Preparing to Again Burst Their Banks
CoC chats with Karl Sanders of Nile
by: Paul Schwarz / David Rocher
Those of you out there who have not yet been exposed to the power and inventive musical brilliance of Nile have been sorely deprived of one of the greatest creations the death metal or extreme music scene has brought forth in the last five years. _Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren Ka_ [CoC #32] was, on average, the most favoured record by CoC writers in last year's round-up, and quite rightly so. Nile came from nowhere as far as all but the most ear-to-the-ground undergrounders were concerned, and proceeded to effortlessly shame established acts and upcoming bands alike with the inventiveness and brutality delivered by _AtCoNK_. Nile recently made their first trip across Europe, beginning at the long-running and exalted Dynamo Festival [CoC #40] and continuing their rampage (on a package resplendent with talents like Vader, Cryptopsy and Enslaved [double live review in CoC #42]) across Europe, finishing up in the medium-sized city of Rennes in Brittany, France. It was here that myself and David Rocher (who was also interviewing on behalf of his Descension 'zine and whose contributions are noted as "D" in this interview) talked to Karl Sanders about Nile's current position, possible progression and pre-emptory past.

CoC: You guys are set to record a new album, I believe. It's planned, at least?

Karl Sanders: It's planned. We have songs written, but we still have more to write.

CoC: So what is the schedule for the album coming out now?

KS: When we get back home from this tour we'll take a few weeks off. Then we'll start working on the material and hopefully record and have it out by January.

CoC: That's cool. Any working title for that at all?

KS: Well, we tossed one about, and I'm hesitant to mention it. Everybody asks me this and I usually don't tell them but...

CoC: ... You're cracking under pressure.

KS: Yes. <we all laugh> We've thought about _The Black Seeds of Vengeance_. Don't quote me on that, it might get changed at the last minute, you know how these things are.

CoC: Don't worry, I won't get anyone too hyped up for that. How do you think the material that you have been writing differs from the material on _...Catacombs..._?

KS: It's faster, more brutal, more epic. It's on a more grand scale in the sense that the "Ramses Bringer of War" track is very...

CoC: Big, and all that sort of thing?

KS: Yes. I would say a lot of it is in that vein.

CoC: Would you say it's as big a step as from _Festivals of Atonement_ to _...Catacombs..._?

KS: That was a big leap.

CoC: That's a big -speed- leap.

KS: There will be another speed leap. We've been playing these songs now for a year and a half on tour, so, to play the material on _...Catacombs..._ is like...

CoC: Pretty easy?

KS: ... fucking drinking tea. <I laugh> So, the next album we'll go faster just... because we can.

Descension: Is it going to be just on a really death metal vein, or are you going to sort of borrow speed elements from black metal bands, or the black metal style anyway?

KS: I would say that we are continuing on our same path, only more highly progressed. Simply because there has been a couple of years between the writing of _...Catacombs..._ and the stuff we're writing now, but it is on the same path. Are we borrowing from black metal? I would say "no, we're borrowing from ourselves".

CoC: I was going to ask about your trip across Europe. It's your first time over here?

KS: Yeah, it's our first trip across the pond.

CoC: How has it been and how do you feel the response has been considering [_...Catacombs..._] has been out for a year, and it's on a US label and what have you?

KS: I would say it's been a great trip. I'd always wanted to come to Europe. I'd always wanted to see it for myself. You know, you see it on TV and magazines: whatever, you know. I wanted to see it for myself and I had heard that metal was alive and well on the continent.

CoC: You think that's true?

KS: It's true. People here genuinely love metal. In the States it's trendism, it's fads and when that fad dies it's replaced by something else. Right now it's hardcore. Hardcore is big; if you don't play hardcore you're not "the shit". So we don't really feel appreciated in the States. Everywhere we've done here, except for a show or two in Germany where people just stood there like this <folds arms> waiting to drink beer, people have treated us like we're human beings, and that feels fucking good.

CoC: And that would include Dynamo, I assume?

KS: Oh, Dynamo <makes explosion noise>, wow! There's nothing like Dynamo.

D: What do you think of the package of bands that has been offered on this tour?

KS: I think it's a good mix. There's something for everyone. Six Feet Under are a more popular kind of death metal, accessible to a wide range of people. Vader, they're a classic death metal band. Enslaved, they're a classic Viking band, with a lot of black metal elements. Cryptopsy: total brutal technicality. There's us, we do our thing. Thyrfing is melodic Viking metal. There's something in there for everybody, and I've seen that there is a lot of people coming to these shows, every show has been jammed with people. So many people you can't breathe at the fucking gigs. Some of them, literally, we were worried about running out of oxygen on stage. It was that fucking hot, that many people.

D: That's amazing.

KS: Yeah. When we finished our clothes were as wet as if we had jumped in a swimming pool. It's that fucking hot on stage on this tour.

CoC: What is your inspiration for creating the very warlike kind of music of Nile? Where does it come from, either musically or literally?

KS: Well, that's a pretty fucking deep question.

CoC: Is it something to do with where you live?

KS: We live in a very religiously oppressive part of the country. In, say, Berlin, there's a -bar-, a pub, on every single corner, alright? Where we live there's a fucking church on every corner. There's a church across the street from where we practice. You can walk out the door of our rehearsal room, pick up a rock, and hit the church with it. So, that's what we do, literally and figuratively.

D: And where did the interest for Egyptian mythology arise from?

KS: Well, that's one of our hobbies. As a child I'd always seen the great classic films: "Ben Hur", "Sodom and Gomorrah", "Cleopatra", "Land of the Pharaohs", on and on. And that was always fascinating to me. When I met our drummer, Pete, who is from the Lebanon, his family always had Middle-Eastern music around the house. So it was something I was introduced to and grew to love. And since Pete and I have played in bands together for like thirteen, fourteen years -- playing metal --, we'd always wanted to figure out a way to combine the two things that we love. So, that's what we have with Nile.

CoC: Did you choose that because it is a particularly original approach to death metal? A lot of people have combined Satanism, gore lyrics, this and that, but no-one had combined Egyptian mythology. Was that part of your inspiration?

KS: Well, that's kind of like after the fact. We knew what we wanted to do and at that point, time wise, Nile -- we did not foresee any fucking success anywhere down the road anyway, because death metal is pretty much... you know, there's nothing in the States, metal is dead in the States, almost, except for a few people who keep it alive. So, at that point we were like, "Fuck it, we're never going to become successful anyway, why don't we just fucking do the shit we like?". So that's what we did. And then, later on, we kind of went "Hang on, wait a minute, this kind of kills two birds with one stone, because every other band is doing the same fucking boring shit that everyone else is doing, and we're tired of it, let's do our own thing."

D: We were talking about spiritualities earlier on with the guys from Enslaved. What I noticed was the lyrics were extremely warlike, like Paul was saying, and very dark, too. Do you actually stick with the Egyptian religious beliefs, or...?

KS: Well, everything you're going to find on a Nile piece of work is going to be -- fuck, I haven't used English words in so long, of more than two syllables... -- able to co-exist side-by-side and in harmony with all the religious and historical/mythological themes of ancient Egypt. No matter what we're talking about, it's always going to have that base. It's going to be congruent -- is the word I was looking for. I think Enslaved are doing something different from what we do in that they are singing about their heritage. To them it's very real and they actually live and breathe their beliefs; the beliefs of their parents, ancestors and forefathers. It's something very real to them. We're one step removed. Since we have no fucking culture of our own, in America, South Carolina, we're pretty fuckin' bored and -somewhere- looking for other things to fascinate us.

D: That's something striking about America in particular, because it is such a young culture. It's a culture which is maybe two hundred years old. So I don't know if there's actually an American history.

KS: That's very profound. The thing that I love about Europe is there are so many old things. You can go to any town and see something five hundred years old. If you're lucky, here in France there's stuff a thousand years old.

D: Quite easily.

KS: To me that means something. In America everything is new, you know, nothing has any inherent worth. The Africans have a word, "ken". It means "the soul of an inanimate object". And a lot of the places I have been to here, walking around during the day visiting, you walk in them and you feel something, you know. There has perhaps been bloodshed, people lived and died there, hundreds of years ago, hundreds of lives crossed it. You can feel it, it's old. That's so cool [for me], 'cause everything we have is Coca Cola. <we all laugh>

CoC: -That's- pretty profound.

D: Well, obviously you were saying you were going to go ahead and do your shit regardless of whether you got success or not, but as it seems Nile is getting success with _Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren Ka_. So, I'd like to know how things are going and how you feel about this, the way things are turning out?

KS: Well, I guess things are going okay. We're able to tour. Everywhere we go kids know the music. It was quite mind-boggling to go to Slovenia and have kids singing the lyrics to me when I know they only speak English as a second language, and here they are fuckin' singin' the lyrics back. Woah! That's a dedication you don't see where we live. So I've been quite pleased. I would have been happy if we'd sold five thousand copies and just be able to pay for the record, whatever.

CoC: What are the sales figures for _...Nephren Ka_ now?

KS: Well, that's a tricky one, because I don't believe any record company ever tells you the absolute truth <I laugh>, and from what I've seen out here all the kids have it already. So we must be selling some records. Before we left for this tour they were telling us seventeen thousand or so. I don't know.

D: That's pretty good, seventeen thousand is a good start.

KS: It's a break even point. We'll be able to make another record, we'll do another one and then maybe the one after that we'll actually see some money. In earnest, I doubt it.

CoC: So how are Relapse going with budgets, 'cause obviously you've been doing quite a bit in Europe just recently, so they've obviously got some kind of tour support of some description?

KS: The tour support is minimal, it's just enough to get you here and then you're on your own.

CoC: So petrol, food, all that kind of upkeep stuff...

KS: They're not a large company, they're not like a major label who can bankroll everything, no. If you're on a metal label you're still doing the hard work yourself.

CoC: Sure.

KS: The benefit is the bigger distribution, the advertising, those things are worth a lot. 'Cause if you're working a day job and you're trying to play your music at night, and you're trying to send out your demos, your CDs and do your... You know, fuck, dude, there's only so many hours in the fuckin' day. It is just not possible to blanket the world with your music, if you're doing it all yourself. It's really important to have that distribution, the promotion, the power, to get your album in all corners of the globe.

D: How are things going in general with Relapse?

KS: Well, it goes pretty well. I can pick up the phone, talk to them and work things out, and it's pretty good. The boys in the front office who actually do the hard work, Carl, Pellet, Coz, Gordon who used to work there. He's now with MIA. Gordon was like a brother to me, I could call Gordon any time or hour of the day and say, "Gordon, help me understand this, help me figure this out, what's going on, what's the best thing for me." And those guys fucking kick ass, I love them and I would do anything for them. They bust their ass on a daily basis for every band on that label.

D: What do you think of their band roster, bands like Morgion?

KS: I happen to love Morgion.

D: _Solinari_ is a killer.

KS: They sent me a copy of it, when they first finished it. Quite impressive. Incantation -- they're metal touring brothers. Trial of the Bow is another one of my favourites. Disembowelment.

D: And what do you think of a band like Mortician?

KS: <long-ish pause> I think Incantation are my -touring brothers-. <we all laugh loudly>

CoC: Good answer.

D: Good answer.

CoC: I was just going to ask one thing: _...Nephren Ka_ has got you to a point, much further than _Festivals of Atonement_ did; you're on a bigger label. I was wondering what you're hoping the new album will do for you [as a band]?

KS: Well, I don't care what it does. The important thing is we have music that is important to us, that we love, that we want to bring to the people. And what it does is irrelevant as long as people have the chance to hear it, to come to the shows: that's the important thing.

CoC: And obviously the more sales you have the bigger budget for the next one and the better you can make that.

KS: Oh, obviously. I would like to be able to make a record and have everything be right, you know? _...Nephren Ka_, the budget was so small, if I told you, you'd just fall on the floor dying laughing. And there was a lot of fucking work put in, in order to make the album come in on budget and on time.

D: And it did. I mean, the sound of it is really good.

CoC: Yeah.

D: The packaging is nice, too.

KS: Yeah. We made it happen.

D: I'd like to know, I believe you had a power metal outfit before, something like that, no?

KS: Well, that was back in the eighties. Sure, I've been playing metal for nearly twenty years and [playing in] shitty local bands my entire life. I've done a lot of things. I've been in a thrash band, I've played in a Metallica cover band. I've done all sorts of metal things. I love metal.

CoC: How long then have you been playing guitar?

KS: Twenty, twenty one years.

D/CoC: Last words, then?

KS: Well, I'd just like to say thanks for the opportunity to talk with your readers, and that I've had a really good time in this interview.

D/CoC: Same here.

(article submitted 12/10/1999)


CHATS
7/29/2012 P Schwarz Nile: At the Gate of Exhaustion
9/9/2007 J Smit Nile: Luring the Doom Serpent
8/12/2005 J Smit Nile: Blazing a Trail of Annihilation
5/13/2001 P Schwarz Nile: They Couldn't Dam This River...
ALBUMS
7/15/2012 D Lake 7.5 Nile - At the Gate of Sethu
11/13/2009 J Smit 9.5 Nile - Those Whom Gods Detest
6/10/2007 J Smit 8.5 Nile - Ithyphallic
5/13/2005 J Smit 9.5 Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked
6/23/2003 J Smit 9 Nile - In Their Darkened Shrines
11/20/2000 P Schwarz 10 Nile - Black Seeds of Vengeance
8/12/2000 P Schwarz 8.5 Nile - In the Beginning
7/8/1998 P Schwarz 9.5 Nile - Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren Ka
GIGS
12/26/2003 J Smit Deicide / Destruction / Nile / Akercocke / Dew-Scented / Graveworm / Misery Index Redemption at the Palace
5/13/2001 D Rocher Nile / The Haunted / Carnal Forge / The Forsaken At the Haunted Gates of Vengeance
3/13/2001 P Schwarz Nile / Sleath / Regorge / Co-Exist The Delta of Death Descends
8/12/1999 D Rocher Six Feet Under / Mayhem / Vader / Enslaved / Cryptopsy / Nile / Thyrfing / Darkseid Facing the Breton Storm Season
8/12/1999 M Noll Six Feet Under / Vader / Enslaved / Cryptopsy / Nile / Thyrfing Pig's Feet and All Things Yummy
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