Interview with What's He Building In There?

- May 08, 2007 at 07:03PM
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Half human, half sexual energy, What’s He Building In There? have come to cure the boredom plaguing the modern world of metal. Armed with unrelenting energy and three tones of sheer wit, the unsung heroes of Waterloo, Ontario are set to tell their tale of musical wizardry. In keeping with the haunting Tom Waits composition that spawned their name, What’s He Building In There? have ripened their own deranged fruit in the form of their debut self-titled LP. Drawing influence from the contrasting musical worlds of Mike Patton, Tool, Les Claypool, Between the Buried and Me, Frank Zappa and many other innovators, WHBIT? have synthesized their many facets into one gripping and demented melodic masterpiece. Clocking in at just over 54 minutes, this self-produced saga will dash the preconceptions of heavy music listeners everywhere. PureGrainAudio caught up with these genre benders to get the scoop on their debut album.

Introduce yourselves and state your job in the band.
Dave: I’m David Halk, and I’m the guitarist in What’s He Building In There?... extravagant band from the future.

Hal: I’m Hal, and I’m with Dave. [Hal plays bass in WHBIT?]

Liam: I’m Liam and uh, uh oh. [laughs] Oh, and I talk less than Schroeder.

Chris: I’m Schroeder, and uh, I’m better than everybody else? I really want I say I talk more than Liam, but that’s really not that clever. I’m the vocalist for the band, and uh, the snappy dresser.

You recorded it at Hal’s and then had it mastered by Jamie King – what kind of effect do you think working at Hal’s at your own leisure had on the final product of the record, as compared to other recording experiences with your former band Abacus?
Chris: It’s mostly been just Hal, actually.

Hal: I can think of two ways it influenced the process. The first would be that we got extra time to be more calculating while we recorded it. Secondly, we also procrastinated a lot more. I guess you could say a very positive came out of it, and something not so positive.

Liam: I guess we could say since it took so long, it gave is the chance to rework some songs... you know, rethink them after initially recording, so I think it turned out better, because he had the chance to go back to some things and fix them. If we hadn’t had the time, we just wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

Chris: The lyrics benefited from it, that’s for sure. [The record] had the chance to be tighter because of that longer time frame. I think everything had the chance to be tighter because you could go back later and listen to it, and in hindsight say: "what the fuck was I thinking?" There was one vocal part in there forever, and later we listened to it solo [ed. just the vocal track], and were like: "how the fuck did that get in there?" It was awful. And the end of the second track ["Citizen of the City" – the outro featuring the horns] was tacked on about a week before we were done, so I’m glad we did that. [We share a laugh over Dave’s voiceover at the end of Citizen of the City]

You guys write some incredibly technical songs that really lack conventional structures. Tell me about the songwriting process, and how each member (instrument) contributes along the way.
Dave: Usually how it works is an individual of the band comes with the skeleton of a song, and then each person fills in his parts. Liam adds the muscles... the guns of the song. Schroeder adds the glittery eye shadow. [laughs]

Hal: I add the scrotum and testicles.

Liam: [Second guitarist Chris] Cookson adds... [laughs] Well, like, ‘I Xolot!’ was originally just 2.5 minutes long, and we just got it out, and now it’s like huge [7:12 running time].

Chris: And I think now, that song is one of everybody’s favourites.

In one word each, describe your general sound:
Chris: The first thing... Well, I was just talking to an insurance agent, and uh, the only thing I could think of saying was "we’re heavy." So, "heavy" is my word.

This is a concept album; the lyrics are extremely vivid and use very unique diction and imagery that’s clearly influenced by science fiction literature or films. Tell me about the writing process, and from which influences some ideas are drawn.
Chris: Well, the original idea would certainly have been mine, because I just had to write lyrics for these songs we were gonna record, and everything I [initially] wrote, I hated. I thought it was retarded.

Chris: It might be, but I’m much more satisfied with [the lyrics] we have now. Basically, I had 3 or 4 songs already done, so I decided to take their influence, and write a story around it. So some of the other ones aren’t as crucial to the 'plot' of the record. But mostly after that point, they started coming together and forming a story. Then we had to figure out where it went... you know, how the story was going to progress. I had to talk it out with Liam, and then we decided where the songs went and put the story together. Basically, figuring out what part of the story each of the recorded songs was gonna represent.

Liam: It’s almost like for every song, we had to decide where it was going in the story, and so for each song, the story kept evolving and branching into new directions.

Chris: And because it wasn’t written in order, there were a lot of things you had to make sure you didn’t overlook when you were writing, say, six songs before it... to make sure you didn’t contradict yourself later. I‘ve been over it thousands of time, and I think it’s pretty lucid, but there are so many ideas from my head, because it’s so vivid in my head, you know, that I may take for granted, but hopefully people can follow. Really, the lyrics were probably the biggest pain in the ass, because the rest of the band was doing so much, and I... wasn’t doing anything. I was producing far less product during the process than the rest of them for a long time. I guess it was hard on Hal....

Hal: Wait... you just said "hard – on, Hal" [laughs]

Liam: There were definitely some influences from like, Star Wars, Star Trek....

Chris: I didn’t look to Sci-Fi for the ideas directly, but there were always parts I could relate to Sci-Fi. Like, you know... telling people: "it’s like this from 'Lord of the Rings'" or "it’s like this part from 'Star Wars.'"

Hal: Essentially, the main character of the story is just data, wherever that influence came from....

The album consists of very long songs (all over 4:30) except for "(Holy Shit!) The Droid is Missing" – which is just 2 minutes and some. Was it purposely crafted like this, and if so, was it’s length/makeup based on the lyrics you had for the song, or did they come after?
Hal: Lyrics always come after. The lyrics came after the song was already done. And I think it definitely was supposed to be "the short one."

Chris: [To Hal] You were always saying that. Like, you’d say: "this part, it’s done. Now the next part...." It was basically written for crowd participation, and moshing.

Liam: It was one of the last songs we did, so it was always supposed to be "that one."

In another interview I read, you guys admitted to not originating as a 'metal' band, but that other metal bands inspired you with their performances. Who were they?
Liam: Pureblank (ex-Arise and Ruin).

Chris: [Opens his jacket to reveal a Pureblank shirt] Definitely Pureblank! And Childproof.

Liam: Before we were 'metal metal,' those were the two bands that did it. (Former Abacus guitarist) Darren was still on the Tool and Mudvayne train, but after we played with those bands, Darren started writing heavier stuff, so that was what turned us into a 'heavier' band.

I’ve asked this question before, but how was your relationship with Year of the Sun Records during the transition from Abacus to WHBIT?
Hal: We’d been talking with the them the whole time about the fact we’d be changing our name and tweaking our sound, and we communicated a lot throughout the whole process, so it was a smooth transition. We had to reform a few relationships from before, but it was a smooth transition as we let everyone know what we were doing and they were ultimately supportive.

Okay, so one of your first live gigs with the current WHBIT? roster was the Quebec City stop of the Warped Tour. Tell me what that was like.
Liam: Sloppy! [laughs]

Hal: It was VERY sloppy.

Liam: It was (second guitarist) Chris’ first show. He’d just learned the electric guitar from playing acoustic all the time.

Chris: He didn’t know palm muting. When he discovered palm muting, it was like 'whoa!!!' [laughs]. Like, "I’ve been playing that wrong the whole time..."

Liam: So it was sloppy, but you know, it was fun.

Chris: We had 15 people from Waterloo come camp with us though, so it was a lot of fun.

The costumes... I know they’re just for fun as noted on your FAQ pages online, but where did the idea come from and why did everyone hop on with it?
Hal: The idea started with (guitarist) Chris as the black knight for our video - the video idea that would become Avian Taxi. We thought it would be a good idea to have Chris dressed as the black knight. So we started thinking, "it’d be cool if he were the black knight on stage."

Chris: And then our first show after, like, forever, Dave showed up with this huge Moon Man mask, and so we all decided to dress up.

Dave: What? I was the last one on board. [laughs]

Liam: I don’t even remember how it started.

Hal: It was just a gradual thing.

Chris: Some people love them, some people hate them, so I think they work great. I mean, we had a guy complain about seeing Dave’s bulge (through his spandex bodysuit). It’s just hard to figure out what to wear every time.

Name two bands each – one past and one present - that you would love to share the stage with on a fantasy bill.
Chris: Faith No More, and then, and Sikth. That’d be my pick. For sure!

Liam: I would say Sikth for my band as well - to share the stage with, and uh... this wouldn’t go well with our band, but playing with Blind Melon would be pretty cool. [laughs]

Hal: For a band, like, what’s the biggest drawing metal band out there? Just for the draw, you know? I’m greedy for the money, so... Avenged Sevenfold?

Chris: Killswitch maybe? Dude, don’t go for ridiculous shit. U2 or Madonna would be the best. They’d draw thousands of people to one show if that’s how you wanted to pick.

Hal: Okay, for bands not around I’d say Frank Zappa, and for one that is around...

Liam: Say Dweezil Zappa playing Frank Zappa. [laughs]

Hal: I think I’ll go with Killswitch.

Dave: Bruce Willis and Tool. [laughs]

Hal: Bruce Willis?

Dave: He put out a solo album.

Liam: I know (guitarist) Chris would say Tool and Led Zepplin. [laughs] I can answer that one for Chris.

If you were going to introduce someone to your band, and could either give them a copy of your record or have them attend a live set, which do you feel would give them a more embodying idea of your band?
Chris: Live show. People pay more attention at the live show.

Dave: I’d give them the CD.

Hal: People like vacations, so I say live show.

Liam: I think a lot of people, as Schroeder says, don’t pay as much attention when listening to a CD.

Hal: I feel like once they were at the live show, they’d get us.

Between The Buried and Me or HORSE the Band?
Liam: BTBAM, hands down.

Chris: I'd say BTBAM.

Hal: BTBAM, because I’m more inspired by their music.

Dave: I like HORSE the Band, but I think BTBAM is better to listen to.

So you just finished your music video for "Avian Taxi." What was the shoot like?
Liam: Awesome. So fun!

Hal: So much fun!

Liam: The only bad part was we stayed at (Kitchener indoor amusement park) KidZone from 9 to 6 am, and we had a kid hang out, and so by 4 am he was so tired.

Chris: He was a trooper though, man. He was so awesome for being up so late... until the poor guy hit his knee. Everything kinda went downhill from there.

Hal: Even after just being on a shoot, I watch TV in a different way now. Seriously.

Liam: There was a lot of coffee, and slides everywhere. And we got to shoot (Year of The Sun records head) Benner... And then the other shoot we did outside for a little bit was alright. It was a lot shorter.

Chris: By the second day... yeah.

Liam: The second part, we did at the Starlight, and just got drunk and watched people dance.

Hal: It was just a lot of fun - just a big party. Hopefully it comes off like that.

Liam: I don’t think it could come across any other way.

Can you tell me a bit of the concept behind the video?
Liam: Basically, really quick, this kid has... it never comes off as being a nightmare, but it comes off as dreamlike. It’s this ked led to a play land by a giant teddy bear.

Hal: He’s led to this place with the teddy bear, and then ends up getting chased by these huge animals, but he gets help from the Teddy Bear.

Liam: Don’t give a way the ending....

Dave: It’s a time travel video. No, it’s actually an anti-abortion video.

Finally, what’s the best perk that being in this band has granted you so far. Anything....
Liam: Dave’s blowjobs, man!

Dave: Giving blowjobs!

Hal: [leaving] I don’t know, blowjobs....

Chris: [leaving] Having a place to put things on CD.  [ END ]
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