Woe | Interview with Chris Grigg

Three years on from the release of their acclaimed debut album for UK’s Candlelight Records, US black metallers Woe are back with a renewed line-up and a new album entitled “Withdrawal” that confirms Woe as one of the most enthralling black metal acts of nowadays. We were able to get guitarist and vocalist Chris Grigg to answer a few questions about this new effort. 

In the press release you describe “Withdrawal” as a synthesis of the strongest elements from your previous two efforts and I agree, it does blend the ferocity of A Spell For The Death of Man along with the dynamics of Quietly, Undramatically. Is that what you were going for right from the start?

"Absolutely. Playing live for as long as we did helped us realize what we did well and what we didn't. We tried to draw from that to create something that exploited our strengths."

I also read that this new album is more of a collaborative effort whereas in previous works you been the sole songwriter? What role did the other members had in the shaping of the new songs?

"Somewhat, I wrote all but "Ceaseless Jaws," which was Ruston's, and "Exhausted," which was mostly Ben's and features his riffs most heavily. For "Exhausted," I was mostly involved in the arrangement, modified a few of the riffs a little, augmented them with additional guitar parts or changed the structure. Shawn Riley, our bassist at that time, was also involved in that song. Ben also played some of the outro leads in the last song. Grzesiek was extremely involved in the recording of vocals and even when he wasn't singing, he was there to keep me on my toes and make sure nothing sucked."

So knowing that the writing of Withdrawal was somewhat more diplomatic, how do you describe the whole creative process behind this new album? How do you go about turning everyone’s ideas into a Woe song?

"Well, since this only really applies to "Exhausted," we mostly worked on that before I moved out of Philly and up to New York. Ben and Shawn would come over, we'd connect directly into my recording setup, set a click, program drums, and work with it from there. We'd all be able to jam and we'd usually pass the guitars back and forth when someone had a cool idea. It worked very well! ...and then I moved, which put a damper on things and I ended up working solo, sending demos to everyone. We are going to work differently next time, I hope."

Now that you’re touring a lot more, do you take into account how the songs will sound in a live setting during the writing sessions?

"We tried to take that into consideration while writing and recording and were pretty successful. We just completed our first 11 shows since the album was released and found that most of the songs translate live very well, though "Song of My Undoing" is a bit harder than the others to pull off because I'm not as confident with my singing as I'd like to be. That will change, of course."

"Withdrawal is about giving up, moving on, starting over. It's about looking at yourself and your world and trying to be more than you are."

I understand that you’ve handled the production on this album yourself? Why did you decide to go for that approach?

"I have control issues... Haha. It's hard for me to trust something so sensitive to someone else. In the case of both Withdrawal and Quietly, Undramatically, the recording processes took so long that going with someone else would have required a budget increase of 2 or 3 times. We hope to be more prepared for the next album and are talking about working with someone else to engineer. I find the whole process so stressful, it would be nice to just focus on performing and leave all the technical stuff to someone else."

In terms of sounds, was there anything you were attempting to do differently or improve upon with this album compared to previous releases?

"We wanted something similar to the first album, but with a thicker, more natural sound. I wanted guitars very up front, very clear but still aggressive, and we hoped to hit a level of quality that sounded professional without being over-produced. I was very unhappy with how Quietly, Undramatically's drums sounded and where the guitars sat in the mix -- all my fault. I also wanted a strong, very identifiable bass sound and I definitely nailed that."

Is there a concept or theme behind the album? Quietly, Undramatically seemed to deal with some depressive and aggressive themes, so has your approach changed much in the last three years?

"Withdrawal is about giving up, moving on, starting over. It's about looking at yourself and your world and trying to be more than you are."

What's next for the band? Do you have any aspirations to tour overseas, in Europe, for example?

"We will be in Europe this September, from about the 6th until the 21st. September 20 will be our appearance on Incubate, a music festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. The rest of the dates are still being figured out but we expect to play Germany, the UK, possibly Denmark, and a few others. We plan on doing more US tours, definitely something on the West Coast, hopefully something in the South, all before the end of the year."

More info at: www.withdrawal.woeunholy.com