As I Lay Dying’s Tim Lambesis Talks India Tour
Ahead of their debut run of shows in the country, the American metalcore band’s frontman dives into their reunion and the latest album ‘Shaped By Fire’
It was in 2013 that one of metalcore’s most favorite bands, As I Lay Dying, last played in a new territory. While their continued heavyweight status in modern metal was heavily damaged in 2013 – due to vocalist Tim Lambesis’ incarceration for a murder-for-hire plot – they slowly regrouped and carved out their fairly strong comeback in 2018.
Going one step further, the band – who released their latest album Shaped By Fire in 2019 – are now in India for three shows. As part of their debut in the country with gig promoters Bohemian Live, As I Lay Dying will perform in Bengaluru (for CultFest Lite), New Delhi (for the Bighorn Festival) and Guwahati for Fireball this week. In a phone interview just hours before the San Diego band were to fly out to India, Lambesis spoke exclusively to Rolling Stone India about touring, their comeback and plans for 2020. Excerpts:
How were the holidays for you this time around?
We had just enough time to see our families for the holidays. We wish we had more time. This is a very short break for us. Between tours, we usually try to have as much time between tours as we’re gone away for. So if we were gone for a month, we tried to be home for a month but this time, it was only about 10 days.
You’re kicking off the year with these shows in India. What have you heard about the country?
Well we get a lot of messages from fans but we haven’t heard a lot and that’s part of why we’re so excited to go is because it’s a lot easier to find out firsthand than it is to hear from other people. We’ve heard from a couple other bands. We have the same sound guy as Cannibal Corpse and he said they had a great experience in India. But they didn’t really describe it a whole lot. So we can’t wait to find out in person.
When was the last time As I Lay Dying went to a new country? How do you usually prep for something like this in terms of on stage and off stage stuff?
Every time we play a new country, we have to figure out a little bit of a new backline because we’re renting equipment so it’s a little more stressful playing for the first time. But this will be our first time playing a new country since 2013. So it’s been a long time. But at the same time, once we go on stage, you know, we have our soundcheck and everything and no matter how stressful the setup might be in a new country, once the show starts, we just focus on the energy with the crowds. And I have no idea what to expect for soundcheck, but I expect the interaction with the crowd to be fantastic.
Everywhere on tour, you’re playing stuff off your new album Shaped By Fire. What is the setlist going to be like in India?
Our fans in India have been sending us messages for over 15 years now. We know we have some old fans, so we definitely plan to play old songs. We’re most excited about the new record because it’s fresh to us, but all the songs are fresh for our fans in India. So we promised to mix it up with at least a couple of songs from each of our albums.
What is it like performing those older songs?
I find the most energy in a song live when the crowd participates in some way. Whether it’s an old or new song if the crowd is excited to hear it, I have the most connection as a frontman. And so, a lot of times the old songs are actually my favorite, and they’re burned into my subconscious. So I don’t have to think about remembering the lyrics or anything like that, because it’s just we played the songs for so long that you know, it’s very instinctual.
In your comeback trail, what are your peers like? Fellow bands and musicians or even crew. I imagine there’s some rejection involved or do people come around?
I think for anybody who has spent time with me in person understands who I am today and has had a very positive experience. There are some of our peers who have chosen to have distance from me or they’re just undecided at the moment. They want more time and I think that time is an important part of the healing process. And so we’re very respectful and we want to give our peers however much time they need but I am very confident in who I’ve become today. The bands that have performed with us and have gotten to know me, the person I am in 2020, I’m very confident in who that person has become.
In the process of reuniting you had that half hour video out where everyone just sat and discussed everything. It’s not something you’d see any band do – to put that very sort of private, emotional conversations out in public. How do you look back at it?
It actually reminds me of how much healing continues to take place when I see that video because the video is very early on in the healing process. Part of why it’s so raw is that everybody in the band is speaking to each other about where they’re at, at that moment. It’s like a snapshot in time. When you’ll get a chance to see us interact on stage when we perform in India in a few days, the energy and the camaraderie amongst the band has grown even more. So, it reminds me of how exciting our future is, even though we have a lot of healing we’ve worked through in our past.
All of this clearly inspires a title or at least the idea of being Shaped By Fire. It’s actually something that a lot of religions, including Hinduism have referred to. What do you think about that?
The refining process is a very universal theme and it’s very important, regardless of a person’s religious belief, it’s important. We use different words to describe that. I do think that the fire analogy is one of the most powerful analogies for that refining process, because it is painful, but it’s also through pain that so much good can come of that. The oldest analogy of course is refining gold or silver or precious metals. Through that refining process those things become more pure.
I know you’ve always indulged your funnier side with [solo project] Austrian Death Machine. Is As I Lay Dying more of a ‘serious’ band, considering there’s rarely any funny music videos or the like, which other metal bands often get into?
All of us have different elements to our personality. There’s a funny side in all of us even though our music is generally serious. We feel like As I Lay Dying is an outlet for the passionate side of our personalities. I think that passion comes across in how intense the music is, but also the depth of the lyrics. In our music videos, the exception was when we did was a slightly more lighthearted music video for a Judas Priest cover (“Electric Eye”) at one point.
What else is coming up through 2020?
We haven’t announced the rest of our plans yet but we are working on one more U.S. tour. That’s just kind of loosely in the works right now. And then there are some more European festival dates that we haven’t announced yet but they’re soon to be released also.
Anything else you’d like to add about coming to India?
From a cultural standpoint, it’s something I’ve looked forward to ever since I had the opportunity to travel. I’ve always just seen photos and videos of India and been very intrigued by how the culture as a whole is so different from ours. But also, like you said, there’s a lot of religious history in India and it has parallels, I think, in a lot of ways to things we grew up learning, but we use a whole different set of words to describe those experiences. So I think it’s a beautiful way to learn about humanity from a different cultural standpoint.
Watch the video for “My Own Grave” below.