Interview with vocalist Phil Bozeman | By Michael Pementel | Photo by Alan Snodgrass

July 2018 will mark the 10-year anniversary of Tennessee deathcore titans Whitechapel’s sophomore release, This Is Exile, which will receive a special-edition pressing through Metal Blade Records on June 1. This Is Exile represents a lot in the world of metal. On one hand, it’s an album that helped shape a new direction for metal. On the other hand, it’s part of a legacy for one of metal’s biggest bands and a reminder of where they started.

Reflecting on where his mind was as a writer back then, Whitechapel vocalist and lyricist Phil Bozeman shares the way in which he wanted to present This Is Exile. As a storyteller, Bozeman aimed to create a fictional story that played with biblical concepts and present something along the lines of entertainment.

“There was a lot of talks about how the world was going,” he recalls. “Still, to this day, it’s pretty much the same. Kind of like apocalyptic stuff was where my head was at, really. It was mainly [that] I wanted to have some sort of story told between good and evil, basically, and that’s where the basis of it really comes from. […] Nothing too personal for people to hate or get offended by, but also, at the same time, you can’t really go in with that mindset, because you’re gonna offend people no matter what.”

In the 10 years since the release of This Is Exile, Whitechapel have put out four more full-length records: 2010’s A New Era of Corruption, 2012’s Whitechapel, 2014’s Our Endless War, and, most recently, 2016’s Mark of the Blade. With each new album, Bozeman has grown as an artist, purposely shifting the direction of his writing. Even on the band’s self-titled third LP, one will notice a shift in the lyricism. There’s a new sense of maturity, something deeper and more personal.

“I think a lot of that has to do with just getting older,” he shares. “You get more in touch with your feelings and, like, what matters to you the most. That’s kind of where my head started to migrate toward, because I wasn’t necessarily mad at the world anymore or anything that happened in my past. I didn’t want to write about evil or crazy stuff, I wanted to touch on more personal stuff and relate to people more. Because, at the end of the day, all that stuff is made up; it’s fantasy stuff. It’s not really going to relate to a lot of people, as far as true human emotions. I just wanted to kind of go toward that level of lyricism.”

For over a decade now, Whitechapel have been taking the world by storm. They’ve headlined multiple tours, been featured on numerous festivals, and have received immense accolades with each new record. While 2007’s The Somatic Defilement is technically their debut LP, This Is Exile was their first step toward acclaim.

“[This Is Exile] was our breakout record,” Bozeman says. “The Somatic Defilement had already been released, and, you know, that was the only material we had. People were anticipating the next release, because we were kind of hyped up at the moment. It’s definitely the record that basically established us as a serious band.”

With the release of This Is Exile, the band entered the spotlight of the metal world and took on more responsibilities, but were they originally prepared for that?

“We expected to have more attention,” Bozeman shares, “whether that be interviews or press or just traveling more. [This Is Exile] was basically the record that solidified, like, ‘This is what we are gonna do. This is what we are focused on. This is what we are going to devote our lives to.’ It was a commitment [the band and I] had to accept and agree on.”

Bozeman recalls the condition Whitechapel were in while putting together This Is Exile, noting, “It was in January or February, [and] it was just snowing. It was not the ideal kind of weather, especially for me. [It was] so cold, and my voice does not thrive in the cold weather at all. […] And the studio was basically in this little shed, and there was at the time Xbox and [Playstation 3], and people would just be sitting there playing games in one room and recording in the other.”

“I remember, on that record, when we got to the end of the last couple songs, for me to record—my voice was going completely out,” he says. “If I [screamed] raw, like regular, it would just crack; it was pretty much gone. It was very taxing, but we got through it and made a good record.”

For Bozeman and the rest of Whitechapel, those early days would pay off down the road. That story highlights some of the band’s best qualities and why they have continued to grow in their artistry. “I say a lot of [our success] has to do with work ethic,” Bozeman states. “[Guitarist] Alex [Wade], in the band, he’s always handled the business side of everything. That’s kind of the role he’s always played in any other bands he’s been in before, so he already had a headstart on it, and we all just clicked really well. We all just get along really well. We talk to each other when we’re off tour. We hang out when we’re off tour. That’s really important, you know, because you can’t just, like, go on the road with someone you absolutely despise. It’s just not gonna work out.”

“I think that our mindset [is] we’re constantly on top of things,” he continues. “We really dedicated our lives to it; we took it super serious. We didn’t let any sort of quote-unquote ‘fame’ get to us—because I wouldn’t consider us famous people. We didn’t let any of that get to us [or] change who we are. We’re just simple guys from Tennessee, and I guess, we were just raised to be that way.”

Looking back on his career, Bozeman is proud of the brotherhood that he and the band hold dear, as well as the art they’ve created. Whitechapel toured Europe throughout March with Heaven Shall Burn, August Burns Red, and In Hearts Wake. Following after will be a major U.S. tour with the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder and Fleshgod Apocalypse, starting June 8 in Chicago and wrapping up July 13 in Minneapolis and featuring the band playing This Is Exile in full.

With a new record on the horizon, Whitechapel continue to cement themselves as one of the best metal bands of our time. When asked if he learned any lessons during the writing and recording of This Is Exile that still stick with him today, Bozeman shares, “I guess just to always challenge yourself, because when it comes to doing music—in general, doesn’t matter what genre—you have to evolve. You have to challenge yourself. There’s a lot of other people trying to do the same thing you’re doing, and it’s nearly impossible to stand out.”

“You have to try new things,” he concludes. “That’s basically what we stood by, and I feel like that’s something that is always going to stick with me, because if you just pigeonhole yourself and just keep yourself in the same writing style and same kind of music, you’re just gonna get bored. Then, I feel like your work is just going to suffer if you don’t continue to evolve and try new things.”

Pre-Order This Is Exile here

U.S. Tour Dates

The Black Dahlia Murder & Whitechapel
w/ Fleshgod Apocalypse, Aversions Crown, and Shadow Of Intent


June 08 – Chicago, IL – House Of Blues
June 09 – Cleveland, OH – Agora Theater
June 10 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall
June 12 – Toronto, ON – The Opera House
June 13 – Rochester, NY – Funk N Waffles
June 14 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
June 15 – New York, NY – Stage 48
June 16 – Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero Theatre
June 17 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage
June 19 – Norfolk, VA – The NorVa Theatre
June 20 – Jacksonville, NC – Tarheel
June 22 – St Petersburg, FL – Jannus Live
June 23 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Revolution Live
June 24 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
June 26 – Nashville, TN – Basement East
June 27 – New Orleans, LA – Southport Music Hall
June 28 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall
June 29 – San Antonio, TX – Vibes Event Center
June 30 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey
July 02 – Albuquerque, NM – El Rey Theater
July 03 – Phoenix, AZ – The Pressroom
July 05 – Fresno, CA – Strummer’s
July 06 – Anaheim, CA – House Of Blues
July 07 – Berkeley, CA – The UC Theatre
July 08 – Sacramento, CA – Ace Of Spades
July 10 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theater
July 11 – Kansas City, MO – The Truman
July 12 – Sioux Falls, SD – Icon Lounge
July 13 – Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze
July 14 – Oshkosh, WI – Rock USA *

*The Black Dahlia Murder only

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