Alex Wade has every reason in the world to feel pleased in 2014. Whitechapel, the deathcore band who he joined on the ground floor, has risen at an immense pace; sailing from demo tapes to top of the US Rock charts in just seven years.
Don’t let the “deathcore” label distract, Whitechapel write bruising, buoyant and utterly insatiable music, that seethes with political unrest. The anger and frustration that is inherent in their music isn’t simply used for self-perpetuating purposes, it’s channelled into razor toothed rallying cries and snarling social critiques (see lead single and 2014 title track “Our Endless War” if you’re still on the fence).
Whether it’s the desperation of their message or the quality of their arrangements, Whitechapel have struck a chord with the buying public on both sides of the Atlantic. So, with Our Endless War still fresh in the memory and the festival season on the horizon, guitarist Alex Wade has agreed to answer Guitar Planet’s 10 essential questions, so we can get to know the men behind Whitechapel’s imposing sound.
First thing’s first, when and why did you start playing the guitar?
I started playing bass at the age of 14. My friends in middle school both got guitars for their birthday and we wanted to "start a band" (or lack there of haha) so I got a bass for Christmas. I started out learning how to play by practising Blink 182 and Metallica tabs. My first bass was a Squier P-Bass. Then at the age of 16 I got bored with bass and sold it and bought an Ibanez Iceman at a local pawnshop and started to teach myself guitar. I'm completely self-taught, I never took lessons.
Were you a natural performer or a bag of nerves when you first started?
I was in a band in middle school and high school so I think that helped me not be a complete wreck when I played my first live shows. I played my first show on guitar at age 17. I was definitely nervous, but the experience from my band in school helped a lot.
Which artist, album or song had the biggest impact on you as musician?
As odd as it sounds I guess I would have to say Blink 182. They are pretty much the reason I am a guitarist and wanted to get into playing in bands. If I wasn't such a huge fan of them I don't know if I would have ever picked up the bass, which eventually led to me playing guitar.
So how do you go about writing a Whitechapel song?
It starts with me, Ben Savage, and Zach Householder all writing the guitar parts. Sometimes we write alone and demo out riffs and send them to each other or sometimes we write together.
Then we will meet up and start piecing together riffs and ideas that work well together into rough song skeletons. After that our drummer Ben Harclerode will go in and write his drum parts and give his input on the layout of the songs. After the drums are done Phil comes in and writes lyrics to the songs when they are finished.
He writes his lyrics around the structure of the songs which I have always loved, rather than pre-writing lyrics and forcing them into the song.
What’s your biggest disaster and greatest triumph playing live?
Not too sure on the biggest disaster, I've had my fair share of gear meltdowns on stage so it's hard to pick just one haha. I always try to just laugh it off when bad things happen on stage, because there's really not much you can do to prevent something shorting out or a wireless going out or something. You just have to fix it as quick as you can and pick up with the rest of the band.
Greatest triumph I would say would be playing the Rockstar Mayhem 2012 festival. We got to tour with Slayer and Slipknot, two of the most iconic bands in metal. For us as a metal band that is something we'll never forget and thankful to be a part of.
Being a guitarist isn’t always a glamorous as it’s made out to be; could you tell us about a hard or testing time that you’ve had to endure?
The early stages of the band’s career wasn't easy for sure. We were living off $5 a day on tour which made it hard to get enough to eat sometimes and we were sleeping in the van or at random peoples’ houses, which ended up being sketchy more often than not. Thankfully we are more financially stable at this point in our career, but we definitely roughed it out for a few years which makes me grateful to be where we are at now.
Looking back on your career with Whitechapel what’s your proudest achievement so far?
Our proudest achievement I would have to say was getting signed. We had been touring for a few years on a small label that didn't do much for us and then when Metal Blade took notice of us and signed our band, that was the real beginning of our career. Everything changed and we became a professional touring band rather than a bunch of kids throwing our shit in the van and heading out.
In your eyes, what makes a great guitarist?
What makes a great guitarist to me is someone who can write well-composed, catchy music. I've been fascinated with guys who just shred. Sure it's impressive, but no one wants to listen to that over and over. My favourite guitarist is Stephen Carpenter from Deftones and he's a good example of a guy that just writes great songs with catchy hooks and doesn't try to impress people.
Time to annoy our guitar obsessed readers: the best guitar in the world is?
The best guitar in the world is my ESP/LTD AW-7 signature guitar! Hahaha, ok probably not the best in the world, but it is the best for me. I designed it with the metal rhythm player in mind and I'm really happy with the way that it came out. It's a very solid and affordable mid-level guitar with a clear and crushing sound.
Finally, we like to end by asking a completely arbitrary debate starter (the kind of thing our readers argue about over a beer) – so which was the greatest musical decade?
I would have to say the 90's. I was born in ‘86 so all the late 90s songs are the most memorable to me.
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