In This Moment
Exclusive Interview with Randy Weitzel
Interview by Rebecca Bush
Metal Rules spoke to ‘The War Machine’ himself Randy Weitzel and we took a more in-depth look at his journey with the band and the process behind how latest album ‘Mother’ came together. Speaking openly about the emotional journey he went through and how special this album is to him on a personal level, we are privileged to have such an insight into his experiences and the other creative aspects of his work with the band.
Hello Randy. Thank you for taking time to talk to us.
Awesome! Thanks for having me. You know, back before I was in In This Moment I did an interview with Metal Rules in May of 2011. Little did I know that a few short months later I’d be heading to Florida to play guitar on the Shiprocked cruise for the first time with my ITM friends.
First, I would like to congratulate you on the success of ‘Mother’ It has been very well received across the board. You must be immensely proud!
Thank you so much. What a journey it’s been with this one. Every album has its own stories, and it’s always a timestamp on your life, but this one is really special to me. When the recording for Mother started in Las Vegas early 2019, I was actually in a Pittsburgh hospital with my dad, who was really sick and on life support. I had made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to be on the record at all, because I needed to stay there with my dad while they did what needed to be done in the studio.
After about 4 weeks my dad passed away, and right after his memorial, my wife Bridget and I headed to Vegas. We met up with the rest of the band, and all lived in a big house together. We spent our days hashing out songs, creating the stage show, and coming up with all sorts of other ideas. I honestly could not have been in a better place to mourn my dad at that time. I was surrounded by friends who had recently gone through the same type of loss, and we were creating and working on the things we love the most. The album was about half way done by the time we got there, and it was a real blessing to be there and to be recording. Dad was with us.
I’d like to go back to the beginning of your journey with the band and ask how you came to join the ranks?
Well, in 2000, when I was around 29 or 30 years old, my wife and I packed up what little we owned and moved to California. Moving to Los Angeles was like a dream for me because I grew up in a small town pretty far outside of Pittsburgh and places like the Whisky and the Troubadour were famous places that only existed in Hit Parader magazine and Mötley Crüe videos. Once I started playing these places it was such a surreal experience. There we were, my wife and I, so far from home, chasing this crazy dream that barely seems attainable. But you know what they say, without any risk there is no great reward.
Chris, Travis and Maria were part of that LA music scene at the same time I was. We were all in different bands, playing shows and partying. We were just a bunch of kids from different parts of the country, all in LA trying to make it big. A number of years later when I got the call to play on Shiprocked with In This Moment, I jumped at the chance. I loved those guys and I was being given a shot to join a great band and to tour full-time. I was 41 at the time and though the journey didn’t happen overnight, I can look back and see pivotal moments and connections being made with the right people way back in those early days in LA.
You hit the ground running with touring and live shows, how did you adjust to suddenly living on such a full-on tour schedule?
Honestly, I had struggled in bands for so many years, that it was actually a huge sigh of relief to finally have the opportunity to get out there and give it hell. The band was going through a major transition when I joined, and there was a real do-or-die situation happening. Something was changing. Really creative things were happening to the stage show. The music was inspired and the videos were insane. I embraced all of it fully.
Which of the music videos you have been in with the band were the most fun to shoot?
The first couple videos from Blood were magical, because they were my first with the band obviously, but also because there was really something extraordinary and special going on. It was a vibe that everyone was feeling and it was electric. “Big Bad Wolf” from Black Widow was a really cool one too. Usually there is a lot of planning before our videos but with “Wolf” we just got in a room, shot it on the fly, and went for it. We did the whole thing in just a matter of a few hours. Something truly raw and tribal was captured in that one. I’m also proud of “Oh Lord” and some of the videos we did for Ritual. My wife Bridget was brought in with her production company Dept GSD to assume the production duties. Sharing that experience with her made those pretty special. And of course working with Rob Halford in “Black Wedding”… I mean, if that is a dream, don’t wake me up.
What is your favourite part of the process when making music videos?
Just knowing that we are heading to a set or location is exciting. It’s show business man, it’s cool. And over the years I’ve been learning the process of how it all works. For our last video, “The In-Between”, Maria and I edited the video together on her tour bus. Over the course of several weeks we would wake up, edit, play a show and then continue editing all night. To see the final result and the reaction from the fans is really the best part though.
Mother feels like an expanded more in-depth exploration of the themes you introduced with Ritual, was this a conscious decision when you started writing?
With Blood there had been a major shift in the band’s direction. Black Widow was a continuation of that, and then came Ritual. One of the things that I love most about In This Moment is that it’s never been a band that has shied away from change. We thrive on it, and I think that’s part of what keeps it exciting for us. We know change is also hard for some people to accept, but that’s part of the artistic process. When a new idea is put out and it survives the criticism, that idea becomes the standard. Then, over time, inspiration is found in new things and that’s the cycle. That’s how it evolves. Ritual was definitely one of those shifts which led us here to Mother. We are getting older, finding deeper spiritual inspiration in life and family, and I think that definitely comes through on Mother.
Back in my Pittsburgh days, being in a band was all about getting fucked up and playing as fast and loud as possible. 30 years later, however, I’ve come to see that the life of a musician is so much more than that. I can have a positive effect on someone’s life through music. I get to experience a connection with people through our music that I never expected. And honestly, above and beyond all of the amazing parts of this life, that connection and positive energy is really the best, most beautiful part of all of it.
Is the process always the same when you write and record new material?
I think everyone is open to any process that’s going to result in a good song. Typically they’re worked out in the studio, but there are always exceptions. “The In-Between”, for example, ended up being one of those classic Rock-n-Roll tales: the last song written for the album and written on the road under less than ideal conditions.
As soon as Mother was finished it was time to get back on the road. Right before I left for pre-production and tour rehearsals in Nashville, management called and asked me to bring my recording rig because Atlantic was looking for one more song for the album, and we would need to write and record it on the road. In Nashville, Chris and I recorded ideas at our hotel and then sent them over to Maria who was designing lights for the live show at the rehearsal space. Ultimately, the tour began, and we would write and record in hotel rooms and the tour buses in a bunch of different cities. Once we got the song structure and scratch vocals recorded, we sent it to Kevin (Churko, Producer). He then met us in a Chicago studio on one of our days off to track vocals. It was in the middle of a tour, Maria’s arm was in a sling and she was in all sorts of pain from giving it hell onstage the night before. When she started tracking her vocal we knew we had something excellent. Chris and I had goosebumps. Maria’s arm was killing her but she used that pain and channelled it into the passion you hear on the song. Kevin captured an absolutely fucking brutal vocal performance. A lot of what you hear on the track are the actual sounds we recorded in the hotels and buses. Chris and I recorded some of the guitars in the front lounge of the tour bus. The label loved the song and decided it was to be the first single and video and I was stoked, to say the least.
So, you never quite know how a song will come to be. I guess the key is just be open and ready to follow the process wherever it goes. I am really blessed and grateful to be a part of that song. Again, my dad was with me on that one.
There are some poignant moments on the album, most notably ‘Legacy’, which we know a little of the background of. Could you give us a bit more of the story surrounding the song and the dedication to yours and Chris’s fathers as well as Maria’s Grandfather?
When I was in the hospital with my dad, Chris and Maria often sent over rough mixes for me to share with him. One of the songs was “Legacy”, written about Maria’s Grandfather who had recently passed. I played it for him every night until he passed away. For a long time after that I couldn’t even listen to the song. It broke my heart, and would just take me right back to those moments in the hospital room with my dad. That’s the power of music, right?
Eventually, they asked me to lay down a lead guitar solo on the song alongside Chris’s solo. That was rough to get through man, but I just put my head down and felt my dad’s energy with every note. I did it only a few weeks after he died, and it was an intense experience for sure. It’s really something special, and I am so proud of it. My dad would have loved it too. I know it. I’ve never been that emotionally connected to a song before in my life. When we added the song to our live show, it was rough for all of us to get through it every night. We would all just look at each other, feel it and honor our loved ones. When I hear it now it makes me think of my dad and I’m grateful. “Legacy” has Dad listed as part of the dedication in the record. You are never gone if your name survives.
Aside from your musical role in the band what other aspects of creation do you have a hand in?
Basically I try to pitch in to whatever needs to be done, like cutting video commercials together adding my 70’s style voiceover. I also work on merch and T-shirts, stage design, live interludes, tour posters and even tour passes. We are still a band that is very much as hands-on as possible. There’s no fun in having everybody else do everything creative for you.
This is obviously an extremely hard time for artists and all those that work behind the scenes such as crew and all the extended ‘family’ that help put a show together, is there anything in particular that you are doing in order to gain support during all of this?
Times really are strange right now, aren’t they? When the pandemic hit and all the tours got cancelled, putting so many people out of work, Chris and Maria wanted to do something to support the crew. They asked me to help put together a shirt design that would be sold and the profits given to the crew. Our “Stay Home and Listen To Mother” shirt is available on our website and all proceeds go to the amazing crew that works so hard to bring our show to your cities every night.
Aside from that, we are all just staying focused on the future and staying positive. Concerts will happen again. Music will never stop. We will all be together again rocking out and until then, we will just keep thinking of new things to bring to you all when that does happen.
You have an endorsement with Schecter Guitars, was this a direct result of you joining In This Moment?
Absolutely. Schecter has always been there for In This Moment. We are all family and we love them.
You have a signature guitar with Schecter, did you work with them on the design or did you design it entirely yourself?
For a guitarist, being given the opportunity to design your own signature guitar is a dream come true. I was so stoked to create something with Schecter. In order to bring a signature model to life, I started out by deconstructing a t-shirt design that I had worked on for Black Widow and then added some Ritual and Ouija board elements to the graphic design. It’s a solid, heavy duty, badass guitar. I wanted the best hardware too – Floyd Rose tremolo, EMG pick ups. It’s exactly what I play onstage, and it truly is my signature design, from graphics to component, I love this thing. It’s tough as nails too. I can beat the living hell out of that thing on the road and it just keeps on ticking. Thank you Schecter.
Has this time in isolation inspired you to explore any new hobbies?
I have a couple of exciting things that I’m working on creatively, but when “normal” went out the window I found that this is the first time in about 8 or 9 years that I’ve had this amount of time off from touring to just stop, reflect and enjoy some time at home with my wife and fur children. I’m enjoying the downtime.
What are you most looking forward to in terms of music both personally and with the band when we start to return to the world?
I simply can’t wait to go back to playing music with my friends. I miss having that magical connection with the fans and the energy from the live show. I look forward to those lights going down, and the adrenaline rush right before the curtain drops. There is nothing like it and I really miss it. The energy of a rock show is like nothing else in the world. People have asked me if I like stadium type shows or smaller venues better and I always say smaller because I can connect with people easier. We can look each other in the eye and feed off of each others energy and then I bounce a pick off of your head. The festivals are immense and awe inspiring in their own way and I can’t wait to get back to all of the shows.
I also have a bunch or personal Signature Guitar and Mini Guitar meet & greets that I get to honor as well, and am looking forward to those. I love that connection. I like to meet and get to know the fans on a personal level. I haven’t forgotten about you guys! We will get to do all of this soon enough!!!
Finally, do you have anything you would like to say to our readers?
With everything going on it’s important to stay connected to each other and spread kindness in any way you can. Stay safe and healthy and we will see you as soon as we can. And remember, “Stay home and listen to Mother”.