Bryan Beller  ::  Los Angeles, CA



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BRUTAL: Dethklok/Lamb Of God Co-Headlining Tour Cancelled

For those not following the recent developments of this story, let's just get the facts out on the table: The Dethklok/Lamb Of God co-headlining tour (with special guest Gojira), originally scheduled for August 1 through September 15, has been cancelled due to the continued and potentially indefinite imprisonment of Lamb Of God lead singer Randy Blythe in the Czech Republic on charges of manslaughter.

Lamb Of God's publicist, Adrenaline PR, and Adult Swim (Cartoon Network/Turner Broadcasting, who airs Metalocalypse) put out a joint press release this morning.


From Lamb Of God:

“Due to the continued incarceration of Lamb Of God singer Randy Blythe in the Czech Republic, the band’s co-headline tour with Dethklok scheduled to begin August 1 in Seattle has been canceled. Lamb Of God regrets the decision but the uncertainty of Randy’s release makes it impossible to carry on with the tour. Upon Randy’s release, it is the band’s intention to rebook a tour in the fall and at this time the band fully intends to participate in the Mayhem Cruise in December.

Lamb Of God wishes to thank Dethklok, Adult Swim and Gojira for their support and patience as well as all of the promoters who had dates on the tour. Last but certainly not least, the band thanks all of the fans who bought tickets for the tour and who have been supportive of Randy and the band over the last month that Randy has been held in Prague. Without the fans, there is no Lamb Of God.”


And from Adult Swim:

“In light of circumstances beyond our control, the upcoming Dethklok and Lamb of God with Gojira summer tour has been canceled. Refunds will be available to customers who already purchased tickets through their point of purchase. We thank Dethklok fans for their continued support and look forward to releasing information about the band’s upcoming third album and a planned fall tour in the coming weeks.”


That's the news. The short version of my reaction is, I'm heartbroken for the fans who were looking forward to the shows, and also sad for the hardworking crews of Dethklok, Lamb Of God and Gojira who were busting their asses to make this the best metal tour of the summer, and especially for the guys in Lamb Of God and Randy Blythe in particular, who are all in an extremely difficult situation. My thoughts go out to the whole LOG family for some kind of resolution (bad unintentional pun; it's the name of their most recent album) as soon as possible.

I know personally that Mike, Gene and Brendon are all very disappointed as well, and wanted more than anything to get out there and tour our new live set. The good news is, as you can see from the press release, Dethklok is still on track to release their third album (which has me on bass for the entire record!) and tour this fall. Once the dust settles from this debacle, we'll get to work on that bit of business.

As for me, sure, it's disappointing, but I will use this unfortunate turn of events to spend nearly two uninterrupted months at home for the first time in about 10 years, and write new material for the next Aristocrats studio album, as well as continue post-production work on the Aristocrats live DVD. I'm also available for remote recording projects in August and early September, so if you were thinking about that and figuring I was just too busy...well, not anymore.

That's the short version. For anyone who wants a more personal and detailed look at how the last month unfolded, keep reading.


********

As I write this, it's 5:00 in the afternoon of July 26, five days before the Dethklok/Lamb Of God/Gojira tour was supposed to start, and one day before our originally scheduled fly day to Seattle for production rehearsals.

For me it's also Day 10 (of 10, thank god) of The Master Cleanse, a pretty radical lemonade-only diet/detox program I do every six months or so. I find it's a great way to re-center myself before entering the ultra-public bus-touring maelstrom, and it's also a way to lose some weight quickly. This may sound vain, but I try pretty hard not to show up for these high-profile tours bigger than I was the last time, because once you're on the road it's pizza-and-backstage-alcohol-city, and I'm 41 and this staying-in-shape thing isn't getting any easier. You can even work out while you're on this program, which I did. I'm happy to report that I'm in fighting shape - 183 pounds - and my insides are quite clean, thank you very much.

 

As you can imagine, it also puts your mind and body in a somewhat surreal state. I planned this months ago. I had no idea that these 10 days would be the climactic, frantic period in which me and about 70 other people's professional fate would hang on the whims of a single prosecutor in the Czech Republic.


But let's go back. In late June, I had just wrapped up my last non-Dethklok gig (a show at NEARfest with Mike Keneally), and was home preparing for a trip to Los Angeles for tracking Dethklok's third album, as well as our one-off show at Comic-Con in San Diego. When I'm home I'm anchored in front of the laptop, e-mailing and networking and promoting and all that (who, me?). Someone tweeted at me: "Hope this doesn't affect the tour!" with a link to a story that said that Randy Blythe, lead singer of Lamb Of God, was arrested in the Czech Republic on charges of manslaughter. Jeez, I thought, did he go beat somebody up or something?

It wasn't that simple. Over the next few days I read up on the story. I learned that Lamb Of God had played a show in the Czech Republic back in 2010, and at this show there was a fan who managed to get past security and onto the stage three separate times during their set. Now, for those who don't know, the metal community is very sensitive to this kind of thing because of an incident in 2004, when famous metal guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was shot by an audience member who managed to get onstage with a 9mm Beretta and emptied the clip, killing Abbott and two others and wounding an additional seven people before being killed himself by a policeman's 12-gauge shotgun blast to the face at point blank range. So let's just say there's a heightened awareness of the dangers of fans reaching the stage.

What exactly happened at Lamb Of God's 2010 show is in dispute, but it goes something like this: The fan got onstage three separate times. The third time, Randy and a roadie threw the fan off the stage back into the crowd. Somehow, while falling, the fan hit his head. He was able to leave under his own power, but eventually he fell into a coma and died a month after the show.

An investigation was opened in the Czech Republic, but Lamb Of God was never notified about any of it, not even the fan's death. Why not? It's murky. The best I can do is quote Randy Blythe's Czech lawyer, Martin Radvan, on the 2010 chain of events:

“I really don’t know. Let me put it this way: nobody was expecting that unfortunately, this young man would die a month after the concert. His father then spoke to the police who launched an investigation and called several witnesses who were at that concert. They also approached the US Department of Justice and asked them to take part in the investigation which the department refused to do...Refusing to do so, they did not notify anyone from the band or the management, so no one really knew that investigation was underway, which I think is not something the U.S. Department of Justice can be proud of.”

Fast forward to late June 2012, and Lamb Of God enters the Czech Republic for a show, completely unaware. Randy Blythe was immediately arrested, and the news broke on the wires, reaching folks like me for the first time, leaving me wondering in ignorance, "He did what?"


********

I watched the news develop slowly as I got together with Brendon to track Dethklok's third album. Honestly I wasn't paying that much attention. I was totally focused on learning the new tunes, many of which I hadn't even heard before I was supposed to have them all cut in only three days.

Brendon was on an insane schedule. It was July 2, he was still tracking guitars and vocals on other tunes while I was tracking bass, and the whole thing was supposed to be mixed and mastered by July 23. So he and engineer Ulrich Wild were pulling late nights every night just to keep on schedule. I spent two half-days tracking with Brendon there producing, and we got six tracks done, but he couldn't stay late because he had a million other things to do. Finally he just said "screw it" and asked me to finish the record without him there, and he'd review it later. On July 5, I tracked six songs in a single day, and that was that. The following day, we got together for two hours, made some very minor changes, and called it done.

(Allow me to now take the opportunity to say that the new Dethklok album will be crushing and awesome in every way possible. Gene Hoglan's - er, I mean Pickles' - drums are sick beyond measure, and Brendon - er, I mean Nathan and Skwisgaar - has (have) completely outdone himself (themselves) with the compositions, the arrangements, the guitar playing, and the vocals. Dethklok fans, while understandably crestfallen over the tour cancellation, have an incredible album to look forward to.)

Meanwhile, catching up on the news front, Randy Blythe had posted $200,000 bail, and everyone seemed to think his release was imminent. Lamb Of God's guitarist, Mark Morton, tweeted back on June 30: "Today just turned into a FANTASTIC day!!" So I didn't give it much thought. After all, the tour was a month away.

I turned my attention to the one-off gig Dethklok was set to do at Comic-Con in San Diego on Friday, July 13. We had a week of rehearsals scheduled in Los Angeles to learn the new tunes and get the new set together. We have a great crew, we all get along extremely well, and it was like a big happy metal family reunion to see Gene and Mike and Brendon and know we were gearing up not just for a killer gig - playing on an aircraft carrier, the USS Midway; what could be more metal than that?! - but for what was being buzzed as the hottest metal tour of the summer.

But back in the Czech Republic, "posting bail" doesn't mean what it means here. Randy Blythe posted the $200,000 bail but wasn't set free. Days turned into a week, and then there was a "bail hearing" on July 9 where the prosecutor was allowed to "formally deny" the already-collected bail as is allowed under Czech law in cases of murder or manslaughter due to potential flight risk. The next hearing wasn't set until Thursday July 19, just 12 days before the start of the tour.

Dethklok was doing its final full-set rehearsal run-through on Thursday, July 12, when we first heard that the tour's backers were getting very nervous about Randy's status. That was the moment when everyone first realized that the tour was actually in some kind of jeopardy. It brought a heavy, determined focus to the final run-through of the set, and we all vowed to make the Comic-Con show count.

And we did. From the moment we arrived via helicopter to the show's downbeat (click here for a decent video documentary of the event), we pulled off a nearly flawless first show for a packed room of Dethklok diehards. The sound guys and techs were as sharp as a crew five days into the tour, and it was great fun to watch the crowd react to songs from the new as-yet-unreleased (and not even fully tracked!) record. It was a total victory, and the post-show party reflected that in all its drunken glory. More importantly, the event gave the whole organization a shot in the arm. Whereas the previous day had an air of fatalism about it, now the sentiment was, "We are not going to let this tour go down in flames!"

Monday July 15: Mike and Gene returned to their homes in Southern California. Brendon returned to Los Angeles and buried himself in his home studio to finish tracking, mixing and mastering the new album in just seven days. I came home to Nashville to get my tour affairs in order, and begin my typical pre-tour ritual, the 10-Day Master Cleanse.

Tuesday July 16: Word breaks that Randy Blythe's bail hearing actually happened sooner than expected, and that the judge ruled in his favor, but that his bail has now been increased to $400,000. (Don't ask me how that happens - this ain't the USA.) The feeling was, once this additional money was paid, this would satisfy the prosecutor's flight risk concerns, and Randy could be out in a matter of days. So Lamb Of God's people ponied up the extra dough, and while it wasn't ideal, if that's what it took to get this thing moving, so be it. Everyone started feeling very positive about it.

And then the waiting game began. Every day, I'd wake up and scour the internet for news about Randy's release. Conversations and e-mails were flying around on a daily basis (most of which I can't go into) about contingency plans if he got out on this day, or that day, or what we needed to do about Canada due to their laws, or how we could pull off certain shows in one way and other shows in another...but ultimately it was all based on the idea that Randy was going to get out at least a week before the tour started. After all, he got the favorable ruling on the 16th, right?

When we got to Friday the 20th, and he still wasn't out, and we knew we had to wait through the weekend, it was pretty awful. Personally I was cranky from having not eaten for four days already, and I was actively searching for distractions. Fortunately I had a gig with Kira Small in Knoxville that weekend, and I left the Dethklok bubble for a more earthy house concert experience in which the host took me on his boat (photographic evidence) and motorcycle. That was pretty nice.

Monday July 22: I wasn't sleeping well. I woke up at 6 in the morning and immediately looked online because I knew it was already seven hours later in Prague, CZ. Nothing. In brighter news, Brendon tells me he finished the record after several near-all-nighters, and that he's very happy with it.

Tuesday July 23: Again, nothing. Meanwhile I'm on Day 8 of the Master Cleanse, which for some reason is always the hardest day. I was in and out of focus, my energy waning minute by minute, watching Lamb Of God's Twitter feed and checking e-mail constantly, to no avail.

Wednesday July 24: The moment of truth arrives: News breaks midday that the prosecutor is once again challenging Randy's now-increased bail. The $400,000 didn't quell his concerns, apparently. This means that another hearing happens in five more business days, and then the panel has another five business days after that to deliver their decision. That's two weeks, minimum, with no guarantee of release even at that point.

The news hits the internet and everyone goes nuts. It's obvious now that Lamb Of God can not make the tour.

The next five hours is an insane scramble of contingency plans, high-level meetings, e-mails, conference calls, and god knows what else...but the inescapable business truth was: We'd booked fairly large venues that were fit for both Dethklok and Lamb Of God to play, not one or the other; there was no replacement band big enough available on such short notice; the promoters were already getting requests for refunds and didn't want to hear about replacements; and there were myriad equipment and tour infrastructure issues because Dethklok and Lamb Of God were in it together in terms of trucks, buses, trusses, and other essential touring equipment. That's an extremely rough summary of the challenges facing us, and I'm not even sure it's all of them.

That brings us to today, Thursday July 25, when Lamb Of God and Adult Swim, having waited until the last possible moment and having exhausted all other possibilities, finally threw in the towel and issued their statements canceling the tour. And much drinking probably ensued in various parts of America where the bands and crews were scattered.

Except for me. I'm the bright one finishing the Master Cleanse's final day, a pre-tour mission accomplished for a tour that wasn't going to happen after all. Strangely, I find myself walking in the kitchen, the thinnest I've been in a couple of years, and saying to myself, "I get to eat tomorrow. This could be worse."


********

I actually learned a lot about the process of what it takes to bring down a major tour like this. The answer is, a lot. It just doesn't happen very often. Slow ticket sales is one thing. Shows get cancelled because of that all the time. But an incident like this, where everyone's dying to see the show and it just goes down in flames over a freak thing? Probably a one-in-10,000 shot.

Some of you who follow this blog might also be thinking, man, he could have been out with Steve Vai! Perhaps, but that's life in the big city. I'm 41, I'm a self-employed musician, and I'm fully responsible for how this all goes. It's not happening to me - I chose, and then some stuff happened. I'm pretty careful to distinguish between those two ways of looking at it. And besides, these are truly first world problems we're dealing with here, amirite?

Yes, it's a tough day in Dethklok world, and in Beller world as well, but we'll bounce back. There's some pretty good news coming up soon, actually. I'll have a lot more fun writing about that than I had writing about this...but on second thought, writing this long piece seems to be just what I needed to break out of my lethargy about it all.

So, if you're still reading, thanks for being a part of my letting go.


Best wishes to all,
Bryan Beller

P.S. You want to do something nice? Vote for Kira Small's song "I Will Raise My Voice" in the Independent Music Awards' Gospel Song Category. The final day to vote is tomorrow!


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