Karl Sanders interviewed by PSL
Have you approached the song-writing any different this time around?
Well, I think so. The main difference on this album was perhaps that on a lot of the previous albums we had worked a lot with drum machines and computer drums when we wrote the songs, but this time around we had George Kollias, our new drummer right there working with us as we were writing songs, and I think it may have been entirely different the way things got approached.
I noticed you have cut back on the Egyptian samples compared to In Their Darkened Shrines!
Well, for one thing these songs really didn't need as much extra instrumentation. For another we wanted to write some songs where we played lots of guitar and keep the focus right there on keeping it savage and try to build the Middle East atmosphere from the actual notes contained in the actual guitars. For some people it's not as obvious that there's a whole lot of Middle Eastern influences in what we're doing, but we didn't just wanted to do In Their Darkened Shrines part II. We had some new ideas and wanted to do things a little differently, but still keep the Nile identity.
You've used Neil Kernon instead of Bob Moore this time. What made you decide upon him?
Well we could afford a producer this time! [laughs]. No seriously; Neil Kernon was our first choice in producer. We really liked his work. He's got a great history and has done some incredible musical records and could also do death metal as well. All was important to us because we look at death metal as a valid musical form and we wanted someone who would respect the music for what it was and Neil was great. He didn't try to change us at all. He just captured us very cleanly and tried to get great performances and just help make suggestions to help us achieve what trying to do.
It doesn't sound quite as dark and muddy as on the other albums. It sounds more clear, but still immensely brutal in my opinion!
Yes, it is more clear. I think you can hear things a lot better this time. Like all the guitars this time. I have no problem hearing any guitars on this record [laughs] which is something that always frustrated me on earlier Nile albums. We put all this work into the guitar play and there were times when you couldn't hear it, and this time around we made sure to keep the guitars nice and heavy and right up there in the mix.
In Their Darkened Shrines was a monumental effort. Did you feel any pressure when writing Annihilation of the Wicked?
Most of the pressure was from outside people, the label, fans, writers, journalists - you know, those people. We knew that we had some good ideas and we were ready to make this record so there were some pressure but you know what in the end we just did what we do and got down to work.
What about the lyrics? Can you keep finding inspiration in Egyptian history and related?
I think so. I think there's some people who accuse us of… you know: 'how long can you keep writing songs about ancient Egypt?' and stuff like that. I've heard that before, but they were saying that after our first fucking album, and this is our fourth album on Relapse. I think we're doing fine just the way we are. We have no ambitions to radically change Nile into something other than it was. Can you imagine a Nile that started singing about for instance political problems in Yugoslavia? No, it wouldn't work; it would be wrong. I mean Nile has something to do and we're happy doing it so I see no problem.
You have a weakness for using German phrases in the songs. I was wondering how these fit into the whole theme?
[Laughs] oh, I don't know. I had a dear friend, she's German. She lives in East Germany so I heard German spoken all the time, but it didn't have so much to do with "Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten". It's more of an H.P. Lovecraft reference. It's the name of one of his forbidden books.
You've included some liner notes to each song. I was wondering how that idea occurred in the first place?
Well, we have actually been doing this on several albums. Initially when we did it before Black Seeds of Vengeance, it was kind of a suggestion from Bob and Ross from Immolation. Ross had come over for dinner with Bob and Alex. After dinner I asked Ross if he would do a guest vocal on this song I as working on and so I gave him these words and they are like all ancient Egyptian words, and he looks at me and goes: 'well this is cool and everything, but what the fuck does it mean?', so I explain the song to him and he goes: 'you know what? After you explain this and I understand it it's fucking even cooler than before. You should try to write some stuff in the albums and explain what these songs are about. People would really fucking dig it' and after he said that, I saw that he was right, because I've been getting so many emails from people asking me: 'what are these fucking songs on Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka about? What's this about and what that about?' I've been answering like 100's of fucking emails, so it was like killing two birds with one stone. I saved myself the trouble and bring people to a better understanding of what we're trying to do.
You got a new bass player. Could you say a little about him?
Joe Payne is actually a session guy. We hired him to do the touring and he's actually doing quite a good job. He comes to us from a band called Lecherous Nocturne.
So he's only in the band on session purposes?
Right, we haven't really decided who we will keep permanently. Maybe it will be Joe. I don't know. Things are working fine as they are right now. The band is right now Dallas, George and I.
I understand that Dallas has taken over more of the vocal duties! Was this done in the light of Jon's departure or was it planned prior to his exit?
It wasn't necessarily planned. What happened was that since Jon wasn't as involved in writing songs and rehearsing as he should have been, Dallas wanted Jon to take on more vocal duties, but in the studio it turned out that Jon wasn't prepared whatsoever and everything that Dallas had wanted Jon to do Dallas had to do himself anyway so when Jon left the band it was a very easy decision that Dallas would be taking over the centre-point live, and he would sing most of the vocals and talk to the audience, stand in the middle, that whole song and dance.
You've played in Europe before but I don't recall you having played in Scandinavia before, but you're coming this autumn. Could you say a little about that?
That's correct. It's part of a Metallysee tour and we'll actually visit several places that we haven't been before. We've never been to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal and Croatia. There's a bunch of new places for us and these are places we wanted to go for many years, but the opportunities weren't there yet so we're very happy this time around. We get to meet many new metal fans and hopefully make some new friends.
Did it surprise you how quick Nile arose to the status it has today?
Well, I don't know. I've been playing metal since 1982 so for me it's not so quick [laughs], but the rest of the world had no idea of our existence. So from the outside looking in it may seem like it only took 7 years or whatever, or 10 years, but for me and Pete Hammoura have been working at metal for 20 years.
I think it's best not to worry about it and just keep working hard at the music. I say that and I try to tell myself that. Sometimes it's tough, sometimes I think to myself: 'oh my god, listen to this record. What in the fuck am I going to do next?', but you know what? I don't really lose any sleep over it.
Do you plan on releasing more solo material?
I think when we get done with this big batch of Nile touring for the next year of so then I'll probably have a little bit of time of and I will probably work on another solo record, again just to take a break from the loud death metal all the time and do something quiet.
Will we see a Nile DVD at some point?
I just don't know about that. Relapse hasn't offered us to do that and they certainly don't want to talk about it in the budget or whatever, so I don't know. There doesn't really exist a whole lot of decent footage either so I can't see it at this point.
You've had quite a few drummers since the debut Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka. Any words on why you have trouble keeping drummers?
[Laughs] To play Nile music makes them catch fire and explode.
Anything you wish to add to conclude this interview?
We're really looking forward to coming to Scandinavia in the autumn and hopefully play some metal to some dear new friends.