INTERVIEW: Ben Savage – Whitechapel

WHITECHAPEL are amongst a handful of bands who are heavy hitters in the modern climate of heavy metal. Whilst early records were fundamental in establishing what is now known as deathcore, recent records from the band have seen WHITECHAPEL embrace a more mature and focused sound. The result? The band are now a huge player in modern metal, with headlining tours and European festival performances a regularity rather than a sporadic occurrence. Before a sold out show as part of the Impericon Never Say Die Tour (read our review here) we caught up with guitarist Ben Savage to talk about the current tour, performing at Bloodstock Festival next year and the evolution of WHITECHAPEL.

So we are a couple of dates into the Impericon Never Say Die tour, how has it been for you guys so far?

Ben: It’s been beyond our expectations! The shows have been packed and it’s been the best club shows we’ve played in Europe ever.

And with the tour package, it’s seven bands who are all very well established within metal and hardcore, what’s it been like being on the run under the banner of the Never Say Die tour?

Ben: It’s cool, every band brings their certain sound to the equation so it makes the night that much more special seeing as all the bands have their own thing. It’s cool to be able to headline something like this, some of our first ever shows were in the UK and our first label was in the UK so we have a strong tie to this place!

So does it almost feel like a homecoming?

Ben: Yeah, exactly! The fact that we are headlining now and I never thought about that eight years ago.

This tour comes on the back of Mark of the Blade which came out over the summer. Now that record has been out for a fair few months, are you happy with the reception for the record?

Ben: Yeah, it’s been really good especially on the songs we branched out on. Those have gotten the best response which we thought would be the opposite.

As you just said, on that record you branched out a bit more, with Phil singing cleans that style was very new for WHITECHAPEL. When you were recording these new elements, was there a worry in how people would react?

Ben: Yeah we had worried about some of the songs. Mark of the Blade is a short, to the point song, it’s like a simple song but it is like really to the point and people seemed to not like that. They were so used to our songs being like over five minutes and having epic compositions and stuff, but we like to spice things up a little. There is nothing wrong with having a short song; first chorus, bridge, chorus, out. It’s like bam, there you go! And people are starting to accept it now but when we first released that song we got a lot of hate for it. Like I said before, people seem to like the singing songs which is really cool.

And with the new components you introduced with Mark of the Blade, is that a sign of things to come?

Ben: Yeah, I think it is a sign of things to come, just having the albums being very diverse but we’re not going to release an album just full of radio hits! We’re going to spice it up, we’re going to have songs that sound more like the older sound and songs that are going to sound newer. Everything in between is the sound that brings us in the future, there’s always going to be a couple of songs that bridges us to the future.

Yeah, so it keeps the band evolving?

Ben: Yeah, but we’re not going to change completely either.

Early WHITECHAPEL records were fundamental in establishing what is now known as the deathcore scene. Later records are certainly more progressive, almost aligning themselves with the djent movement. Was it always a conscious decision or was it just the mood of the band at the time of writing each record?

Ben: Yeah it was the mood of the band and in order to move forward you have to evolve. Very few bands really write the same albums over and over again and I don’t think we’re that interested in doing that. We’re not that committed to one certain sound in order to stick with it that long, bands like SLAYER and THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, they can keep writing the same vibe and just keep getting better at it, honing in on it all and it’s great! But, us on the other hand, it’s different. We feel like we’ve already written those songs and we want to try something else.

Since the band first started in 2006, now you are a big name in the modern metal scene, would you say that metal is doing well today?

Ben: Yeah! There are so many great bands out today, I think in the future the quality is just going to rise to the top, in this day and age you have to do something really good to get noticed. You have to have something that is really good so I think that’s going to make the quality better, rather than the quantity. But yeah, I’d say that metal is really healthy today.

Would you say the competition for newer bands breaking through is more fierce than ever?

Ben: You have to have a business mindset, there are a lot of bands that can be great but they don’t have the business mindset too. Just the commitment to go out and play shows, that’s the thing, you’ve got to go out and play shows, that’s how you get out there. You can’t just release music online now, especially in a metal band, and start having stuff go for you. You have to play shows, I would suggest getting on a opening spot for touring bands. Promoters will eventually catch on to you, on how many shows you play, that you actually turned up, they’ll throw you gigs here and there. I’ve seen that happen a lot.

So would you say you’re best advice for new bands is to put the miles in?

Ben: Yeah, put the miles in! And then focus on your craft, focus on songs. Take a look at the musical landscape and see what you can do to stand out.

It’s been announced recently that WHITECHAPEL will perform at Bloodstock Festival next year, which you have played before in 2013. How do you feel about coming back to play that festival?

Ben: Oh, it’s going to be great! The first time we played that festival was really cool, it seemed that people started to get a feel for us. I feel that when we come back next year it will probably be a more enthusiastic response!

With a festival like Bloodstock, their core audience our typical metal fans who don’t really explore deathcore or any new-wave stuff. Do you feel any pressure coming in to play festivals who have that audience?

Ben: Yeah, but there’s nothing really you can do except just play your songs and just hope it goes well. It’s whatever is coming through the speakers!

And really my last question for you is that you’ve got this Never Say Die Tour, you have Bloodstock next year. What else will 2017 bring for WHITECHAPEL?

Ben: We’re doing more festivals around Bloodstock, but we’ll be in Europe in August next year. We’re also going to hit South America and South East Asia next year. We’ll probably try to write in between then and maybe try to record a record at the end of next year.

Well best of luck for the rest of the tour, thank you for speaking to Distorted Sound

Ben: Cheers, thank you!

Mark of the Blade is out now via Metal Blade Records.

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