Alter The Press!


Interview: As I Lay Dying

Whilst on their European support tour with Amon Amarth, with the release of their 10th Anniversary album ‘Decas’ imminent. Alter The Press caught up with Josh Gilbert, bassist of San Diego’s As I Lay Dying prior to the UK stop of the tour at London’s HMV Forum.

ATP discussed the finer details of ‘Decas’, their 10th anniversary, Metal Blade, touring in the UK and what lies ahead for the band for what is hoped to be another successful ten years.

ATP: How has the tour been going so far?
Josh Gilbert (bass): It’s been going really well, we’ve been out for almost two weeks now. The shows have been sold out for the most part and there have been a lot of metal fans there. It’s cool because with Amon Amarth on the show it’s a little more diverse of a fan-base for us, we have a few of our fans coming but there is also a lot of the true metal, diehard fans coming out. We are really trying to win those guys over so it’s cool to see the beginning of the show where they’re just standing there straight faced and then by the end of the show they are bobbing their head or singing along. This is good for us because it keeps us wanting to put on the best show we can.

ATP: So ‘Decas’ in released in a couple of weeks, how does it feel to be releasing a 10 year anniversary album?
Josh: It’s a big thing, we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do for the 10th anniversary, but it kind of came together last spring when we thought we could get going on something and release it by the end of the year. Even though it was put together quite last minute the songs on it I think are really representative of the culmination of everything the band has done so far. It’s more of a thing for the fans, between our last records we nearly had three years where we didn’t release anything so we were thinking - we have some songs that are really good but haven’t been made into a record yet alongside the remixes and stuff so it ended up working out as something to keep the fans of the band happy while we make a new record instead of just waiting an extra year.

ATP: You cover Slayer, Judas Priest and The Descendents on the album, what process did you go through as a band to select the cover songs for the release?
Josh: Well, for the Slayer cover we actually did that first for a video game called ‘Home Front’. They recruited a bunch of bands to do cover songs and this was around the same time we were already planning on recording and they wanted a war related song, that being the reason why we chose ‘War Ensemble’ by Slayer. We ended up using it for this release, and that just got us thinking about doing some more covers - so everybody submitted ideas that they had for covers they thought would be cool, and eventually we narrowed it down. Nick wanted to do ‘Electric Eye’ by Judas Priest because it is one of the best guitar songs of all time, we also have ‘Hellion’ which is probably one of the most epic and melodic intros in metal history so that is a really cool song which has some singing in it, so I was able to experiment a little bit more with that like vibrato Rob Halford style singing. It’s actually kind of sad because people have been like, who’s that singing - it doesn’t sound like Josh at all? It sounds way better - so I was like dang-it I was actually trying to mimic someone else. The Descendants song was suggested by Tim, and we thought this was cool because while they’re not a metal band they had that really fast aggression and a punk rock attitude, and I think we as a band all identify with that and grew up with it. The song is 36 seconds long so it’s just a blast of energy, nobody has heard it outside of the band and friends and family but every seems to like that one a lot because it’s a little more light hearted than anything else we have ever done and it’s not every day you’ll see us doing something that has any kind of sense of humor.

ATP: How did the remixes come about?
Josh: That was another quite similar situation as the video game soundtrack. The first remix that came to us was in 2010 when we weren’t even talking about doing anything like it. The artist Innerpartysystem asked us if we would be ok with them doing a remix for them to release so we said cool send it over, and we actually really liked what they had done. So when we were putting this record together we knew we had three or four originals and three covers or so but we knew this wasn’t enough for a full release. So we remembered that really cool remix of the song ‘Blinding In False Light off’ The Powerless Rise and decided that we wanted to approach some more electronic musicians that we liked. The first one we were really stoked on was Benjamin Weinman of Dillinger Escape Plan, he did a really cool remix. And then we got Big Chocolate, the DJ who works with Mitch from Suicide Silence. And finally our friend Kelly Cairns, who actually engineered on some of our records, does a lot of electronic stuff and really wanted to do something for it. So that’s how that came about, it was sort of by chance and we thought it would be a good idea because we wanted to make it feel like more of a full release.

ATP: After 10 years you must have fulfilled so many goals, but what do you want to achieve over the next 10?
Josh: I think there are a lot of things that when a band starts out they set to accomplish. The band, by any of our standards has met a lot of the things we wanted to do. We are stoked on where we are and very appreciative of our place and that we can still be overseas and draw in enough people to make a living. So that is the number one goal to just make a living making music and since we have that we can have a lot of other goals, like we have sold around 1.5 million worldwide records which is a really cool accomplishment, and then we were nominated for a Grammy – but didn’t win one. But that’s another thing - we don’t necessarily agree with the committee process because it’s a lot of out of touch old dudes voting on stuff they don’t really know about so it’s not like that was the highest honor, but it’s definitely something cool to experience. We didn’t expect it and it’s not the light that we see at the end of the tunnel but it’s definitely nice to go to and for people to appreciate what we do.

Just playing festivals like Download and Waken are cool milestones, I think at this point it’s cool to look at where we will be 10 years from now, even though I have only been with the band five years, that has passed really quickly so I can see in five years time from now having the same conversation with you as a goal. I would say right now, since I didn’t really have a goal going into this interview that in five years from now my goal will to be still making a living doing what we are doing and still releasing albums that people are as excited about as they are now. While still being able to write music that is still something we love, because obviously our tastes change and our fans change so it’s impossible to really know.

ATP: 10 years since ‘Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes’, that’s a huge landmark. But with 'The Powerless Rise’ being called - by some your best work to date, that must be an amazing feeling to still be growing as a band?
Josh: Yea that’s another goal too, to just progress naturally without giving in to anything. But you have to consider what the fans want, so I think it’s a bit stubborn and selfish to be writing music just to please yourself at this point. We have a niche in doing what we do so it’s cool to take what our base foundation sound is and build on it and make each record unique but still keep what our fans want. You hear of bands that make these bizarre stylistic changes and their fans hate them for it. Not to say that we don’t love the music that we play, because at this point we haven’t had to compromise at all, if anything we have just written music that we enjoy and that we think our fans will enjoy. But I’m sure there comes a time in every band when you write a part and you’re thinking – no this is probably a little too much to digest or a little too technical for what we have normally done and that’s the fine line that I think is cool to straddle, to do stuff that pleases the fans but also evolving to suit your own taste.

ATP: Does the fact that you are on Metal Blade, and have been since 2003 allow you to do exactly what you want to do with each new album?
Josh: Yea, Metal Blade is very, very supportive of our band and they always have been. The band was on the label three or four years before I entered the picture and have always been supportive of what we want to do. They’re not a label that is begging us to send them demos as we write; they trust us to do what we want. Brian Slagel (Metal Blade Founder) didn’t even attend our writing sessions until we were finishing the record, he came down and just listened to what we had come up with and that is a really important thing, for bands not to feel that pressure. I couldn’t imagine having a label dude breathing down my neck while I’m trying to write a record that is supposed to stand the test of time. We are on a label that is respected around the world for being one of the first and most legitimate record labels so I think that gives our band respect from people before they have heard us just because we are associated with Metal Blade, a label that doesn’t mess around with just any artist. It’s one of the last surviving metal labels - not really just metal labels - but surviving labels in general. You hear of all these labels that are having to merge and fire half their staff but Metal Blade has stayed consistent through all of this so I think that’s good for our band and it looks good from the outside, this label that is established so well has faith in this band.

ATP: I suppose that comes hand in hand with you being around for so long, you’re able to build up a level of trust with them?
Josh: Yea, I think it’s like a circle because if they were more concerned with our writing process then maybe what we produce wouldn’t have turned out like it did. I think the freedom helps us out a lot and I think the fact that we know Metal Blade has everything under control, is very professional and are perfectionist in what they do I think that gives us the security that we don’t have to think about that at all, and that things will work out the way they should and we don’t have to worry about it.

ATP: Are you just going to sit back and enjoy this anniversary or are you jumping into writing the follow-up to 'The Powerless Rise'?
Josh: The plan now is we finish this tour then we go to the states to do a three week tour which is the actual ten year anniversary tour so we end the year with that. Then so far we have nothing official planned for 2012 other than to write, we’ll start out the year after Christmas just writing as much as we can with a goal to have something out by late summer or fall next year. There’s no guarantee on that but we may also play a few shows here and there and hopefully make it over to a few European festivals next year but if not then the record is what we are really going to focus on, getting a really solid follow-up to the last one.

ATP: It’s quite a surprise to actually have you back playing another UK show in the space of a year after the headline KOKO (venue in London) slot last November seeing as it took around two years between the 'Ocean In Between Us' tour for you to come back on a tour?
Josh: As far as our fan-base goes we feel really at home in Europe compared to the States, but I feel the UK has always been the place where I feel we have a lot of room to grow in, we are really trying to play here more often and when we do play, really try the best we can because we love being here and the more people that are interested in our band then the better venues we can play.

ATP: Well from playing Mean Fiddler (now defunct 1000 capacity venue in London) in front of a few hundred people to headlining KOKO was a
huge step for the band...?
Josh: We were actually talking about that today actually. Around the same time we were playing
Mean Fiddler we were playing venues in Germany that were four times that size and we were like – we’re only two countries away why is it like this? So when we went to Mean Fiddler we were like - this is cool, people are really catching on a little more but we always had in the back of our mind that the UK is the place we are going to play which will surprise us in terms of how small the venue is. But when we got to KOKO last time and we played the show with people singing at the top of their lungs we are looking at each other during the set just being like - what’s going on, we didn’t expect this at all! So that show in particular will probably go down as one of the most memorable shows we have had in a long time because we always looked at the UK being a smaller market for our band. You really felt the energy in the room, like a tangible energy so we were all looking at each other thinking what the hell is going on, we are just really happy about that because how we see it is that we don’t really have a gimmick, we don’t have that member who’s always causing trouble in the media so we don’t have that controversial aspect to our image, we are just a band that loves the music. It’s cool for other bands but we just don’t naturally have that, as sad as it is I think the younger audience gets in to what they see in a magazine and I guess we always haven’t had the biggest of magazine exposure in the UK so that’s the reason it has been a slow build for us.

ATP: I suppose that’s just playing the game with the media to spark interest...?
Josh: Yeah and I think that’s why it has taken us a little bit longer but we couldn’t be happier with where it is now, especially tonight at The Forum which is huge.

ATP: In another interview Tim Mentioned actually recording what he thought was one of As I Lay Dying’s best songs, but one that didn’t make it onto 'The Powerless Rise', do you have a lot of material that hasn’t been released that you could see making their way onto perhaps a b-side release?
Josh: Well the song that Tim was talking about was ‘Paralyzed’ which is the first track on ‘Decas’, we thought it was a really great song but in the sequence of The Powerless Rise we just couldn’t find a place for it so we thought we would just keep it for something, and it ended up being perfect for ‘Decas’. I would say out of every record we probably write around 35 songs and then we just pick - me, Nick, Phil and Tim all contribute writing riffs and songs so when you write for six months and write a song a week – I don’t know what that adds up to but it’s quite a few songs you know. I would say that there are probably 30 full or partial songs written for 'The Powerless Rise' at least and then we just narrowed it down to 12, there’s one song that Phil had come up with that was probably one of the darkest things that the band had ever done, bordering on something that Bohemoth would do, it was a really great song but just didn’t fit into the record. There are at least five to ten songs that were really close that we could maybe tweak and work towards the next record so who knows.

ATP: Can fans, particularly in the States expect to hear the cover songs from ‘Decas’ live on the Decade of Destruction Tour?
Josh: On that tour yes but not on this tour with Amon Amarth. One thing we have always done is wait until the new record is out before playing new songs. We would hate for someone to hear a really terrible quality, YouTube camera video off someone’s phone because people get on the internet to talk crap and so they are going to hear that - and maybe someone screws up because we haven’t played the song much and we don’t want that to be the first impression. It’s just easier to wait so that’s the reason why we aren’t playing any songs off of ‘Decas’ on this tour. But we are off for a week back in the States for some family stuff in the middle of it so during that week we will probably get cracking on some of those songs so when we come back we will probably be playing at least two songs off of it so that will be cool.

Connor O'Brien

Alter The Press!