An interview with Jordan Mancino from As I Lay Dying - May 2010

Interview by Mike Bax

This week will see the release of The Powerless Rise, a new album by As I Lay Dying (AILD). AILD have become on of Metal Blade's showpiece bands - growing in popularity incrementally with each album they have release while on the label. AILD's last album, An  Ocean Between Us did particularly well for the band, and anticipation for their new release this week is appropriately high.

I'm not an über-fan of AILD, but I was very impressed around An Ocean Between Us and the subsequent live show I saw them perform touring that album with Lamb Of God. When I was provided with an advance of the new AILD album from Metal Blade - I went into the album with my hopes high - and was excited to find out they'd topped themselves on The Powerless Rise after my first play of the album. The Powerless Rise contains some excellent song-writing, both in lyrics and composition. There is enough choice material on the new album to make anticipation of seeing it performed live mandatory for AILD fans.

I was popped on the phone with Jordan last week to chat about The Powerless Rise in advance of it's release. He was still in Escondido, California, and sounded like he was outside as there was a bit of wind on the receiver of his phone when we were talking. He was really energetic talking about the new AILD album.

Mike: I have spent a couple of days listening to your new album The Powerless Rise Jordan. It’s a pretty solid album man. I’m impressed.  

Jordan: Oh, thank you. We're all really excited about it.

Mike: It might be early to say but I think it will likely go down as your finest album to date. There must have been a bit of pressure for you all recording it, considering how popular An Ocean Between Us was.

Jordan: Well there’s going to be pressure no matter what. We don’t let the pressure drive us creatively; we just want to write a better record every time. As musicians and as a band we just want to keep maturing as musicians and as a band.

Mike: How do you guys approach new song writing? Is it all separate ideas you've married together? Or do you try to get together and jam and has hash out songs as a unit?

Jordan: A little bit of both. Usually we start chilling out at my house or someone else’s house. We just bring everybody’s ideas to the table and then we will pick a handful of song skeletons that we feel are worthy of working on and then we kind of go from there. We refine those and then we get jamming and start messing around with them. We then bring it to our producer and then he gives us his ideas. We just basically keep refining our songs until they’re done recording. There are always little things that are changing. We try to make the songs as best we can. (We try) to have everybody be happy with the final product. There's usually not one person in the band that doesn’t like a song. Usually in order for a song to make the record, everyone in the band has to like it and enjoy playing it and listening to it.

Mike: Is this the way you guys have always made music? Did you feel like going into this fifth album it was different creatively then it was your first or second disc?

Jordan: The way we wrote this record was more like the way we wrote An Ocean Between Us; a lot more jamming, just a lot more ideas being thrown around. I think, we just got better at it. The more we write together, the better we understand each other and (are) able to communicate better. I think that is the biggest thing when we’re writing is communication and being able to communicate everyone’s idea to the other person, and then make it happen.

Mike: You mentioned earlier that you set out to write a better record. Do you think that is a frame of mind you can simply step into, or do you think that is something that comes with your latent talent?

Jordan: I don’t think there are too many bands that write a record for the sake of writing a record. I think every band, when they get in the studio, want to step it up from their last record. We just wanted to write a better record. We didn’t want to change our sound too much. We just wanted to get heavier and just wanted to make the songs better. We wanted to create more of a well rounded record; more so than the last one and the previous record.
Mike: This is a general question. I am not a musician. But i understand creating something - and what that can take. Do you guys find that you overwork a song? When you get an idea, (you) work it all the way through until you are in the studio, then you are all suddenly proclaiming, “I really don’t like this one anymore!” (Laughs)

Jordan: (Laughs) Yeah, it happens. Usually we try to catch that stuff before we get into the studio. Sometimes we will be working on a song for so long that we’re over thinking everything. We have to step back and give it a couple of days and then come back to it; and usually by that time we realize that some of the original ideas that were thrown around are the actually the ideas that fit best with song and with the album.

Mike: Cool. When I listen to the The Powerless Rise, there are some truly smooth moments on the album. Midway through 'Anodyne Sky' there is a nice little guitar bit, kind of soft and mellow; it’s an interesting midpoint for the song. Then about a minute later you are doing some really heavy machine-gun drumming on it and...

Jordan: Yeah.

Mike: …the song goes through a whole pile of interesting movements; it’s pretty interesting stuff.

Jordan: Yeah.

Mike: There's a lot of material on the new album like this. It sounds like you all had a good time making this album, which comes through on the eleven tracks that are included on it.

Jordan: Yeah, we really did. Seriously, it’s a jam album for sure. We had a lot of fun. We had a great time making this record. Of course there were some frustrating fights, recording and writing. Overall we had a really good time writing and recording this record. I think specifically it was actually a lot of fun recording... I could say I didn’t think too much about what I was playing, but of course I did. I kind of let what I felt like doing come naturally; I wasn’t over thinking anything and that song ('Anodyne Sky') was actually a lot of fun to record and to write.

Mike: I like 'Anger and Apathy' as well. I like how the song winds down and it just fades out to just you drumming for about twenty seconds. I think it’s a nice segue out of the song. It almost sounds like it could be a spot for a drum solo when you guys are playing it live. (Laughs)

Jordan: (Laughs) Yeah, you’re on there… because that’s the idea. (Laughs) Maybe live eventually on another headline tour once the record is out - we aren't playing too much of it live now - as it isn't out yet. We’re talking about doing a drum solo again on this tour that we are doing now, but we figured we would wait until the record comes out and maybe incorporate it at the end of that song; will see.

Mike: Do you have a song on the new disc that you are particularly partial to? What makes it personal to you?

Jordan: I don’t think I am partial to any song. I think that every song on the record is great. I guess some of my favourites would be “Beyond Our Suffering”, the first track on the record.

Mike: Right.

Jordan: I like 'The Plague' a lot; it is a lot of fun to play. 'Upside Down Kingdom' is a lot of fun to play as well. It’s got a groove oriented chorus, which I like, and it’s still pretty heavy. The last song there is a lot of percussion on that verse and we had, I think, eight different layers of percussion that we had to play; it was a lot of fun.

Mike: What would you say was the hardest song for you guys to write on the new album? What made is such a challenge?

Jordan: Let me see hear. I am trying to think. I am trying to think what song took the longest to write.

Mike: How about this: Is there anything that didn’t make it to the album?

Jordan: There are a lot of riffs and song skeletons that didn’t make it of course, but we’re pretty careful about what we start working on. We make sure that everybody is into the idea and that the songs as a whole are beneficial to the record. We didn’t scrap any songs, I guess, if that’s what you’re saying. All the songs that we got to a certain point, made the record. We’re not one of those bands that writes thirty songs and only ten of them make the record. We just concentrate on the ten or twelve songs that we actually want on the record and don’t waste our time with other songs; we like to be productive.

Mike: What is it like for you guys right now, as a band, just weeks before the release of your new album? How are you all guys feeling?

Jordan: We’re excited. We’re back on the road again; our first show was last night for this tour.

Mike: Nice.

Jordan: It’s been pretty much a year since we’ve been on the road. Our last tour we did was No Fear with Lamb Of God. We’ve done some one-off shows here and there. We went to Australia for a week and played Sri Lanka and all that stuff; but this is our first time doing a full tour on this record. I think we’re all just really excited to be back in the swing of things. I know for me personally it's great to get back to playing live shows. It's just a lot of fun knowing that I will be able to do this every night for the next couple of years. It's going to be great. I’m excited.

Mike: As I Lay Dying are attached to an interesting tour this summer called the Cool Tour. On paper, it reads like a touring festival; there are so many bands on the bill.

Jordan: Yeah.

Mike:  Have you already started that now or are you just doing one-off headlining dates now?

Jordan: Currently we are on our own tour that we’re doing. That Cool Tour starts I believe in July, mid-July, something like that.

Mike: So it’s a while away.

Jordan: Yes. That tour is going to be awesome. That tour has been in the works for awhile. It finally just got announced so we’re really excited. Seems like the fan response for that tour has been good so far. I think it’s going to be a pretty good package.

Mike: It’s certainly a nice opportunity to see a pretty diverse selection of bands.

Jordan: Yeah I think that’s one of its attractive points - just the diversity of the tours line-up; Between The Buried and Me; Underoath and us - we’re all pretty different in the heavier genres. I think there is going to be a definite mix of fans coming out which will be cool for us and all the other bands playing in front of new people. Yeah it should be pretty cool.

Mike: Nice. What are you offering your fans right now around this new album on your website Jordan? Are there any exclusive versions available that they can pick up?

Jordan: I think there are just a couple of teasers for songs on the MySpace right now. I don’t think we’re actually going to release any full songs in advance; probably next week I think. There’s going to be a bonus track on iTunes that kids will get if they buy the presage album off iTunes, I think. I think the idea for that is actually it’s a track on the record that has all the outtakes; basically a producers cut. Our producer for this record was Adam (from Killswitch Engage) and for anybody who knows a little bit about him he’s kind of a goofy dude and always full of jokes, antics and what–not. But during the recording process he always throws our mess-ups and little funny sound effects and stuff throughout the songs to try keep the mood in the studio light. We’re actually putting a lot of his little bits, his little sound bits on that song. It should be fun for the fans to hear. It’s funny for us so at least we hope they will laugh as well. (Laughs)

Mike: Fair enough. You mentioned earlier that your last tour was with Lamb Of God. I feel I should say that Toronto show that you did at Ricoh Coliseum was one of my favourites of last year.

Jordan: Yeah, that was a great show.

Mike: I thought everybody there was on fire, there was good energy from the crowd, all the bands were hot; the evening had some real mojo.

Jordan: Yeah, for sure, that was a great tour. That was one of the first support tours that we did between this record and the last one. It was perfect. We played in front of a lot of new people and we obviously brought a lot of our fans there as well. The shows were amazing; it was really good.

Mike: Cool. I have one last one for you. You must have had some time off in between when that No Fear tour wound down around April or May of last year - before recording the new disc. Did you get to do any cool traveling, see any new places for pleasure, rather than for work?

Jordan: Not really. (Laughs).  Vacation to most of us is just spending time at home because we’re not there very much. I spent a lot of time chilling. Right after the Lamb Of God tour I moved into a new house; working on that. Trying to write the record, of course. Playing a lot of golf, which is a lot of fun. I go to school as well, so doing homework and what-not. Spending time with family and stuff like that. Stuff we don’t get to normally do because we’re on the road so much and you try to create a home life for ourselves for the year. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I can't speak 100% for everyone else, but I was ready to get back out on tour; I was getting cabin fever for sure, so I’m excited to be back out on the road again.

Mike:  Thanks Jordan. You enjoy the rest of your afternoon. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys when you come through Toronto again.

Jordan: Awesome man. Thanks.

The Powerless Rise comes out this week on Metal Blade Records. There are a number of versions of the album available on the bands website/MySpace, including a very limited edition box set that will include your name in the liner notes shipping later this year if you choose to order it.