Tim Lambesis is one of the most recognized singers in metal. Whether it be with the band that established him as an amazing frontman in As I Lay Dying or with his wacky side project Austrian Death Machine, you have probably heard his voice or seen a show of his at some point. With the release of his newest side project, Pyrithion, I got a hold of Tim and asked all the important questions, ranging from family to bench pressing.
Well, this first question I need to just get out of the way, because everyone is dying to know: how much can you lift?
Haha, well what exercise are we talking, here?
Oh, geez. I guess we can go with the bench press.
The best I ever did was 275 lbs eight times.
You’re making me sound weak, man! The best I ever did was 145 lbs 4 times.
Well, hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere.
So your last album, Awakened, with As I Lay Dying, was received very well. I know plenty of people, myself included, who have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Thanks, man. It means a ton!
You guys used to be a Christian band, correct?
Yeah, well, I mean, it’s one of those things where we always kind of…man. You know, it’s always hard to answer that question because when we first started, all of us in the band…we all grew up Christian, and all of us were Christians, so when we are asked that, it’s almost like a trick question. It’s like, I don’t really know. Because we don’t necessarily have every single song related to our faith, but our beliefs do influence what it is we do. Our main goal as a band is just to write the best music possible.
So do some of your lyrics have those Christian undertones, where you are kind of hinting at your faith but not being very straightforward about it?
Yeah. I mean I will say that there’s never really an agenda of, say, trying to push a particular religious point of view or anything. That’s why it’s hard to know how to answer that question. We don’t care where we fit within [the realm of Christian band]. When I think of Christian bands, I think of bands where their message, to them, is more important than the integrity of their music, you know? As if the music is almost like an afterthought. With us, our music is our priority, and the message, that might be something I write about from a real personal point of view, is something that our fans can relate to, but is not necessarily something I’m trying to use to convince them or push upon them.
Yeah, I feel you. A lot of bands do push that agenda on their fans, and there are some bands that go out there and will even preach to their audience at their shows in which the audience may seem predominantly Christian; but there are always some kids in there who aren’t, even if it’s a strictly Christian lineup. How do you feel about preaching at shows? Are you for it, against it, indifferent?
You know, like everything in life, usually the loudest people are those that know the subject matter the least. The irony is that from a technical standpoint, I think I probably understand some of these complex concepts of theology and have just thought through a lot of these topics more philosophically more than, without sounding arrogant, probably more than any other Christian band I’ve ever toured with or known. But I feel like you can’t really sum up an entire world view in a 30-second pep talk between songs, you know what I mean? To me, my personal opinion is that most of the bands that are the preachy ones are kind of obnoxious, although obnoxious might not be the word; maybe they are just…I don’t really know what the word would be, but most of them are playing off of emotion rather than actually having something intelligent to say.
Yeah, it’s really hard to generalize it.
Well, without a doubt, you are one of the most recognizable singers in metalcore, and in metal in general. You have As I Lay Dying, Austrian Death Machine, and now Pyrithion. Is there any particular singer that influenced your vocal technique?
I wouldn’t say there’s any one person, you know? I felt like if you’re going to be yelling, or putting that much effort into singing or screaming or whatever it is that, within our genre, should have a certain aggression to it, and there’s a lot of different vocalists I grew up listening to that had a different element of aggression in their voice. Like with Pyrithion, it’s very much on the low or high end of the spectrum with primarily the lower vocals being more on the brutal side of aggression, and then with As I Lay Dying or Austrian Death Machine I feel like the music fits that there are more of the md-range vocals, like if you were really angry at someone, you know? [laughs] Like you would just yell with the mid-range of your voice, know what I mean? I think that there’s this idea in my head and I try to capture it the best way possible, and I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s any one influence in particular.
Do you do anything special to keep your voice from weakening towards the tail end of a tour?
Just trying to sleep; getting a solid eight to ten hours of sleep a night. Besides that just not talking too much during the day, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t have a lot of special routines like a lot of singers do.
Simple enough! So you’re on tour in support of Awakened right now, correct?
Yeah. I think I’m in Pennsylvania somewhere today. I’m doing all of these interviews today because we actually have the day off between shows. We usually try to play six shows a week.
So how has the tour been? Has everyone been receiving the album well on tour, singing along to all of the new songs?
Yeah! I mean, with every new record no matter how good it is it always takes a little bit of time for people to get familiar with the songs. So right now we’re about at that point where the album’s been out long enough that people are reacting well to the new songs and actually participating. When the album first came out, the feedback in general was that fans really loved the new album, but the first month or two that we toured we tried to limit the amount of new songs to around one or two.
Is there any particular reason? Is it just because the songs weren’t known enough, or that you wanted to give fans more of the older stuff?
You just want to give it time for the fans to learn. A huge part of live shows is the way the crowd interacts, so even if you play the best song in your catalogue, but nobody knows it, then it doesn’t necessarily comes across as the strongest song of the night, you know?
For sure. Speaking of live interactions, does anything really distract you when you’re on stage?
Not really. I mean usually the live show is pretty intense if it’s in a club or something. Half the time I can’t quite see what exactly is going on. The only thing that really ever distracts me is if there’s a real weird sound [in my mix].
Has there ever been an incident where people have gotten up on the stages and tried to stage dive and it kind of messed up your rhythm? Especially at shows without barricades in clubs and such.
Not really. I mean, people stage dive. It depends on the venue, like you said, whether or not there is a big barricade, as well as the security. But a lot of people stage dive and it’s a pretty normal occurrence at our shows, so it doesn’t really alarm me or anything.
That’s always a good thing! Speaking of club shows, on your DVD This Is Who We Are, you guys wanted to go back to the days where you were playing really small venues. Do you prefer playing small venues like that because they’re more intimate, or do you like a bigger setting where, for instance, there may be a barricade that separates the stage and the fans by five or even ten feet, but there’s just a huge crowd and there’s a lot more energy?
Oh, man. Well…from an energy standpoint, I don’t like the barricade; I like just having the crowd right there. From a practical standpoint, such as keeping all of our equipment working, I’m sure out guitar players prefer it. That way dudes aren’t jumping on the stage and stepping on their pedalboards and all that kind of stuff. But as a singer I would rather have things be a little bit messy and have the crowd right up there.
As a fan, I can also attest to not having a barricade. It makes me feel more connected to the band.
Which is always what I want to do.
Let’s talk about Pyrithion. It’s a very death metal record, very different from what you have done with As I Lay Dying in the sense that there is less melody and more of just brutal, heavy music. Is there any reason you wanted to start another side project? You have As I Lay Dying, and your first side project in Austrian Death Machine, so was it more of just wanting to make fun music with friends?
Yeah. I wanted to just do something that pulled from the end of the metal spectrum. Heavier, more death metal type stuff. And with Austrian Death Machine, it’s just a fun side project, but it’s definitely a very thrash influenced band, and lighthearted for that matter, so I didn’t feel that was the right “thing” to start again. It’d be kind of weird if Austrian Death Machine suddenly had this really serious, dark sound to it you know? [laughs] I wanted something that would be more of an outlet for the more extreme side of songwriting.
Do you have any plans to tour on this EP, or are you hoping to put out a full-length soon and tour on that?
Oh, I definitely want to follow up with a full length sometime later in the year. If the opportunity presents itself and it makes sense to tour, then at that point we’ll have enough songs to do a live show, so these first three songs were kind of just an introduction to the band, and once we gauge the reaction then we’ll know when the right time is to record and release a full length.
Are you happy with the way it turned out? I was listening to it last night and it was a really solid EP. Definitely makes me want to hear more.
Oh, thanks man! Yeah, I’m definitely happy with the way it came out. It’s one of those things where we did it really quickly just because of the nature of my schedule, and trying to get three people in three different places together is tough. So we had limited time. So there’s always, in those types of situations, a few things we may have done slightly differently or rearranged had we had more time. But in the big picture I think it’s a great representation of the band.
I’ve wanted to know this since I first heard of the band…where did you come up with the band name?
Our guitar player [for Pyrithion]…his old band [The Famine] had that word as a part of one of their song titles, and we didn’t necessarily even care about what it meant or anything. He brought it up as a suggestion when we were throwing around name ideas. He said “Oh, here’s one of our old song titles,” and I just liked the way it sounded, and it just fit the music.
Sweet. Okay, one of the writers here suggested this question and I thought it was great. Who would win in an arm wrestling contest: you, or Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan?
I’d say Greg. He’s a big bicep guy. He’s one of those dudes that, like, if there’s a particular thing on his body that stands out it’s his arms.
We’ll have to set that up someday. Who knows? Maybe you’ll surprise yourself.
If he’s up for it, so am I. [laughs]
[laughs] Turning the attention to Austrian Death Machine…what compelled you to start a lighthearted, fun musical project based entirely on Arnold Schwarzenegger? Is he an idol of yours, or was this just something you always wanted to do?
Yeah. If you hang out with metal bands…I guess I’m stating the obvious, but anytime you’re at a show, nobody is serious all of the time. There’s always tons of joking around, being goofy, stuff like that. But for some reason the music itself is always represented as a stereotypical, brutal art form based upon seriousness. So I wanted to blur those lines where there would be something a little more lighthearted and fun, but still metal, and the idea of Arnold being the focus of the band, to me, was perfect, because it’s not only fun, but it’s something people are already familiar with as far as the big chorus lines go. People already recognize them from his movies so it gives them a sense of familiarity.
And now you even have an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the new record, Triple Brutal. But seriously, are you really willing to get somebody’s initials tattooed on your butt?!
Yep! It’s funny, ‘cus you know when I first launched it, I was like ‘Alright, man. I’m really curious whose name I’m gonna end up having on my butt.’ But so far nobody’s gone for it; I wonder if someone’s saving up for it or something. But to me it’s a good story. When I’m 70 and anyone ever asked me about it, it’s not something I’ll regret; it’s a funny, crazy story, you know? I definitely think it’s worth it.
That’s a great way to think of it! Now, you have three projects active right now. How do you balance your music, which is essentially your dayjob, and your family given that you have three projects active simultaneously?
You know when I’m home, there’s only so much time I can spend with my kids. There in school and stuff, so the time I do spend with them I’m able to really pour into them and focus on our time together. But I’m kind of a busybody in that if they’re gone at school, or I have a day without them, then I want to be working on something.
So you would agree with me in saying that, when you do have time off, you’re able to give your kids your attention when you’re with them?
Yeah, for sure. When we’re home from tour, it’s not an ideal amount of time, but it’s enough time when thinking about a band’s average work schedule being as hectic as it is. It’s usually like a Monday thru Friday deal, so we all try to spend time with our kids on the weekends as much as we can, so I guess I try to keep it in that context, like when you average it out over the course of a year my amount of time with my kids isn’t that far off.
Along the same vein, you guys released Decas in 2011 as your tenth anniversary CD, and it had old and new music on it. Now that it’s been over a decade since the band started and you guys are raising families and doing side projects, what does the future hold for As I Lay Dying in your eyes?
Well for us as a band, we don’t really see any reason to change our schedule. We’ll just keep putting out albums and touring. It seems to be, still, the focus of how we want to develop our career, even after roughly twelve years of being in the band.
On the subject of focus…how do you think the Metalcore scene has changed since the early days of the band? It seems that with every genre of music, it experiences some change that sort of pushes it in a different direction.
Do you think what people are doing now with Metalcore is better, worse, or rather do you think it’s evolved or headed in the wrong direction?
Hmm. I just think what people are doing now , or I guess what’s popular and growing now, is something that I think should be given a different name. You know, when I think of metal and hardcore combined I think of bands that have a hardcore element to them. Now what’s considered Metalcore, to me, is…I don’t know. Most of the bands are either primarily metal influenced or they have these more simple chord progression parts, but they’re more screamo, indie rock blended with metal sounding. I’m not really one for genre tags in general, because then I feel like if you listen to our riffs…well, we get tagged as Metalcore, but listen to our riffs. They’re definitely metal riffs, you know? And I don’t really necessarily know what differentiates genres, like I don’t know why people decide to be a band with a Metalcore tag and not another.
I agree. So coming back to 2013 and music, although we’re only three months in, there have already been some amazing records released this year. You also have some really anticipated releases coming out this year from your labelmates and friends in other bands. Are there any records you’ve heard this year that have really impressed you?
That’s actually really tough. For me, when it comes to new music, I get really out of the loop. I don’t necessarily have a standout record, especially in our genre, because I feel like, as a songwriter, I try not to be influenced by anything that’s too current, if that makes sense. I try to keep my influences a little bit more classic, so I honestly don’t think I have—and this is really sad, because I’m supposed to be supporting the industry that I’m in—but I haven’t bought a new record in 2013 yet.
And now you have things such as Spotify where you can listen to the stuff without actually downloading it, which brings up another question: would you say the record industry, especially in metal, is suffering because people aren’t buying records?
Yeah, I mean the industry as a whole is. Metal’s tricky, though, because even when people were buying a lot of records in the late 1990s or whenever when CD sales were kind of the strong point, metal bands weren’t necessarily selling enough CDs to comfortably make a living, so the fact that you take that away almost entirely for our genre is hard. Most record labels put out a record and just hope to break even, you know? It makes it hard to keep growing and get momentum, and for me…I think we’re doing ok. Only because we’re an established band and have worked over a decade to get to that point. But very rarely do labels want to spend money on a band because there are just no records to be sold.
So how do you feel about Bandcamp and things such as Indiegogo? It seems a lot of bands, established or not, are utilizing those types of things to reap more benefits from it.
Well, there’s a couple of different motivations for doing that. Some do it because they feel it’s a way they can make the most money or get the most out of their fans, and then there are bands, such as in my case with Austrian Death Machine, in which the concept of the band is something the fans can connect with more than just simply the musical aspect of it, so it’s something to kind of give them a bigger picture than just a traditional release where you just have just a CD, or a special package with a CD and a shirt. But with the Indiegogo campaign, there’s a pretty broad range of ways to connect with the fans that are unique and wouldn’t happen otherwise.
Yeah. That actually wraps it up! Thank you so much for taking the time on your day off to do this interview! Is there anything else you want to say to the fans, and the metal community, about any of your bands, or your upcoming album, or just anything you want to get off your chest?
Actually, yes. I feel that lately, having just launched Pyrithion, people are always curious why I’m involved in all of these projects, and a lot of times, especially in metal, people try to overcomplicate things, and it just comes down to something I always have thought. Bands should continue to release the music that they enjoy, and fans should continue to support the music that they enjoy, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that because I have a new band, or because something exists out there that there’s a necessity to pay attention to it or like it. I just want to put out the music that I personally enjoy, and if the fans like it, then great, but if they don’t there’s no need to be hanging out on message boards writing about it all day long. Just move on; find something to do.
Exactly. We all actually appreciate you putting 100% into everything you do, especially with all these new projects, because it gives us a bunch of new stuff to listen to, and we never get complacent or bored.
Alright, well thanks again man. I know everyone here appreciates it. One final question: how do you like your eggs?
Uhh…usually just scrambled because I end up mixing a bunch of crap in it, putting it into a burrito or mixing something else in with it.
Can’t go wrong with that!
Pyrithion’s debut EP The Burden of Sorrow is due out April 16th on Metal Blade Records! Pre-orders are available at this location.