Knoxville’s own Whitechapel have taken the metal world by storm since the debut of their first album, The Somatic Defilement, in 2007. Seven years and four records later—most recently Our Endless War, the band’s latest album which dropped in April—they show no signs of slowing down, with a documentary in the works to be released next year that was funded by fans on Indiegogo and a nationwide tour throughout June with DevilDriver.
Guitarist Alex Wade took time while on tour to talk to The Aquarian Weekly and give details on the new record and what is next for Whitechapel.
How has Whitechapel’s writing process changed since the band first began playing together in 2006?
Early in the band’s career, whenever we would write, we would all just get together in a practice space, figure out what riffs sounded good and just jam out; kind of like most bands back in the day before writing on computers was something that was acceptable and easy to do. I kind of feel like an old fart saying that we grew up in that age of music where not everyone in the band had a computer that they could write on. But as we started to progress with technology and everyone in the band was getting MacBooks, we learned how to use recording programs and we were able to make our own demos.
Now the writing process doesn’t even involve the practice space. In fact, we hate doing that, because we basically turn into people playing a bunch of noise and you can’t really get anything productive done. Now, for the past few records, we all write on our personal computers and have different home studios where we can record. Our Endless War and the self-titled [which was released in June 2012] were both written in that fashion—we would all just demo out the riffs and email things back and forth to each other. Technology has definitely made writing records a lot easier.
Do you isolate yourselves from the world when you write?
We all write separately from each other, but we’ll write together as well. We’ll just go over to someone’s house and have a few beers, jam out with some of the riffs and record some stuff. Usually we’ll have certain days where we sit down and go, “Okay, well today is the day where we’ll take all the pieces that were written and try to make a song.” And so we’ll toy with putting together different riffs, one after another, to see what sounds best and who has the material that we want to use.
How is the new record different from previous works?
I definitely feel like it’s our most mature record. As we’re growing as people, we’re also growing as musicians. We’re just getting older. What we thought was cool five years ago is definitely not what we think is cool now. With our band, I feel like every record has a progressive change to it. This record is no different.
Where do you personally gain inspiration from?
I would say our fans are my biggest inspiration, because that’s definitely the reason why we do this; they are the reason why we can live this dream of playing in a band as a career. A lot of people wish they could play music for a living instead of going to their nine-to-five or whatever, and the only reason why we get to do this is because of our fans support us by buying our records and buying our merchandise, so I would say that is the biggest reason why we do Whitechapel.
Is there an overall message found within the new album?
Not really. We used to be really into doing concept records, and each song would flow into a new idea that would tie into the whole album. But starting with the self-titled, while there are a few themes that run through the CD, it is basically whatever comes up off the top of Phil’s [Bozeman, lead vocalist] head. The thing with concept records is that it would kind of limit what he could write about. But if he’s writing whatever is coming to his mind, he can basically make every song whatever he wants.
You said there are a few themes found within Our Endless War, like what?
The title of the album has multiple meanings. It was originally thought up to refer to the band—obviously, being in a band is nothing like being in a battlefield—but there are similarities to it. We are a brotherhood, we’re all working toward a common goal, which is why the title is Our Endless War—we’ve been in the trenches trying to rise to the top of the music business and it has been a constant battle for us. But then Phil took that and wrote the title-track, “Our Endless War,” with more of a humanity approach, like how we’re constantly in a push-pull with our government. It was cool how he was able to come up with multiple meanings for the title of the CD.
How did the idea to create a documentary get started?
It actually started when we hired our drum tech. We didn’t know that he had videography skills, but he was on tour with us, he was filming us, and he was like, “Hey, I want to make a tour documentary for you guys at the end of this tour.” I was like, “Yeah, sure, that’s cool.” We don’t have a lot of video content on YouTube, as far as stuff that we’ve created, so I was really stoked on the idea that he had been filming us throughout the tour and that he put something together. We thought, “If we’ve got this guy working for us, and he’s going everywhere we’re going, it would be a really great opportunity to do a band DVD.” We had talked about it in the past but never really had the funding for it. And just recently, with the big boom in the crowdfunding industry, we thought, “What better way to produce a DVD?” That way, the people that want to buy the DVD can help fund it directly, and then they are a part of making it happen. Without their support, without the funds, we wouldn’t have been able to get what we needed to do it.
Do you think crowdfunding is the future of the industry?
Yeah, I think it already is. I definitely feel like it has its place, but I don’t think it’ll take the role of the label completely. Coming from experience, if somebody asked me, “Should we be signed to a label?” or, “Should we try to do this DIY through crowdfunding?” I would definitely recommend being on a label, at least for the CD aspects of it. You want a team who is pushing your album; you want a team that cares about your success. I mean, obviously the band cares about the success of the record, but if you have that team behind you with a marketing person and a publicist, it helps. Everyone who works for the label, they work as a piece of the puzzle to make that album a success.
What is to be included on the DVD?
The DVD is going to have a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. We’ve released a couple things online that show a more personal side of us, and I think it is really cool to let our fans see that we’re humans, too. We hang out with each other and we do the same shit that everybody else does (laughs). So it’s cool, letting people see who Whitechapel really is, and I think that the DVD is going to be a larger extension of that. Our drum tech has filmed a lot of our tours, and when we have downtime, like just hanging around and shooting the shit, or doing funny stuff, he’s been filming it all. There’s going to be some portions like that, some interview portions talking about the history of the band and how we started and everything that we’ve been through, and then there’s going to be some live stuff as well on there.
Since Whitechapel formed in 2006, have you noticed a change in the scene?
You know, slightly, and I do think it’s for the better. I definitely feel like metal is getting bigger; it’s getting more accepted. It’s really crazy for me to see the amount of kids who are getting into metal now. Like, metal used to be an old man’s genre, even before we were in it. It has always been more adult-oriented. But it’s crazy when we have 13- or 14-year-old fans and I just think, “Man, I wasn’t listening to stuff this crazy when I was that age.” I was a little kid running around on a skateboard listening to… I don’t even know, happy punk rock (laughs). So yeah, it’s really crazy to see kids that young that are getting into our music. It’s definitely something to say that this scene is heading in a better direction.
What are your favorite songs to play live? Are there any that you’re sick of?
I like playing “Possession” a lot and it’s definitely a crowd favorite because of the energy associated with that song. Another is “Possibilities Of An Impossible Existence,” which is off the self-titled. Usually if we get sick of them, we just stop playing them (laughs). It’s kind of one of those things where some of the songs don’t go over as well as others live, and we usually find out pretty quickly which ones go over well and which ones don’t, and the ones that don’t go over so well we usually don’t play them very often, if ever (laughs).
What are the best and worst parts of touring?
Definitely the best is just being with the boys, hanging out, and playing shows every night. That’s why we do this, because we’re all musicians and we love doing that shit. We get to see parts of the world that you wouldn’t see if you were sitting at home and working in a cubicle. I love just traveling, experiencing new people, new foods, and just enjoying life.
But there are definitely cons, like missing your family and loved ones, like personal relationships. And always being dirty, never really getting a chance to shower, so that sucks (laughs).
Whitechapel will play at Stage 48 in NYC on June 12 and the Theatre Of Living Arts in Philadelphia on June 13. Their new album, Our Endless War, is available now through Metal Blade. For more information, go to whitechapelband.com.