Sunday 14 September 2014

'One life ends, another Begins' - An interview with Josh Gilbert & Shane Blay of Wovenwar

Wovenwar, a band who’s legend precedes their music.

Born from the ashes of metalcore staples As I Lay Dying, the events that lead to their break up made national news and was, for a short time, the most widely reported news story on metal media outlets. Now, joined by Shane Blay of Christian metal band O, Sleeper fame, the remnants of As I Lay Dying have joined forces once again too form new band, Wovenwar.

For those unfamiliar, back in early 2013, As I Lay Dying’s singer Tim Lambesis was caught up in what would have been the metal story of the century if it wasn’t for sicko Ian Watkins. He was caught trying to hire a hitman to assassinate his estranged wife. The man he thought would carry out the ordeal was in fact the man who would later incarcerate him, after an elaborate sting lead the singer straight in the hands of an undercover FBI agent.

The fallout of these events lead to the demise of As I Lay Dying and eventual formation of Wovenwar. I caught up with Josh Gilbert (Bass/ Vox) and Shane Blay (Guitar/ Vox) for an interview before their show at the Barfly Camden on the 21st of August.

Read on…

SL). The Lyrical themes of As I lay dying were very defined through life experiences and interpersonal relationship, subjects that fans could really connect with. What are the subject matters of Wovenwar centred around?

S: Ex-girlfriends… Nah just kidding! This entire record is mostly about persevering through rougher times to get in a better place after and make your failures make you a better person.

SL). So in Oh, Sleeper did you have another lyrical direction that you deviated from in Wonvenwar?

S: With Oh, Sleeper I basically kept it as an argument between Christianity and not Christianity. We would debate that a lot in our lyrics, and that hasn’t really been an issue in Wovenwar, we got to go off and do whatever in other areas.

SL). And how much of the material had been written before Shane came into the fold?

J: Well we wrote about 5 different songs before Shane came into the fold. We were kind of throwing around ideas of who could be singing for it and when Shane came in and we sent him the songs we let him choose the ones that he wanted to work on, so it would be more of a natural progression with whoever we chose. When he came after we wrote ‘All Rise’, we had recorded it and he already had some lyrics and melodies for it before he even got there so we recorded it again. It was after that when we had recorded all the other songs and after hearing the final product we got rid of all but maybe 1 or 2 of the songs that we had at that point. So we decided to start writing new stuff that fit the mould of what the first song was and in the new direction we wanted to go.

SL). How much lyrical material did you have before you came in? Did you want to try something with this band that you hadn’t tried before?

S: I just took it in stride. As Josh said I had a few thing for All Rise and then the next song we wrote was The Mason. It was a day-to-day thing, whatever song we wrote just inspired lyrics.

SL). With your attitude towards playing, what was it that drew you to Shane?

J: Well Nick and Shane had played before years ago.

S: Yeh we grew up together in Texas and played in a band called Evelynn waaaay back in the day.

J: which I was a huge fan of when I was like 14

SL). Oh yeh? Were you getting into the scene at the time?

J: Yeh because they had a 4 or 5 year age difference, so when I was 14 they were 19 or so and I was like’ You guys are insane!’

(Raucous laughter)

S: But me and Nick had been writing side projects for years for fun.

SL). Did any of those songs turn into Wovenwar?

S: No, none of those songs did. Maybe they will in the future but I doubt it.

SL). So back to what we were talking about earlier. As I Lay Dying were labelled as a Christian band, it had that association quite heavily upon it. Would you say that it also applies to Wovenwar ?

J: We would say, regardless what the individual members believe, that Wovenwar have no spiritual…

S: Agenda.

J: Yeh. We’re just into songs for the sake of songs. They’re separate as the songs are about personal thoughts and relationships.

SL). Did you ever feel constricted by the label that you had with As I Lay Dying?

J: I think we all felt the media sort of over played it. At the beginning of As I Lay Dying there were quite a few lyrical themes regarding spiritual things. I feel as the band progressed it became more about personal struggles and things like that. I think the way we always felt was that we were writing metal songs, not Christian metal songs. We couldn’t write a Christian riff even if we tried!

SL). Yeh, what is a Christian riff?

J: Exactly!

SL). Let’s talk more about when Wovenwar got together. What was the time frame between when As I Lay Dying stopped and getting in touch with Shane?

J: Well everything that happened when the shit hit the fan around the second week of May 2013, so it was around the August when we talked to Shane for the first time. He was on Warped Tour and we had been writing for a month, maybe a month and a half. Then Shane came round my place mid September and we started making demos. There was never any try out or anything like the band getting together and saying yay or nay, we just kept writing

SL). It was a lot more organic.

S: Yeh

J: It was weird because I don’t think any of us expected to record the record as early as we did. But we really wanted to work with Bill on it so it really pushed us to finish it, so we started recording on the last day of November 2013. So, we started mid August and had the whole record done by mid November. We wrote the entire 13 songs on the record in that time period. But it was never hard work, the stuff just poured out.

SL).  So your first tour together, tensions running high yet?

S: Haha No!

J: No!

S: We frickin’ get along great! No drama.

J: I pretty much lived with Shane for like 4 months while we wrote, recorded and practiced the record. He stayed with me for most of the time so we were always in close quarters. Now being on tour it’s pretty much the same thing.

S: Yeh it’s really fun. We’re great friends, its good work.

SL). And what do you implement into these shows that you have wanted to implement into shows from previous bands?

J: I think there’s more humour. We’re able to just joke around because of whatever reasons or personalities were involved in my last band, it was definitely not the sort of vibe that lent itself towards making jokes on stage. So it’s cool to just 100% let our personalities come out. We had these sort of menacing faces on previously, which is cool for that but I think it’s not exactly who we are all the time. It’s nice to be a bit more relaxed about it.

S I’m not the kind of guy who wants to get all the American football kids beating the shit out of each other. I like just to have a great time every night. A lot of people come up to me and say it looks like I’m having such a great time on stage, and its because I am! Just do my thing, smile all the time, and try to step on Josh’s feet!

SL). Lots of stage banter!

J: Yeh it’s really good. We like to point people out who look like their having a good time. And point people out who look like they aren’t having a good time haha.

SL). Do you mind talking about the equipment you use?

S: I was using an E835 but that didn’t work out so now we’re using 58’s. I use Ernie Ball guitars and we’re all on Ax-Fx right now.

J: I have a Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass through a Sansamp for part of the tone then I have an MXR Bass DI Pluss. It’s really rad because it has a lot of distortion for a bass pedal but it also has a built in noise gate.

SL). Does it preserve the low end nicely?

J: I think most of the low end comes from the Sansamp. I want that to be blended in because if you have too much low end in the signal it will kind of spike. I think the Sansamp is a well rounded one and the other is more mid range focused. Lots of bite.

SL). Any pedals?

S: None really because of the Ax-Fx.

SL). How much time was spent perfecting that tone before you hit the road?

S: we practiced for a good 2 and a half week.

J: Those guys have their Ax-Fx set up to the point where they change effects and tone too the click track.

SL). Yeh I saw Meshuggah do something similar with Cubase.

J: Yeh ours is just on ProTools

SL). That interesting. What guitars are you using tonight?

S: I have an Ernie Ball BFR Koa.

SL). Pickups?

S: A Crunch Lab and a Liquefier and then my new guitar is a new Ernie Ball Armada and I don’t know what’s in that thing but it sounds good!

SL). And Basses?

J: I have the custom Geddy Lee Jazz Bass with stock pups then custom Ibanez basses that are modeled after the Geddy Lee. Those have quarter pounder pickups too.

SL). Cool. String gauges?

J: Well for me, because of all the tunings everywhere from B standard to drop D sharp or E flat, I use 1.20 1.00 .80 .60 gauge strings and .6mm picks.

S: I think Nick uses lighter but me and Phil use .56 – .10 gauge strings. Josh and me have customs picks too (they gave me two!). Yeh I never really use picks like this, I usually use Jazz III’s.

J: Because we have a lot of Meshuggah style fast triplets and if I use a thicker pick that ain’t gonna happened!

SL). That’s great, I think we got some good stuff covered there. I’m looking forward to tonight guys thanks for seeing me, it was awesome. See you at the show!

Intro & Words by: Asher Alexander