Guitarist Alex Wade
***Interview By Lord of The Wasteland
When music and the American state of Tennessee are mentioned in the same sentence, most people will immediately think of banjos, sequins and the Grand Ole Opry. This is to be expected since Nashville is the heart and soul of American country music. However, heavy metal also lives and breathes in The Volunteer State and leading the pack is Knoxville’s six-piece deathcore tribe, Whitechapel. The band’s sophomore release, THIS IS EXILE, was released July 8th on Metal Blade Records and even landed on Billboard’s Top 200 chart, no small feat given Whitechapel’s less-than-commercially-accessible sound.
Formed in early 2006 by vocalist Phil Bozeman along with guitarists Ben Savage and Brandon Cagle, bassist Gabe Crisp and drummer Derek Martin joined the fold soon afterward to record Whitechapel’s demo in the spring of that year. Cagle and Martin left after release of the band’s full-length debut, 2007’s THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT paving the way for Zach Householder and Kevin Lane to fill the current guitar and drum positions, respectively.
Besides Whitechapel’s three-guitar attack, what sets this band apart from the pack is that they are actually good! Many deathcore bands are jumping on the bandwagon and hoping to grab some of the scraps before the trend dies but along with Despised Icon, Whitechapel’s mix of brutal grind, death metal and hardcore breakdowns is a tough recipe to resist and the buzz is really hot right now.
Guitarist Alex Wade set aside some time to answer my questions via e-mail, so settle in and prepare to learn everything you need to know about Whitechapel.
First off…the band’s name is Whitechapel. You know the naysayers will dismiss it immediately by saying neither “white” nor “chapel” particularly exude metal, so can you justify such a curious choice of a moniker for our readers, please?
Whitechapel is the district in London, England where Jack The Ripper murdered his victims, who we’re sluts and prostitutes. Metal enough for you now naysayers? Hahaha but really, we just wanted a name that was short and to the point, flowed well while rolling off the tongue, and also still having a dark background because of the sound of our music.
You boys hail from Tennessee, the land of country music and pickup trucks. What sort of metal scene is there, as the only other band that immediately comes to mind is your labelmates, Destroy Destroy Destroy?
The metal scene is growing quite vastly, actually. It wasn’t too big a few years ago but with the boom of death metal/deathcore in the scene it has begun growing. There are a lot of great bands as you mentioned Destroy x 3 and also The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, who is on Black Market Activities/Metal Blade, as well.
Judging by the press photos, you cats look pretty young! What are the ages of the band members?
We all average around the same age, but we are fairly young for playing in the metal scene. Our ages are Alex- 22, Gabe- 22, Phil- 22, Ben-20, Kevin- 21, and Zach- 23.
The question begs to be asked: Why three guitarists? (***NOTE: “Why not?” does not count as an answer! Ha!) A band like Iron Maiden, as an example, added a third guitarist and I still see Jannick Gers as having little to no reason even being there, so what does having three axes bring to Whitechapel’s sound?
Why not?….. just kidding. But really a lot of bands that have three guitars usually end up getting a third on accident, usually not on purpose. Like us, we didn’t set out to have three guitars in the band, it happened because there were three guitarists interested in the position and we were all friends so it was hard to tell one of the dudes that they couldn’t be in the band, so we tried the band with three guitars and it was a little sloppy at first but over the years we’ve really learned how to use the third guitar to add a lot of unique aspects to our writing and sounds.
How do you split up the guitar solos? Does whoever write it do it?
Ben is the lead guitarist and writes and performs all of the leads. Zach and I may have some little ambient type leads we add in but Ben performs all of the ripping shred solos.
A lot of comparisons are going to be made between Whitechapel and “deathcore” bands like Aborted, Impaled, Despised Icon, Job For A Cowboy, Suicide Silence, etc. who are bridging the gap between brutal death metal, grind and hardcore. To someone looking for a broad overview of your music, would you say Whitechapel can be fairly categorized with these acts?
Yes, I would agree. We aren’t ashamed calling ourselves deathcore because that’s what we are, we combine those elements of extreme metal into our sound. Genres are kind of whatever anyways, I think bands should just play what they want and not worry about being categorized into a certain niche. We write what we want and that’s just how it is.
What do you say to the shit-talkers who denounce breakdowns, etc. as an easy out for making music sound “heavy”? Obviously, it is not quite as simple as arbitrarily inserting a breakdown followed by a down-tuned chord change!
I think there are different types of "heavy" in metal, honestly. Like there’s the more brutal, sludgey slam parts of death metal like Devourment that are heavy but at the same time I would say that the breakdowns of The Acacia Strain are heavy as well, and the two styles are completely different. We just like using breakdowns because they added a very punchy and percussive aspect to our sound much like Fear Factory or Meshuggah.
What made you leave Siege of Armada Records, who released THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT, for Metal Blade Records?
It was nothing personal. Siege of Armada Records and the owners, Darren and Jamie, are wonderful people. It’s just sometimes when you’re offered a chance to step up in life you have to take it, much like a job promotion. We felt like we needed a boost to help us step up to the next level in our career and what better label to do that than one of the biggest independent metal labels out there?
THIS IS EXILE – 2008
THIS IS EXILE was just released July 8th and in its first-week debuted at #117 on the Billboard 200 chart. What does this mean to a band like Whitechapel to be sharing space with stadium-selling acts like Coldplay?
We were sooooo excited. Words can’t even explain it. When our manager called us and gave us the news, we were all screaming and shouting. It feels amazing and it feels like all of the hard work we put into the album from the writing to the recording to the promotion and everything in between finally paid off.
For those who have yet to hear the new CD, what is the main difference between THIS IS EXILE and Whitechapel’s 2006 debut, THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT?
I feel like the biggest difference is that the writing on THIS IS EXILE is more mature and I think listeners can hear that. THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT was just a collection of songs we had written since the beginning of the band which we recorded and when writing THIS IS EXILE, we set out to actually write it to be a professional release. We added some new aspects like a lot of more dark melodic parts and some cool new effects with the guitar work.
THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT – 2006
How much did The Red Chord’s Jonny Fay drive you guys in the studio? Do you think, as a musician himself, he was harder on you because he knows what a band is capable of?
Yes, very much so. Jonny drove us harder on this CD than the last producer we had on THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT and it was a great thing. The CD came out sounding ridiculously tight and good but in a natural way. It doesn’t sound over processed and edited because it was played so tight naturally. It was hard work but it came out amazing.
Who is handling the ambient stuff on “Messiahbolical”?
Zach actually wrote and recorded all of the end of “Messiahbolical” when the ambient stuff kicks in. He had actually written that before he was in Whitechapel for a different band he was in and they never used it. He showed it to us and we loved it and decided to use it as the epic closure to our CD.
Are those vocals all natural or are there pitchshifters, etc. involved with attaining the low, guttural stuff that Phil does?
Everything on Phil’s vocals is completely natural from the highs, to the mids, to the lows. The only thing added was a little reverb which is standard on producing vocals for an album.
Lyrically, the new CD seems to be a bit toned down in terms of the gross-out factor than THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT. Did you simply run out of words that rhyme with “clitoris” and “hysterectomy” as you did on “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation” from THE SOMATIC DEFILEMENT or were there other motives in place? HA!
As with the maturing of the sound of the band musically, we wanted to do the same thing lyrically, as well. I mean come on "gangrenous vagina" as a lyric in the old CD? That’s a little bit much. We wanted lyrics that were still brutal but a little more acceptable and respectable and I think Phil did a great job of accomplishing that on the new CD.
The word “somatic” has appeared on both Whitechapel releases. Is this a coincidence or is there some common theme linking the two albums?
Somatic means "of the body" and a lot of our writing has to deal with anatomy and things of that nature so I guess you could say a theme links the two albums but it’s very slight. “Somatically Incorrect” was named that with the intention of bringing in a common theme from the older CD for the original fans to relate to.
Are you planning on shooting a video from THIS IS EXILE?
We actually already shot one for the title track with director David Brodsky. It was a new experience for us shooting a video, and it was really hard endurance-wise playing and moving that much for over nine hours but we had a lot of fun and David is an amazing producer. The video debuted on Headbangers’ Ball already and can be seen on other outlets on the internet like YouTube, Myspace Video, etc.
I’m looking forward to checking out Whitechapel live for the first time when you hit Vancouver on August 25th as part of the Summer Slaughter Tour, which is a damn impressive lineup, by the way (Necrophagia, Dying Fetus, Into Eternity, Neuraxis, Beneath The Massacre and others)! What can fans expect to see at a Whitechapel show?
Fast and abrasive music. A sound that hits you in the chest, knocks you down, and then pummels you into the ground. A lot of energy coming from the stage and from the crowd. We’re relentless on stage, the energy never lets up.
Is this going to be your first trip up to Canada? If so, what do you expect to see in our fine country (***NOTE: please don’t expect igloos, sled dogs and people saying “eh” every other word, just as I wouldn’t expect to see four-toed hillbillies in overalls picking their banjos and banging their cousins if I come to Tennessee. HA! The stereotypes are far from the truth!)?
Hahaha we’ve actually been up there before for a brief run through Ontario with Beneath The Massacre about a year and a half ago. It was for four days. We had a lot of fun but it was in the winter and was pretty miserable I won’t lie hahaha, I’m happy this time we will be visiting the country in the summer time. We’ve been waiting a while to come back and this is the perfect tour and opportunity to do so!
Do you get a lot of ladies coming out to Whitechapel shows or do lines like “Gagging on my semen is required/Swallow/Spread it on your face” and “Another whore to seek to fondle and misuse” tend to make them a little timid?
Honestly we have a really big female fan base, its awesome hahaha. I don’t know I guess some girls just like being mistreated musically and love our sound and lyrics haha. Girls come out all the time and sing along and get in the pit, we love it and encourage it.
After Summer Slaughter, what are the band’s touring plans for the remainder of the year?
Our tour schedule is slammed for 2008 and we like it that way. We’re a hard working band and believe we need to prove ourselves to earn our popularity and die-hard fans. We wouldn’t want it any other way. After Canadian Summer Slaughter, we are doing our first U.S. headliner with support from Through The Eyes of The Dead, Impending Doom, and A Different Breed of Killer. We are really excited about that. Then we have another U.S. tour with Unearth and The Acacia Strain and then we go to Europe for the Never Say Die tour with Parkway Drive and Unearth. Definitely a big year for us!
The band toured overseas last year. I know Germany has a huge metalcore scene, but how do the European audiences react to your music compared to the North American crowds?
It’s pretty similar honestly. The crowds interact in similar fashions. The kids in the UK where we’ve been in London and those areas mosh and dance and sing along the words just like American kids do. Thankfully, when we travel over there to play the reactions aren’t too different to get used to.
This seems to be a popular question lately but a lot of bands say that they are happiest when playing gigs and being out on the road. Honestly, is it all worth it when faced with traveling in a van with a bunch of sweaty dudes, no showers, eating shitty gas station food and splitting a couple hundred bucks between you night after night? Do you ever crave the security of a “regular” 9-to-5 type of lifestyle?
Every now and then when someone blows up on the road and it makes everything stressful, you miss home and your friends and miss being able to have a normal relationship with a girl. It can bum you out and make you want a normal life but I know for me personally all it takes is one really good show and to see the kids freaking out about your band and it makes me love every minute of my lifestyle. I don’t see myself giving up anytime soon, I love it way too much and have put far too much into the band to give up. Just because it gets too hard, you got to suck it up!
Any last words for your fans and readers of Metal-Rules.com?
Our debut album, THIS IS EXILE, is out now in stores everywhere, so be sure to help us out and pick that up!
***Thanks to Sarah at Metal Blade Records for setting up the interview.