On tour in support of The Powerless Rise, As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis sat down with us to discuss the inner workings of the band's recent metalcore epic The Powerless Rise. We take an retrospective look at the band and discuss Tim's standout moments with the band. Additionally, Tim hints that new music from the band may be coming sooner than you think...
Shawn@RRR: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with us today. Could you introduce yourself and give your role in the band?
Tim Lambesis: I’m Tim from As I Lay Dying and I am the vocalist.
Shawn@RRR: Currently you’re on the road alongside Winds Of Plague and After The Burial. Though the tour is just getting started, how’s it been this far?
Tim Lambesis: It’s been good so far. The first day only about half of our gear seemed to work right. It was a stressful day, but it’s already behind us and I believe we’re in the routine.
Shawn@RRR: Last year the band released their fifth full-length effort titled The Powerless Rise, courtesy of Metal Blade Records. With the initial nerves and excitement associated with the release well subsided, how do you feel the album was received by both fans and critics?
Tim Lambesis: I think it was received well overall. I think the best feedback came from people that listened to it more than once. It’s definitely a type of album that has layers to it, and the depth of it really grows on people after a couple listens.
Shawn@RRR: A number of people have touted the release as the band’s best work to date. As an artist, how does this make you feel?
Tim Lambesis: It definitely makes me feel like our hard work is paying off. Our experience is adding to our diversity and things like that. The older the band becomes, the more we want to make sure that we’re progressing, but still keeping our fans happy at the same time. So there’s got to be a foundation, but we’ve got to push ourselves.
Shawn@RRR: Do you believe such a long span between the release of An Ocean Between Us and The Powerless Rise allowed the band to go above and beyond their full potential musically?
Tim Lambesis: We didn’t really spend a lot of that big gap writing songs, we spent most of it touring, but I think the fact that we were listening to more music and drawing from a lot more influences that when we finally took the time to write we had a lot more to draw from. Though I think what it all stems from is the fact that we’re all getting older. Some bands reach their creative peak at some point, but I think that, even though we’re getting older, we’re young enough that we’re still coming around to our creative peak.
Shawn@RRR: Earlier in the year the band released a video for the song “Anodyne Sea,” which has been recognized as your most meaningful video to date. What is the overall concept of the video?
Tim Lambesis: The concept of the video is the repercussions, or the potential worse repercussion of standing up for what you believe in. While it may seem extreme in our society, I think what the video depicts isn’t realistically that farfetched for a lot people in different parts of the world. I wanted to take the idea behind the lyrics and be exaggerative with it, especially in the video. It’s kind of an art form for which exaggeration is welcomed.
Shawn@RRR: As with most of your discography, The Powerless Rise saw the band once again breaking into the Billboard 200 with the album peaking at the number 10 spot. What do you attest such a strong reaction to your music to?
Tim Lambesis: Well, you know the number 10 week was the first week, which shows to me that our diehard fan base is going out and supporting us that first week, but it’s also interesting to me that while we had such a strong first week, overall our album has continued to sell. While we never had any weeks similar to the first, overall, our album is selling strong.
Shawn@RRR: With such a strong positive reaction from your music release after release, how much pressure is put upon the band to essentially one up their prior success time and time again?
Tim Lambesis: It’s hard because the music industry is declining. As far as numbers go, there’s not going to be that type of success on future albums. Say for instance that our last album sold about 40,000 copies. Two years from now we release our next album, we could probably be in the top 10 with almost half as many records sold. It’s hard to put a number on things. I think personally, my gauge of success is looking at the band and seeing if we’re still passionate about what we’re doing. Are will still delivering something that’s meaningful, and getting that type of feedback from our fans? If it gets to the point where the fans decide that what we’re doing is an insincere attempt at writing music, I think that’s when we become unsuccessful, no matter how many records we may sell.
Shawn@RRR: Obviously, being “veterans of the scene” if you will, I’m sure you’ve witnessed your fair share of ups and downs the music industry has to offer. What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry?
Tim Lambesis: Well, like I mentioned in the previous question that the actual album sales are very difficult. We’re a little bit, like, scared isn’t the right word, but a little bit curious to see what our next album does because of state of declining album sales. As a whole, the decline in albums sales has forced a lot of bands to tour more often, which has created an overflow in the touring market and some bands started playing for 150 people a night when they’re used to playing 500-1000. It’s a chain reaction that’s created a decline in the touring market as well. There’s a handful of bands that have survived and have still done well given the circumstances. I think there’s always hope out there, but it’s definitely looking pretty grim for start-up bands.
Shawn@RRR: How do you feel the band has grown since the release of An Ocean Between Us?
Tim Lambesis: Naturally, just us all getting older has made us better at our respected instruments which means that not only from a technical standpoint, I don’t think we’re really trying to break any new ground, technically speaking. But as far as just technique and the way that we’re able to layers things and add more diversity to our music, like, while Jordan is an amazing drummer, he’s capable of insanely technical things, but that’s not really our thing to woo people with how technical our song is, it’s just that technicality is just a by product of trying to write something energetic, fast, aggressive, and melodic all at the same time.
Shawn@RRR: Taking it a step further, how do you feel you’ve grown as a musician since the band’s inception?
Tim Lambesis: I think each album has shifted a little bit lyrically. The earliest albums of ours were very introspective. Not that it was impossible to relate to my lyrics, but they were mainly things that I was going through, so if people related, they were able to relate on maybe them guessing what I was talking about, in that kind of way. The newer albums I think I’ve taken a different lyrical approach. While I’ve kept it personal, I’ve been able to address very specifically, some world issues that are close to my heart, whether it’s related to poverty, or other forms of injustice. So, lyrically I’ve progressed and I see the need for both of those approaches to lyrics, and I’m glad that I’m not constantly repeating myself with one or the other.
Shawn@RRR: You’ve had a hand in the production of every As I Lay Dying release to date, The Powerless Rise being no exception to this. How did this passion for producing albums come about?
Tim Lambesis: When we first started recording I just kind of grabbed the reigns as far as the general direction of the band. We didn’t have the money to hire a big outside producer so it was almost out of necessity more than anything that I got into that producers mindset. The engineers we’ve worked with, I learned a thing or two from them, and eventually I learned the technical side as well and that’s how I became a studio owner. Now I just enjoy recording in a comfortable environment. Since I own the studio, we record all our albums there, and our last album was mixed there. It was a very hands on experience.
Shawn@RRR: How do you feel your experience as a producer affects the process of how the band records?
Tim Lambesis: Well, especially in the last album, or last two albums really, I really enjoyed working with an outside producer who sort of took the pressure off of me looking at the big picture so I could focus on my individual part. One of the difficult things about producing an album is that you’re looking at the big picture, but you’re also one of the band members. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of spending the time on your own part because you’re focusing on everyone else’s. I’m more proud of my vocal performance on this album than I’ve done before.
Shawn@RRR: Which records in your resume of production credits do you feel exceptionally proud of?
Tim Lambesis: It’s really hard to say. I know this sounds light hearted but it was really fun creating an album from scratch when I was doing Austrian Death Machine stuff, just because it’s layering one thing at a time from one person’s mind, that mind being my own. Sometimes it’s a difficult process when you’re working with five other bands members. Sometimes you’ve got one personality who’s maybe fighting against the rest of them and it makes the production not easy, or not fun even. With Austrian Death Machine, it’s second nature. I’ve purposefully thought of a way not to over think it and you know the songs can be simple at times, or they can be more technical for moments as well. It’s just whatever flows out naturally. It’s a fun process.
Shawn@RRR: Is there anything you’ve recently worked on that we should be on the lookout for?
Tim Lambesis: We recorded some cover songs, which I can’t really announce what they are yet for As I Lay Dying. We’ve also written three new songs that we are just kind of hanging onto waiting for the right moment to release those.
Shawn@RRR: Speaking of production, much like An Ocean Between Us, The Powerless Rise features Adam Dutkiewicz, famed funny-man and guitarist of Killswitch Engage behind the boards. What were some of the determining factors in bringing him back for this record?
Tim Lambesis: I think we established a comfortable working process with the last album. It’s funny because the main difference between An Ocean Between Us and The Powerless Rise is that on An Ocean Between Us, Adam was really our only main producer and engineer. We worked with the assistant engineer, Daniel Castleman, who also runs my studio back home. On this latest album and we actually had both of those guys running at the same time, full-time, so Daniel wasn’t actually assisting, him and Adam were both working at the two studio locations we had about 30 minutes from each other. I think it just made everything more productive.
Shawn@RRR: Looking back, did you ever think As I Lay Dying would become the immensely successful band presented to us today?
Tim Lambesis: For our genre. I don’t think our genre allows for the potential to support a living for a family or anything like that, so the fact that I made a living playing music and now I’ve got a son, and I’m able to be a good father and play music at the same time. Those are all things that I never thought would be possible. Our genre of music isn’t completely unrenowned anymore.
Shawn@RRR: Again looking back, what has been your proudest moment as a part of the band?
Tim Lambesis: It’s hard to say. I’d probably bring it back again to the day that I came home from tour. Usually what would happen is we would tour for a month then come home for a few weeks and go back out. Those few weeks I was home, I would have to scramble around and try to find as much work as I could. One day we got home from tour and I almost had a full month until the next tour started and I realized that I didn’t have to a get a job and I could spend that time writing and recording music. In my mind it felt like I had “made it” at that point. Whether or not I was actually bringing in a lot of money wasn’t really the point.
Shawn@RRR: As previously mentioned, roughly a three year span separated the release of An Ocean Between Us and The Powerless Rise. Do you believe you’ll be once again taking the necessary time to ensure the next album is as perfect as can be?
Tim Lambesis: I think that our next album will be out a little bit sooner than three years, and I believe that will be the longest gap between albums. Usually what would happen is that we would tour nonstop and when we were done we would finally start to sit back and write music/songs together. This time we discussed that about every six months we would write a new batch of 2-3 songs. That way we’re not putting it off towards the end. That’s how the 2-3 songs we currently have came into play.
Shawn@RRR: With the ten year anniversary of the release of your debut Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes looming, does the band have any special plans to commemorate the release?
Tim Lambesis: Yeah, we’re trying to figure out what we want to make out of it and how many new songs we should include, and how many cover songs.. all that kind of stuff. We have the songs for it, we just need to organize the release.
Shawn@RRR: In a recent interview you mentioned the band was gathering some special unreleased stuff for a release this year. Will it be simply a B-sides album, or something more than that?
Tim Lambesis: The original songs won’t be B-sides. It’s funny because we do have unreleased songs from our last recording. Strange as a band would do this, but there’s one song in particular that’s one of our favorite songs we’ve ever done, it just wasn’t able to find it’s way onto the last release. We had originally thought that the song was enough to stand out on a future release, so we just saved it for a later time.
Shawn@RRR: Though As I Lay Dying is your main focus, you’ve done a bit of solo work as the Austrian Death Machine. Why do you feel it’s important for you to have the project as a musical outlet?
Tim Lambesis: With As I Lay Dying, we’re a very calculated in how we write a song, whether it’s a tail end of a riff or a transition, we really take a lot of time to do that. Sometimes I just miss the spontaneity of a song. While I’m much more proud of the As I Lay Dying outcome because of so much thought is put into it, I just want to be able to write songs and see where they go. If it ends up being light hearted it’s fine to me, if it sounds extremely brutal it’s fine with me.
Shawn@RRR: 2009 saw the release of the project’s 2nd full length effort Double Brutal. When should fans expect another album from the project?
Tim Lambesis: This time around I want to change things up a little bit because I had written Total Brutal and Double Brutal. The next release would probably be too much of the same thing if I used the exact same writing format, so I was going to get a few more people involved this next time around and co-write songs with different people. I was thinking about maybe making a short movie out of the writing process. It’s cool because I’m the only “official” band member, so that means I can travel around and have guest musicians like I’ve always done with guitar solos, but the difference with the next record is that rather than having people lay down a guitar solo, maybe I would co-write the entire song with them.
Shawn@RRR: It was rumored that the album is already in the works with a tentative title of Keep It Brutal. Can you confirm/deny these rumors?
Tim Lambesis: That’s definitely amongst my favorite titles for the next album. Once I get the collaborations in place I think the title may end up being one of those long ones with a semi colon thrown in somewhere just to keep with the over the top nature of the project.
Shawn@RRR: Do you ever worry that you’ll eventually run out of Arnold Schwarzenegger material?
Tim Lambesis: Every time I start to worry, I have this note book that I write down quotes I remember from his movies. At one point I realized that I had like 75 quotes that I hadn’t quite covered yet.
Shawn@RRR: You’ve been quoted with saying that As I Lay Dying “is heartfelt and full of passion” while Austrian Death Machine “is an outlet of pure testosterone and stupidity.” Has the idea of doing a solo project with something of a bit more substance crossed your mind? Not to say that the project is terrible by any means…
Tim Lambesis: For me, I’m not the most technical guitar player. I just have kind of a certain thrashy type of energy I like to throw into any music I’m creating. There’s a little bit of similarity between As I Lay Dying and Austrian Death Machine in that regard, but I would like to do something different. If there are other musicians that I could maybe pull together that would make something that’s a bit more technical, extreme, brutal… maybe that would be a fun and different outlet for me.
Shawn@RRR: Much like the majority of the As I Lay Dying discography, both Austrian Death Machine albums have also made their way onto the Billboard 200. What do you attest such a strong reaction to your side project to?
Tim Lambesis: I’m sure some of the interest is generated by the guys that contribute to some of the great guitar playing on the albums. I think just the whole fun of the theme. Metal needs more balance to it, you know? In general, it’s such a one sided genre. Dethklok seems to be doing extremely well you know, granted they have an entire TV show supporting them. They and Austrian Death Machine are proof that metal heads can still smile.
Shawn@RRR: How does it feel to have something that’s not your primary focus to be as successful as it’s been?
Tim Lambesis: It’s tough because it seems to do well given the circumstances, but you know, if I were to try to make a living solely with Austrian Death Machine it wouldn’t happen. While it is successful in this underground cult-like following, there are definitely not enough fans for it to be successful in the traditional monetary sense.
Shawn@RRR: As I mentioned, your current tour alongside Winds Of Plague and After The Burial is in it’s initial dates. What are the band’s touring plans looking like for Spring/Summer?
Tim Lambesis: For Spring we’re going to be in South America for a tour, then Australia for a tour. In the summertime we’re going to play scattered festivals here and there. Usually we’ll do a traveling festival, whether it be Warped Tour, Mayhem Festival, tours of that style. We’ve done Ozzfest in the past. This year we decided to not do one of those type of tours.
Shawn@RRR: Ultimately, what do you want people to take away from listening to As I Lay Dying?
Tim Lambesis: I guess it really depends on the style of listener. I believe we present a good balance of what is memorable with what is very aggressive. As a lyricist, I hope that people can see the depth and the passion that’s brought to our music from that side. My approach has always been to have more substance. There’s plenty below the surface.