Inciting Mayhem with Whitechapel - An Interview From the Road

Storming out of the country-dominated southern United States, Whitechapel has been on a mission to carve themselves a niche and a name in the greater heavy metal universe. Signed to Metal Blade Records and ready to take on all comers, the band is included with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, supporting their new self-titled album. Guitarist Ben Savage took the time to answer some of our questions backstage after the band’s set.
M. DREW: Generally, when you’ve got a musician who releases a self-titled album in the middle of their career, either you’re trying something new or going back to basics. Which one was it for you?
BEN SAVAGE: I’d say just trying something new. We did it because no other title would fit the vibe of the record. It was more of a coming together. Through the years you know the band members…stuff happens, you drift apart. This was more of a coming together. We couldn’t think of another name to title it.
M.D: Is that also why you stuck that Tennessee state flag front and center on it? It’s been part of your logo for a while now.
BS: Yeah. We’ve always had it in our back pocket. We thought we could find a better one, a better symbol, but that was the best thing we could come up with. I like it now, over time it’s grown on me.
M.D: Coming out of Tennessee, most people view that as country-western territory, but there’s a few cracks between you and Destroy Destroy Destroy, a few other bands…
BS: Yeah, Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza
M.D: What’s the metal scene in Tennessee like?
BS: I guess in Nashville it’s better. But it’s still very underground. To play shows you either have to rent out a rec center or play like small clubs, nothing big.
M.D: Did you find it was tough to get exposure as a metal band? What did you have to do to get your name out?
BS: We were like weekend warriors for a while. We would play out of state, play in South Carolina or North Carolina, Georgia. We’d always go to Chattanooga and stuff, just take any show. That’s what you gotta do, just gotta be idealists [laughs.] If we knew what we know now back then, I’m guessing we wouldn’t have been so gumdrop, smiley-face about it.
M.D: To that end, you cracked the Billboard top 50, do you feel like this is it, do you feel like you’ve arrived?
BS: Yeah. I think so. You always got to dream big, or it’s gonna stay the same. We’re always gonna experiment, we always want to have something to look forward to. The next record, I don’t know what it’s gonna sound like, and that’s exciting.
M.D: For this album you started writing more as a team and not as individuals. How did that affect the end sound?
BS: For the better. You’re not so self-conscious about the songs now. Whenever you write a song yourself, you dissect it so much. If you have other minds on it, then it’s better, you’re more happy with it.
M.D: Did you have to navigate around each other at all? Were there ego problems that you had to get by?
BS: Yeah, my own ego and stuff [laughs.] Had to put that away and listen to people. If you’re stuck at a part that you think is good and someone else wants to change, it gets kind of frustrating, but it’s for the greater good.

M.D: In the past, Whitechapel’s had concept albums, cynical albums, and now what’s the theme of this new record?
BS: There’s a bunch of things. I want people to think of this as an imaginative record, there’s lots of stuff we dip our hands in, so it’s real expansive, let’s say, as a record. I want a metal fan to enjoy it, like some guy who only listens to Disgorge, I want that guy to like it. And then some guy who listens to Disturbed, I want that guy to like it. Just to appreciate it. And any other genres, too.
M.D: Are there any experiments on the album that you wouldn’t do again? Anything you would take back if you could?
BS: No. I would add more. There’s only actually a couple parts I would change on the record, just effects I would add in and stuff. Not the parts, but the structure. Just change the sound and stuff. Just little things you think of a couple months after the record’s released. Like, at the beginning of “Hate Creation,” I would make that a wah pedal, little stuff like that. So, I might do that live or something.
M.D: What does it mean to you guys to be part of the Mayhem Fest?
BS: Very lucky, you know? Lucky, and like we worked hard to get here. It’s awesome to see the people who put on Mayhem Fest take wind of us. It’s really cool.
M.D: From the outside looking in, how does that process work? There’s a bunch of bands here from different labels, how do they come together? Do the promoters contact you directly, or contact the labels?
BS: Bands and management and labels throw their names out there into the pool. And As I Lay Dying’s having a new record come out, and we had a new record come out, so it’s good promotion. They’re not gonna put a band on who hasn’t put out a record in two years. They want something new that’s hot on the streets.
M.D: Out of all the bands on Mayhem Fest with you, who’s your favorite show to watch?
BS: I’d say Slayer. I mean, Slayer and Slipknot, but Slayer. That’s the best they’ve ever looked, I feel like. And it’s cool, it’s so far into their career, and that’s the best stage show I’ve seen, personally.
M.D: Who else are you listening to right now?
BS: Listening to Anathema, like that band. Katatonia, listening to the new Gojira. I like Nile a lot, too. [Nile’s new record] rips, it’s great.
M.D: What’s next for Whitechapel? Probably not another album right away, but are there ideas?
BS: Yeah. As far as metal records go, it’s all riffs. So you’re always writing riffs, you always have ideas. You’re putting down ideas so the writing process is constant. I could walk out of this interview right now and a riff pops in my head. I’ll just mouth it into the phone, and it’s always there.

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