Exclusive Interview: Alex Wade of Whitechapel
As you might have guessed by looking at my name, I’m a huge Whitechapel fan and I am incredibly excited for their new album, Mark of the Blade. I recently caught up with Whitechapel guitarist Alex Wade at the Springfield, MO date on their Decade of the Blade tour to talk about their upcoming release.
Boozeman: The first show of the Decade of the Blade tour was last night. How did it go?
Wade: It was great. It was honestly not better than I expected because I expect all our shows to do well. I have faith in us and the other bands on the tour but it was definitely satisfactory.
The big thing this time around is going to be the new album Mark of the Blade. I’ve noticed with Whitechapel that your guys’ sound doesn’t stay the same with each release. There’s a pretty big difference from The Somatic Defilement to Our Endless War. What’s different about this album?
I think it further builds on the sound that we started on the self-titled album. Then it progressed from there to Our Endless War, and now it’s progressing from Our Endless War to Mark of the Blade. It’s still that modernized metal sound but it’s more dynamic in my opinion. The riffing feels a lot looser. It’s not super fast; it’s a little more relaxed and it grooves more. We wanted it to feel more natural. We wanted it to feel like we were just jamming on stage. Aside from that, we explored having the clean singing aspect and that whole thing. Like I said, I just feel like the album is very dynamic in the sense that one song is a lot softer with clean singing and another song is really heavy and hard.
Obviously lots of people freaked out about the clean vocals. Can you tell me a little bit about how they’re going to be used on the album?
We were testing the waters to see how it turned out, and in my opinion it turned out amazing. It’s one of my favorite things that we’ve ever done. The song that features most of the clean vocals, “Bring Me Home,” is one of my favorite songs the band has ever written. The song has a lot of impact to it. It’s about Phil’s father passing away and everything that he dealt with regarding that. It’s not just us clean singing to try to get bigger, it actually means something to him and to the band. I think that’s what’s most important about us doing it. The last track on the album, “Decennium,” has a little bit of clean singing as well so I’m definitely interested to see what people think about it. I’m really proud of it. I think we incorporated it as good as we could have so it doesn’t sound like fucking pop shit.
Not the high-pitched, nasally post-hardcore crap.
Exactly. It has meaning to it.
I’m excited for it. At first I was a little surprised but Lamb of God did it too and it worked out great for them so I’m excited for yours too. With Mark of the Blade, obviously the saw blade has turned into your guys’ logo. Has is always been the saw with you guys?
Yeah, pretty much, we used to do the whole saw thing back during The Somatic Defilement. We were coming up with different ideas for merchandise and the idea of the saw blade with the Tennessee tri-star in the middle was brought up and it kind of developed organically from there. At first we didn’t really think there was going to be a symbol or anything but the more we used it, the more we realized it just fit the vibe of the band. We just took it from there, and now I feel like it’s not only a brand but also that it represents Whitechapel.
And that’s where the name Mark of the Blade came from?
Yeah, it has multiple meanings. On social media sometimes we’ll repost fan photos with #MarkOfTheBlade so it symbolically stands for that because our fans are amazing. We wouldn’t be here without them because they’re the ones who support us. Not every song has that theme about the fans, but there are a couple of them that do so we’re just giving back to them. Inside the album artwork we featured fan tattoos and we’ve tried to incorporate as much of that as we could into the album.
One of the things I noticed about the title track is that the riff is super fucking catchy. Did you write it?
Funny thing about that, it was actually Phil [Bozeman]. He wrote the verse and the chorus and then Ben Savage wrote the bridge. That’s what I love about that song personally: we’ve never really had a song that’s so to the point and simplistic. It comes in with the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, done. Two minutes and forty-five seconds. It’s just a banger, it’s in and out. We played it for the first time live last night and I had a blast. A lot of people say it might be too simplistic, but I love playing it on stage so that’s all I fucking care about. [laughter] I’m the one who has to play it so as long as I’m having fun playing it that’s what matters to me.
I was watching a few of Phil’s fan Q&A videos and he was talking about not playing guitar a whole lot. Has he written any other riffs?
He’s written quite a few riffs. Over all the albums I think there are probably at least one to two songs per album that Phil writes the guitar riffs for. He used to play guitar before he did vocals and once he started doing vocals for Whitechapel he kind of stopped playing guitar. But I feel like if you’re a guitarist you never lose your ability to play. He might not be as good as he used to be but if he has an idea in his head for a guitar part that he wants to write to go with a vocal part, he can pick up a guitar and write the riff. “Let Me Burn” was a combination of him and [Ben] Savage, but yeah, he’s definitely very active in the guitar process, which is cool because I feel like it helps the guitars and the vocals mesh together better.
Other than Mark of the Blade are you playing anything else off the new album live?
Yeah, we’re playing “Tremors” and it’s another groovy jammer. It’s a lot of fun to play live. It’s really heavy and the crowd was getting into it last night. It was the first time anyone other than us had heard it and they were moving even though they didn’t know what they were listening to. I think that the goal was to just make music that people can move to and vibe to. It’s not all about sitting there and listening to everything and analyzing it note for note. Sometimes it’s about how it makes you feel.
Is it weird playing new music up there that the fans don’t know?
Yeah, it’s really weird because we haven’t played a new song that hasn’t been released since “This Is Exile.” When we played that song live we hadn’t released it yet and then after that we were kind of like, “Well, we don’t really just play songs that we haven’t released yet,” because people haven’t heard them and they don’t know what’s going on. For this tour we said screw it, let’s play a new song and see what happens, and it’s been going good.
Are we going to hear anything off The Somatic Defilement tonight?
Yeah, we’re playing “Vicer Exciser” and “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation.” I feel like those are the bangers from that CD.
Every time I see you guys I always hope that you play the The Somatic Defilement’s title track.
I think we played it last year a couple times. We’ll bring it out every now and then. We like playing it. It’s a good encore song because it has that sample that comes back in. But we’re not doing that on this run.
One of these days. You guys recorded Mark of the Blade with Mark Lewis in Tennessee, correct?
Yeah, we did it exactly how we did Our Endless War and the self-titled album. We recorded the drums in Sanford, Florida at Audiohammer and then we brought all of the recordings back to my house in Tennessee and finished the guitars, bass and vocals there.
I feel like a lot of the time recording in your hometown is probably a lot easier on everybody. Do you think that made the album sound better?
Yeah, absolutely. I feel like for us, we have the vibe of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” We’ve done it on self-titled and the album turned out great. We decided to do the same on Our Endless War and the album turned out great so we did the exact same thing on this one and it turned out great. It’s a good process that we have going and it works easy. I feel like every album still sounds completely different, though. They all have that Mark Lewis vibe and you can hear his production on them, but each one definitely sounds different It’s cool to hear the progression and the sound of the music as well as the production of it,
What’s your favorite song on the new album?
I’d say “Bring Me Home” because it’s a big step for us and it’s something that means a lot to us. It’s a song I’m never going to forget. Since it’s close to Phil personally, it’s close to the band personally. Like I was saying it’s cool that our first attempt at branching out and doing something like that can actually be meaningful.
Other than just being excited for the new sounds and the new things you guys are doing with your music, is there anything else you’re excited about for the new album?
Just all the new touring it’s going to bring. There are some things we’re working on that we can’t really talk about right now, but we are definitely going to have some cool tours in the fall after Warped Tour.
As far as this album goes, where did you take your inspiration for your riffs from? Was it different than in the past?
A little bit. We were more relaxed and we were having more fun. Like in “Mark of the Blade:” we’re not exactly focused on technicality, but that riff is just groovy as fuck and it’s fun as shit to play. That was definitely the whole approach and the vibe for the album. It was relaxed and fun and we tried to make the record what we wanted to play the most. We make the music to play it live. If you create a song in the studio and it just sounds good in the studio and you cant replicate it on stage, then what’s the point of even making that song?
Is there anything else you can tell me about Mark of the Blade?
Once the whole clean singing thing was out of the bag, that was about it. It was like, “Oh well, at least it will get people talking about it.” Like I said, I’m interested to see what everyone thinks of the record as a whole. It’s the next progression.
A friend who couldn’t be here today was very adamant that I ask you what your favorite flavor of Doritos is.
[laughter] We’ll go with nacho — no, spicy nacho.
Mark of the Blade drops June 24 via Metal Blade. You can pre-order it here, and you can see Whitechapel on tour this summer on the Decade of the Blade tour, and later at Warped Tour.