Nile – Karl Sanders


Karl Sanders – The guitarist & vocalist of Nile
Interview and live/off-stage pictures by Luxi Lahtinen


The US catacomb warriors Nile hit on the Finnish soil on May 1st 2006 for the very 1st time, having touring mates Yyrkoon from France and Australian Psycroptic along with them. This was Nile´s 2nd leg of the European tour, a continuation for their successful “Annihilation of the Wicked” world tour which started last year.

Since the band was in Finland for the very 1st time, I felt an urgent need to find out why they had so well managed to avoid coming to Finland before – amongst other things, like a common brotherhood of metal fans, the troubles the band faced in Estonia, voodoo witchery and so on.

It was the vocalist and guitarist of Nile, Karl Sanders who I found taking pictures outside of the venue with his digicamera, about 3 hours before their gig. While he was taking some pictures from one of the harbours of Helsinki, I decided to join him, and the recorder was put rolling after his permission…



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I heard from your tour manager you had some sort of a street fight in Tallinn, Estonia yesterday? What actually happened there?


Actually I wasn´t in the fight. We all were at a big aftershow party, and it was getting late. We had all the fun we needed to have and the merchandise guy Zack was very very drunk, barely standing up. Since it was a good walk back to the bus, I thought that I should take care of my friend and I´ll walk him back, just to make sure nothing will happen to him; get lost or fall down or anything. Anything can happen when you are drunk. So we had gotten back to the bus already; we were already sleeping when the fight started. So I wasn´t there, I wasn´t involved. We should have been there to help my friends though.



You also missed a ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki, or so I´m told…


Well, what happened was the custom´s people made us wait, wait, wait, wait and wait… And when they finally said it´s ok for us to go and up and get in line and go back to the line, we had to wait – and then when we got to choose the immigration control where they checked the passports, they didn´t like us because we are Americans. So they kept me, Zack and Joe Payne who´s our bass player – they held us back. So, when we went through, trying to get on the boat, it was already blocked off: Ramp up, gate closed and the boat was already going off – leaving us, so we had to wait for 4 hours for the next ferry. Luckily I had my wallet with me, so I had my credit cards and was able to buy new tickets. Otherwise I would still be in the God-damned Estonia!



You started this European tour from Ljubljana, Slovenia on 24th of April… well, according to your website anyway.


Well, we have noticed our website hasn´t been updated for a while, but yeah, we have already played that show (Ljubljana in Slovenia that was), which was on the tour list as well. But we started this tour from Osterburg from Germany which was a pretty cool place to play.




Ok, I see. Bet many of your shows have been kinda crowded on this tour – even sold out, correct?


Well, to be honest with you, not everywhere. Some places have been quite normal. I think in Lithuenia we had like 150 people there at tops. They are nice people. All the people that have been coming to these shows, are the people that wanna see the band. So it´s been good. Regardless what size it is, I think Poland was totally insane, 500 people showing up to that little room. But overall, all the shows have been good to us so far.



I just got to know that approximately 450 tickets have been sold for tonight´s show here in Helsinki, so I guess that piece of advance information satisfy you enough already…


I think that´s great!



This is actually your very 1st time to play here in Finland, and somehow you have managed to miss this isolated country on all of your other tours – can I ask why?  


It does not depend on ourselves. We have a booking agency that decides how to arrange touring, and we don´t really get a whole lot to say so where we are gotta play. Sometimes we ask, but we don’t it – sometimes we don´t ask, and we get it, y´know. It´s crazy – yeah, I really let it to the metal gods to decide.









By the way, what do you know about our country Finland anyway, or just metal fans in this particular country?


Every Finn that I´ve ever met ANYWHERE on the planet, is a drunk motherfucker…!!



That´s, quite honestly, no news to me…





I happen to know we Finns still tend to have a pretty bad reputation as heavy alcohol consumer all around the world…


That´s ok, I don´t mind at all. I know it´s hardly the whole story. When we were about to come into harbourg – man, that was beautiful. The shore, the beach, the rocks, the hills – man, they were all fuckin´ beautiful. Like here right now, it´s fuckin´ gorgeous.



You are currently touring with these two other bands; Yyrkoon from France and Australian Psycroptic. How do you feel about your touring mates; like them?


We have toured with Psycroptic before. We did an Australian tour and they were on that with us, too. As for Yyrkoon, this is the first time when we have met them or heard them. I didn´t know anything about them before this tour. Sometimes we have a little bit to say so and who goes on tour with us – and this wasn´t one of those times. I even didn’t know Psycroptic was on the bill until we got here. I really like what Psycroptic is doing. Y´know, it´s kinda technical kind of Death Metal, and I can relate to that – I like that kind of music.


And what about the French Yyrkoon; can you relate to their type of Death Metal then?


Well, that´s not for me to say…



It´s quite different stuff what Psycroptic is doing anyways…


Well, I like technical Death Metal stuff, and they are all Death Metal bands, so on that note I was stranded on a desert island, and I had to choice between Yyrkoon and… between turtles, I think I have to pick Yyrkoon. 



You guys have done several tours during the past couple of years or so, traveling from one country to another and seen different places in general. Anyways, which one (-s) out of these tours have been the best one for you for some reason or the other?


Huh, that was a hard one – I don´t know. Maybe with Cannibal Corpse and Krisiun. Man, that was such a good tour for us, man. Also the tour we have done with Behemoth; we really enjoyed those – not to forget the tour with Morbid Angel we did… oh my God! That was just… legendary! But I think I kinda like touring under our own name because the people that come to our shows, want to see the band. Sometimes when you got to… y´know, you are a support band, or you have lots of other big bands on your bill, you catch some people there who simply hate you. They come to see the other band and they don´t wanna hear you and they are, y´know, you know how drunk metal fans can get sometimes. Y´know, like sometimes I say why am I doing this? Why put these bands on the bill if there are fans, y´know, don´t appreciate the band. That kind of makes a rule without enough sense. So, I don´t know… This tour, it feels good even if the numbers are huge like we had lots of big bands on the bill. The people are coming to these shows, like the band. And that´s enough for me.



Don´t you get tired of being on the road all the time as I gotta assume traveling long distances may bore you quite easily sometimes?


I think we don´t get paid for playing metal; we get paid for the traveling.





So it really does feel like that sometimes?


Yeah, that´s hard work. All the traveling and… It´s not the one hour that you are on the stage. It´s the other 23 hours that suck. That one hour on stage, man – it really does make it worth touring.








I think it truly pays you off when you go on the stage and see that excited crowd in front of you – headbanging and yelling your name from the top of their lungs…


Yeah, that´s rewarding. I think the important thing though is metal just survives and continues, then metal people have to be able to come together and the metal show is where you league with all your other metal fans – and other metal people that are just like, but you don´t know. But you know what, we are all pretty much the same and a metal fan from here, is not drastically different from – in spirit, a metal fan from Canada, or England, or Belgium, or Marocco, or Japan or Australia; we are all metal people. And I think metal is what brings us together, and that is the beautiful thing about metal shows. It´s not necessarily just about having a minute of glory. I mean, that´s ok, but I don´t think about that. I really believe metal is an international language of solidary which we all metal fans share together. The brotherhood, the spirit we all feel, whether we are all headbanging together or in the moshpit or throwing goat horns with each other – man, that spirit is empowering; that´s the great thing about metal. People say bad things about metal because they don´t understand it. It´s a communal spirit. Manowar is kinda cheesy band – ok, but when I was a kid, man, their spirit of metal brotherhood was just empowering; you felt like raising your fist and, y´know, fuckin´ throwing up the horns and saying: “Death to false metal…!!” – or whatever, and that spirit continues, no matter what band it is, being it Morbid Angel, Behemoth, Cannibal Corpse or whoever the fuck it is. As long as that spirit is alive, then, y´know, we are strong.



Those were wise words for sure, but it´s sad that MTV´s way to think about metal is way different. They show bands like Korn, Deftones, etc. – and say these bands are metal…


They are not metal…



If you have ever watched MTV, you know for sure how it sucks…


I don´t watch it…



Good for you then…


We had a video on “Headbanger´s Ball” and I didn´t even watch my own fuckin´ video on MTV. It was there last year when the album (ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED that was) came out.



Do they still show it there?


Well, no – I think that´s the only time I have known about it. Maybe they played it – maybe they not, I kinda doubt it. They play a lot of fuckin´ crap.



Yeah, I know, that´s for sure. Anyways, talking a bit more about touring. According to your website, there´s been some talk about your possible tour in South America, India and even somewhere in the Middle East countries as well. How do things look like concerning these plans? Has something nailed down on the paper yet?


Nothing has been nailed down to anything, but yeah, there has been some talk about touring in those places and I hope we can work these plans out. If not, then we will rest this summer and work on the new album. We have got two festivals I know of; Graspop Festival and Hellfest in Nantes, France.



Have you already been able to write any new material for the next album?


We haven´t even started. When we tour, we tour and we focus on that. And when we work on the album, that´s all we do. We try to not be distracted and try to do a good job with whatever is we are doing at the moment. 



There was some sort of an announcement about a new Nile release in the end of the fall? Is this news still accurate and valid?


That´s what we are hoping to record in the fall time and trying to get it out by the New Year. So I guess we have this summer to work on it.



May I ask what kind of plans do you have for your next album concept-wise? I guess it´s not that hard to figure out the Egypt –thing will be there as it has always been…


A lot of people give me a lot of discouraging words like “Karl, you are going to do this Egypt –thing and – blah-blah-blaa…”. I say: “Well, I´m not unhappy with the band. Actually I´m very happy with the band.”. So in the other words, I see no reason to do anything that anybody fuckin´ tells me to. No one can actually tell me what to do – not even me.




Now you have this Greek drummer George Kollias in your line-up (playing the drums for Nile), has he ever suggested that since he comes from the country with a well-known ancient history, he might have some cool ideas to be used from the Greek mythology for the next Nile release?


No, George has never said that. He has too much respect. George is a great guy – we really love him. He is kinda giving us a new lease on life and new purpose, feeling of fusing in the band. That was suddenly lacking, y´know, touring the last couple of years. But now we have it – we feel like a team again; we feel brothers. We are in it for all the right reasons, and we love playing music together. It´s really… I feel like I´m 20 years old again.


That´s a very nice spirit to have…





Y´know, I´m 38, but I still feel like I could be 20-something from time to time, going to all these gigs and seeing kids people headbanging amongst the audience – watching their favorite bands playing onstage, so that´s a great spirit. I can so easily relate to them as well…


Me, too – very easily as a matter of speaking. I´m 42, and I´ve been playing metal my entire life adult life. And in my heart I´m still an 18-year-old kid, having a blast – playing metal. I´ve just, y´know, made it my whole life.









Nile was started in 1993, but before Nile – sometimes in the late ´80s you were in a band called Morriah together with Chief Spires and Pete Hammoura. Can you tell something about those days? What happened to that band anyway?


Well, we had problems with our singer. He was incredibly gifted like Ronnie James Dio, or Rob Halford –kind of guy – lots of power, lots of range and he did an incredible stuff. Sometimes he even did things we were totally amazed of. He was just incredible! But a bad thing was he had a drinking problem. And we wasted so many years, trying to help him, y´know, to be a band. And we as brothers, tried our best to help him. And in the end we realized that we were never going to get anywhere when our singer is not showing up for rehearsal; he misses the gig. We got a little tour offer for end, and he doesn´t wanna go because he´s not answering the phone. We cannot get anywhere like that. No matter how talented he is, and he was godly talented. So finally we said, y´know what? Let´s go on without him. That´s when we dropped that whole thing in disturbed to come up with what else we did to you.             



The music of Morriah – as some other people have described it, had a lot of Slayer –influence, added with more traditional Heavy Metal vocals and stuff, as I´ve been told…


Some of the riffs were Slayer´ish, some of them were Queenrych´ish, some of them were Priest´ish, some of them were Metallica´ish – I mean, there´s a lot of varying influences in our music back in the day, probably a way ahead its time. If that band were around today, we´d be selling big, big, big… BIG, because it had all the thrashy elements, but with the incredible vocals. And, y´know, that´s why I think it´s cool.



Did you guys manage to record any demos with Morriah or anything?    


We did two demos, but they never went anywhere because we didn´t much for them. But that´s ok. I don´t mind – that´s life. I wouldn´t do live that band. I learnt a lot about it doesn´t matter how good you are. You can be the best motherfuckin´ band on this planet, or y´know, on that day be the best – or maybe next Thuesday you´ll be 2nd best, or… I don´t know. But you can be a great motherfuckin´ band! If you don´t have any business sense; or you don´t make the right contacts, you don´t do the right thing – you don´t keep working at it, you are not prepared when the good offer comes. It´s no good… You can be… it´s like… I don´t know. It´s hard lessons; hard lessons stuff that I can run. Also friendship, friendship in the band is a double-edged sword. If you see some life experience, you should see your brand-old brother letting you down, time after time after time. There´s only so long you can help him. And after that you are not even really helping each, y´know. You are helping anyone; all you´re doing is allowing him to waste your life. And now you´re some people nowadays call me a ruthless asshole. I´m not ruthless, I´m just… y´know, life is a gruel thing. Like those birds over there (*Karl pointing his finger at some seagulls, flying right above us*), if they don´t find enough food, they eat or they are gonna go hungry. So, y´know what? They find enough food to eat…



On your IN THEIR DARKENED SHRINES album you had Tony Laureno (ex-Naphobia, ex-Angel Corpse, ex-Acheron, etc.), doing the drums for the album. I´m very curious to know why he didn´t want to join his forces with Nile as a permanent drummer of the band? He´s one hell of a drummer anyway…   


He wasn´t happy, he was unhappy with us. I don´t know why, but you cannot make someone happy if he was not happy even if you tried. So, when he decided to leave, we said: “Ok…”. Life goes on…



What about your DVD –plans? Any Nile DVD to be expected in the near future?


I think that so many metal-DVDs suck. If we can do one that didn´t suck, that would be cool. I mean, going life is about not to suck.



I gotta believe you should still have some pretty good footage taken from down the road that you might possibly consider using for the Nile DVD, haven´t you?


Well, a lot of people have bootlegs of us much to my annoyance, but I don´t know, let´s see what happens. Future is not written yet… 









Nile is also known for its very lengthy songs. Have you ever been thinking of doing like a soundtrack type of album, like one song that could last like 50-60 minutes. That would be a nice challenge if anything, thinking of the whole song writing process in general… 


Well, y´know…



It shouldn´t be THAT hard thing from you to do…


I don´t know, we don´t write that way. When I write, I don´t always plan out what´s going to be like this is the peak long song or this is the little short song – or the medium length mid-tempo of last down shift the end. I don´t think about that. I write the song and what it is, it is. Like on this last album ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED, I didn´t wanna write another 12-minute “Unas Slayer of the Gods”, I just didn´t wanna do it. People asked me to write another song like “Unas Slayer of the Gods” – I´m going: “No… – fuck you! I write whatever the fuck I write, hey c´mon…!!”. And then we ended up writing three songs that are like, big-long 8-10 minute songs. I didn´t do them on purpose; it just happened that way. I think if the metal gods give you an inspiration for a song; you don´t say to them: “Hey, I want it… inspirations for a big, long song! Whatta fuck are you doing?!! Give me a short song…!”. But you don´t say that to the metal gods; you have no rights for doing so. You take what they give you and you say:  “Thank you…”.



In the end of the day…









What about your solo stuff? Your own solo album titled SAURIAN MEDIATION was released through Relapse Records in October 2004. Do you have any interest, or plans to do another solo record of yours any time soon?


Yes. I have already got three pieces written, and it´s gonna be called SAURIAN EXORCISMS. I don´t know yet who´s gonna release it though because we are moving; we are not on Relapse anymore.



You mean Nile isn´t with Relapse anymore either?


Yes. We had the four album deal, and ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED was our fourth album. So from now we are on Nuclear Blast.



Were you happy while being on Relapse with Nile?


Well, from now on we are on Nuclear Blast.





I guess you pretty much answered to my question then, he-he!! So, that´s official info now and can be announced in, too?


When we signed the paper – so unless they tear it up or something, or don´t give us the money they promised us, then I guess it´s the deal.



When did you sign a deal with them actually?


Right before we left. In fact, I´ll tell you a funny story. We had a big party when George came in to the town. George had been flying from Greece for his first rehearse, so before we do a tour, we bring George over, for like a week before the tour we start rehearsing. So, we were going to have a BIG party and drink all the leftover beer from the tour before, like 8 cases stacked on my porch; lots of beer drinking – lots of liquor, and so we had this big party and that´s when signed the contract. We had friends´ family; signed the paper, took pictures and all this. And then I took the signed papers and we started, y´know, drinking and I put the papers on my desk and left them there. I even left them there on my way to the airport. I got into the airplane to come over here for the tour and left the papers on my fuckin´ desk!!




I had to get my friend to go over my house, and so he had the papers and ask him to mail them for me. It´s very silly…









As the very last thing I´d like you to comment the following vocalists in Death Metal… are you ready?


Ok… go ahead!



David Vincent (Morbid Angel)


He´s one of the originals, isn´t he? Some of his stuff on BLESSED ARE THE SICK… c´mon man, it´s classic!!




Steve Tucker (ex-Morbid Angel)


Steve is a friend of mine. So I don´t get involved since I´m a friend with David, and a friend with Steve, I don´t get involved with the whole ´David Vincent versus Steve Tucker´ -thing. Someone had to take David´s place; it took a lot of courage to join that band and try to stand where David used to stand and do what David used to so. And he´s a different person than David, so of course it´s going to be different. You know how metal fans are. There´s only one David Vincent, and there´s also only one Steve Tucker.



Ross Dolan (Immolation)


I love Ross! What an evil growl… Sometimes when they are playing and he just got the rhythmic, evil chanting going on, it´s like voodoo witchery. He´s just casting some hideous, evil spell on people – and it´s like that. You see people right there with him. Man…!!! I love it; I love his malicious vocal style!! What a great band, and Ross is a great vocalist!!


Yeah, his death growls just seem to come from somewhere very deep down…   


There´s evil…



Kelly Shaefer (Atheist)


He´s a nice guy. I really didn´t listen to Atheist, so I would not be able to say much about his vocals. But as a matter of reason, he is a nice guy.  



Matti Kärki (Dismember)


Dismember… Hmm, there´s a band that I have not heard in a long time. And it´s been so long, I don´t think I have anything educated to say about it.



What about Mike Browning who used to sing in Morbid Angel´s early line-up as well?


Ha-ha-ha-ha-hah… Mike! Well, every time I go to Tampa, Mike is always at the shows. He´s a SUPER-nice guy, and also his wife is super-nice.


Yeah, Mike has a band with his wife called After Death nowadays. Have you heard of them? They have only made a couple of demos so far…


Yes, I have heard them, yes.



Martin van Drunen (Pestilence)


Oh, there´s another classic vocalist. These early guys they really kinda raged it all out for everybody else and a lot of people are still doing the exact same thing as said these fellows originally did 15 years ago.



What about L-G Petrov from Entombed, especially his vocals on the first Entombed album LEFT HAND PATH?



How can you go wrong with the first Entombed album?! C´mon, LEFT HAND PATH… Jesus Christ!!! AWESOME!!!


Ha-ha-hah… I guess I just got your opinion about his voice right there!  ;o)



What about this relatively unknown vocalist… let me see; I´m not even sure if you know him at all, but his name is Karl Sanders, or what the fuck his name was… ;o)


I don´t know him. Y´know, he missed the ferry today, so where the fuck he is!!





Ok Karl. I think I´m running out of the tape, so I wanna thank you for this nice chat with you and wish you all the best for your tonight´s gig. May the gods of metal be with Nile tonight, heh!


Thank you. Thank you very much… c-ya later!