Ahead of the release of their sixth studio album Mark Of The Blade, American deathcore stalwarts Whitechapel caught up with Metal On Loud to talk evolution, judgmental fans and inspirational outlets. Here is our in-depth talk with longtime frontman Phil Bozeman.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us man. I know you guys are currently out on tour across the U.S., so this is a real pleasure.
Oh man absolutely, thank you.
So lots going on for Whitechapel. Your sixth studio album Mark Of The Blade is being released later this month. What are your thoughts surrounding the band right now?
I’m just happy to be where we’re at. We’re doing what we do and what we have been doing for the past 10 years now. We’re happy to get a new album out and keep the train rolling.
This album is largely considered to be one of the most different and layered records you guys have tackled. Did it feel different or like a departure for you guys when you were piecing it together? Or was it all business as usual?
It was definitely more of a challenge for us, because we did record some clean stuff on it. Not very much, but that was a huge step for us. It was something that we wanted to cautiously approach, because we were so foreign to it. In terms of the process and the writing and everything it was all pretty smooth. It wasn’t too stressful. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.
You mentioned the clean vocals and you are seeing a lot more deathcore and hard metal acts attempting that these days, with pretty succesful results. Lamb of God’s Overlord comes to mind. It’s great to see bands branch out of their comfort zone.
Yeah, it’s creating art no matter what. No matter if it’s hard music or anything like that there should be no limitations. That’s something we wanted to try. I would say if any band wanted to do it, there shouldn’t be any criticism. There will be criticisms, but there really shouldn’t be. There shouldn’t be any criticism when it comes to making music, no matter what genre you’ve been pigeonholed into.
Metal fans, probably above any type of music genre, can be very particular on their type of music, and that’s something I believe you guys alluded to on a song on this record. If a band attempts something different then ‘they’ve sold out.’ You hear it all the time.
Yeah and it’s just the way it’s going to be too. There’s nothing you can really do about it. People are going to always be real opinionated and want the fashion side of the music rather than the actual music. Like I said if it’s a good song and you like it should it really matter who made the song?
Thematically, you guys hit a lot of different places on this record. Where were your heads at when you were writing and recording this record? Did you touch on anything you were happy with that you really wanted, or perhaps something you didn’t get to explore that you didn’t get the chance to?
I mean it would have been cool to even try some acoustic stuff or anything like that. That’s obviously stuff that wasn’t really in the works for this album. There’s acoustic instrumental stuff at the very end of the album and on the last song, but as far as singing goes it would be cool to dive deeper into that. I would imagine that we’re going to try it on the next record too. Like I said with the way things are in metal in everyhting it’s kind of like we want to very sparing with it, because we didn’t want to change everything about us because the album is all over the place.
I know you guys as the type of band who doesn’t let anyone else dictate your direction, and you stick very tight to your group and who you guys are. Did the sucess of your last record Our Endless War have any impact on you when in comes to the direction of the next one? Obviously it was your highest charting album, a fantastic success. Did that weigh on your minds when you guys were putting this together?
I would be lying if I said that it didn’t. Of course we’re always going to try to top the last album, but at the end of the day we just write what we feel and what we think sounds good. Whatever comes out was whatever was on our minds. If it does top it that’s awesome, but it’s not the end of the world.
You guys worked with Mark Lewis again on this record, who’s worked with some awesome bands in the genre. I guess there must be a comfortable familiarity with you guys now?
Oh yeah definitely. It’s the third album he’s done, the fourth he’s worked on, and the third he’s done the whole thing. We’re really familiar with him and always really excited to work with him, because we always get along so well, whether it’s personal or the business side of it. We can treat him as if he’s one of our buddies we just say hey to.
I know you guys are currently touring the U.S., and then will take a little bit of a break before jumpiing on the Vans Warped Tour, which I believe will be the second time for you guys?
Yes, this will be the second time.
I’ve never gone, but obviously there’s a lot of support and history behind it. It must be quite a grinding tour, practically two months straight throughout the summer. What was your experience like the first time and what kind of compelled you guys to get back to it?
It was definitely very grinding, because it was just so long. When we got the offer to do it again the only reason we were kind of hesitant is for the simple fact that it’s such a long tour. At the end of the day this is our job and this is what we do, so there was no reason for us to say no for no real reason. It was a really good opportunity and we love the summer tour setting like Mayhem and stuff, even though that’s not really a thing anymore. We’re really excited and ready to get on it and relive 2010 all over again.
You mentioned Mayhem, and it seems to be the end of that historic festival. Some people in particular were critical of the promotion and the lack of genuine ‘headline’ metal acts. I’m curious since you’ve played the festival several times what your thoughts are surrounding that.
It is what it is. You look at festivals like even Ozzfest and with time that kind of went away, but now I guess they’re trying to do something with it again. There’s all kinds of festivals that had its time and then it kind of goes away. You can’t sit there and say the lineup for Mayhem last year (was bad). Obviously there weren’t as many well known bands so it’s not going to catch peoples attention as much as it would, but at the end of the day we had fun doing the tour and we always appreciate Kevin Lineman for having us out. No matter who’s on it we’re going to do the tour, be professional and play our music and not worry about the rest of the other stuff.
Really, if you’re not happy with Slayer and King Diamond then what kind of metal fan are you?
Yeah and that’s the thing. People are going to have their words and everything, but at the end of the day it is Slayer and King Diamond, very influential and old school and they’ve been doing it since the 80s. It’s one of those things we can say we’ve been apart of. Not many people can say that, so we’re just happy that we were able to.
What are some of your personal influences in the metal genre when you were starting out?
Just a lot of the heavier death metal like Cannibal Corpe. I was really into Exhumed and the gore metal and stuff like that. Of course my first ever heavy band was Metallica. That’s kind of where I came from and after that I went through the punk phase and all of that stuff. I went through all different types of music when I was younger. As I get older your mind gets more open and you’re open to all different types of music. It’s not limited for me anymore. If I listen to it and I enjoy it and it doesn’t really matter what kind of music it is.
Yeah and the Warped Tour this year is really a representation of that. You’ve got more heavy acts like yourselves and Veil of Maya, but then you have something like Good Charlotte. These tours now have a bit of something for everyone.
Yeah exactly. That’s one thing that’s so annoying about the music scene. People will give us crap about doing the Warped Tour because it’s not the type of tour we’re supposed to do. We’re kind of like come on, is it really that big of an issue? We’re just playing music, trying to broaden our fanbase. People are going to be very judgemental and like I said it’s the fashion side of music. Just because we’re in a metal band doesn’t mean we can’t play with pop punk bands or anything like that. People are very quick to pigeonhole and things of that nature.
The word that everyone uses when I get to talk about metal music is passion, and whether they love something or hate something metal fans have that passion. What’s your take?
They’re definitely very diehard and very loyal to the bands that they listen to. At the same time and I’m not going to say that this is just in the metal scene, but a lot of the things you see in the metal scene is very judgemental. They’re very quick to stop listening to a band just because they make one song they didn’t like. And the term sellout is used very loosely in metal. Very, very, very loosely used. It is what it is. People are going to say it and think what they’re going to think, but at the end of the day would you really want a fan who is going to give up on you that easily or be so quick to point a finger. I kind of sit there and say who are you to tell me what my band writes or what kind of music we want to put out, because we created this band for ourselves and people liking it is just an added bonus. It’s honestly kind of rude to tell us we should write a certain type of music. If we don’t want to why would we do it? If we aren’t happy doing what we’re doing then why are we doing it kind of thing … the metal community is a very loyal and awesome community but at the same time they can be very judgemental and kind of a holier than thou attitude. The music that they think is good music they think is way better than anyone elses music. There’s always going to be people saying we’re not true metal or we’re an embarrassment to metal music and we’re not real metal music and all of this stuff. It is what it is. At the end of the day, to say that it doesn’t bother me I would be lying, but does it ruin my life? No. I don’t go to bed thinking about it. It sucks that it’s there. When people say they don’t care of what people have to say I think there’s a little bit of bended truth to that. If you’re getting talked bad about, no one wants to be talked bad about. People care a little bit, but I’m not going to sleep at night hating myself and questioning what I’m doing just because someone said that they didn’t like something.
Are there any big marquee names left that you’d like to cross of your bucketlist?
Um, well we’ve toured with Slipknot. We played with some big acts. We did Banboozle and Journey was playing, but in the genre that we’re in the ultimate goal would be to tour for Metallica. If you tour with Metallica and you play metal than you’ve made it if you get to share the stage with them on a tour. I kind of feel like that’s the cream of the crop. You don’t get any bigger than that. To me they are the biggest band in heavier music. People are going to say that they’re definitely not as heavy or aggressive as they used to be, but they’re still Metallica. They have pioneered the heavier side of metal … of course people are going to aruge that Black Sabbath is the original metal band, but when you think of Metallica I don’t think it gets any better than that. You can say Slayer and all of that stuff. I guess if they were still around and Dime were still alive my ultimate tour would be Pantera, because they’re one of my favourite bands of all time. That would definitely be on my bucket list of this is a band I want to play with. Another band we’ve always wanted to platy with, and I can’t see us touring with them but maybe on a festival would be Deftones. We draw a lot of infleunce from there. Our guitar player Alex definitely does. They’re one of the most unique bands out. There’s no band that sounds remotely close to Deftones. Another band is Meshuggah. There’s a lot of copycat Meshuggah bands, but there’s no band that sounds like Meshuggah. We draw a lot of influence from them and a lot of people do anyways, because they are in my opinion one of the heaviest bands to exist.
You’ve got a full touring schedule ahead. Outside of that and of course the release of the new album, how would you like to see the remainder of the year and beginning of 2017 go for you guys?
Other than what we’re doing currently there’s nothing. We do have some really good stuff planned after the Warped Tour. 2017 is really up in the air and all open now. We just need to see what this year brings and really start to look forward to 2017.
Mark Of The Blade is available in stores and online June 24th