positive that we can take out of this is the realization or getting back in touch of how special it is what we do, and how very lucky and fortunate we are to be able to travel the world and share our art with people that care about us and we care about. We never took it for granted, but it had become slightly routine and this really woke us up to the fact that this all could be over in a heartbeat at any second. Enjoy every part of it. I think it’s going to take us a while to recover from these past two years, honestly. But, towards the end of the touring cycle once Randy was out, once the case was done, the shows we played were more energetic and much more fun than we’ve had in literally a decade. So, I think we all are on a new chapter of how much we mean to ourselves and to the people that care about us. I hope it’s going to make us stronger.
Again, Chris Adler from Lamb Of God and Don Argot the director of the Lamb of God documentary ‘As The Palaces Burn’. I really appreciate you guys being on the show and looking forward to the world seeing this film. Thank you.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.