As I Lay Dying—A genuine Christian-based metal group

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113217250513456.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jonathon Hicks’, ‘As I Lay Dying guitarist Nick Hipa performs Nov. 12 at the Rockford MetroCentre.’);

Hundreds of fans lined up in the rain hours before Slipknot was to take the stage at the Rockford MetroCentre Saturday, Nov. 12. And though Slipknot was the evening’s headliner, San Diego natives As I Lay Dying were clearly a brilliant choice to set the tone for the evening.

This has been a big year for As I Lay Dying. They were among the featured bands at this year’s Cornerstone Festival in central Illinois—an annual event that brings together the most important names in Christian music. They followed that up with a headlining spot on Ozzfest’s second stage this past summer before spending much of the fall in Europe. Now back in the States, they are gearing up for a headlining tour scheduled to begin after Thanksgiving.

AILD is among the most brutal metal bands in existence, keeping a tour schedule almost as blistering as their guitar riffs. Guitarist Nick Hipa invited us out of the rain and aboard the tour bus to discuss, among other things, life on the road and the realities of being a Christian-based metal band in America.

Jonathan Hicks, The Rock River Times (TRRT): 2005 has been huge for you guys. You had a big spot a bit south of here at Cornerstone. You were one of the headliners the second stage at Ozzfest. For you, what have some of the biggest highlights been, either as a band or personally?

Nick Hipa, As I Lay Dying (NH): I can’t really say, because for me, things just always seem to get better. I’m just always happy where I’m at. I remember when I first started playing in this band, there would be 400 kids at a show, and they’d be going crazy, and we’d be like, “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to us! This is it!” Then, a year from then, we’re playing Ozzfest to thousands of kids, and we’re like, “This is the sweetest thing that has ever happened to us and ever will.” Now, with the Slipknot tour, we’re playing some arenas in Canada. … Coming out to the roar of an arena makes me think this has got to be it. Musical accomplishments—things that we thought would never happen to us—have been happening. So for me, that’s been incredible because it’s something I never expected when I started playing in this band. Especially the type of band we are, you don’t expect to be huge. You really just do it because you love brutal music.

TRRT: You say that you keep surpassing any possible expectations that you have, and it just keeps getting better. With that in mind, do you set higher goals for yourself, or have you stopped setting goals and just taken things as they come? What kind of philosophy do you have now on the future?

NH: For us, I think we just really love playing, and we really love making records. And if we can continue the cycle of making records that we feel are better than the last and keep on touring off of those records. That’s all I could ever hope for—to keep it going. We’re not trying to be the hugest band in the world; we just want to make albums and tour.

TRRT: Christian rock has so many more voices in the scene now. Do you associate yourself more closely with that scene or the metal scene?

NH: Our band can feel comfortable in both. … Maybe more so in the metal scene. Sometimes, the whole Christian thing gets uncomfortable. For us, we genuinely love metal. So when we’re in this arena, we can talk to other bands about metal. We have that common interest. The same is true when we’re playing a Christian festival like Cornerstone. It’s nothing that’s too out of the ordinary for us, because the beliefs that a lot of these people have are the same beliefs that we have.

The only thing that’s kind of different about the Christian scene is that sometimes it seems people can be quick to criticize. “Why are you guys doing a tour with Slipknot? Look at what these guys are promoting.” That’s the only thing that’s kind of uncomfortable. You have those few people who point the finger at us and say that we’re certain types of people for doing a tour like this. For the most part, we feel comfortable in either one.

TRRT: What do you say to the people that are overly judgmental?

NH: We played this show that was by Rock Island….

TRRT: Moline?

NH: Yeah, that’s what it was. There were these very conservative Southern Baptist type people out there, and they had their signs that read “Slipknot is sending kids to hell” and stuff like that. I walked by, and I started talking to these people. And we both share the same basic Christian faith, but they were so…I got into an argument with the ringleader for like half an hour, and he thoroughly bummed me out. He told me that I was participating in sending all these kids to hell. It really bums me out because it’s one faith, but it’s so divided in people’s lives.

TRRT: There have been popularity surges within the realms of both Christian-based music and metalcore. I find it interesting that there are bands in both scenes—even though those scenes are overlapping in some ways—that are maybe not necessarily in it for the right reasons. Have you come across that, and how do you feel about those bands?

NH: I’ve been playing metal as long as I can remember playing guitar, and I’ve been a Christian since I was in eighth grade. In that time, I’ve made friends who have gone with the trends. I went to a private high school, and I met numerous people who just went along with the Christian faith because it was what was cool with their group of friends. But it wasn’t something that they subscribed to personally; it was just kind of a trend. I’ve seen that come and go. And because I’ve seen it so much in my personal life, I guess I don’t take note of it as much. For me, I’ve learned to deal with it. The people who are genuine and real are the people that will stick around. The style of music that we’re playing isn’t exactly the most revolutionary—there are a lot of bands doing this right now. For us, we just want to survive that trend.

TRRT: What separates you from those bands?

NH: It has a lot to do with songwriting, plus we’ve been doing this a lot longer than it’s been popular. We don’t have the same influences. A lot of these other bands that are doing it, their influences were like us and Unearth. They’re copying something that’s already been done. Our influences are a little bit older. The bands that influenced us aren’t the bands that are super popular right now. This is something that we are all genuine about, and I think that comes across in our music in some way. I’m not trying to say that we’re the best band ever, but people can identify with honesty, and I know that we’re all genuine about our band.

TRRT: Rockford is a conservative town in a lot of ways—but especially musically. As an overall population, I don’t know that we’re always open to new ideas and music that’s different. At the same time, there are already a couple of hundred kids lined up out there in the rain. What do you say to these kids that take solace in music like yours, even though they’re not being nurtured by their environment?

NH: Do you mean the kids that are just like me in that they love this type of music but it’s not the big thing here?

TRRT: Exactly.

NH: That’s the way it was for us growing up. You guys live in a more conservative town, like you were saying, and (metal music) isn’t big here, but eight or nine years ago when I was living in Texas, metal wasn’t exactly really popular, either. Kids were into Green Day and Pearl Jam and stuff like that. Those bands are cool, but for me (metal) was something I was genuinely stoked on. You always notice that you can find the ones like you, somehow. I always had those three or four friends that we were all into the same sort of music, and someone would branch out and get into something else. We would just kind of turn each other on to new things. So for those kids in the city that feel bummed that there isn’t a huge scene here, I would say just start your own.
You’re not the only one that likes a band like us or Unearth or Slipknot in this town. Find those other people that have the same interest and make something of it. Start a band. Open a venue. The sky’s the limit. You can do whatever you want. It’s super cheesy, but you can make it for yourself. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in the world. You don’t have to be in New York to enjoy a music scene. Look at Slipknot. Those dudes are the biggest metal band in the world, and they’re from Des Moines. It’s very much just about doing it.

As I Lay Dying’s latest album Shadows Are Security is out now on Metal Blade Records. Look for them to return to the area Dec. 10 when they take the stage as a headliner at Chicago’s House of Blues. For more information about the band, visit

From the Nov. 16-22, 2005, issue

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