Interview with Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept

 Interview with Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept

While heaven Wept is about to release Suspended at Aphelion. This release made quite some impact on me. It will end up for sure in my top ten list for 2014. So it was extra nice to get the change to ask Mainman Tom Phillips some questions about WHW and their upcoming release!

 10371256_781830098505848_4580780995555183136_oSuspended At Aphelion is about to hit the stores. Congratulations with another great one! What was it like to hit the studio again and record this one?

Tom: Thanks for the kind words regarding SAA, we appreciate that very much. Since we had been preparing for the recording sessions via 2+ years of pre-production, we were anxious to get into Assembly Line (where we recorded 2003s Of Empires Forlorn) and realize Aphelion; having re-assembled the same team as that album, we believed the sessions would be smooth and efficient, and we were correct. Compared to the duress and pressure of realizing Fear Of Infinity, this was almost effortless and largely a pleasure!

What are you expectations of Suspended At Aphelion being received by fans and media?
Tom: Honestly, we have no idea how anyone will react to this album, considering its length, complexity, and uniqueness; obviously we hope it will resonate with  everyone, but ultimately it was the album we as a band unanimously felt we needed to release at this time – something that clearly established who and  what WHW is in 2014which is exactly what it is, considering the material  was channeled between the very end of 2011-2014, unlike past albums that drew from decades of backlogged compositions. Personally, it was also the album I needed to do to move forward in other aspects of my life as well, so having more or less successfully realized the vision, we are contentif the fans  and media also receive it with strong emotions, that is an added bonus – and wed certainly rather satisfy rather than alienate. I feel like as long as we xpress sincerely from the heart and remain true to ourselves, the probability of this is greater.

Suspended At Aphelion is a concept record again, can you tell us about the story?

10527666_804685042887020_8575728504326681685_nTom: Its actually our first truly conceptual record; all of the others were thematic or unintentionally connected, but SAAis a single storyline. The gist is that  aphelionis the furthest point from the sunand this sun will represent  different things for different people – basically any deeply-rooted ambition…  from the spiritual to intellectual, romantic to professional. SAAis about the pursuit of this ambition with all of the resources one might have, with passion…  but ultimately realizing that this isnt always enoughsome things are simply   beyond our reach. The rest of the album is a journey through this hard and cold  realization, as well as the subsequent emotions. There IS a sense of acceptance at the end, but it is bittersweet as despite futility, the yearning for that sun never vanishes entirely.

The record’s best experience is playing it in full length. Besides that, is there a song which stands out for you and why?

Tom: Despite being divided into 11 sections, SAAis actually one song, and thus all the more vital and rewarding to be taken as a whole, the way it was intended. This has been true for all of our albums, but never more so than this one. Its  almost impossible for me to cite a specific standout passage, as every single one   has its place, climactic points, and meanings. What I can say is that Parts 2-3 do effectively represent the entire history of WHW, whereas 9-10 perhaps foreshadow what is to come, considering 10 in particular was a revisionthat developed during the actual recording sessions.

The songs are always drowned in pure emotion. How do you accomplish to transform these emotions into music?

Tom: All of the catalysts are real life events, actual people and relationshipssincere  emotionsits the only way I know how to express anything accurately (via music). That really is the key: we dont writemusic, rather it is feltand   channeled. True emotion cannot be forged or faked, it doesnt stem from a premise or concept; some artists can for example create a dark work based on a thought, but it will never have the same depth or sincerity as something born from a need.

Where do you find the inspiration to come up with these fantastic songs?

Tom: Like I was just intimating, and since the beginning of WHW, its always come from my own life experiences, hopes and heartbreaks, battles won and lost, as well as things I have carried or had to face throughout a lifetime. These songs are the catharsis necessary to heal and lead a relatively normal life. WHW was first created with musical ambitions alone, but very early on became a vehicle for saying everything else I needed to say, that I didnt have another outlet for, that I couldnt find the words for otherwise.  

WHW started over 25 years ago, do you remember how you started back then with WHW?

Tom: We were all very youngin our teensthe previous band had just come to an end, and we wanted to do something with more dimensionsboth within the boundaries of Heavy Metal, as well as beyond. It came together rather naturally as we were devouring so much music – from classical to jazz fusion, dark ambient to every genre of underground Metalit just came together between  friends and previous bandmates. 


What is the biggest difference between WHW back then and now?

Tom: Id say the biggest difference is we have clearly defined who and what WHW is  over the course of all these albumswhich may appear to be rather different from each other, but yet the signature soundremains intact, and they are united by whatever emotions were actually felt at the time of their realization. The fact is that we still have the same influences as we did in the beginning, but we have been able to combine those in different ratios over the years and filter everything through our life experienceshow and where weve grown over the  years. Of course, we have a lot more resources than we did in the early days, but how we approach and realize things really hasnt changed.  

How do you look back at your career so far?
Theres a sense of pride in having never yielded to trends, criticism, adversity, no matter where WHW actually fitin the grand scheme of things. We have never compromised our integrity and always expressed sincerely from the heart and soul. There may have been some albums or ventures that were more successful or fulfilling than others, but weve given our all to everything that  weve ever done. I am happy that WHW is something unique and that we do   have OUR sound, even if its not for everyone. If I could go back and do it all again, there is very little that I would do differently.

Beside the record release and an upcoming tour what else is in the pipeline for WHW?

Tom: Theres another album that was channeled between Fear Of Infinityand  SAAthat we definitely would like to realize; it would probably make some sense of how we arrived at this album, since its quite an evolutionbut it was  a natural one. We also have new material that is developing at the time of this interview that is likewise the logical result AFTER SAA”…though where it will gois hard to say nowbut its even more elaborate harmonically, and very challenging, exciting. Other than that, we just want to be able to reach every country that weve yet to reach, that weve been asked to visit in terms of touringthats something we definitely want to insure happens. 

Thanks for your time!
Tom: Thank you for the opportunity and for listening to “SAA” the way it was meant to be heard! We appreciate it greatly and hope to see you on the road in 2015! 

Follow WHW HERE:

Interview taken by Ronald van de Baan


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