Karl Sanders-Vocals, Guitars
Since their formation in 1993, Egyptian-themed, technical death-metal band Nile has always had a sound and style that has stood out with a unique blend of history, musicianship, and creativity. During a media blitz, vocalist, guitarist, and founding member Karl Sanders spoke with Sonic Excess while gearing up for a European tour; just before Nile's latest studio CD entitled "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is due to hit stores on November 3rd in the U.S. and on November 6th in Europe. Read the chat below.
Sonic Excess: We are here with Egyptian-themed, technical death-metal brainchild, Karl Sanders of Nile. How's it going Karl?
Karl Sanders: I'm doing pretty good, how about yourself?
S.E: I'm great, thanks for asking. So Niles 6th studio album "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is scheduled for a November 2nd release date in the U.S. and Canada, and November 6th in Europe. Nile is also headlining a European tour starting in November, so this must be a crazy time for you.
K.S: You know it. I wish that I had some personal time, but it is work, work, work.
S.E: I would like to talk to you a bit about Nile's history. How did you first get interested in Egyptology?
K.S: Well, it is a personal interest dating back to my childhood years. Then, when it was time to write music, it just was a natural path to follow.
S.E: Now, when you first started with Nile, where you worried that people might not understand what you where trying to do and perhaps view Nile as just a gimmick?
K.S: Definitely, There was quite a bit of opposition with people saying that You cannot write songs about "Egyptology". Later on, some people even tried to minimize Nile and stick us on the sidelines like we where the cousins of Gwar. Just completely discount the music that is on the disc, and that bothered me for a while. I think Annihilation Of The Wicked and Ithyphallic is where Nile backlashed and showed people Nile is a metal band, and that we can play our asses off.
S.E: What has been the most challenging part of Nile's career up to this point?
K.S: WOW, umm.. It's all been challenging since starting out. Now I think its the challenge to keep going, despite the many difficulties, and making a musical career in 2009.
S.E: Your lyrics are very tough to understand unless someone has an educated background in ancient Egypt and mythology. Is it your intention for the listener to decipher them and pursue it, or just leave it up to the imagination and interpret in their own way?
K.S: The very first record we did "Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka", that was my intention. I really liked the idea of how obscure it is, and no one would have any idea what the meaning was. But, on some of the records that followed, we included liner notes to help people out so they knew the meaning behind what a song is about. I think a lot of fans really liked that. We got away from that on "Ithyphallic", but on this record, "Those Whom The Gods Detest", we went back to the liner notes.
S.E: With Nile, you touch on many ancient religions and theology. Why not modern day religion?
K.S: That is a good question, I do not think one band could possibly cover past, present, and future. We are happy with our niche, and I think Nile has carved out a place for ourselves. So, I do not feel the need to step on anyone else's toes. We dig ancient history, and that's what Nile does.
S.E: Living in South Carolina, do you think there is a distinction between modern day snake-handlers and the ancient Egyptians who also handled snakes for spiritual beliefs?
K.S: Humm, I never though about that connection before. Definitely, here in the Carolina's, there is an aspect, but that is far removed from our everyday life. Being musicians in South Carolina, we hang out at home, the band room...so that stuff is out of site, out of mind for us. I have never been to a snake handling church, but it could be fun.
S.E: That would be a sight to see. Now, I want to get back on track with "Those Whom the Gods Detest". Can you tell us how it is different from Nile's five previous releases, and what aspects are the same?
K.S: "Those Whom the Gods Detest" definitely sounds like Nile, and you're not going to confuse it with a AC/DC record. I think we have our own style. Having said that, I think, on this record, Nile has definitely achieved our best production ever. We have spent an incredible amount of time and resources. So, we made the best record we possibly could. I know a lot of people have their personal favorite of what they think are the best Nile albums and that is OK, but I can tell you that we worked the hardest on this record than out of any other Nile album. The amount of time, love, blood, sweat, and tears that went into this record is mind boggling.
S.E: I was really blown away with the guitar work on this album between you and Dallas. Would you say that this is the most technically demanding album you have recorded?
K.S: Probably. Dallas and I have been really focused on the idea of getting everything clean and tight, that is what we are anyway. We are guitar players, and we wanted to show people what we are capable, and we can play some great stuff and capture it on record. It is a challenge to capture some brutal death-metal and make it translate out of the speakers. I think you can be slamming away on your guitar and it's brutal, evil, and whatnot, but, sometimes when you record it, it sounds god awful. You have to make it come out of the speakers and translate to people's ears. That is the challenge.
S.E: Do you have to be in a certain mind-set when you write?
K.S: I like to work at night when the house is quite, when there are no distractions. That's my frame of mind. I do not like to force an idea then put them on a time schedule or anything, but when the inspiration comes, I just catch the bull and just run with it.
S.E: I have always thought of Nile's music as very atmospheric. Why do not you record in indigenous places like North Africa?
K.S: Well, that sounds like a great idea. However, there would be a plane ticket involved for many people, then we would need an engineer. We then have to get our gear out into the middle of the desert, and that would be a huge expense that death-metal album sales just do not justify.
S.E: What about a music video then?
K.S: We have approached Nuclear Blast records with the idea, but again, death-metal CD revenues, especially in this day and age, just do not justify that kind of expense.
S.E: I want to go back to your upcoming tour. Who will be playing bass with Nile?
K.S: Well my friend, I cannot divulge that information at this time, because I have not notified everyone who has not got the job. That would not be kosher.
S.E: I guess we will have to come to the show and be surprised. Now, after all this time, do you still enjoy touring?
K.S: Well, there are parts of touring that are fun like getting up on stage, playing the show, meeting the fans...that part is fun. Occasionally, I get a chance to go site-seeing, although that is rare. Those parts of touring are fun. When you are away from home and family, sometimes under very adverse conditions, that part is not so much fun.
S.E: Why has Nile never had an elaborate stage show? I can see you guys with a hieroglyphic backdrop, drum set on a sarcophagus, and a ton of cool shit that would fit the music.
K.S: That does sound like fun. I bet with some imagination one could do amazing things, given our premise for Egyptology with the imagery in our songs, but two things get in the way of that, money, and for Nile, we are always focused on the music first and foremost. It does not bother me having elaborate stage production. I am happy being up on stage just playing music.
S.E: Nile's music doesn't need the smoke and mirrors anyway.
K.S: Ya, their are lots of bands that cannot deliver the music, but we can and that is what we can give to people also. We love doing it.
S.E: Have you given any serious thought to playing your solo work on your upcoming tour, or any tour for that matter, and pulling double duties?
K.S: Ya know, that is a fun idea, and I think that needs to be investigated some more and see if that is possible. It would be fun.
S.E: You play quite a few non-traditional stringed instruments. Did they come natural to you because you play guitar?
K.S: I think that is the thing. If you're a guitar player for so long, any stringed instrument has a certain amount of technique that transfers over. The challenging part of that is to actually play it in the style that it is meant to be played in, but that is another matter entirely.
S.E: Do you try to stay away from a metal technique and try to play the traditional way? Or have you been so embedded in metal, for so long, that it's a habit you cannot break?
K.S: I don't know If I look at it that way. The way I view it is learning traditional music from indigenous places is fun, and I like it, but I will never necessarily master the 'bağlama' and 'saz'. There have been guys playing in that style all their lives. I don't have a delusion that I will play their music better than they already play it. So, my approach is to go OK this is their style and my style, and this is what you will get.
S.E: You are also a guitar teacher. How can a potential student book an appointment with you, and when you go on tour, have you thought about doing any clinics?
K.S: I will be giving guitar lessons on tour. You can book by going to www.nile-catacombs.net or NileGuitarLessons@gmail.com . Humm, doing clinics on tour? If I had the time I would. Some places are more conditioned than others for guitar clinics. I have found though that death-metal guitar does not get the respect it deserves in the guitar playing community. I think that Nile is a bit of an anomaly. There are some death-metal bands that do not care about the musicianship, and to the uninitiated and the untrained ear, all death-metal sound alike. So, in the mind of some players, death- metal is just a bunch of fucking noise. Given all that, it's hard to convince sponsors to set up guitar clinics, and it is an uphill struggle. George Kollias, who is our drummer, has been making headway with that and has had much success with his drum clinics.
S.E: I want to thank you for taking the time out and for speaking with us here. Do you have any last words for your fans? Any plugs you want to give, or last thoughts?
K.S: Thank you. I had a blast speaking with you today, and I cannot wait to go on tour and play the new songs for the fans. It's going to be metal.
Interview by: Brandon Marshall
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