Interview with Josh Gilbert, Bassist of As I Lay Dying
St Louis Music Press interviewer Felix Knost got to speak with Josh Gilbert, bassist of the super successful San Diego metalcore band As I Lay Dying. Josh, one of the friendliest metal-heads to be met, welcomed Felix to the lounge area of the As I Lay Dying tour bus, which was cluttered with clothing and the necessities of living for the five-piece band and their crew, like a giant, mobile teenager’s room. They talked about the band’s origins, Applebees, the durability of Ibanez guitars, and more…
Felix: What are some of your early musical influences?
Josh: The earliest musical influences that I had were classic rock and country, from my dad. He had a bunch of old vinyls like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd and stuff. Then when I was growing up, we listened to that and a lot of country music type stuff like Garth Brooks, and that kind of got me into the idea of liking music. Then I got into bands like Green Day and Weezer and…I don’t know…Marilyn Manson and stuff like that, stuff that was kind of more aggressive and that led me to stuff like Def Tones and some of the newer influences that I have now. Tons of bands, too many to list, but those are the earliest ones. I probably hear a new band every week that’s awesome, so, it’s all technically an influence.
Felix: What are some other jobs you’ve had besides music?
Felix: What is one of your most embarrassing moments playing live?
Josh: Nothing’s really that embarrassing. I’ve definitely split the crotch of my pants once or twice, but I always had underwear on so nobody could tell, and I had a guitar in front of me, but…I don’t’ know , none of the stuff’s really that embarrassing …
There was one time …there’s a part of a song where the song ends with a sample of guitar playing through the PA that’s we play to…we have a sampler that plays certain layers and stuff while we play, and at the end of the song, it’s just that and Phil playing guitar and I’m singin; it’s a song called “I Never Wanted”. The sample cut out, and somebody told Phil that it cut out, so he was like, “Oh, I just won’t play at the end”. So what happened was they just stopped playing and I was singing it completely by myself with no musical accompanyment, so I tried to improvise and just play it on bass, but if you listen…there’s a live recording of it… and you can hear me trying to overcompensate to play the note, because nothing was playing, so I strummed the first note so hard, it sounded like I slapped the bass, and, I dunno… that was definitely the most embarrassing thing, because everyone else in the band somehow knew that the tracks had cut out and I didn’t know. So, yeah, that’s probably the worst. I’ve fallen down, and people have tripped over me. And I’ve tripped and slipped, but that’s not really embarrassing, because that happens like every night.
Felix: Where do you get the ideas for your lyrics and musical arrangements?
Josh: The ideas for all the lyrics, the actual lyric writing is all Tim, the singer, and I come in when we’re actually working on the singing choruses, because I do the singing. I’ll come in and he’ll have some ideas for words and me and him will kind of bounce ideas off of each other for melodies, for the choruses, and sometimes we’ll have to change around some of the words. That’s probably the biggest thing that I’m involved with, with the lyrics. Like “maybe we should make this word shorter” or “emphasize this syllable this way” or whatever. But for music, I’m primarily a guitar player that just also plays bass. I consider myself a bassist as well, but guitar was my first passion, and so usually when I’m writing it’s just….you know there are bands, as far a style like Metallica, Pantara, In Flames, and At The Gates that I would definitely get inspiration from…
Normally, the guys who end up playing bass are the ones that are already kind of sweet at guitar, and then they’re in a band that needs a bassist and they already can pick up on it, I guess. Sometimes from those influences kind of shape my view of how I play the guitar. You just pick up a guitar sometimes and the ideas just come out. You’re like, “Oh, that’s a sweet riff”… and then I try to record it as soon as possible before I forget it. That’s about it.
Felix : How did As I Lay Dying get together?
Josh: The band initially started in 2001 with our singer, Tim, and drummer, Jordan. They played in some other bands together around San Diego. They started a new project, and they started touring with it , and after a couple years they were going through a cycle of members, and then ended up picking up Nick and Phil, the current guitar players, around 2004 or late 2003. That’s about when their band started becoming successful and releasing records and being able to tour a lot… They did that for a couple of years with another bassist. Late 2006, they lost their bassist, and I tried out, because a band I was in previously was trying to get signed to the same label As I Lay Dying is on, Metal Blade. Tim, the singer of As I Lay Dying, was A&R for Metal Blade. So we were sending our demos to Tim. He was interested in what he heard , but he wanted to hear more. But about the same time as the old bassist left, our band broke up. So for a month or so, they we’re trying out people . He remembered hearing me singing on that. He called me and said, “Hey man, if you want to buy your own ticket and fly out, and try out for us, we want to try you out.” I was like “sweet.” I did. A couple weeks later they called and said they wanted me to come on a tour, and that’s pretty much how everyone is in the band.
Felix: So that was the first tour you we’re on?
Josh: Yes. The first tour started on January 2nd of ’07.
Felix: How was that like, getting used to living on a bus ? Was that…easy?
Josh: Pretty much. I’m not a hard guy to please. I’m not really OCD or super particular , because even when I was home I was just crashing. I lived in this horrible one bedroom apartment. I’m from Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up there. I was living in a one bedroom, crappy apartment with two other people, and sleeping on an air mattress. Then I would go crash at a friend’s house for a few months. Just kind of hopping around, anyway. So I was used to it. I have definitely been in worse scenarios than that…
Felix: How’d you get the band’s name?
Josh: Somebody thought the book sounded cool. [laughs] That’s the only answer.
Felix: Do you have a favorite movie?
Josh: Terminator 2. No questions.
Felix: What is the hardest thing about being on tour?
Josh: Probably once you realize that your friends back home get used to living without you around, and you get back and you’re like, “Oh man,
I don’t know all these inside jokes everyone’s talking about. I didn’t know that this persons dating that person.” I missed out on that. Basically, that everything moves on without you is the weirdest thing. It’s not something that makes me sad, or ruins my time on the road. But it’s definitely something you think about. You’re like, “Oh, I guess people live their lives like I am.”
Felix: Do you have any words about bass equipment? Certain models of bass or amps that you prefer?
Josh: I am endorsed with Ibenez bass. I use those live. I’m super into the way they sound. They’re super light. Expecially for an energetic band, I would definitely recommend Ibenez, because, I played Fenders in the past on the road. They sound awesome. They sound great in the studio, but they’re kind of made from a vintage standpoint. They’re trying to make them the same as in the 60’s . They still sound great, but they’re not set up to withstand the kind of punishment I give to them on stage. The Ibenez, they don’t break down on me as much. As far as amps, I’m not endorsed with anyone, but I’m into this company called Aguilar. It’s a small company out of the Northeast. I’m actually getting a new Aguilar rig coming up after this tour, so I’m stoked about that.
Felix: Anything you’d like to say to As I Lay Dying fans?
Josh: Thanks for continuosly supporting the band and buying the records and coming to the shows, because if it wasn’t for you guys, we wouldn’t be able to do this. And we wouldn’t be doing this interview right now. Thanks.
Find out more about As I Lay Dying at their official website, asilaydying.com.