An Interview With : Ben Savage (Whitechapel)
16th December 2016, 15:00
Posted by Tristan
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A lot can happen in ten years. Celebrating their decennium this year, Whitechapel commemorate the moment with their brand new ripper Mark Of The Blade. With subject matter ranging from personal issues to the more inclusive fierce fan base the band have developed. Regardless of whatever genre you might be in, to be carrying on for ten years deserves a pat on the back. However Whitechapel are special kind of entity, one that has since grown with each release. Pushing their sound forward, whilst remaining the same. Getting flack for the incorporation of (shock horror) clean vocals on their latest album, it seems that these are just minor issues that fans will of course get their heads around. Catching the band on their Never Say Die headline run of shows we were able to speak to guitarist Ben Savage about just what Mark of The Blade means to the band and of course their fans.

Listen to the full unedited interview or read our transcript below!

So hello, how are you?

Doin’ well! Doin’ well just kickin’ it back until we go on in I guess probably about six hours or so. A lot of time to kill!

The classic question. How has the tour been going so far?

Its going a lot better than expected! The shows have been nice and packed out. Its a good tour package and we haven’t been to Europe for a while, that’s probably built up some anticipation. Shows have been really energetic, I feel like a lot of good energy in the room.

When was the last time you guys were in Europe then?

Well it must have been like a year and a half since we were here. We were here last April with Suicide Silence and The Ghost Inside.

Why has it taken so long for you guys to come back then?

Well in between that time we recorded a record and we did a few tours in the US. A year and a half goes by pretty fast!

You guys released your record Mark Of The Blade, how has that been having a reception?

Its been mixed, now that its been out for a while now, probably around six months people are starting to warm up to it more. At first we were getting a lot of flack for the more melodic songs on the record. Kind of moving away from our old sound, a lot of people are just discovering our band still. A lot of the old fans from our first records don’t like how we changed so much on the new one and on the last couple. Its just mixed, people either love it or hate it. The people that love it really seem to love it a lot.

I don’t think that it was too much of a crazy departure.

No?

No,no!

Well a lot of people like our first two records a lot.

This is Exile…

Our first record was actually on a UK label that, some of our first shows were in the UK. We’ve got a lot of history here.

So you’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for the UK.

It seems like people here over in the UK and in Europe seem to like the new record, a lot! Take it in, rather than people in the US who seem to bash it a little bit haha!

Is that because of songs like “Bring Me Home”?

Actually a lot of people seem to enjoy that song more than some of the songs on the record. Some of the screaming songs, if this record was anything it was kind of testing the waters to see what people like. Kind of like a census as to what kind of sound people like to hear from us. Its cool, I’m glad people are digging it.

What about the writing and recording process, how was that?

Well this one, I guess we had a lot of material and then we got together for two solid weeks and finished it in two weeks. Which is different to the last records where we kind of had months to prepare and get ready. It was cool because, there was just that nervous energy that would kind of feed into the record. We didn’t think about stuff too long, we just listened to the material that we already had and just made decisions on the spot. Didn’t overthink anything.

Was it a jam oriented kind of thing?

Yeah, we had an electronic drumkit in the room that we could jam out ideas on. That kind of helped with the construction of it, trying to figure out which parts to go to. Basically every record is just a matter of seeing how many riffs people have, how many song sections there are and just working on that until its finished.

There are so many members in the band, do you have each a contributing aspect to it?

Everybody writes their own style to it. I could tell if there was a song that Alex wrote or Zach wrote. That’s what makes each record feel like it has its different feelings in it, different emotions. Its rare nowadays that one person would write a song completely by themselves. Everybody has their little input on it, it still has the cohesiveness of a full band.

MOTB

Having three guitarists, does it ever get oversaturated sometimes with where you’re going to place riffs or is it the opposite?

Yeah, I feel like we have more room to play because all the guitars are separated left, right and center and then bass. Especially in a live setting which has the separation, if I do a lead then the heaviness is still retained because you’ve still got the left and right pumping through the speakers.

Two guitars or one guitar, you would lose some of that heaviness. That’s part of the Whitechapel sound, that wall of energy that we try and make. We try to do with each record, its gotta have that energy, its gotta have that mood. I think the three guitars definitely helps, we couldn’t have done it with two or one guitar and also helps with just having ideas. I get frustrated writing by myself, I’m in a vacuum, I write in a vacuum so I’m just kind of like stuck in my own ways. Its cool to hear other inputs and other peoples opinins, the material is better because of that.

Do you think that because you guys recorded the DVD, Decade of the Blade?

Brotherhood of The Blade.

Ah! Do you think that had an influence in the new record.

Yeah! Actually the song “Bring Me Home”, I wrote that because the guys who directed it wanted some theme music to go out through the record. I was just messing around with some riffs I had, I sent it to him and he liked it a lot and he actually used it on the DVD menu on the home screen. We thought “We should make that a song!” Then Phil really liked the song and he kept listening to it and I thought maybe we’ve got something here. It just kind of pushed me to finish it, pushed me to finish the riffs and then we all finished it together.

Was that for Naughty Mantis?

Naughty Mantis, yeah, yeah!

Have you guys been collaborating with, is it one guy or…

He was actually our drum tech for a few years! We found out that while he was teching for us that he was a wiz with videography and all that. He started making some tour DVD’s, not tour DVD’s but tour update, YouTube content. I actually saw that he had something there so we got the idea to make a documentary. He was on tour with us already, setting up drums so it made sense. To have someone who is in the grind of it all to make a documentary documenting our lives on the road.

What’s 2017 got for Whitechapel?

Well we’re coming back to Europe definitely for festivals in August, Bloodstock we just announced that today. We’re hitting more places other than where were from, we’re going to South America I think and South East Asia.

Are there any new territories?

Yeah, South East Asia, we haven’t been there at all! Japan, China, Jakarta Indonesia.

Is that in the Summer coming up?

I think its right before Summer, I don’t know when Summer is here.

Never!

Haha, we’ll be hitting it late April, early May then we’ll be coming here in August next year for festivals.

What about the actual name Whitechapel, where did that come from?

Here. Yeah it was just right down the road from here! Whitechapel, England where Jack the Ripper committed his murders.

No way! So it was actually the station, the place! Was it just because you guys liked the idea of it?

It was just the story behind it. He was one of the first serial killers, there have been many, many since him but he was one of the first that got recognised and never got caught. News came about that he was a barber or something kind of like Sweeney Todd, I dunno, maybe he wasn’t its still unsolved and its kind of impossible now. It was one of those where we started out, you need to find a name and that was one that stuck out the most.

Do you feel that you’ve kind of grown into the name Whitechapel now?

I think that by now its just become a name. We kind of lost the whole Jack The Ripper thing and Whitechapel is its own name, which we’ve been trying to do. The first record was a concept record on Jack the Ripper, you can’t really do two concept records on Jack the Ripper because that would be flogging a dead horse. We’ve been doing our own thing since then so I feel like Whitechapel has just become a name now.

Is there a concept around Mark Of The Blade at all?

Yeah, there is! This record hits the ten year mark we have been a band. Its just kind of like a nostalgia record, thinking back over what we have done and what we are going to do. Thinking back and thinking forward, we have a song “Decennium” which means ten years. Talks about what we’ve been through, what we’re going to do.

Then we have “Mark of The Blade” which speaks about all the fans that have our symbol tattooed on them, they bare the mark of the blade. There’s songs scattered in between there that deal with personal issues, cultural issues. It just kind of spreads out but the thing that ties it together is ten years of being a band and all those human emotions that come with it.

It’s like a celebratory kind of thing?

Exactly, exactly.

Did you ever see the band as it is now, way back when?

No, no. There’s actually a line on “Elitist Ones” which says “The vision of the future is like staring at the sun” so you never really know what the future holds. I never really knew we were going to write riffs that would end up having singing vocals on it. Most of our records come out of necessity and we need for this to happen or we want this to happen and we kind of see forward to it. I don’t know what the next record is going sound like and then usually before we go into the studio we just kind of finish it all up and then that’s it. We don’t know what is going to happen.

To finish up, as its nearing the end of the year, what’s been your favourite gig of the year, favourite film and favourite album.

Favourite gig… I saw, I actually saw Puscifer not too long ago and that impressed me a lot. Maynard from Tool’s side band, I had never heard them before and then we played a festival with them, Aftershock and went and saw them and I was pleasantly surprised. I was like “Damn! This is really good!” That’s probably the best gig. Best movie, I saw the movie Green Room which was actually really good. Its about that Punk band.

They get stuck in one of these!

Yeah! Stuck in a green room, they play at a Nazi, neo Nazi fest that’s going on because they needed a gig in between Seattle and San Francisco. They play this and then somebody gets murdered back stage while they’re playing. I don’t want ruin the movie but its pretty crazy! It deals with Punk Rock and Heavy Metal, its a cool theme throughout it. I’ve never really seen anything that kind of incorporates Heavy music into suspense. Then best album? I dunno, I like the new Radiohead album is great. The new Gorguts album.

Pleiades’ Dust.

Yeah, that one’s crazy! The new Sumac, that album is insane, Deathspell Omega just released a new EP that’s crazy.

Whitechapel’s destructive new album Mark Of The Blade is out now via Metal Blade Records.