January 13, 2017 Interview – Austin Dickinson of As Lions
Sometimes the end of one road begins the journey along an entirely new one filled with endless possibilities. Such is the story for UK based As Lions, a relatively new Hard Rock band forged out of the ashes of Heavy Metallers Rise to Remain. A new start, direction, sound, as well as purpose, As Lions look to make a grand impression with the release of their debut album, Selfish Age.
Fresh off an introductory tour across the US opening for Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, and SIXX:A.M., the future looks extremely bright for this young band who are much wiser this time around. Recently we caught up with Lead Vocalist and Lyricist Austin Dickinson to talk the transition into As Lions, the work behind their debut album, his objective as a musician, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been surrounded by music your entire life and through hard work you have been making moves upward in the Rock/Metal world. First, tell us, what initially inspired you to become a musician?
Austin Dickinson – There were a lot of points where music would work me up little by little to the point where I knew this is what I had to do. I think that the first time I really knew I wanted to be on the stage was when I was a kid, I always knew I was into live music and just performing in general. I think what wanted me to be in a band specifically was probably the Killswitch Engage DVD, Set This World Ablaze (2005). That is probably a strange thing for people, because they think it would be Led Zeppelin’s Get the Led Out: Live At Red Rocks or something like that. I think to me it was probably that just because it sort of fit what I thought the reality of being in the driver’s seat of a band, opposed to sort of being around it when I was a kid. That, and a lot of bands I listened to such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, they all really made me want to create things and move people. That was kind of it, really.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent, everyone has their own influences for one reason or another. As Lions is not your first band. You actually attained success with Rise to Remain, which toured the USA and appeared on Vans Warped Tour in 2012. What led to the decision of dissolving Rise to Remain and launching As Lions?
Austin Dickinson – It was the best of circumstances with Rise to Remain. Our guitarist was battling a lot of personal shit at the time and he sort of ended up quitting music basically. He quit music and at the time we were all gutted, but it was important he made a choice for himself and went and got better. You should always look out for your own mental health and for others. I am glad he did that. He is still not doing music now.
I think. for me, if we would have gone to do another record, we would have had myself and Will be the only original members. I think for a band that were all very involved in it, it didn’t feel right to continue without them, especially with what I was writing. I was kind of writing a record that was a bit different than where we could have immediately gone. So Will and I, along with Connor, went on to start a new band. Yes, we were afraid to go back to square one in some respects, but also in other respects, it was the greatest opportunity we ever really had. We got to skip the awkward growth phase and just go straight into our own skin, go straight into who we are. That was quite cool.
CrypticRock.com – As Lions is certainly a new direction. The new band is more Hard Rock driven, but also heavily melodic. Would you say the direction of As Lions is a natural progression for you as a musician?
Austin Dickinson – Definitely, and unquestionably. Mainly because myself as a vocalist and songwriter, I always wanted indefinite dynamics or a lot more dramatic dynamics in Rise to Remain. To be honest, we were more interested in just going as fast as we could as often as we could, pausing for the chorus, having a big chorus, and then go back to showing off (laughs). With this, I think the dynamics are a lot greater, there is a lot more room and it is a lot bigger, that is very much what I and the guys are about. It is definitely a logical and natural progression.
CrypticRock.com – Well it seems to be the right steps forward. The band recently had a North American run with Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, and SIXX:A.M. No doubt this was a first introduction to many of As Lions. How did you find the crowd reacting?
Austin Dickinson – It was fantastic. I think it was a situation where no one knew who we were. We literally put our EP out two days before the actual tour began. We had 1 or 2 songs that were flaking around on radio, but nothing incredibly heavy-handed. So to walk into it was great, we had absolutely nothing to lose. We got to be very much in control of our first impression. Having that many people upon which to make a first impression is one of the greatest honors we could have. It was very cool of Shinedown and Five Finger Death Punch to have us out. They were absolute gentleman and really wonderful to us. The crowds were really enjoying it.
CrypticRock.com – That is fantastic way to make a first impresssion here in the USA, so congratulations for that opportunity. Now you are set to release your debut, full-length album, entitled Selfish Age, on January 20th. What was the writing and recording process behind this album?
Austin Dickinson – The writing process stretches back a long way, even back to the very beginning of the band. It went pretty much all the way up until when we went into the studio, we had about 30 songs prepared. We had to go in there at some point and be the axeman and hack apart the songs that we love, but we did not think would necessarily would make the record. The eleven songs are our absolutely finest.
The recording process was a lot of fun, we worked with both David Bendeth and Kane Churko, both equally as talented. David was a huge hero of mine when I was younger, and still very much is. I think he is one of the most talented guys I know. Kane as well. He was actually really fun, Kane is a young guy, we are all under 30, Kane just turned 30.
We told Kane, “We want to make a really relevant record, we want to make an exciting, hair standing up on the back of your neck, fucking belter.” It was great to have all that youthful energy in the room powering along. We did not stop working until literally we pressed the big red button and said, “Done.” The sessions for that were fantastic. It was really cool.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was a fun time and the record came out wonderful. The album comes across as a very cohesive piece and your vocals remain strong throughout. The album’s title, Selfish Age, itself is quite compelling. All the songs do appear to follow a theme lyrically, is that an accurate assessment?
Austin Dickinson – I would say quite possibly because it is spilling out of my brain, it kind of just happened to it. That was not really what I was kind of intending. Only until we listened back in the demo phase did I realize there is a very consistent thread running through a lot of these songs, but it wasn’t really my intention. It is very cool that it turned out that way. The whole idea of Selfish Age is very much about consumerism. It is about the way in which we sort of connect and blindly consume to fill in the gaps or sort of ignore the problems that are incredibly rife right now.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very revelant topic in modern times. The songs fit the mood and convey a message in a very energetic way.
Austin Dickinson – I am very happy to hear that. We have been getting some reviews and they have been really good. I am really happy, enthused, and excited to hear that. It is nice to hear because the album was so much fun to make. It would absolutely break my heart if people did not find the soul of it or something got lost in translation.
CrypticRock.com – It is an album that should connect with many upon its release and beyond. Seeing you had the experience of Rise to Remain prior to As Lions, do you approach matters differently with more wisdom?
Austin Dickinson – Absolutely. The point of life is really not to make the same mistakes, it is to make entirely new ones. I have absolutely learned an abundant amount of things from Rise to Remain. I think going forward with As Lions, we are all one way or another very well versed in this world. We are all absolutely 100% focused on the music.
Before, you are worried about such trivial things, but now it is literally all about the music. You are not worth anything more really. The clothes you wear will be out of style tomorrow, all these things come and go, but music is really the one thing that stands the test of time. That is really what we are all about. That is one of the biggest lessons I learned from Rise to Remain and can move forward with this band.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very valuable lesson. As stated, you come from a musically-influenced family with your dad, Bruce Dickinson, being the voice of Iron Maiden and your brother Griffin also in a band Shvpes. Through the years, has your father been supportive of your musical endeavors?
Austin Dickinson – Yea, I think at first they were kind of thinking, “Really, are you sure?” Originally I played drums for a band and I played guitar for a band. I sort of took the long way around to singing, purely because I didn’t think anyone would really want to hear me sing, let alone me.
I played drums and kept writing, eventually I got so bored of sitting behind the kit I started singing. I guess the more my enthusiasm grew and the more I progressed as a songwriter they started to say, “Oh wow, fucking excellent, go for it.” They told me to go try my hand, it is not a particularly forgiving place nor a particularly nice place. You chased it, and now you are going to chance the rest of your fucking life chasing that feeling, and I am afraid you are not going to get rid of it, so go forth and conquer. Those are the things that got relayed to me when I was about 18. Ever since then, I haven’t really stopped.
My younger brother, Griffin, is now in a band as well. That sort of surprised all of us too, because we never heard him sing a note in his life. Then he said, “I am in a band now,” and we thought it was awesome. He sounds fantastic. I think we are all supportive of each other as long as we are happy, healthy, watered, and fed. As long as we are not making too much of a nuisance of ourselves on a global scale, we are all supportive of each other.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool to hear your family is so supportive of one another. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorites?
Austin Dickinson – I am the biggest fan of all of that. One of my favorites is the original Dawn of the Dead (1978), it still sticks in my mind. Most of the things Tom Savini and George A Romero did together was really fucking cool. I am a huge David Cronenberg fan, he gets under your skin, unlike most other directors. I watched Arrival (2016) recently, it was fucking incredible and a mind-blowingly good film.
Actually, I spent my first Christmas with my girlfriend’s family. I think we made a lasting impression because her mom got me a copy of 1988’s They Live, which is the most out-of-the-blue, nicest thing. I felt, “Oh my god, you people get me, that is so cool!”