Whitechapel is one of the bands that got me into this new wave of metal. After being around for ten years, they’ve defined the deathcore genre, and have proved to remain innovative among the metal community. I was honoured to sit down with guitarist, Ben Savage, to discuss the band’s sixth album, Mark of the Blade.
In the ten years that you’ve been active as a band, what has been your proudest moment, and what has been the lowest moment of your career for you personally?
I don’t know man, probably just sticking around for this long, and meeting all these cool characters we’ve met along the way. I really like the direction we’re heading in as far as musically, but as far as moments go, probably playing Self Help fest in California we played a couple years ago. It was huge! It was just a bunch of teenagers, and it was something we hadn’t played in a long time, and just seeing a bunch of young kids go crazy for us was a really cool and humbling experience. Our worst moment was… um, I don’t know man there was a lot of ‘em [laughs]. Over the past two years, we’ve been going through management troubles. We went through two management companies, and just dealing with all that stuff, and having people tell you that they’re gonna have your back, and just never come through at all, and believing in the wrong people.
I’m sure anybody that reads this will attest to that as well. Do you enjoy other artists that aren’t in the metal genre? If so, which artists are you really into right now?
Yeah man! We’re all just big fans of music. I really like the new Radiohead album. At first I thought it was kinda slow, and I didn’t think I liked it as much as the other stuff, and then I gave it a few more spins and it just started to sink in. I love those types of bands that, over time if you give it a couple spins, it just sinks in and gets into your synapses and inside your brain. I collect vinyl records, I have hundreds of CDs, I love all types of stuff. I love Anathema, Tool (one of my favourite bands), Opeth, but yeah, Radiohead is probably one of my favourite bands, and I get a lot of influence from the melancholy and the sad riffing.
Let’s talk about the record coming out at the end of June. Are there any songs, musically, that are more personally meaningful to you than others?
Yeah! Probably “Bring Me Home” and “Decennium” are the two tracks that feature clean vocals, which in turn are the only two songs I wrote for the record [laughs]. We’ve been wanting to try clean vocals out for awhile, but we just never wrote a song around it. We just stuck to what we were good at, but it was really cool to branch out, and actually finish a song musically, then actually have Phil [vocalist], who made the final decision whether or not he wanted to sing. The fact that he chose to sing was an accomplishment in itself. That’s probably another proud moment; just the fact that he chose to do that. The subject matter is about his father’s death, and it’s just a cool song. I’m super proud of that one. And in the last song, “Decennium,” is about just being in the band for ten years, and just kinda wraps it up whole, and puts it all in perspective. Phil really nailed it with the lyrics on that one.
You actually pretty much answered my next question [laughs], ’cause I noticed there was a lot of controversy about the whole issue of singing on a Whitechapel record. How did you feel about a lot of your fans criticizing you guys for that?
Well, it’s cool man. I dig those sorta reactions. ‘Cause it’s a reaction; it gets people talking. I just don’t like whenever people just blow off the whole record, or have a set idea of what it’s gonna sound like, or they know that they’re already gonna hate it or something like that without even giving it a try.
Yeah, like the ‘elitist’ branch shit in this scene.
Yeah, exactly! Like, I’m reading comments, and they’re just all over the spectrum. It’s like, one person hates one thing, another person loves a thing that the other person hated, and it’s just a void of opinions y’know? But, I enjoy the reactions, ’cause at the end of the day, we’re happy with what we went through by recording each song, and we wouldn’t have done that if we didn’t think the songs were good. At least I can fall back on the band members, cause the first song we released got a ton of bad comments, and stuff. Some of them bum me out, but you have your other bandmates to fall on, and that’s the good part about being in a band. If I was a solo artist, I’d probably kill myself by now [laughs], but it’s good to have other members of the band to drive the point home. We did it, and we’re all happy with it.
That is good to hear! But, as far as the metal elitist subset of people in the genre or community, what is your biggest pet peeve about this community, if you have any?
I remember trying to explain this one time, and metal is such a very small part of music as a whole. Metal isn’t for normal people really. It’s just a little cell on this body of music, and the fact that it gets this one little cell, and that cell gets separated, and sliced into multiple smaller cells, and those little cells get sliced even smaller ones, it doesn’t feel like it can grow that much. It’s just peoples’ opinions. I understand that it is what it is; I mean, metal musicians, and fans, are the outcasts, and they found this music that they’re so passionate about, and then they’re just stuck in their little holes. I’m one of those guys too [laughs].
Maybe it’s being afraid of change as far as taste is concerned.
Yeah exactly! I think that’s the biggest thing.
As with each record Whitechapel has put out, your sound evolves and changes as you all grow and mature as musicians and as people. Has this record challenged you with writing something more elaborate than before, or did everything just seem to fall into place, and come naturally?
Well, we got together for two weeks last year, and just finished the record. We all came in with material. Zack [guitarist] had the most as far as songs go. He had like six or seven real heavy songs, and I came in with a couple riffs to finish them off. Because Zack didn’t have whole songs, he was missing a bridge part here, or like a verse part here, and then we’d come in and just patched in what needed to be worked on, and I came in with the two songs with singing on them, or melodic songs. Those are just songs that I wanted to write because I feel like the well ran dry on writing just fucking brutal songs. We’re six records deep now, and it’s kinda hard to write a riff that I feel like I’ve already written before, or it would sound forced. So I kinda wrote what I thought sounded cool. That’s where I was coming from, and Alex [guitarist] wrote a couple of the groovier songs on the record. It worked out pretty well, and pretty smoothly too, but if it weren’t for Zack, we would’ve just had a four-song EP, so I’m glad he really stepped it up on this record. It’s very diverse; every song is pretty different.
So I have one last question, and we ask this to any artist we interview: what is on your Bucketlist?
Just writing another record [laughs], that’s pretty much it! Just keeping it going, and it would be cool to tour with Lamb of God, or Slipknot or a bigger band for more exposure, but politics and stuff kinda get in the way. We can only rely on ourselves really, so we’ll just write the best record we can, and push the envelope. That’s all I wanna do.
Mark of the Blade is available worldwide on June 24th. In the meantime, check out their latest release, “The Void.”
Written and Compiled by Rian Cunningham
*edited by Kate Erickson