Laid to Roast: Lamb of God’s Willie Adler On His Passion for All Things Coffee

Willie Adler photo by Stefan Brending, via Wikipedia.

It’s no surprise that Willie Adler needs his coffee. As the guitarist for Lamb of God, Willie spends most of his time traveling around the globe, appearing in front of millions of screaming fans while playing riffs that sound like getting beaten with a robot’s severed leg — not exactly a job one can do without a little pick me up. But Willie’s love of coffee goes beyond your average Joe’s cup of joe — it’s become a passion, something he explores in different places all over the world. And now, it’s become a tradition that he himself takes part in.

This year sees Lamb of God releasing Memento Mori, their collaboration with coffee roasters Nightflyer Roastworks (whose owner, Paul Waggoner, is known to most metal fans as the guitarist for Between The Buried and Me). The blend is a benchmark for Adler, his first foray into the coffee world that he so enjoys.

We got a chance to cat with Willie about his passion for the dark and jittery stuff. Here’s what he told us over a nice cup of coffee…

Since the announcement of Memento Mori coffee, are you just vibrating on free samples?

Ha! Paul and myself have had a long-standing relationship that has revolved around coffee, ever since he filled in for Mark [Morton, guitarist] and helped us out on a few tours. Him and I have been going around searching for the best coffee and just kind of evolving together, as far as our coffee snobbery goes. But yeah, I am well-caffeinated.

Is there a specific type of a coffee, or coffee from a part of the world, that’s your be-all-end-all?

South Africa has some pretty rad coffee, along with Indonesia. That’s one of those tours we did where Paul and I made a point of every day going out and finding a cool spot. We knew that South Africa was coming up as one of the dates, and there was a shop there we knew we wanted to go to, and it was everything we thought it was going to be. So that’s probably one of spots in the world where, if I could have one more cup of coffee, I’d somehow make it over there and enjoy it.

Is there a pot of coffee brewing at all times on Lamb of God tours? Do you snap out your hand and a coffee appears in it?

It’s funny, man, because — I guess all of us drink coffee, but some of us take it to a different extent…and by some of us, I mean me. On the bus, I have my own little section in the kitchenette, where I have a little manual espresso maker, and I keep a drawer that’s my fucking drawer, I put my name on it and have tape on it. If there’s anything that is plentiful for a Lamb of God bus, it’s coffee and coffee equipment.

What do you look for in a coffee blend? Are you a dark roast-and-flavor guy, or a light roast-and-caffeine man?

I’m real big on espresso. When this idea was brought up, it was a no brainer to fuckin’ partner with Paul and Nightflyer just cause of the relationship we had. But when we talked, I said, ‘I don’t want to just cater to myself, obviously. I want to design a coffee that’s kind of versatile and will behave well as espresso, as drip, as pour-over — however you decide to make it. So we decided on a medium roast, which is my mind is probably the most versatile, and works well for me. Before I was deep on the coffee tip, I was all about dark roast, because I thought, ‘That’s got the most flavor, it tastes like coffee.’ But then the more I learned about coffee, the more I was able to manipulate beans, and the more I roasted myself, I gravitated more towards a medium roast.

Did you taste or sample Memento Mori along the way, or did you really just hand it off to Nightflyer Roastworks?

I trust Paul a great deal, and this was one of those things where we wanted to get something out to coincide with the release of the record and all that, so when we talked, it was basically me telling him, ‘I want something that works well across the board, and something that we can supply fresh.’ With a lot of these coffees, these dudes will roast the ever-loving shit out of it, and by the time you get it, they’ve been roasted six months ago. So I said, ‘Dude, we need to be able to get it to people a couple weeks after roast, and it needs to be sourced by someone you trust.’ I left it to Paul, and he ran it. We were kind of neck-and-neck there for a few years, as far as our coffee obsessions, and then he just went over the top by opening his own shop.

Nightflyer Roastworks’ logo

Let’s say I’m your typical metal dude getting into coffee. Where do I start?

You really need to try a bunch. And it depends on where your tastes start. You start to learn about different regions of the world, and how that effects coffee. Central America and Brazil will produce very bright notes and citrus-y types of coffee, whereas East Africa and West Africa will produce chocolatey and brown sugar flavors, and India will do the same. And then in Indonesia, it’s earthy and kind of grassy. So it really just depends on where your taste lie, and that’s why I love roasting my own. I could order from all these different regions and make different blends, combining these flavors. It’s really just a matter of trial and error, and finding people who roast who are quality roasters. It depends on how deep you wanna go — this shit can get really obsessive.

Have you ever taken someone out and coffee-ed them under the table?

I think when we were in the UK, our manager was over there with us, and we were visiting castles, and I wanted to stop and get coffee at numerous places. And by the end of it, he was like, ‘Dude, I can’t.’

Lamb of God’s Memento Mori Coffee is available to order online.

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Words by Chris Krovatin