LAMB OF GOD frontman Randy Blythe spoke to U.K.’s Metal Hammer about his ordeal and how he plans to spend the next few weeks while he awaits word from the Czech Republic about whether he will have to return in order to face trial.
The statement you put out was very respectful to the family involved and obviously that was important to you.
It was hugely important. That’s the worst thing about this. Going to prison sucks, and being in prison is not fun, but what I went through and the uncertainty I face now is absolutely nothing compared to what this family is going through. They lost their son and that’s about as bad as it gets for a human being, to lose a child. That’s not supposed to happen. I can’t claim responsibility for this because I am innocent, I believe that in my heart of hearts; if I thought I was guilty, then I wouldn’t even have accepted bail. I was raised by very moral parents who said you have to face up and take responsibility for your actions. But I believe I’m innocent… I know I’m innocent.
Do you even remember the gig or was it just another show?
It was the first time we’d ever played in Prague so I remember that. I remember I read during the day, and I remember that gig and a lot of people being onstage. Then as soon as I got off stage, my publicist called, and told me Paul Gray was dead. This was right after we got off stage. All of that makes that show memorable.
You weren’t aware of anyone getting hurt?
No, there’s people that get hurt at every metal show, but it’s not like we ran away after the show. We were there until late in the morning, the crew was unloading and I was sitting out in the alleyway calling people because people were blowing up my phone like, ‘Is it true that Paul Gray is dead?’ I was very sad and I spent a lot of time talking, but the show itself, I just remember a ton of people being onstage who should not have been onstage. We had no knowledge that anyone was hurt. But, like I said about the parents, my feelings about the justice or injustice of this has nothing to do with the reality that they are totally suffering through this. They need some answers and I feel ethically obliged, if I’m called to trial, to at least give my side of the story and explain to the best of my knowledge what happened so they can get some closure. I don’t have guilt over this because I am innocent, but it feels awful inside to me, terrible. A fan of the band is dead and his family suffering. It’s a very unfortunate situation and one I’d rather not have to deal with, but if you’re a good human being, an adult and a responsible, compassionate human being, then you show up and do the right thing, and that’s going and giving these people some answers.
What does this mean, not just for Lamb of God, but for future metal shows? Clearly there wasn’t enough security, but at the same time people do stagedive and it is dangerous.
Yeah, I had 44 stitches right in my head from a Brutal Truth show. I left the stage at Milwaukee Metalfest and split my skull open and had to go to the hospital. When you crowd surf or go into a moshpit, or somehow make it to the stage, you have to realize you can get hurt. I have the scars and the broken bones to prove it because I’ve been going to shows since I was a kid. If anything good comes out of this, it would be the need for trained security who are aware of what goes on at a show and the type of energy and dancing, so they’re not only there to keep the band safe, but to keep the audience safe. We’ve seen kids coming over the barrier and we’ve often yelled at security. I can’t put on a good show if I’m worried about my fans getting hurt. There needs to be adequate security because this stuff is dangerous! There’s an inherent danger in jumping off a stage and I’ve done it again and again and again.
Does it make you more wary of inviting contact with the audience?
Well, we’re at a point where, long before this show, people don’t need to be getting on stage, because they run into you and can knock you off or run into the equipment and you can’t play. But the whole stagediving thing is a real touchy thing and it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t in this. Someone will come whipping past me who’s made it past security and got onstage, they run and jump, clear the barricade and I’m often like, “Good job! That was badass!” What am I gonna do, get mad? I did the same when I was a kid! But at the same time, if you’re gonna do that, you have to accept the fact that you might break your fucking neck, or someone else’s. I’ve stagedived a lot in our career and I always back way up and make sure people see I’m coming, because I don’t want to break someone’s neck. This has definitely made me more wary about stagediving myself, not for my security but for everybody’s. I skateboard and I’ve busted myself up. I could have broken my neck or killed myself, and that’s a risk I take and I accept that risk because it’s something I like to do. If people do this stuff, they need to realize that.
Obviously you can’t plan too far ahead since you don’t know if you’ll be facing trial. what’s next for you?
I don’t know if I’ll have to go back or not. I’m assuming I will. I’m assuming it will be in December or January, but we’ll tour the States starting in October for a month or so. We have to make some money because the legal bills are exorbitant. We had to borrow that bail money and it’s almost half a million dollars. None of us make the kind of money to be able to pay that off no worries. And the way we make money is by playing shows, but we can’t play shows if I’m in prison. One tour already got cancelled and we had a meeting today talking about the mechanics of keeping the business running when money is just bleeding out. It’s difficult, but it’s better than being in prison. And I will go back. I’m a man of my word and I told the judge I would go back. As I’ve previously expressed, I think it’s the ethical thing to do.
What’s the worst-case scenario?
Ten years with no time off for good behavior. For my particular charge — we’re saying manslaughter, but it’s assault in the fourth degree with intent, resulting in the death of this young man — the sentence for that is five to 10 years with no time off. So the worst-case scenario is that get out when I’m 51, 52 years old. It’s not something I really try to dwell on too much, because it’s scary. I don’t want to go to prison, I don’t want that to happen, but the fact of the matter is it could happen. I will deal with it as it comes, that’s all! can do. If you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you’re pissing on the present. And right now, all! have is the present so I prepare myself the best I can. My band is behind me and my family’s behind me and we’re gonna do our best to prove my innocence. But worrying about a nebulous uncertain future, or being super-bummed out that l went to prison for 37 days does me no good.