Forget questions about the pyramids. Forget essays into the Sphinx. Forget the desecrated tombs, and the oceans of sun-baked sand. Forget all the voodoo, hoodoo, and mysticism. Let's leave all that to the likes of Erich von Däniken, archaeologists, and countless History Channel specials dedicated to this ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa. If you have come to this (dig)site expecting an excavation of all things Egyptological, well, you best pack up your pickaxes, bucket augurs, shovels, trowels, hand picks, calipers, paint brushes, and rakes and hoes, cus you ain't gonna find any of that here. What we have unearthed, though not wrapped in linens and placed in decorative sarcophagi, is certainly archaic in its own right. So begins my discussion with Nile's Karl Sanders as he ponders the future of his vocation and his wish to see the antediluvian practices of the music biz usurped by new business models, such as the oft-frowned upon practice of crowd-funding.
"The most important part of this band is its relationship with the fans, and nothing should ever come between that connection," emphatically states Karl. "Enter the record company, who exists somewhere in the middle, between the band and its fans. The beautiful thing about crowd-funding is that it takes the financial relationship between a band and connects it directly with the fans. This connection allows the fans an opportunity to give their hard-earned money directly to the band - it's absolutely pure and the way things should always be. Think of it in terms of charities, where only part of the money that you donate makes it to the people or organizations that actually benefit from it. So, essentially, all crowd-funding does is eliminate the record company from the equation, an insurance to the fans that their money is being well spent. Now, this is fine for bands that already have a substantial presence with fans. As an example, I would personally fund an Obituary album, as I know who Obituary are, and, as a fan, I have a relationship with the band. On the flip-side, that band down the street, who are probably pretty fucking killer, but do I know who they are? Would I give them my hard-earned money? Probably not. These bands actually need the record company to spread their name."
Just as the Pharanoic Empire fell to the Persian Empire in 525 BC, and then to one of the greatest conquerors to ever live, Alexander the Great, so to are we witnessing the decline of an empire... the music industry. The enemy, as Karl goes on to explain, though not as formidable as Alexander, lives much closer to home. The antagonist, in this case, is the very technology that we now serve. A little thing called Facebook, as Karl goes on to illustrate.
"Record companies are falling down left and right because, in reality, there is no effort in promoting bands anymore beyond Facebook. I remember the turning point was when Job For A Cowboy got a deal based directly on the number of Facebook friends they had acquired, for which they were paid one dollar for each friend. I realized, at that point, where things were going - it is now directly tied to how much Facebook potential a band has. How fucking negligent on the part of the record company is that? If the record company's main purpose and existence is to take the record and bring it to a wider audience, why are they not doing that? Facebook, though certainly relevant to some degree, is not the be all end all; there are many other avenues and potentialities that are being blatantly ignored."
With the Egyptian empire left in ruins, and Alexander The Great on his deathbed, he was asked by a trusted general who should rule in his stead, to which he answered, "the strongest." Like Alexander, Karl is aware that only the strongest will prevail. Now armed with the knowledge and tools to rebuild their personal empire, Karl and his cohorts in extreme metal, along with taking things into their own hands, are unearthing tried-and-true practices, such as those found in the studios and mixing labs of yore.
"This really is something that is on the mind's of many of us making records," clarifies Karl. "Just the other day Nergal of Behemoth was on our bus and we got talking about the subject of studio trickery. He mentioned that he is also getting really fed up with all the Pro Tools shit, and was happy that, on their latest album, they were able to showcase real human beings over trickery. This is something we approached with the recording of At The Gate's Of Sethu, which was an attempt to bring as cleanly as possible the real essence of what we are actually doing and present that to the listener. In other words, how we sound in the rehearsal room is how we wanted to present it, without a lot of fatteners and sweeteners, just the real actual ingredients presented cleanly. The trouble with that is, the larger metal populace, for many years now, has been subjected to albums that are completely over compressed, reprocessed, hacked and slashed to bits, and Pro Tool-ed beyond belief. Because of this, that's now what the expectation is. Unfortunately, you can't fight against the expectations of the fans. If the fans expect a Big Mac, and you bring them a chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato, they are gonna complain. "
Just as the affair and actions of Marc Antony and Cleopatra were deemed traitorous by Octavian and the Roman Senate, so to were the clean, organic recording practices of Karl and crew on Sethu, with fans starting an internet witch-hunt against drummer George Kollias and his sessions for the album. As Karl illustrated above, Sethu showcases, clearly, and defiantly, the high-caliber musicianship on display - essentially laying the band and their instruments bare for all to hear, sans smoke and mirrors, something the average metal fan is not accustomed to hearing.
"Yeah, believe it or not, we actually took a lot of flack for Sethu. We went to great effort to capture George's drums and not do any replacements or overdubs. These days, many bands save lots of time and money by replacing the drums willy nilly. With Sethu, we spent months of extra work just to represent George's drumming in as pure a manner as possible - what you hear is nothing more than George behind the kit. Even so, a bunch of whiny fuckers on the internet complained about the drum sound not sounding real. This is proof positive that people don't even know what real drums sound like anymore."
The Egyptian references don't stop with Nile. Karl, with two decades of Nile under his belt, along with the duties of full-time fatherhood, somehow found time to juggle a solo project among the chaos of touring and recording. The two Saurian albums (Meditation and Exorcisms) expand upon the Nile franchise, incorporating traditional instrumentation in a percussive and bombastic homage to the ritualistic and complex mythologies of that time. Will we be so lucky as to see a third album - a Saurian Resurrection, as it were?
"Everyone has been asking me where that third solo album is. Most of my focus has been on Nile and on being a father," answers Karl honestly. "My kid is now 19, and just moved out of the house, so my years of large amounts of time going toward fatherhood are changing. I'm hoping now I'll have more free time to dedicate to musical pursuits. I love the solo stuff, as it is an escape from the extremity. When you are on tour and you have up to five support bands, plus sound-check, that is a lot of hours of death metal. No matter how much you love death metal, a little refresher makes it taste that much better."
On that note, what of the listening habits of the offspring of a death metal legend?
"Well, he is more into classic rock stuff, as he has heard death metal since he was in his mother's womb," reveals Karl. "In fact, Nile songs were written in my studio room which has always been next to his bedroom. On the other side of the wall where he sleeps there I've been for nearly two decades playing death metal."
"Your journey has led you down a path of no return. The acrid smell of death fills the air. You know the road ahead may lead to your grave. But Quake, with his insidious, apocalyptic plans, must be crushed. Defeat the Guardians (resurrected ancient Egyptian warriors), and mummies. If you fail, evil will shroud the universe for all eternity." For those of you nerdy enough to have surmised that the above quote is a reference to the classic video game Quake, well, Karl would be proud. In fact, the Nile mastermind was, at one time, an avid gamer, playing said game regularly with one Trey Azagthoth of MORBID ANGEL. What your nerd-ass didn't know was that Call of Duty's Nazi Zombies have made a guest appearance on at least one Nile album.
"I haven't had as much time to dedicate to video games in recent years," explains Karl dolefully. "In fact, I've uninstalled all the games from my computer except for Quake. There is something about the atmosphere of that game I really like. I spent a lot of time in that level. Another game that I love is Blood by Monolith, which has incredible atmosphere. I think at the time it was intended for a 386 or 486, so these days the game runs on even the shittiest of systems. A lot of the games that come out now look great but aren't necessarily fun. I'm old enough to remember when Doom changed the life of my friends and I. We would spend all hours of the night playing, network up in LAN parties and still have to get up for work the next day. That immersive experience was an entirely new ball game at the time - it was exciting and fresh. They don't make games like that anymore. Really, the only current game I'm playing is the Nazi Zombie levels in Call Of Duty. They are incredibly fun, with simple gameplay, and it's sick as fuck. In fact, there are wave files from the game all over Those Whom The Gods Detest. If you listen closely to the songs, you can actually here those creepy fuckers crawling around in the background. It wasn't until my wife called me out on how much time I spent playing COD that I realized virtual zombies were stealing my life. What a metaphor on life! These fuckers are chasing me, trying to eat me, and take my life; in reality, they are actually taking my actual life because I'm spending my life trying not to be eaten by zombies that don't actually exist (laughs)! Many years ago I used to be a drug addict and, looking back, when I compare my drug addiction behavior to my video game behavior, they are very close - you stay up all night, you don't eat right, you don't sleep right, you are a bastard to anybody that comes between you and the addiction, and you ignore the better things in life to feed that addiction."
As we neared the end of our discussion, with only mere hours until the band destroyed the stage in Toronto on their first-ever trek to Canada, Karl took a minute to express his thoughts on metal journalism and, in particular, the work of us scribes over here at BraveWords. Thanks, Karl, for the kind words... we love you too!
"I love BraveWords! Such a great presence, and a legitimate presence," enthused Karl. "One thing that is really pissing me off lately is the amount of parasite webzines that are on the internet that don't actually do original content themselves, they find other interviews and repackage them, usually out of context, to try and drive traffic to their website. It wasn't their hard-work that enabled them to have this content in the first place - they are just fucking parasites, that are doing nothing fucking good for metal journalism. Honestly, I'm disgusted. It sinks metal journalism further down the abyss that it has already plummeted to. The decline of both the music and music journalism industries are hand-in-hand. The amount of quality journalism in this day and age is sad, and I'm very happy that BraveWords has been a solid, substantial presence for a good number of years and I really respect and appreciate you guys for that."