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Christopher James “Chris” Adler was born to a musical family in the city of Washington, DC in 1972. At a very early stage of his life, Chris Adler could be found tapping on his parents coffee cans with broken sticks he found on his backyard in Woodbridge, Virginia. However, Chris Adler’s early interest in percussion was “sabotaged” by his mother, a piano instructor who sang at local choirs.
Chris Adler‘s mother had an active hand on his and Willie Adler’s early development as musicians. She taught them to sing, read music, and had them both take piano lessons by the time they were six years old – an instrument Chris Adler studied for 8 years. During that period of time, Chris Adler learned saxophone, tympani, and acoustic guitar as well. However, all of Chris Adler’s early developments as a musician were blown to smithereens when he heard Aerosmith for the first time and decided to pursue bass guitar instead.
Along the years spent in the Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia, Chris Adler played for several bands and recording projects as a bassist. In 1989, Chris Adler’s life would be changed forever at a Wrathchild America’s concert, a band which featured Shannon Larkin on drums. The way Shannon played his drum set really spoke to Chris Adler, who found himself mesmerized by his performance – more so than with what he was playing. Chris Adler immediately felt the urge to start playing drum set. Although he didn’t know if he could do it, seeing Shannon Larkin perform really made him want to give it a go.
Fortunately for Chris Adler, the drummer from the heavy-metal band he was playing with would leave his double bass kit set up at the Adler’s garage, the band’s practice space. This proved to be a great situation for Chris Adler, since he could use that drum set to learn how to play. A few weeks later the band broke up. Without a drum set and with college just around the corner, Chris Adler’s dream of playing drum set was on the back-burner.
In 1990, Chris Adler enrolled at the Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia. In his first year there, Chris Adler met John Campbell (bass player) and Mark Morton (guitar player) in his freshman dorm. They became good friends while drinking and listening to heavy-metal music. In 1991, they parted ways when each got his own apartment to live in. They didn’t see each other for three years. During college, Chris Adler played bass guitar on several records and for several bands, and even toured the United States (U.S.) occasionally between 1991 and 1994.
In June of 1994, Chris Adler met back up with John Campbell, who asked if he was interested in forming a band with him. During his freshman year, Chris Adler had shared with John his desire of learning how to play drums. Since bass guitar was already taken by John, Chris Adler was offered the opportunity to play drums. So at the age of 21, Chris Adler took on the drum set as his main instrument. Chris Adler bought his first drum set — a crappy MX 100, whose features included a faulty bass drum pedal footboard, uneven bass drum legs, duct taped cymbal stands, and really crappy cymbals – which he played in his apartment bedroom while the neighbors were at work,
“It was a student’s nightmare, but I played away on this thing to try to learn how to play drums. I there, wanted that ability far worse than any drum kit could hold me back from. But it was kind of fitting that my first drum kit was almost impossible to play because it definitely made me a better player.” – Interview to DRUM! Magazine’s Website.
The drums and hardware Chris Adler played with weren’t the only impediments to practicing in those early years. When winter came, putting in some quality practice time was a challenging endeavor due to heating issues. Money was short. The house was heated with a kerosene heater, and Chris Adler had to use a coat and gloves to practice in some occasions.
Chris Adler began his drum studies by playing along to Aerosmith’s first record. Chris Adler used Joey Kramer’s drum parts to learn the basics. As Chris Adler progressed, the drumming from guys like Shannon Larkin, and Gar Samuelson from Megadeth, really motivated him because of their speed and power behind a drum set. Surprisingly, bands outside of the heavy-metal realm, like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and The Police, with Billy Cobham and Stewart Copeland as drummers respectively, inspired him as well.
After jamming for a while with Chris Adler, John Campbell decided to enlist Mark Morton as a guitarist for their band. Mark Morton’s proficiency scarred Chris Adler at first. Chris Adler was afraid that his lack of skill on the drum set would only foster frustrations between him and Mark. Instead of quiting from the band or getting put-off with Mark’s guitar skills, Chris Adler saw in Mark’s musicianship the push he needed to start taking drums a lot more seriously. Hence, Chris Adler decided to take a semester off from college, and just focus his time and energies into becoming the best drummer he could be for the sake of the band, which they called Burn The Priest.
With Burn The Priest, Chris Adler played drums for two EPs and one full-length self-titled album, which was released in 1999. The band toured heavily during their five years of existence and became the most downloaded metal band of all time on the website MP3.com. This, of course, caught the attention of several record labels. In January of 1999, Burn The Priest changed their name to Lamb Of God. In December of that same year, the band welcomed Willie Adler as their new rhythm guitarist. With the band’s line-up set and with a contract signed with a record label, Lamb Of God took over the heavy-metal realm with their infectious and groove-based metal music.
With Lamb Of God, Chris Adler has recorded 6 studio albums, 1 live album, 1 compilation album and 3 DVDs. New American Gospel (2000) was Lamb Of God’s first studio release under their new name and with Willie Adler on guitar. The album has sold over 100,000 copies in the United States. As The Palaces Burn (2003) was their next studio effort, and one that build on what Lamb Of God had accomplished with their previous releases, having sold around 250,000 copies in the U.S. alone. Ashes Of The Wake (2004) debuted at #27 on the Billboard 200, and was rated by Guitar World as the 49th greatest Guitar Album of all Time. As of August 2010, it’s also Lamb Of God’s best-selling album with just over 400,000 copies sold in the United States.
Sacrament (2006) debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200. The album was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007, in the “Best Metal performance” category with the track “Redneck”. Sacrament was the top-selling heavy-metal album of 2006, receiving the “Album Of The Year” award from Revolver magazine. It has sold over 331,000 copies in the United States. Wrath (2009) achieved #2 on Billboard 200, Lamb Of God’s highest position on the charts for the launch of one of their album. The album has sold over 202,000 copies in the U.S., and was nominated for a Grammy award in the “Best Metal Performance” category in 2010 and 2011 with the songs “Set to Fail” and “In Your Words” respectively.
Lamb Of God has given Chris Adler the unique opportunity to play in some of the biggest stages and festivals around the world, like the Download Festival, Sonisphere Festival, Soundwave Festival, Gigantour, and Mayhem Festival, alongside the greatest bands of heavy-metal, past and present. Lamb Of God has played in the Ozzfest, in Slayer’s The Unholy Alliance Tour (2006), and in Metallica’s World Magnetic Tour (2008-2010). Lamb Of God’s major network debut was broadcasted on February 9, 2007 when they performed “Pathetic” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Besides his work with Lamb Of God, Chris Adler recorded drum tracks for Testament’s The Dark Roots of Earth in 2011, and was one of the featured drummers on the Modern Drummer Festival in 2005. You can re-watch Chris Adler’s performance on that show through the DVD Modern Drummer Festival 2005. Chris Adler has also branched out to world of drumming education with the release of the books The Making Of Lamb Of God: New American Gospel (2011), and The Making Of Lamb Of God: As The Palaces Burn. Both books were written in collaboration with Travis Orbin.
Chris Adler has worked with Meinl, Pro-Mark, and Mapex in the development of signature products. With Meinl, Chris Adler designed his signature cymbal- and stick-bag. Chris Adler designed his signature drumstick with Pro-Mark and his signature snare drum with Mapex. This snare drum is actually the first signature snare drum produced by Mapex.
In 2011, the drumming community honored Chris Adler’s work by voting him #1 in the “Best Heavy-Metal Drummer” category on the 2011 Modern Drummer Readers Poll.
Unlike most drummers, Chris Adler lacks drumming influences. He was influenced by a couple drummers – like we stated before – but he was more interested in what they added to the music than in what they played. This, of course, contributed to the development of a very unique style on the drums. Chris Adler wasn’t particularly interested in mimicking drummers or stealing licks for his own library, he was driven to be as original as he could be, for his and Lamb Of God’s sake.
“I think the key was that there was no particular band or person or sound that I wanted to be (…) there’s not really guys that I go out and buy their records and try to copy their riffs. I don’t know any covers by any other band — there’s not a song outside of the 40 or 50 Lamb Of God songs I know in any way.” – Interview to DRUM! Magazine’s Website.
This doesn’t mean that to be original, one has to avoid stealing licks or learning drum parts from songs. This means that to be original, you really have to work on being original, you have to work on your own voice and ideas. Learning licks is fine, but if you learn them and never take the time to mess around with them, add stuff you like or remove parts you don’t, you’ll never develop your own voice on the drum set. Being original takes a lot of hard work. So, whenever you steal a groove or lick be sure to mess around with it. This is not only great for your “drumming personality”, but also a lot of fun to do.
Chris Adler’s has a quite unusual approach to double bass playing, often mixing toms and cymbals along the way. Most of what he plays is written with the intention of complementing what the guitars are playing. So, you’re prone to find more broken up double bass patterns in Chris Adler’s playing, than the typical non-stop double bass runs that are constantly featured in heavy-metal music. “Walk With Me Through Hell” and “Descending” from Sacrament, and “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” from Ashes Of The Wake are very good examples of Chris Adler’s intricate and rhythmically rich double bass drum patterns, unusual tom fills and creative use of cymbals for accents and riding purposes. Chris Adler is also a big fan of playing triplet-based grooves and fills, but is not that passioned about blast beats.
“Blast beats are obviously cool and aggressive, but a lot of times I think they’re overused and it just kind of sounds like white noise after a while. I think the impact of the dexterity in a blast beat is almost negated by the sound of it. I don’t mean to take away from the guys who are out there making a living doing that. For me I’d rather use it as one of many, many flavors, and not try to get amazingly great at that one thing.” – Interview to DRUM! Magazine’s Website.
Chris Adler believes that drumming, as well as playing any other instrument for that matter, should be about having fun. As a musician playing original material, your music and your band will suffer if you’re not enjoying yourself. The music you make will not be as good as it could be. Not enjoying yourself on the drums will ultimately keep you away from practicing. Also, don’t worry too much about being perfect or about not knowing how to play this or that. Keep a positive mindset. Have fun playing what you know how to play and keep working on what you want to improve.
“Drumming is not worrying about what you can’t do. It’s about having fun with what you can do.” – Modern Drummer Festival 2005.
The biggest thing to take from Chris Adler is that no matter your age, if you’re passioned about what you do, if you have the drive, the want, the need within yourself to continue on and push yourself through the frustrations, you’ll be able to do or be whatever you want to. It all comes down to how much you want it, and how much effort you’re willing to put into it.