Interview with Phil Bozeman of Whitechapel | Stronger

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Phil Bozeman faced the worst life had to offer early on. The Tennessee-born Whitechapel singer lost both parents by the time he was in his mid-teens – his father to a heart attack, his mother troubled by drug addiction.

Rather than drown in his own misery, he channeled his teenage troubles into music. The 2018 album by former deathcore band, The valley, used his personal experiences as the basis for a vivid journey through a nightmarish fantasy landscape. Track album Close picks up where its predecessor left off.

Metal hammer line cut

The South has its own vibe

“I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee, and I still live here. I’m not one of those people who wants to leave as soon as they can. People here are very polite, very hospitable, just good people living life. We have our stereotypes, people who sleep with family members. I mean, that kind of stuff goes on, but luckily it’s rare and far between.

You grew up in country music

“I was surrounded by country music growing up and I didn’t like it. Getting on the bus when I was younger was all the drivers played. But the older I got the more it grew and now I love it. I love 90s stuff – Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Brooks And Dunn. It’s almost nostalgic in a weird way. It’s heartwarming to hear it. I never would have thought that I would say that.

Cats are cool, but dogs are cooler

“I’m a dog guy. I have two. My little one that I have had since she was very little. My big one is a whippet mix – he has like four different things in him. I’m not against cats, but you’re just taking a risk. You get a cat, he can be super affectionate, but he can be temperamental or downright mean. With dogs, they are unconditional. They are like babies.

Hip hop is an attitude

“I’m into rap. Lots of Memphis rap like Three 6 Mafia, Houston rap, Southern rap and lots of New York stuff like Nas. For me, it’s all about groove and attitude: “I am who I am, that’s what I do, I don’t care what other people think.” When can we expect a solo hip hop album? Not anytime soon. I don’t even know if I can rap. I almost don’t want to know.

I can fix a TV thanks to my father

“My dad was a communications guy in the navy. He knew Morse code well and was very handy with technical things. He taught me all the basics. I was like the repairman – I was the one my grandparents called and said, “Hey, my TV isn’t working. I received a lot of things from him, personality traits. He was a very sweet and discreet guy, and so was I.

Whitechapel

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My dad’s death was a real reality check

“My father died when I was 10 years old. What has changed the most is probably my perception of reality and the world. For me, reality didn’t really exist – I had no conception of it. At a very young age, it feels like your childhood is going to last forever, and mine was obviously cut short. I must have started growing up very young.

My dad was basically keeping my mom alive

“Even when my father was still around, my mother had alcohol problems, an eating disorder, anorexia. With her drinking, it was a secret – she didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t never smelled alcohol on her I realized my mom was in trouble but I didn’t think there was anything to worry about because I had my dad there Nothing extreme never happened. My father was the rock. Then my father died, and without him, my mother was just a shell of herself.

Crack hijacked my mother’s brain

“My mother was a wonderful person, but after my father died, she fell apart. There was no way to save her. She just rushed to the bottom of the barrel of darkness. My stepfather was pretty much the one who lit the wick for her. The signs that he wasn’t a good person started shortly after we met him. He lit the wick and it just kept burning and burn until it explodes.

I knew my mother was going to die

“It wasn’t so much a question of place as of time. I was 14, almost 15, when I found out she was dead [of an overdose]. I didn’t even cry. I was just pissed, because I knew it would happen eventually. Of course, I cried afterwards, but my first reaction was anger, because I knew it could have been avoided. How? ‘Or’ What? We could have kicked out my stepfather sooner.

Losing both my parents made me numb to death

“This all happened back when the internet was starting to become a real thing, and I started watching some really dark, disturbing stuff. I wanted to see what it was like when someone actually dies.

There are websites with people getting shot, people falling off buildings and hitting the ground – I’ve seen it all. People were like, ‘Why do you want to see this? You must be messed up. No, I was just curious. Don’t get me wrong, it’s disturbing and it ended up depressing me, but it strengthened my spirit.

But I’m still afraid of dying of course

“We all want to know what death is like, but we do not do wants to know at the same time. I do not want to die. Just because I’ve seen this stuff doesn’t mean I’m not afraid of it. In the movies it’s one thing, but in real life it’s much more disturbing, because it’s real.

I don’t care what I inherited from my mother

“I may have inherited some anxiety and panic issues, but when it comes to addiction, no. I started smoking cigarettes at a young age, but quit years ago. I’m afraid of drugs. I’ve never done anything but weed. I never would have tried crack or heroin in a million years. You should literally tie me up and force me to do it.



“Deathcore” is both a blessing and a curse

“We recognize the fact that this is where we come from, but it has caused people to rank us. I think metal is one of the most acceptable genres of music in terms of who you are and what you are as a person, but it can also be very judgmental when it comes to what people think be cool. I wish people would stop tying bands to one thing: “You have to stay here, and you can’t go anywhere else.” At the same time, we don’t care. We will write what we want to write.

The worst things about starting out in a band are also the best

“On our first tour in 2007, we literally didn’t play in front of anyone. It was in Maine, where no one knew who we were. Just the novelty was amazing – amazing and horrible all at the same time. But me, At 36, I would never want to go back and do that again.

Vomit terrifies me

“I am emetophobic, that is to say the fear of vomiting. If someone vomits in front of me, I have this feeling of my heart dropping, but it’s mostly a fear that I’m throwing up. I hate the fear of it, I hate the feeling of it, I hate anything to do with doing it. I’m terrified of it. My worst nightmare happened on a European tour. There was a stomach bug the whole tour. Two people fell ill every night. I’m an obsessive hand washer, and somehow I didn’t get it, but I had this fear all the time.

If I hadn’t joined Whitechapel, I would be driving Porsches…

“I worked in a car dealership when I was younger. Luxury cars – Porsche, Jaguar, Audi. I was the guy of the lot, I took care of the cars, made them look good. But I have to drive them all the time – you feel a little badass knowing there are people watching you. I would probably still be here today if I wasn’t in the band. I would have climbed the ladder.

…or I might have worked in games

“I can’t draw for shit, so I would be a writer and be aware of these worlds and universes. The scenario on Close is chapter two of [previous album] The valley. It’s a fictionalized version of my teenage years – it’s basically the evil part of me that followed me out of The valley and manifested in a real person. I like to think about weird stuff.

Whitchapel’s Close is now available through Metal Blade

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