As I Lay Dying is one of those bands that requires a second look. Love them or hate them, a quick glance at their image or listening to a song or two just wonít do. You may get the broad picture, but certainly not the whole story. While researching this interview I was a little surprised to find resources that listed AILD as death metal. This is an interesting moniker given that, on the AILD Web site, all the members of the band list an assortment of religious texts as their favorite books. A quick click over to some of the lyric Web sites reveal subject matter somewhat different than might be expected from a death metal band. Naturally we like to get to the bottom of these things, so I arranged an interview with Tim Lambesis, vocalist of As I lay Dying.
I photographed AILD on the second night of the "Taste of Chaos" tour in Mesa, Arizona. As some of you may recall from my review of the show, AILD took the stage and really kicked some ass. A few days later I caught up with Lambesis as he called into DaBelly just before his gig in Miami. We talked about touring, influences and what the new record, "Shadows Are Security," is really all about.
"Lyrically itís a concept album, so when we wrote the music, we wanted to have a real focused sound," Lambesis shared. "For people that arenít sitting there with a lyric book but just listening, youíll get a sense of the story with just the music. When you listen to the record from start to finish you get this focused, one album-worth of sound and so itís much more melodic on the guitars than our prior record. I think it features a little more technical musicianship as well, because we focused so much more on the guitars. I think that, for people who donít normally listen to metal, you can pick up our CD and still enjoy it because when thereís a lacking sense of vocal melody, thereís strong sense of guitar melody."
Since Lambesis broached the subject I asked about the writing process.
"Iíve never really been a fan of writing lyrics just because they fit into a song. There are bands I know that sort of come up with catch phrases and then write riffs and lyrics around them. For me, personally, I appreciate lyrics more in a poetic sense. Itís best for me to write the same way I write poetry. There is definitely more meaning when youíre just writing directly whatís on your mind rather than trying to fit something technically into a song. Of course there are songs that Iíll have to adjust lyrics into the song but usually Iíll just write whatís on my mind and fit it into the song later," Lambesis explained.
I asked Lambesis about writing on the road.
"Writing on the road is something that we havenít quite mastered yet. When it came time to start writing ĎShadows Are Securityí we got off tour and had about two months before we hit the studio. We had one song written at that point. So instead of trying to force ourselves to write on the road, in a very uninspired atmosphere, we spent time thinking about the direction we wanted our music to go. When we got home we wrote the entire record in two months. I think that kind of focus helps us as a band, whereas I think some bands might have felt pressure to write in such a short amount of time. But for us, we felt that it helped us focus and concentrate our energy into song writing."
As with all sophomore efforts, the listener will key in on the growth of a band. AILD is no exception. I asked Lambesis what he attributed to this obvious growth and, to my surprise, he offered a rationale I hadnít heard.
"I think itís just from experience. Weíre such a young band, our youngest member is 19. Itís from playing our instruments the last couple of years and really going through the things we do. A lot of the experience is from being out on tour and seeing what works and what doesnít work. We might think a song has energy, but when youíre playing it in front of a large crowd thatís the proving grounds right there," Lambesis said.
When AILD first formed they were no different than any of the other baby bands hoping to catch a break in this business. They wrote some songs and were spending time working on their craft. But soon AILD took a step that eventually set them apart from the thousands of other bands hoping to succeed-- they went out on the road. I asked Lambesis what led the band in that direction.
"All of the musicians that I looked up to, not the big names, but friends that were actually making a living at playing music, all did so by touring," Lambesis explained. "They spread their fan base across the country and eventually across the world. So I knew from watching them that that was we would have to do."
I pointed out the obvious, AILD has had some success yet they remain a road band. Was this a case of necessity or comfort?
"Itís a little bit of both," Lambesis shared. "I think that this music weíre playing is almost entirely impossible to capture on CD. The energy and passion behind the music is something that comes across much better in a live situation. We want our fans and potential new fans to see at our best."
Like many artists, early on Lambesis seized control of the production reins on AILD records. I asked if this was an issue of just needing to be in control or more a case of quality.
"Yeah, my history with this is kind of interesting." Lambesis told me, "My first few experiences recording were a painful process. It was like being under a microscope. I really didnít enjoy it probably because I wasnít very good at it. As I gained more studio experience and worked with other producers, I discovered that some of them werenít that great. I felt that I could do a better job. I had a realization over time that I had grown and I was in a position where I thought that other bands could benefit from my experience. So what had started as painful has become a great joy for me. I had more fun in the studio producing Sworn Enemy than I have recording any band previous to that."
And is there a future that includes side projects?
"Iíve put some thought into doing something that is funny," Lambesis glowed. "As I Lay Dying is a very serious band and a great outlet for me, but Iíve also wanted to do a band that was a little bit of a joke. Maybe something like a hard-core band with all Arnold Schwarzenegger theme lyrics. You know, just something just not serious at all."
Finally I asked Lambesis about influences. What bands is he listening to?
"For most musicians, what they grew up listening to is what influenced them most. For new influences, there really havenít been too many bands over the last five years that have inspired me," Lambesis said. "One thing I will say is that on this tour ('Taste of Chaos') itís inspiring to see Thrice. They progress so much from album to album and now they can be that band that produces the unexpected. Every record of theirs, in my opinion, has been a progression. Some of their stuff is lighter and some is heavier, but they are able to do it all and do it very well. And you know, any time a band changes someone will complain that itís for the worse or that theyíve gotten too slow or thereís not as much energy. But I think that their songs may have slowed down a bit but theyíve also progressed in the process."
Did you miss the "Taste of Chaos" tour? I know that there are still a few dates in Canada left to be played. If you get a chance, check them out. But if you missed that opportunity, As I Lay Dying will be headlining the "Sounds of the Underground" tour this summer. There are about 10 bands on the lineup, including In Flames, Cannibal Corpse, Trivium and GWAR.
I would like to thank Tim Lambesis for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to DaBelly and donít forget to check out the As I Lay Dying Web site at http://www.asilaydying.com/
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