At the Clarkston, Michigan stop of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festvial, I sat down with Josh Gilbert, bassist/vocalist of As I Lay Dying. We talked a little bit about their stint on the tour, recording with Bill Stevenson for their upcoming release Awakened and the differences as a band between Mayhem and Warped.
You guys are on the Mayhem Festival right now, today you played the main stage. Have you seen any sort of difference between the reactions of the crowd between playing the main stage and doing the side stage?
On the side stage itís the equivalent of something like Warped Tour. Itís not too big of a barricade and just open ground for standing room. Those shows, itís more of our crowd, more of the younger kids who wanna get there early and stand up in the heat and stuff. Itís cool, but then when we switched to the main stage, we rotated in, thereís this sheer amount of people there. Even though the excitement level isnít as high right up in the front, thereís three times as many people. Sometimes weíll start the show and the standing area in front, the pit, itís pretty small and itís taken up by older Slayer, Slipknot fans because those seats cost like a hundred bucks. Itís not as cheap as the lawn or upper seats. It takes two or three songs to kinda get them into the show, so weíve just been trying to get up there and just bust it as hard as we can and get everyone stoked. Today was actually pretty insane. It was hilarious. The lawn is the only place we can ask people to get crazy, and there was like... ten wall of deaths at once.
I saw that. Itís like, here comes the wall of death... and now everyone is tumbling down.
Yeah, itís like on a 45-degree angle.
This is probably the last of the summer festivals you guys have done through the years. Youíve done Warped, Ozzfest, pretty much everything. How would you compare the atmosphere of this festival to what youíve done before?
Itís very similar to Warped as far as the way one stage ends and another starts. But as far as stylistically, we always got a really good reaction at Warped. That would be the closest to being Mayhem. Itís mostly metal nowadays, but when we did it we were like one of two metal bands that year. It was us and Killswitch Engage. It was cool because if there were metal fans there, theyíd be at our stage. But itís cool to play at this festival as a metal fan. Thereís not as many different genres here so thereís not as much of a portion of the crowd that would hate us like at Warped Tour. There might be like, The Academy Is... fans that might hate us.
Youíre touring in anticipation of your new record Awakened, how has the new single ďCauterizeĒ been going over?
We had the idea about two weeks before Mayhem to do that one first, because its a song that doesnít give away... thereís an element to some of the new songs on the record that we havenít really shown yet. But weíre coming off of Decas, that compilation CD, and there was a lot of confusion. Like people were saying, ĎOh, you guys are adding electronics and dubstep,í but really it was just remixes and it was clearly like ten year old songs being remixed. Somehow, just to drive the point home that weíre still the same band, we kinda released, not a safe track, but something that is a little more in the vein of what we are known for. I think we decided to do a lyric video so that we could play it and talk about the new album during the show and also so people know the lyrics. Itís awesome because it seems like every week more people know it or have heard it. Itís cool to look out and see someone singing it.
You guys recorded this new record with Bill Stevenson, heís a little bit more of a punk rock producer. Itís a little strange to consider you guys recording with him. How would you say his background honed in what you brought to the table this time around?
When we were looking for producers, we were trying to talk to Adam D[utkiewicz]. first, but he wasnít available because Killswitch Engage is ramping back up and we knew that. He couldnít do it. So we already knew that we were going to have to make a change, we were just trying to think of every possible producer. We even talked to producers in the past that we didnít end up going with. Me and Tim brought up Bill because, in a sort of selfish way, I just loved his bass tones on all his records [laughs]. I was like, man I want my bass to sound like that on a record. I brought it up, and we have a meeting every December with Metal Blade, and weíre like letís hit him up and see what he says, he might not even be interested. He hasnít really done anything that heavy like that besides a few local bands, he said. We went through a bunch of calls, and when we talked to Bill... heís a hilarious dude first of all. I donít know if youíre seen anything about Bill, but heís awesome. Anyways, we were talking to him and his commentary on our past records was just so spot on. He was like even down to specific songs. Just very detailed in his commentary and analysis and we asked him like... what do you think we should do with the record? Where would you take it? And he said that instead of having As I Lay Dying ĎAí, which is the classic, melodic As I Lay Dying sound, and As I Lay Dying ĎBí, which is the more thrashy, less melodic, more brutal sound, he wanted us to mix them better and have more of a seamless gap. When he said that, once we talked to him and made sure we could get it all right with scheduling, we went ahead with it.
Was it cool to dish with him after doing that Descendants cover [on Decas]?
Yes. He didnít even know we had done the cover until he was listening to our discography before he called us. Like he found out when he was listening to us, heís probably thinking like, what the hell [laughs]. That was cool and Bill, the most important thing about having him and the thing we valued the most was weíd always had someone from a metal background critiquing a song or a riff or a vocal line. Somebody might say that riff is not fast enough or not shreddy enough. He would say that part needs to go longer or shorter or the chorus came too fast. Or that drum part needs to compliment the guitars. It was stuff would come from somebody that is looking at the full song and not someone who is looking at how impressive it is technically.
You talked a little bit about doing some different things this time around. How are you keeping things fresh with this new record?
Thereís a few songs like, the main difference is even though its still really fast and most of our records are pretty fast, thereís definitely more mid-tempo heaviness to it. This songís fast but this one part chills out more on a groove more than we have in the past. Thereís singing on every song on the record but one. And not in the sense of like hereís this big epic chorus, just more of me and Tim singing together like in ďCauterizeĒ thereís both of us singing. There are two songs in particular that will probably take our fans by surprise. Thereís a track called ďWhispering SilenceĒ that definitely is more on the punk rock side of things than what weíre used to. Then thereís a song called ďDefenderĒ that will surprise a lot of people. It has a singing verse and a singing chorus... I donít know, itís the overall vibe thatís different. It still has the As I Lay Dying melody to it, but itís not as blistering. It has its moments but itís much more refined.
This is your sixth full-length, youíre arguably a huge player in the metal game right now. What does this album prove about this band?
Thereís a lot of things that we did on the record that, weíve been a band for ten years. Like we had a new artist do our artwork, we didnít get Jake Bannon. So it doesnít look like the rest of them. I mean, it always looked good that the art was always tied together, but everybody would be like, ĎUh, another skull... Jake Bannon.í [laughs] So, it wasnít that we didnít want Jake we just literally could not get ahold of him when we wanted him to do the artwork, so we went with Valnoir at Metastazis. Heís amazing. And we went with a new producer thatís kind of out of the box. I think the thing it proves is that the hype As I Lay Dying of 2005 can still write popular records and records that get our fans stoked.
How do you feel the title of the album Awakened reflects upon the messages and lyrics of the album?
Tim could tell you a bit more about this. [laughs] But basically, itís more about reaching a point where you re-evaluate the pillars of how you live your life. I wouldnít say its this profound thing, or a concept record, but thereís a similar vibe throughout the record. Itís kind of a sad record. Itís more introspective than The Powerless Rise. Itís more personally introspective like Shadows are Insecurity, but the new one is back to the personal conflict lyrics. Itís not overly sad, but it isnít necessarily uplifting all the way through.
Would you compare that idea to say, the newest Stick to Your Guns record. It isnít a total concept record, but thereís an overlying idea...
Absolutely. It has an overlying identity and a vibe. The music and the lyrics work together to provide that vibe. Something else about this record, another thing I didnít mention, there are a lot of times where things are a bit more simpler for us. The songs structures. Instead of doing something that is gonna get a metal guitar player stoked because it looks cool to play it or itís just freakiní heavy. Itís just what sounds best for the song. I donít know, itíll surprise a few people. There might be a few people who arenít into it. But I feel, itís the most balanced record weíve had in awhile though.
Is there a particular song you personally feel attached to off of this record?
That song ďWhispering SilenceĒ I was telling you about. Itís stylistically different but itís still a pretty heavy song, just has more of a punk vibe to it. That was one of the first full songs I wrote for the band, just like guitar-wise and what not. I didnít write the lyrics. But hearing it come together... it was one of those songs where like a month before we recorded I was questioning whether or not we should. Seeing it through with like the real drums and what not, it just really came alive and everyone is really pumped about how that song came out.
Do you think going with Bill, not to say you needed a push, but did going with him gave you guys a push you might not have gotten if you went back to Adam D?
Yeah, and I think another thing about it is, we spent about seven and a half weeks tracking The Powerless Rise, and we spent about three weeks tracking this new record. Everything, drums to vocals. It was a lot quicker than we were used to recording. We all flew out to Fort Collins, Colorado to The Blasting Room and worked on song structures with Bill for a few days. Once we were done doing that, me, Tim and Bill went to San Diego and we did vocals and bass there. Then they did drums and guitars at The Blasting Room. So, we werenít hearing what they were doing until they would send us the rhythm guitars and we would track bass and vocals to it. We didnít hear guitar leads, melodies and stuff like that until the record was finished. So it was a lot more spontaneous in that sense.
After this, you guys have a good slot of free time before you head to Europe. Is it assumed that you wonít be doing any prolonged touring on record until after that?
We have that month and a half or so off. Thereís not really a real reason why we did it, but like the right tour just didnít come up for it. So instead of just throwing together a BS headline tour, we decided to hold off. So we go to Europe with Trivium and Caliban starting October 15 I think. But right after that we fly into a tour in the United States in mid-November that goes until sometime in December that I canít talk about yet... [laughs] Ďcause this tour is still going on. When this is done, we can spill the beans. But itís gonna be big, itís a few bands that are doing really well right now.
Do you think that plays into your favor of letting people get into the new record a little more?
Yeah definitely. But then weíll probably take some of January off before we hit it hard again in February.
Did he refer to their album by the wrong name, or was that a typo? haha
Either way, saw these dudes last week at the Burgettstown show (check the Mayhem Facebook page for a picture of that gigantic mudpit, it was nuts) and they blew people away. No surprise there. New record should be sick.