In the middle of their high-profile US tour, bass player with metalcore giants As I Lay Dying Josh Gilbert (first left) talked to Gig Junkie about the band’s grassroots politics, Britain’s lazy press and the looming assault on Download.
Q. ‘Beyond Our Suffering’ (first track off new album ‘The Powerless Rise’) has a faster, more aggressive grind feel than previous full length ‘An Ocean Between Us’. Is that what we can expect from the new album in general?
Josh. Well, Beyond is one of the heaviest songs we've written as a band. But I wouldn't say the whole album in general is a fast and heavy as that track. A good way to sum it up would be that the heavy riffs got heavier, and the ‘vibier’ type textures became more complex. We tried to push the "AILD" sound a lot further in every extreme.
Q. What’s your favourite book?
Josh. I really like anything Chuck Palahniuk does, as cliché as that sounds. He definitely paints vivid, disturbing pictures with his words. Fight Club is probably my favourite.
Q. Does William Faulkner’s book ‘As I Lay Dying’ have any special significance to the band?
Josh. In a word, no. Haha! When the band came up with the name, not one member had even read it! I think only Nick (Hipa, guitar) has read since then.
Q. Personal empowerment appears to be the main theme of the new record. Do you see ‘The Powerless Rise’ as a self-help manual of sorts?
Josh. Not necessarily a "self-help" album, but more like a call for change. A lot of the lyrics deal with how society teaches us from a young age to associate wealth and power with happiness, and how in the search for these things, we forget that there are people suffering right under our noses, in our own communities. It's basically challenging these ideas.
Q. What would you say to people who think extreme metal music and a positive outlook on life are incompatible?
Josh. Metal is a genre that involves some sort of passion. Whether the passion is drawn from Dungeons & Dragons, or Aleister Crowley (English-born occultist), or a meadow full of newborn bunnies, it's really the aggression in the delivery that makes the music feel extreme, in my opinion.
…A lot of [our] lyrics kind of blur the line between positivity and negativity. Songs like, ‘Beyond Our Suffering’ depict human beings' concentration on our own trivial problems while ignoring the plight of fellow human beings outside our front door. Positive? No. But it sets the stage for the issues the rest of the album touches on, some of which that offer solutions to these problems.
Q. In his recent interview with record label Metal Blade, Tim (Lambesis, lead vocals) said the way to self-fulfilment lies through closer links with the community. Is it the immediate community where one lives or the like-minded people around the world, for example the metal community?
Josh. I think it would start in one's community, and eventually through this blossom to others. I like to think the metal community in some ways is very open minded as well, and could be a huge part of a change Tim writes about.
Q. More generally, do you think music has a political role?
Josh. I think a lot of people are fed up with traditional media outlets of politics. I don't think musicians are necessarily the ones that the public should look to for political advice, but they definitely have the ability to present a point of view to a ton of people. So yes, music could have a positive political role, as long as the listeners have a mind of their own and research the politics they are pretending to be passionate about, and not blindly repeat what their favourite band is saying in an interview.
Q. What’s next for As I Lay Dying? Do you see yourself as the next Mastodon?
Josh. Tons of touring. No [on Mastodon]. I'd like to say we are the modern day equivalent to Mozart, if he could have composed symphonies with a Boss Metal Zone pedal and double bass pedal.
Q. Moving on to your experiences in Britain, what stands out from your last shows there?
Josh. The last tour we did there was the Taste of Chaos International. The shows were all amazing. What stands out to me about the UK is how little research the press does there. We get more unprepared interviews with questions about our religion than the shows or music. It's like no one cares to come up with an original interview. Maybe there's an AILD interview template out there I haven't seen! Haha! Maybe if we got neck/hand tattoos or a flat bill hat or two we'd have some more exposure! This interview is definitely an exception
so I thank you for that.
Q. And most importantly, when do you plan to cross the pond?
Josh. We'll be back in Europe all this summer for the festivals!...We have all the fests, and then we hope to be back for a headliner before the end of the year.
Catch them at Download festival headlined by AC/DC on June 9-11. Tickets can be bought here.