INTERVIEW: Phil Bozeman – Whitechapel

Since their explosion in 2006, WHITECHAPEL have been one of deathcore’s leading bands. Ten years later, the band are at the summit of the style and have legions of dedicated fans. Album number six, Mark of The Blade, is nearly here and serving as tribute to the band’s fans, you get the feeling that WHITECHAPEL are enjoying their most successful time as a band. We spoke to vocalist Phil Bozeman to lift the lid on the upcoming record, discussing the themes and why the band have utilised clean vocals – a first for WHITECHAPEL. We also take a look back at Phil’s most memorable moments with the band and discuss the evolution of social media and the difference between American and European attitudes to music.

It’s been two years since your last record, Our Endless War, how has the band progressed in that time?

Phil: Well we just toured on that album cycle and it was just time to write a new record and we had a lot of material saved up. We’ve been touring ever since then and just do the album cycle for as long as possible. It was the same old stuff, just touring, it’s been pretty good though! I’ve got nothing negative to report.

The new album is called Mark of the Blade and it marks ten years of WHITECHAPEL. The theme is dedicated to the fans, how come you chose that theme?

Phil: It was surreal to us that we hit a ten year mark for us, it just seems like yesterday that we were just beginning. We really wanted to pay our respects to the fans, human beings, not just people who buy our merchandise or come to our shows. Over the past ten years or so I’ve spoken to people where they say “you’ve stopped me from committing suicide” or “you kept me from doing bad things, listening to your music really helped me.” Of course, personally, some of the lyrical content I think to myself “well a lot of it is very evil and negative and messed up.” I don’t know how it helps you but if it does that’s great! I don’t care what it is, as long as it helps you from doing crazy stuff, I’ve met a lot of people that have told me it’s helped them and I’ve met kids with cut marks all over their arms, it made me want to write something from the heart and just show that metal and heavy music doesn’t have to be negative and evil all the time. We are all human beings, if we were doing the stuff we are saying on our records, we all would be in prison! At the end of the day this is for entertainment, a lot of it is entertainment, and to get those hateful feelings out in music, I just felt that we really needed to show our true human side instead of just writing negative stuff all the time.

When I listen to the album, it has a lot of emotional depth and it is quite uplifting in comparison to say your early material. Was this always the intent? To write an uplifting album…

Phil: Yeah because whenever you are younger, you are an angsty teenager or even in your 20s you still have that misanthropic view on life, but once you get older and you understand life more and your brain evolves as a human, you just realise all that stuff was a waste of time. Being pissed off all the time is not a way to live your life, no matter how tough. People are going to say we went soft and stuff like that but at the end of the day, even those people saying that, people want to be happy in life. They don’t want to hate everything, if people had the choice to not hate everything, then they wouldn’t hate everything and be happy and smiling all the time, they would because it’s what we want to do as humans. I just wanted to portray that and show it, just because we have hateful music and a lot of it is brutal but we are still humans, we can portray positivity and happiness.

There are two songs on the record that marks a first for the band where you utilise clean singing, what was the decision behind utilising this vocal technique?

Phil: We’ve been doing this scream thing for so long and when it comes to music you shouldn’t have limitations just because you’re in a heavy band, if you wanted to write a bluegrass song you could. People are going to pigeon-hole you into genres and stuff and just because you’re in that genre doesn’t mean you should ever be limited, artists back in the day if they didn’t paid the stuff that they did and try new things and try crazy stuff they wouldn’t have evolved as an artist. It comes with music today, look at METALLICA. They started out as that 80s heavy metal and after that they evolved into what they are now, they still sound like METALLICA, they just want to do different things. Whenever you are writing music, writing the same thing over and over again, personally to us, just wears us out. We wanted to do new things and there is nothing wrong with being as diverse as you can possibly be.

So really the inclusion of clean singing is marking your evolution as a band?

Phil: Yeah, if you are able to do it and if you want to do it, there’s no reason why you can’t. It would be very odd if CANNIBAL CORPSE did it but if they wanted to do it then there is no reason why they can’t, if it sounds good it doesn’t matter to me who does it. It can be any band, as long as the song sounds good to you then it shouldn’t matter to you who did it.

Going back to the anniversary of celebrating 10 years as a band, you’ve achieved some incredible things, what would be your top moments throughout your career?

Phil: I would say probably the beginning was always exciting, it’s new and it’s fresh. I would say getting signed to Metal Blade was probably one of our most remembered moments because it was just one of the biggest points in our career and I would say our 2010 Welcome To Hell tour in the States, that actually got an award from Live Nation. It’s not the biggest thing in the world but to us it was a big thing, it was such a successful tour. I would also say, honestly now, to be able to say that we’ve been a band for a decade and we’ve reached the decade mark, a lot of bands can’t say that. There’s been bands that have been together longer but we started touring pretty much as soon as we formed the band, it was literally within the first year we were already touring. A lot of bands can fall apart because of certain types of personalities, some clash, but we just made it work.

And already looking ahead, where do you see the band in the next ten years?

Phil: Well who knows, music nowadays is very unpredictable and it’s changing so rapidly now. People are getting into music, different types of music, and in the next three years it’s going to be something new. It’s going to be the big thing and what I’ve kind of realised is that with America, they move to different stuff faster than the rest of the world because I don’t know if it’s being spoilt in America but I feel like overseas in like Europe and the UK, just because we’ve been there, over there people seem to hang onto things. They respect the classics a lot more than over here in America and you can see that, certain bands over here will play a club full of 300 people but then they go over to Europe and they can play to 1500 or 2000. It’s just so different and I feel that Europeans seem to, I’m not going to say respect music more, I feel like it’s more of a culture over there because over here it seems like whatever is the most popular is what everybody is going to listen to.

Yeah, it seems that in Europe that it’s more consistently rooted within people’s minds, they’ll hang onto their favourite bands for decades…

Phil: Yeah, I mean it’s just like Wacken, you would never see anything like that in America but there’s tens of thousands of people going to that every year and it’s like a holiday to them.

WHITECHAPEL were one of the first bands to truly benefit from social media with the Myspace explosion in the early 2000s. Since them, social media evolved into what it is now, do you like social media now as a means to promote the band?

Phil: Yeah, that’s communication nowadays. You use social networking more than you do say calling someone on your cell phone, it blows my mind that people go “I sent you a Facebook message and you never responded” when they actually have your phone number, that blows my mind. I don’t understand that at all. I kind of feel that social networking is probably the number one promotion for sure, but I honestly felt that Myspace was better than it is now because it was the one social networking site and everyone went there for everything. They went there to talk to people, they went to find music. Now it’s Facebook, Instagram and so on, I feel that Facebook is honestly nowhere near as good as Myspace was. Myspace was like a revolution for bands to get discovered and now, maybe I don’t know because we didn’t grow up in this era, I don’t personally use Facebook so I don’t really know how it works too much. Now, it’s just Facebook, Instragram and Twitter are pretty much the only places where you can really talk to anyone, Myspace was just so much better in my opinion, everyone was one community, they weren’t spread out to all different social networks.

Since that explosion of the Myspace deathcore bands, the sub-genre and the style has evolved somewhat. It’s very different now compared to when it first broke through, but it still seems to carry a stigma to a lot of people within the metal scene. Why do you think the stigma still exists?

Phil: With every musical style there is always that window where bands will become, I wouldn’t really say the pioneers of it, but I think that heavy music is definitely more open now. Back in the 90s and early 2000s heavy music wasn’t very notable. People didn’t really know too much about it, it was kind of considered evil, and now the world has stopped being so afraid of everything. It’s just not as shocking as it used to be and I think that a lot of people are becoming more exposed to it and there’s going to be the people that like and there’s going to be people that don’t. Obviously if you played a death metal album inside of a frat house, 95% of the people inside will want you to turn it off and put on something different. But there is that 5% that will like it and that’s 5% gained for heavy music. People will discover it and actually like it.

I remember WHITECHAPEL playing Bloodstock Festival a number of years ago and Bloodstock is one of those festivals that doesn’t usually cater for bands within deathcore. With that, in your own personal experience, experienced much elitism?

Phil: Honestly, that festival and the people there were very accepting. Bloodstock is one of those, like you said, more along the lines of I guess you could say true death metal and more extreme metal bands. But I thought it was a very accepting festival, not to mention just because I think Europeans and people from the UK are more accepting and more open to music. I’m from American and I see it all the time, there are a lot of closed minded people here and you don’t have to like the music if you don’t like it, but people in America definitely go more out of their way to insult and be disrespectful.

Well I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me Phil, best of luck with the album release and the future tours!

Phil: Thanks!

Mark of the Blade is set for release on June 24th via Metal Blade Records.

For more information on WHITECHAEPL like their official page on Facebook.