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!
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 2003’s “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 2014…which 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 content…if the fans and media also receive it with strong emotions, that is an added bonus – and we’d 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?
Tom: It’s actually our first truly conceptual record; all of the others were thematic or unintentionally “connected”, but “SAA” is a single storyline. The gist is that “aphelion” is the furthest point from the sun…and this sun will represent different things for different people – basically any deeply-rooted ambition… from the spiritual to intellectual, romantic to professional. “SAA” is about the pursuit of this ambition with all of the resources one might have, with passion… but ultimately realizing that this isn’t always enough…some 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, “SAA” is 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. It’s 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 “revision” that 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 relationships…sincere emotions…it’s the only way I know how to express anything accurately (via music). That really is the key: we don’t “write” music, rather it is “felt” and “channeled”. True emotion cannot be forged or faked, it doesn’t 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, it’s 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 didn’t have another outlet for, that I couldn’t 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 young…in our teens…the previous band had just come to an end, and we wanted to do something with more dimensions…both 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 Metal…it just came together between friends and previous bandmates.
What is the biggest difference between WHW back then and now?
Tom: I’d say the biggest difference is we have clearly defined who and what WHW is over the course of all these albums…which may appear to be rather different from each other, but yet the “signature sound” remains 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 experiences…how and where we’ve 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 hasn’t changed.
How do you look back at your career so far?
There’s a sense of pride in having never yielded to trends, criticism, adversity, no matter where WHW actually “fit” in 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 we’ve given our all to everything that we’ve ever done. I am happy that WHW is something unique and that we do have OUR sound, even if it’s 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: There’s another album that was channeled between “Fear Of Infinity” and “SAA” that we definitely would like to realize; it would probably make some sense of how we arrived at this album, since it’s quite an evolution…but 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 “go” is hard to say now…but it’s even more elaborate harmonically, and very challenging, exciting. Other than that, we just want to be able to reach every country that we’ve yet to reach, that we’ve been asked to visit in terms of touring…that’s 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: www.facebook.com/whileheavenwep
Interview taken by Ronald van de Baan