Kerrang Uk - 415 1992
BLACK WIND FIRE AND..."STEEL"
Interview taken by Jon Hotten
MANOWAR are back, and that must mean that steel has triumphed. As the Kings Of Metal prepare for a European tour that will see them pursued by an entire tour bus full of groupies, gird your loins, stuff your weak, mortal ear-drums with cotton wool, and listen up as Jon Hotten relates the ballad of JOEY DeMaio...
THE KING Of Metal is upon us. Joey DeMaio is here, in his regal splendour. His unfeasibly tight black underpants bulge from between his unfeasibly tight black chaps. His manly torso is bare and rippling, and his tan is so, well, tan, that it's almost orange. When he was 23, and playing in a band with Ronnie James Dio's cousin, DeMaio's flamboyant, be-winged stage costume was set alight by a rogue flashpot. Aware that the flesh was being burned from his back, arms and hands, DeMaio leapt from the stage, to the delight of the crowd, who thought it was a part of his act.
Condemned to a month in hospital and extensive hydrotherapy treatment on his hands, the King of Metal rose, phoenix-like from the ashes of DeMaio's blackened skin. He was reborn.
"It was like being cleansed or purified" Affirms DeMaio. "hen you come close to death, or something that strikes you deeply it has to make your life change. You get superhuman power when something like that happens."
The Metal King's life to that point, had been one of musicianly struggle. DeMaio's family are Italian Americans from New York State. His father was a cop.
"I had a real normal childhood, except I felt I always had to prove myself because my father was a cop. Kid would say 'Throw a brick through that window' and if I said, 'No' they'd say, 'You're afraid 'cause your father's a cop', and if I did it, they'd say 'What do you care, your father's a cop' ".
The youthful Metal princeling's calling came when he saw The Beatles on TV.
"Everyone thought they were assholes, which made them more attractive."
The local band was led by the town's singing sensation Eric Adams. DeMaio took a guitar lesson, and met a silver-tongued charmer who claimed to play in a working band and needed a bassist. DeMaio purchased a bass before discovering,
"that the guy was full of shit. There was no band, but I was stuck with the bass."
DeMaio struggled on, and won a Battle of the Bands contest after a local punk, Jimmy Le Piccolo, leapt from the crowd, commandeered the microphone during his set, and did an Indian raindance. DeMaio was 12 years old, and the band were off and gigging. Having "banged a few chicks" by the age of 14, DeMaio retired.
"I went and f**ked around. My ambition was to be an Hell's Angel when I was 16."
The King Of Metal has held down only one mortal job, as a construction worker, for three days.
"The foreman gave me a bucket of construction bolts and told me to break 'em down. I said, 'How the f**k, I am I meant to do that? They've been rusted for 10 years'. He was taking the piss out of me and I walked up to him and said, 'F**k you, and f**k this job' "
Salvation was to come from on high. DeMaio became musical director of a travelling production of the hippy musical 'Godspell'.
"I had to live for playing the Crucifixion scene, which was the only Heavy Metal part."
DeMaio ended up, remarkably for a man of his stature, as bassist in the last incarnation of Elf, following Ronnie James Dio's departure for Rainbow. Still in the band was Dio's cousin, Rock Feinstein, and soon came DeMaio's fiery rebirth. Having almost exploded onstage, the King Of Metal was patched up, and the dream of the fastest, the loudest, the most extreme Heavy Metal band on earth was in his head. Ronnie Dio recruited DeMaio as a roadie for Black Sabbath's 'Heaven And Hell' tour, and while in the UK, DeMaio hooked up with the support band's guitarist, the uncompromisingly monickered Ross The Boss.
"I said, 'Look, I'm not gonna play in no pussy band. We're gonna play through WALLS of amps. We gotta play louder. We gotta play heavier'. We had to be excessive in every way. Not in stupidity, but in songwriting and performance. When we played, it had to be, 'I've seen everything else, and now I've seen IT'."
Anyone who's seen Manowar has indeed seen 'IT'. The King Of Metal's muse is one of the more entertaining in the rock biz. An hour before the show begins, Chinese battle music is played over the P.A. to get the crowd in the mood, and although much of it sounds not unlike someone bashing a couple of woks together, we are indeed in a bloodied frenzy when the moment comes. When onstage, Manowar are undoubtedly the loudest band in the known universe. The roar of feedback between bass and guitar is know in the band as 'Black Wind'. The songs, all lengthy, are apocalyptic tales; Hector storms a wall or two, the Elders pluck out someone's eye, a demon horse is summoned up from Hell. Each is performed at shattering pace by band oblivious to cynicism that says Grown Men Shouldn't Wear Fur Loincloths. Manowar are mighty, and each musician - DeMaio (bass), Eric Adams (vocal), Dave Shankle (guitar) and Rhino (drums) . is the "greatest" in his field. Together, they are "invincible".
"Always be able to deliver, no matter what the suffering," proclaims the King. "Invite the greatest comparison, so we have a standard to double or triple."
Beginning as they meant to go on, Manowar signed their record deal in their own blood, and recruited Orson Welles to narrate 'The Dark Avenger' on their 1982 debut album, 'Battle Hymns'. While on the Music For Nations label, the band once walked right out of a record company meal when an MFN employee refused to say that the band were 'the greatest band in the universe'. Such a band, of course, have the appetites of men.
"It's, 'Hey, this is what I am, this is what I do'," says DeMaio. "At the end of the day, that's the type of guy a girls going to respect. I like to think of it not as macho, but as the qualities I respect so much. Things like courage, honour, valour, bravery."
Such qualities have earned the band enough groupies to make the hiring of an entire tour bus to accommodate them essential. The King Of Metal is no whimsy- whamsy New Man.
"Groupies are the greatest thing that could ever happen to anybody. It bothers me, because I have such a background of respect for women. People get it wrong. They They think, because we f**k all these girls, that we disrespect them. It's not the case. What bother me is the guys that disrespect groupies. And they're the first one to take advantage of how good-natured these girls are. They take advantage and the shit on them. They're around for any band. They're like a gas station, there it is and you pull away. It's a battle to get on the Manowar tour bus. We treat these girls like queens."
Manowar's album, 'The Triumph Of Steel', is aptly named. With one side taken up by the 28-minute long 'Achilles, Agony And Ecstasy In Eight Parts' and the other containing the weighty 'Demon's Whip', only a real man - or whummun - could listen and remain sane. Steel, and Manowar's triumph over it, is undeniable.
"It's not my fault that I happen to be in a band that has three other musicians who are the most competent in Heavy Metal. We set a standard of group performance that exceeds anything else on the market. We've set our standards to be the Led Zeppelin of Heavy Metal of the '90s. If people try to deny the musicianship and the performance of the records, then you know they're completely full of shit. Because we are invincible!"