Andy Williams, guitarist for the Buffalo, New York-based quartet Every Time I Die, is an imposing physical presence for sure. With a close-cropped head, arms covered with a patchwork of tattoos, and a bushy beard, he's described by tourmate Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan as "a beast" "When you look at him, you’re like, wow, this guy probably chops trees for a living," says Puciato, laughing.
But one call to Williams' cell phone proves he doesn't take himself too seriously at all. If he doesn't pick up, you'll be serenaded a few times by the chorus of Devo's "Whip It." Then, suddenly, his voice mail greeting: "HOLY SHIT, IT'S ANDY!!" BEEEEEP! Then there are his not-infrequent blogs on his band's Myspace page, where he defends his peers, connects with his fans, and even, most recently, offers free hugs before each of his shows.
No matter that his band's latest and best record, The Big Dirty is relentless in the best possible way -- contrasts make life interesting. Moving further away from easy genre categories, it's loud and pulverizing, but with serious songcraft and the propulsive, meaty energy of, say, Motorhead.
As with Greg Puciato, I caught up with Williams the day of the tour's first stop. Full Q&A after the jump. -- Arielle Castillo
So, your touring schedule is insane, pretty much nonstop. You just finished one and soon you’re going into the Take Action Tour. So why did you decide to do this shorter tour now, sandwiched in?
It’s basically just a tour with friends. We don’t normally get to go out and tour with friends. We always tour with bands we don’t know, and there’s that awkward time of “Hey, I’m Andy,” and “Hey, I’m John.” But we’ve toured with all these bands before and it was basically just some peace of mind before heading out on a ton of tours.
This is pretty ridiculous -- we took Killswitch on their first tour ever [laughs]. That was nine years ago, or eight years ago, maybe. On that tour in North Carolina there were 12 people at the show, and last night we played to 1200, 1300 people.
So we knew them from that tour, and then with Dillinger, a band I was in before this, we played with them, and we’ve known them ever since. We were really close to those guys. And then Parkway Drive, we went on tour with them in Australia.
Last night was the first night of the tour. How did it go?
It was awesome; it was really really cool. Our drummer isn’t with us -- he hurt his back. So it went pretty fucking smooth considering the dude that holds the rhythm together wasn’t there. We practiced with our tour drummer three times before this.
I was reading the Myspace blog you posted where you said you would stand at the front of each venue on this tour and offer hugs to whoever wants them. Are you actually going to follow through with that, and did you get to do it last night?
Yeah and no. What ended up happening yesterday is we got really pushed back for time, and I ended up having to work the whole time, changing my strings and all that. So the doors had opened already so I had to miss it. It was just a technical thing. Like tonight, I plan on standing there.
You going to hold a sign or anything?
I have a huge, burly beard and I think if a kid is on our Myspace page, I think they’re going to know what I look like.
What has bothered you so much about human interaction that’s spurred you to give out hugs?
It’s just fucked. I don’t get how people are so quick to get a barb in. People don’t get commemorated for doing nice things. If you tell someone, like, “Oh man, you look great today,” it’s not as cool as saying, “Oh dude, you look like a fucking shitty piece of crap,” and everyone laughs. It’s just stupid, it doesn’t make sense to me.
I don’t get how love can just abandon people and it kinda bummed me out. I don’t like the whole mean, tough-guy vibe at shows. I want people to have fun and have people smiling. I go to shows and people are just too into bashing other humans instead of saying, “Hey, let’s talk.”
But, your music is pretty brutal….
It’s brutal, but you can have a good time. It’s not like any of our lyrics are about punishing someone or anything like that. Our whole vibe has always been a party type of vibe.
[The hug thing] had nothing to do with the music; it was just me trying to pay it forward. Where it was like, “Hey, here’s this dude who’s in this band,” and whether you think I’m a rock star or not -- I hate that word, I hate everything about it. I’m a person first, and all I do is play guitar, I got lucky. So look, I’m gonna be here, I’m gonna be accessible, and if you wanna talk, you want a hug, I’m here.
You really think it was just luck for you?
It is, completely. There are bands that are three times better than mine that don’t get any recognition that no one will ever hear of.
Why do you think you all were lucky, then?
I don’t know. I think it’s the combination of all four members. Together we make up something powerful, where me by myself, I’m just a dude.
Exactly. But into jamming more.
I got pretty deep into your Myspace blogs, and I got to the thing from last November where you were defending your friendship with the guys in Fall Out Boy. Were you getting a lot of flak for that?
Yeah. We were getting flak -- that was another reason why I put the whole hug thing there. It was kind off of that, because it’s like dude, who gives a fuck. Yeah, these dudes write music for 13-year-old girls, but who cares. It doesn’t change anyone. Pete Wentz may not be able to walk out of his house without people, like, crying. But every time that dude’s in Buffalo he calls me. And I’m just a little dude to him, a nobody. But he calls me when he comes to Buffalo when he could call someone else -- he’s dating fucking Ashlee Simpson!
And that’s what I mean, it’s like it’s so bad to go up and sing with a fucking friend. When Greg from Dillinger comes and sings with us, nobody cares about that. Everyone’s just very very concerned with themselves and not anyone else.
Obviously, on a forum you have this pedestal to put yourself on, called Myspace, where you can post comments that say, ‘You guys are pieces of shit because you guys played with Fall Out Boy.’ And the other however many people we have on our friends list read it, and say, “yeah, actually that’s stupid.” We just have to say, “Hey, here’s the deal, don’t fucking worry about that shit.”
Our friends called us and said, “Hey, come to the show, please song a song with us.” It just so happens our friends are in Fall Out Boy. If it was fucking Rise Against or someone else, you’d never see a thing about it. And that’s the thing that drives me crazy. We were getting mean fucking messages saying, “Oh my god, I’ve been listening to you guys for eight years, and because of that, I’m never gonna listen to you guys again.” It’s just so stupid, that people really wanna hurt someone with words.
Well, it’s not like it hurt me at all, I just kinda got fed up with it, because it’s like, you’re so quick to change your mind, that sucks. The worst part is the people saying it were like 18 years old.
So, um, it’s highly doubtful that they had been listening to you for eight years anyways.
But these are the people who are gonna make decisions later in life for this country. And if it’s that easy to just turn them, then it’s a bad way to go.
I read another interview excerpt, though, from a couple of years ago where I think it was Keith who called Panic! At the Disco “the lowest common denominator.”
That was a joke. It was a complete joke. Keith had said something that was true about putting your song up on the Internet, and that part was true. But he meant the mean part like, sarcastically; I think nobody had even heard about the band at that point.
Related to all this talk about who you can and cannot be friends with, and scenes. Do you guys feel like you have anything to do with hardcore at all? It seems a few years back you kinda got lumped into a certain category, but really all along you’ve had these real, just, rock influences. Like on your Myspace, your influences include Pantera and Thin Lizzy.
We all grew up in the hardcore scene. We were all in hardcore bands before Every Time I Die. I’m still straight-edge, and I have been for 15 years. I still go to hardcore shows when I’m home. One of my best friends sings for a hardcore band. We’re all hardcore kids, but in the time where we started, the music that we played – there weren’t so many genres. You really couldn’t get lumped into one thing. We were playing with, like, Madball and bands like that. Skarhead. Now it’s like, there are so many bands that are similar, we get lumped into whatever.
Well, how did you wind up with your sound? Was there ever a decision to take it away from a certain direction into another?
It was very organic. Our whole thing was, we didn’t want to play in a genre. We wanted to be able to play with anyone, so if Fall Out Boy wanted to take us on a tour, we wcould play with Fall Out Boy. If Crowbar wanted to take us out, we could play with Crowbar. No matter what, we would get over.
It wasn’t a conscious decision, we just wanted to do something different. At that time, there was nothing like what we were doing. There was Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge; they were doing something different, and then we came along and started doing something different. And now look at it.
Since you’ve been willing to play on so many different bills, what was one of the toughest times you had getting over to the crowd?
Ozzfest was pretty tough. We played it in 2005. It was the first year Sabbath got back together and played, it was their 30th reunion or something like that. That year it was like, Slayer and Judas Priest were on it. It was pretty fucking tough. That was the first time we ever almost got booed offstage. And we’ve never been booed.
We got booed in Denver on that tour. Going back to that hug comment – it was like here we’ve got five dudes from Buffalo playing in a stage in front of 50,000 people, and I’m packing up my stuff and I’m the last dude on stage. I grab my pedal board and this guy at the edge of the stage goes, “Hey come here, come here.” So I walk over to the edge and this guy goes ,“Get offstage, you faggot.”
I remember I went backstage to our manager and was like, “Dude I hate this tour, I wanna fly back home.” The rest of the shows were great, it was just one of those shows where that happened. It was just like, come on man, why be that opinionated? You paid for a ticket, it was $50 to get in the fucking show, and you’re gonna – just to make that one person’s day shitty.
That’s exactly my point, to make themselves feel better, people will put other people down, instead of making both days right by saying something nice. It’s so much easier to put a person down than to say something nice.
It seems like lately you drew on more nonmusical influences. Like “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Battery” is supposed to be based on 8 ½ by Fellini? How does that translate?
You’d have to ask Ketih. He wrote the lyrics. The way we write music is, we write everything, and then Keith puts it over. We hardly see Keith at practice. Every once in a while if he doesn’t like something, we’ll try to redo it, we’ll go back and rewrite the song. Or, like, if there’s a part he wants to repeat, he’ll say do this one more time, or two more times, or we’ll cut it off wherever.
How do you start out that whole process?
Basically, I don’t know know what it is, but I’m a riff master. I could write a riff for you right now! If you were standing in front of me, I could write you a riff, and if I sat here long enough I could write the whole song. And Jordan [Buckley, the band’s other guitarist], is really, really good at elaborating on those ideas. Once I put the ideas in his head, he can go off.
Do you do much of that while you’re on the road?
I have a comptuer rigged that I can plug into and play and stuff like that. It’s not like a mixing thing, its basically so I don’t forget shit. If you get a new Mac it comes with Garage Band, and it’s awesome -- you’ll never lose an idea because as soon as the idea comes to you, you can jot it down. So right now I’ve got about like five songs’ worth of riffs, just stockpiled.
Who is playing bass on this tour? It’s hard to keep track of your bassists.
A guy named Josh Newton. He’s pretty much gonna play bass on the rest of the tours. He’s probably going to finish out the band with us.
What do you mean by that?
I mean, just when Every Time I Die is done, if that’s tomorrow or ten years from now. But we want him to be a part of the band.
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Where did you find him?
He used to be in this band called Shiner a long time ago, an indie rock band, and they’re one of my favorite bands. He played guitar in that band. Then he disappeared for a while and didn’t play in any bands. Then we played with From Autum to Ashes, and out of nowhere he was playing bass with them. And I was like, “Man, what are you doing?” And he was like, “Basically, making a paycheck. And if shit goes down and you need another bass player, call me.” So we did, right before our toar with Underoath.
What are your plans after all this and Take Action?
To do Europe. We’re gonna go to Europe after Take Action, and after that we do Warped Tour. We’re doing main stage this year.