As I Lay Dying isn’t your typical metal band, nor have they followed the regular path of being debuted with a strong album and attempting to get back to that point. From their first album their music and skills continued to evolve when in 2007 they released An Ocean Between Us, an album that had a grammy nominated track and peaked at #8 on the Billboard top 200. After three years, they returned with yet another powerful album , The Powerless Rise, taking their time writing good material paid off when the album skyrocketed to be #10 on the Billboard charts. Part of this success is the playing of lead guitarist Nick Hipa, whether it be from brutal chord progressions or his screaming lead solo licks. We decided to sit down with him to learn more about his story.
How did you start playing guitar? “I started playing guitar at the age of 12; which by no coincidence is the exact same time I started getting way into metal. My memory seems to recall an electric guitar and the Ozzy Osbourne Tribute album appearing in my life at the exact same moment. I found the sound of the guitar as Randy played it to be extremely inspirational.”
How did you come to be in As I Lay Dying? “At the time I was playing in a band signed to the same independent record label as AILD. We ended up being the biggest two bands on their roster so we eventually ended up on the road together. Over the course of that run we had become friends and we managed to stay in touch. Years later my band was dismantling just as AILD was looking for a new guitarist.”
What kind of gear do you use? ” I play a variety of Ibanez guitars (Mostly Custom ART’s, RG’s, and Destroyers) stringed with DR BT’s and equipped with Seymour Duncan AHB-3’s. Live, my signal runs through an EV RE-2 wireless into a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx Ultra controlled by a Rocktron Midi Mate. I use the power section of my Peavey 6505+ heads into an Avatar or Mesa Cab with Celestion Vintage 30’s in ’em. All of this is power by my fingers and picks provided by In Tune.”
Do you have a particular show you played that really stands out in your mind as memorable? “We’ve been fortunate to play all over the world and to have our minds’ constantly blown by the amount of people who are genuinely stoked on what we do. One that stands out in particular though, was the first time we played in Oahu, HI (my hometown). I’ve been playing in bands for years, but being able to play a show with that side of my family in the crowd was something special.”
What bands have influenced you personally? “I could probably name squillions of bands and musicians, but to narrow it down I would have to break it up into time periods. Growing up it was Randy Rhoads, Dimebag Darrell, and Metallica dudes. In my late teens it was the super extreme bands like Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan. During my college years I got into the less technical but creative style of bands like The Refused, At The Drive-In, Radiohead, and The Mars Volta. As a young man I got way into the Euro metallers like In Flames, Soilwork, Carcass, and Opeth. For the endurance of this entire time, one of my favorite bands was Pink Floyd (and still is). In general, I’ve always favored players and bands with their own unique style. In my opinion, style and creativity always trumps sheer technical ability. The ultimate goal, however, is to possess both. Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Dimebag, and even John Frusciante have it all. Actually now that I think about it, John Frusciante is easily one of my top three favorite musicians of all time.”
Any advice for up and coming musicians? “I would suggest that first and foremost you figure out what you want to achieve with your guitar playing. The clearer you are about your goals the easier it will be to work towards them. When I was starting to get serious about playing guitar, my only goal was to “get awesome”. Not clearly understanding what that was, I got stuck in the rut of straight up practicing scales and modes to a metronome like pretty much everyone in Guitar World was telling me too. After years of doing this, I became good at playing scales and modes. Upon reaching such a frustrating plateau, I decided to critically assess what kind of player I wanted to become.”
“This was actually easier than I expected as I just went back to the beginning and looked at my heroes. I wanted to do what they were doing: blowing peoples minds by being in sick bands with awesome riffs/songs/solos delivered via their own unique sound. I figured that to get there, I had to develop my own musical voice and improve on all aspects of writing. This isn’t a process that is by any means over, but the journey of studying bands/musicians that I love and adopting the best elements of their sound is the most rewarding method I’ve found to improve. From there it is important that what is learned is applied to what you create, and hopefully the juxtaposition of all your various musical preferences yield a sound that is undeniably your own.”
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