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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interview: As I Lay Dying

San Diego's Christian metal masters, As I Lay Dying, have been making all the right noises recently. Their new album, 'An Ocean Between Us' shows a new-found intensity and a crushingly heavy sound. It was released in August 2007 to rapturous acclaim, breaking into the top ten of America's Billboard 200 and topping the rock charts with big first-week sales. They immediately got on the Warped Tour 2007 and a Grammy Awards nomination followed for 'Best Metal Performance' for the track 'Nothing Left'. Now Metal Blade's biggest sellers with a dedicated following they have put themselves on a punishing tour schedule and are due to hit our shores in March with hardcore act, Evergreen Terrace. Subba managed to catch up with guitarist Phil Sgrosso on a rare break.

Your band name comes from the William Faulkner novel but it has nothing in common with the book’s content. Why did you choose it? Because it sounded like a sweet name, I guess.

You’ve just been nominated for a Grammy award alongside such giants as Slayer and Machine Head. How did the band react when they found out? We think it's pretty cool that members of the Grammy Committee voted us on it, but we don't really care too much. Some dudes don't even want to go to it. We're not really big on those kinds of events. I'm hoping I can at least meet Dave Grohl while I'm there.

The new album, An Ocean Between Us, is awesome. It has greater depth and is more complex than the previous ones. How long did it take you to record?
It took about 6 weeks or so.

What was it like having Killswitch Engage’s guitarist, Adam Dutkiewicz, producing the album? It was good recording with Adam. Before we started recording the album, we spoke with multiple producers and Adam seemed like the best producer for us. We felt like we could really trust him with our songs and our vision for the album. We were already friends with Adam before recording so it was a lot of fun. Except for when guitars and gear would keep crapping out, we were all pretty bummed on that.

Did you have any interesting ways of creating the unique sounds on the album? Any clever foot-pedals, strange amp settings or unusual instruments, for instance? On 'Departed', I used a Virus synthesizer to get some ambient sounds. I used my NordElectro 2 for some other effects parts on 'Within Destruction', just layering that most people probably wouldn't notice ‘cause it’s not too loud in the mix. At the end of 'Departed' I ran my keyboard through a DL4 delay pedal and a Boss DD6 delay pedal, to a Matchless head, and just tweaked the DL4 to get some weird sounds. Nick and I both used a Memory Man delay pedal for some stuff. That’s pretty much all the weird stuff we did.

You’re probably tired of hearing how incredible Jordan Mancino, the drummer, is. This album is like a showcase for his talent with heartbeat pounding toms on one track and machine-gun kicks on another. Did you deliberately write it this way? We wrote whatever came naturally. We just wanted it to be a more dynamic metal album, not just straight beats the whole time. We try to have the guitars and drums syncopated as much as possible but certain guitar parts called for something more than just simple drumbeat. The last album was written on a drum machine so it was sort of bland in the drum department. We jammed these new songs out a lot more in a practice space so it was more organic I guess.

The vocals, in particular, are interesting because they are so varied. I even noticed similarities to Blink 182’s chorus style at one point. Are you fans of the band or punk music? Blink 182 was and will always be one of my favourite bands. I wouldn't consider them as an influence on our music though. Tim, Jordan, and I listen or used to listen to the most punk music in the band. It was the first genre that got me started playing guitar. I don't write the vocals though.

Josh Gilbert filled in on bass on your recent tour and album. Is he now a permanent band member? Tim, Jordan, Nick, and I have been together for the past 4 years and we've been through a lot during that time. Probably more than most bands. Josh is the dude for now and if things keep going smoothly, he will be a permanent member.

As a Christian band that’s into metal, a genre usually associated with dark themes and often satanic ideals, do you ever experience conflict from fans or other bands you tour with? Kids send us hateful messages on myspace. They're very brave for doing so via the internet. That’s how it is these days though. Bands don't really have problems with us ‘cause we're pretty normal dudes.

You use a lot of images of skulls in your album artwork. Why skulls and would you consider them a band theme? Skulls are pretty metal I guess.

You’ve gigged relentlessly over the last few years. Do you enjoy it as much as you seem to? Yeah, I love touring. We have a good crew that keeps us entertained.

Despite your increasing fanbase you’re still happy to play smaller venues. Do you feel it is important to do so? Yeah, kids remember the more intimate club shows more than they do the huge arena shows. The energy is just so much more powerful than a 'big stage' show. Kids always go more insane when there's no barricade and we can get up right in their faces. Except for in Sweden, they just stand there and judge every note that you play on guitar.

You’ve done Ozzfest, Taste of Chaos, the Warped Tour, and Sounds of the Underground. What’s your favourite live event so far? I think Warped Tour or Taste of Chaos. We're the band that kinda stands out more. I feel like we could make a lot more fans on tours like that. I love OUR metal fans but a lot of other metal fans are stubborn and won't give you the light of day. Young kids on Warped Tour are so anxious to hear new bands and they don't have this jaded opinion on music.

Any interesting tour tales you can tell us? Someone stole the band's laptop out of our dressing room last night. I'm pretty pissed about that. That's kind of interesting, I guess.

Do you have plans to do a UK festival this year or soon? Yeah I believe that’s in the works. I'm not sure when but summer. Seems to be the time to head over there.

Whose music are you currently into? I've been listening to the new Dimmu Borgir lately. The music is just so powerful. I don't really care for the lyrics, but everything else is really good metal. I've been listening to Nirvana, David Gilmour, and Radiohead a lot lately too.

I know you’re big Iron Maiden fans. Are you planning on catching them on their new tour? Yes I will be going to the LA forum show on Feb 19th! Hopefully I'll be seeing them this summer as well. They're the best.

Any plans for the future? Touring, touring, and more touring.

Also online @ Subba-Cultcha =  http://www.subba-cultcha.com/features/article.php?contentID=12816
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