Metal Hammer Uk - 15 1999
ERIC ADAMS: MANOWAR'S KING OF METAL
Interview taken by Stefan Kerzel
The quest for the hottest singer in hard rock and heavy metal is as old as the music itself. Manowar's Eric Adams must be one of the main contenders for this coveted title. Be it on stage or on vinyl, Manowar, who claim to be the loudest band in the world, have blown the fuse of many a PA with their sound systems spewing out an ear-numbing 140 dB. In this band the man at the front has to be more than just a good singer - he has to have an exceptionally strong stage presence too. Eric Adams is one of the few singers who sounds better live than on vinyl. Other bands play, Manowar kill...
Eric: "A vocal special about me? Funny. why me? (he laughs) It's a great honour!''
It must have been a long road to where you are now. When was the first time you started singing?
Eric: ' I remember it well. I was playing electric guitar in a band with Joey. I think the band was called Jade. We were both still at high school when I first held a mike in my hand. I was just fourteen years old. I couldn't for some reason help built up the equipment that night, and I arrived just before the gig started. Joey had always recommended that I stick to just singing. I always used to make excuses, because I was scared of going on stage without a guitar. I felt really naked just holding a microphone. Joey and I discussed it for months on end, without coming to any decision. So that evening, I arrived at the concert venue just before the gig began. My Marshalls and guitars weren't there. Anyway, the concert commenced after about ten minutes, and I had no choice but to go on stage with just the mike. I've been a singer ever since."
How long ago was that?
Eric: "That was sometime towards the end of the Sixties. It 's a real twist of fate that it was Joey who liberated me from the guitar. We later went our separate ways and played in different bands until we founded Manowar."
Who were the biggest influences and what were the greatest successes in your career?
Eric: "The biggest success for me is when I'm accepted for exactly what I am. I don't care whether I sing in front of an audience of 20 or 20000. If you listen to the kids while you 're still hanging around in your wardrobe before a show and you hear them shouting your name and singing along with every single lyric, it's great, it must be the greatest thing a musician can achieve. But it takes a long time to get there. We played one show supporting Ted Nugent in front of 20000 people at the Reunion Arena. No-one knew who we were apart from the 2-300 fans in the first few rows. By the end of the concert, we had the whole arena shouting our names. But we weren't allowed to play an encore, and we were thrown off the Nugent tour after that incident. That was amazing! We were obviously too good for Ted Nugent. Maybe being thrown off his tour was an indication that we had really taken off as a band."
How did you come to have such an unusual voice? Did you have a good teacher or are you a natural talent?
Eric: "I've got a tough training behind me. I was constantly hoarse to start off with. My voice was useless after two gigs. Then I started working on it. I stopped going hoarse as soon I'd perfected the art of breathing properly with my diaphragm, and I haven't had any vocal problems since. Our tours are hell. You sing for six shows on six nights, and never get enough sleep. But sleep is the most important source of energy. If you lack the correct singing technique as well, there's no point in going on tour. I always take a spray with me that expands the vocal passages when you're ill. That way you can save your voice from song to song during a concert. I used to use the spray quite a lot. It's more of a psychological support these days. You know that it's there, but you don't use it. The only thing I sometimes need during live shows when I sing songs like 'Hail And Killl' or 'Wheels Of Fire', is a shot from the oxygen tube backstage."
So you never took formal singing lessons?
Eric: "No, never."
How wide is your vocal range?
Eric: "I can sing more than eight octaves these days. I've already talked to Ronnie James Dio about that. My vocal range has expanded during the years, and now it comes naturally to me, If you want to reach a certain note, you get there somehow. You just have to believe in what you're doing. The loudness of the music plays an important role as well. I can only reach the highest notes of my voice when the music around me is loud enough. I need the noise to really pressurise my ears through the headphones when I'm recording. It has to be loud! Even when I'm in the studio, I have to feet as though I'm on stage. I hate singing with a head voice. When you sing from your head, the music loses its balls. That's not right. Lots of good singers make the mistake of doing that. It's important to hold that mike exactly the high distance from your mouth. The sound will only distort if you bite into your mike. Sound people always really like me, because I hold my microphone just right on stage. They can register the sound during soundcheck, and leave it that way throughout the concert. It's important to speak clearly, especially when pronouncing the letters 'S' and 'T', so you're understood properly. It's important that the kids can hear me when we play live. The voice is an instrument that has to be heard as well as any other. You have to exaggerate the word endings. That way, the audience understands what you 're saying.''
Is there any specific trick that you use?
Eric: "I've got a practising tape that I sing scales to before each show. The faster and more intensive I sing these scales, the more relaxed and versatile my voice and my lower jaw are by the time I go on stage."
How long do these warming up and relaxation exercises take?
Eric: "Only a few minutes. I rest my voice for the whole day before the show. That's why some people think I'm a very quiet person. You sometimes can't prepare yourself for the show at all on tour. I had to quit bodybuilding for two days once. If you do body building for just a few minutes before each show, you develop arms like Schwarzenegger. I really pump up my muscles. Once I've done my arms, I continue with my vocal chords. These exercises last five minutes at the most."
Is there anything you're scared of as a musician?
Eric: "I haven't had to worry about my voice too much during the last few years. A bad monitor sound is a lot worse. A good monitor sound on stage is really important for our volume. I 'm scared of not being able to hear the drum sounds properly. Otherwise I look forward to every show. The only thing that matters on stage are the eighty minutes of live show. They compensate for all the s**t that goes on in the whole business. A lot of things happen quiet instinctively on stage. You can't plan with the musicians in advance what the audience will be like. Everything happens spontaneously. Sometimes, when you feel really magical on stage the whole situation feels really magical too. You have to just accept that spontaneity. Others can look after the business side of things, I'll look after the kids."
How do you work in the studio?
Eric: "I don't think there's any other band that works quite like us in the studio. We record drums, guitar, bass and then the vocals in that order. I need the pressure of the whole band to be able to sing well."
How many tape channels do you normally record in the studio?
Eric: "I need eight different multi-tracks for my vocals. the first four are sung exactly as we rehearsed them. I experiment on the remaining four tracks. Towards the end, we'll chose the best. The start of 'Kingdom Come' originated because of a sound engineer's mistake. He played all eight vocal tracks simultaneously. You can hear the result on the record.
How do you work out your vocal lines?
Eric: "I rely heavily on my overall feeling. It's the same with a guitar solo. You work out the melody starting from a certain note. Then you venture into something new. You need a lot of experience to write melodies. Joey normally comes to me and we work out the details. According to this basic idea, we compose everything live, with the whole band. Heavy metal mustn't be written with your mind. Your gut writes the music. And I don't need any tricks to sound good in the studio. What I can't sing live, will never appear on a record. That's one of the reasons I'm against singers using sampling techniques. I wouldn't stand on stage with a mike, with a keyboard player behind the amp programming my entire vocals on the keyboard. That is false! The audience wants to see you, and not machine. I don't need to let the tape run slower in the studio, so as reach a higher note."
Is your hearing perfect?
"I have to hit the E-flat scale during the last song 'Black Wind, Fire & Steel' without the help of any instrument. It always works really well . I don't know if you can call that perfect pitch. It's got a lot to do with experience. My best keys are E, and sometimes A on 'Blow Your Speakers'. E is definitely my key. You can't go deeper on a bass or a guitar either."
Which singer particularly influenced you?
Eric: "Ian Gillan. 'Child In Time' was and still is the ultimate song for me. His screaming on that song really influenced my singing to come. Geoff Tate is another singer who interests me. In the rock polls published in heavy magazines, there should really be two different categories: one should consist of the talking singers and one should include real singers. A lot of the talking singers can't sing a melody or express themselves vocally. Their 'vocals' normally only consist of quickly spoken words. Thrash bands often sing like that. We've got loads of melody even in our fastest song off the last LP 'Wheels Of Fire'. It's really difficult combining both melody and speed. Nearly all thrash singers only sing one note, and they sing it throughout the song. There are eight notes in a scale. You should use them."
Is there a particular microphone you like using best?
Eric: "I like using Electro Voice mikes best. We've already tried out a number of different mikes. Electro Voice mikes are by far the best for me. The SM 58 by Shure sounds too bassy, and doesn't bring out the trebles enough. Electro Voice mikes seem to deal best with with the range of my voice and the individual tonal colour of my voice. Since I've started singing through these mikes, even our sound man has swapped his Shure SM 58 mikes for Electro Voice. They have just brought out a new series of mikes, that are ideal for loud stage, sound. We should know, seeing as we're the loudest band in the world. Most mikes have far too small a tonal range. There are singers around who sing more than eight octaves."
Why do you still use a mike cable during your stage show? Doesn't that restrict you?
Eric: "There aren't any radio controlled mikes that transmit my vocal ranges as well as a cabled mike. We were playing California, and some engineers came along with their brand new radio mikes, that apparently sounded good with heavy metal. I tested them. and the sound was awful that night. I 'm not a preacher who wants to make a speech. I want to whip the kids out of chairs and lots of mike manufacturers forget that. It's not just coincidence that Manowar nearly always use Electro Voice speakers as well. We're the loudest band in the world with a sound that, despite the loudness, is always and not distorted. With bands like us, you can really tell the wheat from the chaff. A Manowar gig has to sound as though you're listening to the best stereo sound system in the world, with the sound volume turned up to eleven on the dial! We sound just like we look. You can't really transmit our live sound onto record. The album 'Kings Of Metal' sounds most similar to our live sound. That was because we recorded the album digitally."
So when will be seeing the first Manowar live LP?
Eric: "A live record is something we have definitely got planned for the future. Maybe one day we'll manage to perfectly transmit our live power onto vinyl. Then we'll have finally reached our goal."