Hit The Lights: As I Lay Dying: 'Has A Lot More Depth Musically Than A Metalcore Band'
Robert Gray telephoned As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis to discuss the group's albums as well as his Modern Rebellion clothing line.
Posted on Nov 19, 2010 04:39 pm
When operating on the more extreme fringes of metal, more often than not, a proverbial glass ceiling is ever-present in terms of sales and reach. Some attempt to question that glass ceiling however, and As I Lay Dying arguably does just that in terms of sales and reach, especially when their musical style is taken into account. Is this the product of hype, or decent material? Possibly a mixture of both, and for questioning that glass ceiling, the group should be praised.
Originally issued on May 7th, 2010 in Europe and subsequently four days later in North America - all through Metal Blade Records - "The Powerless Rise" shifted thirty-eight thousand copies in its inaugural week of release in North America to debut at position ten on the Billboard 200.
As I Lay Dying's fifth studio album underwent reissue in November courtesy of a limited edition super deluxe fan box set, a box set that has the following; "The Powerless Rise" CD and twelve-inch vinyl picture disc, a DVD documentary with in-studio footage and interviews plus extras, guitar, bass and drum tabs featuring Jordan Mancino, Nick Hipa, Phil Sgrosso and Josh Gilbert as well song stems for "Upside Down Kingdom" and expanded recording outtakes, a hardcover book with lyrics, photos, and editorial from the band, a twelve-inch by twelve-inch lithograph, three guitar picks, a mini-drumstick keychain, a patch, a window cling, and a metal logo pin.
In October, frontman Tim Lambesis launched a new clothing line called Modern Rebellion, boasting an official web site and merchandise store through 3rd Degree Merch. A charitable venture for Lambesis at least, the vocalist will be giving profits to Trees Of Glory, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing clean water for children in Duber, Ethiopia.
Kicking off on November 25th at Norwich's Waterfront Hall and drawing to a conclusion at Sheffield's Corporation five days later, As I Lay Dying's tour of the United Kingdom includes support from Heaven Shall Burn and Suicide Silence. On October 20th at 17:30 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis to discuss the group's albums as well as his Modern Rebellion clothing line.
Tim Lambesis: Hello?
UG: Hello. Is this Tim?
This is Tim, yeah.
This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
How are you?
I'm ok. How are you Tim?
Would it be alright if I began the interview?
The deluxe fan box edition of 'The Powerless Rise' is released in November, featuring a DVD documentary sporting in-studio footage. What was the experience of recording 'The Powerless Rise' in the studio like?
It was a pretty comfortable experience because I own the studio we recorded in, so we were able to really take our time, and everything sounded exactly how we wanted it to. I think as a result, we're more proud of 'The Powerless Rise' than any other album that we've recorded.
Did 'The Powerless Rise' benefit from the experience of recording As I Lay Dying's past albums?
Yeah. When most bands first start off, they have smaller recording budgets and they're always a little bit rushed. As we got bigger, we rushed a little bit because we were in somebody else's studio, meaning we were always racing against the clock. Owning my own studio I think meant we didn't feel any of that pressure.
A performance music video for "Anodyne Sea" surfaced in late August. Lyrically speaking, what's "Anodyne Sea" about?
"Anodyne Sea" is about being willing to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means that it will cause you to be outcasted by society, or to end up alone and really just being ok with the fact that you might lose popularity, or you might lose a friend.
"I think as a result, we're more proud of 'The Powerless Rise' than any other album that we've recorded."
Would it be ok if we touched upon As I Lay Dying's older albums?
If I name each of As I Lay Dying's albums, could you share me your thoughts on each one?
As I Lay Dying's debut album came out in June 2001, titled 'Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes'.
My thoughts on 'Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes' are we were so excited about just being in a band and getting the chance to go in a studio that we rushed things a bit. I think we just kind of went for it. At the time, I think we were just happy to record, but I think - looking back - we learnt the lesson that you can capture the energy of a band, but... The album is a snapshot of where we were at at the time, but it's definitely not some of our stronger material. 'Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes' is a snapshot of where we were after being a band for only two months. We went into the studio almost immediately after forming.
Two years later in July 2003, As I Lay Dying issued 'Frail Words Collapse', the group's first album to be released through Metal Blade Records.
'Frail Words Collapse' is the record where we really started to develop the sound that we were going for, because to me, that album was a bridge between our debut and 'Shadows Are Security'. I think we really thought through musically having a little bit more diversity, and I think that's when the more melodic sound came in and blended with some of the darker sound from when the band first started. Ever since then, I think we've always used that as a template for the epic diversity that we like to keep between brutality and melody on every album.
In recording 'Frail Words Collapse', would you say that As I Lay Dying looked at 'Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes' and possibly thought "This is what we wanted to do with the first album"? With certain aspects in hindsight?
Did 'Frail Words Collapse' benefit from being released by Metal Blade Records?
Yeah. Metal Blade had a lot more manpower behind the record than our initial record label, and also, just the fact that 'Frail Words Collapse' was released worldwide as opposed to just within the U.S. I think was a big step for the band. Even though Metal Blade was a much bigger label, 'Frail Words Collapse' sold more six months after its release than it did the first week it was released.
As I Lay Dying released its third album two years later in June 2005, titled 'Shadows Are Security'.
'Shadows Are Security' was when Phil Sgrosso our guitarist joined the band right before the writing process for that album, and I think that album really showcased his influence on our band and how he helped us progress. 'Frail Words Collapse' was primarily written by myself, whereas 'Shadows Are Security' mainly, as far as the guitar riffs go, really helped our band a lot.
Is 'Shadows Are Security' more reflective of what As I Lay Dying sound like nowadays as opposed to the group's earlier albums? Considering rhythm guitarist Phil Sgrosso and lead guitarist Nick Hipa appeared on 'Shadows Are Security'?
Yeah... Well, we really didn't fully come into our own until 'An Ocean Between Us' because Phil started writing on 'Shadows Are Security', though Nick didn't get more involved until 'An Ocean Between Us'. In terms of the progress of the band, I think 'An Ocean Between Us' was the most effective with that lineup, and then 'The Powerless Rise' had a very similar writing process. We officially added Josh Gilbert though, who'd been with us for almost four years; he's been with us for about four years now, but this was the first album he contributed songwriting to.
In your opinion then, August 2007's 'An Ocean Between Us' was a defining record for As I Lay Dying?
Yeah. I think 'An Ocean Between Us' was where we expanded beyond what a lot of people would consider a metalcore band. In our opinion, that's a very metal record; I don't really see that many metalcore elements on there. Maybe that's just the result of us progressing as a band and just being able to play a little bit more technical, and bring in some of the original influences - some of the thrash bands that we grew up on. 'An Ocean Between Us' definitely was a lot thrashier than our previous releases, and I think we've kept up that energy and speed even on 'The Powerless Rise'.
What are your thoughts on this metalcore tag As I Lay Dying is saddled with?
Musically, if you listen to the riffs that we're writing, I don't think you can label us as a metalcore band. I think that we get that tag though because of the way the band first started; a lot of our first tours were with hardcore bands, and a lot of our friends and bands that we associate with are definitely part of the metalcore genre. As a result, I think that we were lumped into that genre. It doesn't actually bother me, because I think that we became very influential in the metalcore genre as a result, but I think our band is a lot more than that. As I Lay Dying has a lot more depth musically than a metalcore band.
As you said, 'An Ocean Between Us' was a defining album for As I Lay Dying. With that in mind, how did 'The Powerless Rise' build upon that?
Like I said earlier about Josh Gilbert our bassist, 'The Powerless Rise' is the first album where we actually had a bassist contribute to the songwriting process. That was one more creative mind who added to the process, but also, I think that we went out of our way not to repeat songs that we'd created in the past. We had some songs on there that maybe weren't very similar to some of our previous material, and I think that was a little bit frustrating for some fans, but for other fans I think it was really exciting that we tried something a little different. Even the opening track "Beyond Our Suffering" is fast and very thrash influenced. I think 'The Powerless Rise' is something a little different, but we still had more melodic tracks on there like "Anger And Apathy" which to me is very, very melodic. I think the diversity on the album is better than the diversity on any other album that we've released.
""Anodyne Sea" is about being willing to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means that it will cause you to be outcasted by society."
Is writing diverse albums an important element for you then?
Yeah. In the future, we'll probably be expanding in that respect. Especially as a lot of bands become older in their careers, when they wanna change they change usually in a more melodic way so that they can appeal to a bigger audience. We decided that we wanna have certain elements of our band that push the melodic aspect a little bit, but for every song we push in that way we wanna push the band to get heavier. I think that's why "Beyond Our Suffering" for instance - the opening track on 'The Powerless Rise' - is in my opinion one of the heaviest tracks we've ever released.
You said that Josh Gilbert contributed to 'The Powerless Rise', and that it was the first time a bassist had contributed to an As I Lay Dying album in terms of songwriting. How did that shape the album somewhat? What flavour did Josh's contribution add to the mix?
Having him as a songwriter meant each of us were able to focus on what we individually do well. Phil is very good at writing melodic type riffs, but has written some of the thrashier, darker songs at times, so he was able to really focus on what he does well. Most of the melodic type riffs came from him while Josh wrote a handful of heavier, darker riffs. There wasn't the pressure on one person to do everything, and that's why 'The Powerless Rise' has a healthier diversity in my opinion.
As I Lay Dying will tour the United Kingdom in late November with Heaven Shall Burn and Suicide Silence. How would you describe the United Kingdom audience that turns up to live events for As I Lay Dying?
It's especially hard for us to describe our U.K. audience because we haven't toured there nearly as much as maybe the U.S., but going back to the metalcore tag, it's interesting that genres are different from country to country. A lot of bands that we influenced, younger bands that would maybe open for us in the U.S., are bands that we're a lot smaller than in the U.K., so it's hard for me to trace the trends over there because it's definitely a different music market than a lot of the countries we play. Our fanbase is definitely real music fans; we don't get the type of press coverage that maybe some of the other bands get over there, so as a result, I think they found the band because they're genuine music fans and not because there's a lot of hype about us over there. That maybe makes our audiences very energetic, even if the crowd is small. It's always very... I don't know the best way to describe it, but it always seems like the crowds are very passionate about our band and our music.
You recently launched a clothing line titled Modern Rebellion. How did that come about that?
A close friend of mine and I have always talked about starting a clothing line together. He's a great artist, and he's actually designed a handful of shirts for us. Over the years, we've been toying with the idea back and forth, and then eventually with the release of 'The Powerless Rise', I decided this was the right time to go for it. I really wanted to have a clothing line where I could be really proud of the designs, but also be proud of what it stood for. Some bands wear T-shirts in press photos or onstage or wherever it is, and whether they intended to or not, they're catching the attention of at least a few people out there. With me, if I'm gonna wear a shirt I might as well wear a shirt that I'm proud of - proud of the way it looks, and proud of what it stands for. That was why I decided to give my portion of the company as far as my income goes to charity. It was launched only two weeks ago, and we've gotten a great response so far.
You said you're giving your profits from Modern Rebellion to charity, and currently, you're donating those profits to a charity called Trees Of Glory.
Yeah. Me donating to this particular project is influenced by some of the orphanages that I've visited. Ethiopia I've gone to on two separate occasions; once to adopt my son, and then once again to visit some of the orphanages and see how I could support them. I have a passion for orphan care, especially in the area where my son is from. I wanted my profits from at least this initial batch of shirts to go to Trees Of Glory because of all the orphanages I've visited, I felt like they had the greatest amount of need. They're at a start-up point; lots of kids are becoming orphaned essentially and need to be taken care of, but they don't have the resources quite yet to do that. Hopefully these designs will be one of many sources that will allow them to take in more kids. With future T-shirt releases we can change up which charities the profits go to, but at least for now anyway, I think Trees Of Glory has a tremendous amount of need. Ethiopia is a place that's close to my heart because I've visited it in person. It also gives me confidence to know that the money's going to the right place.
You said you visited orphanages in Ethiopia. What is it like to visit these orphanages then? How would you describe the experience to someone who's never made a visit?
For most of us, our perspective on life is influenced by what we see around us - our own bubble of life - and we think of our own problems as things that are worth being stressed out about. The thing is though, when I visited an orphanage for the first time, for me it really put life into perspective and showed me that my problems are very minimal. It broke my heart in a lot of ways, but also gave me a passion to live for something more meaningful than my own trivial dramas and whatever else it is we spend our time worrying about. In a sense, having visited orphanages in Ethiopia, I live with a greater sense of peace knowing that I really appreciate what I have. If anything, I can spend my time and energy to support those less fortunate than myself rather than only striving to be more successful monetarily or owning bigger and greater things.
Would you say that your charity work is an extension of your faith?
My faith is in Jesus' influence but I think beyond that, it's a very simple thing that isn't restricted to one particular type of faith. I have friends who have different beliefs than me, but their hearts break in the same way when they see these orphans.
What design styles do Modern Rebellion's T-shirts have?
I'm trying to keep the line fairly diverse. I think some of them are more on the brutal side, shirts you'd see guys in a metal band wearing. Some of them are then a little bit more... I almost hate to use the word, but a little bit more mainstream. It's hard to really describe the diversity of a shirt line - I think you have to see them. For anybody who's interested, it's as simple as just checking them out on our website.
What are your current plans with Austrian Death Machine?
We haven't really had a decent chunk of time at home since we released 'The Powerless Rise', so as soon as we have maybe two months at home I'll probably write and record the next Austrian Death Machine album. I have a lot of ideas to include other musicians on this album, especially because the first two full-lengths are albums that I wrote entirely on my own. 'Double Brutal''s second disc obviously has just cover songs, but I really want to bring in some other musicians to get involved, even on the songwriting this time to just make this record different. There's plenty of Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes left over. I always have a blast; I never laugh as hard as I do when we're in the studio recording for Austrian Death Machine. "I'll Be Back" is still coming, and one of my favourite lines from 'Total Recall' is "Consider that a divorce". There's a lot of great Arnold lines left to be written about.
"My thoughts on 'Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes' are we were so excited about just being in a band and getting the chance to go in a studio that we rushed things a bit."
Arnold definitely has a lot of one-liners, doesn't he?
Yeah (laughs). It's great to think that there are still fifty or more great lines he has that I haven't put into songs yet.
How long does As I Lay Dying plan to tour in support of 'The Powerless Rise'?
Since the album was released we've only headlined, so we're gonna keep headlining until we've played at least every major city. That's the main reason why we're doing this tour in November, and after that, then we'll try to mix it up a little bit by doing a support tour, opening up for a bigger band at the same time. We'll play some of the same cities again, and then at that point, we'll go back in the studio.
Between the releases of 'An Ocean Between Us' and 'The Powerless Rise', there was a three-year gap. Can you see a three-year gap taking place between the release of 'The Powerless Rise' and As I Lay Dying's sixth studio album?
As far as a completely new full-length, I would say possibly yeah - it's probably gonna take three years. We do have another release planned in between 'The Powerless Rise' and the next album because our ten-year anniversary is coming up. We have some different ideas floating around about doing something interesting with some new songs on it, but it wouldn't necessarily be an entire new full-length.
Can you reveal anything else regarding these ideas which are floating around, or are they just being discussed at the moment?
We're still discussing what we wanna do. We want it to be an EP or a full-length; we want it to have a combination of older songs re-recorded, cover songs and new songs. The one thing that we know for sure is we have one brand new song that we want to release on there, so there'll be something new and completely unreleased. We might record a couple of other new ones as well, but the only thing we know for certain right now is just the one song that we've finished.
Does this possible release have a tentative release date?
No. We just know that 2011 is our ten-year anniversary, and we'd like to just do something special within that year. There are no official plans; it's all just been brainstorming within the band at this point.
Is it possible As I Lay Dying might do an anniversary show where it performs all of 'Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes' live?
We talked about doing not a complete anniversary tour, but maybe a handful of major cities, big enough music markets for us to maybe play multiple nights in a row. We could play a different album on a different night. We did something similar for our DVD; we played our hometown of San Diego, and it was a great experience for us. Maybe we'll do something similar in 2011.
Can you see As I Lay Dying continuing for another ten years?
Yeah, absolutely. I don't really feel like we're anywhere near a point in our lives where we're burnt out or we're running into a wall creatively. We still view ourselves as a very young band, and we're all still in our twenties at this point. There's definitely no reason to stop now.
Do you have a message for the fans of As I Lay Dying?
I think what keeps any band going really is the fans. While we're passionate about what we do, the fans give us the opportunity to do that, so we're very appreciative of the support we've had over the years. I think there's never one thing I can say in an interview that expresses our appreciation, even as far as being interviewed. Obviously, we wouldn't be here doing this interview if it wasn't for our fans.
That's definitely true. Best of luck with As I Lay Dying, Austrian Death Machine, and your clothing line anyway Tim.
Thank you very much.
All the best.
Alright. Take care. Cya.
You too. Bye.Interview by Robert GrayUltimate-Guitar.Com 2010