In the final installation of our conversation with vocalist Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, an American heavy metal band, we discuss his experience filming in Taiwan. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.
So, obviously not worried about being banned in China…
I mean, I wouldn’t be excited about it, because I like playing there, but if it happens it happens.
What was it like filming in Taiwan?
I think for me it was just really cool to go to different locations because, as I said before, I did get to come here with the wife and do all that. But usually when you go to a country on tour, you’re at the venue, you’ve got to do press, and you’re stuck around where the venue is. You’re only in a country like Taiwan for one or two days. You don’t get time to go around; so for me, I just really enjoy being able to go to different locations, even though I was working filming.
That’s what interests me when I go to different countries. Like I’ll go to tourist attractions like Longshan Temple to shoot photos you know, ‘cause it looks cool, but what I really enjoy doing is walking down little alleyways and finding some place that looks good to eat, and I can’t read the menu or whatever, and I just go “give me that” and they like, hold their hand out and I’ll give them some money and hope it’s the right amount!
I’ll go eat and not in some tourist place, but I want to go eat with locals. And I want to see…people. And nothing against tourist places because some of them are really cool, you know, you get to see some cool cultural things.
But for me, I get…it’s much more edifying to me to sit somewhere and just be among everyday life, you know? I’m like, okay, I kind of feel what this is about.
So that for me was really one of the coolest things. And just getting to hang out with the film crew, everybody who worked on that film was just beautiful people, you now. A lot of them didn’t speak English, and I obviously didn’t speak Chinese or Taiwanese, except for…thank you, or whatever, but we had a very nice time.
Oh, and it was very nice getting my hair done everyday! [Laughs] These people were so nice! It was just like…ahhhhh.
They do the whole massage thing?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah I looked forward to it every day. I don’t get that kind of primping.
When did you start doing dreads?
I mean, I just stopped combing my hair about…four years ago. I surf all the time so it just started getting tangled and I got tired of trying it brush it out. This is what my hair does anyway.
So…you just let it go?
Yep, and it’s all blonde from being bleached in the seawater. It’s not like colored or anything.
How often do you go surfing?
Every day. If there’re waves, every day. It’s an integral part of my spirituality.
Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I don’t have a definition for God, or anything. I believe there is some sort of greater force that runs through, not just us as a human race, but through our plant. Everything is connected, you know.
I enjoy going to different places of worship, no matter where I am, what country, and just seeing the people engaged in spirituality looking for something outside of themselves. I think, today, especially in this hyper connected world and everybody’s looking at their phones, I think it’s good to look outside yourself, you know.
And surfing…can you surf? Do you surf?
I’ve gone once, when I was in Los Angeles.
Yeah, did you stand up? Were you able to do it?
No! The surfboard they gave me was way too big! So like..
No, no, no, no, no you want a longboard to start with.
It’s so…you can’t move it ‘cause, I’m tiny so it’s really hard to like…get it in the right position.
Right, but once you do it if you stand up — surfing, until they figure out how to ride sound or light, surfing is the only way to ride a form of energy, because that’s what a wave is, it’s not gravity, it’s not water moving, it’s an energy wave, you know, moving through the ocean, and it moves the water around it.
And when you surf, you are completely…because the environment is constantly changing, you can’t think ahead, you can’t plan, you can’t say like “I’m going to do this.”
It’s this constant adjustment to your environment. It’s total immersion in that moment, you know. I hate to use the kind of ‘hack’ term, but it’s very Zen. It’s be here now, be here in this moment. And that’s good for your mind. When you’re surfing you’re not thinking about your wants, your desires, your anger, your ego, any of that stuff. You’re just existing, for a few seconds.
And it’s great! It’s like meditation.
That’s true…do you meditate?
When I’m disciplined about it yes. But I haven’t been disciplined about it.
[Laughs] Me neither.
Yeah! When I’m disciplined it’s usually two to three hours every day, starting at like five in the morning. An hour of still meditation and then an hour and a half of moving.
What form, what type of meditation is it?
It’s called Hochi Universal Love, so the standing one is called Standing Like Pine and it’s just like a still meditation. And the moving one is a combination of like, traditional martial arts, qigong, and a bunch of other stuff.
Anyway, so you also co-wrote some of the vocals for the soundtrack. What was that process like and how did you guys collaborate long distance?
Freddy sent me the music and….I can’t remember, did I co-write? I know I sang! [laughs]
On the credits it said Randy Blythe for lyrics so I thought…
I think I must have written some of the lines, I think he probably explained to me what he wanted and I wrote it. [Laughs] This was several years ago when I recorded that.
And you recorded it in Richmond? Or…
I was thinking about it a couple days ago because they just released the song, I was like, where did I record that? I think I recorded it in California, maybe, with our producer because I was out there recording the last Lamb of God record.
I do vocals so often in different places, I can’t even remember where I recorded it, but I do remember tracking it. It’s not like some sort of crushing process or anything, and our voices work well together. I was happy with the final mix.
Yeah, I actually really enjoy your voice.
[Laughs] That’s…how I make my living!
So you said you do a lot of vocal work. What else do you do besides for Lamb of God?
Have you heard of the punk band the Bad Brains? They’re a legendary punk band in DC. I’ve been helping them out with some vocals, and ‘cause their singer just had a brain operation, so he can’t sing the fast stuff as well. He sings the more slower stuff. I filled in on vocals for my friends in this band Eye Hate God, have you heard of them?
They’re from New Orleans. Their singer, he’s getting a liver transplant, so I helped out with that. I don’t know, I make guest appearances on records and stuff, but mostly it’s Lamb of God.
I think it’s time to do a punk rock band, a new punk rock band. I think I’m going to do a side project with the bass player of Bad Brains, maybe, since Trump is president, time to say something about it.
Have you heard like Prophets of Rage then?
Oh yeah! We played festivals with them. Tom Morello is a smart guy, yeah, I have of a lot of respect for Chuck D as well.
I went recently to Pablo Neruda’s place, in Chile. Pablo Neruda is one of the finest poets in the history of the world, basically. Very romantic. He writes words that make women fall to pieces. So I went to his house in Chile, it’s a beautiful house and one of the guys there came to me said, “I work here, I’m a fan of your band, welcome to Pablo Neruda’s House.”
I’m like “Awesome! You get a lot of musicians coming through here? You know, when they’re on tour?”
He goes, “Nope, just you and Tom Morello.” Haha, so I guess Tom Morello had gone there. I’m like really? This guy is a master.
Yeah but Tom Morello was there. I bought my wife a book of poems from there.
How did you meet your wife?
We were working in a restaurant together. She was a bartender and I was cooking. We had both been in relationships that had ended recently and we weren’t really looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend and everybody’s like “you two should date.” and here we are, you know, 15 years later or whatever.
Last question: would you act in a sequel?
Sure absolutely! I tell you, if Freddy sends me an email I’m gonna be like, “Yes! Okay! Cool! I’ll do it!”
[Laughs] I actually asked him about that right after I saw the movie and he’s like, “I’m gonna do politics for a while.”
I haven’t seen the new movie yet.
Oh you haven’t see it?
Yeah so tonight is my first time. Yeah, really excited. So they didn’t cut me from the movie?
You’re in there a bunch! It’s actually really funny.
I hope I understand…’cause there’s a lot of Taiwanese puns in it yeah. I wonder if those will be lost on me.
Taiwan is like, to me, it’s kind of like a combination of China and Japan in a weird way. There’s a lot of the hustle and bustle of China, and some aspects of Chinese culture, but there’s a lot of politeness from Japan, that’s kind of missing in China.
It’s crazy. I like China, it’s..different. Taiwan is, I love it. I love Taiwan. I love eating. I need to find this stuff, the vegetable with the empty heart. I love it.
Oh if you like it there’s a really good place by Shida that does it with stinky tofu.
Oh no no no no no. I ate it once when we were filming. They’re like, they got some on location and they’re you “You have to try it at least once.”
My mother-in-law loves it.
(This interview has been edited for publication. Feature photo by Jimmy T’s Photography)
Tshiong is currently showing in theaters throughout Taiwan. If you would like to see it in your country please message their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/movieTSHIONG
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