Last Friday, it was reported that Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying had been sentenced to six years in prison. At the same time, a lengthy interview with the frontman was posted by Alt Press, touching on every subject from steroid use to his relationship with his bandmates. We picked out a few of the more noteworthy parts of the interview, which was conducted in the days leading up to Lambesis’ sentencing and he apparently does not intend to speak about it again.
On his marriage with Meggan and his insecurities:
I had my own insecurities. When I was home, I didn’t feel like my wife was excited to be with me, because she was more concerned with the excitement of other things in life. I’m admitting my big insecurity. I began to seek that adoration from my career. I thought, “Well, I want to be in the best shape of my life. I want to be the best performer.” I didn’t want us to be one of those bands where we hit our thirties and we all slowly go downhill. I decided to start going to the gym. I was insecure [about my body]. I started paying more attention to tiny details about my body. If there’s anything that really caused a big divide in our relationship, it was those insecurities. Mine were obviously much worse, as far as being unhealthy.
I understand her perspective. I repeatedly gave her the impression that while I told her I loved her most, I acted like music was more important. It was like everything outside the home made her feel unwanted and unloved. She pulled herself into this homebody nature, with her whole sense of identity in being a mother. Then it became home life vs. what I did for a living. It got to where she couldn’t compliment me [on any victories or milestones related to my career]. I understand why that happened. She didn’t want to compliment me because it would encourage the thing that pulls me away from her. So every tour that came up, even if it was a no-brainer and best for the family financially, she was resentful of that. Or when I was getting in better physical shape, she was resentful toward that. “Oh, well, that’s just something that helps his career.” She resented all of these things. I felt resented when I was home. So I sought fulfillment elsewhere, which led to me putting more effort into my career than my marriage.
On why he started taking steroids:
It’s a stupid justification, looking back, but I had hit a natural plateau. My body didn’t want to change beyond a certain point. I thought, “Well, everyone takes these supplements that are as close to steroids as you can get. Why not cut the crap?” I thought it would be more sincere to just take steroids instead of taking the closest thing. Every fitness magazine you look at—not just the bodybuilding ones, but the ones with regular people in decent shape on the covers—people in the fitness industry told me that even the fitness models who just want to look lean and natural are all taking steroids! Even bikini models are taking some type of [performance enhancement].
On his environment at the gym:
I was going to the gym five or six times a week and really working hard. Everyone at the gym has seen the guy working hard, watched him grow, then saw him hit a plateau. You don’t have to go seeking [steroid dealers]—they find you. A handful of people came up to me saying, “I can tell you want to get to the next level.” They weren’t winking at me when they said it, but they might as well of been. I knew what they meant. They don’t say, “Hey, I’m a steroid dealer!” The first time a guy said I should consider steroids, I said, “Well I’m just going to change my routine and shock my body with some new exercises.” He had way more gym experience than me. He said, “Yeah, that’ll help a little bit, but it’s not going to get you what you’re looking for,” and then comes the sales pitch. I found out a lot of guys I had always looked up to—who I assumed didn’t take steroids—were taking them. Even some guys who claimed to be straight-edge! “Yeah he’s super-jacked, but he’s straight-edge, so I mean, of course he doesn’t take steroids!” Right? When I found out that every single person I thought looked awesome was taking steroids, I adopted the mentality that I had to take them to achieve what I wanted. I was convinced that if I didn’t achieve that type of look, I had failed [in my fitness goals and in my career].
On Meggan’s claim he’d become an atheist:
I was a philosophy major in college. I thought it was something I’d enjoy that would help me grasp what people are thinking in order for me to help people better understand Christianity. I thought I would learn how to defend the faith. I was naïve.
I ended up touring, so I finished it up through a distance study program. I switched from philosophy to religious studies, as they wouldn’t let me do philosophy via distance learning. I’d get three pages of the traditional evangelical conservative point of view, then three paragraphs or sometimes even just three sentences from the atheist perspective. But even in just a few sentences, I’d think, “This point of view makes more sense,” even when it wasn’t being well represented. In the process of trying to defend my faith, I started thinking the other point of view was the stronger one.
The first time I cheated on my wife, my interpretation of morality was now convenient for me. I felt less guilty if I decided, “Well, marriage isn’t a real thing, because Christianity isn’t real. God isn’t real. Therefore, marriage is just a stupid piece of paper with the government.” I thought of myself as super-scholarly at the time. “My academic pursuit has led me to this.” I was sincere to a certain degree, but we all hear what we want to hear to justify our actions. I interpreted the evidence how I wanted and felt it was intellectually dishonest to consider myself a Christian. I felt at best I could consider myself agnostic, and at least I would consider myself an atheist. That was my original twist on the whole thing. I read a lot of stuff from the people who are now more popularly known as the “Four Horsemen” of the atheist apocalypse.
On if his bandmates were aware of his situation:
They were all pretty aware of what was going on. But none of them called me out on it. Looking back, I wish they had been like, “Yo, dude, is this really how you want your life to unfold?” I understand it was awkward. “We know he’s cheating on his wife, we know he’s going to end his marriage, we know he’s on steroids.” They all definitely knew I had [strayed] from my marriage and at least some of them know about the steroids.
On what eventually led him to hiring a hitman:
This guy at my gym, my workout partner, I just expressed to him how sad I was. I asked the guy I had been buying steroids from, the steroid dealer, if we could meet. I’m talking to him in the parking lot one afternoon and I go, “Hey, how’s it going?” He goes, “Pretty good, unless you maybe need me to kill somebody for you.” Like that, right off the bat.
I’m kind of like, “Whoa, what are you talking about?” He goes, “Well I’ve heard you’ve been pretty frustrated with your wife…” He just kind of had—I mean, he’s a steroid dealer. He has a sketchy background, you know what I mean? So I’m thinking, “Geez, where’s this guy going with this?” He starts asking me these seemingly rhetorical questions. “Have you tried working things out with your lawyer?” I said yeah, but it was going to be a couple of months before I saw the judge. “Have you tried taking them to a social worker? Like a counselor?” I said yes and the social worker had met with the kids.
He goes, “Well, you know your other option is I can hook you up with somebody that could do this.” And he goes, “Can you think of a better option?” He’s asking it like it’s a rhetorical question. I remember thinking at the time, “This doesn’t feel right. This doesn’t feel like my best option.” But my thinking at that time… As much as I wished there was a better option, this is my best option. Obviously, right now, I can think of a dozen things and I understand the legal system much better. Legally speaking, there are emergency type things where you can get a judge to see you earlier, which I didn’t know. There are dozens of things I can think of now. But I just started to develop this mindset of, “Alright… I guess this seems like the path I’m going to have to go down.”
On meeting with the hitman, Red, and his arrest:
I was like, “Man, I just want her gone.” I wanted to make the hurt stop. That’s what I was focused on. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s like a big bear defending its cubs. Whatever I had to do, you know what I mean? It’s not in my nature to be growly and gnashing my teeth. I’m a pretty calm guy. I’m kind of passively saying, “I want her gone.” It’s just too much for me to handle. I don’t know how to handle any of it.
He’s pushing. “I want you to specifically say exactly what you want.” I’m thinking, “Is this dude stupid?” Obviously, I’m the one who is stupid. But in my mind, at the time, I’m thinking, “Man, I’m making it pretty clear here.” He says, “Just to be clear: You want your wife dead?” So right before I leave, I walk over to him and I say, “Yeah, just so you understand.” I don’t know why I didn’t realize I was the stupid one. There I was thinking he was the stupid one. But I’m really the stupidest dude in the world. That’s when I said, “Yes, to answer your question specifically, that’s what I want.” He’s got that recorded.
He asks me if I brought the stuff he asked me to bring. I said yes and that it was in the car. We go to the car, I hand him the envelope with everything in it through the window, I kick my car into reverse, look over my shoulder to back up, turn around and kick the car into drive and as soon as I turned my head back around, there was a gun at my head.
It was a female officer. “Freeze!” I put the car in park and put my hands up. “Freeze! Get out of the car! Show me your hands!” I’m like, “I have my hands up. How do I get out of the car?” None of it seemed real. I don’t know who opened the door. I guess she must’ve. All I know is I was facedown on the concrete and all of these people were looking, wondering what the hell was going on. It was just like in the movies where five cop cars all pull up at the exact same time. You hear one split-second siren and then they all pull up to block a car from multiple angles. No exaggeration, there were somewhere between 10 and 15 [police officers], some undercover, some in uniforms. I’m thinking, “This is an absurd amount of officers. I’m not some super-well-known criminal.”
So, they stuff me in the back of the cop car and I’m going down to the station. All I can think of at the time, because my mind is just so… I’m like, “Hey, how long is it until we get to the station?” They’re like, “I don’t know, maybe 20 minutes.” I’m 6’3”. I don’t fit in the little grooves where your head is supposed to go. My knees are hitting, my shoulders… I’m thinking, “Man, 20 minutes is a long time to be sitting like this.” That’s how insane my mind was.
On his communication with bandmates:
Jordan did return my phone call. The other [band] guys didn’t return my calls when I first came home. I eventually did speak with Nick [Hipa, guitarist], really briefly. I mean, really briefly. In both cases, we never got to the details. I thought they were establishing communication, as if we’d eventually be able to talk about all of these things. But then it was almost like there was some sort of group thinking going on. It was like they all decided, collectively, not to talk to me. They cut off all communication. I sent a very long, very formal apology to all of them, trying to make amends, acknowledging how heavily my actions had impacted their lives. I got no response, so I sent another one out.
In the second one, I was just like, “Look, I know I don’t deserve forgiveness. But I just want to begin this process…” I got really brief responses from Nick and Jordan, acknowledging they had received it. Jordan said everybody just needed more time and that I was kind of hassling them, like, “leave us alone.” So I just stopped bothering them. The last email I sent was just like, “Guys, I’m not looking for a business opportunity, or to make everything okay so we can make more records together. I just considered you guys friends for a long time…” I just wanted to reach out on a friendship level. What I really needed during this difficult time were my friends. I thought they just needed more time. These emails were spread out. The last one was like nine months after I was arrested.
Looking back, I did a poor job of respecting their wishes, letting them speak when they’re ready. I kept trying to reach out. I made things worse. I take responsibility for that. I realize six months is a short period of time for some people, but for a guy sitting at home by himself on house arrest… [Laughs.] I was living in my own bubble.
I’ll just say this: they made it very clear that we were business partners and nothing more. It’s heartbreaking on a personal level, but there’s nothing wrong with doing that. I have to respect it. It’s their choice. But when there are business decisions to be made, I can’t sit waiting around for answers from people who won’t speak to me. I’m definitely not going to wait for a five-person consensus, if it’s just business. The ownership of the As I Lay Dying business is actually only two people. It’s Jordan and I. We used to make things more democratic, even though Jordan and I had veto power. But for whatever minimal business that’s left, it’s Jordan and I. I would never jump back into a van or a bus [with all of them]. I want to be surrounded by people who are trying to make each other better on a personal level and aren’t just trying to make good music.
On his future in music:
It’s up for debate whether or not Metal Blade Records would own anything I do. And [releasing music under] the As I Lay Dying name is clearly not appropriate at this time; it may never be. Now is not the time to evaluate that. I’m not necessarily writing a solo record, because Metal Blade could tie that up. I’m not really writing an As I Lay Dying record. It’s really just music for my friends, my family and myself. They will eventually see the light of day, but I’m not writing with any grand expectations.
Metal Blade could have cared less about anything I did [after my arrest]. But then the Austrian Death Machine record came out and sold more than any of the previous ADM records. So then the President of Metal Blade calls up Artery Recordings and is like, “Oh, by the way, I just want to remind you that was a one-off deal, letting Tim do that record with you.” I’m making music as therapy through this difficult time. If it becomes this big standstill about marketing, and record labels, I’d rather these songs never see the light of day.
On how he got himself here:
I deserve so much more than what I’ll get [at the sentencing]. I’m thankful, even if I get more time than the minimum, I’m thankful. I’m not making excuses. In most societies through recent human history, I could have gotten a lot worse. I’m thankful. The change that needs to happen within me, whether I serve six days or six years, has begun. I don’t think it does our government any better to spend a bunch of money locking me up for a long period of time. Whatever arguments we present in court to try to lower my sentencing are unrelated to the remorse I feel and the gratitude that’s in my heart. I’ll always feel like I deserve longer. But honestly, the true sentence started well before my arrest. The true punishment was losing my kids and eventually, losing them for good was my own doing. Losing them on an emotional level long before my sentencing was my doing. That’s the sentence I will have the hardest time enduring. I think about my son, especially. If I were to make a list of my top 10 memories from my life, at least seven of those include Biruk. I may never see him again. No matter how long I’m in prison, that will be the hardest sentence I will have to live with, by far.
It’s a really long interview, but a fascinating read. It’s not often that you get to look into the mind of someone that may well be a sociopath on the eve of them going to jail. Ryan Downey, who Lambesis knows on a professional basis, doesn’t shy away from asking tough questions and using Lambesis’ own quotes against him.