By Ryan Meehan
Having spent several years lauded as one of the frontrunners in their genre, in 2013 Whitechapel stand as a defining force in contemporary heavy music. Building dramatically on the trademarked bludgeon of their first three releases, with “Whitechapel” the Tennessean sextet have inarguably delivered their most intense, dynamic, and downright hostile record to date. Drenched in atmospheric darkness, the record is also rife with gripping melodies that drag the listener in to the tumult, willing or otherwise, and across its ten tracks it is infused with an emotional depth that pointedly separates the band from the plethora of two-dimensional mosh-starters that have sprung up in their wake. Setting the scene with the brooding piano that prefaces the storm of frantic riffs and pulverizing drums of opener “Make It Bleed”, it is clear that Whitechapel are coming from a place of pure darkness this time out. At times teetering on the brink of despair while always primed to fight anything and everything that gets in their way, every track has its own personality, fitting perfectly alongside each other to form a breathtaking whole. From the heads down attack of “Section 8″ or the merciless “(Cult)uralist” to the apocalyptic drama of “Dead Silence” or the loping grooves of “Possibilities Of An Impossible Existence” the band put it all on the line, creating something that is as honest as it is devastating. Returning to their rightful place on the road, the band is enthused to take these new songs to their rabid fan base. They stand confident in their belief that their followers will hungrily devour the latest evolution of their sound, and having dramatically bolstered their fan base through blowing away the unsuspecting crowds on 2010′s Warped Tour they are sure to draw in new adherents anywhere they play. Whitechapel guitarist Zach Housholder is our guest today in 5 questions.
RM: What are the most important elements of creating a chunky guitar sound? And what’s the secret ingredient that allows you to find an equal balance between chunky and smooth?
ZH: Just like any guitarist, I could literally sit and go on about guitar tone all day long. Its almost impossible to put tone in a nut shell but here’s my take on it and its going to be more of a coconut shell size. 1) Less is more: Over the years, I’ve tried TONS of different tricks and gadgets that are supposed to “improve tone” or “sound like a certain album’s tone” and although I’ve made some decent progress I still wind up coming back to a more straightforward tone. Start dialing in a tone with everything somewhat right up the middle. Try setting Lows, Mids, Highs, Gain, and Presence to the twelve or one o’clock positions then work from there. 2) Never chase album tones: When you hear a record where the guitars sound absolutely huge, chances are it was a big budget recording and the amount of mic-blends, amp blends, and the use of amazing processing or pre-amps could be outrageous. Instead, find something that’s close and similar if you must. Nothing will ever sound exactly like a big-budget album’s tone but it doesn’t mean you can’t try and get it close. 3) Sometimes, amps just sound like shit: If you’re having to tweak the hell out of an amp just to make it sound good then honestly, it’s not the right amp for you and just move on. The idea is to find something that’s pretty good sounding right off the bat and improve upon it. In the case that it’s all you have to work with and can afford, refer to step 1. 4)Mid frequencies: All amps (or amp models in the case of digital amps) have different voicing and shapes. Amps will act differently to different guitar bodies, woods, pickups, and the player itself. One thing that is universal with guitars is how they sit in the mix. They are a “Mid” instrument. So for the love of god, stop scooping out the mids of your guitar tone. When I was really young, I always wanted the mids out because i loved the IDEA of that tone and I was doing what step 2 says not to do, but on down the road I realized how much mids really matter. You don’t have to BLAST the mid frequencies and sure, the scooped sound works for some players and its all personal preference, but at the end of the day a guitar tone dialed in correctly with mids will sound thicker than a scooped tone. 5) Gain: Gain is one of the more important structures of metal guitar. The instinct right away is just to blast the gain, no noise gate, and play away. Stop it…no one likes hearing your amp squeak from feedback every time you stop playing. Refer to step 1 again. Get the gain to where you can have the saturation you want and still play everything to your liking without over doing it. A lot of times, tons of gain will actually make your tone have less thickness and bite. 6) Boost pedals and Noise Gates: If you require some more gain, then i suggest a noise gate and if you need even more bite, a boost pedal does wonders. Try different boost pedals with different amp combinations. Boost pedals can be used for your over-all tone or simply when you want some more saturation on leads. Think of a boost pedal as a CLEAN boost to your tone…so that means not adding any gain with it from the pedal…and if you do, it should be a very minor amount. You’ll have to play around with all the levels and experiment to acquire what you prefer. Last but not least 7) Guitars and Pickups: As I stated earlier, the type of guitar you use and pickups will greatly affect your tone as well. Different guitar body shapes and woods make all the difference when it comes to how the instrument resonates and how much of some frequencies tend to stand out more than others through your amp. Find a guitar with wood that suits your type of playing and is pleasing to your ear through your amp set-up. Any guitar website will have explanations on what different woods do in guitars. I personally like a Mahogany/Maple combination. Pickups are also somewhat of a personal preference as well. Everyone always debates between active or passives. Honestly, I’ve heard both types sound fantastic on recordings. It’s all in what you want. Passives tend to have a bit more of an organic sound and a different kind of clarity where as actives tend to compress the tone and make for a whole other different type of sound. It’s all about what you want in the end.
Also, buy a tuner…it helps.
RM: Which part of the songwriting process do you enjoy the most? What do you think makes that moment so enjoyable?
ZH: I think its that moment when you’re writing (whether it be through an amp and nothing else, jamming with some friends, or in front of your computer and recording demos) and everything FINALLY starts to come together. It’s when you realize you’re on to something. Granted, this doesn’t happen every time you sit down and write, but it makes the whole writing process enjoyable and totally worthwhile when it does. Honestly, I think that’s one of the main drives for everyone that writes any kind of music.
RM: I understand that you have more of a black metal influence as opposed to Alex who is more into hardcore music…How do you get those two things to meet and are there every any severe disagreements that are clearly the result of that influences colliding?
ZH: Honestly, I did come up with more of a black/deathmetal influence but as I got older, I realized how much genres don’t matter and can listen to or write anything I want. With that in mind, I obviously still enjoy bands like Dimmu Borgir and Immortal. I always will, but when I write for Whitechapel, I obviously can’t be selfish and write what I want because Alex and I both realize we’re writing FOR Whitechapel and not for ourselves. So obviously, when I write, I’m not trying to make it sound like other bands…but instead use influences here and there from all the bands we like. If a part calls for keyboards or a really evil sounding Swedish/blackmetal type riff for instance, it’ll be similar to all those bands i grew up listening to, but it’ll be down OUR way…I won’t try to make a Whitechapel part sound like something else.
RM: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened in your time on the road?
ZH: Whitechapel tends to be a whole lot more chilled out now-a-days than we used to be. We’re all very quiet for the most part, but there’s always something weird that happens. On warped tour in 2010 during the wall of death you know how right before all the crazy asses start running at each other and they have all that open space between them? If you wanted, you could call it “No Man’s Land.” Either way, there were two people right in the middle of it. One was a girl and the other a guy. Our singer Phil had told the crowd that the first person to make themselves puke in the middle of No Man’s Land before the wall of death started would get a free T-shirt. So, here’s this one guy trying his hardest to gag himself while this girl (not the most attractive of sorts at all) is flashing her boobs…and it wasn’t a pretty sight. In my head, all I could think about was this guy gagging at the sight of this girl’s breasts.
RM: How would you like the listener to view Whitechapel fifty years from now?
ZH: The same as they would now. By that, I mean any fan of ours that has stuck by our side through every album and grown with us would probably continue to do so. Honestly, not one album of ours is going to be the same. They’re always going to be different and I know there’s a lot of people out there who have given up on us because “nothing will ever be as good as our first two albums,” but whatever, I appreciate the support but I definitely appreciate the support of more of the ones who stick by our side. Seeing as how we’ll be dead and gone 50 years from now due to us ruining our bodies on the road and on stage, I hope the fans of ours that are still alive will say “Well, they didn’t suck too awful bad.”
RM: What’s up next for Whitechapel in the remainder of 2013 and into 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
ZH: We recently started tracking a new album before the GWAR tour we’re currently on so when we get back home in November, we’ll continue to finish it up. I’d say it’ll be released in the early spring of next year but other than that, we have time at home for the holidays until February when we leave for Australia to do the Soundwave festival.
Official Website: http://thediseased.com
Whitechapel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WhitechapelBand
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