Underoath drummer Aaron Gillespie chats about getting his new side project off the ground, how his recent hand surgery made him angry, what is in store on Underoath’s upcoming Lost in the Sound of Separation, and why everybody needs grace.
So, you are on tour again. How did that come about? I thought you might be done with the Almost for a while, switching gears to focus on Underoath again, but you were able to squeeze another tour out.
Yeah, that was a lie. This will be a hecka busy Underoath year, so we wanted to do this because this band won’t do anything until ’09.
Has the tour been going pretty good so far?
It’s been amazing. No complaints, man.
Nice. So how did this whole idea of the Almost start out and come into being?
I think any musician has stuff he can’t use for one thing and wants to use for another. My wife was like, “Why don’t you try and write some of your own songs?” So, I did. Nothing crazy. There’s not like some story, like I was depressed in Underoath and life was bad. I just wanted to see if I could do it.
So this has been a couple years in the making then?
Oh, yeah. Since ’05.
Yeah, you did that one Christmas song with Kenny Vasoli.
That was before I even thought about the Almost. We just wanted to see if we could do it. I like that song.
Southern Weather has been out for a little over a year now. What do you think about it these days?
I think with any musician there comes a point when you get done with a record and you like it, and then a year later you listen to it and you’re like, “Eh.” I think I’m kind of there. I’m like, “Eh, I could have done better.” That’s a good thing, because you grow. As a musician, you should constantly be evolving and growing.
And you did practically everything by yourself, too.
Yeah. I didn’t play bass on a couple songs, though. I don’t know. It was fun. I’ll try something different next time.
The band’s lineup has solidified now and you’re planning on doing the next album this winter. Is it going to be more collaborative this time around?
Yep, it’ll be a regular band record.
How do you think that’s going to change things?
I don’t know how, but I know that it’s going to change a lot. When you’re by yourself, it’s difficult because there’s no one to say, “Don’t do that. That’s stupid.” You’re just by yourself, so anything that pops into your head you just kind of do, which I think is scary. It also makes sense in some situations, you know?
Have you been kicking around anything so far?
Yeah, we got a handful of things, but I’ll probably panic two weeks before and rewrite it all. I always do that.
Do you have any ideas for a producer or anyone you want to collaborative with this time around? I know you had a few guests on the first one.
Yeah, but I don’t want to talk about it though.
You worked with Aaron Sprinkle on the first one, right?
Yeah, he’ll be back again. We’ll be doing something different, but I can’t talk about it.
For this record, you were upstreamed from Tooth & Nail to Capitol. What was that process like?
We weren’t upstreamed. The only papers that we have are Tooth & Nail papers. We just have a marketing deal with Capitol.
Are you happy with that?
So me and Randy, my manager, went to New York and played them the single. They wanted to work with us and are just great people over there. Their radio department over there is ridiculous. They’re just wonderful people. I wanted to work with them, they wanted to work with us, so here we are. I hope they’re there next time. We’ll see.
“Say This Sooner” turned out to be a pretty decent sized hit. Are you surprised with how that took off?
I’m surprised by anything like that, man. I swear I never had any idea I’d be at Downtown Disney playing a show or on a tour bus. I’m just a little kid from Florida who doesn’t deserve anything I have. I’m stoked.
What was the process like for you lyrically on this album? It seemed like you were pretty honest on a lot of the songs.
I think something people never do, ever, is be honest about their lives, or their faith, or whatever they’re about. I think as people if we could get more honest, it’d be a whole lot easier to communicate and live.
One of my favorite songs is “Dirty and Left Out,” which is something that’s not heard a whole lot in quote-unquote “Christian music.” What was the beginning of that song?
I make a lot of mistakes. I’m not proud of any of them, but a lot of them I’m really not proud of. I think that God wants us to be honest with the public and feel that way, for me. I don’t know how it is for you, or other Christians. I’m just totally speaking for me. I think God wants us to be honest about it and live a fish bowl like lifestyle. I think it’s important.
Another song I wanted to bring up is “Amazing, Because It Is.” Where did you get the idea to rework “Amazing Grace” in that way?
In ’06, Underoath did a charity tour called “Come and Live.” Before the tour, there was this spiritual retreat that we went on up in the mountains. The speaker that weekend was talking about how he used to do prison ministry. He would go into prisons and bring music and Bible teaching to inmates. He said they would sing “Amazing Grace,” and it was the most brooding, crazy sound you could imagine with all these inmates.
Truly, I think something everybody needs – if you’re Hindu, Christian, dead, alive – whoever you are, you need grace from somebody. You know what I mean? No matter where you think you’re getting it from, you got to get grace.
His sentences were so poignant. He was talking about how these inmates were so enthralled and singing this with their whole heart. Murderers and rapists, these hardened criminals, were calling out for God’s grace. That moment changed me. In that moment, I thought, wow. “Amazing Grace” is free reign. It’s been written for 200 years, and I think it’s the most amazing song. I just wanted to be part of it somehow, you know?
That’s awesome. So this band is different from Underoath in that here you’re front and center, you play guitar, and are the focal point. What has that been like?
It’s weird. I still feel like I look stupid. I don’t know. I play guitar all the time now. Before, I didn’t, and I saw a video of myself and I thought I looked like an idiot. It’s different. You can tell me tonight if I look stupid or not.
Do you like being behind the drum kit more than being out front?
Yeah, but I love being up front too because I can connect with people and touch people, you know?
Are drums the first thing you started playing?
Yep, that was first. I’m a drummer.
When did the singing come in? Was that before or after?
After, singing came after. I discovered my voice when I was like 15. I don’t even remember how. I just tried to sing, or something.
What kind of stuff did you start singing to begin with?
I went to a Christian school and I started leading worship there, playing worship at the church. That’s when I started playing guitar, too, trying to it figure out. I think I got tired because I couldn’t write songs.
If you’re a drummer and there’s no songwriter, then you’re no good. You’re not needed. Even if you’re the best drummer in the world, if you’re playing bad songs, you’re really not needed. It takes songs to have drums. You can’t have drums without songs, so I wanted to write songs.
I think about a month ago now you posted a video of you and your hand surgery thing, which looked pretty brutal. Is that the worst injury you’ve had so far?
Yeah, it sucked. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. It hurt real bad. Then this EMT lady tried to lance it and I woke up with a red line up my arm. They say if the red line gets to your heart, you’re in deep trouble. So I was like, crap.
I thought they were just going to give me some medicine, but they were like, “No, we’re going to cut your finger open down to the bone.” I said a lot of choice words. I was pissed. I was more pissed off than anything. It was in the middle of an Underoath headlining tour, and I was just stuck. It sucked bad.
How long did it take to heal up?
Two weeks. I missed nine shows.
Was that the first time you’ve missed shows before?
First time ever, yeah. Dude, I was so pissed. I can’t even tell you how pissed off I was. But things happen for a reason, you know?
One of the things I’ve always thought was really cool, both here and in Underoath, is at every show you always give a couple sentence shout out to the reason why you play music in the first place. How did that first get started?
It never was not there. I feel like for me, if I don’t proclaim the name of Jesus Christ and tell people that’s the reason why I’m alive, I’d be lying to people. I’d be shortchanging them and lying to myself.
If I pretend that any of this is about me, even for a second, something bad is going to happen. You know what I mean? This is bigger than I am. This has nothing to do with me. I want to be moved out of the way. I want God to do what He wants to do. I want me to do just be the byproduct, you know?
So, the new Underoath. Is it officially done now?
September 2nd, it will come out.
Have you heard the final masters and stuff?
We got that a week ago, but I’m not allowed to have it out here because it leaked last time. People were searching around and stole it, so it’s super copy protected, watermarked and locked away.
It’s titled Lost in the Sound of Separation. What’s the meaning behind that?
That’s a line from a song. I think everybody is lost in their own mess, trying to find their way. I don’t want to give away too much. Everyone is lost in their own way. Everyone is separated from God. Man is separated from God. The record is about that journey back to that, trying to get your way back to that. Everybody is separated from God because we’re all sinners, you know?
I heard it being described as darker and heavier than Define the Great Line. Is that true?
It’s heavy. The heavy is heavier and the lighter is lighter. It’s real weird, man. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain it. It’s real different. I’m nervous about it, but I’m stoked about it too. I’m nervous about it just because it’s going to be real interesting to play. They’re different songs that we haven’t written before. Yeah, I like it a lot. It’s totally different, though. It’s got a lot of different heads, you know?
You worked with the same two producers again. Was that process different?
It was great. It was easier this time. We got to work in this huge studio, one of the oldest studios in the South. It was huge. It’s weird, bizarre and abandoned looking. It was fun.
Did you add or do anything different that you haven’t been able to do before?
Lots of stuff. I don’t want to give too much away because I’m really excited about this record. People should really just grab it and listen to it.
Do you know when the first song is going to be released?
I don’t. We were still discussing singles last week, so I assume in the next few weeks.
You did those four videos on the last record with that one company in Europe.
That’s another point of contention right now. We’re dealing with that, too.
So a couple years ago you dropped off of Warped Tour, and that led to this big story type deal. What was the whole thing behind that?
You really want to talk about that still?
Not if you don’t want to. I’ve just never heard a definitive version.
No, it’s fine. Dude, life bites you in the butt sometimes. You get full of yourself. You get caught up in what you’re doing and not why you’re doing it. We had been on the road for three years, and it got to the end of that year and the Warped Tour. It was the best time in our band’s life, and we hated it. We weren’t friends. We were in a weird spot. We hated it. We needed to go home and remember what it was like to be dudes again and not dudes in a band. So, yeah. It happens to every band in one form or another.
In Underoath’s past there’s been a lot of comings and goings over the years, and you’re the only original one left. Was that hard to go through at all?
No. Everything that happened needed to happen, you know? The band was in such an incubated state that it was OK.
Would you say the band’s relationships now have been the healthiest they’ve ever been?
Yeah, it’s good. It’s real good.
Last year you ended up having to do an acoustic show because some of the members got postponed at the airport, which seemed to go over really well. Do you have any plans of doing more of that or recording versions like that?
No, not like that. If you were in Canada last year, you got to see it. That’s about the only time you’ll get to see that.
Up next for you now is the Mayhem Tour. Are you stoked for that?
I’m real stoked. I’m a little nervous, but I’m stoked. It’s a different crowd, you know? But we needed to do that. I’m afraid they’re going to through beer bottles at us. We’ll see.
After the Mayhem Tour, I take it you’ll be doing a headline tour in the fall?
We’re going overseas for a month or two, and then we’ll do a headline tour in the fall.
You only did one headlining tour for Define the Great Line, right?
Yeah. I don’t know, that’s just how we did it.
Is being in two bands at once draining?
Yes and no. I like to tour, so it’s cool, but it’s pressing sometimes. I’m good right now, but sometimes it’s pressing.
Is there anything you’ve learned about getting different perspectives from these two bands?
I don’t know about overall. I learned where the gas prices are and where industry is. But no, not really.