I recently got a promo of the band While Heaven Wept and HOLY SHIT did this band totally blow me away. Just crushing doom metal with some of the heaviest riffs known to man along with some super atmospheric vocals to boot. I sent guitar player Tom Phillips some questions to answer and they are below and if your into quality music, check this band out:
MC: Tell me the current line-up and how did this line-up come to be?
TP: The current line-up consists of: Rain Irving - Vocals, Tom Phillips - Guitars/Keyboards, Jim Hunter - Bass, Scott Loose - Guitars, Jason Lingle - Keyboards, Harmony Vocals, Michelle Schrotz - Keyboards, Harmony Vocals, and Trevor Schrotz - Drums. The majority of this line-up has remained intact since 1998 (there were many line-up changes between 1989-1998), with Trevor taking over the drum spot in 2004, the addition of Rain on vocals in 2008, and Jason on keys in 2010. The core of the band more or less went through high school and college together, and I'm sole founding member remaining.
MC: Did any of you come from any other bands?
TP: While Heaven Wept is in essence an underground "supergroup" in that the current members were (or still are) members of the following underground luminaries: Altura, Twisted Tower Dire, Solstice (UK), Revelation, October 31, Brave, Doomstone, Hell Razor, Parastic Infestation, Arise From Thorns, etc. (amongst others)...while past members/affiliates have gone on to bands such as Slough Feg, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts, etc.
MC: How long has the band been together and about how long do you think it took to develop your own sound?
TP: The band started in 1989 and we spent the next 5 years developing our identity (although the music took on it's own course based upon events in my life), so by the time of our first studio recordings we were already doing something uniquely our own...though certain influences were surely more obvious.
MC: What were your 1st couple releases like and can you still listen to them now?
TP: Since we didn't make the same mistake a lot of bands do these days (thanks to technological developments in the home recording industry), as aforementioned, we were fairly developed by the first Compact Disc output. Despite not featuring the over-the-top productions of our more recent releases, they do have a unique sound quality and atmosphere that probably couldn't be replicated today. Being that we recently passed our 20th Anniversary and subsequently reissued all of the older material, I have to say I wasn't nearly as revulsed as I'd thought I'd be with some of the early recordings. Really there's only a couple passages in a couple songs that I still cringe at, but that was a long time ago and we've developed a lot since then. There are still people that consider those early tracks to be the best we ever did!
MC: How did you come up with your name and were any other names considered?
TP: When the band started the original moniker was Dream Wytch, but after the other founding members moved on, we rolled through a series of names until 1991 when While Heaven Wept was insurrect ed. At this time the band became a vehicle for expressing emotions I couldn't otherwise, and for dealing with loss/tribulations...the name refers to a specific event in my life that more or less changed everything; at a moment of true heartbreak, suddenly the rain came down...that's where it comes from.
MC: Does the band feel comfortable playing live and do you feel your a good live band and are any videos of your guys floating around on You Tube?
TP: Being that the music is so personal, for many years we didn't perform live at all, and once we did start performing, it is primarily on rare occasions...at least as far as in the US. We generally only perform in the EU as far as tours and festivals are concerned, but the current line-up is a strong live act in that everyone is seasoned. In recent times we've been really getting into heavy improvisation ala 70's Rainbow, and that is very exciting. The ONLY official video footage of While Heaven Wept can be found here at my channel:
MC: How would you describe your sound to somebody that has never heard of you?
TP: The music of WHW is extremely emotive, epic, melancholic, heavy, melodic, spacious and orchestrated. We run the gamut from the 70's to today...with the emphasis being firmly placed upon the songs...though we do have our lengthy epics that stretch out quite a bit. It's music from the heart and soul.
MC: How much longer do you think the band will be around and do you guys just kinda take things day by day?
TP: After doing this for 21 years....more than half of my life....at this point I'll probably continue the band until I die. Further, even during the times that I felt like I didn't need to do this music, some life-changing event reminded me that I did...if for naught else but to maintain my sanity and lead a relatively "normal" life.
MC: Does the music industry sometimes frustrate you?
TP: Only when I see my colleagues in other bands getting screwed over or taken advantage of. We've been self-sufficient up until recently, so we avoided many pitfalls along the way. The only other thing that bothers me is when music is misrepresented as something that is not and genre labels in general...it's a disservice for bands to be lumped together on weak parameters just because no other term seems to fit.
MC: Is there a good metal scene where you live?
TP: Back in the early days there was a very strong metal scene in the DC/Northern VA/Baltimore area...I'm talking about late 80's, early 90's...there were a lot of bands that made a global impact on the Death Metal, Black Metal, Doom Metal, and Progressive Metal scenes. I really have no idea what's going on around here locally anymore because most of our time is spent overseas or doing business overseas.
MC: Do you get to play live much and have you done any sort of touring yet?
TP: We can only manage X number of live performances each year due to the job and familial commitments of some of the band members, but we're playing more often no w than ever before. It's been a while since the last tour (2004), but we're rolling out with Primordial and Alcest in May/June of this year, and we have co-headlining appearances at Up The Hammers (Athens, Greece) and Hammer Of Doom (Wuerzburg, Germany) coming up before that. We're also performing at ProgPower XII this year as well.
MC: How hard is it to come up with lyrics and song ideas?
TP: Both the lyrics and music simply come when they do, via revelation and emotional catalyst; absolutely nothing is forced into being or otherwise contrived. This results in some anxiety or frustration when there are release dates looming, but I just can't sit down and force a song into existence...to me that is totally absurd. It all comes from the heart. And when things start flowing, it's like a deluge...but when that isn't the case, I can see the tumbleweeds blowing by in my mind ha ha.
MC: What was the hardest song that you had to write and why?
TP: Well, they're all hard in that they are painful to express in some way...whether due to anger or sadness...sometimes it's like reliving a traumatic event even. From a technical standpoint? I really don't know...the music writes itself...all I ever do is channel it and only once an exoskeleton is obviously there...only then do I sit down to finalize arrangements...those I do have to think about.
MC: How far do you think the band can go?
TP: Well, we're on Nuclear Blast Records, so I don't think there's any further to go for a Metal band! Beyond that, I'm not really sure...I don't have any particular aspirations other than insuring the music we release is always sincere and heartfelt.
MC: About how much time is devoted to band related things?
TP: I spend every hour that I'm not sleeping working on band related business apart from 20 hours a week during which I give guitar lessons.
MC: Tell me a bit about each band member.
TP:Everyone in the band is a seasoned musician with hundreds of gigs and numerous recordings under their belts; it would be like writing a book to go into detail here, so I recommend that anyone desirous of greater insight hit our main website and read the bio or Google the aforementioned bands from which we all came!
MC: What sort of things does the band like to do when not doing band related things?
TP: Everyone has their own life and responsibilities...the majority of the band have real jobs, wives, kids...with the exception of Jim and myself...we're the eternal rockers. I will say that since we all tend to get along personally so well, we do enjoy hanging out, drinking, BBQing, and traveling together.
MC: Do you think Cds are going to be replaced someday and everything will be downloads?
TP: Probably, but not yet and really, I'm a vinyl guy myself, so we'll continue producing LP's and 7" singles at every possible opportunity!
MC: What to you makes a good song and a good singer?
TP: A good song requires 3 things: strong rhythms, strong melodies, and harmony. Hooks are also never a bad thing no matter how heavy the music is. What makes a good singer to me is the ability to convey different emotions with sincerity...being able to convincingly assume the role of the character (if a fantasy lyric)...extensive range and also control.
MC: Do you see yourself always being involved in music?
TP: I have been all my life and everything in my life does revolve around music, so I really can't see myself doing anything else. Or at least not being happy doing anything that doesn't directly involve music in some capacity.
MC: Are you comfortable in the studio and onstage?
TP: In a basic sense yes...no worries...have done both hundreds of hours. But, sure there's always a little anxiety before the first song rolls...and once we are all settled, it's just a matter of tapping into our souls and the energy of the audience from there on out. We do tend to place a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform at the highest level live and in the studio, so it's not always fun, but once we pass a basic threshold, everything is cool.
MC: Plug any websites you have:
and the aforementioned You Tube page
MC: Any last words, horns up for the interview
TP: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the band. Sorry for the brevity of some of these answers but we've just finished recording the new album "Fear Of Infinity" (released April 22 in the EU, and May 3 in the US on Nuclear Blast Records), and I'm extremely exhausted. Cheers to everyone out there who has supported the band all these years!