Speaking of the future, you’ve been making music.
It’s up for debate whether or not Metal Blade Records would own anything I do. And [releasing music under] the As I Lay Dying name is clearly not appropriate at this time; it may never be. Now is not the time to evaluate that. I’m not necessarily writing a solo record, because Metal Blade could tie that up. I’m not really writing an As I Lay Dying record. It’s really just music for my friends, my family and myself. They will eventually see the light of day, but I’m not writing with any grand expectations.
Metal Blade could have cared less about anything I did [after my arrest]. But then the Austrian Death Machine record came out and sold more than any of the previous ADM records. So then the President of Metal Blade calls up Artery Recordings and is like, “Oh, by the way, I just want to remind you that was a one-off deal, letting Tim do that record with you.” I’m making music as therapy through this difficult time. If it becomes this big standstill about marketing, and record labels, I’d rather these songs never see the light of day.
What kind of stuff are you writing?
I’m a limited vocalist. I yell. I scream. There are, like, four things I can do [Laughs.]. I write music that will fit with my voice, so that music tends to be aggressive, which tends to be metal. And so no matter what I write, it always ends up sounding like As I Lay Dying.
People don’t realize how much of the music you wrote.
In the foundation of As I Lay Dying, I was the sole songwriter. For the first three releases, there weren’t any major songwriting contributions from the guys coming and going in the band. There were some great riffs, but on the instrumental side, I was the doing the bulk of the writing, then I was writing all of the lyrics. When Phil joined the band, he started helping. And then Nick started to add riffs here and there. The most recent record was actually written mostly by Josh, oddly enough. He wrote more than half of it. So it’s changed over time. But my songwriting originally shaped the sound. I’m not patting myself on the back: I’ll be the first to admit that what shaped the sound of As I Lay Dying were In Flames and Living Sacrifice. I was fine with the other guys writing, but it had to come through me for approval, because I had to be able to picture myself singing over it. My vocal range limited what would get through. A lot of songs ended up rejected. I’m guessing a lot of those songs will show up with their new band, which explains why the first promotional thing they released was an As I Lay Dying B-side.
Have you thought about the fact Meggan will likely read this interview?
Yeah. When we first separated, Meggan and her parents got together with my parents. Her parents come from a religious background, like mine. At that meeting, they said they hoped something traumatic would happen to me that would knock me down and whip me back into shape, so to speak, restore me back to the person I once was. A lot of people pray for things, or hope for things, that are scary when they actually happen.
There’s the saying, “God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.” But there’s also, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”
I did fall flat on my face. I hit rock bottom. I lost everything. The trauma, the solitude: It made me the person I think they hoped I would eventually become. I know I have a long road ahead of me. I know that making amends will be a difficult process. But if they are open for it, this story of tragedy turning into redemption, it’s a story that’s just as much in their hands at this point as it is mine. They wanted to see me go through whatever it took to make me a good father. Now I have, and I’m not allowed to be a father.
You can’t blame her or her family for wanting you the hell away.
I’m the one who caused all of the hurt. If there's anything I can do to help the healing process, I want to do that. They deserve my absolute best effort to make amends.
How are you preparing for prison?
I know what it's like to get ready for a long tour. The problem is, this isn't a long tour. It’s somewhere between six months and three years. If I knew I was preparing for six months, I would walk into this, like, “I got a lot of hope ahead of me.” Career wise, and as a father, I don’t ever want to depend on getting in a van or on a bus to make a living. I need to have a backup plan. It’s hard to prepare without knowing how long I’ll be inside.
I will say that whether I serve three days or three years, the lessons have been learned. At this point, it's just satisfying the public, my ex-wife and her family with a certain amount of punishment. It won’t make anybody feel better, but we all live under the illusion that punishing people makes us feel better. That’s for the judge to decide, you know, how much punishment will make society feel that I was punished.
Have you talked to anybody who has done time?
Yes. I talked to a buddy who has served five years and another buddy who has served 10. I can’t even imagine serving 10 years. I could suck it up, but it wouldn’t be easy. But this guy handled it really well. I admire how he came out of the whole thing. He told me the first year is the hardest. After that, you get used to it. He was so nonchalant.
Ronnie Radke told me he went vegetarian in jail and the first thing he did when he got out was go and get a hamburger. He was so excited to be able to walk into a convenience store and say, “I want that,” to have freedom of choice again.
He went vegetarian in jail? That's interesting. If I knew I was doing six months, I’d probably make plans to release this music I’ve been making somehow. But three years? It will probably be super-irrelevant. I wouldn’t count on any income from it, you know?
Tupac signed up for a bunch of songs with Death Row while he was in prison. People always wondered how so much stuff kept coming out. He just went to work.
I wish Metal Blade would let me free from the contract. Like, no joke, I want to do more records that are totally charity-based. I want to take away any sort of impure motive. But in the traditional label model, if I don’t deliver a record that will make them a certain amount of money, they can tie it all up until I give them something they like.
How hard has this whole thing been on your girlfriend, Amanda?
The people who have stuck by me have shown a level of character. They have shown they love me no matter what the world thinks. For Amanda to have stuck by me through this whole thing shows a lot of things. It shows her strength as a person to be able to endure all this. She wouldn’t have stuck by me if I didn’t have deep regret, deep remorse. She could sense that I was coming to grips with things during some of our earliest conversations on the phone from jail. She was still skeptical when I got out. But she grew to love me more, not less, through this whole time I’ve been on house arrest.
It’s clear she wasn’t with you for the money or the popularity.
I will never have to wonder about that, that’s for sure. I can see in her love for me that these events have changed my character for the better. I must be learning something.
If you’re away for three years, that’s a long time for any relationship.
I definitely white-fanged her. That’s the one where he tries to scare the dog away, right? White Fang? I was like, “Don’t wait three years. You can have a better life.” But I couldn’t push her away when I tried. She saw that the person she loved was coming back and coming back stronger than ever before. She committed to standing by me through this. I thought that would fade over time, but her commitment has only gotten stronger.
What are you walking into on Friday?
I don’t know. I know a majority of my sentence will be where there are, like, 30 guys in bunk beds, an open room type of thing. It’s more of a casual housing environment; not where I’ll be at first, but eventually. It’s a place where all the guys have some hope of getting out. I guess it’s more cost-efficient to put everyone in a big room.
A bunch of smelly dudes in a confined space. That’s sort of like touring.
You know, when you asked about the guys in the band… In hindsight, if they would’ve reached out, been a bit more supportive, I probably would have jumped back into this whole mindset of doing As I Lay Dying with them again. I would have fallen back into old habits. The way they distanced themselves from me was a blessing in disguise. I lost everything. Not just my family, my money, but the guys I spent almost a decade with. I don’t want to come across as bitter toward them. I’m thankful it unfolded how it did. I don’t want a feud. I don’t think they’re jerks because they didn’t come visit me. They had their reasons to keep away from me. One day they will explain themselves, I’m sure. A call or an email would have settled my curiosity. Or if they heard my side of everything, maybe it’d make them hate me even more. It’s just weird for them to express nothing toward me—not hatred, not anger, nothing. It makes it feel like there’s no personal resolution.
Certainly this Brett guy is an interesting character.
I found out after the fact that he was all flustered one day, before my arrest. He was venting to one of the other trainers about all of the crazy stuff going on in his life. And he’s like, “I’m not going back.” My buddy was like, “What do you mean?” It turned out Brett had definitely served some time somewhere at some point. The other trainer thought it was very weird. “Why is Brett ranting about not going back?” It didn’t make sense to him until after my arrest and all of the details that came out.
Even when he came into the courtroom, everyone there, seeing his interactions and the way he told the story on the stand, he's definitely a strange dude. He had strange body language. He had these random smirks every once in a while. This guy came to me and presented this idea to me, he was one of the few people that were aware of [my situation]. I mean, if you know someone who is an alcoholic, you don’t offer a beer.
He knew I was in a very dark place personally and that I was feeling desperate. It wasn’t random. “Hey, your life seems to be going great, but just in case, I know somebody who can take out your wife for you.” Nobody does that. [Laughs.] I couldn’t personally identify those emotions at the time. But when the idea was presented, all of a sudden, these desperate feelings surfaced. I didn’t just agree with him. I legitimately felt like, “You know what? There is no other way! This is my best and only option!” This is when I really feel like I’m telling a story about someone else. I would never have come to that conclusion before. I certainly wouldn’t come to that conclusion presented with it now.
This interview may be your last chance to communicate with the Murphy family.
It’s so hard to process. I would like to say to them that I have an extreme amount of remorse. I realize any apology I make only helps in the slightest little bit, if at all. I don’t know how to word this exactly. I don’t just want to say, “Oh, I feel really badly.”
For what it’s worth, I did offer to give away my entire life savings from my 13-year career in music. At the only meeting I ever had with them, the only chance I had to talk to one of the family members, I offered every dime to them. I know that’s not enough. It never could be. But it was a gesture to say, “If that entire chapter of my life was a waste, if I have to give it all away to try to undo the hurt I’ve caused, I will do it.”
I know money doesn’t make things better. I could actually go to her and get spousal support. I'm unemployed. Her family is wealthy. I could fight through family law courts and see how much I can keep. They can continue to fight me through civil suits. But I don’t want to fight. I want to move past the whole thing. I could try to slug it out with the smallest details in court. I don’t want to. I want to reveal where my heart is at now.
I’m trying my best to put my right foot forward. I know it's only a small thing in the big scale of what I need, the hurt I need to undo. There's only so much I can do, I guess. I really do think that healing is possible. I thought almost a year later, after the events, there'd be some healing going on, some communication between families. When I took a step back and realized the first time I offered to try and make things easier wouldn’t result in, “Oh, okay, let’s all hug,” I was naively hoping for something and felt discouraged when it didn’t happen. But they're out living normal lives. Here I am I'm in my bubble.
You can’t deny that you put yourself here.
I deserve so much more than what I’ll get [at the sentencing]. I'm thankful, even if I get more time than the minimum, I'm thankful. I’m not making excuses. In most societies through recent human history, I could have gotten a lot worse. I’m thankful. The change that needs to happen within me, whether I serve six days or six years, has begun. I don't think it does our government any better to spend a bunch of money locking me up for a long period of time. Whatever arguments we present in court to try to lower my sentencing are unrelated to the remorse I feel and the gratitude that’s in my heart. I'll always feel like I deserve longer. But honestly, the true sentence started well before my arrest. The true punishment was losing my kids and eventually, losing them for good was my own doing. Losing them on an emotional level long before my sentencing was my doing. That’s the sentence I will have the hardest time enduring. I think about my son, especially. If I were to make a list of my top 10 memories from my life, at least seven of those include Biruk. I may never see him again. No matter how long I’m in prison, that will be the hardest sentence I will have to live with, by far.
It sounds like you’re ready to go inside.
Emotionally, I’m prepared for the prison time. But when my physical sentence is over, how long will the rest of it follow me? People who love me tell me I will overcome these feelings. I can still have a good life. But the emotional sentence will be never ending. At least I feel like it will never end. My girlfriend, my parents, they’ve said it 1,000 times. They say it will end. Maybe I need to hear it 100,000 times before I will believe it. ALT.
POSTSCRIPT: In a defense memo to the judge that became public after sentencing, attorneys Thomas Warwick and Karen Oakman requested Lambesis be given probation. The memo also revealed the final terms of the family court case. Tim acquiesced to Meggan’s requests, which included losing his children permanently, agreeing to a 10-year restraining order, giving her full ownership of his life insurance policy, taking full responsibility for any tax liabilities, turning over any cash that was seized from his home and surrendering the almost $250,000 remaining in trust accounts. Tim’s parents, Nick and Vicki, also gave into Meggan’s demand that they give up all rights as grandparents.