NILE - Karl Sanders
Interviewed by Simon Lukic
Transcribed by Murphy
Nile has been turning heads for years now and is one of a few bands who have taken Death Metal into uncharted waters. Their latest effort ITHYPHALLIC will soon see a worldwide release in July and is sure to be another crushing affair – if the two new tracks aired during their last tour of Australia in May are anything to go by. The following interview was conducted with the ever accommodating Karl Sanders, one of the scenes most unassuming and talented musicians.
So what can you tell me then about the forthcoming album ITHYPHALLIC?
I’d say this is the cleanest, most legible (laughs) production that we’ve ever had. You can hear everything super clean – all the drums, all the guitars, all the vocals. It’s just brutal, you know, maybe even more brutal than past efforts. But being able to hear all the stuff man, that’s just….that’s just something incredible.
So does that come with time? Because that’s something a lot of death metal bands have done as their career has progressed. They’ve slowly gone for a cleaner, more powerful production.
Yeah. We wanted it to be cleaner so that people could hear what we were doing because if somebody doesn’t hear it, then, you know, it’s just like you didn’t play it.
Very true. You’ve included another lengthy song title (its “Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks from He Who is in the Water” – by the way) which I’m not going to repeat to you. Why do you continue with that tradition?
For fun really. Just knowing that it annoys people at the record company.
So what’s their reaction usually like?
(Laughs) It’s usually a groan like, “Oh my God, do I have to type this every single time”? (Laughs)
(Laughs) So as a songwriter, what were your goals this time around?
We wanted to be a little more focused. A little more streamlined with things and we wanted to tackle our subject matter from a slightly different angle which is a challenge because we wanted to keep it fresh for ourselves. We’ve got to play these songs over and over and over and over and over so…we have to like them. They have to interest us first.
What do you mean by a fresh new angle?
There’s not quite as much taken from the ancient Egyptian text this time around. There’s perhaps more of a Lovecraft influence on this record than any we’ve ever done.
Was there any reason for that?
I mean, we’re not really changing what we do that much. I mean, it’s still basically NILE but the balance is a little different this time around.
Fair enough. The band is seen as leaders in your field of death metal and with that obviously come certain expectations. Do you ever feel some pressure to live up to your reputation?
No. I mean we’re a pretty confident set of fellas. We know what we can do. It’s perhaps sometimes annoying when people have these expectations and then they write to us or they go on the internet and spew a bunch of stuff about how, for whatever reason, we may or may not be meeting their expectations. I mean that’s a little annoying.
Do you feel that people are sometimes fixated more on the performance and technical ability of the band rather than the music?
I think so. I think it’s easy to get caught up in how fast it’s going or how difficult the guitar part is or what speed the drummers blasting but that’s only one part of the music. All those technical aspects are there but they exist just to take the idea from the performer and give it to the listener. Your technique is just a medium to transfer musical ideas, and so that’s meaningless in and of itself. You’ve got to have a musical idea even before you can execute it. Of course it’s nicer to be able to execute whatever physical ideas you have, you know? That’s really the purpose of technique.
And the production will make things easier for the listener?
That’s the idea. On previous NILE albums there were times when there’d be some ferocious guitar or drum lick, or whatever and the production just didn’t allow it to come across. So people didn’t necessarily get the full idea. And that’s what we wanted to get this time was, you know, a translation from us to the listener as clear as possible.
That obviously comes down to money and having the ability to afford a production like that in the first place?
Unfortunately that’s the ugly reality. If you want your album to sound good then you have to spend the time and the money on it. It’s impossible to have a great sounding production on a demo budget. But this time around we’re working with Nuclear Blast and they’re willing to do whatever it took to make this album everything it needed to be.
Fantastic. With the level of playing that exists within NILE, there must be a lot of practice involved?
I try to get a few hours in every day. When it’s getting close to tour time I might up the ante to like all day. You know, I’ve got a life. I’ve got a twelve year old son and it gets tougher and tougher to find the time so the commitment keeps getting tested and tested and tested. Yeah, you really got to work hard to find the time. You know, the older you get the more the time just seems to fucking fly by. There are all those other little things you need to take care of.
I know exactly what you’re talking about…
It takes a real fucking strong commitment to stay dedicated to your craft. You have to work on it every day.
So has there ever been a time when you’ve taken a break and then returned to the guitar and lost some of your technique? Do you have a routine to get you back into shape?
Well I’ve got a routine in that circumstance because there are times when that has happened. Like we finished the record and then we mixed it for two weeks and then I had to go over to Europe to do some press, so I didn’t get to play my guitar for three weeks. But I know the exercises and the practice routines to get the playing back where it needs to be. It doesn’t take me long, half a day or so.
Fair enough. So you’ll also be playing the Ozzfest this year. It’s a pretty cool thing.
Umm….if you say so. (Laughs)
You don’t think so?
Yeah. I think it’s a great opportunity to expose people to what NILE does so in that sense it’s a good thing.
I know it’s none of my business, but being a free event…how does work on your end?
It costs us a whole lot of money.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
The exposure will be the obvious pay off in the end?
Yeah. That’s the deal, you know, bands are hoping to make some new fans and get a chance to show people their music and that’s really what it’s all about. It’s a ticket for exploitation.
Yes, and you’re probably one of the first true death metal bands to be exploited.
(Laughs) I guess we’ve been deemed worthy of exploitation so we should celebrate.
As long as you don’t get stuff thrown at you as was the case with Iron Maiden, I think you’ll do fine.
Well, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut about Mrs. Osbourne. Keep my opinions to myself, behave and probably everything will be okay.
So with extreme metal charting and getting a lot of exposure, do you feel it’s losing its underground roots? Or doesn’t that matter?
Ahh… No. I’m not too worried about it because really, how many new metal fans are we going to make? I think there’s going to be a lot of people that hear us at the Ozzfest and go “What the fuck is that bullshit”? “Fuck that noise”! “It sounds like an airplane”! (Laughs)
You know….cause death metal…it’s never going to be everybody’s cup of tea and that’s okay with me. I don’t mind.
So what do you think will keep the music pure in the end?
Umm…you know….probably bands and fans committed to the idea of death metal. Yeah, that’s where it’s got to come from because it all generates from the fans and the bands.
Official website: www.nile-catacombs.net