Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
Live photos by Marko Autio
Transcription by Andy Osborn
The cherishers of ancient Egyptian mythology Nile, have been touring hard for their latest album, ITHYPHALLIC. The album has been breaking some chart positions in many countries, and naturally strengthening Nile´s own position as one of the leaders of today´s death metal scene. The band is undoubtedly in its best strike nowadays – and their album sales prove that even more firmly.
The Nile war troops hit Helsinki on one cold evening on November 24th, 2007 – and only just 2 hours before the scheduled showtime, I managed to talk briefly to Karl Sanders about the ongoing tour, their latest bone-crusher ITHYPHALLIC and even a bit more regarding Nile´s future plans.
Special thanks to Silke from Tough Enough Promotion & Management for getting me booked this interview with Karl Sanders.
Nile doing a soundcheck at Nosturi, Finland on Novemeber 24th 2007
This is your last gig (of this tour) here in Helsinki, Finland – and you already played in three other cities here in Finland. How was the response from your Finnish fans toward Nile in those three other places where you played at?
Well, first off I wouldn’t say it’s our last gig ever, just for this tour. The response has been really really great. The Finnish metal fans treat us really well, give us a good response and always have a blast at the shows; it doesn’t get more metal. The other two shows weren’t quite sold out but there was a really strong attendance.
You have played all of your gigs here in Finland with the Finnish Deathchain and Sotajumala. What’s your opinion about those two bands anyway both as touring mates as well as bands?
I like the one I can’t pronounce a lot (*that´s Sotajumala – Luxi adds*) to . I really like them. They have a lot of interesting stuff going on and they have a sick feel. They have some Morbid Angel influences but then so do we. I would say they have newly invented that kind of feel and it’s very original. Great drumming, great guitars, great songs, I really like their stuff.
Have you heard any of those two Finnish bands´ albums yet?
They promised me one, but they haven’t given me one yet.
ITHYPHALLIC – NILE´S STRONGEST ALBUM YET
Talking about your last album, ITHYPHALLIC – it’s been getting very flattering and praising reviews in the press across the world, and I bet that’s one of those things that surely keeps you motivated enough for striving for some sort of perfection with each album you do. What other people think about your work, it’s like a fuel that feeds your inner fire to write better songs and better albums each time. Do you at least partly subscribe all this that I just said?
Yes, pretty much. It is a big challenge. Every single album that we’ve done, we have heard people say that we will never be able to top our previous album. We have to take that as a challenge like when you step into the ring with someone’s who’s bigger, faster and stronger than you that makes you a better fighter.
When you actually started writing songs for ITHYPHALLIC, how much did your previous albums stick somewhere there behind the back of your mind like “we need to do a better album than what ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED was…”, even if I know that’s certainly not the best way to concentrate on doing things if you want to be creative in your own song writing process…
After I hear the previous albums a lot, I start hearing all of the things that I could have done better. Part of me is hungry for the chance to take those things and make them better. Like some of the things on ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED could have been one cleaner or been better produced; there were some amazing things that just kind of got lost in the shuffle. In this album, we went for a mix that was cleaner and for better or for worse you can really hear what we were doing. But some people don’t like that. Some people like it really raw and dirty and muddy but we wanted to give the listeners the chance to hear what we are really fucking doing. The real thing, right there, naked and not dressed up all pretty.
In Finland, when your latest album, ITHYPHALLIC came out, it reached as high position in the Finnish album chart list as 13. What do you think about that? Does this only prove that crazy Finnish metalheads have a great taste in metal, eh?
I think that says that the Finnish people are true metalheads. It was reaching really high positions in other countries too when it came out. Yeah, it even charted in America which is kind of surprising. America has been a weird place for metal in the last couple of years. A lot of ‘trendy’ bullshit is really popular and you just have to keep building up your fans because you’ll gain some fans but a year later those people will have moved on to the next cool thing. It’s a real struggle over there.
NO LOVE FOR NU-METAL
What do you think about all those ´nu-metal´ bands that are out there nowadays?
I think it’s bullshit, that’s not real metal. We actually have some bands like that that we’re going to tour with in the States and what are you gonna do? So we just decide that we’re going to play an extra long set and cut their set shorter.
You have been doing lots of touring for your latest album, and you’ll be doing a bunch of shows in central Europe next month before you get a 3 month break until you start touring in the States in March next year. I suppose during that break you will concentrate on writing new songs for your next release?
We’re going to cut some new stuff. We have been wanting to work on new stuff, so we’ll do that. I think I’ll take some more guitar lessons and things like that. I do Tae Kwon Doe and FF Chris is nice enough, he can help me with my workout. If I go on tour and I don’t work on my stuff, I go back and all of the other people kick my ass! It’s very embarrassing! [laughs]
Do you have plans to release an EP or album next?
I’ve been writing a song, but I don’t know. I wanna get it down by the time we go on tour in America so we can sell it there. Relapse will put out my solo album so it’s up to them.
BREAKING THE MOULD?
Nile’s whole concept is based on the Egyptian mythology, and that’s also one of those things people know Nile from. Have you ever thought of breaking this mould a bit and do a Nile album based on some other concept instead of Egypt?
I’ve been asked this question a lot and I’m happy doing what we do. People know who we are, they know what to expect from us and I think maybe we’ll try a little bit of new things here and there but we wouldn’t change anything radically.
Do you think if you did something as radical as that, it would eventually kill Nile? Singing about a dying rainforest, or politics in general, just isn’t for Nile, correct?
Well, there you go. Maybe when they’re tired of Nile it would be nice to try something else and change our name but right now we’re all happy.
Has your current label Nuclear Blast pushed you at all regarding a Nile DVD?
No, they haven’t really been pushing us but they said they are willing to do it. It really comes down to properly recording the right gig. Who knows? We talked about it last trying to come up with a plan. We are working on this new video and the producer showed us this movie museum where they all these props from a 1960s movie about Cleopatra. So we had all these props; big giant Anubis statues and Sphynx’s and Hieroglyph walls and all this massive stuff. We got the guy to bring this stuff to where we live to shoot the video. We were thinking if we could find the right venue somewhere on the East Coast to bring all this fucking big stuff and really do it right, THAT would be worth it. We don’t want to do it just to do it and end up doing it half-assed. If people have waited this long, we feel like they deserve something good.
ITHYPHALLIC was also released as a special pyramid-shaped box set, limited to 1000 copies only. Whose idea was that to get it out as that special box set?
That was Nuclear Blast’s idea. They said hey, what do you think about this Karl? They showed me a half-built one and I thought it looked great so I said go right ahead. They actually sent me one too. It’s sitting in my living room and I just love it.
Do they have any other plans like that regarding Nile?
Who knows, those nuts are always cooking up incredible stuff. We’ll see.
You also did one solo for Behemoth’s last album, DEMIGOD. There’s your solo in a Behemoth song called “Xul”, which is considered one of the highlights on that particular album by many. If they invited you to participate in some of their songs in the future again, would you accept their invitation?
Well, we’re still good friends. We did the Ozzfest thing with him this summer so we so him every day for two months. I don’t know that they would need to use me again, I mean they did it once already. It’s all about doing new things, they probably wouldn’t want to do the same thing again.
Have any other bands asked you to do something like that?
Yeah, but I just said no a bunch of times. If you do too much stuff, it’s no good. There’s projects like when I did a solo for this South American band who are very good friends of mine. I’ve been friends with this guy for ten years and I did this incredible solo which was like two and half minutes of hard work which I slaved on for about three days. I didn’t do anything else, I didn’t do anything else; I missed time with my girlfriend and with my kid, and all I did was eat, sleep and work on this solo. I give it to them, and when he mixed it on the record he mixed it way down there and you can barely even hear it! I worked that hard and it barely even showed. So that taught me that doing things like that can be a big risk sometimes. When you give someone else control, you don’t know what their going to do. From now on I’m going to be a lot more careful about who I give my time to.
As for the Finnish people’s habits as pretty heavy drinkers, last time when we talked to each other here in Helsinki, you said to me that every Finn that you have met anywhere on the planet so far, is a drunk motherfucker. Has your opinion changed since then?
No, I don’t think that anymore. You aren’t a drunk motherfucker! I tend to think that even when you get drunk you aren’t going to act like a crazy asshole. So, now that we’ve been here we’ve had a lot of chances to meet a lot more of people and I would have to say that that is definitely a stereotype.
I guess we need to cherish and keep up our reputation then, ha-ha!!
Ok Karl. That was it. I wanna thank you again for your time and wish you all the best for your tonight´s show.
Thank you, sir.
Karl, 43 and Marko, 18: "United by the Devil´s horns"