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 evenings 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 years Cornerstone Festival in central Illinoisan annual event that brings together the most important names in Christian music. They followed that up with a headlining spot on Ozzfests 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 cant really say, because for me, things just always seem to get better. Im just always happy where Im at. I remember when I first started playing in this band, there would be 400 kids at a show, and theyd be going crazy, and wed be like, This is the best thing thats ever happened to us! This is it! Then, a year from then, were playing Ozzfest to thousands of kids, and were like, This is the sweetest thing that has ever happened to us and ever will. Now, with the Slipknot tour, were playing some arenas in Canada. … Coming out to the roar of an arena makes me think this has got to be it. Musical accomplishmentsthings that we thought would never happen to ushave been happening. So for me, thats been incredible because its something I never expected when I started playing in this band. Especially the type of band we are, you dont 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. Thats all I could ever hope forto keep it going. Were 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 were in this arena, we can talk to other bands about metal. We have that common interest. The same is true when were playing a Christian festival like Cornerstone. Its nothing thats 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 thats 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. Thats the only thing thats kind of uncomfortable. You have those few people who point the finger at us and say that were 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 .
NH: Yeah, thats 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 its one faith, but its so divided in peoples 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 sceneseven though those scenes are overlapping in some waysthat are maybe not necessarily in it for the right reasons. Have you come across that, and how do you feel about those bands?
NH: Ive been playing metal as long as I can remember playing guitar, and Ive been a Christian since I was in eighth grade. In that time, Ive 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 wasnt something that they subscribed to personally; it was just kind of a trend. Ive seen that come and go. And because Ive seen it so much in my personal life, I guess I dont take note of it as much. For me, Ive learned to deal with it. The people who are genuine and real are the people that will stick around. The style of music that were playing isnt exactly the most revolutionarythere 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 weve been doing this a lot longer than its been popular. We dont have the same influences. A lot of these other bands that are doing it, their influences were like us and Unearth. Theyre copying something thats already been done. Our influences are a little bit older. The bands that influenced us arent 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. Im not trying to say that were the best band ever, but people can identify with honesty, and I know that were all genuine about our band.
TRRT: Rockford is a conservative town in a lot of waysbut especially musically. As an overall population, I dont know that were always open to new ideas and music thats 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 theyre 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 its not the big thing here?
NH: Thats the way it was for us growing up. You guys live in a more conservative town, like you were saying, and (metal music) isnt big here, but eight or nine years ago when I was living in Texas, metal wasnt 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 isnt a huge scene here, I would say just start your own.
Youre 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 skys the limit. You can do whatever you want. Its super cheesy, but you can make it for yourself. It doesnt matter where youre at in the world. You dont 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 theyre from Des Moines. Its very much just about doing it.
As I Lay Dyings 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 Chicagos House of Blues. For more information about the band, visit www.asilaydying.com.
From the Nov. 16-22, 2005, issue