For over 16 years, Raleigh based NWOTHM masters Widow have been true defenders of the faith. Playing their own brand of classic inspired metal, Widow is a band that has grown by leaps and bounds with every passing album. This year, in 2016, Widow released their greatest work to date, Carved In Stone. I recently crank called Widow guitarist Chris Bennett and he was so nice to me that I decided to just do an interview. We talked about the new album, his favorite Ozzy guitarist, and who the awesome drummer on their new album is. This was a hilariously fun interview and I hope you all will dig the fuck out of this one!
Chris, thanks so much for taking the time to talk today!
Hey brother. It’s always great to talk to you.
First off, congrats on putting out one of the best metal albums this year. Was there any point in the process where you stepped back and thought, “This is something special”?
That’s awesome, Don. Thank you. Honestly, so much went into making Carved in Stone that I couldn’t stand any more time in the studio [laughs]. This whole project got started, then we changed drummer, then we didn’t have a drummer for a little while, then there were other delays. By the time it was done, we were just really glad it was done [laughs]. The thing that felt special to me about these songs was the fact that we cut off a lot of the excess and just make catchy, concise songs. We really just wanted to make an album that we could pull off live. We’re a trio so we made album for three people to be able to walk out on stage and perform. This one has been rewarding in the fact that we can actually re-create it live.
So was it hard for you guys to wrangle it in and try to simplify things a big?
Man, writing a catchy song is hard [laughs]. A lot of the songs on Carved in Stone are some of the simplest songs we’ve written which was actually the hardest thing to do. You can say what you want about AC/DC or early Black Sabbath but writing a catchy memorable song, or even just a riff, is hard to do.
I also have to say that, in my opinion, Carved in Stone sounds like you guys studied yourselves and chose to do more of what makes you great and less of the other fluff kind of stuff.
I have to agree with you. Every album, to me, has been a learning experience. I’m not trying to trash our other stuff but we really have listened back to certain things and said, “Eh, we’re not going to do that again.” For what it was at the time, it was the best we could do and it has its own special place in our catalog. We have done different things over the years and the albums aren’t the same. We have people who love certain albums more than others. Because of that, we’ve always tried our best to play songs from every album when we play live.
This was also the first album with your new drummer.
Believe it or not, I played drums on this album.
Shut the fuck up, dude.
[laughs] Our drummer didn’t play on this album. He’s a fantastic drummer but he just wasn’t in the band when we started making this album.
So you’re a drummer too?
Yeah, I actually started on drums. I learned to play drums as a kid but then picked up the guitar later on. I just eventually got more serious about playing guitar. I also played drums on our albums In Fire and Nightlife.
Raleigh, NC isn’t necessarily known for being a “metal town.” With that being said, is there a scene there that we don’t really know much about?
Actually, there really is. Raleigh has produced a lot of cool bands and there’s a big support for what we do and what a lot of the other bands do. Not all of the bands are traditional metal bands but we have thrash metal and death metal and doom bands. Then we have bands from here that are pretty legendary like Corrosion of Conformity and Confessor who are such a unique band.
How is the support system there for these bands?
It’s pretty fucking great. I mean, the important thing here is that people seem to go to shows. It’s not like something where bands just play and their friends leave immediately. People check out the shows and they hang out all night. You have to have that support from the local community. My good friend, Tony Dio Leonard puts together a lot of shows. He’ll put together metal fests and what not and they really bring people together. I’m glad that people are still supporting it.
Widow is celebrating 16 years of metal. Is it kind of weird to be considered one of the forefathers of the NWOTHM movement?
I think it’s really cool. It’s certainly an honor that anyone would acknowledge us at any capacity [laughs]. I’m just a fan of metal and it was never about wanting to be a superstar or anything like that. It was always just like, “I hope I can play clubs, meet other people, and make friends who love metal like I do.” To get any sort of recognition from people other than the ones around where I live is still really amazing to me so yeah, it’s a huge honor and a surprise.
What are some current, meaning in the last 16 years or so, metal bands that you feel are doing some really great stuff?
Bands like Skull Fist, White Wizzard, Cauldron, Enforcer, Night Demon, Twisted Tower Dire, and October 31. I had heard the names of a lot of these bands and then we ended up becoming friends with them because we’d play shows with them or hang out with them. I just grateful for the fact that a lot of these people who are our peers respect what we do and consider Widow to be a part of it.
And now this movement seems to have become very much a global one.
I know. It’s just unbelievable how this whole thing has sort of exploded into all of these bands globally doing this style. I honestly never thought that this would be possible. The downside of it though is that with so many bands out there doing it, bands need to try and maintain their own identity. That’s one thing that’s always been important to us. We’ve always tried to stay away from tagging ourselves with any particular genre tag. Somebody called us a power metal band once and then another time, in Metal Hammer, they had a list of NWOTHM bands and one of them was Widow and I said, “Hm, that’s nice to know.” [laughs]
It’s been a big thing in mainstream metal media these days for the “elders” to say stuff like, “Who’s going to carry the torch for us” and “There’s no more guitar gods out there for the new generation.” As I’m sitting here, I’m not only talking to one but I can name 5 bands without batting an eye. If you could send a message out to the elders of metal, what would you say?
Thank you so much, Don. Well, first off, I think that Kerry King is a complete douchebag. Kerry if you’re reading this, sorry, but I do love Reign in Blood. After that, I think I would just ask them why they have become so out of touch. I honestly think that they’ve just become so absorbed in their own world. They don’t realize that there’s this whole movement going of these kids that are inspired by the same people saying that. I mean, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Metallica, they were all huge influences on me. These people were my heroes. I think it’s important for these people as they get older to try and pay attention to what’s new; the stuff that keeps coming. I try to do this myself. I mean honestly, I’m not going like any new album as much as I like the first Iron Maiden album or Master of Puppets. I don’t think I’m ever going to hear a new and think that they’re better than that. As far as who’s going to carry the torch, I think it’s going to be whoever really has their own identity to carry metal into the future. It’ll be a band with some influences from the past, but their own identity that can forge something new so that kids can have their own Metallica or their own Iron Maiden.
In some ways, it seems that the future of metal lies in the past.
Exactly. There’s this whole generation of kids that are influenced by a lot of the old stuff which is cool because that’s what I love. With that being said, I think you’ve got to stand out a bit and create this kind of new thing. Let’s take Metallica for instance. They took Motorhead and a couple of other NWOBHM bands and kind of created this thing. Iron Maiden? Same thing. There is such a Thin Lizzy influence to Iron Maiden in addition to UFO. You could almost say that they sort of copied those bands but they took from them and created the greatest metal band ever. That’s what I mean. The future torch bearers are going to have to take those classic influences and create their own thing with it. I mean honestly, if you can take inspiration from Dokken and mix that up with Black Flag and Discharge, we might have something here [laughs].
In all honesty regardless how big or not big it is, metal will just always be there no matter what.
Exactly. I think metal has a great future because people aren’t going to let it go away. When something is your life, your lifestyle, you don’t just say, “Eh, this isn’t popular anymore.” I’m sure there are some people that will do that and they’ll move on to other things that are trendy but I’m not going anywhere and I know a lot of other people who aren’t going either.
If you could play guitar for any band of any era for just one night, who would it be and why?
Man, I would have to say Ozzy Osbourne around 1986. The thing I loved about Ozzy’s guitar players was that if you watch them, they each played the songs their own way. The think I love about Ozzy’s band is that I can envision that if I was in the band, he would let me play the songs the way I would play them. He wouldn’t make me learn then a certain way.
Not counting Randy Rhoads, who do you feel was Ozzy’s best guitarist?
Jake E. Lee is one of my favorites. I’m not claiming by any stretch that I could get out there and do as good a job as he did. If you watch a video of him from 1984 playing “Mr. Crowley”, he changes the solo around and it’s just so fantastic. He totally tips his hat to Randy Rhoads. It’s not disrespectful at all but it’s just his own take on it.
If Hollywood was to make a movie about your life, what famous actor would play you?
Wow. I don’t know. It would have to be a weird looking dude [laughs]. Maybe Sloth from the Goonies? [laughs] See, I have contacts so my eyes are all messed up like that guy [laughs]. Honestly, I don’t know. Robert DiNiro would be a fine choice [laughs]. I’m a big fan of his, he can pull off anything.
What is one heavy metal album that nobody should go without owning and/or listening to?
That’s tough. This is one of those questions that if you asked me this tomorrow, I’d give you a completely different answer [laughs]. There are so many that define different points of metal but if I had to go with just one, I would have to go with British Steel by Judas Priest. The songs are just so metal 101. It’s just like regular Coke. You can have all this Cherry Coke and fizzle stuff but this is just it. While I agree that things started with Black Sabbath, as far as just full on metal, from the look to the mechanics of the whole thing, Judas Priest was where it was at for me. Their songs sound like this huge metal robot walking down the street killing people [laughs].
Like “Metal Gods”! That song sounds like a fucking tank coming at you.
[laughs] Exactly. It really does. You just hear grinding metal in the sound of their songs. Priest is probably just the ultimate metal band and I love them for it. People forget that Judas Priest were one of the bands that launched Iron Maiden by having them open for them. People who a whole lot to Judas Priest.
Finish this question: If I wasn’t a musician, I would be….
A food critic [laughs]. Whether I got paid for it or not! I just love going to all of these cool, local places. That’s been one of the most fun things for me when touring. I just love seeing what all of the favorite local places in all the places we go.
A band on tour visiting all of the cool local eateries across the country. Why is this not a Food Network show?
Yeah man. Totally. I’m already seeing dollar signs. If Honey Boo Boo could be a show, why couldn’t this be a fucking show [laughs].
Chris, thanks so much for this fun interview. It has been an absolute blast talking with you.
This was awesome, Don. Thank you. I hope you can put all of this together to make any sense for people to read [laughs].
For more on Widow, check them out at http://www.widowusa.com