Lamb of God’s Mark Morton: Chester Bennington Had ‘No Ego’ While Writing ‘Cross Off’
Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. Here, he discusses Anesthetic, his debut solo album which features an array of guests, including late Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, who was featured on the song "Cross Off."
Morton comments on Bennington's contributions and explains why the process of releasing this album took years. The sounds present on the album venture outside of the usual Lamb of God vibe, but he defends trying to implement some atypical elements within Lamb of God as it is. He also confirms that the band will be in full motion throughout 2019.
Check out the chat below.
We're here to talk about your first solo album, Anesthetic, which has a ton of guest vocalists like Randy Blythe, Jacoby Shaddix, Myles Kennedy, Alisa White-Gluz and, of course, Chester Bennington. The guests on this represent so many variations of heavy music. Which collaboration took you furthest from the familiarity of your comfort zone and how?
Wow, okay, what a great question. So much of it did. I think, just kind of off the top — I think the piece with Mark Lanegan was kind of very different from anything I've ever done before. I think the album is hard rock, you know? It's not necessarily thrash metal like you're used to hearing from me with Lamb of God, but it's pretty hard stuff.
The piece with Mark Lanegan was really its own thing. It was a lot of fun to put together. He's one of my favorite vocalists so they're all special, but that one was really special as it came together because I knew it was going to be something so unique. And then I think the song "Reveal" that I did with Naeemah Maddox and Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch and the rest of those guys turned out really cool and special in terms of being kind of different and out of the lane stuff.
"Cross Off" featuring Chester Bennington was recorded not too long before he passed. What aspects of that experience, of collaborating with Chester do you appreciate the most?
Working with Chester is something that I remember so fondly. I mean, I think the things that I mostly took away from was how genuine he was and how really creative and motivated he was about music in general and definitely this tune. He loved it. He really came in with no ego. We instantly had a kind of creative trust between us which you can't really prepare for —you can only hope for — and it was there right away and we just instantly started tearing the song down and putting it back together.
He had a lot of ideas. He was really excited about screaming on it and doing something heavy. There's so much I can say but honestly he was just a really humble and compassionate and incredibly talented guy. He talked about his family and we talked about our experience in the music business. He was just a good dude. I was really excited to work with him and talk to him.
It was in the making for quite a while. How did not having a hard deadline affect the creative ebb and flow of developing these songs?
Well, it sometimes felt like it was going on forever. Sometimes I felt like, "Are we ever going to finish this thing?" but Lamb of God are really busy so we were working between all that stuff. We were also working around the schedules of all the guests. So, I think, in the end it gave us time to kind of get an overview on it, and when I say "us" I mean me and Josh [Wilbur, producer].
There were so many people working on it, but me and Josh were the constant overseers. It gave us time to see how everything's coming together, and to see what we needed, what was missing. So in that sense, it gave us the luxury to kind of evaluate it over time and let things sit. We didn't feel rushed. But yeah, there were times when it was like "Man, I really hope this happens, 'cause we've been working hard on it."
We definitely worked on it for a couple years, and I know some of the song ideas were around for a while before that. So, to see it now, come to fruition, to see it out there, and see people responding to it, it's a thrill. It's a thrill and a joy.
Between recording and touring, you're already very active as a musician with Lamb of God. What was your thought process when you started considering whether or not to make this album?
I think my thought process in starting this project was just about the songs. I had these songs coming together that I knew wasn't right for Lamb of God. They just sort of didn't fit with the character of Lamb of God, but I felt like it was pretty cool stuff. When I bounced it off Josh Wilbur, my producer, he felt the same and felt it was worth developing.
I think if I knew at the time what a huge undertaking it was going to be and how big of a project it was going to be, I probably would have felt more apprehensive and intimidated to do it, so I'm glad I didn't know about that then. But now, having seen it though, I think the genesis of it was just about the music.
And as the songs came together, we really just sat back and listened to the song ideas and were like, "Who would we want to sing this?" "Who do we want to play on this?" and kind of put together a wishlist and it was really amazing to see people down the line just saying yes. I was so humbled by it. Almost everyone we asked was like, "Yeah, I'd love to!" The creativity and creative relationships that we developed in that process were one of the most special things to me about this project.
Mark, you're a working musician which means being onstage playing live, of course. Have you been considering how to bring these songs to a live audience with some of the people who played them on the album?
I have been. That's something I'm really excited about trying to work out. So, that's in process. I've been having some conversations with people and putting feelers out there to see how we can pull this off and when we can pull it off. But it's not something I necessarily thought about at the beginning of the project. But now that it's come together, I feel like it would just add another component to it and then make it even more real to get it out there and perform these songs in front of people. So, something I'm definitely working on.
Randy just announced his new band Over It All with guys from Sworn Enemy and Animals as Leaders. With everything going on, what's the projected timeline of Lamb of God?
Lamb of God is in full swing for sure. We are currently working on new material that I'm thrilled about. I just had some sessions with Willy [Adler] putting together new songs. There's really cool energy going on with the new stuff. So, Lamb of God is full throttle. We got shows coming together. I think we've already announced some of them for this year and more to come. And lots of new material coming together. So, yeah, they'll be no shortage of Lamb of God this year for sure.
As a musician, your Lamb of God bandmates probably know you better than anyone. What do you think has surprised them most about what you've done with Anesthetic?
I don't know how to answer that. My gut answer would be probably nothing. Because I think that there's a lot of diversity in the Anesthetic project. But I think these guys are used to me trying to push like a blues influence or a pop influence or classic rock, influence or even sometimes a hip-hop influence or something into the mold of Lamb of God.
So, I think I'm one of the people in the band that's always trying to push us out of that comfort zone. They're used to that from me. What I missed on this project a little bit was that kind of resistance that I get from some of those guys. Which is like "Hey, no, that ain't what we do." I was sort of off the leash on this project and you can hear that in the album.
I don't know what would surprise the guys about this 'cause I think they're used to me kind of being all over the map stylistically with my tunes.
The Best Metal Song of Each Year Since 1970