With a sizeable portion of my own family hailing from Alabama, US of A, I take a keen interest in all things American South, so I ask Phil what it was like growing up in Tennessee.
“It was great, man. In my eyes it's one of the greatest places in America, you know? I will never move away from here, I don't think. It's so easygoing and there's not too much crazy stuff that goes on. It's just really simple, which is the way I like it.”
Bozeman is a low-key dude; much more so than I'd been expecting. But in the business of being a front man, it can pay to have a dark side. With metal being the largely suburban art form it is, that dark side is often born of domestic fracture—the legacy of what goes on behind closed doors. In this respect, Phil Bozeman is the real deal. It's been petty well documented that Bozeman had anything but a sheltered upbringing. His father died when he was young, and his mother passed away from a drug addiction initiated and encouraged, Bozeman claims, by his stepfather. I ask Bozeman how old he was when his father died.
"Ten,” he responds, matter-of-factly.
And your mother?
In a strange way, the silences that follow his short and painfully sharp responses feel like a challenge, and although I feel like a d-bag for asking and want to bail on this line of questioning, we continue. I ask Bozeman how he dealt with such heavy stuff at such an impressionable age.
"It was hard, but I don't know … I think from experiencing it and going through it, it's made me a stronger person. It's definitely not something that everyone could deal with, but I guess for some reason, mentally, I was able to deal with it. I don't know what it is about me. I guess I have a strong mindset or something."
In an interview with YouTube interviewer Bryan Stars (I hate him. I hate him so much), Bozeman acknowledges that he takes medication for anxiety on a daily basis. This in itself is nothing out of the ordinary. Around 28% of the United States population receive some form of treatment for anxiety at some point in their lives. What is unusual is the casual way in which Bozeman brings it up, seemingly going against the trend of keeping such matters firmly under the rug.
"I'm not ashamed of it or anything like that", Bozeman explains. "There's not any reason for me to not bring it up. A lot of people know about it, so you know. I think it's good for people to know they're not alone or anything like that."
Partially to allay my guilt at having possibly stepped over a line, and also because I genuinely believe it, I suggest to Bozeman that it's a rare and admirable thing when people in the public eye willingly open up about mental health experiences. The lyrics on A New Era of Corruption are particularly focused on his past, so I ask Bozeman if writing them was a difficult process.
"It's not the easiest thing in the world, but I mean it's definitely not crazy-hard for me to do. I don't mind sharing it with people, you know." After pausing, Bozeman reroutes the conversation. "I write about whatever's on my mind or whatever I'm thinking about at the time, you know, like current events. That's what I'm focused on.”
What sort of current events?
“Well on the new CD there is one song that's about that dude Harold Camping that was talking last year about how the world was going to end. There's one song that's based on him and there's one that's not really about social networking, but it kinda does come from social networking.”
I smell … TROLLS! I love talking about trolls. Aren't trolls great? Isn't social media, like, totes awesballs?!?
“Well it's a good and bad thing at the same time, you know. It helps our generation, but also ruins it. You know, how some people use it. That's what the song is mainly about, you know, like people who sit there and try to make themselves look cooler than they really are.”
Told ya. Trolls.
“I mean people are allowed to be as fake as they wanna be and it just gets really annoying—people who try to over-prove themselves.”
It's fair to say that Whitechapel aren't the most universally loved band. Like pretty much every other core-affiliated group in the game, they have their own merry band of trolls watching every move they make. The battle cry, “Dat shit is played out, yo!” is right behind the teeth of any goon with a taste for metal and an opinion to share, including yours truly. Unlike other deathcore units whose relevance, and therefore fan base, is on the decline, Whitechapel actually seem to be converting the haters with their new one, Whitechapel. What is it about this record that people are responding to?
Bozeman offers his view. “Maybe the maturing of the musicianship. Maybe that's what making people be brought to it—the instrumentation.” He continues, “I feel like it kind of comes with age and with being mature and writing music, you just learn a lot and just get better at it. After a while you just kind of know what to do. This album is our best work yet and shows our progression as musicians and everything.”
Yes. Mmm hmm, that's interesting. But tell me, some have said that Whitechapel is a bit of a return to the band's roots, similar in some ways to The Somatic Defilement. Is that something Bozeman agrees with? Because I certainly don't hear it.
“I guess you could say the music is more well thought out and doesn't sound like a juvenile album. I feel like The Somatic Defilement is our weakest album, even though a lot of people will disagree, like our older fans. But you know that's just me, you know, we just really hit the nail of the head with this one.”
That you did, sir. Whitechapel has groove. An infectious groove, if you will. More importantly though, Whitechapel also goes hard. Right for ur nutz hard, if you like. The question is, what do Whitechapel intend to do with it? What are they aiming for?
After a pause, Bozeman responds. “It would be cool to one day be at a level where we're headlining Mayhem Festival or something. It's like sports players; they aim to be in the pros. It's hard and not something that's easily accomplished. It's one of those things where it's one in a million, but that would be the goal. It's not necessarily a goal that I'm going to be absolutely devastated if we don't reach, because I know how hard it really is to get to that.”
This seems like a pretty achievable aim, given the success that Whitechapel have enjoyed so far, but Bozeman’s not done yet. “I mean, I’m not too worried about it. Aslong as we’re relevant and people are still supporting us and making us go down in history as one of the best metal bands in history—that’s what it’s about. We want to leave a legacy and hopefully we’ll be able to do that and be one of those hall of fame type bands, you know?”