Willie Adler Talks Rhythm Guitar

February 5, 2014

Music Radar recently caught up with Lamb Of God guitarist Willie Adler for his thoughts on what makes a good rhythm guitarist and for some insight on what lies ahead for Lamb Of God. A couple of excerpts from the chat can be found below.

Adler, who is renowned for his odd time signatures and abstract chord changes, said his unique style of playing could be attributed to being self-taught: “Primarily, I’m a metal player. I’m not really versed in blues or anything else. I’m self-taught, so you could put sheet music in front of me and you might as well have written it in Chinese.”

He added that he was constantly focusing on areas of his playing that could be improved: “I would like to think that I’m ‘tight’ and I’ve got ‘machine-gun-like staccato’ and all of those terms that dudes throw out there, but I’m my own worst critic, so in my own mind, I’m mediocre at best.”

However, Alder also acknowledged his strengths: “I think my odd time structures and signatures are what I’m most well-known for… basically my absurdity as a player!”

He said his own brand of playing was best showcased in the LOG song ‘In Your Words’: “It has those little tech-y riffs at the beginning that are a little left of center, as far as theory applies. But it has every element of what I try to accomplish as a guitar player: the show-off-y tech-y side, then the real groovy riffs in between for the verses and then the wide open landscape-ish ending to it that kind of creates a moody environment.”

While tightness and space are fundamental aspects of a good rhythm guitarist, Alder said there were other areas, which were often overlooked: “The dynamic between yourself and the other guitar player. You have to have a relationship with that other guitar player and a full understanding of where they’re gonna go with your riff, or how you’re going to complement what they’re doing. It’s about being able to play off of him/her and create a landscape for that other player to play on top of, or for yourself to create a melody line.”

Adler explained that working with Lamb Of God lead guitarist Mark Morton had helped him to develop as a songwriter: “Going from a song like ‘Hour Glass,’ which is basically riff after riff – that was kind of my M.O. for a long time – then playing with Mark and playing off of Mark and exploring the dynamics in between, you learn that you need to let things breathe and give room to the other elements of the band. We are a band, a collective unit, and it’s so much greater than the sum of its parts.”

He said another important aspect of rhythm guitar playing was having the right tone: “Obviously, saturation, and I like a warm bottom-end. I don’t want to say reverb, because that’s a ‘no-no’ word, but to have a little bit of wet on the bottom-end, so that when you attack with the guitar you hear it and you have the high-end and mid-range and then the low-end as almost like a delayed response. It takes me a while to dial-in something, but it’s got to have that bite. But then I guess I’m just describing the perfect metal tone!”

Adler closed by discussing the year ahead for Lamb Of God, explaining that the band would begin writing the follow-up to 2012’s ‘Resolution’ after a well-earned break from music: “We’ve got a couple of one-off shows when we get back to the US, and I’m sure that everyone will want to get away from this for at least a couple of months before we start discussing going into the rehearsal space. You need that break from music, to tell you the truth, just so you can soak up everything else!”


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