Tim Lambesis world exclusive interview: The As I Lay Dying singer breaks his year-long silence

May 16, 2014 by Ryan J. Downey

Tim Lambesis world exclusive interview: The As I Lay Dying singer breaks his year-long silence

Was it Red or someone else pointing the gun?
It was a female officer. “Freeze!” I put the car in park and put my hands up. “Freeze! Get out of the car! Show me your hands!” I’m like, “I have my hands up. How do I get out of the car?” None of it seemed real. I don’t know who opened the door. I guess she must’ve. All I know is I was facedown on the concrete and all of these people were looking, wondering what the hell was going on. It was just like in the movies where five cop cars all pull up at the exact same time. You hear one split-second siren and then they all pull up to block a car from multiple angles. No exaggeration, there were somewhere between 10 and 15 [police officers], some undercover, some in uniforms. I’m thinking, “This is an absurd amount of officers. I’m not some super-well-known criminal.”

So, they stuff me in the back of the cop car and I'm going down to the station. All I can think of at the time, because my mind is just so… I'm like, “Hey, how long is it until we get to the station?” They're like, “I don't know, maybe 20 minutes.” I’m 6’3”. I don’t fit in the little grooves where your head is supposed to go. My knees are hitting, my shoulders… I’m thinking, “Man, 20 minutes is a long time to be sitting like this.” That's how insane my mind was.

I start to process it all. I’m thinking, “He said that $1,000 was for expenses. I was just doing research on a crime, I wasn’t actually doing a crime.” So I’m thinking, “Okay, this isn’t that bad.” That’s the insanity of my mindset. “I wonder how long till I get my phone call?” “These cuffs are really uncomfortable.” These are the things on my mind. They throw me in the holding cell. I’m so jet-lagged and exhausted. I’m so out of my mind from everything that’s going on. I’m in this super-cold cell, in a sleeveless shirt and gym shorts, and within 15 minutes, I fall asleep on the concrete.

On Law & Order, they say innocent people flip out when put in a holding cell. But if you’re guilty, you go right to sleep. You know you’ll be there a while.
I was just thinking, “How long till I get my phone call? I can’t wait to get out of here. I’m so exhausted.” I had flown home from China. My body probably needed an entire day to adjust. While we were in Asia, we were flying from city to city and having to be at the airport at, like, 5 a.m. every morning. I was just totally shot. Then they bring me into the interrogation room, and I'm asking them bizarre questions. My mom says she watched the video and that I just seemed out of my mind. I’ve just been arrested for a very serious crime, and yet I just keep asking really stupid questions, like, “How long until I get transported to the next facility?” I couldn’t fathom what was going on. You know in movies when they have those trippy dream sequences? I was experiencing life like that.

When did you first have contact with someone outside of law enforcement?
My first phone call to anyone was about eight hours later, which, not that I'm complaining, but my lawyer said was really abnormal. I called my family. It had been all over the news, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t know how to explain this to my family.

It was all over the news fast.
I never viewed myself as a true “public figure.” People in our genre of music know who I am, but nobody else knows or cares. I can go to the grocery store without getting recognized, so in my mind, I was just another chump who’d been arrested.

When I called my parents, they told me what a huge story it was. That’s when it hit me that it was a very serious crime. And then the guilt of what’s going on in my heart starts to settle in. I started to see things from the perspective of what things were really like rather than the insane thinking I’d been living under. We had begun a process of research that could potentially cause someone to die. I was thinking, “Well, I’d have to pay him the remaining $20,000 before he does anything, so I haven’t”—that was how I justified it. But I started to realize that while I still owed the guy $20,000 and the crime wasn’t going to happen that day, the crime was set in motion to eventually happen. Once I realized that, I didn’t even recognize myself.

Because of my status as a public figure, I'm a liability for the jail. So they put me in isolation. The first place they put me was on the murder block, which is for all the dudes who've murdered someone and they're in isolated separate cells because the nature of their crime. They can yell at each other through the walls and vents and stuff. So the first night I spend, it’s just dudes yelling, “Yo, who’s the new guy? Did he hurt kids? Did he rape anyone? Did he do anything he should get beat up for?” I just stayed quiet. The next night, they moved me into medical isolation, which is for people on suicide watch or who just broke an arm or something. That's where I stayed for the remainder of the month. There are three white walls, it has a piece of glass on it where you can see into a hallway. They would put food through the hole in the door.

So you’re in isolation for several weeks, coming off that testosterone.
Because my estrogen levels were skyrocketing, the feelings I had weren’t heightened aggression. It was the opposite. It was depression. It was desperate thinking. I actually thought if I didn’t do something right then and there, my whole life would fall apart.

The perception is that you were trying to hang onto your money. You had gotten all ’roided out, vain and into yourself, and your ex-wife had become a nuisance.
I just felt extreme sadness. I was heartbroken. I was hurting. I wanted my kids. The steroids did create an imbalance. I was still having negative effects from the non-testosterone, but then the testosterone system in my body was completely crashed. When a woman is PMS-ing—I’m not a doctor, but imagine whatever that woman is feeling from that imbalance, but multiplied times 100. In my blood tests, my hormone levels were measurably ridiculous. I’m not saying I blame that. But I can 100 percent tell you I was making a lot of decisions I never would have made before or since.

Like what?
The doctor I was talking about, he loves this example. I’m at a four- way stop. I inched into this guy’s lane and he starts honking at me and causing a scene. Normally, I would say, “Whatever, sorry, go ahead.” Instead, I get out of my car, and I start chasing him. That was when my testosterone levels were really high. Getting out of my car and running after a car like a grizzly bear is something I never would have done before. My priorities really changed. I used to be someone who thought who you are on the inside matters more. Everyone cares about the exterior, but I once had a balanced perspective.

Some of the infidelities stemmed from my insecurities and both got to a level I couldn’t possibly foresee ever happening again. It’s hard to pinpoint the examples because it's just in everyday decisions. I would wake up and feel like life was meaningless, life was hopeless. I know a lot of people struggle with depression. You wake up and it’s just like… Nothing moves you. Nothing makes you feel anything.

I remember emailing a friend and writing, “Hey dude, I feel like nothing in life has any value, or any meaning whatsoever, except for my kids. The devastation they’ve come from is so much more powerful than any sort of minor heartache I have ever felt. They’re the only thing that gives me any hope, because they’re the only thing that’s truly meaningful in my life.” I wrote long emails to this friend about how all I really want to do is someday make a documentary about the orphanage where my kids came from. That’s how I could overcome my depression, if I could help other people. They could see these devastating circumstances and yet how joyful these kids are. I wrote him this long email and told him I wanted to do this big documentary.

Yes, my kids still mattered to me. Doing a documentary and showing what's really going on in places like Ethiopia, I would love to do those things. But to actually wake up every day and feel like nothing in life has any value or meaning besides my children? By contrast, I’m facing a jail sentence right now, but I wake up every day feeling positive.

When we were in China, I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to do anything. I wasn't anti-social to the point where it made it awkward for other people, but everyone would be all about sightseeing, and I'd ask how much longer it would be before we got back to the hotel. I had a good source of income. I had a new relationship that I was really happy with. That was a source of positivity in my life. I got to travel the world. If I didn't feel good enough about myself, I got up onstage and had the admiration of a thousand people. “Well, at least if I don't feel good about me, I can raise my fist in the air and everyone is going to cheer for me.” But despite all that, I was still in this extreme depression.

I can't blame any of the hormones on why I chose to do what I did. But I can say there were a lot of things I felt at the time that I definitely would not have felt otherwise.

Tim Lambesis Interview 2014

I was getting text messages from all sorts of people asking whether the news was true. I remember the first link I clicked on. I thought it was some sort of joke website.
I was in denial. But once I was in isolation, all I could do was think, constantly think. At first it was, “Why would Brett do this to me? What was his motivation?” Nobody had explained to me what a long sentence I was looking at. It wasn’t until three days after my arrest that I even found out the potential length of my sentence, the maximum. It was just me in a cell. It was a recipe for insanity. I was thinking, “Man, the first thing I can get my hands on to read, I don't care if it's a brochure about vacuum cleaners.” Then the chaplain comes around and I'm thinking, “That's the only thing in the world I don't want to read about right now.” I spent 30 years believing in something I decided was a fairy tale. I grabbed a few books, and I recognized, early on, that I was in a very susceptible place emotionally. I read this one guy’s autobiography, his testimony so to speak, and I was really inspired. But then I thought to myself, “No, I’m not gonna be that foxhole atheist who faces something traumatic and wants God. It’s still a big myth.”

But I read more. Some of the stuff wouldn't have an emotional sway to it. It'd just be matter-of-fact statements and all of a sudden this thing would be tugging at my heart; it would make me feel like I wanted… kind of wanted to cry, kind of wanted to throw up. This weird thing, what is tugging at my heart? But I was convinced I was too rational for this. “I've researched this too much. This can't be God. It has to be the bad food in jail.”

Eventually, my family got some books to me; one of them was by William Lane Craig. If you remember guys like [Christian apologist] Josh McDowell or [Calvinist theologian] R.C. Sproul, he’s like the new generation of that. He's a double Ph.D, one in historical theology and one in philosophy. He starts with these philosophical arguments about why he’s [adopted] the Christian worldview. He starts really simply—how there potentially could be a God. He’ll successfully make his point, then he’ll argue why he thinks there is a God. Then he’ll get into Jesus’ claims about who he is and go through all of these points. He’s a true philosopher. He doesn't write books in the “popular” sense. He's writing thick volumes. I read 1,000 pages of that dude, just to pass the time. I remember thinking, “This dude has some really good arguments here.” Granted, I feel like some of them he could have developed a little bit quicker because philosophers tend to write a certain way. But I had all the time in the world. That kind of opened up my mind to where my heart was a little bit. Even still, I didn't come out of that situation saying “Oh, just because I'm in isolation I believe in God.” I was actually almost too proud. I didn’t want to let a traumatic event convert me. I'm going to formulate my beliefs because of what's truly rational. This coming from a guy who just—

Did the most irrational thing of his life.
Exactly. Once I came to grips with the fact that I really am being charged with this crime. It doesn't matter if I wasn't certain whether or not to actually go through with the murder part of it or not. I'm potentially looking at a decade here in prison. I remember thinking, “Easy solution. Next chance I get, I'm going to get out on bail. I'm going to go home and soak up as much time as I can with people I love. And I'm going to kill myself.”

There's no way I'm going to spend a decade in jail. There's no way a dude that just got done traveling the whole world and having financial freedom, having the opportunities to absorb multiple cultures and have multiple incredible experiences is going to just become this big wide-winged bird crammed into this tiny cage. Life is just the result of natural events, and lots of people are born and lots of people die every day. I'll just soak up as much time that's worth living and then just kill myself. That was it.

Even if you've been accused of murder, usually the bail is about a million bucks or something and you pay your eight to 10 percent of that, get out and then stand trial. I didn’t commit murder, so I figured my bail would be reasonable. At my arraignment, I was thinking bail would be $1 million at most. All of my money had been set aside in an attorney trust fund during the divorce. But I figured I could pull together $80,000, borrowing money here and there, blah, blah.

I was literally convinced, as soon as I get out of here I'm just going to soak up as much time as I can and then kill myself. It was super-black and white. Life is full of pain. If this is the way life is going to be forever, this is no way to live. No one should live like this.

So then at my arraignment, I plead not guilty. My attorney makes his case before the judge of why my bail should only be $250,000, which is the normal scheduled amount for my crime. When I say scheduled amount, that means that's the suggested thing for anyone who commits this crime. He was a retired judge who had taken this seat because the normal judge was sick that day. So he's really happy with his retirement seat, he gets paid double because he's retired. He goes, “I'm going to set the bail at $3 million.” That’s 12 times the normal amount! The emotional part of me thought maybe God was trying to keep me alive, because I was going to kill myself. But I didn’t believe in God! So it had to be a fluke! That’s crap. We’ll just do a bail review in a week, the bail will be lowered, then I’ll get out of jail and go kill myself.

We do the bail review and it's a new judge, but he's more recently appointed to the seat. So he's kind of scared to rock the boat. So he reduces the bail to $2 million. I don't think God intervenes and does mysterious magical things. He's not this character that people depict in movies. But I do think, selectively, that there are certain situations that happen in life where even a rational person can be like, “Maybe God was at work here.” Maybe this was one of them.

I heard someone gave you the money in exchange for the rights to your story.
No. There was a guy who said he’d give me $60,000 for the rights to my life story. I’ve since learned from movie producers that $60,000 would have been taking advantage. I don’t have any ambitions about selling my life story. But this person knew it was an opportunistic moment. He says he’ll get it to me right away. My family worked out a deal to get me out, and I wanted to pay them back. When I got home on house arrest, this guy said he’d wire me the money right away so I could give it to the bail bonds people. I considered using that money to get out on bail, but I never ended up doing it because my dad struck his own deal, so I was able to do that through the family. He became hard to get a hold of, which gave me a moment to reevaluate. I’m convinced he wanted to tell his story, not mine. If I sold my story to him, it would become his twisted version. I thought he cared about me as a person and was helping me get out of a tough situation. But as it turns out, he said he had to get more advice from his attorney. He referenced things like full and total control, all editing rights and the whole bit. Two more people approached me later, with bigger offers. But at that point, I had accepted that I was comfortable being in debt to my parents because they see the big picture and they want true healing to happen, not for me to have to sold my soul living the rest of my life with some bizarre version of me being told out there. I was so ready to sign over. I wanted that $60,000 so bad. That was the magic number I needed. I had all the money except for $60,000. It would have been the right amount at that time.

What was your last contact with Meggan and the kids before your arrest?
After our separation there were a couple of weeks where Meggan and I tried to be helpful and interactive with the kids so that their questions could be answered and they could be a little more comfortable. When I started getting time with the kids solely by myself, she didn't want to talk to me anymore. It frustrated her that things weren't exactly how she wanted them. She would only speak to me over text or email. That's one of those things, when people only communicate on that level, things get worse.

It’s easy for someone to become an abstraction to you then and not a person.
Yes. She started to become an “idea” to me, which is super-weird. Here’s a good example of how bad the communication became: She was picking up the kids, and I was helping them into the minivan, giving them kisses. One of the kids buckled up but hadn’t shut the door yet, and Meggan started driving away with the door open without realizing it. So I start running after the minivan, “Whoa! Wait!” She kept driving. I don’t know if the momentum of the car closed the door or what. Maybe my daughter closed it?

But Meggan gets home and starts this big family drama. I’m not blaming her. I’m saying this is an example of a simple miscommunication. I could see why she saw it that way. But I could have seen it like, “You’re a terrible mother! I can’t believe you drove away with the door open!” She gets home and sends this big thing to both of our parents saying, “I can’t believe Tim was running after the car like a madman today. We’re going to have to figure out a new way to exchange the kids, it's unsafe at this point. I remember thinking, “You're calling me unsafe? You just drove away with the door open!”

If I in fact, was a madman running after the car, then she should want to keep the kids safe from that madman. And if she in fact, was driving away with the door open, then I should be running after the van telling her to stop. That's definitely not a story told to blame anyone. It's just to show when communication gets so poor between people, those types of things happen. They heighten things, where both parents have good intentions. She had great intentions as a mother. My arrest shows I obviously was a little bit of a madman. We both had good intentions. We're both actually trying to be the best parents we can be, but we're making it way worse on our kids.

The reason I make my own confession even about the small stuff, I can see even how that stuff develops. It feels good for a brief moment to be like, “I’m the better parent here!” As strange as this is, it's heartbreaking when I look back on those situations. I can't believe she told the kids those things. The social worker called it “alienating behaviors.” I have been able over time to let go of the anger I've had about it. I'd be lying by saying I didn't have any. I can see how she might take an instance and really try to push it, in the moment. Maybe even she regrets the things that she said. Because there was no interaction between her and I, I’ll never get an apology nor do I expect one given the pain that I've caused. My relationship with the kids was destroyed a little bit because of her alienating behaviors. But now it’s entirely destroyed because of my arrest. If that is just the little bit that was beginning the process and made me feel desperate, the total destruction of that relationship and not being able to see my kids for this last year is entirely my own fault. I'm trying to keep that in perspective. The last thing I want to come across is that I'm still bitter about these comments.

When was the last time you saw your kids?
Right before I left for Asia. Right now there's a restraining order against me, which I understand. I have a lot to figure out there. Given the, I call them alienating behaviors, because that's what the social worker calls them, and those will be documented in the sentencing, so obviously from my side I've used stronger words like brainwashing, manipulating or poisoning. Knowing those alienating behaviors started prior to my arrest, I can only imagine the extent I've fueled them at this point. The kids are old enough to know what’s going on. I’m sure some kid at school has said something. The prison sentence I’m facing is one thing. But the real lifelong sentence is that I may never get to see my kids again. Or if I do get to see them, the relationship is so damaged where I’m not even sure it’s best for them, for me to try to pry my way into their lives. >>>

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