LAMB OF GOD guitarist Mark Morton recently discussed his new solo acoustic EP, "Ether", with Topher of Moshville Times. The full conversation can be viewed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On how his guitar playing has evolved over the years:
Mark: "Probably the primary difference between my approach to playing now versus earlier in my career [and] earlier in the band's trajectory, I think these days I'm far more focused on songwriting. I'm more interested in the song as a whole rather than lead work or individual riffs. It depends also on what I'm doing. Within the context of LAMB OF GOD, it's very riff-driven, but I more these days look at the big picture of the song overall. Certainly in my solo work, it's more songwriting-based. There are riffs, but it's more about the song, more about songcraft, I think."
On the differences in how he approaches writing for different outlets:
Mark: "In terms of creative and stylistic freedom, I think a band like LAMB OF GOD has been around for over 20 years, so there's an established identity to the band. When I'm writing for that band, writing with that band, it's certainly important to me to respect the identity and character of the band, and the legacy and the body of work that we've created. I sort of work within the framework [and] within the context of all of that. With the solo stuff I've been doing the last couple years, it's a little more open-ended. It's kind of new for me to be releasing stuff like this, so it's a bit more open-ended creatively. I'm allowed to kind of define what I want it to be at the base level. In a sense, there's more freedom. There's room to make mistakes as well. It's challenging, but I'm having a great time with it."
Mark: "The idea to go acoustic for this new EP was really born out of the experience of having had opportunities to perform acoustically in support of 'Anesthetic'. I played the Sonic Temple festival last summer — I did a side stage show there. LAMB was playing the big stage, and I did a solo acoustic thing on the side, and Mark Lanegan came and sang with me, and Mark Morales came and sang with me. He's my touring singer — he's on both releases. Jacoby Shaddix from PAPA ROACH came and did a song with us. That went really cool. At Download last summer, I did a set in the Zippo tent with Jason from FEVER 333, and Mark was with me again. Those experiences were great, and it was really well-received. It went over great, so it kind of planted the seed of taking that approach to doing some shows like that, and I got the idea of doing a recording like that to give us a reason to do shows like that. It just all sort of swirled around and became its own sort of campaign... It was really exciting it see it come together. It came together very fast, and it's that's kind of a different process than 'Anesthetic' was. 'Anesthetic' took two and a half years to write and record, mainly because of my schedule with LAMB OF GOD. I was doing it on breaks and in between [tours], working on it when I had free space to do that. 'Ether' was done very quickly. Everything was written and recorded in a matter of maybe two or three months. The three originals were all brand new. They weren't things I was sitting on — I wrote them specifically for the project. Everything happened really fast, so it was an interesting experience for me to see one project that was really drawn out and took a long time, so I was able to sit with the stuff and make changes as we went, whereas 'Ether' was like, 'Let's go. Let's do it. Just commit.' I'm really proud of them both. We just got to the end goal in different ways... When I sat down two months to start writing, I didn't really know what I was going to do. I just picked up an acoustic guitar and sat at a stool at the bar in my kitchen and just started playing, and making little recordings when I found something cool and just putting the songs together."
On covering THE BLACK CROWES classic "She Talks To Angels":
Mark: "I had the idea of doing that song, but I didn't just want to do that song again. That's one of the songs where if you're going to redo it, you should probably just do something different because you're not going to recreate the original for the sake of doing that. The idea was to have a woman singing it to change the protagonist, to give it kind of a different angle, and Lzzy [Hale], she just did such an amazing job with it. She's got such an incredible voice. I hit her up with the idea, and she was all for it... Lzzy's vocal performance was the only one I wasn't there for. She recorded that at her own studio in Nashville. We mixed it, dropped it in... I was just blown away. To hear it for the first time, it was like getting a Christmas present."
On whether making solo recordings has changed how he approaches LAMB OF GOD:
Mark: "Now that I've started doing solo projects and releasing them and establishing the fact that I'm doing that, these types of outside-of-metal things, they never really had a destination. I was always writing stuff that wasn't going to be for LAMB OF GOD that was on acoustic or was more rock or whatever, and I would work on stuff like that for fun, but I didn't really ever have an idea of where it could live, where it could have a space to exist and develop and be turned into real songs. Now, when I come up with something like that, I potentially [have] a place for it to go, so that feels pretty exciting. I think it's helped me overall when I'm working on LAMB to have more of a clarity and a focus — what my role is, and what my job should be in LAMB. If I have all these kind of rock ideas or more melodic ideas or more gentle, acoustic ideas, there have been times where I've tried to kind of shove that stuff into the context of LAMB. I've had some good results with that, but a lot of times, it can be frustrating trying to make something work that's not supposed to be there or forcing it. Now, I feel like having an outlet for this stuff has really freed me up to have more clarity in my focus with LAMB."
On standing on his own:
Mark: "If it was pressure, it was anxiety. It started with 'Anesthetic'. I really didn't have any kind of idea how I would be accepted or taken seriously outside of LAMB OF GOD. I always knew that I was writing songs, and I felt like it was getting better and I was coming on to some cool stuff, but I didn't know if my fans in LAMB OF GOD would come with me to something that was more rock and a little more melodic, a little more commercial-sounding. I didn't know if people that weren't fans of LAMB were willing to take me seriously on my own in these collaborations with these great artists. There was a little bit of anxiety there, but ultimately, I just did it because I'm a musician and I make music, and I had the opportunity to do it so I seized it. As it turns out, it was really well-received. It's been an amazing couple of years... I think with 'Ether', I had a little bit more legs under me, but it's acoustic. It's a bit of a different thing. We'll see what people think."
"Ether" — produced and mixed by Josh Wilbur (LAMB OF GOD, GOJIRA, TRIVIUM) — was released on January 10 via Rise Records/BMG. The five-song, primarily acoustic EP features appearances by Hale, Howard Jones (KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, LIGHT THE TORCH), John Carbone (MOON TOOTH) and Morales.