Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hope for the Dying Interview (6/1/09)

First off if you could introduce yourselves and tell us about Hope for the Dying.

Well I'm James, and I play guitar (I've been playing since '99). Josh handles most of the vocals and keyboards, Jack splits the guitar duties with me, Jake holds down the bass and Brice pounds the skins.

We got together as Hope for the Dying in November of 2006, released our first 3 song EP independently in the spring of '07. The following spring, we released a 7 song EP (EP by track list, full length by duration) with some help from some friends of ours. That summer we met the people from Facedown at Cornerstone Festival and started our official relationship in October of '08. They remastered and re-released our album as a limited edition release with new artwork on November 25, 2008 (there are still a few available so buy up while you can!!). Now we're just trying to play shows and tour as much as we can to support the album and get our name out there and share our message with the world.

When you started this band, did you ever expect to be going on tours, and be picked up by a decently sized label?

When we first got together, most of us had been in serious bands before and knew that our goal was going to be to take our music as far as God would take it and just see where that led us. At the time we weren't sure where exactly that was going to lead, but we're all pretty satisfied with how far we've come so far and we're really excited to see what God has in store for us as our relationship with the Strike First family grows and our musical identity matures and improves.

How well has the music been received by most of the scene so far? How was the feedback on your debut record?

I like to think we've had a pretty good reception in most of the venues we've played. The Arise & Conquer Tour was really good for us because all the bands were amazing and really willing to help us out and encourage us and offer advice and support, and I think our styles of music really blended together well and brought out some cool people that probably had never heard of us. I like to think we met a lot of new fans and friends and brothers/sisters in Christ through the A&C Tour.

As for the feedback on the album, I think the response has been overwhelmingly good and much better than we ever would have anticipated. I know we've been notified by Shannon at Facedown of several reviews and the majority have been really flattering. We've been really blessed and we're humbled and thankful to everybody who has critiqued the album!

Out of all the songs on the record, which are your personal favorites? Do any have special meanings to any of you?

My personal favorite song is "Into Darkness We Ride" and it was my favorite from the very first time we played it through at practice. Even before we had any lyrics or even vocal melodies or rhythms it was my favorite song we had written. Then Josh came in with the vocals a week or two later and that was it. I don't know what it is, but that song just felt really good to me. I always love playing it because it's fun and has a lot of cool stuff I think. And the great thing is it really has a cool message of perseverance and pressing on through the struggles of life.

How long have all of you been into metal? What were some of the gateway bands for you?

I can't really speak for the rest of the guys too much, but I know my progression into metal came on as I started playing guitar. I think the first screaming bands I heard were Tourniquet, Zao, East West and bands like that (there was a semi-local radio station that used to have heavy Christian music on Friday nights and I would tune in every week), but the song/band that really got me into metal was called "Easter Bunny" by Disciple (way back when they were still on Rugged Records...well before SRE even existed). That song inspired me enough to go buy their album and, even though I didn't get the album with Easter Bunny on it, I played the "This Might Sting A Little" CD until it wouldn't play anymore. I learned how to play every song on the album and learned every word. I still love that CD today. And there's a great hidden track at the end too!

Where all of you raised in Christian homes? If not, please share your testimony.

I was. I've been in church pretty much every Sunday since I was born. I know a couple of the other guys had different experiences but, like I said before, I don't really want to speak for them!

So far, what have been some of the best, and worst experiences that you have had while touring?

Actually a couple of the worst experiences we had sort of ended up turning into a couple of the best experiences we had. The first was at a show in Houston when Josh landed funny coming off of a light box and twisted his ankle up pretty bad. The second was being stuck in Abilene, TX, replacing the water pump in our van for like 8 ridiculous hours (any body who has even toured in a van knows ALL VANS SUCK TO WORK ON!!!).

Even though both of these events totally sucked when they happened, God used them anyway. I'll start with the water pump experience. Josh was outside working on the thing before the show and TJ from War of Ages decided to lend a hand. When Josh had to come in to do our set, TJ stayed out there and kept working, effectively saving us at least an hour of work. Later he went in and WOA did their set, and when they were done he came right back over and started helping us again. Josh has a pretty decent knack for mechanical stuff, but he's about the only one in HFTD so having another person that had somewhat of an idea what he was doing was a HUGE blessing. What's more is TJ stayed with us until the job was done (which was pretty late into the night) and came with us down to the next show. We haven't exactly been on a ton of tours, but I'd venture to say that it's not every day that the bassist for the headlining band would be willing to spend all night under the van of the lowly opening band, but we found out that War of Ages is just that kind of people and we are very grateful that we had the opportunity to tour with them and hope that someday we'll get to do it again!

Now on to Josh's bum ankle. Turns out he had hurt it pretty bad and we were only like 3 days away from the biggest show of our lives (Facedown Fest on April 3 & 4). He limped through the next couple shows, mainly just hanging out at his keyboard and trying to keep the weight off his ankle as much as possible because he was hurting pretty bad. So we get to Facedown Fest Day 1 and we're all just hanging out, watching bands, meeting all of the awesome people from the Facedown Family and Josh gets to talking with Mike from For Today about his ankle and, long story short, Mike prays for Josh's ankle and tells Josh to stand up and, on the count of three, stomp his foot (the bad foot that is) as hard as he can. So he counts and Josh stomps and there's no pain. He said the ankle was still just a little tender, but he no longer needed the crutches and was able to perform like he'd never been hurt for our set on Day 2 of the fest.

God's blessings really flowed for us on this tour. There were ups and downs, but God taught us a lot about ourselves and about his grace and mercy and love and I think we came back stronger because of it.

Have you made any close friends while touring or playing festivals?

Oh yeah, tons of people! Last year at Cornerstone, we met several people that we're still in touch with today and I can't even count the amount of awesome we met while out on the road. We're really looking forward to seeing a lot of them at Cornerstone again this year!

What can we see in the future of Hope for the Dying?

More Jesus, more metal, more touring, and more music! We're working on some bookings and new music right now. So far we don't have any solid recording time arranged, but we're planning to be ready to record with new songs ready to go by the end of the year. We're really excited to see where things go from here and we can't wait to get back out on the road again.

Being a Christian band, do you find it hard to interact with non-Christian bands? Are there times when some may treat you differently? How is the crowd response to your faith?

Honestly some of the coolest bands that we've met out on the concert circuit have been non-Christian bands. I think sometimes people/bands might come in with a pre-conceived negative perception of Christianity, but we just try to show that 1) Christians can make freakin' sweet music and 2) that Christianity isn't about unleashing judgment on everybody and getting caught up in some "holier than thou" attitude, but it's about love and hope, and sharing the love and hope that Christ showed us to the world. Usually once people realize that we're not there to slap them up-side the head with a bible and shove Jesus down their throats, they will open up and everything will be cool. I think (and hope and pray) that through us, God has planted seeds that will grow into a desire to know more about the hope and love that the Christian faith is supposed to be based on, and that God has and will continue to use us as a tool to build up His kingdom.

What are some of your personal favorite artists? Christian and secular.

Oh wow....this list could probably go on for days, but some of the staples in our travel playlists are Pantera, War of Ages, Plea, For Today (pretty much all the Facedown bands....and no, we're not just saying that!!), Soilwork, Iron Maiden, As I Lay Dying, Killswitch, All That Remains, old school Metallica, Nevermore, an endless barrage of hair metal and power metal when Jack and I are in control of the CD player, Matisyahu, a little old school gangsta rap, and Brice tops it off with some Conway Twitty and Randy Travis (Randy Travis is mainly just because he does a dead on RT impersonation and it's funny, but Ole Twitty is seriously like his favorite artist of all time.)

When playing shows, do you usually see more fans then you would normally expect to show up? Or less? How is the crowd response?

It really depends. We've been to shows where we expected a ton of people and not that many made it out and we've been to a few shows where we didn't expect anybody at all to come that turned out to be some of the best shows we've ever played. You just never know what to expect when it comes to attendance! You just gotta go out there and do it for the Lord and trust that he will bring the people that need to hear what you have to say.

Is there any planned major changes in Hope for the Dying's musical styles for future material?

I wouldn't say there are any major changes in store for our style. I think people have come to associate the name "Hope for the Dying" with heavy, lead guitar driven, technical metal with some old school flare, and I think it's safe to say we'll probably stick to that and just work on honing our skills and keep writing music we love and enjoy playing.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

1 Corinthians 10:12-13. It's a verse that kind of has two purposes for me. On one hand, it's a reminder that God is always in control and will not leave me to fend for myself during the tough times and let me fall into temptation beyond what I can handle. On the other hand, it's a reminder that nothing is beyond my capacity to resist and, therefore, there is no excuse for falling short so it's a challenge to live my life like Christ the best I can, and no matter what, always rely on God for my strength.

As a Christian do you feel it is necessary to spend time reading the Bible daily?

Do I think it's important? Most definitely. Do I do it? Not nearly as much as I should. Do I wish I had the discipline to read the Bible everyday? Definitely, and I think that the more we mature as Christians, the more we are able to discipline ourselves in practices like this. God gave us His Word so we could know Him and learn about Him. If God took the time to commission His people to write these words down, then took the care to preserve these writings over the course of history and see it translated and printed in more languages and places than any other book in history, then it's safe to say that it must be pretty important for us to read.

Did any of you experience rejection from your Church/people in your church for your taste in music and the way you dressed? What advice would you have for people going through this?

I personally haven't experienced any personal prejudices from my own church, but I know that it has been brought up to us as a band in a few places several times by people that don't understand how music that sounds so angry can be possibly be a "joyful noise unto the Lord." The way we try to explain our ministry is by saying that a noise isn't joyful because of the kind of sound being made, but the joy comes from the heart of the person making the noise. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 9:20 and on through the end of the chapter talks about becoming all things to all men in order to get the message of Christ to all people. Some people will NEVER be reached by "church" music or typical churchy methods, but they might go to a heavy metal show in a club somewhere. So if there are lost people at these heavy metal shows, we need to be there showing the love of Jesus. We have to go where God sends us. For us, God has sent us to the metal scene.

What are some of your favorite albums?

Pretty much anything Pantera, I've been jamming "Great Southern Cowboys Vulgar Hits" lately..."Stabbing the Drama" by Soilwork, "The Skull Collectors" by Hibria, "Arise & Conquer" by War of Ages, "An Ocean Between Us" by As I Lay Dying, "The Oncoming Storm" by Unearth, "The Fall of Ideals" by All That Remains, "Depravity" by A Plea For Purging, "The Struggle" by Common Yet Forbidden, really looking forward to "Portraits" by For Today and the Hands album, the list goes on and on!

What have been some struggles you have encountered while touring and playing shows?

The hardest thing about being on the road is learning to deal with being surrounded by the same small group of people day and night, week after week and not killing each other! Sometimes it's easier than others, but in the end, we're all part of the body of Christ and we're out there trying to spread God's love, and we're stronger together than we would be on our own.

Is there any advice that you would like to give to smaller upcoming Christian bands?

Stay true to your calling. Keep God at the top of your priority list and He will minister through you more than you can imagine and take you places you never thought possible!

Any last words or prayer requests for the readers?

Just to remember our soldiers over seas, out fighting every day for freedom. Whether you support the war or not, regardless of how you feel about the current president or the last president or even the future president (whomever that may be), our military is still out there fighting and they still deserve our respect and our prayers and our support.

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