As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss Christianity, ants, and Ozzfest with our own Drew Ailes.
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I wanted to start things off by asking about the new album you have out. What were the actual changes that you tried to bring forth on this record?
We actually didn't focus so much on what we wanted to change as we focused on what we felt like were the best songs we could create with all five of us putting our minds together. Along with that, I think we got rid of a lot of the really dissonant sound. We felt like it's maybe been a little played out, but it wasn't a conscious thing so much as when we were done writing the record, we realized that what we're into now isn't as much of a dissonant sound.
How has that changed? Meaning, what have you gotten into now as opposed to what you were into before?
Well, you know, before we were coming out of...well, at least, me personally, I grew up going to mainly hardcore shows and stuff and I always liked metal because any person who likes heavy music, the first thing they get into usually is metal because it's the most commercial. But I mainly listened to hardcore bands growing up and then when I started As I Lay Dying, I wanted to do something different, which at the time was more of a metal sound - and it's ironic that now every single band is a metal band. So instead of listening to a lot of the hardcore bands I had grown up listening to, I started tracing my roots back to a lot of classic bands like Iron Maiden. Bands that in my opinion, are at the root of things. Even the Swedish bands, you know. People compare a lot of our sound to At The Gates, and we totally admire them, but...
But At The Gates derived a lot of the melody from Iron Maiden, even.
Yeah, exactly. That melody didn't exist until the Iron Maiden era. Ultimately we traced our sound back to classic metal bands as opposed to the more recent knock-offs. And we respect a lot of those bands, they're amazing bands, but our influences, even energywise have changed. One of my favorite records of all time is Metallica's "Master of Puppets", that seems like a thrash record that people still haven't been able to emulate in terms of the energy of it. Those old Metallica records, for some reason, everybody rips off every other style of music, but those old Metallica records are the few ones that nobody's been able to do a great job of ripping off.
Yeah, you'd think somebody would be able to nail it down. Hopefully somebody might read this interview and correct us with some names of bands who do.
So is there a concept or theme or anything around the name, "Shadows Are Security"?
Yeah, it just deals with the false sense of security we find in the things that we're taught and the way that most of us live, moreso instinctual and driven by our emotions and our feelings. To me, those things are like shadows. They're there one minute and gone the next. So one of the main themes of the record is how we need to change our entire sense of security and what it is that we've learned from our education systems and churches and all kinds of social norms and moral systems.
Can you think of an example that best exemplifies the sort of change you're talking about?
For me, because a lot of my lyrics have a spiritual twist to them, I see a lot of people that consider themselves religious who are driven entirely by emotion and the way they feel about God or whatever it is they worship. And I think that's very poor reasoning, to love somebody or to worship somebody. I use the word 'feel', which is funny, because I'm talking about how feelings aren't a good reason to do things. But I know that love and worship is much deeper than the way you feel for a moment, because that will always change. I think faith and reason are very related. I think that people need to evaluate why they believe what they do and not just believe because it's what someone told them to do. Believe because it's what you've researched and believe is the absolute truth.
I know what you're saying. Personally, I'm not Christian, but obviously I don't have an issue with anyone who's Christian. That's one of my biggest gripes since I moved down to the south. There's people praying before they eat at Burger King and then start talking about girls they wanted to cheat on their wives with. Even though it's harmless, it still confused me as to why they bothered praying or calling themselves Christian when they don't hold the same values or moral systems of their faith.
Yeah, I mean, for me, I believe in Christianity because I believe it's the truth, but I think that truth itself is more important than the idea of religion or any sort of spirituality. I mean, if somebody is searching for truth and they come upon, in my case, Christianity, there's very concrete reasons for believing what I do and not just because I've been told to or because it feels right for a moment.
It's the same thing with any belief system, even down to straight-edge kids. What they feel is appropriate for them at the moment might twist around a year from then.
I think people typically don't act contrary to what they believe is truth. I mean, if you believe that you're going to get burnt by putting your hand on a stove, they're not going to put their hand there. If they truly believe that in order to avoid being dependent on outside things they need to be straight edge, then I mean, if they really truly believe that, they'll remain straight edge for the rest of their lives.
Yeah, if you aren't now you never were.
Yeah, exactly. I could go on about the topic for days, but I think we've got the general idea down.
How did you end up collaborating with Jake Bannon for the artwork for the album?
Well, he did our previous record, "Frail Words Collapse", and we were extremely happy with the way that artwork looked. We just contacted him again. I like to keep things themed also and Jake did a good job of keeping similar imagery from one record to the next.
Since you've been on Metal Blade, how has working with them been? Are you in a contract deal or...?
We're actually one of the few bands I know of that's totally happy with the record deal they signed. It's kind of a weird history because when we first signed on to Metal Blade, they had a completely different focus than they do now. One of the main reasons we chose Metal Blade over some of the other labels we had been talking to is that they really gave us the feeling that we were going to be a priority for them. I think that's come out to be absolutely true, as ever since we've been on the label, they've really gone out of their way to market us differently than they've marketed other bands in the past and have really pushed us as a newer sound for the label. Now they've got us, The Black Dahlia Murder, The Red Chord and Unearth; all bands that sort of give a new thing for Metal Blade. As much as they've helped us, I think we're all helping the label as well. Those guys, Brian and Mike, the head guys at Metal Blade, they're as passionate about music as anyone in the band and they've been doing this twenty years longer than we have. It's so rare to find somebody who is that age and still that passionate about music and has that kind of history and knowledge of trends in the industry. They had death metal and it's height, with Cannibal Corpse, and they see similar trends with metalcore. It's good. I feel comfortable knowing that the label has that kind of perspective.
Well how has Ozzfest been treating you thus far with the exception of the bus troubles we talked about earlier?
We have no complaints. We're playing in front of a bunch of new fans every day. That's the main reason we're doing this is to gain exposure to what I consider to be the lazy metal fans who don't go out and find out about new bands, they wait until they play Ozzfest or something. That's a goal we had and we've accomplished that, making new fans. It's a comfortable tour, also. It's our first time in a bus, catering is amazing every day. There's really no reason a band on Ozzfest could complain aside from digging themselves into a hole financially.
Hopefully it's one you can climb out of easily.
For us, we have a much smaller hole because we're actually getting paid to play. I can't imagine being a rotating band and paying $75,000. That's a hole you're going to have to sell a lot of records to dig your way out of. We're considered the first of the side-stage headliners, so we're getting paid to play.
There was some trouble with the Salt Lake City date, right?
The Ozzfest date got cancelled...
Why was that? And how did the show you ended up playing turn out?
Coming into the tour they thought Ozzy would be able to play a few shows two nights in a row, but after cancelling the first three they realized that any shows two days in a row would have to have the second date cancelled. So they cancelled Salt Lake City, moved the Sacramento show, and cancelled one of the Texas shows. They also cancelled a Minneapolis date. The show we played that night was the loudest show of the tour even though there was a tenth as many people that were at the Ozzfest second stage, there was definitely a hungry crowd. Some of being in those venues is more exciting and there's more energy coming off the crowd than these Ozzfest dates only because the club crowd is so much more intimate.
The pressure isn't all on you to fill up a giant arena.
And you guys are doing the Hell On Earth tour with Evergreen Terrace and Heaven Shall Burn over in Europe. How was that arranged?
The booking agency, MAD, from Germany, came up with this idea of how they could do more of an underground tour without having the band expenses being too high. Just so that the bands could actually make money as opposed to breaking even. They're packaging six bands altogether, we're all sharing the same backline, they're taking care of all the transportation...it's just one of those things that was too good to pass up. It's exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to do like, a really down to earth, grass-roots style tour in Europe, because that's how we built our fan-base over here. We felt like it would be inappropriate for us to just go over there and open up for something similar to what we're doing now on Ozzfest. We just wanted to make sure we built a real fan-base that's going to survive the trends with us and they provided us an opportunity to do that.
Have you guys ever been over to Europe?
We've been over there twice, but both were really short trips. Both times we went over there were less than two week tours. This last summer we went over but it was mainly to do some festival dates, and then the time before that we went over to do almost the entire U.K. with Lamb of God. So we don't really have a lot of exposure over in Europe, especially in mainland Europe.
So what other plans do you guys have arranged for this year?
Touring is really the only plan we have. It sounds sort of like a lame answer, but we go straight from Europe and the day we get home we start a tour with Slipknot and Unearth. Ten days after that tour ends, we do a headlining tour with Norma Jean, Madball, and A Life Once Lost. To be honest, I'm most looking forward to that headlining tour because those are the shows and the kind of crowds that we're used to playing for. It's a little different for us playing Ozzfest and I'm sure Slipknot will be very similar. You know, where the crowd is excited and there's a lot of energy, but it's...it's not really the same for us. It's kind of hard to explain.
I know what you're saying. To a lot of people you're just going to be the band that's preventing them from seeing Slipknot.
But if you're headlining your own tour you're getting the kids who are coming out to show after show and the kids that haven't gotten the chance to come out and see you guys.
Plus, I really like all the bands. Obviously, because we picked them for our headlining tour, but...you know, Madball is like, legendary as far as hardcore is concerned. And Norma Jean, as far as live shows go, it's almost like they're the band that invented flipping out on stage.
If you ever got the chance to start a side-project completely different from As I Lay Dying, what would you want it to sound like?
A couple times I've worked on different and more traditional sounding hardcore bands that I've had fun with, but nothing has ever come together to be a real band and put out a record. I think just the simplicity and the honesty of regular hardcore bands is something that I've missed a little bit by being in As I Lay Dying. I was able to get a little bit of that out of my system when I produced the new Sworn Enemy CD. Those guys have that New York style...
They're Sworn Enemy.
Yeah, yeah. So I was able to get all of that out of my system. I would almost consider that to be a side project, working on that CD, only because I got so heavily involved as a producer. Even like, helping them write a few songs and things like that. It was really fun.
Are there other bands you're looking at taking on as a producer?
I'll definitely be producing some more bands. The only problem is the limited schedule. There's a couple offers I've gotten for January and of course I'm sure one or two of those bands will end up being flaky, but I definitely want to take on a new project in January.
Why do you think that As I Lay Dying has blown up to the proportions that you guys have lately?
Um, I'm actually not sure, because I never thought that this band would do as well as it's doing. I think it has to do with the right timing and I think we've surprised ourselves really with some of the songs we've written. I think that every time we go in and work on new songs, we realize that we're much more talented than we give ourselves credit for. I don't mean that in a cocky way, but like, when we go into the studio we have low expectations because we do this as a very underground band and the records always come out being pretty epic in my opinion.
Are you guys actually at the point where you can tour and make a living and pay your bills, or when you come home are you still forced to take part-time jobs?
I quit my job about a year and a half ago. I was trying to find jobs in between tours because no one would actually hire me knowing that I was going to leave the next month. The last job I had was working the warehouse at a furniture store. It's tough though, when bands are getting started and they go on tour for a month, and then they're home for a month, and then they go out again, it's almost impossible to find somebody who wants to hire you for that month.
I think what you have to do is just...don't tell them that you have to leave and tour and hope they're forgiving people.
Yeah, I always feel bad but I know that it's probably one of the only ways to do it.
Do you ever feel any sort of alienation or awkwardness from either the hardcore or the metal scene, seeing as how you guys are kind of tied together with both but you don't fit exactly into either one?
I don't really have any problems with either. I think our music now is almost entirely metal, but we're such a down to earth band, in my opinion, that we'll always be a part of the hardcore scene. And just the idea of standing up for what you believe in when you're part of an industry where being a Christian band, you're kind of in the minority. That whole mentality is something that we've taken from the hardcore scene. We appreciate both of them, we don't have any problems. Every once and a while there's the elitist hardcore kid that thinks that because we've grown out of strictly being an underground band that we're sell-outs. But in my opinion, those aren't the brightest people anyway.
Yeah, well. Those are people who are looking for something to hate anyway. If it wasn't you, it would be The Black Dahlia Murder or something. Who knows. But yeah, I know in the interviews I've read with you a lot of people have asked you about being kind of a Christian band. When I asked people what kind of questions they had for you, a lot of them wanted you to touch on how important your faith is to your music, but I don't think I even need to ask that based upon what you said before.
I guess one question people wonder about is if all of us just believe in Christianity or does it actually affect our music? And you just sort of brought that up. The only thing I'll say on that is that if somebody truly believes something, it affects every area of their life. We don't have the ability to just believe in Christianity and have that unrelated to our band because it's something that we believe with a very strong conviction. At the same time, we don't really have an agenda with the lyrics we write. We're not trying to tell anyone how to live or anything like that. People read our lyrics and our world view is always going to shine through. It's like a straight-edge band will never really write a song about partying just like we'll never write a song contradicting our beliefs as well. So even though we're not pushing a certain viewpoint, our faith is still in our lyrics somehow. And there's other issues, like the need to change and how selfish we are in our nature as people that can apply to anybody, whether or not they're Christian or whatever.
How do you feel about the music scene now as opposed to when you first got into the metal/hardcore scene?
It's bigger. I don't necessarily hate that, we've benefitted from that, but at the same time...it's...made the scene...a lot less personal and more...it's hard to describe.
Yeah. It's so much more of a business than it is a passion for a lot of labels and a lot of bands. I can honestly say as well as we're doing and as much as we're benefitting from the size of this scene right now, we're just as passionate about it now as we were back then. You know, from a business side I'm just as keen on my business sense now as I was back then. I've always tried to pay attention to things from a business side because I don't think you can remain passionate about the band you're playing in unless you're aware of whats going on in it.
Yeah, you have to care about where it's going to go.
These last few questions are entirely optional. Right before you called I just read on the internet that Nickelback is going to be using one of Dimebag Darrell's unreleased solos in a song.
What are your thoughts on that?
That's very disheartening. I mean, I dont know the guys in Nickelback so I don't want to say anything about them personally, but I think their music is....just to be honest, crappy in my opinion.
I'm sure they know it is, too.
It's kind of a disgrace and a mockery of Dimebag, you know? I don't think he would've wanted one of his solos to be dumped into one of their songs.
I guess it was Vinnie Paul who gave it to them to use and he was going to drum on one of their tracks.
Aw man. I don't know. Maybe Vinnie signed a contract when he was drunk or something.
I guess that's what we can hope. I mean, I wish the best for the guy and everything, but I don't know. It's Nickelback. Being from a band like Pantera where all your lead singer did for a while was yell about trends, how could that happen?
Last question I have is...I had an army of ants invade my apartment not too long ago. I guess the only thing I really did was grab a can of this nature scent Raid and put on some Discharge really loud and went after them. It took me about two hours. It's one of the reasons I don't have more questions for you, because I had to battle these things. In the event that you were in the same situation, what do you think you'd put on to listen to in order to fight the impending invasion?
You can choose not to answer this question.
No, no, it's a good question. I would definitely...let's see. I'd put on something pretty aggressive. I don't know, that's a tough one to answer. Let me think.
If you want, we can let that simmer and you can call me back tomorrow.
Yeah, I might have to sleep on that one. But I don't know, I think I'd have to put on an album related to death, maybe like "Reign In Blood" or something.
That would actually have been pretty appropriate for the scene. Imagine a bathtub filled with floating ants. Actually, don't, because that's horrifying.
I get ants a lot because we have construction across the street from where I live. So they have to find refuge in my house.
They're amazing creatures. They find one little granule of sugar and they're all rushing after it.
I do recommend ant steaks for the future. They're like these little traps where it smells good to them or something and they come and eat it. Then they take it back to their nest or whatever and it kills the mother ant.
Man, that's cool, but I'd feel bad.
Yeah. Then you wipe out the whole colony.
Actually whenever I have insects that bother me, I start reading about them and I kind of like them and appreciate them more.
What are the ecological reasons behind ants? What do they do to benefit the environment?
I know they do a lot of the soil with all their tunneling and everything. It improves the soil quality. A variety of birds and other insects eat them. I don't know everything has a purpose. It's annoying and I hate saying it because I sound like a hippie, but everything has a purpose.
I'm always curious what their purpose is. Like flies are the worst. I don't know what the purpose of flies are other than frogs eating them.
Yeah, I hate the horseflies that just circle around you really fast. They make me feel like Pigpen, from Charlie Brown.
Pigpen, from Charlie Brown.
I'm...I'm trying to...I haven't brushed up on my Charlie Brown lately.
He was the kid who was really dirty. And he always had stink-lines coming out of him.
Did he carry his blanket around?
Eh, that was Linus. I think they looked exactly the same, only he was absent a blanket and donned some stink-lines. But other than that I'm not really sure.
Well, is there anything else you wanted to go over?
Nah, I think we've pretty much covered all the good stuff. This was cool, thanks a lot for your time.
No problem, and thank you.