As I Lay Dying

author AP date 29/09/07

Whilst sitting outside of Loppen in Christiania, Denmark, waiting for Anne Lindfjeld to finish her MTV2 spot on As I Lay Dying and for the band to conduct a meet and greet upstairs, TL and I still couldn't believe our fortune: two bands I have craved to see in Denmark since as long as I can remember performing together in Loppen; on my birthday. Despite the fact that we already interviewed As I Lay Dying in June, I had a lot to ask Phil Sgrosso when he finally descended from Loppen and sat down next to us on the crisp but sunny September day. Having forgotten my recorder at home, TL offered his laptop to be used for recording, which meant a bit of fiddling and setting up, giving us a chance to have a few casual words with Phil about wonderful Copenhagen and how As I Lay Dying often has a break-stop in Denmark on their European runs. I couldn't wait to ask about the notorious skulls and Tim Lambesis' sleeveless shirt. Enjoy!

RF.net: Welcome at last to Denmark! How's the tour going so far?
Phil: It's going great. A lot of German shows were sold out and just good turn outs all around, so pretty good.

RF.net: You recently won MTV2's "Ultimate Metal God" award. You must be pretty psyched?
Phil: It's pretty cool. I mean, the fact that fans voted for us. We were up against Mastodon and Lamb of God, so it was kind of weird because those are two really great bands, too. Either way, we're stoked.

RF.net: In the United States and United Kingdom you play venues much larger than Loppen for tenfold audiences and you're regarded almost as superstars, but here in Denmark you're that cool scene band that only a few kids know and come to see. How you experience that difference as a band?
Phil: We'll still play - depends which market in the U.S. we'll play - but, you know, we could play to 3,500 kids or we could play to 500 kids in a city that's kind of far outside the major cities. We'll still play those small shows, and then we play a lot of international shows. We're still going to Australia playing small shows. So, you know, as long as kids have a good time.

RF.net: So are you're more or less motivated to go out there and put on a great show when it's such a small venue?

Phil: When it's a smaller venue there's a lot more energy in the crowd and kids are going crazier because you're right there in their face, so it's never a bum-out, like "oh, we're playing only to 500 or 400 kids", it's just like, whatever, you know?

RF.net: One of our writers has seen you live numerous times and it seems like Tim always wears the same black, sleeveless shirt at each show. Is there a story behind that?
Phil: He just likes wearing black, sleeveless shirts.

RF.net: According to our own reviews - and the internet consensus seems to be the same - an As I Lay Dying show is pretty much guaranteed to be a great experience. How are you guys able to deliver at every single show?
Phil: Well, we all care as a band; we're all warming up before the show, we're all doing push-ups and drinking red bull and stretching, just making sure that every kid gets their money's worth. And we're breaking our necks and our backs just so everyone can have a good time and feed off each other's energy.

RF.net: In the two hours leading up to the point when you step up on stage, what happens behind the scenes?
Phil: It's always different from tour to tour. If we're doing a support tour, I won't even warm up and I'll just be hanging out, stretching and stuff. But on this tour, since it's a headline tour, I gotta practice a lot more before we go on stage, drink a lot of water and try to watch the other bands a little bit.

RF.net: Let's talk about your recently released new album, "An Ocean Between Us". So far you've sold over 50,000 of it, but if we look at the sales statistics for both "Frail Worlds Collapse" and "Shadows Are Security", those two sold over 250,000 copies alone in the United States. Do you think the new album will live up to the success of the two previous ones?
Phil: Well, it depends. I think it's definitely a better album and more people are gonna hear it, but the way that the music market is in the states is people just aren't buying CD's as much. Hopefully the numbers will still be there but I think it's gonna definitely reach different audiences, but who knows if kids are actually going to buy it or if they're gonna burn it because pirating CD's is the popular thing these days. But I think it will be more successful than the previous two albums.

RF.net: How do you feel about the album yourself?
Phil: It's my favorite album. Everything about each song I'm satisfied with and happy with. You know, things could always be better but I can actually listen to this CD and really enjoy it and be proud of what we did. We all put in so much time and effort, so it's definitely more rewarding in the end.

RF.net: Have the audiences received it well?

Phil: Yeah, it's cool when kids are shouting out new songs during the set, like "The Sound of Truth" or "An Ocean Between Us".

RF.net: So it met your expectations?

Phil: Yeah, I mean a lot of kids are singing "Nothing Left" and so on. Kids are singing along and everyone pretty much likes it.

RF.net: It was produced by Adam Dutkiewicz. Can you tell me why you chose to work with Adam, how it felt to work with him and how his input differed from your past experiences with producers?
Phil: Originally Adam was gonna be on tour with Killswitch and we spoke with a couple of other producers that weren't really metal producers. We knew Adam and were friends with him and knew how smart a musician he is, but we were actually gonna go with Joe Parisi who produced Tool, Queens of the Stone Age and the new Bad Religion. We met with him and it was almost like "we're gonna go with Joe Parisi", and all of a sudden Adam hurt his back, and we had the same management as Killswitch so it was just very easy to hear like "hey, Adam's not gonnna be touring and he wants to do your record", so we were like "alright, well, let's let Adam do it". In the studio it definitely started off really well and then it got a lot more stressful, which is pretty normal. He had to stay out in the studio with us for an extra two weeks because we were behind on tracking. So it got pretty crazy, but we spent a couple of weeks with him on Warped Tour and we were just talking about the album and how much a pain it was, but we still really enjoyed how everything turned out. Having Adam there was great and hopefully we're able to work with him again in the future.

RF.net: What's the story behind the album's title? What does it mean, what does it imply?
Phil: An Ocean Between Us means separation between you and things in life that don't really matter, things that aren't really necessary in life. For each person it could be different, you know? For someone it could be drugs, for someone it could be greed; just things that don't better you in life. It's about realizing those things and separating them from yourself to become a better person.

RF.net: Tell me about some of the themes and concepts in "An Ocean Between Us".
Phil: That's kind of the main theme of the album. Then there's songs like "Comfort Betrays", which is a very in-your-face kind of song. It's not really a positive song from Tim's perspective but it definitely identifies betrayal. A lot of the songs are about relationships that Tim has with people and that's one of the more brutal songs I guess.

RF.net: In the album's artwork, we see the familiar skull again like on all of your previous albums. I'd like to ask, what do they represent?
Phil: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It's just Jacob Bannon does all the artwork for the albums and he just has this skull that he uses for everything. And, you know, we're a metal band; skulls are common. I think it's just something that people kind of identify with our records. But we don't request to have that skull or choose to have it, it's just kind of there every time. We're always stoked about what he does for artwork.

RF.net: Now that we've heard the album, it's much faster and far more complex than your previous albums. As the guitarist(s) of the band, how did you experience the writing process?
Phil: The whole goal was to make a diverse album and a lot more of a dynamic album. We didn't want things to be so straightforward with guitar riffs and guitar chug. We didn't want to keep on going back and forth doing the same thing, because we feel that we've progressed since our last album, and we feel that a lot of bands are just exhausting the metalcore genre and it's getting too watered down. So we were just like, "you know, let's do something that we like and push ourselves". There's a lot more solos in the songs. There's still melodic riffs but they're darker sounding riffs, and then there's just a lot more guitar textures and layers. Just a lot more depth to the songs is something that we really tried to focus on.

RF.net: Almost all of your previous albums saw the music scene spawn a number of copycat bands trying to ride on your style, recycling your riffs and so on. Do you think that eventually the same will happen with "An Ocean Between Us"?
Phil: I don't know. When we wrote "Shadows Are Security" we didn't really think we did anything special, we thought the songs were good and we liked them, but then we weren't THAT proud, as with this album we're very proud and we've really pushed ourselves and I don't really know what someone else could do to… I really don't know, I guess that's my only answer.

RF.net: What are your criteria for success for an album and as a band in general?
Phil: I think just being able to go and play in new countries is a very good thing. I think we're going to Thailand later on and we've probably never even heard of a band going to Thailand to play, so it was kind of like "Wow, we’re going!", so we're stoked on that. It's also always good to progress as a band. Say next time you come back to a place you play a venue that's twice as big or like in Germany where we sold out all out shows, and that was also very cool to see how much German kids apparently like us now. It's really cool. I guess also the fact that we're able to do this as a living, not having to worry about getting jobs, this being our fulltime thing. It's pretty big as we never really go home and do nothing, we're always doing something and we’re always on tour, but it just gives the feeling that everything is going good, so we're just going to keep doing it for now.

RF.net: What is the most important aspect in the music that you create?
Phil: I think just the positive message. I mean I'm not the lyrics guy but... There's music and there's lyrics you know and with music it's just to always progress and kind of try to out do yourself. Add newer ideas that you wouldn't have thought of. With lyrics in general it's just about having a positive message and carrying it to people.

RF.net: Last time we caught up with you guys, our editor forgot to ask the otherwise usual download question, so we'd like to as now, what are you feelings about downloading music illegally of the internet?
Phil: I don't think there's anything wrong with checking out a band, but if there's a band I really like, and there's a new cd coming out like next week, I'm gonna.. Jeeeez look at the balls on that thing!! (Guy walks his small dog right buy us.. Yep, those were big balls alright!).. I'm gonna go buy their cd! I don't know really, but I think that if you really want to support a band then you should support their cd sales, because that really helps them in terms of getting on a new tour for instance. Like people go, this band has sold this and this many cd's so they need to go and tour with Metallica or go and tour with so and so. That's something that most people don't really understand, but at the same time I don't really know, it's not like I buy every cd, even if I do buy a good majority of the cd's I like, simply because I know how it is. I'm not gonna hate on someone for not buying cd's but if they're sold at a reasonable price and they're not too hard to find, then it shouldn't be a problem.

RF.net: Do you actually make more money off cd sales than off merchandise and tours?

Phil: Merch and touring. That's the thing. But again, if you sell a certain amount of cd’s people will think that you’re popular and they'll want to sign you to their tour. Cd sales play a big role in determining what your future is, but touring is really going to make you more money.

RF.net: Have you made any plans for next summer yet, in terms of festivals for instance?
Phil: Yeah, we're starting to get everything worked out for next year. We have the rest of this year booked. I think we’re coming back to Europe in march and we might try to play Russia or Spain.. New places you know. Hopefully come back to Scandinavia. Hopefully we'll be doing Wacken next year. We were supposed to do it this year, but then we had Warped Tour right then and it was kind of difficult to work out. We met the owner of Wacken the other night in Germany though, and he was like "You're gonna play!"

RF.net: Any chance of Roskilde Festival?

Phil: What's that one?

RF.net: That's our famous Danish festival. It's one of the biggest and best festivals in Europe.

Phil: Well that would be sweet really, I hope we could play that. I love Copenhagen, it's really cool.

RF.net: So any famous last words before we go?
Phil: Not really, just you know, new cd "An Ocean Between Us", check it out.

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