Aside from being an accomplished vocalist and musician known for his wide vocal range and infectious stage presence, Blythe is also a writer and photographer. In this section we discuss his writing and participation in civil protests.
The Tshiong soundtrack, available here.
I want to bring it back a bit, so you’re also a writer, correct?
Not a lot, but from time to time. That one was pretty heavy [laughs]. It was way out in the middle of nowhere, and I’m convinced that the way the people there were being treated, if that had happened in the middle of New York City, or Detroit, or Cleveland, or anywhere major city, there would have been massive riots. But because it’s on an Indian Reservation in the middle of nowhere they could get away with it.
And for me it’s not just the humanitarian rights aspect and the indigenous rights aspect, it’s also about the fossil fuel industry to me. Because whether or not we want to admit it, fossil fuels are by definition finite. So doesn’t it make sense to put in this dangerous, environmentally destructive infrastructure; shouldn’t we be looking at alternatives? Because it’s going to run out.
Fossil fuels come from dinosaurs. We don’t have those anymore! And the human race is breeding at an exponentially alarming rate, and the demand for energy is just [swooshing sound]; so it’s just, it’s pragmatic to think about alternative fuel solutions to me.
So I wrote a piece for that, and I wrote a book about some experiences I had called Dark Days. that was a best-seller in America. I’m actually working on another book right now, and the theme of it is ‘Perspective’ — things that have changed my perspective for the better.
Three things that immediately changed my perspective are travel – because when we don’t travel we become culturally myopic, like when you never leave home, you fear things you don’t understand. But if you go somewhere cool it’s like a new immersive experience.
Travel has improved my perspective. Photography has literally changed the way I view the world, and surfing has improved my perspective a lot.
So I’m combining those three things into a new book: surfing, travel, photography. I’m taking surf trips and shooting photos, and the first trip I’m doing is this one in Taiwan!
I’m surfing with Chiang-Hsien, my co-star in the movie at the end of this trip, and I’ll shoot some photos and write about it.
And it’s going to be for the book right?
Yeah yeah. There’s going to be a part in the book about this whole movie too.
The last time we went surfing I think it was called the Two Lions beach? ‘Cause it has two lions at the entrance, that’s what they call it. The waves weren’t that good last time we were there, hopefully we’ll get better surf this time, but you can’t control the ocean.
Wait so Chiang-Hsien, is he out of military? Because last time I hear Freddy talking about it.
Oh yeah he’s still serving in the military, so we have to do it on the weekend.
When is he out?
I don’t know…It’s like two years right?
About four months, but it’s for the younger people so if you were born before they changed the law you still have do like…one year but it used to be two years, like when my dad did it was about two years.
I feel like it’s good though. Like I feel like people here are too soft.
Yeah, well like most of the population I feel like they’re very…lax? They’re just comfortable with what’s here, compared to the US, ‘cause that’s where I’m from. I spent 3 years in Los Angeles and everyone there is like…
Yeah, and here it’s totally different. Like everyone here is very nice, which is nice is in a way…
They are polite.
Yeah they’re really polite, but I feel like they really lack that drive that we have in the States, which is why I actually really like the metal scene because all of those guys have drive. The only reason you do metal here is because you love metal and you have passion for it. But it’s ridiculous because wages here are really low, so you have to work really hard to get the money to do the things you want. The level and the quality of music that they’re putting out is on par with whatever Nuclear Blast or Epic Records is putting out, I think. I can’t believe Chthonic is the only one that’s signed to a label.
Well I think it’s hard for an Asian band to…I think it’s hard for them to make it on an international level because the labels are all in Europe and America, you know? So that’s where all the support is.
And it’s expensive to travel to Asia, and it’s expensive to travel from Asia to Europe and America. In America it’s easier to make a name for yourself by touring because you can get in a van.
And just go around.
Yeah, and or Europe. Like my good friends in Gojira. They did it that way. They started out just playing in France, touring in France. And now they tour the world. But that label infrastructure is there in both of our regions, both America and all over Europe. Asia, it…it’s harder.
It’s further away from the nucleus of that…that music industry. Unless you wanna be like, a K-Pop band or something, y’know?
[Laughs] yeah, but then you have like, massive label funding.
So how did you transition from metal to punk?
I’m not sure…I never did! All my lyrics are still pretty punk rock. My town Richmond has a long history of superior musicianship; and one thing with metal is like, the guys in metal generally know how play, a lot. They are musicians. In punk rock, not so much, necessarily, but there’s more attitude in punk rock, it’s more raw.
So, for me, in our town a lot of the musicians come from the punk scene but are really superior musicians. So it’s a weird sort of punk metal mix.
So they have the have still the punk energy and everything, but they’re polished enough to play metal.
Yeah, yeah, so, my band has gotten more and more and more metal over the years, much to my dismay [laughs].
You don’t like it?
Naw, I’d rather, I’d rather just be more…
Yeah I feel like that too. I feel like your personality is very much punk rock.
Yeah I am what I am. Almost 47 it’s a little bit too old to change.
Really? You’re 47?!
I’ll be 47 in…a month and half?
So how long has Lamb of God been around?
Did you guys ever think you were going to make it this far?
Nope, we just played. We just wanted to play. Like I said, the musicians in our town, for such a small town, there’s a very high level of…competency. So just to be accepted in our town you have to be really good. My dream was so maybe one day get to play CBGB in New York, and we did. And I thought that was it.
Um…and then we wound up going back and selling out CBGB a bunch of times but there was never an intent to like, make a living off of it.
So what were you doing before?
Working in restaurants, doing construction, hanging out.
You seem like a very well educated person.
Yes, I like to be engaged with life. It’s one reason why I enjoy traveling so much. I did go to college a little bit, but in my own way, since I only took the classes I was interested in, like English literature, and creative writing.
I wasn’t too impressed with most of the teachers there because they’re trying to make you write a certain way, fit into a certain box. I’m like, you know, I think I’m good at writing. For me, very interesting writing comes from interesting life experiences. You’ve got to go out and have those, you know? So I had to leave school. I still am a voracious reader. I’m an autodidact. I teach myself as much as possible.
It’s uh…what’s his name? Joe Henley? Yeah I read that book. I read it as an eBook. Is it out in a physical form now?
Yeah you can buy it physically now.
Yeah, he wrote it in English. I’m actually talking with a friend, trying to get it translated into Chinese.
Hopefully he’ll come to the premiere. His girlfriend is Taiwanese right? What was her name again?
Jill. Yeah, so Joe and Jill.
He’s the one that explained a lot about the whole Taiwanese political situation to me.
Yeah, that makes sense. He’s a really really good writer.
I thought his name is Andrew for some reason, I hung out with him the last time I was here. Yeah.
(This interview has been edited for publication. Feature photo by Jimmy T’s Photography)
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