Interview with John Wooten IV of Widow - "This music makes fans for life"

From the blue collar backs of the the tobacco fields to the heavy metal roar of stock car engines, North Carolina is indeed ripe with tradition and honesty. This is a fertile ground, one made from the constant plowing and picking on farms handed down from generation to generation. What better home for a band like Widow, a true-as-steel look at the honest roots of our beloved genre stemming from the Birmingham labor of Maiden and Sabbath with the tenacity and polish of 70s and 80s hard rock. This band has been hard at work for over a decade, toiling in the clubs and playing abroad their form of traditional showmanship and craft. Now the band have released their best record to date in "Life's Blood", a culmination of four years of maturity and work ethic to provide the masses the very best in traditional US metal.

Maximum Metal's EC caught up with Widow's bassist and vocalist John Wooten IV to talk about the new record:

"Widow is a mix of so many different things but we focus on writing catchy, hook filled songs. A great song is what truly stands the test of time."

EC: It has been four years since "Night Life" was released. It is great to see you guys back in action with this new record "Life's Blood". I've always appreciated a band that takes some time between albums and doesn't go the Motorhead or Overkill route of putting out albums seemingly every year. Did the time away from the studio help solidify the sound on this new record?

JW: Oh, it definately did. We had been releasing albums every two years. With "Life's Blood" I really wanted to make what I thought would be a perfect album...just cut out any excess and have really strong songs. Everything is more direct and rocking on this one! We are so happy with it. I think it is our best album no doubt!

EC: "Life's Blood" has some of the finest elements of traditional metal, from the likes of Warlord and Chastain to the pioneers like Priest and Maiden ("Remembering" is a prime example). Does it seem a bit unfair to say Widow is part of this new wave movement hitting the US and Canada? You guys have been hard at work since 2003 yet still grouped with the newer bands like Cauldron, Steelwing, White Wizzard, etc. No disrespect to those fine acts but you guys have been pushing the heavy load for almost ten years.

JW: There certainly has been a resurgence of traditional metal in the last couple of years. I don't mind it at all man. I'm happy that kids are coming around and digging this style. This music makes fans for life, just like it did to me as a teenager. We started Widow as a tribute to the music that we have loved our entire lives and I am so excited to see this influencing a new generation. That rules! We have had so many more people at shows over the last couple of years and I think we are reaching a new audience. We will never quit; we're in this for life. We play metal because we love it! As far as any trend may go, we don't care what's popular, we will continue to play traditional metal no matter what. I just think the people who are discovering this style over the last few years will remain fans of it for many years to come. That is a good thing!

EC: So I have to ask about the album cover and title. This thing has King Diamond or Mercyful Fate all over it. What is the meaning behind "Life's Blood" and who came up with this artwork?

JW: The title really just came from how hard we worked on this album compared to the other ones. We truly have put our life's blood into it haha! We had come up with the idea of a charachter named Lady Twilight, which is also the first song on the record. We got this really awesome artist, Timo Wuerz from Germany, to bring her to life. He did an amazing job, so much better than I had ever imagined. It looks great and totally captures the King Diamond and Fate feel which I love! Both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond are huge influences for us, so we couldn't be happier!

EC: The band spent some time on Cruz Del Sur music for a little while. What led to the signing with Pure Steel out of Germany and are you pretty happy with the exposure thus far?

JW: We played in Germany last year at the Swordbrother Festival. Volker from Pure Steel is the guy who puts on the fest. I basically talked to him and Andreas about signing us. It was really that simple! A couple of beers and then we were partners. I had talked to them over the years via email, etc. Then our management hammered out the deal officially and it was done. We are very happy with Pure Steel. Those guys are in it totally because they love metal as much as we do and they are totally behind us.

EC: Sometimes I can hear that classic US metal sound on tracks like "Take Hold Of The Night" and "Judgment Day" and other songs almost have an 80s big arena sound...I swear I hear some Dokken on "Another Fallen Angel". Then songs like the opener "Lady Twilight" have those awesome harmonies like real early Def Leppard. I can name drop but what do you think defines this record? What sort of sound were you looking for?

JW: Thanks man, I love Dokken and Def Leppard man, good call! I really love a lot of different stuff. Of course a lot of classic metal like old Metallica, Ozzy, Priest, Maiden and King Diamond. Also I love Motorhead, Venom, Thin Lizzy, Ratt, Dokken, Slayer, Crimson Glory, plus lots of punk like The Ramones, Black Flag, the Misfits and GBH. Widow is a mix of so many different things but we focus on writing catchy, hook filled songs. A great song is what truly stands the test of time. I listen to bands like Van Halen, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Sabbath, their songs sound just as great and relevant today as they did the day they were released.

EC: So, coming from North Carolina there isn't a whole lot of bands playing in the Raleigh area. What's going on down there? I see guys like Deceased jamming there from time to time. Is there much of a scene there?

JW: I just saw Deceased two weeks ago! They are awesome live and very cool dudes. We have some bands in our area like Twisted Tower Dire who are great friends of ours. Some other cool bands are Hellrazor, Blatant Disarray, Knightmare, Black Tip and No Mercy. The last three I mentioned are really young bands just starting out but they dig pretty much all the same stuff I do. It's nice to see people appreciating the 70s and 80s metal...it's timless stuff for sure!

EC: I was wondering if you still had any contact with Lilly, the band's vocalist on "On Fire"? What happened to her?

JW: Well, we had some musical and personal differences that led to us splitting with her. I was really happy with the way "On Fire" came out. I thought it was something really different. But we just couldn't see eye to eye on many different things. She has a band that she's doing now that's kind of a doomy death metal project. What I heard of it sounds good! I really haven't seen her in years but I'm glad she is on the scene and still rocking!

EC: One last thing...a Black Sabbath tour/album is inevitable at this point. Who sings? Ozzy, Ian Gillan, Tony Martin or do you want to see a brand new face?

JW: Haha, man that's a good question. I was lucky enough to see them with Ozzy and with Dio so it's really a toss up for me between Ian Gillan or Tony Martin. I worship the "Born Again" album. Man it is so awesome! But another Sabbath album that I think rules is "Headless Cross". I feel that one doesn't get the credit it deserves. Everybody knows that the Ozzy and Dio years absolutely rule but man "Headless Cross" is a perfect album from start to finish. So here is my answer; get Gillan to do the "Born Again" record, then they take a break and out comes Tony Martin to finish off the night! Thanks a lot Eric, see you at the bar!

John Wooten IVEric Compton1/6/2012

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