Scratch beneath the musical surface and you’ll find Knoxville rockers, Whitechapel, who have continuously transcended the norm and taken steps in unexplored territory over six diverse albums that hold strong to brutality and inherently dark expressions of pure passion. Engaging listener’s minds with a mutating feast of no bullshit songwriting prowess and venomous deliveries, Whitechapel have cemented their legacy into the hearts of fans worldwide. I caught up with guitarist, Zach Householder, to discuss the upcoming Metal Blade Records 35th Anniversary tour, opportunities facing our world today, tattoos and more.
You guys are gearing up to hit the road Metal Blade Records 35th Anniversary tour. Tell us how Metal Blade Records has influenced your artistry as musicians that have been in the game for over a decade.
Metal Blade had a lot of the bands on it that I grew up discovering. I’ll never forget the first time I put in their Deathmeister or Metalmeister compilation cd’s when I was in middle school. It literally blew me away with some of the bands on it. It’s how I discovered Cannibal Corpse, Amon Amarth, Bolt Thrower, Gwar, Six Feet Under…the list goes on and on. There were also some underground bands that don’t exist today on those compilations as well that paved the way for me. Needless to say, Metal Blade Records had a lot of influence in my earlier metalhead days. I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for hearing some of those bands.
Your sixth studio album, ‘Mark of the Blade’, was the first album to introduce clean vocals by vocalist, Phil Bozeman. What inspired the transition that received a standing ovation within reviews all across the board?!
We had wanted to experiment with singing ever since the release of our Self-Titled album. However, it had to be done correctly and couldn’t be forced. The song had to fit the vibe for it. This time around, we had two songs that we thought it could work with and not sound like “poppy-metalcore-bubble gum-clean vocals.” Aside from wanting to just open up that doorway for our music writing, we literally wanted to do it just to get away from the rigidity of the “deathcore” genre. Not to disown the genre, necessarily…but the fact that “singing is unheard of in deathcore” makes us want to do something like that even more. It’s music…who cares what ingredients we throw into the mix?
Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite pieces and the artists that brought them to life.
Some of my favorite artists as of lately happen to be Brandon Bond at All Or Nothing Tattoo, Nikki Simpson (I don’t really know what shop she claims to belong to), and Sean Cummings of Paradox Tattoo in PA (Sean provided the sketch and idea for the Mark Of The Blade album cover art). I love all of these artist’s work so I’m gonna have to pass on narrowing down a favorite piece by each other them.
When you were a teenager just picking up the mic or your instrument of choice, what bands/musicians did you listen to and look up to while getting familiar with your passion for music?
We all seem to start somewhere similar so I began with Metallica and the Misfits. I would pick up a guitar and try sounding out what I could by those bands. Later on, I found myself sounding out and jamming to a lot of bands like In Flames, At The Gates, Amorphis, Emperor, and Fear Factory. I never really had a teacher so I was sounding everything out by ear by pausing and rewinding a tape or cd which is how I cut my teeth playing guitar as a kid. All I knew was that I would hear a sound and melodies those guitars made and I wanted to understand it, mimic it, and learn it.
Broad question, but dial it down to your perception. What do you perceive are the central issues and opportunities facing our world today?
Racism…doesn’t matter what color you are…it IS possible to be racist if you aren’t Caucasian. Entitlement and Safe Spaces…get that shit out of here. Talk to any Veteran about a “safe space” and I hope he removes a body part. Religion and Feminism…both of these have people speaking for them that just ARE NOT SMART enough to have an opinion on the matter. Too many people open their mouths and nothing comes out but a plethora of useless words about something they don’t understand. All these people do is make the actual Feminist who’re really fighting for equality look bad. Same with the person who just wants to be a good Christian or whatever their religion might be. Some of the worst and most self-centered, biased, judgemental, narrow minded, HATEFUL, and even racist people I know are “Christians.” They can drink, fight, and fuck all week long, discriminate against minorities and gay people, and be shitty to each other as long as they go to church on Sunday, right? And that’s just in the USA…Religion as a whole is used as a crutch entirely too much all over the world for awful and terrible reasons…But hey, what do I know? I’m just a pile of flesh hitching a ride on a rock around a huge ball of fire.
Your album artwork has consisted of quite arresting and detailed images. Do you have any particular artist that you work with?
As I started before, our mutual friend of the band and tattoo artist Sean Cummings laid out the idea and the sketch for the latest album cover. We then handed the idea over to Colin Marks (he did This Is Exile’s album artwork) with a few ideas on input and let him take the wheel from there. We don’t really have anyone specific we go to regularly for album artwork but we tend to just find someone that can execute the ideas we have in mind.
If you could only take three albums with you onto a deserted island, which three albums would you choose and why?
I can’t ever answer this question. Human nature makes us start to dislike something when it’s repetitive so imagine actually listening to these non-stop. Plus, how would you play them? Do you have a solar powered walkman or ipod? All the music I need would be in my head and I would gladly trade those 3 albums for a flare gun, a machete, and a satellite phone!
What do fans of Whitechapel have to look forward to in 2017?
Hard to say. We’re concentrating on writing more than anything for most of 2017. We have the Metal Blade Anniversary tour coming up along with some European dates this summer. Also, we’re hitting Asia this year as well. Nothing too exciting for our fans this year but good things come to those who wait. However, we might have a few surprises here and there.
Any advice for teenagers and kids attempting to follow in your footsteps as a musician?
Write music for YOURSELF. It’s good to have bands you look up to and take influence from them…but don’t write to impress a scene or genre of music. Just write what makes you happy. Also, choose your band name wisely in the beginning. Don’t just pick something that you don’t think about thoroughly. Is it marketable? Does it have something people can latch on to? Same with a front man/woman. I hear too many bands where the music is great but the singers are the weakest links. Some choose a female because it seems like a cool gimmick that everyone is following…and in NO WAY am I saying a girl can’t do that job. All I’m saying is just make sure whoever you pick brings something to the table whether it’s a male or a female. Make sure they’re not just background noise and blurring the whole picture.
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?
Thanks for the continuing support…all of you. Whether you’re only fans of earlier Whitechapel or you’ve been along for the whole ride with us…thank you. I hope you all will continue to stick around and enjoy the ride with us!!