Courtesy of Randall Blythe / photo by Travis Shinn
Tomorrow, May 2, esteemed heavy metal frontman and jack of many creative trades D. Randall Blythe will welcome fans and art lovers to his first New York City gallery show, Show Me What You're Made Of. Hosted by Sacred Gallery NYC, the exhibition will feature a collection of photographs from the past few year's of Blythe's life, including his harrowing stint in a Czech prison. The collection will be housed in custom reclaimed wood frames made by Richmond, VA musician Greta Brinkman (who herself is the former bassist for Moby, The Deborah Harry Band, White Cross, and currently plays with Drug Lord).
He's also given Noisey the opportunity to share the stories behind several of his favorite pieces. The following photos will be appearing in Show Me What Your Made Of, so make sure to swing by Sacred Gallery NYC and see them up close and personal!
"GWAR Will Never Die"
I took this photo on August 16, 2014 at the 5th annual GWAR-B- QUE in Richmond, VA. This was the first show GWAR played without Dave Brockie (who had passed away earlier that year), and it was an extremely emotional gig for everyone involved, both band and audience. As the last song of GWAR's set came to an end, blood was spraying everywhere from the stage as usual; but in the late afternoon sunlight I saw many people in the audience crying as they stood with outstretched arms in the fountain of pseudo-gore. This could only happen at a GWAR show, and as I cried my own tears over the loss of our friend, I turned my camera on the audience and got this image from stage left. "Somewhere, Brockie is laughing his ass off at us crying like a bunch of babies while everyone gets hosed down with fake blood," I thought. I also know he would have been proud of how GWAR has carried on as well—hail Oderus, and long live GWAR!
"Terrified Humans Fly Into The Sky"
I am interested in what happens within the human psyche when we are placed in situations that we simply are not designed for; in this case being catapulted at a high rate of speed high into the sky while strapped inside of a metal ball. I stood backstage shooting photos of people getting into this amusement park-type ride recently in Australia while my band was there as part of the Soundwave tour. The faces and arms of the people I caught as the ball reached it apex told me the story of their personalities—some people smiled and screamed with delight, their arms outstretched as they relished their complete lack of control over the situation, while others cowered and covered their eyes. You can tell a lot about a person's character by the way they behave on an amusement park ride… actually, that's all a bunch of horse shit, but it was neat to watch their faces and see what happens. No one puts on a poker face while they're riding the Comet, or whatever this thing is called—the utter lack of guardedness is refreshing. "Da G In The Highlands" Years ago, before Lamb of God was making enough money to pay my bills, my then-girlfriend (and now wife) Cindy and I decided to take a vacation to the UK. We saved some money, and in order to lessen the cost of the trip, I went on my band's message board and asked our (then much smaller) fan base if anyone had a spare couch or two Cindy and I could crash on when we came over. A few people replied, and this man, Gordon Millar was one of them. Gordon lives outside Glasgow, Scotland, so Cindy and I took a bus up from England to visit him- we basically planned our vacation's routing around couch surfing with Lamb of God fans. I wanted to see the Highlands, so Gordon drove Cindy and I up there. As far as scenery goes, the Highlands are one of my favorite places on earth; to me it looks like God stuck his finger down onto the planet and said "Look what I can do!" I have remained good friends with Gordon and his family (I always try to visit his Mom and Dad when I am in Glasgow), and over the years "Da G" has taken me on a few more trips to the Highlands whenever lamb of god has had a day off in Scotland. He's one of my favorite people, and last year I was glad to get this photo of him in such majestic surroundings on a chilly winter afternoon as we walked the hillside in Glencoe. "The Most Beautiful Clock In The World"
In 2012, I spent over a month in Pankrác, a crumbling 123-year-old prison in the Czech Republic. I had been arrested and charged with manslaughter, a crime that carried a sentence of five to ten years hard time, with no time off for good behavior. Eventually I was released on bail and returned to the States, but I flew back to Prague the next year to face trial, where I was exonerated (if you want to know the whole story, I wrote a book about it, Dark Days, which will be released by DaCapo/Random House on July 14, 2015). For most of the thirty-fours days I was incarcerated in Pankrác, I had no watch (and thus no way to tell time), except for the one hour a day I was allowed out of my cell to pace in a small concrete enclosure. Towering above the courtyard where my cage was located was a clocktower-- the clock's face was falling apart, with peeling paint and missing numbers, but it was still functional. I would catch a glimpse of that clock twice a day as I walked to and from the cage, and despite its shabby appearance, it was, indeed, the most beautiful clock I had ever seen. Time moves differently in prison, and seeing that clock gave me a reassuring sense of my place within its continuum—neither the world nor myself had come to a complete standstill, despite that much of the time it certainly felt like that as I faced an uncertain and very frightening future in that strange prison.
When I returned for my trial, one afternoon I went with my wife and a friend to walk the perimeter of the prison walls and shoot photos. When I posted a few of these on the internet, some people were confused why I would do that (go take photos of such an unpleasant place), posting comments that perhaps I was suffering some sort of variety of Stockholm Syndrome or something. I found this line of reasoning to be ludicrous—I write, I make music, and I take photographs. It is what I do, and I have been constantly engaged in creative work in one form or the other since I was kid. Going back to photograph the prison was just one more incident of me trying to understand my life as it was in that very moment through the artistic process. I still loved seeing that clock, but just as in the photograph, it seemed blurry and distant to me, a part of my life now locked in a darker, gritty section of my past that I can view only from afar. "Individual Moment"
Lamb of god had returned to Tel Aviv, Israel to play our second show there, and luckily we had time to visit Jerusalem for the second time as well. Jerusalem is an intense place, full of highly religious residents and visitors—the energy there is so overwhelming to some that the city even has its own metal disorder, Jerusalem Syndrome, where visitors affected with it become convinced they are the Messiah. Jerusalem is crammed full of sites considered holy by followers of the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and there are fantastic photo opportunities literally everywhere you look. I took this photo of an IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldier praying at Judaism's holiest accessible site, the Western Wall (a.k.a. the "Wailing Wall"). Israel and the political situation there is… complex (to put it mildly), and as an outsider I do not feel qualified in any way, shape, or form to make some sort of artistic commentary on the Israeli state-- that is certainly not the intent with this photograph. Instead, when I look at it, I see exactly what I saw when I shot it-- an individual human being caught in a deeply personal spiritual moment, which is a beautiful thing to witness for me. The soldier's rifle does not have a magazine inserted; he is, in effect, disarmed before his conception of the divine.
Photographs like this tend to be interpreted as being "loaded"; often people want to dissect them for some specific socio-political subtext, but there is none here (unless someone else besides myself inserts their own, and there is nothing I can do about that). I am not a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, or Buddhist, but I have taken many, many photos of followers of all of those faiths praying in their holy places across the globe, and every single one has been beautiful to me, just as this one is-- they are all shots of individuals searching outside of themselves for something. The fact that the man is holding a deadly weapon that has been rendered basically useless makes the picture even more beautiful to me. And what is the man praying for… peace with Palestine? The health of his ailing mother? The death of his enemies? The strength to get through the heartbreak of his girlfriend leaving him for another man? We simply do not know; that is between him and his God. I quickly took the photo and walked away, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
This is my friend Josh Wilbur's dog, Harriet, and she is my favorite dog in the world. I have spent quite a lot of time with Harriet over the last few years, as Josh has produced multiple lamb of god records. I caught this photo of Harriet running and doing somersaults while Josh was playing with her one sunny Californian afternoon with a garden hose-- the look on the dog's face is one of single-minded enjoyment. I find that an admirable character trait in dogs, the ability to truly live in the moment when they are enjoying themselves. While they are chewing a new rawhide bone or chasing a favorite ball, that activity gets their absolute and undivided attention; a dog is not neurotically worrying about whether or not there will be food in their bowl later when they are playing, they are just playing. Most humans, including myself, could learn something valuable from this. The Show Me What You're Made Of exhibit will be available for viewing at Sacred Gallery NYC in Soho from May through June 30. Check out Sacred's website for more information.