Interview with Tim Lambesis frontman of As I Lay Dying
Now that you guys are at the pinnacle of the metalcore world, what do you think it is about AILD and your music that attracts fans and has brought you your success? Where do you go from here/what is next on the horizon for AILD?
I’m honored to be considered at the pinnacle of metalcore, but sub-genres of metal change in popularity, and good songs should survive the changes in trends. We are still a younger band compared to many other metal bands, so I think anything we write will be associated with the scene we came out of. I can’t pinpoint what attracts our fans as easily as I can pinpoint what I’ve tried to do for the last 10 years by writing music I was genuinely passionate about. To be honest, our earliest recordings weren’t that great in my opinion, but we’ve always grown from one release to the next. Even though I personally am a fan of hardcore bands, I think it’s almost impossible to find a hardcore influenced riff on our past couple releases. With that said metalcore as a tag is synonymous with not being too old or nerdy and playing metal in my opinion. The opening track on our last CD doesn’t sound “metalcore” to me, but maybe it seems that way if you see a picture of us while you’re listing to it. I’m probably rambling though because I don’t really know how all of that stuff works. I/we just write music and hopefully do a lot of little things better than a majority of our peers. No one in 2010 should be claiming to break completely new ground and shake the foundations of any genre.
Do you guys prefer playing in smaller venues or festivals?
To be honest, it depends on the country. Some crowds are so crazy in small venues that I wish we played shows like that every night. Other countries are so reserved that if I’m not looking at a sea of bodies I don’t think that anyone is even paying attention. Oddly enough, sometime we play shows for a crowd that just stands there and then find out after the show that everyone had a great time just standing there being a “critical listener.” Even though that’s a nice afterthought, if that’s the reason people go to shows they should just save the money and listen to CD’s on a nice stereo instead.
Of all the records, you have put out, which is your favorite album, and track musically and lyrically?
Lyrically I feel most connected to our first release and the most recent release equally. “Beneath the Encasing of Ashes” isn’t well written by any means, but it reminds me of a condition of my heart that is an important part of my development. Our newest album is full of issues that are closest to my heart now. Instrumentally, I honestly don’t think our new album has the best individual songs, but I think it’s the best as an overall listen when you put all 11 together.
What is your take on “breakdowns”? Are they overused or overrated?
Riffs with groove are priceless. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that you have to have a breakdown to be heavy of any element of groove. We’ve avoided stereotypical breakdown type riffs a little on our last couple albums and I think we also made our albums a little less groove oriented in the process. It takes a lot of creativity to get someone to bob their head in a metal way that’s heavy without simply chugging away at the guitar.
Are there any of your tracks that you have never played live that you would like to?
A live show is for the crowd, so I’m down to play what it is that they want to hear. They’re the ones paying to make the show happen. They’re all songs we’ve written, so it’s not like listening to the majority opinion is giving into what other people want or anything. I simply enjoy playing songs I’ve written and don’t have a preference strong enough to choose a playlist that only pleases me.
How does your faith if at all play into your song writing? Has any of it changed over the years? (Early in your career, Beneath the Encasing of Ashes, you used powerfully strong God-related lyrics. Recently is hasn’t been so. Any insight to why the change? Will you ever go back to such lyrics?)
This is an excellent question, mainly by what is being said in the parentheses section. Hopefully those reading this don’t mind, but I’d love to fully address this issue and give the long answer.
I don’t see how anyone can say they are a Christian and not have that influence everything major thing they do in life. With our first record, I was simply expressing what God was doing in my life as well as the sorrows I faced in the process of viewing life the way I do. With subsequent albums, I didn’t see a point in repeating the exact same thought. My faith certainly has changed in that it has grown and matured. Some people read into that by claiming that I am not as boldly Christ centered as I once was. That is unfortunate because such an accusation usually comes without asking me specific questions. In a general sense, it is true that I haven’t written songs recently that are as plainly understood as worship songs as some are in Beneath the Encasing of Ashes. In a more specific sense, the point of songs I’ve written recently have both poetic depth and a heartfelt significance when explained. As I said earlier, I just don’t want each album to be a rewording of previous ones. Naturally, there will be a crossover in issues addressed, but The Powerless Rise is addressing much different issues than I did on BTEOA.
Now, I will state this as plainly as possible. I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. That is an idea that many other so-called “Christians” or “Catholics” hope is true. I actually believe it. Because the resurrection is true, it changes everything. For starters, the sufferings of this life are trivial in the big picture. I wrote an entire book explaining that idea as well as the rest of the topics addressed in The Powerless Rise. For anyone who doesn’t want to have to purchase our Deluxe Special Edition version of The Powerless Rise to read that book, please email Metal Blade and hopefully we’ll get the chance to release that book separately as a cheap item for people who want to dig into lyrics without buying the other collector’s item type of stuff.
How do you think Christians who are musicians can make a bigger impact on our world?
There are a lot of people in any profession who say they are a Christian. The standard of being a Christian is simply admiring Jesus the same way that most Americans admire their favorite sports star. Christians will only make an impact in their profession, community, or world in general if they are actually disciples. Jesus asked some pretty hard things from His disciples, and unfortunately the people not willing to respond to what Jesus asked were not allowed to be His disciple. I’ve been a Christian for long enough, but I know my friends and I will actually start to impact the music community when we have the balls to become disciples.
Looking back over your career, what has been your favorite show you have played and what made it your favorite? Any way of sharing on the worst show you have played in your career?
My memory is getting worse and worse the more we tour. The stand out shows from my career have been the majority of the home shows we’ve played in San Diego as well as the unlikely places we’ve played like Indonesia. One of the worst shows we ever played was in the UK somewhere and was booked last minute to fill up an off date. We were getting spoiled by playing big festivals and headlining shows all summer and then, all of the sudden, we were humbly taken back to our roots to play in front of about 30 people. Playing for 30 people isn’t that big of deal since every band does it when they first start, but we looked pretty dumb having a giant tour bus parked out from of a small bar club with a big production load in.
Recently we had a post from a member of a mid-level metalcore band, and he wrote a blog detailing out why mid-level bands can’t make money. Do you have any comments on how you guys got past this and any advice to other mid-level bands?
Even supposedly, “big” bands hardly make enough money to justify giving up on college or a pursuing an easy paying government job. I have no idea how we got past this. I just figured I’d play music full time as long as I could and the clock would eventually run out when it came time to have kids or think about saving up for old people health care. The clock hasn’t run out yet, so I’m just lucky and thankful for the support of AILD (and ADM) fans.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you guys in a show?
No one else would ever know unless I told them, but I sharted one time during the first song of our set back in 2001. Besides that, it was pretty embarrassing when our old bass player knocked over the drum kit during our intro by going nuts on stage. I didn’t know, so I still came in with 100% intensity and it was just me screaming over guitar feedback at that point.
You just started a clothing company with a mission of charity called Modern Rebellion. What was the inspiration for that and how are things going so far?
The start of any company is a slow word of mouth spread, but things are going great considering. My good friend Jason Mageau had some great ideas and I told him I would love to start a company with him at some point. When I really started thinking about shamelessly self-promoting clothes that I wanted to wear, I realized that a legitimately shameless way to promote things on my end was to make my profits go to a cause greater than myself.
How do you all balance your personal/family life with all the touring?
Very carefully. My family comes out to visit me as much as possible on the road. It’s still not enough.
Are there any local bands you have played with recently that really impressed you guys?
Psylosis just opened up for us in the UK and really surprised me.
Any chance of a national Austrian Death Machine tour?
I would love to, but I’m already gone so much on AILD tours. If my family could come with me and still feel as comfortable as they do at home I would tour all year long. I will do a handful of show in 2011 in the cities that most request ADM and the next batch of shows will have some pretty over-the-top production just to keep things fun and unique since ADM shows are always a special event.
What was your favorite band growing up?
The answer to that questions depends on the era of my life. When I was a kid and couldn’t buy CD’s on my own, I listened to metal radio with Pantera, Metallica, and the usuals. I really loved punk in high school and Good Riddance was one of my favorites. When I got into heavier hardcore, I loved No Innocent Victim since I saw them locally in San Diego at least 15 times it seems. From there I got back into brutal underground music through bands like At the Gates and Living Sacrifice or crossover bands like All Out War.
One of our readers wanted to know what happened to Clockwork/Hi Impact Recordings?
Between owning my recording studio and the launch of Austrian Death Machine, something had to give. I decided to focus more on creating music rather than business. I hang around the studio I own as often as I have free time.
When I got the request for this interview, I went on the site to check things out. In the posts about the potential of doing this interview, I found the following question I would like to answer since it seems well thought out.
Reece says: – some of your lyrics on the powerless rise seemed a little on the “Universalist Christian” side than previous albums. Why the change? Or what was the motivation behind the lyrics? Do you see your band as more of a ministry? Or just a metal band?
I actually had to go to Wikipedia and look up “universalist Christian” so I could better answer this question. After seeing that definition, I would not say that is what I believe. The full and rather long explanation to the lyrics in The Powerless Rise is in a book I wrote that comes in the Deluxe Special Edition release. It’s about 70 pages, so I’ll have to give a quicker summary of where I’ve gone lyrically here.
I listed pretty plainly some of what I believe in question 6 up above. That has remained the same over all five our albums though I have tried to branch out and address different issues. It is natural for me to write about what I’ve recently been learning, struggling through, or simply experiencing during the writing process for each album. The Powerless Rise includes a overall focus on the poor, oppressed, and forgotten people of the world. Of course that is a universal issue, but anyone who knows me well understands where the message stems from.
My message is not new by any means. The Old Testament prophets rebuked the supposed followers of God time and time again regarding their treatment of the poor. Take Isaiah 1:17 as one of many examples. Later, Jesus told just as many people to sell all that they had and give to the poor as He did tell people to be born again. Finally, the early church not only lived in support of those beaten down by society, but James also makes a bold statement about true religion in James 1:27. That message has been the ministry of The Powerless Rise and I hope to have a new vision for upcoming records. My initial goal when writing any album is to write down what it is that I know I need to change and hopefully others will relate as well.
Instrumentally, I view us a just a metal band. I can only speak for myself when I write lyrics and I’m certain there are issues I address in the lyrics that other guys wouldn’t agree with me on. When it comes to writing music overall, I’m not delusional in thinking that God is going to divinely inspire a riff or something if I say enough long wordy prayers or methodically read the latest Max Lucado book.