With the release of The Powerless Rise, As I Lay Dying is preparing to once again make their mark on the metal community. Guitarist Nick Hipa spoke with me about the new CD and the process that went into its recording. As I Lay Dying formed over ten years ago and very quickly garnered the attention of metal fans worldwide and their innovative style has helped to define the extreme metal genre. Indeed many contemporary bands site As I Lay Dying as strong influences in their own music. The Powerless Rise is phenomenal and is a testament to the bands staying power. These guys get better with every disc. Here is what Hipa had to say.
Where are you guys at?
Nick: We are at the Rialto Theatre and tonight is the first show of our tour. This is the first show of hundreds that we will probably be playing this year. It is Demon Hunter, War Of Ages and Bless The Fall and us.
You guys must be pretty excited?
Nick: We are pumped. We have been living at home working on the new record and now that it is done, we are very excited to just get out there and play again.
Now that your brand new CD, Powerless Rise is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Nick: Yeah, I think we are all completely pumped. We have never actually had this much time to record and be so thorough on an album. If you give us two years, we will take two years to work on an album. For this release we had seven or eight months and we took the whole time and this is everyone at their best.
Was the writing process a little bit different on this record because it is the first time you have all written together with this lineup?
Nick: Yeah this was a completely different writing process for us. Before we would do a lot of jamming and show up to practice with a few riffs and sometimes people would bring in rough songs using Garage Band or something but on this album, people were actually bringing whole songs to rehearsal. They were sending emails out saying hey this is my idea. Phil our guitar player would actually send out complete songs and we would just jam it and tweak it from there but it was a lot more thorough from the beginning. If someone presents their initial vision, it is easier to see where they are coming from and what they are going for and then just contribute according to that.
Your previous record was nominated for a Grammy. Did you guys feel any pressure when writing the follow up?
Nick: Yeah we all feel pressure regardless. I mean if the whole Grammy thing would not have happened we would have felt pretty nervous anyway just to come up with something that our fans would be stoked on and that we would be happy with. I think that is more of a personal standard we have for ourselves to become better musicians and a better band.
Give us some insight into Powerless Rise and the meaning behind its title?
Nick: Tim’s idea was to originally call this CD, An Upside Down Kingdom. It comes from the thinking that the nature of society is backwards from the way it should be. There are a lot of things modern society tells us we should do and we should actually live counter to that and focus more on things that are more eternal, substantial and real and less physically tangible.
Are there any tracks on this disc that are personal favorites or that have good stories behind them?
Nick: “Parallels” is one of my favorite songs on the album just because I really love all of the guitar stuff that is going on in there. I like all of our songs on this record. This is the first record that I am completely stoked about every single song.
Going back to the studio for a minute. How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple takes?
Nick: I think everything takes a lot longer but that is because we just try to make everything perfect. There are two ways to do this. You can make it sound as live as possible or as perfect as possible. We just want to make it sound as perfect and as good as it can possibly be.
What are some of the songs you get the best audience response to?
Nick: I think some of our older songs are the ones that get the best reaction for sure. When we play songs off of Frail Worlds Collapse such as “94 Hours” or “Forever” it gets crazy. Those are some of the first songs that put the band on the map and they have a sort of nostalgic quality to them. I think people who have been following us still follow us now really love those songs and remember when they came out. Some of the newer songs that have more of a chorus go over really well to because everybody can sing along. So there are just different types of reactions. One is very mosh based and the other is very audio based.
Are you playing a good mix of new and old on tour?
Nick: Yeah that is the plan. We always try to go back as far as Frail Worlds Collapse but nothing before that. We try to play a little bit from each album and we will play the majority of the songs from whichever disc is most current.
How much touring do you have planned for 2010?
Nick: We are going out for a few months on a smaller stage. Then we are going to Europe to play all of the festivals. In July, we will be going out on The Cool Tour, which will hit all of the big stages here. Once we are done doing all of that, we will start all over again.
So you are planning on being out on the road for a while then?
Nick: Yeah probably two years.
In a hundred years from now what will the music history books say about As I Lay Dying?
Nick: I am really not too concerned with that I just want to enjoy what we are doing now and not worry about that.
Any closing words Nick?
Nick: If you really want to see what the band has been up to, I strongly suggest you pick up The Powerless Rise. It is the best thing we have ever done.