Interviews

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NILE’S KARL SANDERS

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When I went to the record release party for Karl Sanders’ new solo album, Saurian Exorcisms (read David Bee Roth’s review here), I was fairly nervous. For one thing, he’s KARL FUCKING SANDERS; as the mastermind behind Nile, he’s been making some of the heaviest, most revered death metal in the world for more than a decade. And for another thing, when I got there, the dude was holding court at the bar, and I didn’t wanna be the one to interrupt his good time so he could so some press (So I made The End Records’ publicist interrupt his good time. Thanks, Geoff!).

But Sanders turned out to be an incredibly nice guy, and, as you’ll read below, our interview really took the shape of an informal chat. After the jump, read Karl’s thoughts on the differences between a Sanders solo outing and Nile records, his relationship with the fan base, being the heaviest act ever to play Ozzfest, what fans can expect from the new Nile album, and more.

3232057155_6b062ca69c_oCongratulations first of all.  The album is awesome.  It seems like it’s being very well received.

I’ve heard nothing but positive things.

Unless people are afraid to tell you that it sucks.

They heard that I got my black belt in Taekwondo.

Do you really have a black belt in Taekwondo?

Yep. I got it last week.

Really?

Yeah.

Well, then, double congratulations.

Thank you.

So why did you decide that now was the time to do another solo project?

Because it was the time.

How did you know this?

Because it really was.  It was time.  The material was ready.  I had a little bit of a gap in between things so it made sense to get it done.

Have you been working on this material for awhile?

Quite awhile.  I did three or four songs before the great computer crash of ’07.  I actually lost quite a bit of the tracks and had to redo them.

That sucks.

I actually think [the new versions] turned out better.

karl-2That’s good.  A lot of people, not to discredit or take away from what other members of Nile have contributed over the years, but when they hear Nile, they think of Karl Sanders.  It’s the same way that when people hear Megadeth, they think of Dave Mustaine.  So what in your mind make this a Karl Sanders’ solo album as opposed to a musical detour for Nile?

I do write most of the [Nile] albums,  but once the other band members come in, they turn the material in a different direction and all that.  It’s still a group album.  The Karl Sanders album has my name on it, so it’s definitely just mine.

You obviously also carried over your passion for all things Egyptian.  Do you find it easier to musically express those themes without a lot of death metal stuff going on?

Sure.  I think it leads to a more organic instrumentation with acoustic instruments.  It’s a little bit more feel-based.  You have to get the music out of the instrument without a big Marshall stack and big drums.  You actually have to do it.  You don’t have any help from distortion boxes or anything.

[At this point, someone interrupted us to ask Karl for a picture. Karl politely obliged, and the interview re-commenced.]

Are you used to that at this point?  You’ve been doing this for awhile.

People come up to me and are like, “Dude! Do you remember me from that show back in ’95?  I was wearing the black t-shirt.  Yeah, dude, you shook my hand and gave me a guitar pick!”  And you know… you do what you got to do.

Do you tell people you remember them?

Of course.  But there’s no way that you can [actually] remember that many people.

It’s cool that you have such a close relationship with the fans and everything.

They’re the ones that listen to your music and make it possible to have a career.  Without fans you’re just a guy playing a guitar in your room.

karl-3Right on.  Do you worry at all about how Nile fans will respond to something that isn’t a brutal death metal album?

I think because it is obviously not [a death metal album], then that makes it okay.  If you put out an album where you have to wonder, then you are opening yourself up for people to go “Well, it’s not this or that” and be angry about it.  You can’t be angry about this.  It is obviously not a death metal album, so it’s obviously something else.  Which means it can be judged on its own merits.

And another benefit, I imagine, of not calling it a Nile record at all.

Bingo.

I’m getting there.  I’ll catch up eventually.  Do you have any plans to take this out on the road?

Y’know, that’s been the topic of the evening.

Oh yeah?

People keep telling me that I have to tour this.

It seems like it would be a cool thing to hear live.

It would be cool and fun.  That’s why this album was done in the first place, because it’s music that I play for fun and relaxation.  It’s a break from loud death metal, and it’s relaxing.  I just relax and have a little bit of fun.

So I imagine you have a different set of influences on an album like this obviously compared to a Nile record.

Yeah.

Anything specific?

A lot of soundtrack music, some Turkish music, Indian stuff, a lot of Tibetan music that I’m listening to.  They all work their way into the music.

You said soundtrack music… have you ever thought about scoring a film?

Well, I’m really busy with Nile.  It takes up a lot of my time, but I figure one day in the distant future when apes have taken over, I’ll need something else to do.  So maybe this soundtrack idea could happen.

It’s definitely very cinematic music.

I really think so when I’m writing and listening to it.  It feels like I’m listening to cinemascapes.

That’s awesome.  So I have to ask you since I have you: anything you can tell us about the next Nile record?

Wow.

karl-4Not to take away from this album at all.

Oh, not at all.  This [Nile album] is probably going to be a polar opposite to the last record.

How so?

In terms of the song structures, instrumentation, things like that.  There are a lot of other influences that are going to be on this record.  The last two Nile records I felt were more straight ahead kind of death metal.  They were big and sprawling and orchestrated out the ass with lots of stuff on it.  I think for awhile we wanted to show people the more metal side of us.  This new record is going in lots of different directions.  The songs that are written so far have lots of layers and different ideas.  It’s going to be an interesting record.

That’s awesome.  Do you find it hard to find inspiration still to get that fire in your belly after all this time or does it still come naturally?

Strangely enough, one of the things that really in a perverse way that gets us going is when we read the awful things that you can read about yourself.  It really makes us mad enough to go “Oh yeah?  Fuck you,” and dig down deeper for something even more vicious.

It’s not without a price though.  There is certainly a lot of mental anguish.

I would imagine you would have plenty of fodder after being literally the heaviest band in the history of Ozzfest.

The thing that I learned [from Ozzfest] is that when you try to take your music to a wider audience, the wider audience is not necessarily going accept what you do.  Then you are just a target.  They don’t necessarily understand your music so they’re not going to view it the same way as someone sympathetic to the genre.  That can be a pretty brutal thing.  So definitely there were a lot of things we learned on the last few albums in trying to bring it to a wider audience.  It’s not necessarily what you do, but how you present it.

That’s cool.  I think our time is just about up. Anything you want to add?

No.  I really enjoyed this conversation.

Me, too!  I wish I could keep it going.  I’m trying not to tremble before the mighty Karl Sanders.

Oh, well I’m a sweetheart.

You are a much nicer guy than I might have thought after listening to Nile all these years.

Well thank you.

That’s not a back handed compliment.

Well I get out all the aggression in a healthy way by playing really heavy music.

I get a lot of my aggression out through your music, so thanks for doing what you do.  I appreciate it.

Thank you sir.

-AR

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