"Awakened" is the sixth studio album by American metalcore band As I Lay Dying which saw release last month. First formed in 2001, the group continues to evolve and "Awakened" sees the band further expanding upon their dynamic and melodic metal formula. Upon the album's release Ultimate-Guitar spoke to Nick Hipa from As I Lay Dying to discuss the new album, guitars, the band's longevity and being labeled Christcore.
UG: What was the songwriting process like for the new album "Awakened"?
Nick Hipa: The songwriting process for this record was similar to "The Powerless Rise": everyone individually recorded songs/riffs/ideas at home, sent them out for everyone to mull over, the strongest options were voted on and subsequently jammed. The rehearsal space is where every member was able to add their respective touches.
Did the recording process differ much from how you approached recording the previous outings?
This is a similar approach to how we wrote the last record. We've found its best for someone to record their song idea so that their vision is fully represented. We're all proficient enough with home recording to be able to send each other legit quality demos. This has been really advantageous in that all of what we spend our time doing at home is actually writing, where as in the old days a lot of what went on in the practice room was trying to communicate individual ideas.
You worked with producer Bill Stevenson on the new record, what was it like working with him and why did you decide to go with Bill as producer?
We wanted to go with Bill because he's somewhat removed from the metal world but he still has a very good grasp on aggressive and intense music. His bands have powerful sounds that are highly intense and memorable - though not metal - so we thought it would be great to work with someone who has a slightly different opinion or musical taste than us. We took a conference call with him and ended up being so stoked on his personality that we immediately confirmed with him to be our producer.
"I definitely miss home when I leave it but am extremely grateful that enough people care about the band to want to see us in the first place."
This being your sixth studio outing, does it get any easier making records today for the band?
Approaching a new record is always something we find challenging because of the high aspirations we put on ourselves. In our minds, the current release HAS to be better than the one before it, so the task becomes trying to create music that genuinely excites us. The older we get the hard this seems to get, as our tastes seem to get more and more refined, but the flip side of that is the gratification we get when writing a song that we all collectively enjoy.
What sort of gear did you use for this new album?
For leads and solo's I used mostly my Ibanez Custom ART's and RG. We used a Fender Jazzmaster, Gibson Baritone Les Paul, and Taylor Acoustic for miscellaneous layers, and an old Gibson Studio for all the rhythms. The main rhythm tone was a blend of a 6505+ and Diezel VH through a few Bogner cabs. There was also a Maxon OD808 in front of that I believe. For solos, we used a blend of a Soldano SLO100 and an old Traynor that I don't remember the model of. There was a Maxon OD808 in front of that as well and that also went through a Bogner cab.
What are you using live in 2012 when it comes to guitars, amps and pedals?
Live, I use the same Ibanez Custom ART's, an RG, and a Destroyer as far as guitars go. From there I use a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II through a Matrix GT1000FX power amp. In Europe I run my rig through an Avatar 2x12 with Celestion V30's and in the states I run it through a Mesa/Boogies 4x12 with V30's too.
In what ways do you think your playing and technique has evolved?
It's hard to say because there is still all sorts of holes in my playing and a seemingly endless sea of things I would like to improve on. I have been working on getting my attack to sound sharper and just trying to be a cleaner player overall, something I think I'm improving on but still have ways to go. Beyond that, all I really care about is writing stuff that sounds sick and has some sort of emotion behind it.
Do you still adhere to a practice regime and if so, what sort approach do you have?
A lot of my guitar playing is spent writing. When I do practice, I mostly practice the most challenging parts of our newer stuff to a click for hours. If I get burned out on that I just noodle and riff or tinker with my Axe-Fx. Really I just try to keep the guitar in my hands.
When it comes touring today, has it also gotten any easier considering?
We're very fortunate to be at a level where we can tour in a bus somewhat comfortably. The years we spent in a van were memorable for sure, but for as much and as long as we tour I'm happy to be able to consistently get some sleep. Other than that, I definitely miss home when I leave it but am extremely grateful that enough people care about the band to want to see us in the first place.
"The current release HAS to be better than the one before it, so the task becomes trying to create music that genuinely excites us. The older we get the hard this seems to get."
This year the band would have been together for 12 years, did you ever think you'll still be here in 2012?
Always hoped but never 100% expected.
The media likes to put labels on anything particularly bands, you've been tagged "Christcore" how do you feel about that label?
That's a terrible label and I would never in a million years refer to our band as "Christcore".
The band adhere to Christianity, so is it hard being on road with all the temptations you face for example with groupies or do you find that because of your beliefs, the "groupies" element doesn't present itself?
More than anything, being in a serious relationship keeps me away from the scarce amount of presentable metal trim that all the other single dudes are lurking on; on whatever tour we may be a part of.
"Please don't get caught up in the negativity and competitiveness that seems to be everywhere these days. Focus on becoming the guitar player you dream to be and creating your own voice on the instrument."
Have you ever had ambitions to work on outside projects such as a solo project?
There's a few other projects that I exercise my creativity with and will hopefully have something to release when the time is right!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time outside of the band’s music and schedule?
Music is pretty much my main hobby, but outside of that I spend a lot of my free time surfing, CrossFitting, watching NFL/managing my fantasy football teams, editing videos, and doing misc. art for a pet clothing company called "Party Animalz".
What's your view on the whole "end of the world" scenario presenting itself with the Mayan calendar prophecy of 2012?
I'm not sweating it!
Have you any advice for young guitarists in up-and coming metal bands?
Please don't get caught up in the negativity and competitiveness that seems to be everywhere these days. Focus on becoming the guitar player you dream to be and creating your own voice on the instrument.
Any plans for some more new tattoos?
Always, but if I started writing about them I would be that dude that punishes you about how sick his tattoo plans are.
If the band split tomorrow, what working environment would you seek out?
I would probably focus on something that exercised creativity like being an editor for a totally rad TV show.
Interview by Joe Matera
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