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‘Be Nice to Everyone on the Way Up’: The Wholesome Staying Power Behind Lamb of God 

Bassist John Campbell unpacks the past, present, and near future for the Virginian heavy metal pioneers ahead of their return to Australia for Knotfest

Lamb of God

Travis Shinn

The early and mid 1990s may invoke memories of grunge, Britpop, or perhaps even the golden age of hip hop, depending on your vintage. But also culminating at the time was a significant shift in metal: the new wave of American heavy metal surged back to its biting roots, while there was also a mainstream surge towards groove metal, industrial, nu metal and beyond.

For Virginia-born groove merchants Lamb of God, the ’90s would be spent solidifying their lineup under the moniker Burn the Priest, evolving from a completely instrumental act into the towering Grammy-nominated heavyweights they would ultimately become.

Now approaching a third decade in the ongoing Lamb of God story, the five-piece continue to relentlessly tour the globe, with multiple festival and headline shows taking them well into November this year, while their most recent performances saw them tour alongside fellow metal trailblazers Pantera.

Both bands are also part second edition of Knotfest Australia alongside Halestorm, The HU, Asking Alexandria, Wage More and many more, which begins in Melbourne on Thursday, March 21st (see full details below). Slipknot’s touring festival will also mark an unexpected first for Lamb of God bassist John Campbell.

“We’ve been hanging out with the Pantera guys for a while and it’s going to be great to see them and their crew because we’ve definitely bro-ed down with them at this point,” he shares over Zoom from Virginia. “And believe it or not, I’m looking forward to seeing the Disturbed guys. I’ve never seen them play live, but I’ve hung out with them backstage before and they’re ridiculously cool. I was surprised at how chill they were.

“It’s never something I ever would have thought, to go out and play some shows with Disturbed. We’ve passed each other at festivals and those are the times we’ve had a chance to hang out. But now we’re actually doing three shows in a row with them for Knotfest. It’ll be nice!”

2024 will also offer Australian fans the chance to witness multiple new Lamb of God songs live in person for the first time: two albums, 2020’s self-titled Lamb of God and 2022’s Omens, were released in the stretch of time since the band last graced our shores touring with Slipknot in 2016.

With three festival sets as well as two headline sideshows in Melbourne and Brisbane on the way, the chance to return to Australia is a tantalising prospect for Campbell.

“It’s been far too long. We miss Australia, all of the Australian shows we’ve done have been great down there, so it’s going to be great to get back there with Knotfest and the massive crowds. I don’t think we’ve ever played the Northcote Theatre before, so we’re definitely looking forward to that. We leave here on Saturday and we don’t get there until Monday. That’s the worst part of it – but here we come!”

Read Campbell’s full interview with Rolling Stone AU/NZ below. More information about Knotfest Australia 2024 can be found here

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: As a band who needs no introduction to any metal fan and now being in command of 11 studio albums, what’s the decision making process like these days for Lamb of God when it comes to crafting a setlist?

John Campbell: It’s not challenging at all. It’s fun because we get to play these songs that we love, and we like to mix it up. There’s some songs that we feel we have to play in the set just because fans are expecting [them] when they come to a Lamb of God show to hear a few key songs. But it’s really fun to bring these new songs out, especially off of this last record, Omens.

I’m really excited to get down there and bring the setlist that we’ve put together, and with the headliners we get to actually play a little bit longer too. We’ve been doing a lot of direct supports recently, so it’s nice to get out and actually play a real set.

With your recent shows and the newer material, has there been a song that resonates particularly for you in a live setting?

I love playing “Resurrection Man”, it just sounds so great. It’s a great song to play. Really fun, really powerful.

Are there any Aussie acts on your radar?

Currently, no. But we have played some shows with [Melbourne grindcore band] King Parrot and I’ve hung out with those dudes. They’re great, they put on an amazing show. It’s possible that I’m listening to Australian bands and don’t even know they’re Australian because you guys kind of lose that accent when you sing. It makes me think you guys are faking it the whole time…

The secret is out! Speaking of your listening habits, what would we catch you listening to in your very rare down time when you’re not on the road?

I balance it between a lot of talk radio, a lot of NPR which is our public radio. I’ll listen to that a lot, but I also listen to a lot of music. When I find something new, I kind of obsess over it and I’ll just play that over and over again until I burn out on it and then I have to find something else.

What’s one of those recent musical obsessions?

Well, this one’s almost a little embarrassing because I found this band and I was like, “Holy shit, this band is great!” Then I told a couple of my friends and they were like, “Yeah, dude… you didn’t know about those guys?!” They’re kind of background-elevator-jazz music, and it’s a band called Khruangbin – it means “airplane” in Thai.

It is just the most chill background vibe music that bubbles up enough to get your attention – but then it falls back in. It’s super funky and laidback. They look like they should be from Brooklyn, New York but they’re actually from Houston, Texas from what I’ve read. They’ve got an extreme style and the drummer’s got a stone face. They’re insanely tight.

Ahead of Knotfest, what’s a core festival memory that instantly springs to mind?

One that instantly springs to mind is when we were in Germany at Rock im Park, and I was side [of] stage watching Slayer play to the German crowd. I’m still tight with all the crew guys, they’re good friends of mine. Suddenly some dude got up on stage and the Slayer crew guys are not the dudes to fuck around with.

They just basically yoked the guy up. They didn’t beat him up, but one guy had him in an arm bar and was leading him off stage. Another guy just had the other arm locked up while a third guy was running behind him, kicking him in the ass as they escorted him off the back of the stage. And what happened from there? I have no idea!

Lamb of God

Credit: Travis Shinn

Can you take me briefly back to your first-ever live show?

Shit, that’s a great question. I don’t know what our first show was when we changed our name, but I definitely remember our first show as Burn the Priest. We played our first show in 1995, it was a house party in the basement of a house in Richmond. We were a four-piece instrumental, and that was our first show ever.

It was actually fantastic for us, and thankfully one of our friends filmed it on VHS way back in the day. He didn’t film the whole show, he filmed little bits and pieces because he’s very artsy with video stuff. And he still is! I remember we rolled in, played the party, and rolled out. But it was insanely fun. 

It’s wild to think where that house party basement show would eventually lead. Obviously festival crowds are always going to be fun, but do you still love playing some slightly more intimate venues?

Oh my god, yes. Well, we’ve been doing these arena tours with Pantera, which is indoors, and I gotta be honest, it’s pretty nice because the crowd can come pretty close. It’s still a nice big stage, a nice big audience, and everyone can see it. But we [also] play theatres, and that’s great because instead of looking at people all the way at the back of an arena, you can see that back row and see somebody yawning or yelling, or whatever it is they’re doing.

Being so deep into your career now, what motivates you creatively after all this time?

Just playing the shows, performing on stage, and taking these songs we’ve worked really hard on. And performing them in front of people and getting that immediate validation of, “Oh, hey! You did a really good job!” It’s a pretty rewarding part of my job.

You recently shared some wisdom on Instagram that just because somebody has a beard and they look a bit older, you shouldn’t automatically believe everything they say. What is the wisest piece of advice that someone else has offered to you in your career?

Our friend Dave Brockie, the now-deceased front man for Gwar, told us to be nice to everyone on the way up because you’ll see them on the way down. And we definitely took that to heart. And when we get feedback from venues and people are like, “Man, your crew and you guys are the nicest people we’ve had through here,” it all comes from that. And it’s so easy! It’s so easy to be nice. Pretty weird for a heavy metal band that used to be called Burn the Priest, right?

That mentality shows in the Lamb of God legacy – it’s something we all can’t wait to see more of when you’re back on our shores!

Man, we’re so excited just to be back on the road and to get back down in Australia. It’s been a long time, it’s been seven or eight years. Hopefully it won’t be so long again. But it’s going to be great to see everyone, hear those accents that y’all are faking.

Knotfest Australia 2024

Presented by Destroy All Lines, TEG Live & Finely Tuned

Tickets available via knotfest.com/australia

March 21st
Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, VIC

March 23rd
Centennial Park, Sydney, NSW

March 24th
Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane, QLD


Pantera | Disturbed | Lamb of God | Halestorm
The Hu | Asking Alexandria | Wage War | Escape the Fate
Thy Art Is Murder | Skindred | Speed | Windwaker
Brand of Sacrifice | King Parrot

Lamb of God Sideshows

With Special Guests Brand of Sacrifice

Wednesday, March 20th
Northcote Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Monday, March 25th
Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane, QLD