As I Lay Dying Interview: Josh Gilbert

I stumbled across As I Lay Dying a few years back, on myspace of all places. I never really gave much thought to them, until I picked up one of their albums (Frail Words Collapse, to be exact) and listened to it front to back. Needless to say, I have been a fan ever since, and I hope to see more from these very talented guys in the future. In their 10 years as a band, As I Lay Dying has released 5 albums and one full length dvd entitled This Is Who We Are, in 2009. I was able to sit and chat with Josh for a bit, before their show at The Orbit Room in Grand Rapids, MI.

Amanda: In my opinion, you guys went a bit heavier on the new album, The Powerless Rise…Perfect example of that would be one of my favorites on the album, Beyond Our Suffering- What made you guys sway a bit, from your usual more melodic style this time around?

Josh: Well there were definitely examples, especially on the previous two albums, Shadows and Ocean Between Us, of us slightly going towards that less melodic, and just heavier more chromatic feel. That’s because we love bands like Pantera, and Cannibal Corpse, and stuff like that.

Amanda: You can definitely hear that come out in the new album.

Josh: Yea, and like the last record there are songs like Within Destruction and Wrath Upon Ourselves, where you can hear that less melodic, almost evil sounding chords, a little more thrash influenced type riffage. For that song, Beyond Our Suffering, it actually started out a little bit differently than the way it is on the record, but I wrote the first demo of that song. I wrote it because there’s a little part, like a blast beat section of the song, that has a little break in it, and you can hear the bass kind of play a little bit by itself, and I was like, man, you can never hear the bass on a record, so I’m going to write a riff that has a part that actually lets the bass shine through.

Amanda: What is your song Anodyne Sea addressing? Is there any particular reason you guys decided on that title for the song?

Josh: Well Tim named it, because Anodyne just kind of means the same as the word apathetic. It’s kind of where you don’t really feel a certain way or another about something. That song basically means stand for something; it’s basically addressing the fact that most people would rather just stay in their comfort zone, than stand up for something they believe in, and leaving their friends and what not behind.

Amanda: Pretty much like not taking a leap of faith, for something you believe in.

Josh: Right, you’d rather just stay quiet about them, and stay in your group of friends rather than be the odd man out. That’s what it’s kind of addressing, it’s like the only way you’ll really ever be able to stand for something, is if you break away from that. You have to realize that not everyone you love, or even is your friend, is going to support that, and that you’re probably going to be looked at strangely if you stand up for something that way. That’s why the chorus goes ‘in my convictions, I’ve found my own grave’, it’s kind of like – go ahead and take a chance and separate from the group a little bit, to pursue what you believe.

Amanda: How do you think you’ve contributed to the success of two albums that you’ve been a part of, the Ocean between Us (which I know you didn’t have any part with writing), and The Powerless Rise?

Josh: Right, I didn’t do much of the writing for that at all, I think I was maybe there for the last two songs that were written, and I kind of offered my suggestions, but they didn’t really know me yet, so I don’t think anything specifically came from me, other than some ideas for some vocal melodies for that record.

Amanda: Were you an actual part of the band at that point, or were you still in the process of proving yourself?

Josh: No I was still in the trial period; I had only done one two week tour with them at that point, so they didn’t really know who I was as a person at that point. This record though, on about 4 or 5 songs I contributed guitar-wise as well as with the riff of the songs. Tim and I pretty much worked on every chorus together. We’d get the song, and we’d both meet up the next day, and both kind of present our ideas, and then take some ideas from me, and some from him, and we’d morph them together to make the best version. Like the melodies for the choruses and stuff, so I mean that’s basically what I contributed; a few riffs here and there throughout the record, and then Tim and I pretty much co-wrote all the vocal melodies.

Amanda: What do you tend to lean towards more as you’re writing, the melodic lighter choruses, or the heavy stuff?

Josh: I guess on this record, I really like playing the heavier songs live, that’s what the people go off to. I wrote part of Beyond Our Suffering, Phil wrote the main intro riff you hear, and I wrote some of the solo section riffs and stuff like that. That song, and then a song called Condemned that’s on the record, was another one I wrote, that’s a heavier one. We were getting to a point in the writing process, where we had a whole lot of the more melodic sounding songs, and I was like, ‘oh, I’m just going to try to write more like a Pantera or Testament type song.

Amanda: I love it. I’m sure you get a bigger reaction from the crowd with that kind of style, right?

Josh: You get more of a reaction; if they don’t know the song, you get a reaction still. Some of the more melodic ones like Parallels or Vacancy, these have gotten better since the records came out, because people get them, and they’re not as heavy so it’s like you don’t really participate as much till you know that chorus. In songs like Condemned or Beyond Our Suffering, I think since those are relentlessly heavier songs, people can kind of participate live either way, if they know it or not.

Amanda: I really love the new approach Tim has taken with song writing… What made you guys deicide to change things up, and create the music the before the lyrics?

Josh: Most of the lyrics came from Tim, like my involvements with the lyrics would be, if we were doing a chorus, I would just say ‘dude you can’t sing this word it sounds awkward, or it’s too long with too many syllables, let’s try to dumb it down a little so it’s easy to sing. You can’t sing a 5 syllable word, it just sounds kind of nerdy. That’s where I come in. That would be a better question to maybe ask Tim I guess, I didn’t actually write any of the content, I just kind of would modify it, if it didn’t well enough.

Amanda:  I know that the 10 yr anniversary for the band is coming up here for you guys… Are there still no plans to do anything cool for the fans?

Josh: We’ve had some ideas that we were throwing around; We were asking out followers on twitter, if they were to see us play an album from beginning to end, which one would they choose. It didn’t really help us come to a decision at all, because it was almost literally equal for each album. We’d either have to choose one, or do something different, so we’ve kind of thrown around a couple ideas of maybe doing a few cover songs. We’ll have to know what we’re doing here pretty quickly, so we’ll probably announce something in the next 3 or 4 months. I think February or March is the actual 10 year mark.

Amanda: Is it going to be a live show that you’d maybe make a dvd out of, or do you just not really have any kind of an idea yet?

Josh: We have no idea yet; if we did do a dvd for that, it might not be as big of a production as say, our This Is Who We Are dvd, just because that’s something that took years to make, and I feel like if we did do a dvd, it would have to be more like, here’s the cd, and a dvd with just a couple songs from a live show.

Amanda: That makes sense…. After doing such live dvd the first time around, you want to put something out, that is going to at least match up.

Josh: Right; we’d rather just wait a few more years maybe after another album or so, before we before we release another huge dvd, because first of all, other than the new record coming out, we really don’t have much of a story to tell in the past year since the dvd came out. I don’t think we could make as interesting of a dvd until we have a couple more years of stuff.

Amanda: A lot of your guys’ riffs are pretty technical; have any of you had any kind of special training for your talents?

Josh: I definitely just picked up guitar and bass, I’ve never really had any lessons for that. I’ve taken a few vocal lessons though, from Melissa Cross, and I ‘m actually still taking them, because singing is a never ending battle. You always forget stuff, and there’s more to learn, and I’m still going through all that. Even though the other dudes don’t necessarily take lessons, I know that they practice and do regimens, and scales and stuff. I think Phil has had a few lessons, and I know that Nick has taken a few tips from Emil of Daath. Have you ever heard of that band?

Amanda: What are some of the side projects you guys have going on right now, besides As I Lay Dying?

Josh: Well it’s funny because the only one that’s actually active and does anything right now, is Austrian Death Machine, but I was in a band for about a year or so that we did called Year One, and it was more of rock band, that I only sang in.

Amanda: Just kind of something you did locally, while you were home?

Josh: Yea, we’d just record; like my best friend, and Joseph and I, own a studio that’s in Birmingham, AL. so we can basically record anytime we want. We would just record when I was home off tour, and I think we only played five shows total ever, and they were really cool shows, but he got really busy, and I got super busy with writing the new record, so I just haven’t been able to contribute anything to it.

Amanda: So basically just something to pass the time in between tours then?

Josh: Yea, and now it’s getting to the point again, where I can get back into it, because we have this regimen of touring, and like during the day other than walking around, or doing something like this, I don’t do anything.

Amanda: Oh really, so you get pretty bored then?

Josh: Yea, so to pass the time I just mess around with new stuff, so I mean we’ll see; I’ve been talking to some friends of mine back home, with doing more of like a Converge type, or botched type side project. Something chaotic, that’s just heavy and not melodic what so ever.

Amanda: So more like death metal, such as Cannibal Corpse?

Josh: Not really metal, more like Converge, I don’t know if you have ever heard of them; it’s like kind of thrashy but the riffs aren’t really metal, it’s kind of its own thing.

Amanda: I’ll have to look them up when I get home.

Josh: They’re super heavy; I think you’d be stoked on them.

Amanda: If music could no longer be your number one passion, what else would keep you going in life?

Josh: Oh man, I really don’t have anything else. All of my hobbies pretty much center around music, I guess. I’m trying to think of anything else I really enjoy doing.

Amanda: So if you couldn’t actually ever play again, you’d still just be doing something music related?

Josh: So if it wasn’t my career anymore, I’d still be focused on playing. You know when I was in college before I got serious with this band, or before I actually got together with AILD, I was going to be in law school and stuff.

Amanda: Oh yea? That is quite a difference in career paths… I couldn’t see that as really ever being anyone’s passion, but maybe something good to fall back on.

Josh: Actually, it just interests me enough that I was like, well I think I could at least make it a career, and not be bored being a lawyer.

Amanda: So you wouldn’t be one of those ‘crooked’ lawyers, or anything like that, right?

Josh: No no, definitely not that.

Amanda: What question are you just sick of being asked?

Josh: Well I think everyone in the band is tired of any question regarding us being a Christian band, because even though we are Christians in a band, it doesn’t really have much to do with the message that we try to send on stage.

Amanda: Your personal beliefs definitely don’t make a bit of difference on how good or bad you are on stage, basically?

Josh: Right, and people will be like, oh it’s so crazy that you guys are Christians, but you can come up with good riffs. Like the fact that we’re Christians dumbs us down, to where it’s crazy that we could write good riffs, because we’re Christians.

Amanda: If you could dig up one dead person and bring them back to life for a day, who would it be?

Josh: Hmmm, one person back to life; Probably I think it would have to be cool to hang out with one of our founding fathers of the nation, like Thomas Jefferson, or Ben Franklin, that would be badass.

Amanda: Ben Franklin would definitely be cool; I mean he was an inventor, so I’m sure he’d have some pretty interesting things to talk about.

Josh: Yea and I heard he was quite the comedian, so he’d be funny too.

Amanda: That’s awesome, well thanks so much Josh, I look forward to seeing you guys play!