Tagteam Interview with Whitechapel
by Dave Jordan and Mark Hensch
Intro from Thrashpit editor Mark Hensch: New Thrashpit writer Dave Jordan is a huge deathcore fan, so when he began raving about Knoxville, Tenn.'s Whitechapel, I knew that they were probably going to be a big deal. After hearing their full-length 2007 debut "The Somatic Defilement," I have no doubt that these guys are going to go far. Jordan and I thus ventured forth to Detroit to catch a band truly on the cusp of greater things---a recent Metal Blade Records deal seems to attest to that. We thus caught up with Alex Wade, one of three guitarists in the band, and found out what was going down in the Whitechapel camp.
Thrashpit Dave: First things first. You guys are not an old band, and I was just getting into your new album when the chance for this interview came about. Do you think you could give us a brief history of your band?
Alex Wade: We've been a band for about two years. We've got our pretty much solid lineup right now. We had an old guitarist who got injured, and the guy who was filling in for him was only meant to be temporary. A couple of months ago we heard the old guitarist [Brandon Cagle injured in a motorcycle accident] would be permanently injured, and so our fill-in became a full-time member of the band. During his motorcycle accident, Brandon Cagle hit his arm on a wall and it severed the nerves in his arm and shoulder. He's still doing his thing and working in recording studios, so that turned out good.
Thrashpit Mark: What would you say are some of the biggest influences on your band?
Alex: As far as influences on our writing go, we tune really low in drop-A. Some of the inspiration for that comes from Meshuggah, Blood Has Been Shed, and the Acacia Strain. As far as influences go on our "death metal" side, we're into more "grooving" death metal like Dying Fetus, Hate Eternal, and all those guys.
Thrashpit Dave: You guys have three guitarists. How has that effected what you write and record, especially in terms of the live show?
Alex: We had three of us who played guitar in our original jam sessions and we all liked doing it so no one wanted to be like "oh yeah, that one guy here or there can't be in the band." We've matured with it and learned how to use it as an effective tool rather than having three guys up there making a bunch of noise. We use it now for crafting thicker sounds and more three-dimensional tones. We can do a lot of things other bands can't. We can have stage left doing a harmony different from stage right while stage middle provides a rhythm alongside the bass guitar and the drums. It is definitely a unique factor we have. Many bands today record extra layers to their studio tracks which they can't play life and with those recorded layers we can play them naturally on stage.
Thrashpit Mark: I wanted to ask you guys about being on Candlelight Records. How did that come about?
Alex: They actually never signed us. We were first on a UK label called Siege of Amida Records. One of the guys owing Siege of Amida knew someone over at Candlelight, so he knew this guy and helped set up talks with him and get distribution. It ended up being Siege of Amida for the UK and Europe while Candlelight was distribution for the US.
Thrashpit Mark: How did you fit in with the rest of the bands on Candlelight?
Alex: As far as fitting in with the bands on Candlelight, we didn't fit in at all [laughs]. They're more extreme black metal and that kind of stuff. As far as Siege of Amida, they focus on the more modern forms of death metal and so we fit right up in there.
Thrashpit Mark: How did you initially get into contact with Siege of Amida then?
Alex: It was really random but it was honestly Myspace. I contribute 100% of our success to Myspace [laughs]. Myspace is seriously the greatest promotional tool that any band in this day and age could use. It can take you farther places than you could ever have gone without it. Basically they hit us up on Myspace before we were talking to other labels and so were like "Why not?" We decided it could help to do one CD and see if we could keep moving up after that. Now we've signed to Metal Blade so it worked out the way we planned!
Thrashpit Dave: What are you plans in the next few months to a year in terms of your new Metal Blade deal?
Alex: After this tour we have a week at home to patch things up and finish things on the next album and then we go to record with Jonny Fay who used to be in the Red Chord. After he left the band he decided to focus more on his studios and he has a nice place out in Boston. We're really excited about all that as we're a fan of that sound. We couldn't afford the whole shebang but he did agree to do the mixing so we're happy about that. After we record that we go on tour with The Devil Wears Prada and Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. It is kind of a weird bill for us but playing to a new crowd is always nice. After THAT, we have one more month at home before we do Summer Slaughterfest. We're the opening band on that, so for anyone coming to Summer Slaughterfest this year you're definitely gonna want to be there early as we're playing first [laughs]. It should be really, really fun, and as far as our plans go that's about it.
Thrashpit Mark: What were some of the bands you liked growing up?
Alex: Growing up, I was honestly a punk kid. In high school I loved anything skate-punk, like NOFX or Fenix TX or sh*t like that. I started to get into death metal my junior or senior year and I really started liked oldschool death metal like Cannibal Corpse.
Thrashpit Mark: How do you think your band differs from more oldschool death metal bands?
Alex: I think we put a more modern spin on it. We always try to incorporate those oldschool death metal attributes into what we do, but we like the modern tunings and breakdowns on it too.
Thrashpit Mark: Do you see any big divide between that hardcore crowd and older metal fans?
Alex: Yeah. We've done tours where all the hardcore kids come out for a band like Emmure [whom Whitechapel were touring with at the time of this interview] and then leave. On the other hand, we have the really diehard metal fans out there who don't want to give a sh*t about us and just want to beat each other up to a band like Darkest Hour. We try to walk that line with our band so that we can play to those older death metal bands or with some newer hardcore/metalcore bands too.
Thrashpit Dave: How does your hometown scene in Knoxville, Tenn. influence your band?
Alex: We're one of the biggest bands from our hometown in this genre. I've seen bands there play for eight years or so and then we go and get signed right away! I don't know how the f*ck that happens but it does. The scene really has a lot of hometown heroes in it though ya know? It is really cool because we can still head back and play a hometown show and know lots of our buddies will be coming out. We definitely love our hometown, for sure.
Thrashpit Mark: How did this tour with Emmure, Cephalic Carnage, and Darkest Hour come about?
Alex: Honestly I don't know. Our manager just called one day and said we'd be playing with Darkest Hour and Through the Eyes of the Dead. We got the offer and we thought it was cool---we were like "of course, why the hell wouldn't we go on something like that?!" For some reason Through the Eyes of the Dead couldn't do the tour so Cephalic Carnage jumped on and eventually Emmure got added too.
Thrashpit Mark: Let's talk about your last CD, The Somatic Defilement. What kind of headspace do you have to be in to write something blood-and-guts death metal like that?
Alex: That CD was written over the course of a year. It was just writing songs and having fun. Once we were at about ten songs, we got signed. We had never recorded a proper CD before so all those songs were up for grabs and we went in there and pounded all of them out. You can definitely hear the progression of maturity in the songs. The first song we ever wrote, "Alone in the Morgue," is much different from our last song "Somatic Defilement." If you listen to "Alone in the Morgue," you can hear less technicality and more single-notes. "Somatic Defilement," meanwhile, is all over the place. The structures have definitely gotten tighter as the songs get older.
Thrashpit Dave: Are you guys set on your musical style for now? A lot of bands kind of grow as they enter into a bigger label.
Alex: We're of course going to try maturing a little bit. We're still gonna be heavy as sh*t with lots of breakdowns while tuned in the same key. There will be more death metal leanings on the next one, as we're going to be on Metal Blade now and we want to get away from the whole "scene" band thing. We like the more f*cking brutal metal! I know that like Job for a Cowboy for example changed their sound after their jump to Metal Blade, and I honestly think it was for the better. Ours is kind of going to be the same thing. I think all the old fans will like it better than the last CD and we'll get plenty of new fans too.
Thrashpit Mark: Lyrically speaking, where do you guys get inspiration from?
Alex: To be honest, our last CD is kinda f*cked up [laughs]. We've got sh*t about cutting up girls and just that whole oldschool death metal vibe. The next CD will be darker
less talking about p*ssies being cut up and more mature takes on darkness. It will remind people of say the Black Dahlia Murder. There will be more depth to what we say than just cutting up a b*tch or something like that [laughs].
Thrashpit Mark: How would you describe your live show for someone who has never seen it?
Alex: The live experience is definitely 3 million times better than the CD could ever be. I mean, it had a decent production, but at the same time it doesn't really bring our live aspect out and anyone who has ever seen us live will admit that. We're really trying to push out that forcefulness on the next album. Live we have ten times the intensity, ten times the power, ten times the heaviness, and ten times the energy.
Thrashpit Mark: How do you think the internet will change the music world?
Alex: I definitely think CDs are dead. Bands will probably never make money off of royalties any more. Those same royalties will be used to pay for your recordings and your tour support and other things like that. The only way bands will make money is being on the road. Obviously CDs are still important as that's what builds your fanbase and without new music no one will be hyped on you, but as far as revenues for bands go CDs are out the window.
Thrashpit Mark: How does that affect a newer band like yours, where somebody can just go online and download your album rather than buy it?
Alex: I guess if we had those huge album sales it wouldn't hurt us but we're not bad on money right now so it isn't a big deal. This is still death metal [laughs]. If we had all the money from those sales, we wouldn't really be on a bus or anything else different. We'd be just where we are with a couple thousand more dollars. It really isn't that big of a deal in my eyes.
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