In House With As I Lay Dying: Getting on the Radio, MMA Rumors and Making a Living Playing Metal (EXCLUSIVE)
On Sept. 25, San Diego modern metal behemoths As I Lay Dying released Awakened, their sixth studio album. Produced by Bill Stevenson (Rise Against, NOFX), debuted on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart at #11, selling over 28,000 copies in it's first week in the U.S. alone. An incredible feat for a band playing an uncompromisingly heavy brand of metal.
While they were recently in town to play a record release show, Noisecreep invited As I Lay Dying over to our East Coast offices in Manhattan to chat about the album, the state of the music business, their workout habits and a rumor that has been following them around lately.
So you guys brought on Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson to produce Awakened. Most people think of punk rock when his names comes up.
Tim Lambesis: I think he's enough outside the box but he gets underground music still. And that's the whole idea. Someone that comes from the punk world – Black Flag and Descendents was heavy music in his time – definitely much different than what we do. He thinks in term of song structures and the big picture, not the little nuances of our genre that we get stuck in sometimes. It's good for our perspective.
Did you guys clash on any ideas?
Lambesis: Yeah, I mean we don't agree with every single idea but we communicate very well. He's very articulate – extremely articulate individual. It's very easy to communicate with him.
Awakened features song like "Overcome" and "A Greater Foundation" – two tracks with really big choruses – do you find that the melodic songs go over better live than the rockier songs?
Josh Gilbert: I think having both is important because it makes the show more dynamic.
Jordan Mancino: This record, I think it was an attempt to combine a lot of the diverse elements that we've exhibited in the last couple records, but combine them in every song. I think the appeal is for every song to have that catchiness, that live sing-along quality and the brutalness ... for the "pitting."
Is it important for you guys to get radio play?
Lambesis: To me, and I'm sure we all have slightly different answers for this, but to me any type of exposure's important. In the big picture of things, we're still in an underground genre. There's always fans that like the fact that it's underground and want to keep it to themselves. But for me, if it wasn't for bands like Metallica that were on the radio when I was a kid, I wouldn't have ever gotten into metal at such a young age.
Mancino: We write songs that are genuine to us, not that are just genuine to radio format. If they happen to be in line with radio format, then that's the way it is but it's not like we're gonna write music so that we can be on the radio. First and foremost it's about making music all five of us will enjoy.
Click Through Photos of As I Lay Dying
The music business is hurting all around, but especially in metal. Are you all thankful for having stability in this modern hellscape? How do you maintain that?
Lambesis: We used to count on part of our income to come from publishing royalties and stuff like that, we kind of approach it [now] like a worst case scenario. If none of that stuff ever comes in, can we still make a living from our live shows and our merchandise? I think for anybody with a good business sense, to think of a worst case scenario, that's a good way to plan out your year and then everything else is icing on the cake. But for us we're very blessed to be in a position where we can go out on tour and make our income from the live shows.
We just put out the best music we can put out and if it still has the potential albums sales that it did 5 or 10 years ago, that's great. If not, as long as that music's still being passed along to our fans, and we're still spreading the word that's what matters to us most.
Ever since Randy Blythe went to prison is Europe, have you guys changed the way you approach stage diving fans?
Gilbert: Well, if there's any video for our show last night, it'll kind of show that it's kind of still an unanswered question. There's no clear-cut answer yet if any changes need to be made in venue security. Last night happened to be a pretty small show -- no barricade and it was mostly people who pre-ordered our records so they were obviously fans of the band. It was a really high energy show. There were quite a few people getting on stage, and knocking the microphone over into my face. I think the answer's still out there.
But it's not something you usually worry about?
Lambesis: I don't. I see it as a freak and very unique situation. I think to live in fear of that would be sort of irrational. I've got to live life based on the norms rather than the exceptions.
We recently interviewed Paul Stanley, and he said that musicians that rant about politics in interviews are "absurd." With the election coming up, do you think this is true?
Lambesis: I'm not qualified to make political commentary, so what I think Paul Stanley is saying is that most musicians, half of them didn't even graduate high school, so how are they supposed to comment on things that people have studied for years and years in school.
We recently ran a list of craziest band managers, can you tell us about yours?
Lambesis: Well, we have a management team so we've got multiple personalities in there. Yesterday, we did a radio interview with one of them, Bob, who has the perfect radio voice.
Tim, we hear you're a huge MMA fan – there were even some rumors that you were training to compete in UFC, is there any truth to that?
Lambesis: The interesting thing is, I'm actually not a huge MMA fan and I never trained for it. But that's funny because Nick and I put up a picture of him and I -- we were training but we were just goofing around. And somehow a rumor got started that I was training for MMA.
I do enjoy it, like watching it. But I couldn't even tell you who the ten main guys are.
Well, you do look like you could crush someone's skull.
Lambesis: Naw, I just like going to the gym. And when I turned 30 I decided I wanted to be in the best shape I've ever been in. It's about as simple as that, everything else is just rumors.
Nick Hipa: Which started from us working out together at the Muscle Pharm. The facility is this gigantic weight room, basketball court, MMA place – you can literally do anything there, it's like the Fantasy Factory for fitness. And so when we got done working out, there was an octagon there. So we got some photos in there.
But when we put them up, and kids are like "Oh that's so sick! You guys love MMA, Tim's gonna be gnarly, he's gonna kill it!" And I think people just ran with it.
So how do you guys stay in shape on the road?
Lambesis: For me, I fluctuate quite a bit. If we're in the U.S. it's a little easier but when we go to Europe I lose 10 pounds, sometimes 15. When I come home I have to gain it all back. I just do the best I can.
Hipa: I think one of the ways that Tim is able to keep his diet somewhat balanced is by bringing out, at least, an entire suitcase of food. Probably like 24 packets or cans, like a huge box of tuna and brown rice and we're like "Dude are you seriously going to bring all this food on tour?"
Mancino: Funny that we've never gotten held up in customs because of all those different powders you have.
Tim: I carried all that stuff on one time. [laughs]
Hipa: I think the most important thing is staying somewhat disciplined or having a good idea of how you want to eat. If he's trying to eat clean and we're all trying to eat clean, that's the first step.
So who wants Burger King the most?
Tim: Honestly, sometimes when we're in Europe – and this is really sad – but some of the healthiest meals I have in a day are 2 in the morning at a truckstop.
What's going in in the rest of the year?
Mancino: We're going to be going to some new places in 2013 as well as revisiting some old places that we haven't been to in a while. We'll play anywhere, you know.
Tim: We played Indonesia and it's a cool story because we got stuck in Thailand. There were some political protests so we couldn't fly out on the day we were supposed to. So with two days notice they rescheduled the show in Indonesia. We thought it was going to be a disaster, and I don't know how many people had originally bought tickets, but still 1,200 people showed up with only two days notice. It was just an amazing experience.
Mancino: The show actually got postponed twice, so when we actually got to Indonesia they had to take a picture of us in front of Customs just so people knew that we were actually there.
Watch "A Greater Foundation"
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