Wednesday, January 2, 2013

While Heaven Wept Interview

1. Can you give us an update on what is going on with the band these days?
We’ve been taking it slow since the USA tour with Primordial this past September; our vocalist Rain’s expecting an another addition to his family in the Spring and our drummer Trevor is currently completing an MBA program at university, so in the meantime I’ve been developing the arrangements, lyrics, and overall plans for two forthcoming albums.

2. How would you describe the musical sound of the new album and how it differs from previous releases?
If you’re referring to the most recent album “Fear Of Infinity”, that was easily the most aggressive, most raw, yet least technical album on the surface…I wouldn’t say “least progressive” because in many ways it is; some of the harmonic content is far more “modern” as opposed to “baroque” (WHW has always been structured more like classical music than say standard rock/metal) and the fusion of elements definitely was a progression from past releases in that the integration of black, doom, classic, epic, and space was more profound. “Fear Of Infinity” was one of our darker albums and subsequently also a “return” to the emotional content of say “Sorrow Of The Angels”.
If you’re inquiring about the forthcoming album…well, there’s actually two as I said, but the next one consists of 10 songs channeled between 2010-2012 and I would say the aspects of melodic thrash and classic metal stand out more with this batch of material…although the black metal elements are probably even more prominent than on “Fear Of Infinity” as well. I would characterize the overall feel and atmosphere as similar to our “Of Empires Forlorn” and “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” albums…very epic, and while not bereft of darkness, it’s certainly not as “depressive” as “Fear Of Infinity”. I feel like it’s a catchy and mature record that is the natural evolution and fusion of the previous three albums.
In the end, all of our albums simply feature different ratios of existing elements and only differ in content (both musically and lyrically) based upon where we are in our lives at the time. That said, the 2nd forthcoming record is definitely an entity unto itself…far beyond anything else we have done in every conceivable way – but we’ll have to wait to discuss that further! All I want to say about that one is that it is a single 40+ minute track that contains 10 separate segments…but with unifying motifs throughout.

3. What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the newer music explores?
Since the beginning, WHW has always been a vehicle for me to cope with transitions, changes, losses…life experiences…particularly in terms of ventilating the negative ones. Most of the albums tend to refer to specific times and relationships, but in the case of the next album it’s more of an overall perspective of my entire life...yet with SOME specifics still…basically it’s about everything that has transpired since “Fear Of Infinity” came out.

4. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the band’s name?
While Heaven Wept refers to a particularly gutting day many years ago involving the severance of a relationship and the sudden storm that ensued; literally it means “when it rained”…as in “the sky is crying” – like the Stevie Ray Vaughn album…though, there’s no relation.

5. The band has a long history going back 20 years, what is it that motivates you to keep the band going after all these years?
It’s first and foremost out of personal necessity; it’s how I stay relatively sane in life and how I traverse the tribulations of my life…how I transcend and heal – this music has quite literally saved my life on more than one occasion and has allowed me to overcome even the most difficult circumstances. The fact that people all over the world – strangers even – reach out to share their own stories of how the music of WHW has helped them heal as well (or at least feel as though they aren’t alone in their struggles) is certainly another motivation to continue.

There’s also the passion for the music of course too…we are all extremely driven to channel the greatest performances that we can…to continually push ourselves and each other in terms of personal ability…and the desire to channel deeply sincere emotions THEN capture them in the best possible fidelity.

6. What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and how would you describe your stage performance?
While the larger open air festivals in Europe are definitely an amazing experience (and often we have to strive to reach as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time), the smaller festivals (say 1000-3000 capacity) and even smaller intimate venues tend to be the most magical…we really do thrive when we know we’re connecting with an audience…their energy makes us dig deeper and play harder…so the best shows for us involve the best audiences honestly.
Some examples of such audiences/events include Hammer Of Doom III in Würzburg, Germany (2010, which by the way anyone can watch on our “Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence” DVD), Up The Hammers VI in Athens, Greece (2011, and I assure you EVERY pure metal band and fan needs to experience the audiences of Hellas), and ProgPower USA XII in Atlanta, Georgia (2011, which is the closest in “feel” to that of a high-quality EU festival and EXTREMELY professionally run).
I’d also have to say that various shows on both Primordial tours also come to mind…especially once we’re a few days into the groove; what was really cool was in both cases either Alcest or Cormorant were opening and they really made us push harder…to take things up another level in intensity, all building to Primordial who absolutely drove the shows into a frenzy…but again, these also were the shows with the greatest audiences too…Tilburg, Vosselaar, Nijmegen, Aschaffenburg, Chicago, Rochester, NYC, Springfield, and Charlotte for me personally.
Describing WHW live, it’s significantly more raw and edgy than on the (intentionally) “polished” albums…there’s quite a bit of improvisation…which is in part a tribute to the Dio-era of Rainbow and various 70’s bands; I just truly believe that concerts should be one-of-a-kind experiences shared between the band and the audience at hand…regurgitating albums note for note while impressive, isn’t as exciting or liberating as just “letting it rip” for better or worse! Our shows definitely are emotionally charged and as far as the band members themselves…some tend to hang back in the shadows keeping us grounded, while others are at the edge of the stage, literally reaching out to the audience…insuring they are very much part of the show.

7. Do you have any touring plans for the future?
We don’t have any concrete plans at the moment due to another recording being on the horizon, but considering most of our audience is in Europe, I imagine we’ll be heading over there first after the album is released – most likely during festival season for open airs on the weekends and club dates in between.
Beyond that, we have every intention of reaching the States and countries we have failed to reach thus far…priorities being additional countries in Europe, the West Coast of the USA…and the continents of Asia, South America, and Australia…in some cases we may only perform there once…particularly in the USA actually…but there are some cities we’ll always come back to.
It’s not a matter of this audience versus that audience as much as we only have the ability to tour say 21-22 dates straight in any given year due to the fact that we all have other careers, properties, in some cases families with young children…plus we’re spread out over 5 different states!

8. On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your newer music by fans of epic doom and traditional metal?
Well, if you consider 2009’s “Vast Ocean Lachrymose” as the starting point of “Chapter Two” of WHW (considering there was a year gap between that album and “Of Empires Forlorn”, and perhaps more significantly the first to feature Rain Irving on vocals after I had handled the leads myself for 18 years), overall, it has been surprising, spectacular, flattering, and humbling. “VOL” ended up being something of a phenomenon worldwide, garnering accolades from many respected media outlets, industry insiders, and the fans; mind you, some Doom purists weren’t into “VOL” due to its overtly progressive aspects and “Fear Of Infinity” was knowingly going to be even more polarizing but it is what it is…and these (like all of our albums) are exactly what we needed to do to insure sincerity. They are also the next levels building upward from our foundations, necessary to insure the “structural integrity” of what we’re building to next.
The reality is there is no chance of us pleasing everyone, every time…some people will “get” it, some people won’t…so all we can do is play from the heart and soul thus striving to be successful in expressing ourselves. We are very progressive minded as well; we’ll never record the same album twice…we just don’t see the point in retreading ground we’ve already covered and as WHW is in essence the story of a lifetime, we are continually growing and evolving – but again the irony is ALL of the albums past, present, and future really are different ratios of existing elements, so if someone prefers a particular era or album…eventually there should be another that has a balance of similar ilk without being a carbon copy…or if not, there’s always the back catalog for those who don’t dig what we’ve done otherwise. And for certain, WHW is NOT for everybody…and considering how emotionally intense we can be, even actual fans may need to be in the right mood for one of our journeys.

9. What is going on with the other musical projects these days?
For me personally, I am no longer involved with any “extracurricular” activities; there was a time when I felt strongly about keeping my various influences segregated from each other for one reason or another…but in the end, I felt as though I was spreading myself thin in some capacity…and now, all of the different styles of music that I’ve performed throughout my life are fusing together – and through that genuine experience alone is it possible for us to shift from style to style very naturally…even within the same song. Now that all of my own “invisible boundaries” have dissipated, things are definitely getting more and more exciting with every new idea that is revealed!
The status of the other members’ projects is as follows:
Jim Hunter (WHW bassist) is still involved with Twisted Tower Dire (though they are primarily focused on live shows these days), Yet So Far (aka the Dennis Cornelius era of Revelation…I believe there will be new material coming eventually), October 31…hmmm…he’s also been part of the Raleigh era Whitesnake tribute band Whitefake for a couple years…I think he’s recently gotten involved with a Maiden tribute band down there too. Hell Razor has apparently disbanded though I know Jim and one of the other guys from that band were working on a new project as well…as if he didn’t have enough bands haha!
Rain Irving (WHW lead vocals) and Jason Lingle (WHW Keyboards and harmony vocals) have at various times attempted to resurrect their previous band Altura who released the acclaimed “Mercy” album in 1996 on Magna Carta, but they’re not going to do it unless all the original members are involved…some of whom can’t be for various reasons, and others are not as interested in doing the Dream Theater type-of-thing anymore. Some newer ideas have been cataloged though.
Scott Loose (WHW guitars), Michelle (WHW keyboards and harmony vocals) and Trevor Schrotz (drums) still have the band Brave and perform occasionally. In fact, WHW and Brave shared the stage for the first time since 1999 on July 7th, 2012 at the Pathfinder Metalfest IV in Atlanta, Georgia where they did debut a FANTASTIC new song. I don’t believe they have any intention of signing to another label but will likely do some kind of home recording at some point.
Other than these, everyone is always writing and cataloging ideas…which also brings up an interesting point in that WHW has still yet to create an album as a band…and literally, every member is a writer…who knows what that could mean for the future.

10. What direction do you see your music heading into on future releases?
As aforementioned, the next immediate album is absolutely a fusion and result of the combination of “Vast Oceans Lachrymose”, “Fear Of Infinity” and “Of Empires Forlorn” chock full of catchy melodies, tons of harmony guitars, mostly uptempo songs with a few surprising twists and turns. I’d say its equal parts melodic thrash (ala Holy Terror), classic US underground metal (Arch-era Fates Warning), and early 90’s black metal…with a little dash of Autopsy-inspired death/doom and some Mercyful Fate/Voivod weirdness. There’s not really much in the way of doom, but it’s EXTREMELY epic for sure! And just to be clear when I reference black metal or death/doom, I’m not talking about the vocals styles rather the music itself.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the single song epic album that is to follow other than it is without a doubt more doom-tinged, very progressive…I mean WAY beyond everything else we’ve done…and harmonically more advanced than anything else in our canon. I guess the only way I can summarize this now is everything we’ve done and are about to do is building towards this…the greatest epic in the history of WHW.
After that, your guess is as good as mine…at the moment I don’t know if we can top these next two albums…maybe then it will be time to focus on performing live almost exclusively and drop a single or EP here and there <shrugs> …I mean this particular line-up of WHW isn’t going to survive forever…that’s another factor…and that epic album is going to be pretty near impossible to usurp or transcend. I suppose there’s no sense in speculating something that’s 3+ years away…but I can say we’ve agreed with Nuclear Blast to do both of those albums within 18 months of each other…and we’ll be touring in between…that’s all I know for sure right now.
I do have other musical ambitions that wouldn’t be light years away from WHW, so maybe that will be the next chapter afterwards…or perhaps we’ll take that opportunity to attempt writing an album together…I guess the only thing I can be sure of is that there will be more life events that need to be dealt with through this music and the ongoing story told.

11. What are some bands or musical styles that have influenced your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Actually, our primary influences have remained the same since the very beginning: early Fates Warning, “Viking-era” Bathory, the first Candlemass, Kitaro, early Qüeensryche, Black Sabbath, Rush, Cirith Ungol, early Trouble, Witchfinder General, Uli Jon Roth era Scorpions, early Slayer, Forbidden, Voivod, Mercyful Fate, Holy Terror, all sorts of obscure underground Metal (ranging from the classic to the extreme) and 70s progressive rock/Kosmiche Musik. There’s relatively few artists that have inspired us in any capacity since these and the like…with the notable exceptions of Arcturus and Devin Townsend…and even those date back to the early 90’s. The only band that I can say who has any impact upon me more recently is the Japanese post-rock band Mono…but I think that influence has only really surfaced in some of our live improvisations so far.
As far as things I’ve personally enjoyed recently…a lot of our friends’ bands and side projects mainly…Argus, Orodruin, Pale Divine, Vektor, Primordial, Cyrus, Officium Triste, Procession, Ereb Altor, etc. I spend a lot of time listening to older live recordings of bands honestly…but gotta say I was truly blown away by Rush’s “Clockwork Angels”!

12. Outside of music what are some of your interests?
Most of my life revolves around music…I teach music when I’m not out doing something with WHW, and I spend a vast amount of my free time focused on music…but I do enjoy traveling, movies, a few TV shows, and I’m something of a foodie – I always refer to Anthony Bourdain or the Food Network’s shows for ideas on where to eat when we’re in a new city…and so far, everyone has agreed these selections have been dead on!

13. Any final words or thoughts before we wrap up this interview?
First of all, thanks for reaching out…we always appreciate any opportunity to express ourselves and give people some insight into the past and future of the band. Right now it’s the calm before the storm…and we appreciate all of our fans who are waiting patiently…we assure you that we’ll be coming out “all guns blazing” with the new material and will be back out on the road again soon after that!
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