AS I LAY DYING frontman Tim Lambesis — who will spend six years in prison after being sentenced earlier today (Friday, May 16) for hiring a hit man to kill his estranged wife, Meggan — spoke to AltPress.com about the case, his troubled marriage and his future in music.
Asked how things get so bad between him and his wife that he would even entertain the idea of her death, Tim said: “After our separation, I was only allowed to see the kids twice a week. And it had to be somewhere Meggan could sit in the distance and literally watch me watch the kids… It was frustrating to have my time with the kids limited and controlled. But I figured we’d get through it eventually. But it went on so long, by the time we had a judge make a ruling on custody, the kids viewed me as an outsider. It was like I was somebody that just visited them… Once I became like an outsider, like, this visitor, I was… They called me ‘Dad.’ But they weren’t really sure the role I was supposed to play in their lives. Not because I didn’t want to play a greater role, but because they thought that Mom took care of them and Dad was just some random guy at that point, and this was after awhile of me having this really controlled schedule. I told the social worker that was preparing us for the courts how frustrating that was, that I really needed more time with the kids, immediately. The social worker seemed to reassure me that I would get more time with them, eventually. Meggan wanted 100 percent custody. She was really honest about that. If it were up to her, I’d have nothing to do with them. She told me a few times she wished I was dead. Those are not unique thoughts for me to have. She felt those things toward me, too. Not that she would have ever taken it to the level that I did. But when she said those things, I thought, ‘She’s going to try to push me out of their lives. I need to get more time with the kids.’… When she realized I was working toward getting more custody, I think her next play was to win them over emotionally, to completely make me the outsider. Certain things started happening. One afternoon, my daughter asked my mom, ‘Why didn’t Daddy want to adopt me?’ My mom calls me over and we all start talking further. My daughter says, ‘Why do you go on tour? Is it because you don’t want to spend time with us?’ I told myself, ‘Well, these are natural questions, she’s just feeling some doubts.’ Later, that turned into, ‘Daddy goes on tour because he doesn’t want to spend time with us, and he doesn’t love us like Mommy does.’ It went from a question to a statement. I knew something [was up].”
He added: “I felt like the courts weren’t able to do anything for me. I wasn’t an angry or vengeful person, I was just hurting. In trying to describe the emotions that eventually led to the conversations I had prior to my arrest, it definitely wasn’t like… I mean, I wasn’t like screaming her name, or like swearing… I wasn’t angry.
“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.'”
Regarding how he is preparing for prison, Tim said: “I know what it’s like to get ready for a long tour. The problem is, this isn’t a long tour. It’s somewhere between six months and three years. [Editor’s note: The interview was conducted prior to today’s sentencing.] If I knew I was preparing for six months, I would walk into this, like, ‘I got a lot of hope ahead of me.’ Career-wise, and as a father, I don’t ever want to depend on getting in a van or on a bus to make a living. I need to have a backup plan. It’s hard to prepare without knowing how long I’ll be inside.
“I will say that whether I serve three days or three years, the lessons have been learned. At this point, it’s just satisfying the public, my ex-wife and her family with a certain amount of punishment. It won’t make anybody feel better, but we all live under the illusion that punishing people makes us feel better. That’s for the judge to decide, you know, how much punishment will make society feel that I was punished.”
As for his future in music, Lambesis said: “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 AUSTRIAN DEATH MACHINE 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.”
Regarding the kind of stuff he is writing, Tim said: “I’m a limited vocalist. I yell. I scream. There are, like, four things I can do. [laughs] I write music that will fit with my voice, so that music tends to be aggressive, which tends to be metal. And so no matter what I write, it always ends up sounding like AS I LAY DYING.
“In the foundation of AS I LAY DYING, I was the sole songwriter. For the first three releases, there weren’t any major songwriting contributions from the guys coming and going in the band. There were some great riffs, but on the instrumental side, I was the doing the bulk of the writing, then I was writing all of the lyrics. When Phil joined the band, he started helping. And then Nick started to add riffs here and there. The most recent record was actually written mostly by Josh, oddly enough. He wrote more than half of it. So it’s changed over time. But my songwriting originally shaped the sound. I’m not patting myself on the back: I’ll be the first to admit that what shaped the sound of AS I LAY DYING were IN FLAMES and LIVING SACRIFICE. I was fine with the other guys writing, but it had to come through me for approval, because I had to be able to picture myself singing over it. My vocal range limited what would get through. A lot of songs ended up rejected. I’m guessing a lot of those songs will show up with their new band, which explains why the first promotional thing they released was an AS I LAY DYING B-side.”