With the release of new record Hope Attrition and some major new touring on the horizon, we caught up with Woe's founding member Chris Grigg to talk about how his band has developed and where they go from here – with a little political discussion on the way.
Scene Point Blank: Woe have been quiet for a long time - what's been happening since Withdrawal and with the band and its members?
Chris Grigg: Life things: other bands, moving, new jobs, I got married, and I needed a break. I listened to a lot of rap. Figured some stuff out. Came back to it with fresh ears, renewed perspective, renewed purpose. It was worth it.
Scene Point Blank: Hope Attrition seems far angrier than previous material - was that something you felt when writing it or did it turn out a lot madder than you expected?
Chris: It was deliberate but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by how unpleasant the whole thing turned out. We’re no strangers to shifting gears between fury and what I see as a kind of “atmospheric existential depression” but there is just no longer room for both of those. All that’s left is anger and speed, riffs and energy. There’s no shortage of things to inspire anger in 2017.
"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by how unpleasant the whole thing turned out."
Scene Point Blank: The record seems a touch more "black metal" than Withdrawal - we talked at the time about how that album seemed to veer away from the tradition sound but now it seems to have circled back again. Is that something you noticed or am I grasping at straws here?
Chris: I think that might be another symptom of the narrowing of scope, as I don’t think I’d say “more black metal” as much as I’d say “less… other stuff.” There isn’t very much “other stuff” here, so we’re left with the meat and potatoes that have always made up the bulk of our sound: riffs and In the Nightside Eclipse drumbeats. I tell myself that my approach to riff-writing and arranging has developed into something that feels identifiable as Woe, but the guts of the approach dig into our Ulver/Dawn/Emperor baseline than anything since the first album.
Scene Point Blank: Are you involved in the political sphere at all? Hope Attrition has an undercurrent of very prescient ideas and I was wondering if personal opinions make their way into your music?
Chris: My personal opinions make it into all of the music, but I try to stay cognizant of the fact that I am writing an extreme metal album and should present them in a way that is appropriate for that tone. Some of the driving themes of Hope Attrition are power, exploitation, and, of course, hopelessness, which happen to be some of the driving themes of our current political and social situations here in the US. The lyrics zero in on some ideas or situations more than others, but, ultimately, my intention is to capture and present feelings about a situation, not proselytize. If someone feels inspired to consider the perspective offered, that’s great; if not… keep listening to the riffs and don’t try to tell me what to do.
"If someone feels inspired to consider the perspective offered, that’s great; if not… keep listening to the riffs and don’t try to tell me what to do."
Scene Point Blank: Does the current line-up feel stable to you and do you see this iteration going beyond the cycle for the album? How did the newer members fit into the band?
Chris: Hell yes. With any luck, we’re going to see the first two Woe recordings with the same lineup. Haha! We’ve all known each other for some years now, we’re all used to playing together and have developed a great sense of trust in each other’s intentions where band stuff is concerned. We’re all adults, we all agree that it’s best to just be cool, get stuff done, hang the fuck out, make everything count. It’s a good place to be in.
Scene Point Blank: You're finally coming over to Europe and playing some excellent festivals - Roadburn being one - how did that come about and what do you have planned for that?
Chris: It was mostly good timing. We happened to be finishing an album, Roadburn happened to extend an offer, Doomstar happened to be interested in working with us, our good friends Ultha happened to be looking to tour and working with that same agency. When it was decided that Vendetta would release both the remaster of the first album and the new one, that really sealed the deal. So that’s how it happened. We’ll be doing just under two weeks with Ultha, mostly one-day or two-day festivals, with Roadburn the ultimate event. It’s been years since we’ve been on tour at all and we’ve never played Europe, so anticipation is high. We’re mostly playing the new album, with a song or two from A Spell for the Death of Man for good measure. It’s essentially what we have been doing in the warmup shows before the tour and it works very, very well. It’s an unrelenting, exhausting set, and we think everyone who sees it will understand why we’re going about it this way.
But so we’re clear, there will be no clean vocals.
Scene Point Blank: I saw you mention online that "Din of the Mourning" was your least favourite track on Hope Attrition for a while - why is that?
Chris: Haha, well, it’s a little complicated. It went through many, many revisions, and it wasn’t until there were vocals and some final guitar overdubs that it felt right. It was just missing something. As it happens, it’s one of our favorites to play live. It feels a lot like some of the older material, more than I imagined, and I am glad that we did not give up on it or cut it.
Scene Point Blank: What do you see for Woe's future?
Chris: We’re trying to not get too far ahead of ourselves, but we are already talking about ideas for the next release. There will likely be more short tours in the US and there are so many parts of Europe that we won’t visit this year… Maybe we’ll be back sooner than expected. There will be some people who say we owe them material from the second two albums.
But still, there will be no clean vocals.
Scene Point Blank: What are you current inspirations?
Chris: Blast beats around 165 bpm, Bolt Thrower, determination to survive the Trump administration, the good attitudes of my bandmates, and everyone who can go out into the world every day and not give the fuck up.