Power of Metal: The US tour has basically just started, how is it so far and what's it like being back on your home turf?
Karl Sanders: I love touring in America even though audiences are not what they used to be. Practically everywhere else on the planet is doing better for metal in the last few years. But I love touring in America. I mean, whatever you need in any given time of the day, the roads all work, phones work, there's internet, yeah, it's great.
PoM: You've been constantly on tour for months now and of course touring the other parts of the world. How would you describe always being on the road and how's the reception outside the US?
KS: I would say everywhere else, like I said earlier, is doing better for metal in the last few years than here in America. Always on tour feels like I'm never home long enough to get anything accomplished at home, it's tough. It's tough when you've got wife and kids. I have a 17 year old son who really need a parental supervision. Yeah, that little rascal. So yeah, there are stuff I need to be doing at home. You can't really parent by text or by e-mail.
PoM: Why not?
KS: (laughs) Well you could try but...
PoM: Mess with him on Facebook...
KS: Yeah, I'm gonna make a post: ”stop being late to school!”
||PoM: Your flyer states that "Nile supports local bands." Could you tell us if there's a specific idea behind this? Do you personally prefer to perform with less known acts to give them a chance to shine, so to speak, since it's occasionally rather tough for small bands to get on a stage especially with a major band?
KS: I've noticed in... I don't know how many years but in 5, 8 years when all you see are packaged tours. Y'know, 3-5 bands on a packaged tour. It leaves nothing left for the local bands cause if you got 5 bands on tour already, why do you need local opening acts? You don't. Locals bands are getting wiped out of a lot of shows. I think it's an important component of metal. Without having younger bands having the chance to perform, what kind of future are we building for the next generation? We're not! It's kind of like our situation with the social security in this country. In any case...
PoM: You're sort of in a quest to save the world of metal? (laughs)
KS: Yeah, we're here to save the future of metal. I don't know, there's a lot of local bands that really try hard to do some good stuff and when you come across one, y'know it's like, ”Oh my god, wow.” There was this band with Meshuggah-jazz kind of influence and I was completely astounded. Had we not had local bands on the bill, would I have got the chance to hear them? No. So yeah, I think it's important for bands to play.
PoM: At the Gate of Sethu has generally received mixed reviews. At one end people think the sound is too thin and they prefer "Those whom the gods detest", while others say you're sticking to your roots or they find it is easier to listen to. Could you tell us why your newest effort sounds the way it does, what were your goals for it?
KS: Well, we were trying to make something that was stripped down raw and clean. There are so many metal records you put on and all you can hear is plastic production making it sound artificially big. At this day and age of 'Pro Tools', anybody can have a huge-brutal-crushing record. But do they necessarily sound good to my ears? Well, no, not necessarily. We want to make a record where you could hear everything. Everything that sounds like what they actually sound like in real life: ”that's what a guitar sounds like”, ”that's what a drum sounds like”. People don't even recognize what real drums sounds like anymore. Drums are so commonly replaced on records that on this record, when we had clean, natural, pure drums recorded the old fashion way, people we're like, ”What the fuck is that?! What is that?!”. They're so used to hearing the same 'Drumkit From Hell', 'Superior Drummer' and all this, when you give them the real thing, they don't know what to make of it anymore.
To my ears, I would've liked the mastering to have been a little fatter on this record. Had it been a little fatter, more people would have been able to enjoy it, to get the point. But I think somehow that got lost in the translation. You combine that with the thin sound that it kind of had to start with because everything was really stripped down raw and yeah, that's what you get. You stack on top of that, a lot of people listen to this as an mp3 download on their computer. This album doesn't really sound good on computer speakers. This record was meant to be enjoyed on a real music system. There's no way, I mean, I don't believe death metal should be listened to on a laptop or on an mp3 player. I mean, that's not cool. That's fucking gay.
PoM: Well, we were listening to you on an iPod on our way here. For that, we are sorry.
KS: It's times we live in...
|PoM: Most of your themes are about Egyptian myths... What got you interested in that? Did it happen before or after your musical ventures?
KS: I was always kind of interested in Egypt and ancient history. When I found myself in a band called Nile, I asked myself: ”hm, what do I want to hear from a band named Nile? What should I do?” There were series of a lot of other questions. So, I decided that I was also going to write the lyrics that I really wanted to dig in and it's really cool and authentic stuff to drive that. It went to a lot of research and of course the more you dig in, the more awesome stuff you find. It just kind of grew naturally.
PoM: What do you consider to be the main aspect of your music that makes you stand out in the field of death metal aside from the Middle-Eastern influences?
KS: That's a tough one. With so many death metal bands that all sound exactly the same, what makes this band or any other band any different?
PoM: Well you said about stripping it down raw and not over producing it, that's one thing, right?
KS: Right on. For us, we feel like we really know how to play this kind of music. We have a lot of years playing this kind of music and we feel like we actually know what we're doing. (laughs) Whether that means anything or not, I don't know, it means something to me. I think our fans, for people who enjoy us or generally people who know what they're listening to, have already listened to plenty of death metal, They can... (pauses)
PoM: See the difference?
KS: Yeah, they can tell what's going on.
PoM: Do you think having "restricted" themes limit your writing?
KS: No, not really.
PoM: ...or does it force you to be unusually creative and evolve you as an artist?
KS: Yeah I like that second answer better. You have to be creative in this certain area, but there's still an infinite number of possibilities within that area. When I get up every morning and I go to my closet, I never worry. Because in my closet, because there's about 40 black t-shirts, just like this, couple pairs of jeans, couple pairs of camo pants and about a hundred pairs of black socks. So I never worry about what I have to do. I never had to worry about what I have to wear, I never have to wonder, ”well, what am I going to write about?”.
PoM: So it just comes naturally...
||PoM: Yeah because there are so many riffs and progressions, you know? What do you find most difficult in writing the music, then?
KS: Arguing with band mates (laughs). Yeah, that's the only tough part.
PoM: Your band mates?
KS: I played with some really great guys, don't get me wrong. I was making a facetious reference. I don't find anything hard about it except finding enough time. When you're an adult with parental responsibilities, finding the time to shut everything out and just think about music, that's the tough part.
PoM: Since you're the main composer of the band I think it's quite common for a musician to look back and listen to certain songs and they think "I could've done better with this song". Did ever feel that way?
KS: I feel that way all the time. In fact, there's parts of our albums I can't even listen to. As soon as I put it on I go, ”oh man! I should've done that and that. I shouldn't have done that, that sucks.” or whatever.
PoM: They held you back in the old days?
KS: No. I say as you go and progress as an artist, you're hopefully learning new things all the time. I mean, you don't play death metal for 20 years and not learn a few things.
PoM: How long or often do you practice your instrument?
KS: As often as possible. In fact, that's what we do in our spare time. Sit back here and practice. (Plays his guitar)
PoM: Have you ever thought about making a concept album?
KS: Lots of people have suggested it to us. I think Nile albums as a whole are quasi conceptual to begin with anyway.
PoM: Oh alright. Do you know the British comedic car show, Top Gear?
KS: Nah, I'm not familiar with it. I don't have time for television.
PoM: We were watching the show last week and their most recent adventures led them to Africa. Their goal is to search for the source of the river Nile and explorers have come up with findings like Lake Victoria for example, but apparently they aren't exactly factual... Have you speculated at all on this subject?
KS: No. I don't care where it is. (laughs)
PoM: Assuming they'll be successful I think it will be revealed in tomorrow's episode.
KS: Awesome. Maybe we can record it so we can watch it.
PoM: Cool. So what's your plan after this tour?
KS: Go home and get ready to go to... (pauses)
Todd Ellis: South America.
KS: ...South America.
PoM: Sounds good. Well, it was great talking with you. Do you have anything to say to your fans and our readers?
KS: Thank you so much for including us in your zine and we're really happy to see everyone out on tour for this 20th year anniversary.
PoM: Thank you.
KS: Thank you.