Metal Maniacs USA - 1999
MANOWAR - HAIL TO THE KINGS
Interview taken by Jeff Wagner
Manowar! Hail Manowar! Hail Joey DeMaio! They are the Kings Of Metal!!! METAL!!!! METAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!
Right. Exclamation marks and necessary hailing aside, let it be known: Manowar’s ultra-bassist/songwriter/co-founder/spiritual leader Joey DeMaio is one down-to-earth guy. You might not think so if you’ve seen the interviews in which Joey holds court on all things Manowar, proclaiming his band to be “The Best…!!!” and “The Greatest..!!!” and “The Loudest..!!!” and “The Truest…!!” ad infinitum.
But he’s got every right to make such remarks. Manowar is surely the purest, if not the greatest, heavy metal band of all time… because they’re the most loyal and faithful practitioners of metallic integrity, have been since 1982, have the massive worldwide following to show for it, posses ridiculously massive amounts of musical talent, and work tirelessly and ceaselessly to give their fans – a group of people Joey has no lack of reverence for – the absolute best metal they can possibly offer.
Far be it from me to sling black arrows at other members of the metal press (after all, I’m only a heavy metal fan with a pen), but one thing that a lot of them got wrong in their portrayal of Manowar over the years is this: Joey DeMaio DOES NOT YELL WHEN HE SPEAKS!!! So why is he always made out to be a megalomaniacal blowhard, complete with exclamation marks!?!?!? No… in truth he’s quite calm and utterly sincere. Every syllable carefully measured, he speaks clearly, intelligently, confidently, never raising his voice to get a point across. (What he actually has to say about his band’s eternal mission may sound like boasting to the uninitiated, but hose within the fold will not dispute a word.)
Typical of Manowar’s awesome excess, the band consecutively released two double-live albums within a year-and-a-half (1997’s Hell On Wheels Live and 1999’s Hell On Stage Live, both issued recently in the US by Metal Blade). That’s 37 songs over four CDs; brand new, updated, extra-sonic versions of nearly half of Manowar’s entire recorded catalogue. The total track listing surveys, the impressive depth of the band’s material: epic, beautiful explosions like “Sting Of The Bumblebee” and “The Power”; cavalier battle hymns like “March For Revenge (By The Soldier Of Death)” and “Hail And Kill”; the grandiose, frighteningly vivid dramatics of “Guyana (Cult Of The Damned)” and “Bridge Of Death”; wellsprings of Pride and passion in “Heart Of Steel” and “Courage”; and of course, mandatory metal patriotism in “Metal Warriors”, “Metal Daze”, and “Army Of The Immortals”; The albums are two of only a few essential live collections in the history of heavy metal. The liner notes on the inside of Hell On Stage Live – two pages by megafan Olaf Heinen and one by the band in the last 18 years.
The following is an interview conducted with Joey just before Manowar took on a rare (and brief) string of US dates, throughout the east coast and Midwest, before hitting the road again in Europe, where the band are treated, in the most literal of senses, as Kings.
Metal Maniacs: Well hell, first I really have to thank you for your music. It’s resulted in some of the most powerful, emotional moments in front of my stereo; it had to boil it down to just a couple songs, I’d say “Bridge Of Death” and “Mountains” are two that will definitely go to the grave with me.
Joey DeMaio: Well, thank you, thanks for sayin’ that, I really appreciate it. It’s nice to hear that. It’s been a long, long hard road for Manowar and it’s amazing when I think back, what, 17 record companies and the fact that the band has forged our own style and forged our own audience strictly from the music. We never had a hit song, we never really had MTV, we never had radio, we rarely ever toured with another band. It’s been strictly because of people like you that hear the music and go, “Hey, wait a minute, this is completely different, this is my scene,” and people like you have taken the band to where we are now. It’s amazing to think, “Holy shit, we’re now headlining the Dynamo festival.” Metallica’s going to be playing with us there. We’re headlining the Gods Of Metal festival in Italy and Metallica’s gonna be playing with us there. And it’s amazing to think that the way Metallica has gotten where they are has been one avenue, and ours has been completely the opposite.
MM: having said that, even though you’re consistent and uncompromising, you don’t rehash. We’re still getting songs, not variations on a theme with no real character.
JD: well, that’s the reason we don’t make records every year, because you can’t possibly deliver quality work, you can’t deliver inspired ideas, and you can’t decide when you’re going to be creative. You just can’t decide, “Okay, I have to make a record on a timely schedule, “ and call that art and expect people to derive something from it that’s real. You just can’t. It’s impossible. Music is art, and art depends on inspiration.
MM: are you currently working on anything, creatively speaking?
JD: I’m not now putting together something that we promised the fans a while ago, and that’s a live video. We’ve never ever done a full-length, full-blown, balls-to-the-wall, complete look at the life of the band. The chunk of time from when (guitarist) Karl (Logan) joined the band (1995) up until today, covering the Louder Than Hell recording, covering Hell On Wheels, and finally Hell On Stage, and all the touring and craziness that goes along with it. It’s kinda putting the finisching touches on this live portion of the band’s career that we’ve been going through right now. And it’s going to be pretty killer.
MM: a lot of people make a distinction between your first four albums and your last four, the belief being that an obvious, altered musical approach occurred after Sign Of The Hammer. It seems you might agree, as the first disc of Hell On Stage is comprised of songs from the first four albums, with disc two made up of songs from the last four. Do you see a distinction there?
JD: No, it’s absolutely not the case. The band started out to be the ultimate rip-your-face-off heavy metal band and that’s what we have always been and that’s what we do.
MM: most of the songs from the first disc of Hell On Stage are not often played live, like “Bridge Of Death” or “Guyana (Cult Of The Damned).”
JD: No. That was part of the fun of this last tour, that we ere going out to complete our live album. When we were mixing Hell On Wheels, we discovered we couldn’t possibly put all the songs we needed on two records. So Hell On Wheels was looked at as part one, and Hell On Stage as part two. And in order to complete the picture we ended up playing songs we've never ever played before live, and it was just a blast.
MM: So you initially planned only one live album.
JD: Right. We thought two CDs (for Hell On wheels) should be plenty, not thinking that, wait a minute, we waited eight albums before we made a live record. Most people decide that they're going to make a live record after two or three records and then jam it down people's throats whether they want it or not. We waited until our fans said, "We want a live album."
MM: The rarelysongs on Hell On Stage, were they picked according to demands made by the fans?
JD: Yeah. People wrote in to the Internet and basically put together the song list.
MM: Do you think you'll ever get around to playing "Each Down I Die"?
JD: Well, you never know.
MM: How do you possibly maintain the stamina it takes to live life the way you do? For example, you've been known to play shows sometimes that are nearly four hours long.
JD: Yeah. In fact, our first show on this tour was three hours and 45 minutes long.
MM: That's insane.
JD: It is insane when you consider that we're livin' the life of heavy metal, You know, woke up in the morning and crack open a fuckin' beer, jump on our Harleys and ride down to the studio and start playing and just jam all night, go to house parties with our friends - I mean, we're livin' the some kind of life that our fans live. It’s fullheavy metal. You just deal with it. There's no other way to live. I mean if I had a choice, I wouldn't want to do anything else.
MM: it's great that you let a for write the liner notes for Hell On Stage.
JD: Well, that's because we've got the greatest fans in the world. It's no secret, Manowar fans are without doubt the strongest. They're a brotherhood and a sisterhood throughout the world.
MM: Reading the liner notes, you can instantly identify with this guy.
JD: Absolutely, This guy made it his mission to come on just about every show of the tour. He's a brother and a friend and I just said "Hey, why don't you tell people what you think about the band,"
MM: So, for the record from someone who sees it firsthand: Are Manowar fans the most loyal, dedicated fans on the face of the earth?
JD: There's no question about it. C'mon you ever see a hand anywhere in the world with girls that have tattoos on their bodies for life? Forget it. It's pretty amazing.
MM: What are some examples of the most extreme forms of fan dedication that you've seen over the years?
JD: Oh fuck, people flying all over the world to do every show on the tour, people quitting their job if they couldn't get the time off, people running away from home, people signing letters in blood, people giving us gifts of swords and anything you could possibly think of, people tattooing themselves for life with the band's name, I could go on forever. Unreal. And I’m going to concentrate on the fans on this live video too. It's gonna be awesome.
MM: I just heard there are some Manowar dates in the US finally, in May. That's a huge relief I mean, Manowar fans in the US are literally starving for live Manowar. I can't wait!
JD: Oh, bro', strap your nuts to your leg! You're gonna fuckin' go crazy. it's death,
MM: But there are only five or six scattered dates. Any kind of real tour planned?
JD: Not right now, but after the record gets out and we play some of these festivals in Europe, we’re going to come back here and do a run through the States.
MM: I guess it doesn’t help that your label situation in the states has been pretty shizophrenic over the years.
JD: Yeah, but now we’re got some crazy fuckin’ people happenin’ – Metal Blade, they’re really into it, it’s a metal label, and it should be a good vibe.
MM: Will you do the next studio album on Metal Blade?
JD: That’s to be determined.
MM: Did Geffen even lift a finger for the band?
JD: Uh, no, not really.
MM: That was kind of a weird pairing, Manowar and Geffen.
JD: You know, the funny part about it was, Geffen was the label to be with. Geffen had a lot of great metal – well, not metal, but they had a lot of great hard rock bands, and of course, just as we got there, they shifted gears and became a country music label.
MM: You guys are giants in so many countries; how do you possibly handle the business end of things in so many territories? How much do you personally get involved in the non-performance/non-creative end of things?
JD: Well, the thing about the band is, we have been fortunate that we’ve always just been a band of musicians. Yeah, you have to have an understanding of what’s going on (business-wise), but for us the most important thing is to rock, drink and fuck. That’s our whole life. We’re livin’ for metal. There is nothin’ else, brother, there is absolutely nothin’ else. (pauses). We started out in the front row of the concerts as fans and we only moved three feet different and now we’re just on the stage. That’s the way we see things. In our hearts, we’re fans and we always have been, and that’s why we’ve never changed ourselves, our personalities or our music. See, the problem with the other bands, they think they’re too fuckin’ cool or they think they’re too good for their fans, and we know that we are the fans. We are the people. We don’t think we’re too good for our crowd ‘cause we’re just like our crowd.
MM: How did you initially hook up with (vocalist) Eric (Adams), and how did things progress to result in the formation of Manowar?
JD: Eric and I have been friends since childhood. We’ve known each other all our lives. I met (original guitarist) Ross (The Boss) while I was on tour (as a bass/pyro tech) with Black Sabbath. We wanted to put a band together and I wasn’t in a band at the time and he was just not happy with the band he was in (Shakin’ Street) and so we just decided to form a band that would melt people’s faces. Play louder, harder, heavier, crazier, and just fuckin’ deliver what people wanted: melt-yourmetal. We decided we would never take shit from anybody, never turn down, never compromise. I said, "I know a guy who's a singer," and Eric was the right guy. He's the man. He can hold a note longer or higher than anybody in metal. He's got a greater range and he delivers the goods live and in the studio.
MM: That note on "Gates Of Valhalla" (on Hell On Stage Live) can't be for real!
JD: He even said after he did that, 'Yeah, that was pretty good but I've done it longer," and he really has. So yeah, we formed the band to melt people's faces and that's what we do, that's what we are, we don't turn down, and we don't fuck our fans. We give our fans 100% pure power all the time.
MM: Obviously you deliver that on many counts, but in fact, Manowar has a more restrained, graceful side to it; stuff like "Mountains" or "Master Of The Wind" just to name a couple.
JD: Well, that's the thing: the band is a band of musicians. We can play our instruments. We are in control of our instruments; our instruments are not in control of us. Of course, we’re highly trained musicians that are able to play classical music, we could play jazz, we could play anything we wanted to because we’re musicians, it’s just that we want to melt people’s faces. And yeah, of corse there’s times when the band plays very dynamically and very melodically because that’s what the mood of the song call for. And just like a painter, he should have as many colours in front of him as he wishes and he should be able to use one colour or all colours, and it’s the same thing with music.
MM: Could you describe the piccolo bass in details? Is that an invention of your own?
JD: I used it on “Black Arrows”, I used it on “Sting Of The Bumblebee'' [on Hell On Stage Live), although on Kings Of metal I recorded "Sting Of The Bumblebee" with a regular fourbass. A piccolo bass is essentially a regular bass guitar tuned up one octave, and that’s it. But it is a regular bass guitar. I use lightbass strings tuned up to the octave of a guitar.
MM: Just for fun, I'm going to name six bands and get your immediate reaction. First, Hammerfall.
JD: Actually you know what? I have found that I prefer not to comment on other bands, because every time I read an article when somebody says something about Manowar, I know it only enrages our fans, and I'm not really here to comment on other bands and I really don't care what they're doing because it's not important for me. And you can quote me on this: I really don’t care about any other bands. I only care about the Manowar fans. They are the most important thing to me.
(Just for the record, the other bands I wanted to get Joey's reaction on were Korn, Cradle Of filth, Deicide, Metallica, and Thor.)
MM: There's been a lot of talk about a Manowar tribute, but nothing's yet been released (at press time). Would you be into something like that?
JD: I think if some bands wanted to get together and do a Manowar tribute album that would be fine. I kinda take stuff like that as flattery. I think it's a compliment. I don't think it's a bad thing and if that's what people are into and they sincerely like the band and they want to say, "This is part of something that really moved me and this is part of my life and I love your music”, and they're doing if in that light, it's a good thing. If people have different motivations, well then it's not a good thing. As long as it's motivated by a pure love of metal, Manowar and the fans, then that's fine.
MM: Between '82 and '84 you released no less than four albums. Now you release an album every four years.
JD: (laughing) That's kinda funny you mention that, but a lot of people don't know that we recorded Hail To England and Sign Of the Hammer at the same time.
MM: Really? They don't sound like they're from the same sessions.
JD: No, because every record we do is different and there's always been a progression.
MM: But were you thinking, "Okay all these songs are Hail To England, and all these songs are Sign Of The Hammer” or did you decide afterwards which songs would go on which record?
JD: We always knew that Hail To England was going to be Hail To England and that the other songs were going to be Sign Of The Hammer. When we signed with Virgin after the Hail to England tour, we needed one more song and it was at that time I wrote "Sign Of The Hammer”, the actual title track of the record.
MM: Did you ever hear anything from disgruntled American fans who felt you 'd turned your back on America when you release Hail To England?
JD: No, I've never heard that. That record was dedicated to a country that opened its arms to the band after we were fucked over by an American record company. Our first review actually came from an English magazine. That was our way of saying thanks to the English fans.
MM: So, with this fourschedule..
JD: (laughing) I really never thought of it as “We're on a four year
MM: Yeah, but look at it: '88, '92, '96. '96. So in 2000 we can expect you to release another studio album, right?
JD: (laughing] After we finish this summer tour cycle, the festivals, and after we put out our video, then I'll probably pull off the road and we'll start workin' on a new record.
MM: You haven't written anything yet?
JD: No, we don't work that way, because one thing the fans should always know is with Manowar, you can depend that you're getting 100% at all times. And that means, when you see the band on stage, I'm not thinkin' about the show tomorrow night, I'm not not thinkin' about the show the night
Before, I'm not thinkin' about writing for a record. I'm thinkin' about every one of those motherfuckers in the crowd who are my family, and I’m going to give them 100% of my concentration and my commitment while I'm on that fuckin' stage. That's an important thing. And it's the same way when we're in the studio. When I'm in the studio, I'm not thinkin' about touring, I'm not thinking about maka video, I'm thinkin', "Holy shit, I've gotta fuckin' burn, I've gotta kill, I've gotta melt this tape machine, I've gotta blow up my fuckin' gear if I have to and blow up this whole studio and send the engineer into a fuckin' mental hospital if I have to, in order to got the heaviest fuckin' shit on tape for my fans," and that's it. If you split yourself in 10 pieces, people are going to get 1/10th of what you've got to offer. With Manowar, people always get 100%, 100% of the time.
MM: A lot of bands say the key to the songwriting process is that they write to please no one but themselves.
JD: See, I don't understand that. That's never been my thought process and I hope it never is, because...yeah, you’ve gotta like what you're doing, but the reason you make music is because you have a certain voice inside you saying “Do that”. Music is the language of the soul, and for me there’s nothing more rewarding than to be able to play that music and have people enjoy it. I think a musician lives for the whole world, your art belongs to the world. If people don’t go along with that, they should just stay in their house and play. Why make records?
MM: I always had the vinyl version of Kings Of Metal. I recently bought the CD version and was surprised to see it included a bonus track, “Pleasure Slave”. What’s better is it’s one of those slow, grinding doom songs that you guys do so well. Great song!
JD: Thank you. It’s funny, the song really deals with an interesting subject. People were sayin’ at the time that we’re “macho” and “chauvinistic”, and we’re like, “Hey, we never tied up any girls that didn’t want to be tied up!” (laughing). And that song kinda deals with that whole thing.
MM: If you had to pick – and sometimes when I ask this question, bands get upset –
JD: (reading my mind) I can’t pick anything! A father loves all his children. I just got back from a two-weeks press tour of every country in Europe plus South America, and you know what? Every writer asked me that same question: “If you had to pick your favourite album, what would it be?” and/or “If you had to pick your favourite song, what would it be?” and I’m telling you, Jeff, I gave everybody the exact same answer. I sad, “Guys, a father can’t pick one child”: And it’s the same thing with you, Jeff. If I said, “Pick your favourite finger and then chop it off and show it to people”, y’know?
MM: (laughing) Right! It’s just interesting, because I know what my favourites are, I know what a lot of other fans’ favourites are, but it’s always interesting to hear what the band themselves like the most.
JD: But that’s the name of the game. You should have your favourites, because at different points in your life those songs hit you and they made you think and feel something at a particular point in your life, and you’ll carry those songs with you forever. It’s not up to me to think that way. It’s up to me to deliver at the time each one of these songs is written. So I can't really pick any one, because each one of those songs, is a different chapter of my life, in the whole book of Manowar. Each album's a different chapter, each song's a different page.
MM: What do you think of the Internet?
JD: It's fuckin' killer! I'm totally into it. It’s a good thing and it's going to be the next new frontier for metal, because nobody owns it except the fans. That's why it's gonna be cool. And I see all the Manowar sites, god, there's over 400 of 'em! It's amazing. More than any other band for sure. And more springing up every day. Its frightening.
MM: Where are the exof Manowar? Do you keep track of them?
JD: David Shankle's teaching classical guitar in Chicago and working on some solo stuff. Ross The Boss is in New York with his wife. Donnie Hamzik, the original drummer, is living in Florida, working for a sound company. Rhino is married in Nashville, hangin' out working on some solo stuff. Everybody's happy, everybody's in a good groove.
MM: You thank a "Medical Staff" on several of your albums. Why?
JD: Uh.. ... (laughing). They're gynaecologists. They take care of our girls. (laughing)
MM: You have your own record label now.
JD: Yeah, exactly. The name of the label is Magic Circle Music. It's expressly to find bands like Manowar, in the sense that they're playing from the heart, they're playing from the soul, and they're delivering the goods, they're delivering the shit - they wanna kill people. Doesn't matter what it is, black metal, death metal, whatever.
MM: Can you give me the story on the "unofficial" world record you set for "Loudest Band In The World"? (The record was set at Hannover Music Hall in Germany to a whopping level of 129.5 decibels. The song played was "Black Wind Fire And Steel." That same day, Joey DeMaio was declared the world's 'Loudest Single Musician’, for a bass reading of 131.7 decibels ... 209,800 watts of pure Manowar power surged through the hall that day. You won't find Manowar's record in Guinness' annuals, as they no longer publish world records which are deemed debilitating to human health.)
JD: We broke the world record a couple of times for volume, and the Guinness book said it was “unsubstantiated,” so we decided, “Okay, let’s break the world record for a final time so no one will ever be able to get near this record again.” We assembled the biggest backline of speakers and amplifiers ever. Like, hundreds of speakers, thousands and thousands of watts of power, and we had two different people from two different sound measurement companies measure the sound. One guy was going all over the world measuring sound levels at airports, so we knew his equipment wasn’t gonna blow. And we just reset the record to the farthest fuckin’ max that anybody ever has or anybody ever will, just to prove a point. It was killer. We had to clear the building first. We had to make sure that everybody had safety protection on and then we just fuckin’ lit up, full deck, and it was really righteous. It was like bein’ in the middle of an earthquake or a tornado. The building was fuckin’ shakin’. Truly! Shit was comin’ down from the ceiling, people were freakin’, a couple of light fixtures fell. Yeah, it was intense. (pauses) It’s a good way for us to test people’s buildings, if people are interested in that! We’d be happy to do it.