Whitechapel Talks About Their New Record, "A New Era of Corruption," Their Current Tour, And How Underground Bands Can Go National
With some hot new Billboard chart positions for their latest record, "A New Era of Corruption," and a five-band headlining tour, Metal Blade deathcore act Whitechapel is riding a wave of success. On October 22nd, that wave brought them back to Nashville in their home state of Tennessee for their largest headlining show. Before the ear damage began for the night, the charismatic guitarist Alex Wade and down-to-earth frontman Phil Bozeman took some time out for an interview.
Frank (Progressivity_In_All): How is the tour going so far, since you’ve been on the road since early October?
Alex Wade: It’s been awesome. It’s been like two years since we’ve done a headliner, so it’s been a really long time. The response has been overwhelming. The shows have been huge and we have a killer package – Impending Doom, Miss May I, Oceano, and I Declare War. As I keep saying, my only regret is that I wish it was longer. It’s only three weeks, so I wish it was longer than that.
F: Any more van break-downs with Oceano?
AW: No, thankfully. They had some problems and I Declare War had some problems. Our van’s pretty much on its last legs, too, but I think we’re going to make it through the rest of this tour and it’s been fun.
F: How would you say the crowds are embracing the new songs from “A New Era of Corruption”?
Phil Bozeman: They’re loving it. A lot of the fans that we’ve gained are coming from Warped Tour/Mayhem, and they’re more familiar with the newer stuff because that’s how they heard about us. But still, people that have supported us from day one are still coming out. They’ve supported us from the first three albums. Every show has been killer. Kids are still singing along to the newer stuff and still obviously singing to the older stuff. I honestly couldn’t be happier. I was kind of nervous to play some of the new stuff, because I was afraid people wouldn’t accept it. You know, people know us for “The Somatic Defilement” and “This Is Exile,” but everybody’s been accepting it and singing along.
AW: It’s a big surprise for us to hear kids actually singing words to the new songs. We didn’t think kids would know the words yet.
F: You’ve been doing the wall of death at shows. What’s the craziest crowd you’ve seen on this tour?
AW: It’s gotta be one of the smaller shows.
PB: Oh, Fort Lauderdale!
AW: It was pretty nuts.
PB: Yeah, everytime we go to south Florida, it’s always really good. Everything on this tour was east coast, and the furthest it went west was Milwaukee, I think. South Florida was really good. The weekend shows are always going to be better because kids are in school. The weeknights have still been awesome, but kids are more apt to come out on weekends because they don’t have school the next day or anything.
F: You’re one of the few bands with three guitar players. Does that get tough on stage?
AW: Sometimes, but over the years, we’ve learned how to handle it. Sometimes it can get a little cramped as far as room goes. Sometimes, Zach has a lot of problems because he plays in the center and sometimes he can’t get his guitar in his monitor and stuff like that. So it’s kind of hard for him to hear sometimes. Usually, we’re able to work around stuff like that. I feel like it still benefits us.
F: What about in the studio? Do you have a tough time writing parts around each other?
AW: I feel like it kind of helps because it’s one more person adding riffs. That’s that much more material that can then be put into the album, so I think it definitely helps in the studio.
F: Where does the writing start most of the time?
AW: It definintely starts with single guitar players going off on their own and writing. We all have our little computer rigs with Line6 Pods, and we record to drum machines, and we record different riffs. We show each other the ideas and whoever’s ideas they like the most, we form into songs. We tried the whole ‘writing together in a room’ stuff, and it’s just a bunch of obnoxious noise. Nobody ever knows when to shut up and listen, so it definitely works a lot better writing songs digitally on the computer.
F: The new album reached #43 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart, #2 on Hard Music Core Stores chart, #3 on Independent Albums chart, and #35 on Hard Music Albums chart. This doubled the first week sales of your last record, “This Is Exile.” Are you guys happy with those positions and with working with Jason Suecof on this record?
PB: Oh yeah, definitely. If you progress from the last album, that’s what you want. That’s exactly what happened. I wasn’t personally exepecting it to turn out as good as it did, but working with Jason Suecof definitely helped us find our sound. He had a lot of good ideas and a lot of input on the album. We didn’t use every single idea he had, but he definitely helped us out and he actually worked with us as a producer instead of someone that just records your album. It definitely helps to have an outside opinion on the album. I’m super stoked on the album. I’m super stoked on how people are accepting it, and hopefully the next album’s better.
F: For “The Somatic Defilement,” the lyrics essentially dealt with a day in the life of Jack the Ripper. On “This Is Exile,” they dealt more with anti-politcal and religious themes. On “A New Era of Corruption,” it’s all about living in a corrupted world and the world getting worse. Do you feel this is your strongest content?
PB: It definitely gets across a message that some people aren’t going to believe, some people are going to believe, and some are going to give us their opinion on it. The first album was definitely about murder along the lines of Jack the Ripper, but now we’ve developed. That was kind of the idea when we first came to be as a band, and we’ve kind of progressed from that. I just like to write about different stuff. If you write the same CD and the same lyrics, you’re coming up with new music, but lyrically it’s not progressing. The fans want to hear different stuff. They don’t want to hear the same CD over and over again.
F: Right. That works for Rascal Flatts, or whoever’s up on these billboards around town here, but not for a metal band.
PB: Yeah, for sure. It works for certain genres, but definitely not metal. They want to hear something different for each album and you want to progress as a band.
F: Were there any songs that didn’t make the record that will be released later?
AW: There were some songs that didn’t make the record, but they didn’t make the record because we felt like they weren’t ready, so I don’t that they are going to be released anytime soon. They could potentially turn into future material if we re-work them or put some riffs into a different song.
F: How long did the studio process take this time for “A New Era of Corruption”?
AW: It was supposed to be a month, but we actually got it done around three weeks. It went way faster than we thought it would. It took about three weeks to record “This Is Exile,” but the last day we were there, we were still recording bass and stuff. It was down to the wire. We just barely go that one finished in the allotted amount of time that we had. This one, it was like “Well, it’s been three weeks. We were supposed to stay four, but we’re done, so I guess we’re just gonna go.” We just left and we let Jason do his thing and he started mixing. It was good because he’s a busy producer, so it gave him a chance to jump on the mix earlier and spend more time on the mix rather than having to rush through it.
PB: It seemed like it took a lot longer. When we were recording the progression of it, it seemed like it was going to take forever, but somehow it didn’t take nearly as long.
AW: I think the guitars just went super fast. Way faster than usual. Because the drums were taking awhile, we were kind of like “Man, this is taking forever, we’re going to be here so long.” And then all of a sudden it’s just like, “Wait, the album’s done!” I think that once the drums were done, the guitars just blazed through and then Phil, he’s really quick with laying down his vocals. He doesn’t need very many takes and shit like that, so it ended up getting done a lot faster.
F: You guys started off in the Tennessee metal scene. Is the hometown crowd here still your biggest crowd?
AW: Yeah, this is definitely the biggest show of this tour and, honestly, probably the biggest headliner we’ve ever played, to my knowledge. We’ve played one in our actual hometown of Knoxville and it was like 800 kids or something like that, and tonight, before doors even opened, presale was at 730. We’re thinking there’s going to be around 1,000 kids here tonight, so it’s going to be a monumental thing for us.
F: Coming from the Tennessee metal scene, what type of scene would you describe it as?
AW: I feel like there’s more of a scene in Nashville than in Knoxville. I’m not dissing our hometown or anything like that. Nashville’s just the music capital of the United States, in my opinion. It’s primarily country here, but still I feel like there’s more kids going to shows, there’s more bands, there’s just more ways to get involved in the metal scene here. In Knoxville, it’s very bare-bones – it’s very dry. There’s only one venue there and, honestly, locals don’t really play there. It’s just national acts. So it’s really hard for bands to break out and make it from Knoxville.
F: Are there any bands you’ve seen from when you were local that you want to see break out and make it?
AW: Not really. It kind of sucks, because most of the local bands that we know have broken up by now. All of the local bands that we were playing with back when we were a local band aren’t even bands anymore. That’s definitely the bum-out. I guess if you can’t get that hype going and break out, and make a name for yourself, you just have to kind of let it die.
F: How long did it take for Whitechapel to make it onto a national level?
AW: About two years, really.
PB: You constantly progress. Every tour you do, you feel like you’re getting more and more exposure. That’s what we were doing. We’d start going out doing DIY tours and we eventually got out and got people to work for us, to help us get on bigger tours and more higher-scale tours. From there, it seems like it’s kind of blown up. Whenever you’re a DIY band like that, it’s hard to get a tour in general unless you just do it yourself. It took about like you said, about two years.
AW: The band formed in 2006 and we started touring in 2007. We were touring nationally all over the states so it was about a year or two years. We got signed within about a year and a half of being a band. We signed to Metal Blade, and once that happened, it was just all up from there.
F: Is it a pretty happy relationship with Metal Blade?
AW & PB: Very.
AW: Definitely, very happy. I wouldn’t want to be on any other label, so I’m pretty happy.
F: Do you have any advice for bands wanting to break out of the local mold?
AW: Do something different. In a sense, you watch bands that you idolize and you can take notes from them and think, “Well this band’s doing this and they’re popular, so maybe we should try something of the same,” but in the same breath, if you’re just a copycat of something else that’s already out, people are going to say, “Oh well you sound like blah blah blah.” When we first started, everybody was just like, “You guys just sound like Suicide Silence, blah blah blah,” and now, by our third album, we sound nothing like them. I feel like to really break out and set yourselves apart, you’ve got to do something different. You’ve got to take a professional attitude towards being in the band. You can’t just get up there looking like you rolled out of bed and put your guitar on and expect someone to take you seriously.
F: Now for some kind of random questions. If you could tour with any band for your dream tour, who would it be?
AW & PB: Slipknot. No question
AW: I doubt it will happen now because of the Paul Gray incident, but I would’ve absolutely loved to have toured with Slipknot.
F: Favorite food on tour?
AW: In-N-Out, from the west coast.
AW: These east coast people, they don’t know about the In-N-Out unless they travel over there, but it’s definitely one of the best burgers I’ve ever put in my mouth.
PB: Definitely, for me.
F: Favorite hobby on tour while waiting around?
PB: (laughs) We’re kind of lame, honestly. We don’t really do anything.
AW: Yeah, we’re a real lame band. Everybody thinks we party and all that shit. A couple guys drink here and there, but nobody does hard drugs. Nobody’s an alcoholic. It’s not the Motley Crue life everybody thinks it is. It’s a lot of time in the van. It’s a lot of time with headphones and an iPod and stuff like that. Downtime is usually getting on the internet. I’ve kind of taken up videography a bit around the tour, recording stuff and other bands and stuff like that. Random stuff here and there.
F: What kind of music, other than metal, do you listen to?
PB: Rock. Deftones, a lot. I don’t listen to the most metal, probably. Zach (Householder, guitarist) blasts the most brutal things at 9:30 AM. (AW laughs) Mainly rock and easy listening stuff - stuff that’s easy on the ears. Once you play metal, you just don’t really want to listen to it all the time.
AW: I definitely prefer listening to rock and shit like that because I enjoy playing metal because of the intensity, but you can only take blast beats for so long. They numb your brain – you just go crazy. I like bands like Alexisonfire, Jimmy Eat World, and chill rock bands like that.
F: On the flip side of the coin, what metal bands are you into right now?
PB: Metal bands? It’s hard to tell, because I try not to turn on too much metal. The guys in I Declare War, I’ll listen to them or the Acacia Strain a lot.
PB: Yeah, Meshuggah. It’s so hard to think of who I actually listen to.
AW: Death metal – I don’t listen to a whole lot of death metal, which is funny, being in a death metal band. The one death metal band that I do actually like a lot is Bloodbath. There’s definitely a lot of metal we listen to, but you just can’t listen to metal and play metal. It’s kind of too much metal. Some people say you can never have too much metal, but I definitely disagree with that. (laughs)
F: You mentioned Deftones and The Acacia Strain. Chino (Moreno) from Deftones and Vincent (Bennett) from The Acacia Strain were both guests on the new record, so what was it like working with them in the studio?
PB: We kind of showed them both what to do and they did it. There wasn’t too much interaction between them. I talk to Vincent outside of touring and what not, so I had more contact with him. I just told him, you know, “This is a line, I’ll do the line and we’ll just take it out and put your voice in it.” Chino, it’s more like a “Here’s the idea. Here’s what Phil would do. You can take it and do it however you want.” Our manager knows him. They live in the Sacramento area, so that’s basically how that worked. The only time we ever talked to him and actually talked about it was when we went to the Golden Gods (awards). We actually met him there and he basically just took it and ran with it. We had a lot of faith in Chino. He’s been doing this for years, so he can easily listen to it and just do what he does best.
AW: Yeah, he sent it to us and we were just like, “Alright! That’s good! Move on!”
F: Any last things you’d like to say to the readers on MetalUnderground.com?
AW: Thanks for the support. If you haven’t picked up “A New Era of Corruption,” definitely pick it up and we’ll see you on the road!
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