Karl Sanders is widely known as the founding member and principle songwriter of Nile. Formed in 1993, Nile has been an active full-time professional and worldwide recording/touring Act since 1998. With 6 critically acclaimed full-length CD releases worldwide and with 3 of them charting in the Billboard top 200, Karl was voted 4th all-time greatest Death Metal Guitarist by Decibel
Magazine, and voted Best Musician in Terrorizer (2007). Karl studied Guitar with legendary Jazz guitarist Tim Haden, and has also happened to have received guidance from the likes of the internationally revered mega-shredder Rusty Cooley, Brazilian guitar master Moyses Koselene of Krisiun, and Trey Azagthoth of the immensely influential death metal legends, Morbid Angel.
Metal Wani’s editor in chief Owais ‘Vitek’ Nabi had a chat with the Nile founding member and disccussed Nile’s songwriting style, the 80’s death metal scene, the backlash against technical death metal, his view on Kickstarter campaigns, unpredictable bass players, his view on fans’ usage of cell phones and cameras during concerts, dropping record sales and touring, alongside the upcoming Nile record, among other topics. Here are a few excerpts from the interview —
In terms of music, lyrics, concept, etc, and how they are created; what is the creative process behind a Nile song for you?
Karl: Well generally Nile songs start with the lyrics. Usually when that happens, either Dallas or I will take those lyrics and come up with riffs and music ideas to bring those lyrics to life. We use those lyrics as a guidelines to put the music together, it’s like a script for a movie so sometimes the lyrics will take you down to paths that you wouldn’t have thought of. With Nile, it’s creatively liberating process. We try to bring the lyrics to life without preconceive restrictions. By doing lyrics first, it exploded many possibilities for creativity that would have never occurred if we would have done it in a normal way like other bands do.
Have you ever written anything lyrically or conceptually that you found out doesn’t apply for Nile, or say which you felt would be incongruous with Nile?
Karl: Yes. I usually give those songs to someone else or throw them away. I saw something on Wikipedia were they said I use those ideas on my solo albums but I know as soon as I start writing whether it’s going to fit into my solo record so it’s definitely not related to Nile. It’s something that’s born of entirely different sort of thing.
In the 80’s and early 90’s, death metal bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse etc were rebelling against the Motley Crues of the world and were raising the bar in the metal community. What kind of changes have you seen in the death metal scene since you started out?
Karl: I have seen it become very watered down in spirits. Like you said, 25 years ago there was a great spirit of rebellion. If you love death metal then you would hated everything else. You totally embrace death metal and say fuck you to everyone else. There was a certain bond that metal fans shared because we were all rebelling against everything else. But in recent years it’s become Okay to like death metal. It’s become more acceptable and with that acceptance, it’s no longer such a forbidden, evil thing to listen to death metal. It’s OK if your mom and dad listen to death metal then how bad could to be? I like stuff like Immolation, new Gorguts and Krisiun. Krisiun have been doing incredibly brutal thing. They are such an underrated band in the big picture. They are I think the most brutal thing on the planet.
I saw a band at NAMM convention last week with Alex Webster and Jeff Loomis — Conquering Dystopia. Oh yes my friend, what an incredible band. They are the evolution of extreme death metal, what a progression. They had the audience spellbound at NAMM. I would say 700-800 people watching them and we were all captivated from the first note to the last note.
Let’s traverse back to 80’s. I remember my friends telling me how the underground scene was in 80’s. There was no internet, people used to trade letters to each other, and tapes. It was a real underground scene. There was a passion of having a tape in your hand, a treasure. But now things have changed, people download albums in the click of a button and that makes them metal.
Karl: Yes… yes… It was a thrill. It was like a hidden thrill. We were like Indiana Jones discovering a lost treasure. I really enjoyed how it used to be. There was an appreciation, there was a value placed upon the music. Nowadays everything is so easily downloadable, it’s free, it’s music and death metal in particular has no value. It has no value. It’s easier to throw away. There are ten thousand metal bands and outta those ten thousand, nine thousand fuckin suck. I think music has become devalued. There was a lot more involved in acquiring a piece of music because it cost you something. You had to wait, you had to spend your money, you had traded with somebody, you had to wait for the mail to get it and it took months to get the tape. There was a value placed on it. Once you got it, you had a fuckin treasure. These days due to downloads, I see the album sales dropping. Fortunately there are pockets of people in this world who still support metal. Thank god or thank Satan or thank somebody who still buys CD’s, go to concerts, buy t-shirts because without those fans metal will die.
How does it feel, when you are out on stage and you see a sea of cell-phones and cameras taking pictures and videos? Gone are the days when we used to see horns. How does this feel?
Karl: (Laughs) there is something to that and I am glad you asked this. There is something I think we should share with fans because I don’t think fans realize. When you are taking your cell phone or video camera whatever and you are busy filming the show, you are not in the show. You are no longer a part of the experience. When people are involved with the show, you are listening to the band, watching them, you are headbanging, you are moshing, then you are part of the similar community experience. All of us are focused on the same energy and that’s an incredible experience. You can feel that, it’s real, the band and fans unite, they are together. So when I see fans filming the show, texting or whatever, they are missing out on a wonderful experience which hurts me, discourages me. It’s like what if you are in bed with your girlfriend and you are making love with her and she’s texting (laughs). It bothers me so much that if people do it right in front of me, I am going to take the phone from them. If they are going to stick the camera or whatever right in my face I am going to say “Fuck You, Go Away… Go 20 Feet back”, because that place right in the front is for someone who wants to get involved, and if you are texting then you are cheating that fan out of a place where he could be enjoying music.
Listen to the complete audio interview at the location posted above.