For San Diego based Christian Metalcore outfit As I Lay Dying
the time has come. First formed back 2001, they released their debut Beneath the Encasing of Ashes that same year on the indie Pluto Records. They later signed to Metal Blade records in 2003 and their Metal Blade debut Frail Words Collapse followed soon after. In the interim the band underwent numerous changes in personnel before its current line-up recorded last years acclaimed Shadows Are Security. Recently the band issued A Long March: The First Recordings which contains the now out of print Beneath the Encasing of Ashes and the band's much sought after 2002 split EP with American Tragedy as well as that same EP re-recorded. On the band's recent tour of Australia, Joe Matera sat down with As I Lay Dying's guitar meisters Phil Sgrosso
and Nick Hipa
during the band's soundcheck in Melbourne for this exclusive interview for UG.
Ultimate-Guitar: What led to the decision to re-issue your early recordings recently under the title of A Long March: The First Recordings?
The reason for the re-release is that Pluto Records our old label were getting offers from other labels to buy the album and a lot of these other labels didn't have our best interest in mind so Metal Blade ended up buying it. And then we found out that a lot of the older stuff was being put onto the internet and they that were really poor qualities, things like bootlegs and kids were paying a lot of money for that kind of crap. So we thought if kids care about hearing it, then we might as well put it out in a legitimate format and let them actually hear it and not have them spend a lot of money on a bootleg that sucks. Metal Blade
are a great label and they definitely support us as much as we want our label to support us.
Speaking of downloading music, what's your views on the whole downloading issue?
I don't think it's really a bad thing. Anyway that people are able to hear our music is always going to be a good thing.
I've downloaded music myself. I would recommend it to any kid who is supporting bands that they feel are worth supporting. I mean if someone downloads our music and then comes to our show, actually pays to come see us play and buys our shirt and stuff, then they're supporting our band in some way. I think the bands that are really like where they're at with their careers it doesn't really hurt them if their music gets downloaded. In fact it maybe helps them. I mean bands that are not further along in their career. At least for us we don't see much money being lost off royalties as such, it's not like we're selling millions of albums so it doesn't matter.
Much of As I Lay Dying's guitar playing has its roots firmly planted in the classic old school metal bands such as Iron Maiden, personally what aspects of those influences permeate your guitar approach within the band?
For me the elements I've taken from those bands are more towards the energetic guitar rhythms and the like.
It's the same with me. The guys that influenced my playing the most were guys like Randy Rhoads, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy. And a lot of the stuff they wrote guitar wise was very lyrical and because the melodies were so catchy, you could sing them all. That is the approach that Phil and I have in our style of playing too. We like to come up with stuff that is memorable, whether it's a lead or whatnot and it is not about playing something for the sake of playing something.
Does it bother you that As I Lay Dying keeps getting constantly compared to bands like At The Gates?
It doesn't bother me, as we all love that music and we're all playing the type of metal we love. I think it's a good thing if people come up to us and say for example they can hear the Iron Maiden influence in our music.
I don't think any band should get upset if they're being compared to an influence, especially if it's obvious in their music.
How did you record the guitars in studio?
|"I learn a lot more about guitar playing from other people that are on tour than staying at home."|
We tried a bunch of different heads with our engineer Andy Sneap to see if we could find a different guitar tone, a heavy guitar tone that we would all be happy with. But in the end we couldn't find one so we just left it up to Andy do what he wanted.
I guess Andy had his own superior tone in mind. We had used like a Marshall, a Mesa-Boogie, a Vox? there were so many heads we tried, around eight different amps. But in the end Andy found the perfect tone simply by using a Krank. And that was first time we had ever heard about them.
You're endorsed by Krank now too?
Yeah we've been using the Krank heads since the album first came out.
Tell us about the guitars you use both in the studio and live?
I mainly play two guitars and both are Gibson Les Paul Standards that I use for live work as well as they are on the album too. I play the guitars through Mesa-Boogie cabs and Krank heads and also use a Carvin wireless system. Carvin are great in helping us out with our wireless system and being local like us in San Diego, it is also a bonus.
When it comes to wirelesses we seem to have used every wireless there is under the sun except oddly enough Nady.
Did you ever find with any of the wireless systems you were using that some were better than others when it came to onstage interference?
Definitely. Sennheisers may be very popular wirelesses but we found that when we were using them, they always seemed to have the most interference. Eventually Peavey came to me and said 'try this wireless'. I had never heard of them before that and I've been suing the Peavey wireless ever since. It's always been reliable.
I agree with Nick, the Sennheisers seemed to have been the most problematic all the time.
Going back to the topic of guitars, Nick what's your set-up like?
I usually have two Gibson Les Pauls, my main one being a '93 Gibson Les Paul strung with DR strings. I run that guitar through a Krank Revolution I head and Mesa-Boogie cabs. Mesa makes us these oversized cabs that aren't slanted and those are what we usually use live back in the States. While we're here in Australia though, because we're hiring some of our gear, we've got to stick to regular sized cabs. The set-up then goes like this; a Peavey wireless then through a tuner pedal, Maxon OD808 Overdrive pedal, a Boss Noise Suppressor and a Delay pedal.
I noticed in your rack of guitars standing side of the stage, that you have an '83 Les Paul fitted with a standard pickup and an EMG pickup?
That's cool you noticed that guitar. The '83 is actually my back-up guitar. And the reason for the pickup configuration is that we only ever use the bridge pickup anyway on our guitars. All of our guitars have EMGs in the bridge position. I'm trying to phase that '83 out so I can just keep it at home rather than have it traveling around the globe with me.
How do you tend to come up with your guitar parts during the songwriting process?
Sometimes we come up with things in sound check. But most of the time it mostly comes from just sitting at home and noodling away on the guitar.
When we were making Shadows Are Security we would have all these demos of stuff like riffs, chord progressions and lead parts on top so I could listen to them over and over. And we would grab bits and pieces off it to make up songs. I think it saves a lot of time too when you have something like that.
The band seems to have gone through quite a few guitar and bass players in its lifespan?
Well it's not because the dudes were exploding like in Spinal Tap fashion. (laughs) It was really due to the fact that with all the dudes that were in the band prior, none of them really were into putting everything into what it takes to be in a band. As far as touring commitments and things like that go, they weren't really passionate about it all.
Being Christians, does it hinder you in your professional working life? Like for example when you toured with Slipknot, did you find any barriers between Slipknot's way of life and your own?
|"We thought if kids care about hearing it, then we might let them actually hear it."|
Not at all, most of the time those bands don't seem as evil or dark as they may appear. And usually they embrace us just as much as they embrace other bands. They're just normal people really.
With the amount of touring As I Lay Dying have undertaken, what sort of things has it taught you professionally?
Playing frequently and a lot you learn a lot about your guitar playing and. What it has benefited me is with the bands we've toured with. We've toured with so many great bands, that you pick up stuff from them. You're always picking up stuff whether that is when you're hanging out with the guys before a show and they're showing you some riffs or something, so you learn a lot. I learn a lot more about guitar playing from other people that are on tour than staying at home.
Finally if you were to pick one album influenced your guitar playing, what would it be?
I can never pin point anything but an album that I can listen to from start to finish and say "now that album has it
" would be The Number Of The Beast
by Iron Maiden. It is for me my all time favourite and most influential.
For me it would be the Ozzy Osbourne - Randy Rhoads Tribute
album. When I heard that for the very first time in 7th grade, it was like, yeah that is it for me!
|Listen to Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa (photo) greeting Ultimate-Guitar.com at this location.|