As I Lay Dying spent the better part of the summer on Mayhem Fest, rotating slots on the main and second stage with Asking Alexandria and The Devil Wears Prada. However, the remainder of 2012 promises to keep the San Diego metalcore group busy, with their new album Awakened due out on September 25 via Metal Blade Records. During Mayhem Fest’s stop in Camden, NJ a few weeks back, we had the chance to sit down with drummer Jordan Mancino. During our chat, Jordan discussed the thrill of performing on the touring festival, what lead the band towards working with producer Bill Stevenson (also Descendents/ex-Black Flag drummer), and his excitement to share As I Lay Dying’s new music with the world.
[Note, we also spoke to Mancino and a few other bands on the bill about Lamb Of God singer Randy Blythe’s time in a Prague jail, a week prior to his release. In case you haven’t yet, check out Mancino and others’ responses here]
I know that the band is switching slots on the festival with The Devil Wears Prada and Asking Alexandria. Which do you prefer—performing on the second stage or on the main stage?
Both of them are great. It’s different. I guess I’ll start with the side stage because that’s where I started the tour. Side stage, it was awesome. Crowd reaction was great. Being a band like we are, and having a crowd there that’s standing and in pits, I think it’s really important for that connection with the crowd, for them to be able to express their intensity, and it’s intense for us to perform it. For them to be able to express that connection, and for us, it’s really cool for the side stage. The main stage is a little bit different. We were on there for two and a half weeks, or something like that, but opening the main stage you’ve got a lot of people coming back, kind of the huge crowd shift from the side stage. Sometimes you would start the set and it wouldn’t be all full because it’s also an amphitheater. You also have to understand that when people have been standing since however long, like five or six hours walking around these large amphitheaters, they want to sit down. I would want to sit down [laughs]. So sometimes you’d have shows where people are sitting down, which is kind of weird if you’re not used to it. But the idea is you start the set, people are still filing in, but by the end of it, by the last two songs, it’s our goal then to get everybody totally involved and immersed in the show.
To be honest, it was super successful. We had an amazing response to the main stage. And I think we’re also able to appeal to some of the older metal fans. We’re a little bit older, we’ve been around for over ten years now, we’ve got facial hair [laughs], we’re graduating into that man-metal category, which is cool, but we had amazing responses. Absolutely amazing. Pit areas and amphitheaters are really small, so you can’t get circle pits. So we just started calling people out on the lawn. There was one show where we literally had three circle pits at one point, and three walls of death on the lawn, and kids were going nuts. It was great, seriously incredible.
That must have been a rush to see, especially from that far away.
Yeah, it was. By the end of the set, you have a full amphitheater and it’s our aim to get all the people standing up because once you get about half the people standing up, everybody else has to stand up cause they can’t see [laughs]. So it’s just kind of getting enough people stoked, so everyone starts kind of standing up and gets everyone going. It was a cool experience and it’s different. With the side stage, it’s also different because people are also there just to I guess be a part of the show as a whole with all the bands. So I guess they want to be in the pit, and they want to do all this stuff, so they could be more focused on that than watching the band, as opposed to the main stage where you literally have people sitting and their only option is to focus on you because they can’t do a circle pit. They can’t do all this stuff, they’re just sitting down, they have to watch. So I think you get people actually watching your band and listening to your show, and that gives us the opportunity to show them what we have.
What’s been a highlight of the tour so far?
Everything, to be honest. It’s probably one of, if not the best, tours we’ve done in a long time. Just response wise, vibe wise, it’s been really, really cool. The production crew is great, all the crews are great for all of the bands. We met a lot of them from Warped Tour, doing European festivals, so with a lot of these people it’s like a reunion. So it’s cool to see everyone and hang out. It’s all been great. All the people that run this are awesome, really above and beyond expectations.
It’s interesting to hear you mention European festivals, because there’s a totally different vibe that happens in Europe compared to America in regards to festivals. Do you think that Mayhem is the closest thing that America has to the European fest mentality?
It definitely is. There are differences, obviously. In European festivals, the lineup is a lot more diverse. Like, we’ve played festivals with Sigur Ros and bands that you would never see on a bill like this. But yeah, I think it’s the closest thing. It’s about putting together really cool packages, making low ticket prices, and making it available to fans. Obviously there are sponsors like Rockstar Energy Drink, etc. So yeah, festivals like these are able to happen, and we’re able to bring all these people in, which I think is important. I mean, who could afford a hundred dollar ticket every other month for a sweet show? You can’t do that. You have to be able to make it affordable, make it fun and obviously bring a bad-ass show for your fans and for all the concert goers.
Let’s talk about the new album Awakened. You had Bill Stevenson produce it, which I found interesting since he’s more known for his work on punk and rock albums. What made the band decide to go with him?
I think initially before we decided to get Bill, we wanted to work with someone outside of the box, or at least explore the option. Being in a band for this long, a lot of bands, especially metal bands, get to the point where they want to work with someone outside the box, and sometimes it blows up in their face, and sometimes it’s awesome. So we were talking about different people and obviously we’re all punk fans. Growing up in San Diego, no matter if you listened to metal, rock, rap, country, you still listen to punk music, it’s part of the life style. It’s ingrained in the youth culture out there, at least when we were growing up.
So we were talking with Bill and it seemed really sweet. We had a conversation and it was perfect. He understands underground music, obviously, being a punk-rock producer and the drummer for Descendents and Black Flag, who are quite credible. He understands underground music and where we come from, but he has a different perspective with song writing, overall recording and production, so we thought it would be a cool fit. And it seriously worked out better than we thought. There were some things that he was able to bring to the table that helped inspire some new elements within our sound on top of the songs we had already created. Also, he was able to help bring out some of that excitable post-teenage angst that we had back in 2003. Not to say that we ever lost it, but after 11 years sometimes it gets back in the brain there, and it takes a little bit to pull out. At least that’s how I felt with my performance. And the drums that we recorded on the record, I’ve never been happier. I’m really, really excited for people to hear it. It’s refreshing, at least for me.
Being in the band for this long and recording this many records, it’s refreshing to hear it. It was also kind of exciting for me to hear it because we recorded simultaneously at two different locations, one at the Blasting Room in Colorado, and then one at Tim’s studio in San Diego. So once I recorded my drums, I didn’t hear anything. I wasn’t in the studio, they were doing guitars in Colorado, they were doing bass and vocals at Tim’s. So the first time I heard everything all the way through was when it was done, and we had the rough mixes from Bill before it was mixed, and I literally got chills. I popped it in and was like, “Sweet, this is awesome!” Obviously, I’m mentally, emotionally and physically invested in it, so it felt really cool being able to put everything together, but I haven’t gotten that feeling in a while.
That’s really cool. It’s interesting to hear that you did it in two different places, too. It kind of shows how technology has become so advanced over time.
Yeah, I think that was part of it. I also think that helped kind of recapture that intensity and that sense of urgency with a deadline, and all of that stuff that we used to have back in the day when budgets were a lot smaller, so we had to get in and get out of a studio to record a full-length in a matter of a couple of weeks. It was a lot of late nights and a lot of stress, but it was cool because it created…I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to quantify, but it created something special.