Sunday, 10 November 2013

American Werewolves in Sydney: WIDOW interview

Source: Widow Official Facebook
North Carolina's traditional metal trio are fast becoming a household name amongst the faithful metal hordes. Four albums and a few line-up changes since they formed, WIDOW find themselves taking the stage on day two of Metal Evilution's Steel Assassins Festival in Sydney. Absolute Power caught up with Chris and John to chat about touring, songwriting, and the road to becoming a power trio.

Source: Widow Official Facebook
It was late into the hot November afternoon at The Bald Faced Stag in Leichardt. Day one of Steel Assassins - which featured acts such as BANE OF WINTERSTORM and New Zealand's RAZORWYRE - had left most headbangers with sore necks, ringing ears, a hangover or two and, most importantly, a hunger for more.

Day two of the festival saw a plethora of hard-hitting bands, from reformed Aussie metal legends MAJISTER to Melbourne's barbed-wire metal quartet ELM STREET.

As denim-clad warriors laugh and drink outside, Absolute Power pulled up a seat with John E Wooten IV (vocals and bass) and Chris Bennett (guitars and vocals) of WIDOW ahead of their set later that night.

A/P: So you guys are just playing Sydney this time around?

Chris: Yeah. Dave [Balfour, Metal Evilution] had originally talked about us doing a tour to start with, but we wanted to do the festival, build it up and then come back to Australia for a full tour with our next album - which we are working on now.

A/P: Has that got a date?

Chris: Not really. We're going to hopefully have it finished early next year - after this show we are playing one more show for the year, maybe and then we are going to go and finish up the album.

A/P: So how did you guys get involved with Dave?

Chris: I knew Dave from talking online. Me and him just talked about bands and different stuff and he liked what we were doing and we said "Hey we'd love to play the fest" and he said "Yeah", 'cause we talked before the one last year, so he said "Next year, lets do this."

I'm thrilled because even just hanging out here and seeing the whole metal scene here is cool. People have come from all over to see this.

John: Yeah, ya'll have got a good thing going on here, man.

Chris: Yeah, a lot of fucking cool metalheads - it makes it happy for me to see that on the other side of the globe.

A/P: You've been doing a few international shows - you played London recently?

Chris: Yeah, we played with GRIM REAPER in London. That was incredible because I love them, we had the chance to open the show and I jumped on it. I'd never been to England before and it was a trip to be there because so many bands we love are from there, so to be able to play there and see GRIM REAPER was just incredible.

A/P: Have you guys been doing international shows for awhile?

Chris: Yeah, last few years it started, we played Germany - Sword Brothers Festival. That was with a lot of cool bands, and that was how we hooked up with Pure Steel Records. From there toured Japan last year with SKULLFIST who are good friends, I love the band.

Then after that we played Athens, Greece - Up The Hammers Festival. That was amazing, RAVEN headlined it and there were a lot of killer bands on that.

We toured The States with a few different bands: SEVEN KINGDOMS and WHITE WIZZARD last year.


Chris: And we toured with CAULDRON from Canada, too. We've been talking about going to South America, so hopefully we will work that out at some point with the next album.

When somebody says "We'd like for you to do this" we want to do it - but making it happen, there is so much to figure out. But we are so happy, everywhere we've played be it the US, Canada, Europe or Japan it has all been amazing and we are fucking grateful - really appreciative we have an opportunity to do this.

A/P: You guys were a five-piece at one point and now you've gone down to a three-piece - how'd that come about?

John: I was originally just the singer. Chris and I had played in a band called SORROW BEQUEST, and he started another band and I was just going to sing. The guitarist we had at the time, he was just so busy he couldn't make a bunch of shows, so I said "Screw it, I'll just play guitar." It got to a point he missed so many shows it just wasn't worth him being in the band anymore.

Chris: We had a female singer for a little while.

John: Our whole lyrical themes were horror movie stuff and we realised every good horror movie has the guy, the girl and the evil spirit, and so we wanted to try and capture that on our second album.

Chris: It was an experiment. It was cool because we were all singing. That was our first album to be released internationally. Originally our first album Midnight Strikes was released just in America, but sort of shipped to other countries.

John: We got it in Japan.

Chris: And Europe, but people were ordering it from the States - so it was more expensive for them to get it because it was an import. When we did that album with her, we signed a deal in Europe with Cruz Del Sur, and Spiritual Beast in Japan.

So we did this in Europe with her and it was well received, people were really into it. Before the album even came out we were having problems with her, so she was out of the band before the album was even released!

John: That really held us back with getting gigs.

Chris: We had this great momentum, and there was a lot of interest from Europe. Well, when you pull such a big element of the album out like was kind of weird. Then we did Nightlife and that was our third album and without her. It felt like things were just down. The interest in us, all this momentum we had was almost just annihilated. But then all of a sudden, there was all this renewed interest in traditional metal around the globe.

Suddenly, years after it was released people were into it. I went into a bookstore and grabbed an issue of Terrorizer - it had a section that said "The Ten Best Traditional  Metal Bands of The Last Ten Years."

John: "The Top Ten Albums of The Past Ten Years That Don't Sound Like They Came Out In The Last Ten Years"!

Chris: I fucking laughed and said "This oughta be good, who are they going to put in here? What a joke!" and they had us in there. And I was really shocked so after that it renewed all this interest, we had this whole resurgence and from there, there was enough interest for our debut album, Midnight Strikes, to be reissued and then after that happened we were getting offers to go all over the place and that is what led to us being here in Australia right now.

A/P: So you transitioned from guitar to bass, John?

John: Yeah, our original bass player decided he didn't want to do this anymore. He'd rather sit on a couch on Sunday and watch football than be on a bus with us all smelly and nasty and going to the next gig. That is understandable, it is a life choice you have to make. We tried some other people out and it was't working out.

We had a whole bunch of gigs booked we didn't want to cancel, so I said "Fuck it, I'll play bass - lets just do it."

Chris: We've been happy as a three-piece.

John: It actually made us tighter. We always had that problem that most two guitar bands have where you can't hear the solos because the sound guy doesn't know what is going on. And we live two hours apart so we don't get to practice a lot anyway so we weren't the tightest of a two guitar bands to begin with. It really just locked it in. The drummer lives close to me so we practice regularly and get tight, and since he plays lead guitar, it doesn't matter he just comes in and does his thing and it'll work!

Chris: The thing that has been really cool about this is I love Ozzy, Van Halen, a lot of stuff that is one guitar, so it has opened up a whole new thing. I think the band has been better received since we've gone that way. The sound is better.

John: It also gives you more room to do what you want on guitar without it conflicting with another guitarist. If two guitarists are playing the harmony, you've gotta be locked in together. And if one guy wants to stray off and do a run, if he doesn't do it in just the right mode then it sounds fucked up. But now he can do whatever he wants and it works because I'm just playing bass, there are no clashing melodies.

A/P: So it has definitely changed the dynamics of you guys - song writing-wise has it influenced the songwriting?

Chris: Yeah it has, man. Our new album was that we are going to be doing was written with us being a three-piece in mind. After we did Lifesblood, that was intended for us to be a four-piece, so there is a lot of duel guitar stuff, where now we don't have that as much.

I'll put it to you like this: if you liked what we were doing...we aren't playing Jazz Fusion now, you know what I mean? Those songs as a whole were going in the direction we are at now anyways so those songs don't suffer in a live situation, but with the new songs it was totally built with the three-piece in mind.

John: We'll be able to play more of them live.

Chris: I think another advantage with the new songs is they will be able to reproduced even better than the Lifesblood songs because they were built around a three-piece. We've always written with the show in mind because playing heavy metal, the show is an important part of it!

John: Playing live is such a big part of it.

Chris: We don't want to do something like have saxophones and shit and then we don't have it live so it is important for us for it to be a reproduction of what you hear. Now, I do improvise a lot of solos and even what I play on the albums I pretty much just make up on the spot.

The guys who influenced me like Randy Rhodes, that is what they did - when you saw somebody like that play, you got a different show every night and that makes it special but at the same time we want the actual song itself to come across as what people know, because that's fun!

We love playing live, we just want to play anywhere and everywhere we can. People said to us "Man, you guys are flying all that way and you are playing one show!" and...we love it! We love metal and doing it so much that just to come over and hang-out with like minded people is fantastic, it is a huge honour, and very special for us.

A/P: Everyone here is really stoked to have you. I was talking to some dudes from Melbourne who came just to see you guys.

Chris: That's amazing. It is amazing to us because this stuff is so special to us - not even just our songs and our band - but metal and just sharing that in general. You say stuff like that and I appreciate it, but it is hard to believe because I'm just a dude living in a small town in North Carolina. It's awesome, man.

A/P: Anything else to add?

Chris: Thank you to everyone here in Australia and all over the world for supporting us.

John: And thanks Dave for taking such good care of us!

Interview edited for length.

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