EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH AS I LAY DYING GUITARIST NICK HIPA
My final interview at last month’s New England Metal and Hardcore Festival in Worcester, MA was with As I Lay Dying guitarist Nick Hipa. I’d met Nick earlier in the day at an industry hang at which he told me he was a huge fan of the site. We instantly hit it off, so by the time our scheduled interview rolled around there were no awkward moments. When I approached him while he was warming up in the back lounge of the band’s spiffy tour bus we got right to it. Nick spoke about the band’s past appearances at Metalfest, touring with Lamb of God, partying with Children of Bodom, the advantages of having a nice tour bus, the band’s recently released DVD, and their plans for a new album in early 2010.
For more New England Metal and Hardcore Festival interview coverage, check out my festival wrap, as well as my interviews with J. Costa of Thy Will Be Done, Peter Dolving of The Haunted, Doc Coyle of God Forbid, Jonathan and Billy from Unholy, Josh and Troy from Cattle Decapitation, and Chris Arp of Psyopus.
My interview with As I Lay Dying’s Nick Hipa, after the jump.
So that’s a good place to start off I guess – life on the road, in the back of the tour bus, chilling out. Is that sort of your get away? You just come in here and jam?
Well, wherever there is a not a plethora of dudes, that’s usually where I end up. Before shows like this that are kind of big, I don’t psych myself out, but I’m like “man I should definitely warm up so I don’t suck tonight.” So if it’s not here, it’s in the dressing room or something. Yeah, as long as I’m playing guitar I feel pretty good about myself.
Do you ever actually record demos while you are on tour?
Yeah, when I can. We all have our computers with us, and we have ProTools laying around and stuff. Sometimes if you have a riff, you’re like, “oh, this riff is sick” and just throw it into Garage Band and stuff. We’re trying to record as much as we can on the bus or wherever we are.
So fucking Metal Fest, are you guys psyched?
We are actually psyched to be here for more of the hang aspect of it because there are a lot of friends and some random people who worked with the band that we’re looking forward to seeing. It is kind of a crazy day for us doing all sorts of . . .
Fucking interviews. (laughs) Have you guys played the festival before?
Yeah, this is like our 3rd official time to play. We’ve played the Palladium before with other bands, and we’ve played here on our own. Scott Lee and all the dudes that run it and are involved with this festival, we’re pretty familiar with and stuff.
Nice tour bus. You guys are moving up in the world.
Actually, funny thing about this bus was the original bus that we’re supposed to have broke down or something was wrong with it. So they needed to get it fixed and it wasn’t going to be ready for the tour. So the company always gives you a substitute that’s like the next step up than what you paid for. So they gave us this bus which has a slide out and everything. It’s like a whole new world of touring. We lucked out. They’re going to try and give us our bus back in Atlanta, but we’re going to see if we can finagle maybe holding onto this one.
That’s awesome. Are you guys at the point now that you always go out on a bus? No more vans for you guys?
I guess you would say that. Yeah, that would be it. We’re not opposed to going in a van, but it would just have to be the right kind of tour. Our most recent headlining tours for the past few years, or the support tours that we’re doing now, they’re like pretty brutal drives. I would say 8-10 hours on average. We got 10 or 11 people with us. We have a pretty big crew, so if you try to squeeze that many dudes in a van, it gets kind of brutal because you can’t lie down in the overnight drives in a van. So I guess out of necessity we get the bus. It’s a nice place to hang.
How is the tour going so far?
The tour is sick. The shows in Canada were all in arenas – just gigantic shows. Lamb of God has been doing really well. The whole atmosphere has been very laid back. Everybody is hanging out every night. Everyone is chilling. It’s like a fun time, and it’s a fun group of people to be traveling around with plus the fact that we’re playing for a bunch of crazy kids every night has been pretty sweet.
That’s fucking great. So Lamb of God’s fans have been treating you okay?
Yeah. They were almost concerned about it, but it’s like this is the first time in awhile that we’ve done a tour where we’re supporting somebody. It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, but Lamb of God was busy writing a record. We’ve been headlining for a long time, and everyone has been there for us, but now it feels like we have to win over a lot of people. In Canada we were playing before Children of Bodom and Lamb of God. Obviously there are going to be people who don’t like your band.
Are you after Bodom tonight?
Yeah, we’re after Bodom tonight. I guess the numbers add up that we do better in certain places than they do, and they do better in certain places than we do. The man or the powers that be just usually decide where [what order] we play. For the rest of the U.S. run we’ll be playing after Bodom which is kind of intimidating in a way.
Wow, that’s pretty fucking big news right there.
That’s always been the plan. They were going to be direct support in Canada, and we’re going to be direct support in the States. I guess that’s the way the promoter decided that’s the way it’s going to be.
You ever bro down with Alexi?
Yeah. We’re kind of in the same tier. We always end up in the same dressing rooms, or at least a few times [we have]. All those guys are pretty awesome. They definitely like to rage. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s kind of impressive. They still are on point and shredding every night. I guess they don’t get too out of hand before the set, but afterwards they are hanging hard. What is funny is Roope, the other guitar player, he’s the gnarly one. He’s always out of his mind.
Yeah they’re fun dudes to be around. Everyone’s rad.
Have any of you become friendly with the Lamb of God guys yet?
We toured with Lamb of God before back in ’04. We also play random festivals with them, God Forbid too. We never officially toured with them, but we’re all familiar with each other because we’re kind of in the same part of the world. Yeah, everyone is real cool. Some dudes hang more than others, but for the most part everyone is rad.
Cool. And Municipal Waste, have you checked those guys out yet?
Those guys are on our bus all the time. Our bus has somehow become the party bus even if we’re not on it because we have a fog machine and a strobe light and got the iPod setup. I’ll just be hanging out at the venue chilling out and people are like, “dude, it’s raging. You guys got to come see this.” And I’m like “where?” “On your bus”. “Really”? So I’ll come up here and be like, “where’s everyone in the band”? “Oh I don’t know but there’s God Forbid dudes and Municipal Waste dudes.” That’s the kind of vibe it is on this tour. It’s very mellow and everyone has fun.
Cool. You guys have a DVD coming out or just came out?
Our DVD dropped 3 days ago. It’s out there for anyone who is interested in the band.
Do you like it? Do you like the way it came out?
I do, actually. It’s 3 discs: it’s a biography, the second disc is a performance, and the third is random content and all our videos. For me I feel it kind of sums up everything that has happened to the band and everything that the band has done up until this point. I feel that that was the last thing that we needed to put out to kind of close that chapter of the band. It feels like it is all moving forward from here.
How was it working with Denise [Korycki, documentary director]?
Denise rules. She’s amazing. She’s been a friend of the band since literally 2003. She has been traveling with the band since then. She’s had tour after tour of footage of hanging out on our bus and videotaping us. We were friends with her in the beginning just because she is cool, but over those years she’s just like part of the family. We’re always used to having Denise out with us. In fact she’s here today, and she doesn’t have her camera following us around. It’s kind of weird, but it’s still fun.
Cool. Is it time to start thinking about a new album for you guys?
Yeah, we’ve already kind of been riffing out and demo-ing on our own. Just getting ideas together and making little deposits in the riff bank. When we’re done with this tour we’re going to get together and start working on a lot of the ideas that everyone has.
So is that how you guys write? You write a withdrawal check from the riff bank? You pull a few riffs out and see how they fit together? Is that generally how you guys write or is it like one guy comes in with a song and that’s the way it goes?
Normally it starts with one person’s group of ideas. I have several riffs that are in somewhat of a structure with drums and someone else will come into practice and be like, “hey check this out.” We’ll all listen to it and get a vibe of where that’s going. Everyone kind of takes it apart and adds to that. So it’s a very democratic process. It’s become that way over the past because our singer Tim and our drummer Jordan were responsible for all of the music. Then our other guitar player Phil and I joined the album previous to this one which is Shadows Are Security, and we were still working out our communication and writing music together. The last album everyone was completely involved. It’s pretty interesting because the band keeps on changing. We have a new member for this album. So I’m interested to see how it works with him. To answer your original question, it always starts with somebody kind of having a vision of where they want the song to go. I’ve played in tons of bands where you were like “does anybody have anything?” “Well I got this, but I don’t know where to go with it.” So yeah.
Any idea where musically the new album is going to be? Any concept of that yet?
I really can’t say. I can’t even guess. We don’t know the direction we’re going in until it’s all done. It’s the same guys that wrote the previous records, so I think some of the elements like the energy and intense feel of the band will still be there. We’re all a little bit older now, and our tastes maybe changed. I think we’re all way better at our instruments and at songwriting. I’m actually really excited to see what we come up with because I think it’s about that time.
Cool. Maybe before the end of the year we’ll have a new album, or early 2010?
Probably early 2010. After this tour it’s going to be a lot of chilling and writing because we’ve been going pretty consistently off of this album. So we’ll take a little bit of a break before we record it.