Tomb Of The Opinionated recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Karl Sanders of South Carolina-based extreme technical death metallers NILE. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Tomb Of The Opinionated: 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?
Sanders: 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, South Carolina — 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 [who was recently diagnosed with leukemia] gets better — he is an inspirational kind guy.
Tomb Of The Opinionated: Because NILE have become renowned for releasing almost classic albums, it must put severe pressure on you guys to deliver when entering the studio?
Sanders: Sure, it's 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 — 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 I suppose one needs challenges to keep life exciting.
Tomb Of The Opinionated: 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?
Sanders: 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 isn't 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.
Read the entire interview from Tomb Of The Opinionated.