Whitechapel Interview with Zach Householder
Metal bands… I love ‘em! Not just because screaming, percussive pounding, and distortion sounds good to me, but because I respect metal musicians. The good ones are some of the hardest working people around, and they (generally) aren’t working on choreography and dance moves to get ready for their shows. There is no shortage of upstart metal bands and kids with a dream to play in the big leagues, but it takes rigorous preparation, 110% effort, and a bit of the “crazy” to really make it work. Whitechapel has all those elements, and they want to let you know they won’t be stopping anytime soon.
Formed in 2006, the Knoxville, Tennessee sextet have been logging many miles to bring their brand of brutality to the masses. Not content to replicate their previous recorded efforts, Whitechapel has brought out a hefty dose of sonic punishment with their latest album to appease The Diseased among us. The eponymous named record, released on Metal Blade Records, promises to deliver one of the most significant and unique contributions to their catalogue.
They aren’t wasting any time getting it out to their fans, either. Between their slot on this year’s Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, featuring Slayer, Slipknot, and Motorhead among others, a tour with Hatebreed, and a tour of Europe, the group will literally be on the road from now through November 18th. Before they go, I caught up with guitarist Zach Householder at Syracuse’s own Lost Horizon to discuss the album, their influences, and current events in metal.
G- What’s going on and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. How has everything going with you guys lately?
Z- It’s been going good, man. Trying to wake up with some coffee today, so it’s been a long tour so far.
G- Triple shot of espresso, by chance?
Z- No this is just coffee off the bus, so, it’s my own brand.
G- Hopefully it’s not just Taster’s choice or anything like that. So, you guys are going to be very busy touring for the next few months, and your schedule is insane! You ready to tear it up or what? Tell us about these tours!
Z- Yea always ready to tear it up! The travel can get to anybody and drag you down, but at the end of the day, the 30 or 40 minutes on stage is always worth it. So, yea this tour is obviously amazing, and Hatebreed will be fun because we’ve all grown up listening to them. We look forward to getting to tour with them for a change… We just never have.
And the (Devil Wears) Prada guys, we know them all really well and doing Europe with them because we’re good friends with them all. Past that, though, I’m also looking forward to some time off. (laughs)
G- Right on, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be happening for a while, so best of luck and keep that coffee close by! Whitechapel just released their new, self-titled album on Metal Blade Records, and I’d like to hear your take on your creation. Where was it recorded, who engineered the tracks, and how do you feel about the finished product?
Z- It was recorded… umm, the way we did it, we had pre-production which we did at Alex’s house, all of us sitting around going through our computers looking for catalogues of riffs we record on our own, and started to put skeleton structures together of songs, even writing on the spot, as well.
Once we got skeletons for the songs, we went to Audio Hammer where Mark Lewis recorded drums down in Florida. We did all the drums down there, and then we came back to Tennessee and Mark came up with all his studio gear and we recorded the rest of the album at Alex’s house.
As far as how we feel about the record, I feel that it’s our best, most mature work so far. You know, it’s outside the box of generally deathcore or whatever you want to call it, but it’s still Whitechapel, too.
G- You guys also have a new addition to the group, as new drummer Ben Harclerode has taken over the reigns, and that guy is a monster player… How is everything working out and how has the transition been for the group?
Z- We had a fill-in for a while, and his name was Gavin. He got the job done, but he still wasn’t what we were looking for… He’s a different kind of drummer. Finally, word got around that we were looking for a drummer and New Guy, which is what we all call him in the band… He’ll be New Guy until the day he dies… We got a video from him playing “Father of Lies” and as soon as I saw it, I said ‘That’s the guy!’ You can just look at a drummer and tell sometimes. It was better than anything I had seen so far, and we sent him some more tracks to do drums to, some of the harder tracks, and he sent them back
Just nailing it. Once he started hanging out, he was just like us… He’s part of the family.
His contribution to the new record was amazing, just having him jazz up some parts. He has a really good head on his shoulders when it comes to composition and everything, so the transition was easy, it just took a while to get there.
G- So, you guys are from Knoxville, though you don’t seem to be there very much at this point. Can you tell us a bit about where you are from… How is the scene and how are the responses at your shows?
Z- The metal scene was a lot bigger in Knoxville, but it just kind of fizzled out. I mean, that’s how we all knew each other was playing in metal bands and local bands… When we started doing this, doing Whitechapel, after we started taking off and doing our thing, the metal scene just fizzled out. There’s still metal bands , but it used to be a lot bigger and I don’t know if it’s because there’s already one big metal band that came from Knoxville, so another one can’t… A crumby attitude, if that’s the case, but it’s not as good as it used to be.
G- Yea I can remember the Old City, and it was pretty big down there for a little while, and hopefully it keeps going back up. Back to touring for a minute, you guys spend an inordinate amount of life on the road, and road life is no joke… It’s tough. How do you guys maintain such a rigorous schedule and how do you occupy your time when you’re traveling between gigs?
Z- Um, a lot of patience. People think ‘You’re on a bus… You’ve got it made,’ but no, I’m on a moving boat and I’m trying to sleep, and when we go up there and play, I am wrecking my body every night. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but the way we keep ourselves occupied, we each have our own vices. Video games, I read a lot, and lots of coffee. A little bit of drinking here and there to get the nerves a little loose before we have to play, but we’re not a huge party band. We don’t go super crazy, but we have our nights where we have a good time.
That’s another way how you wear yourself out fast is by partying a whole lot, and we just don’t do that. It’s not our thing. But we like to have a good time either way, and we’re by no means a square band, we just keep it in check.
As far as the rigorous schedule, you just make your body get used to it… There’s no other way I can explain it. Your body adjusted to playing everyday and having this schedule everyday. When you get home, that’s when it gets weird because you’re not doing this everyday, and I’m sure I go through some type of detox from having a drink every night, so…
G- Yea, I found acclimating to life off the road much more difficult to getting used to being on tour.
Z- It’s getting weirder and harder every time I go home, as much as I hate to say it, it really is. I spend more time on the road than I do at home.
G- It’s a testament to how hard you guys are working to carve out a niche for yourselves in the metal scene. How do you feel about the current state of metal, and are there any acts you are currently listening to or respect that you can hip us to?
Z- The metal scene, just like everything in the world, is flooded and there are tons of bands doing it. The bad part is a lot of bands concentrate on how their live show looks than making memorable music, you know. They’ll concentrate on doing this during this part to make their live show look cool and we don’t do that. We don’t do that. You don’t plan that out, it just happens. I think you walk away from these bands and think all these musicians are good, but I don’t remember anything from the show or from their music, and nothing grabbed me.
I’ve been checking out this band ASG, I think they’re on Relapse now, but they’re really… It’s hard to describe. Kind of Rock and Roll, Mastodon type stuff. It’s a really neat band and I’ve been jamming them a lot lately. The first time I heard it, it reached out and grabbed me and it wasn’t just typical. I checked out the whole cd and was like ‘Wow… This is really good!’
So, as far as the state of metal, it’s just harder and harder to find something that sticks to your head and inspires you. It’s not that I don’t like new bands, but if I want to get inspired, it’s got to grab me first.
G- Right on. Onto something a bit more touchy, obviously metal is an aggressive form of music and things can occasionally get out of control at shows, as we’ve recently seen with the situation with Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe. Has Whitechapel had to deal with any altercations with fans, and what do you guys do when there is an issue with the crowd/security?
Z- Umm, we’ve always had altercations with the crowd… They’ve been fighting amongst themselves or a fight would break out, and we’ll see it happening and keep playing as long as it’s getting broken up. As long as no one is getting stomped by a bunch of people, we’ll keep playing. A few hits to your face isn’t gonna ruin your day.
G- Yea you’re getting worse than that in the mosh pit.
Z- Yea. If we see someone getting stomped on or something really bad happening, we will stop playing. But we’ve never had altercations with our fans. We had a gun pulled on us in Virginia Beach a long, long time ago. That was apparently a fan who got beat up at the show by some kids and got kicked out. He tried to report the kids to the police, gave the venue his name and everything, and then came back with this SUV with some guys walking outside of it, and as soon as I saw it, I said ‘This is not good.’
He ends up pulling a gun on us, and I said ‘This is the same guy that was at the venue, and we have his name and address.’ Real smart, you know?
G- Jeez… Don’t take it out on the bands, kids. They’re just playing the music and they’re here to entertain you.
Z- Please! (laughs)
G- Ok, so let’s lighten it up a bit… Whitechapel has already performed shows with a plethora of awesome groups, but are there any bands that you hope to share a bill with in the future or locations you have yet to hit?
Z- Um, as far as bands, we did a few random off shows with Meshuggah after Soundwave in Australia.
G- YES! \m/
Z- Yea that was 2 off shows, and it just wasn’t enough, you know. I want to tour with them again for sure.
G- I want to tour with them forever!
Z- (laughs) Seriously! And I’d love to go tour with Slipknot. Whether you like them or not… I’ve always loved Slipknot… If you’re a musician and you look at it from that point of view, you have to look back and watch them play live and realize they are masters of their craft. Whether they meant to be or its developed over time, they are good at what they do and it’s such an entertaining show. I’d love to tour with them.
This is our second tour with Slayer. Our first Mayhem was in 2009 and that was really cool. Definitely Meshuggah, Slipknot, and I know this’ll never happen because our fans wouldn’t mesh at all, but I’d LOVE to tour with Iron Maiden!
G- Alright! I caught them last Monday and it was just incredible. You ever see them before?
Z- No I’ve never seen them. I’ve loved them since middle school and never got to see them live.
G- Alright, it’s time. Your homework assignment for Live high five is to go see Iron Maiden!
Z- Alright I’ll make that a priority!
G- Excellent. So you ever mentioned Slayer, Slipknot, and Meshuggah, and I’m jealous, but can you describe for us the craziest or most memorable show Whitechapel has played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
Z- Shit man, that’s a tough question because there’s a lot of crazy things that’ve happened. I remember once (starts laughing) there was a show, I forget where it was, but I think it was on Warped Tour. We always do the Wall Of Death during “Exile,” and it was pretty funny. Phil was saying ‘The first guy to go out there and make himself puke gets a free t-shirt.’ When the wall split, the guy in the middle went out there trying to make himself puke, and behind him was some really, umm, voluptuous girl, kinda big, that was just showing her tits and playing with them and everything, and it wasn’t very attractive at all. But the combination of the guy puking into the side of the girl’s tits, you know, made it that much more memorable.
G- (Laughing) That is a good memory!
G- Ok so one last question for all of the aspiring talent out there in the metal scene. You guys have toured everywhere and you’ve only been a band for 6 years, so you’re still pretty young, but for the talented kids out there, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
Z- Don’t concentrate on making your music around your live show. Concentrate on writing songs that stand out and are individual. Even if you’re really young, your writing will get better as time goes on, but when you write for yourself and your band, it shows a lot more than just doing this for the live purpose. It makes your music stale even though you might put on a great show. You might have a cool theme or a cool gimmick, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day because that lasts for a while, but then it fizzles out. If you want longevity, you have to be yourself and do it yourself. Make it look professional, but the music comes first.
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