Interview conducted July 07 2007
Interview published Sept. 15 2007
What a wild night, my child, it
was while watching Widow perform their classic metal anthems on stage.
Life can be so strange sometimes, when you peer through the widow of the
soul. First born out of passion for the cult of nightlife and mettle;
and at the end, inspired by love of tradition, here to stay; witnessing
and meeting Widow was one of the high points of my summer; when they played
the Alehorn II festival last month in Chicago. At the end, after befriending
the band - a true family affair - I made personal arrangements to call
and have a rather lengthy discussion with main man of sorrow, and musician
of misstery: Cris Bennett, at his bequest.
Enjoy the pleasure of our schism
- a trip through madness, as we decide which way Widow will walk when
midnight strikes. We leave no stone unturned, forever on fire with our
love for Metal! Lordi me!
MettleAngel: Hello again Cris, it is so
great to speak with you once again. Wendy and I had so much fun at Alehorn
II, last month. We attended that show primarily to see your band play.
All you guys were so cool to us, once we arrived. Thank you, so much for
giving me the new Nightlife CD. I'll be reviewing that really soon. So
let's begin our interview. Is your name really Cristof, from what country
does your family descend?
Cris: Actually, my name is Cris - Cristof is
totally made up. My friends used to joke with me when I played guitar,
saying, "So you think you're Yngwie or something..."; then
they started calling me Cristof. We as a band liked that gimmick and
used it for our first two albums: Midnight Strikes and On Fire. If
you notice, we never used our last names either.
MettleAngel: So is Johnny really John E?
MettleAngel: Well given Johnny's character, there may already be
a Johnny 5th, out there, somewhere.
MettleAngel: I assumed Cristof was your
real name. Bennett, your last name, has double consonnants - which is
Cris: We always want to do something different;
but, this time on Nightlife, we just used our real names. I'm from
the South, so my name is just simply Cris.
MettleAngel: Does Johnny descend from a
long line of musicians?
MettleAngel: So just like yourself, he is
a sef-taught musician.
Cris: Exactly, but he really struggled; it
does not come as natural to him as it does me. He would tape his fingers
together to maintain each chord he played. For me, I've always had
an ear for the music I love. Drums came natural to me as well. I began
to play drums when I was 12, then I picked up a guitar. Eventually
I began to write stuff of my own.
MettleAngel: But, you can't read music,
Cris: Not exactly, I could work with tablature,
though. I really like guitarists like Andy LaRocque, Eddie Van Halen,
John Sykes; even Ronnie Van Zant of Lyrnyrd Skynyrd.
MettleAngel: When I listen To the Widow
titles; especially the new one: Nightlife; I'm amazed with the guitar
intricacies; the solos are so fluid.
Cris: Thanks man! It has taken many years to
become this proficient. Before Widow, Johnny, Josh and I played in
a death metal band called Sorrow Bequest. I would come up with riffs
which I would form into my own ideas for songs. We were heavily influenced
by bands like Dissection. We even were asked to record a King Diamond
cover of Sleepless Nights for Necropolis Records. This was never released
though. We were going to release it as a Japanese bonus track for
Nightlife, but decided against it. You would really like this; we
did it all professional in a studio. We had the drummer from a great
death metal band at the time called Dreamscapes Of The Perverse assist
us. They were really tight. There was interest in this band from labels
even before the Gothenburg scene exploded. They were ahead of their
time, as were we, but we were not from Sweden! They released an album
on Tribunal in 2006 called: Gignesthai.
MettleAngel: So, Widow has it's origins
in melodic death metal?
Cris: Definitely, songs like We Will Meet Again
and Family Affair are examples of this, with no clean vocals. The
thing is we were, and still are into Classic & Hair Metal, so
we chose to combine these elements with Death Metal to create the
sound of Widow. We were not trying to be retro; but, sincere. We never
even heard of 3 Inches Of Blood, at the time. We just wanted to tell
horror stories from a guy's perspective. Then by the second album,
we had a chick singing for us; imitating these characteristics.
MettleAngel: So, you went from the tongue-in-cheek
misogynistic overtones, to actually having LiLi pesonifying these traits.
Then, I guess, LiLi did not work out?
Cris: Yeah, she wanted to go in a different
direction, than we did. We are always wanting to try something different.
When I wrote Re-Animate Her, I thought it was clever about this prudish
chick who dies; then is re-animated and becomes a nympho whore who
fucks and kills everyone
MettleAngel: I appreciate the humour in
Widow's lyrics. There was a movie called Bride Of Re-Animator. Essentially,
this chick becomes the black widow literally... right?
Cris: When On Fire came out, everyone ragged
on us, claiming that we were a joke! I don't get it, I mean, lighten
up! I just want to have a good time - I don't hate everybody. I'm
into movies with a sense of humour. Take the song Sinderella - an
ugly chick by day, who then transforms into a hot stripper - like
the Cinderella story. We wanted to make a video, but it was too expensive
to shoot in a strip bar.
MettleAngel: I love that song, and the way
LiLi sang on it. I think it's clever. I love the lyrics to Family Affair,
too. They reminded me of the most recent Pumpkinhead movie: inbreeding
MettleAngel: I don't get it either! Please
explain to me why does everyone have to be filled with such rage? Everyone
wants it brutal. If you like a happy Power Metal band like Insania, Olympos
Mons, or Freedom Call, then you are called gay. I know how much you love
Lordi, but Americans don't appreciate their talent and style, either.
Cris: Lordi rules! This is all I am listening
to lately. I love Alice Cooper, Kiss, Twisted Sister, Lordi is the
MettleAngel: Wendy and I just watched the
new Twisted Sister videos DVD. Man that is killer! She had never even
seen the video for Be Crool to Your Skool, with Tom Savini doing the horror
make-up, Bobcat Goldthwait acting crazy, and Alice Cooper singing!
MettleAngel: Hell yeah, total headbanging
mania! I actually remember the live MTV concert, which is included. I
actually taped that over a Lionel Ritchie tape when it first aired. I
still have the original dub,moved to a better qaulity tape. Now, on the
first two CDs you had the Exorcist and American Werewolf In London intros,
but on First Born - the opening track on Nightlife - there is no Rosemary's
Baby dialogue...I assume this is the song's subject matter. Although,
when I hear it, I call my son, "first born!"; which he is, but
he defies me in utter disagreement.
Cris: I love Rosemary's Baby, but we chose
not to use any intros, we've done that enough. This time we wanted
to leave the meaning of the songs open to a more personalistic interpretation.
When I wrote that song, I thought about how frustrated I become when
I'm in Wal-Mart and parents are paying no mind to their kids. Then
the kids grow up and become criminals, and they question how this
could've happened! For me Nightlife is more of a personal album. Sure,
there is some humour, but the songs have more of an integral meaning
MettleAngel: On Fire, seemed ludicrous in
a good way with intentional mispelt song titles, horror elements, and
what-not. I get a kick out of the incandescent and explosive cover artwork
too. Nightlife, is just a picture of the skyline; hell, it looks like
a travel brochure!
Cris: Exactly, in life there is both a party
and fun side; but there is also the dark side, too. We are not happy
all the time. A lot of albums are one thing which is reflected in
every song. You can't expect Behemoth to ever write a happy song.
MettleAngel: So are you saying, that there
has to be some level and balance to the lyrical approach - a light side
with some shading, perhaps?
Cris: I deal with reality when I write. Take
Van Halen's Fair Warning - that album is full of different emotions.
Or like Lyrnyrd Skynyrd, on an album you hear love songs, fight songs,
and fun songs all in the mix. With Midnight Strikes we all wanted
to stay hard and true; but with Nightlife, we did not worry about
anytning. We just wanted to keep it balanced. Life is full of ups
MettleAngel: And for Johnny... "ins
Cris: Yeah, no doubt! Too many bands get pigeon-holed
in writing a certain way. Take a cut like Cult Of Life, off Nightlife,
two years ago, that would be against our rules; now we are like, "Fuck
it!" That song has both a personal meaning and also a far-reaching
MettleAngel: I assume it deals with your
Heaven's Gate, Jim Jones, David Koresh type characters?
Cris: Yeah, I watched this documentary on these
guys and how they sexually assaulted women, I mean, what power and
control! Then they encouraged mass suicide...whoah!
Death Angel wrote a song called Mindrape on their Frolic Through The Park
album, dealing with Jim Jones and The Cult Of Guyana. Still a song like
Teacher's Pet, has some humour to it. I assume you were thinking more
of Van Halen's Hot For Teacher when you penned it?
Cris: Actually, I was intrigued more by that
Debra LaFave chick: a teacher who had sex with a 14 year old boy.
She is an incredible, wickedly hot 24 year old woman. Johnny even
got her voice sample from the internet to use as an intro for this
MettleAngel: Yeah, I saw a movie with Judi
Dench and Cate Blanchett called: Notes On A Scandal where Cate portrayed
a teacher who seduced a school boy; and was blackmailed by her lesbian
paramour, played by Judi. I can see your inspiration. This movie was a
critic's favourite, but I found it a bit less consoling.
Cris: When I heard her say, "Yeah, I gave
it to him!" I was like, "That's a Widow song!" That's
the excerpt we chose to use. It's something sexual, but also disturbing.
On Fire was too sample heavy. This is the only area where we used
an intro for Nightlife, and it works! This time, no intro for the
first song, means you get right in to the music, and just let it rip!
MettleAngel: Your solos on Cult Of Life,
Teacher's Pet, Beware The Night, and the title track, and so many more
selections, are amazing! I hear the early Kirk Hammett style.
Cris: That's it! Kirk is not the best player,
but his leads are real catchy. Sometimes I prefer this over all the
Shrapnel technical guitarists. This is why I love Andy LaRocque. He
fused Randy Rhoads style with technical stuff like Yngwie. My sister
got me the Metallica video compilation DVD for Christmas, and I was
amazed how many songs I really did not know, but still I liked what
MettleAngel: I know, I recently have been
trying to familiarize myself with Load and Reload and even some of the
Black album. I dismissed those back in the day, but now I'm playing so
much Beatallica, that I'm actually curious to hear these again. The good
thing is that they are available at my local library for rental!
MettleAngel: Yeah, I found new Shadows Fall,
Paul Stanley, Ozzy, Maiden, Slayer, Type O Negative, and more. Our locale
library is an excellent source for metal. Wendy just checked out the Bon
Jovi Box Set, with four unreleased CDs of music and a bonus DVD. I got
the E.L.O. Box set, and remastered B.O.C. too.
Cris: Killer! As I was saying, when it comes
to writing quality music, I'd rather take the simple approach; where
the listener may derive his own meaning from the lyrics. With a lyric
like, say, "I'll stab you in the heart!', the words and meaning
are cut and dry. I really like the way James Hetfield leaves Metallica
lyrics open for interpretation. For so long, I just wanted to hear
thrash. I would not expand my horizons. I actually remember when I
was in 8th Grade, I was like 13, and it was all about Metallica for
me. Then an older friend suggested I check out Triumph. I was like,
Fuck that!". Now I'm a huge Triumph fan!
MettleAngel: I guess the "Keep It Simple,
Silly" method does work. I was speaking with Leif of Candlemass about
this. He sees too many artists as being pretentious, which Widow really
no loger is either. Man I'm a huge Triumph fan too. I just got all the
remasters! I'm glad I learned about Triumph at an early age. Rick Emmett
is an amazing vocalist and guitarist. He is one of the true early Power
Metal vocalist, in my opinion! Everyone is all about Thin Lizzy, UFO,
and Uriah Heep. I love these bands too, but I discovered them from Power
Metal bands covering them; otherwise, I was only vaguely familiar. I did
not follow them in their glory days, like I did Triumph in the 70's. Why
has no major metal act covered a Triumph song? If I formed a band I'd
for sure cover: Somebody's Out There (reciting the lyrics...).
Cris: Triumph is awesome! I feel when you sit
down to compose music, you really have an obligation to your audience.
Widow writes music which is meant to be performed live. To me it's
like doing "Customer Service". This becomes your job to
make the fans happy: you have a certain degree of overall responsibility
to those who buy your music, or attend your shows. I've noticed that
some bands are so full of themselves. I can't understand why people
choose to act like that! I feel really great when I inspire, even
just one person. Hell, when you and Wendy, came to see us, and knew
so much about the band; I was like, "Damn, they know all about
us, that's so fuckin' cool! They drove all this distance just to see
us!". Here at home, it's just not like this. It's like when I
met Andy LaRocque, he was signing autographs, but chose to spend some
time with me; because, he knew how much of a fan I am. Sadly, I just
can't get into the new King Diamond, and I really want to. What do
you think of it?
MettleAngel: I like it, but it has not really
grabbed me like other albums. I was surprised when I heard King claim
it to be much better than The Puppet Master. It is just not sticking with
me, like I though it would. I still like it, as it's pure King Diamond.
Maybe, all that back ache affected his songwriting capabilities. He had
to cancel the European Tour on account of his herniated disc. I like the
way you put it as being "Customer Service". That is an honest
way to assess this music business. You have a real positive alacrity and
noble bandleader approach.
Cris: Well, if I came into your house and sold
you a vacuum cleaner, you'd expect me to be a loyal salesman, and
see to repairs, follow-up, etc. I represent the company I work for.
You would not appreciate it if I did not regard you as an important
client. If I just dismissed you, after I made my profit; what kind
of integrity is that?
MettleAngel: Exactly, metal artists, as
well as us journalists, have a key considerable responsibility to our
listeners/readers. After all, we are all in this together, to honour and
serve metal! Now I noticed in the band credits on Nightlife, that you
played all the drums; but, Peter is given photo and name recognition as
your drummer. Does inviting Peter Lemieux into the band, from Viper, finally
put an end to the endless rotation of Spinal Tap drummers?
Cris: Widow always borrows from Viper. We've
even used Johnny Aune (currently the singer for Twisted Tower Dire)
to play bass at certain shows, when Josh is too busy with work. As
people get older, they just seem to grow tired of metal. The kids
in Viper are really hungry to play metal, though. Once Peter joined,
he breathed new life into this band. He does not mind driving 15 hours
to play a show. In the past, we had to drag our drummer kicking and
screaming. Tim Haisman who also played in False Prophet, Negative
State, Leadfoot, was one of the best drummers I've ever known. We
were pleased to have him play on Midnight Strikes. He can play such
technical stuff like Cynic, and Jazz. He just did not have any enthusiasm,
so we had to fire him; and he had never been fired before. He always
wanted everyone to cover his costs. He just did not want to do it
anymore. The Viper brothers, may just be kids, but they are thrilled
to play. The guitarist is 17, and their bassis is only 16. He is a
huge Cliff Burton fan. He was not even born when Cliff died! I just
love to witness this level of enthusiasm. There is a real metal resurgence
in our youth. Some may feel it's trendy, but I think it's great! The
Viper kids want to make a life out of metal, like you and I have.
Now when I wear my classic metal shirts, I get compliments; whereas,
ten years ago, it was quite different.
MettleAngel: Now the kids are getting their
metal shirts at Hot Topic & Spencers. Then again so are we. I just
bought my son some Metallica, Megadeth, Ozzy, & Slayer shirts there
in his size! I love this excitement among our youth too. I've befriended
several metalheads, old enough to be my sons!
MettleAngel: I do, and always have..always
will! So does Wendy! This is why people think we are such cool parents.
That is why my four year old son was headbanging and stage diving to Wretch
& Eternal Legacy last Sunday.
Cris: Take, for instance, my metal 'zine collection;
I'm so nerdy, I have so many. I even have the Katherine Ludwig "Wild
In The Streets" articles from Metal Mania, which evolved into
MettleAngel: I have quite of collection
of rare magazines too. I even have the first three Sentinel Steel issues,
and some Snakepit and No Glam Fags.
- Cris: I met Liz Cavalera, we used to tape trade
together when she had her Earsplit 'zine. She was stunned how much I
knew. I keep these magazines and all my rare concert shirts in storage
boxes. I guess I'm like a packrat. My parents just knew how important
metal was, and is to me.
MettleAngel: It was the opposite for me.
My mother made sure everything was always put away neat and tidy. Now
in our house, everything is on display; it's "organized chaos:! So
when you changed the name from Sorrow Bequest to Widow, how did you decide
upon this name? Was it not already taken?
MettleAngel: I can see what you mean, between bands with names
like "Die, Death, Blood, Bleed, Metal, or Steel, in their title,
it becomes too difficult to differentiate. Widow is basic, and the logo
is just calligraphy. That is why I celebrate Eternal Leagacy's logo, it's
simple cursive, not over the top indecipherable nonsense.
Cris: Our original drummer came up with the
idea. We just wanted something common and recognizable like Slayer,
Maiden, Priest, Dio, etc. We decided to go with Widow's Lust, if it
was taken, but it wasn't. Just look at Wolf, their second album Black
Wings is pure 80's metal; not retro. With us, Widow is not a reaction
to something; we just want to play music like the bands who left their
indelible mark on us when we initially heard them. That's what a song
like At The End is designed to do. I'm not stuck in the past, or nostalgic.
I'm not jaded, I'll listen to everything, just to find that one gem
MettleAngel: Me too, I'm always looking
for something different or unique. My voracity keeps me going. I don't
dismiss anything; it's just I'm drawn to the more commercial oriented
MettleAngel: Now back to this drummer slot,
please list all previous drummers, and how does Peter fit in to the mix?
I noticed that on Nightlife and On Fire, you actually played all the drums
on those albums.
Cris: Our drummers, over the years include
Mike Lancaster who played on the No Stone Unturned demo, Tim Haisman
on Midnight Strikes, John Placko, who played in Eldritch Horror assisted
as well, Marc Anthony joined after On Fire; and now Peter Lemieux
joined after I worked on Nightlife.
MettleAngel: So you have really worked with
a number of drummers....
Cris: Peter is our first agreeable member.
Our original drummer Mike, had the rockstar mentality. Marc Anthony
chose his girlfriend over us. John from Eldricht Horror was phenomenal.
This band had that dirty Unleashed/Entombed evil death sound. (check
out their myspace: http://www.myspace.com/eldritchhorror). He was
too technical for Widow. He actually had trouble playing our easy
songs. He could not even do the count to four - being too technical
minded. Peter fits in so well. We wanted him to play drums on Nightlife,
but time was a factor. I had already written the songs and our label
- Cruz Del Sur wanted the completed product. Peter had not rehearsed
enough. Marc Anthony did the demos, and he helped write some parts
before he left.
MettleAngel: How did you get permission
for covering both Van Halen and Kiss? Why both songs on the album? You
would think one cover, then a bonus track, perhaps?
Cris: We only needed permission if we used
the actual recording. For a cover, we just had to give appropriate
writing credit. We thought about holding off on one cover, but the
label dug both versions. Rico, the boss, wanted to use them both.
He gives us total creative control. He expressed interest in both
of our covers. I think it's pretty cool, if you notice our versions
are like the way they would sound if Widow had written them.
MettleAngel: I actually like your version
of Van Halen: Ain't Talkin About Love, more than the original.
Cris: Cool, when I figured, it out, I played
it like a Widow riff. With the Kiss cover of I Stole Your Love, we
cut out the big intro and all those cymbal crashes. We are not into
superlong intros...I mean wake me when the song starts, or the singing
begins. I want meat to the music. A band like Cryptopsy, c'mon, I
need something to latch onto. Don't get me wrong, I love all that
technicality as a metal fan, like that band Necrophagist; nevertheless,
as a musician, I prefer more simple means.
MettleAngel: I know I can't tolerate all
this technical stuff anymore. It was fine when Death did it, but...
Cris: Our first live show ever was opening
for Skid Row, we were not used to such a crowd of so many people,
and like all these hot chicks in high heels. We knew we had to be
more approachable like Skid Row or even Nashville Pussy. We actually
covered Ozzy's Mr. Crowley. Blake Faucette filmed some of our live
shows, and they turned out quite well. They were pro-shot. You can
actually go to Hot Topic and buy this.
MettleAngel: I surprised to hear than Nashville
Pussy will be opening for Obituary this fall. So, you can buy a Widow
live DVD at Hot Topic?
Cris: Well, it's from Series DVD Volume 1 with
Widow and includes other bands. Widow is on Series DVD Vol. 1 and
Vol. 4. We are also featured on the Tribunal Records DVD. The Series
DVD collection features live footage and videos from artists like
In Flames, KillWhitneyDead, and Exodus. I'm really proud of the songs
we've written for Nightlife like Cult Of Life and At The End. What
songs do you like from our new CD?
MettleAngel: Hmmm...I dig We Will Meet Again,
First Born, and the title track...
Cris: I assume that you like the aggression
in We Will Meet Again? I feel that the new songs which I've written
are more rockin', and more fun. The newer songs I'm workin on are
even more relaxed. A song like Angel Sin is just too technical. We
want to write 'live oriented' songs. They sound better live when you
don't attempt to play beyond your ability, and just have a good time.
MettleAngel: This also helps, if you don't
always have time to practice.
- Cris: Yeah, no doubt, we are comfortable doing
songs and writing them with the live show in mind. Some bands are so
"artsy-fartsy". With us it feels good playing Nightlife songs
live . Midnight had too many arpeggios like Malmsteen; even On Fire
was too much of those unnecessary guitar antics. When we are performing
live, I know when I or Johnny are singing, we each do our part, then
slip away from the microphone. These new songs actually get people going;
even more so than the older ones, with which they are already familiar.
We've finally found our nitch - the thing we do so well...
MettleAngel: Is that why you have never
played Misstery or Family Affair live?
MettleAngel: Did you ever think about just
filming the band doing metal acts while watching Striptease or HBO's Cathouse?
MettleAngel: I have that on DVD, it's like
Pit And The Pendulum with Catholic priest enacting grisly torture.
Cris: The song At The End is about the Marquis
De Sade, sort of. I discovered this video called Dark Prince, in our
old drummer Tim's basement. We used a sample originally on the demo
from this movie for At The End, then chose to discard it. That would
have given way the meaning and what the song may be about. I wanted
to be more ambiguous, without the blatant Marquis De Sade reference.
It could also be about domestic violence.
MettleAngel: Have you seen Quills? Geoffrey
Rush plays the Marquis De Sade, it's really well done! We just watched
Night Breed - Clive Barker's best - why has he not been asked to do Showtime's:
Masters Of Horror Series?
MettleAngel: I'd chose Phantasm, Poltergeist,
and The Shining...
MettleAngel: Yes, and I've heard they are
planning to do Poltergeist again, I hope not! Lately, I'm impressed with
the work of Eli Roth and Mike Mendez. Is this why you use such abysmal
vocals with Widow, to re-instate the horror elements?
MettleAngel: This is why Widow is commonly
compared to 3 Inches Of Blood and Into Eternity. Do you think that by
the next release, the gruff vocals will disappear altogether?
- Cris: That is really hard to say. Those vocals
are a Widow trademark, but we really want to change it up for next time;
we want it to be slightly different, better, but not outdo ourselves.
MettleAngel: Do you feel this raspy vocal
approach could be a detriment to Widow's exposure in Europe? You mentioned
in Chicago that Keep It True passed on you for this very reason.
Cris: This has always been a bone of contention
for us. Before we signed with Cruz Del Sure both Limb Music and Escapi
expressed interest in us, if we did away with the harsh vocals. LMP
was supposed to begin an aggressive sub-label with us spearheading;
but, it did not pan out.
MettleAngel: LMP had Gothic Knights, so
I could see why they were interested in you. Do you regret not signing
Cris: Not at all, we are happier with Cruz.
On LMP it was all about Rhapsody! We would just have been power metal
band Z. We would have been a tax write-off for them, with no support.
We made the right decision. We looked for a label who would view us
as individuals, not just Power Metal release number 13; with their
cookie-cutter signing approach. The vision for Widow with Cruz is
that we have the potential to go up, and gain better recognition.
MettleAngel: Signing with Cruz, shows jurisprudence.
They are also distributed by The End Records, and Earsplit handles all
their promotion. Besides, with one Black Metal band as the exception,
everyone views the bands on Cruz as being Traditional Metal. Look at their
roster: Widow, Pharoah, Crescent Shield, Slough Feg and now they just
signed Icarus Witch.
MettleAngel: You have done just that, Metal
Blade once had a roster of true classic Metal acts like Omen, Helstar,
Lizzy Borden, Nasty Savage, Trouble, Candlemass, etc. All those bands
still are around, relegated to other labels. It all began when Bill Metroyer
signed Nevada Bitch. This was the end of the classic Metal Massacre years!
MettleAngel: Thank you so much man, the
feeling is mutual. Thank you for doing this interview and talking about
the band. I'll review the new CD soon. I love it, true 80's metal. Keep
up the good work! As Deathrow says on the album we so treasure: Deception
Ignored - "Never Lose Your Humour, Man...N.L.Y.H.!". I await
our next rendezvous in just over a month with Twisted Tower Dire, Icarus
Witch, and Viper. Wish Peter a happy birthday from us all!