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29th July 2014
Shock waves and disbelief were rife throughout the scene last year when As I Lay Dying frontman, Tim Lambesis, was arrested for attempting to hire a hitman (who transpired to be an undercover detective) to kill his wife. Eventually changing his initial "not guilty" plea to "guilty", the future of said band was thrown into doubt. Thus the four other members - guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso; bassist Josh Gilbert; and sticksman Jordan Mancino - decided to pursue a new band with a fresh new sound and, of course, new frontman. Shane Blay from Oh, Sleeper was recruited for vocal duties, a fifteen track eponymously titled debut album recorded, and Wovenwar was born. Nick spoke to Metal Discovery shortly before the album's release, revealing the reasons behind not continuing with As I Lay Dying and, more importantly, the creative impetus underpinning Wovenwar's music...
METAL DISCOVERY: Yeah, cool, how you doing?
NICK: Hey, what’s up, man?
(Nick Hipa on opting not to continue with As I Lay Dying)
"...we didn’t want to continue with As I Lay Dying because it didn’t seem like something we could do and feel right about, given everything that happened..."
Wovenwar - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Ty Watkins
Interview by Mark Holmes
NICK: I’m doing well, just hanging out.
MD: I gather you’re on tour right now, over in the States, with Black Label Society… how’s the new music been going down with audiences so far?
NICK: It’s been really cool. The first week, it was really weird… well, it wasn’t weird but we only had two songs online so not everyone was familiar with our band at all or our songs, and the people that were there only knew of those two songs. So it was very much like us showcasing new music for people for the first time. And it was cool to see that, as we played and carried on with our set, people were getting into it and, by the end of it, we could visibly see us gaining supporters and fans. You know, at least I’d like to believe.
MD: I think there are so many strong melodies on the album that it’s got that instant accessibility as well, so I guess it’s easy to get into straight off.
NICK: Okay, cool, thank you so much. I think that was kind of the goal, to make it something that has a lot of hooks in it and something that people can latch onto on first listen.
MD: Definitely. And the album, as a whole, is amazing stuff… and with fifteen tracks, with so many, it’s surprising just how consistently great it is across all the songs. Had some of the song ideas been hanging around for a while or was the entire album written within a concentrated period?
NICK: The songs that were written for that album, for the most part, within the last year, when we decided to start Wovenwar. There may be a riff or two that one of us had prior but it was never developed, and jammed, and rehearsed, and arranged in the manner that ended up on record. And it is a lot of tracks but we’ve been writing music for a long time, especially together, so I think we’re able to just keep our heads down and come up with a lot of stuff in a rather natural and time efficient manner.
MD: You’ve bounced back pretty quickly after recent tumultuous events, so were you all in unanimous agreement right away that you wanted to continue with a different band and new frontman?
NICK: Yeah. We ended up sitting together to talk about the professional side of our lives. The first thing we decided is that we didn’t want to continue with As I Lay Dying because it didn’t seem like something we could do and feel right about, given everything that happened, and even doing it without the last lineup of As I Lay Dying. We would rather focus on something new and creating a different sound, and build something positive on its own. And when we did that, we ended up, pretty much, doing Wovenwar from the get go – new band, new sound, new singer and we’ll see how it goes.
MD: And the right choice; the evidence is in the new music. I gather your vocalist, Shane Blay, was already a long-time friend of yours?
NICK: Correct, yeah, I had known Shane since I was about fifteen. He and I used to go to all the same shows together and we played in bands together. The last band I was in, before As I Lay Dying, was with Shane.
MD: Did it click with him straight away, musically?
NICK: Definitely. Well, on a personal level, everyone was already friends… everyone knew Shane and we all felt comfortable with him in a way that, you know, his personality just felt like one of us from the get go. And, musically, he’s just such a talented individual – he’s a great songwriter, he’s a great guitar player, and he’s a great singer. And I’ve been working on stuff with him, just randomly, over the years and so we had a good repertoire between him and I. And, I think, him just coming into the fold with all of us was very easy and seamless because he’s just another musician and speaks the same language as us, and sees things the same way we do, which was great for everyone.
MD: So did you have a lot of the material written already or did you write the music with Shane’s strengths in mind with what you knew he could do and was capable of doing?
NICK: Well, we were writing before we knew exactly who was going to be the vocalist. When we got us Shane and he was down to do it, we ended up sending him what we had and he kind of took the things that he liked and communicated to us how we could maybe rearrange or sculpt some of the songs to suit some of the vocal melodies that he had. So, even though a handful of those songs existed musically before he was in the fold, they became something different when he did get involved.
MD: Oh cool. And I gather the band name is supposed to reflect the morality choices we all have to make throughout life, so was the idea to call the band Wovenwar a direct result of what happened with Tim?
NICK: No, not necessarily. Actually, it can be interpreted like that and I think the dude that wrote the band biography, that’s what he deduced from our conversation, but I think our intention behind it was just to highlight the fact that, at our core, all human beings are the same. We have the same spectrum of emotions and we’re born in the same sort of innocence. But our personalities and our traits and our beliefs, everything else sculpted by our environment and the people that bring us up, and the institutions that we pass through. And, you know, while those things do make us who we are, they also cultivate some of the discrepancies we have with one another, whether they’re religious or political. And I just think that, in putting too much weight on those sort of things, you lose touch of the fact that we’re all human beings and… so many of the big issues that we have with one another… I mean, even considering the world right now, it’s getting nuts with all the violence that’s erupting all over the place and it’s sad because to think that so much of it is unnecessary… I’m going on a rant now but the whole point is the name had to have a little bit more of an aggressive leaning because we’re an aggressive band, so it made more sense to call it Wovenwar…
MD: It sounds cool, but it has a good philosophy behind it as well.
NICK: Ah cool, thanks man.