Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interview with Chris Grigg of Woe

If you haven't heard Woe before then you're missing out . They've (well, originally, he) only been around since 2007, but have released two albums, their most recent one, Quietly, Undramatically, being released on Candlelight Records. I had the fortunate luck of picking at Chris' brain at Scion Rock Fest, learning about influences ranging from Satanic Warmaster to Tears for Fears, and of course, seeing Woe live. 

So, how’re you doing today?

Doing pretty good man, no complaints.

How does it feel to play a fest this large, it’s not MDF, but it’s pretty good!

In a its way its cooler than MDF because its California (laughs).

Yeah, this is sort of the reason I’m not going to MDF.

Yeah, this year I think it’s a bit better than MDF. I can’t really think of anyone I’d like to see except Neurosis. It’s close enough, like, I could drive down there in an afternoon, so y’know, but this is pretty 

How did they contact you?

Email. I’ve been in contact with the guy who books it, cause he lives in NY, and we did a show for him last year and I just made sure to stay in contact, and just had my fingers crossed, and then out of the 
blue one day, an email invitation to play. Blew my mind.

Very cool! Anyways, I was wondering a bit about your influences of Absinthe Invocation, compared to Quietly, Undramatically, and how have they changed since then?

Early on I was very strict about rules. When I started the project, I wanted to play raw black metal and to sound like Satanic Warmaster. I wanted lo fi, nothing fast, no double bass (or minimal), raw production, themes of Satanism, no influences out of black metal. Just straight black metal. But I just didn’t find that sustainable, I couldn’t do that without writing the same songs over and over again, and I have nothing but respect for bands who can keep it that pure and just churn out albums and be happy with them, y’know, more power to them, but I can’t. I chilled out a little bit, I stopped worrying about rules, I stopped worrying about what black metal wanted, and should be, so I kinda redefined things and thought a lot about it.

So more for yourself in a way?

Well, it was always for myself, and in the beginning it was kind of  like an experiment, to see if I could do it, and then, even when I was writing the first album I was trying to keep it real, real orthodox, and even now a lot of people you talk to hears different influences in the new one, and I definitely took some influence from Nirvana, and outside stuff, and I was listening to a lot of Tears for Fears.

Seriously? Tears for Fears is one of my favorite bands! (laughs)

Really? The Hurting is of my favorite albums, and it’s the clean vocals, in the title track, that are because of that album, because I was listening to at the time, and listening to early mixes of the album (Quietly) with no vocals, and I sorta just started humming along to it in the car, and then I tried it out. If I hadn’t listened to TFF it probably wouldn’t have happened. There are songs on that first album that I would love to cover, but I don’t know how we would ever do one. There’s this one song, Change, where it’s like “You can’t change,” which is the whole point of Quietly, practically the whole album, about how you can’t change, I thought it was pretty cool getting into that album.

That’s funny because I was wondering where the vocals came from, it’s the coolest thing.

It was a really difficult thing for me, because I have very, very strict rules about what I won’t and will let myself do, and one of the rules was no clean vocals. So I was breaking one of my own rules.

Was it pretty hard?

It was hard, and I had to play it for some people, so that I could make sure it didn’t sound shitty, and I was very reluctant to do it, but I’m glad I did it. I think that, in the songwriting and recording process you are, as a songwriter, working in the name of the song, and it’s not about me as an individual, it’s about what it wants, and with that song, and that part, it demanded the clean vocals, and if I had omitted something that musically worked because of outside pressure, that’s selling out. Selling out is doing things to enhance sales, or not doing things to improve sales. I guess it would have made the black metal community happier if I hadn’t done the clean vocals, and maybe gotten more cred, but that’s selling out, and I’m not gonna sell out.

What was it like going like from just you to having a full band? Did they help or did you write it all yourself?

I wrote the whole thing, I demoed the whole thing and so on. In the first album, cause it was just me, I had a rehearsal studio at the time, so I was recording demo drums, and programmed demo drums, and I also write a lot of music around the drums. I picture the drums in my head, and, as far as I’m concerned, the riffs only allow for specific drum beats. Each riff is written to match a drumbeat.

I don’t know if was just me, but I sort of heard some Neurosis in the drums, that sort of tribal drumbeat.

Well, Evan definitely made the toms more interesting in certain parts, and he built on the drums I had programmed. He did a great job, and might have had Neurosis in mind, but I think he also just wanted something that wasn’t dull.

How did you end up doing the drums for Krieg?

Someone asked me this once, and I was standing next to Neil, so I said “yo Neil, tell him how I ended up playing for Krieg,” so he said “no one else would do it” (laughs). Well, Neil lives in New Jersey and I live in Philly, so we live pretty close together, and we were acquainted with each other, and we had talked a bit, and one day, out of nowhere, he shot me an email about how there was a fest next week, and he was like, our drummer just bailed, do you want to play this show with us? We have to drive down to North Carolina, would pick you up on Saturday, then go home Sunday. I barely knew the guy at all, and I was like yeah, sure, send me the set and I’ll start listening to it. I hadn’t drummed in months though, and I hadn’t been practicing at all, and if I did it wasn’t much, but I ended up getting in this car with this total stranger and his girlfriend and we drove like 12 hours and kinda the same thing happened with the recording. I wasn’t even supposed to play on the album, but the drummer bailed, he called me a week or two before, asked if I could do it, and I did it, and since then, I’m kinda his go to guy. Right place, right time, like most things in life.

So what other projects are you involved in?

Right now it’s just Woe and Krieg, and I’m in a grindcore band called Unrest. We try to sound like Nasum, and started the band because we were bummed that there were no more Nasum songs, so we just tried to write songs that sounded like them. We have a little bit more of a Swedish death metal thing going on now, and I’m drumming and doing vocals in that.

Where do you see Woe in 5 years?

I have no idea. If someone said we would be doing this I would’ve spit on them (laughs).

Will there be a next album?           

There’ll be a next album. I haven’t quite figured out what the ceiling is for Woe, and I don’t really know what direction to things in. I’m not interested in rewriting the same album, and with the new lineup, these guys are gonna start contributing to the songwriting process. I’ve been trying to get back to my roots, and listening to more raw black metal, like Profanatica, just real nasty black metal. It is tough to keep the outside influence outside, and it’s difficult to read review after review that love the clean vocal part, and you’re like wow I need to do more of that, but at the same time, it’s like woah, that was not supposed to be there in the first place so I need to give it some time for the reviews to fade away, and to get over it, and reset the clock, and get back to what has worked so far. What people seem to like is me sitting by myself writing black metal, and I need to let the hype die down, and be a dude writing black metal, and I just need to not worry about not worrying about the pressure from this album and just write another album. So far its gone well.

One more question, what do you think of the USBM scene right now?

There are a lot of good things to say. I’m glad to see so many bands playing, and so many shows, and the fact that American black metal bands are involved in a show like this. With the exception of Kvelertak [who canceled due to passport issues], the black metal representatives here are all American, and if you think about last year looking at reviews, and not to toot my own horn, but Woe, Krieg, and Agalloch were 3 big releases of 2010 and I think that’s cool, and I’m glad to be contributing and help raise awareness of American black metal, which seems like it gets passed over sometimes. But now its, and I know I’m not singularly to thank for it, and I know a lot of people don’t like Woe, but I think that the more high profile releases there are, the more attention will be paid to the American underground in general, and my time is very limited here, and people will forget about Woe pretty soon, so I like to picture it as something bigger than me.

So if you haven't yet, go check out Woe at their Myspace page to listen to a few songs http://www.myspace.com/woeunholy, and if you want to see more photography of Woe, and other bands at Scion than check out http://www.facebook.com/album.php?fbid=117432911664928&id=117431668331719&aid=21690



  1. Nice interview! Chris is a good dude.

  2. Thanks! And yeah, he definitely is. You have some good pictures btw, what gear do you use?



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