For those of you who don’t know, Nile are one of the most original and consistent death metal bands around today and have been since they tore the entire genre of death metal a new arsehole with their blistering, Egyptian themed, insanely brutal death metal.
At the center of Nile is Karl Sanders,a self thought expert on all things Egyptian and an absolute sensation on the guitar; the man has written some of the greatest riffs in death metal history (that chuggy, second riff in Annihilation of the Wicked being my personal favorite).
I got in contact with Karl to see what he was up to at the moment and he provided me with one of the best interviews we’ve done for the site. Enjoy:
NOTE:This interview was conducted before I learnt that Nile we’re coming to Ireland in February, thats why I asked about them coming over)
Hey Karl, how are you doing?
Doing Great !And you ?
I’m doing good, cheers!Nile is in their 17th year now, which is an amazing achievment.What do you think is the secret to your longevity?
The great unknowable secret to longevity – is the same simple great truth as you learn the first time you want to run a mile -Don’t give up.Don’t stop running.If you stop , and then you wont finish.Its that fucking simple.
I suppose it would have been easy to pack it all in when we lost original drummer Pete Hammoura – He and I go all the way back to 1982 – and we had worked so hard for so many years in several bands.But Nile didn’t quit then – we persevered. And that’s the truth in a nutshell. If you want to last, don’t give up. No matter what.
What I always find amazing about Nile is how you your sound evolves and is refined on every album. From the raw aggression of of “Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka” to the polished and refined, yet even more brutal “Those Whom The Gods detest”, you can clearly see how far you guys have come. This must have taken serious dedication on your part?
We are all about dedication , hard work , and sacrifice . I get asked frequently – by the people who live in my hometown – what does it take to “make it” ?Or how on earth do you make all those killer albums – or get a band to sound as tight and brutal as Nile – or How do some guys from Greenville SC – which is like NOWHERE on the musical map of planet Earth -fight and claw there way up the sheer impenetrable mountain that is the metal music world ?Aren’t there like , 10,000 other would-be metal bands all tenaciously vying for the same few thin scraps of recognition ?And the only real answer is – we were willing to do what it takes.
It used to even be a running joke with us – “What does it take to make it ?You have to be willing to go on tour with Incantation for 50 $ a night “If you don’t have the force of will necessary to QUIT YOUR JOB , put everything in your life on the line – job , girlfriend , family, your personal finances, etc etc ad nauseum and undergo the Underground Horrors of an Incantation Tour (or any other completely icky, utterly shameful no-pay , tour-de-force of infamously shitty road dives and inner city-bar -hell-hole clubs )AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN, then you probably aren’t willing to do what it takes. And while you are whining about “how our band is too talented to eat shit , and we would never lower ourselves to play those kind of gigs , or live like a bunch of broke and homeless persons in a dirty broken -down old van”. Then some other band – who is a little hungrier – WHO ARE WILLING to do what it takes – will be the ones who just happen to get somewhere.
People are even more spoiled by the internet nowadays , Young Bands today think all you have to do is put up a Myspace profile – and all of a sudden success will magically fall from heaven .It doesn’t work that way.
I remember meeting Nergal and Behemoth back in 2000 . They were a hard working support band back then – very talented and promising.They were able to get on Metal tours everywhere – mostly because they were willing to play for next to nothing , willing to play like- over 300 shows a year – and scrape a out a meager subsistence off of t- shirt sales and left-over scraps of catering , cold pizza and warm beer from other bands . For the next DECADE , they played anywhere and everywhere , as support for all kinds of bands -just non -stop no-surrender perseverance through an unending grueling saga of one unforgiving Metal tour after another. And now Ten years later – look at where they are now.That’s what the fuck I am talking about – That’s what it takes . Behemoth have earned everything they have now the hard way – because they were willing to do what it takes. I hope Nergal gets better – He is an inspirational kind guy.
What’s been the highlight of your careers so far?
Probably the Wacken show in 03 , or the Show in Tokyo at the Super Saitama Arena on the bill with Heaven and Hell. Or maybe the utter joy of hearing the Finished mix of “Those whom the Gods Detest”
Because Nile have become renowned for releasing almost classic albums, it must put severe pressure on you guys to deliver when entering the studio?
Sure its pressure . Lots of pressure . Kind of like sparring against one’s own Martial Arts teacher . Not only is he obviously going to be a better fighter, but since he taught you everything you know , he is going to know every single move and strike you do – before you do it.
My instructor – seems to have a philosophy that it is for my own good if he lands a punch or kick and it hurts for days after –that’s how I will remember to block next time .Some perceptive reviewer once said – that Nile’s worst enemy is its own back catalogue .And that’s probably very true . But Is suppose one needs challenges to keep life exciting .
How have you guys found working with Nuclear Blast as opposed to Relapse Records?
We are pretty darn happy . And that’s all I am going to say . I am just thankful to have Gunter Ford on OUR team .
After 17 years in the business, do you guys still pay alot of attention to what the press say?Does it affect your writing process?
Yes and no . After all the incredibly inane things I have seen written about this band , I have come to realize that what reviewers have to say about ANYTHING says more about themselves than any album they coincidentally happen to be reviewing . Every once in awhile , I read something that is actually right on , perhaps even constructive – and maybe I change my own perception and learn something new.
There are still some great writers left in the metal scene.
But mostly nowadays , I read reviews that are tragically quite useless. Even the nice ones sometimes .
Early on I realized that – wait a minute – if many of these bad reviews of my band are retarded and pointless ,
probably a good many of the positive reviews are equally stupid .Somewhere in the middle is where the reality is.
Funny story – I read a Nile review – by some guys that are basically all time eternal Nile-haters all the way back to Catacombs.In this review , he started off by saying he was going to write the review without even listening to the record. Not a single song . And he did . And surprisingly , it was one of the best reviews I have ever read of ANY record . He hit the nail on the head about so much stuff . It was still Nile hate and all , but it was completely educational about lots of stuff. It certainly drove home the point that a good many people reviewing records – have no idea what they are listening to when it comes to brutal death metal . They think they do , but they don’t . Lots of people like to think they understand Extreme metal – but that is most certainly a vanity – a desire to be part of a perceived group of music listeners . It also underscored a Mark Twain-esque truth that many metal critics/writers are merely engaged in a form of self-aggrandizement at the artists expense . But ignorance or blatant self interest never stopped anyone from wielding a pen ( or a keyboard).
Having said all that , I can see that over the years , the Nile writing process and the tide of reviews have been engaged in a sort of “Dance of Death”
After Darkened Shrines , When I got fed up with reading reviews that accused us of being a gimmick band , that we were nothing without the Middle eastern type interludes and instrumentation, I got real determined to write a couple of albums that focused on sheer metal ferocity – with lots of crushing guitar bass drums and not as much extraneous elements . And then I heard people whining cause they liked all the other stuff , and what happened , Nile isnt creative anymore , blah blah blah . I am at the point now , of being fed up with what ANY reviewer has to say. Nowadays , I listen to my peers ,my bandmates , and a few people I can trust to speak sincerely . The next Nile album will probably end up very much just us doing what we think best , and trusting our own judgment as far as direction.
Was the decision to base your lyrical content on ancient Egypt purely because you have such an interest in it or was it also because it allowed you to distinguish yourselves from the crowd?
In the early formative years of the band , I kinda asked myself – “with a Name like Nile , what kinda songs would I want to hear ?”
And there seemed to be quite a bit of possibility there.
The sleeve notes provided with each album are very detailed. It almost seems as demanding to conjure up a theme/story for the song as it does writing one!?
Yep . You said it . But usually by the time I am finished writing the liner notes for the record – I am editing down , and the hard part is squeezing in all the stuff I wanted to talk about that went into the making of each song .There is only so much space available inside a CD booklet . There have been many annoyed emails from the label art dept with the subject line “Reduce word count please” hahahaha
Who is your favorite figure from ancient Egypt or your favorite story from it?
Sekhmet , and the destruction of Mankind . Yeah !
The helpless mass of humanity is saved from annihilation by beer . What a metaphor .
What bands are catching your attention today?
Ulcerate ! and Immolation .
Any updates on plans for the next album?
Nope . Not yet . We are writing a few things here and there , I have lyrics for 4 songs and music forr 1 , but largely we are still focused on touring and support for “Those Whom”
Finally, can we expect you guys to return to Ireland on your next tour of Europe?We love having you guys over!
We love Ireland !We have not been to Belfast since 2000 , so that will be awesome – and I think we are at a different venue in Dublin this time .Fuck yeah !
We can’t wait!Thanks for your time Karl!
Nile will be laying waste to The Button Factory with Melechesh(who are really starting to make a name for themselves at the minute), Dew Scented, Zonaria and Darkrise on Feburary 11th:DO NOT MISS IT
For all the latest news from nile, be sure to check out their official website