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Unrated One on One with Austin Dickenson, of As Lions

Austin Dickenson, of As Lions, on Listening to Your Gut and Living Your Life.
Austin Dickenson 
by Barry Nadler
Sitting backstage in a medium-sized concrete room, sipping on water, Austin Dickenson is sharing some memories of achieving success as a rock band and looking back on what it took to get there. Along with every story is a hearty laugh that tells you he truly appreciates what has happened with his band and that he is having a good time with it. “Live your life. It’s still who you are. You might not be the rock star you want to be yet, but you are still living your life.” His band, As Lions, was only formed in 2015, but he has been a part of another band, Rise to Remain. He also has a father you might be familiar with, if you are an Iron Maiden fan – Bruce Dickenson. 

Even with the support of an iconic father in the metal industry, Austin and his bandmates have gone the traditional route to reach their success and that success is their own.

His advice to any band that is reaching for that brass ring is “Really work on your sound, what you want your songs to be and to mean. Always strive to beat the last thing you did. Your favorite song should always be the last one you did.”

It’s the last night of the tour for 2016. Austin is sitting in his last backstage interview. “You know mate, the fact that we made it to the end and I am sitting here with you to talk about it is the absolute most amazing thing that has occurred for me during this tour”. Everyone following the tour knows it has had several ups and downs. Early on, the tour team needed to rally behind As Lions, just as they did more recently for Five Finger Death Punch, while their lead vocalist, Ivan Moody, was recovering. 

January 2017 will see the release of their first, full-length album, entitled Selfish Age. They released a four-song EP, Aftermath, in 2016. They are supporting this album as they tour as the opening band for Sixx A.M., Shinedown, and Five Finger Death Punch. Based on what I heard from their album and from seeing them perform live, I can say that they have a very bright future if they keep on the trajectory they are currently on.

As Lions was created off the back of a previous band, Rise to Remain. That band toured worldwide with Austin on vocals, Conner O’Keefe on bass, Will Homer on guitar. Both of those gentleman are now playing guitar with As Lions. This band had a lot of songs already put together. After Rise to Remain came to an end, with rock and roll in their bones, the three musicians decided to continue as a new band, which became As Lions. Once the rhythm section was in place (Stefan Whiting on bass and Dave Fee on drums) and a bunch of songs written, they simply just started sending out demos all over the place.

“The weirdest thing for me was that I tweeted something about David Bendeth (and he wasn’t even tagged in the tweet) and how much I loved his production style.” Bendeth has worked with bands like Paramore, Of Mice and Men, and Bring Me the Horizon. The story continues that David caught wind of the tweet and privately messaged Austin asking him when they were going to write songs together. “I was like What? Yeah, sure! Why not!” Things went quiet for a bit for them at that point. After assuming it was just a bit of a one-off discussion and a nice gesture. Austin continued “The next thing I know, Eleven Seven is calling me up and saying they heard the tracks, we love it, and we want to sign the band…and we want to put you together with David because he is all over this.” Next thing they knew, the band from Britain was on a trip to New Jersey to record and then to Las Vegas to finish the album. 

Austin acknowledged that some of their success was due to the very successful Orlando band, Trivium. They toured together both as Rise to Remain and As Lions recently supported them on an extensive tour. According to Dickenson, Trivium’s fans are very cool and open-minded and that’s what he really loves about them. He claimed it was a very cool experience for them. 

Where did the name As Lions come from? How does a new band pick its name? “We just made it up!” he said with a laugh! They wanted a name that sounded proud and big. He claimed it was a boisterous and loud sounding name. They also liked the idea that the name As Lions wasn’t completely metal either. It’s not too “anything”. “I quite like that” he continued. “We aren’t called Bloody Dawn, or something like that. We just wanted something that just felt epic, but kept a little of the secrecy of who we were – the genre and style.”

The immediate questions one wants to discuss with Austin is his father. However, he seemed to be very glad to avoid the discussion, because As Lions is its own entity with its own sound and no other ties to his father’s band. However, one can’t ignore the fact that some of his knowledge about how the industry works is probably due to his being around that massive Iron Maiden machine all his life. What he did say was that being around a band of that prestige level allowed him to clear up some of the things that are very obvious early on in the development of the band. These are things you may not be aware of if you are new to the industry and doing it all alone. He acknowledges that he was lucky in that he could recognize some of these things at an early age. “Not everyone has got your back or is out to help” is the primary lesson he learned. He also mentions that most of the time, people tend to be shallow and only care about things that exist for just a second. He was able to witness this first hand much earlier than many others get to. He is very proud to say that he has generally made his own racket and a general nuisance of himself on his own accord. 

As far as influences on the As Lion sound, Austin identifies a Matt Heafy, of Trivium, a personal mentor and older brother, in a lot of ways. They have known each other since Dickenson was much younger. He took him under his wing and taught him a lot about vocals, how to maintain your voice, and to take care of himself. “I fucking love Bowie! I absolutely love Led Zeppelin!” he also acknowledges. He mentions Metallica and “fucking” White Chapel as well. “There is just so much great music out there that it is just hard to pick.” He jokes that his ipod is a series of incomplete albums. Lately, he has been listening to a band called Lower Than Atlantis, a UK band. “They’re cool man, they actually have some pretty good riffs and they are kind of like 1975 old school rock/country thing. Its fucking weird, but it’s really cool! They’ve got a little Def Tones in there too. I’m a huge fucking Def Tones fan, so that works! It’s all about the groove and low frequencies and gnarly-ass guitars. That’s what catches me, mate” as he laughs about his musical tastes.

Recently, As Lions also performed at two large festivals, one being the British Download Festival, at Donnington. Austin says that he likes festivals because they have a different vibe. You can just go out there and grab people. “You can fucking just tear them out of the crowd, bring them into your world for about half an hour, and then say “Did you enjoy it?”” he adds along with his hearty laugh. This is different than a tour. A tour is an absolute machine. They have a schedule to keep. Everyone knows exactly what will happen next. With a festival, you are usually travelling over vast tracks of land and people arrive at different times. A festival is sort of a self-organizing event with a level of chaos. A tour is definitely more organized and everyone is more diligent in the outcome and planning. With a tour, you pretty much know what’s going to happen. “At festivals, you just kind of don’t know what’s going to happen. You just don’t.”

One might envision his life to be surrounded by large stadiums and massive festivals. But, As Lions started humbly like every other local band – playing the small bars. “That’s what you gotta do, mate” he states in his British accent. “I have been doing this since I was 14. I played guitar, I was terrible at bass, and eventually, I settled on singing because I quite enjoyed screaming my fucking head off.” According to him, he absolutely had to lose his voice constantly for two or three years before he buckled down and took it seriously. “I did that in London for years and years and years. As the other band got big and gained fans, word got out. Eventually, we were doing 1,000 people per night…and then we broke up.” At that point, you start asking what to do next. Do you capitalize on your past success and recognition? “Fuck no! Pull your socks up, get your hands dirty, and you go back and do the bars…and you keep doing it!” He continues to state that they got lucky and had a lot of the right people turn their ears to their music. “That’s why we are here. That’s why we have a great team! That’s why we have a bright future.” For As Lions, It’s all about the integrity of the band and the team supporting the band. “They decided to listen to us and trust us. It’s very cool of them” Dickenson concludes.

With that and much more to still discuss, Austin requested that we end the interview so that he could enjoy the last bits of Shinedown’s set and prepare for his supporting role with Five Finger Death Punch. They asked him, at the last minute, and with essentially no opportunity to practice, to jump in and assist with singing on two of the songs later in their set for a few nights of the tour.

As Lions Members:
  • Austin Dickenson – Vocals
  • Conor O'Keefe – Guitar
  • Will Homer- Guitar
  • Stefan Whiting – Bass
  • Dave Fee- Drums
As Lions
Twitter: As Lions (@aslionsband)

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