Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe has recalled the moment bassist John Campbell told him their problems in the Czech Republic were serious – and how he hoped the rest of the band would get out of the country as fast as possible.
Blythe: I'd have died if I hadn't faced Czech trial
Lamb Of God frontman recalls moment he realised he was in trouble, his hopes that his bandmates would escape, and how avoiding court could have killed him
And he’s convinced he would have died if he hadn’t returned to face trial, even though he could have avoided the ordeal if he’d wanted to.
Blythe was arrested and charged with manslaughter in June 2012, following the death of fan Daniel Nosek after a Lamb Of God show two years earlier. He spent six weeks in prison, then went back to Prague after being bailed for a court case in which he was acquitted.
In an audience interview recorded by The Vault at last week’s Housecore Horror Film Festival in Texas, Blythe says: “I was getting off the plane with my guys and I saw this woman checking passports. She takes our passports and I notice she’s directing me to the right, and to the left all the people we don’t know.
“John is already in there. There’s five dudes – big motherfuckers in face masks with machine guns, big knives and all sorts of shit. They looked like they were there to get Bin Laden. And there were three huge Eastern bloc muscle dudes, and a woman who turned out to be the head detective.
“I’m like, ‘Fuck, there must have been someone awful on that plane.’ I look at my bass player and start singing Kool And The Gang, ‘There’s a party going on right here.’ and he’s like, ‘No, dude, there’s no party. This is something bad.’”
Blythe was handed some paperwork and told to collect any prescription medication he might need for the coming days – but he still didn’t know what was going on. “All I could tell was that a kid had died and I was being blamed for it,” he says.
Haven't you guys watched Law And Order? I'm not saying shit
And he’s astonished at the behaviour of the Czech police: “They must not have cop shows in the Czech Republic. They kept asking, real casual, ‘How’s it going, do you remember anything?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t really know what’s going on – I’m not going to say anything until I see my lawyer.’
“They were like, ‘We think it would be very good for you to take the court-appointed lawyer.’ I’m like, ‘Haven’t you guys ever watched Law And Order? I’m not saying shit, I’m not taking your lawyer!’”
As he underwent psychological testing while being held in a “hole with a tiny window,” Blythe could only hope the rest of Lamb Of God had gone. “I just wanted my band to get the fuck out of the country,” he says. “I was like, ‘I hope they get on the first plane and leave – the less people talk to the cops the better.’ They interrogated my band the next day and they were like, ‘It was two years ago, we don’t remember anything.’
“I didn’t remember anything other than it was a really terrible show; there were a lot of kids on the stage.”
He remains unhappy that US authorities had been aware of the investigation for two years without passing on the information. He reflects: “The Czech police department told the Justice Department, ‘We’re having an investigation,’ and they were like, ‘That’s bullshit – there’s no evidence, you’re not taking our citizen.’ That’s cool. Let me know I’m wanted for manslaughter in a foreign country. We had no idea any of this shit had happened.”
After finally being bailed and allowed to return home, Blythe was always determined to return to stand trial, partly because he’d lost a daughter at a young age, and partly because of his chequered past.
I had an ethical obligation to give them answers as best I could
He explains: “It’s no big secret I used to party a lot. Drink just doesn’t work for me, but for so many years I was running from my problems. I didn’t like the way life was so I was doing this.
“So when this happened I was like, ‘I’ve got a problem and I need to face this problem.’ If I didn’t, if I can convince myself I don’t have to be responsible enough to face this, then I can very easily convince myself that I can handle just one drink.”
He recalls how, when his daughter died because she was too young to undergo life-saving surgery, he at least knew why he’d lost her – while Nosek’s parents were left bewildered over his death.
“It didn’t make me feel any better, but I had a hard cold answer,” Blythe says. “These people didn’t know. I had an ethical obligation as a compassionate human being to give them answers as best I could.
“If I hadn’t, I’d have wound up wasted, and probably dead.”