Kerrang Uk - 271 1990
KINGS X RATED
Interview taken by Dave Reynolds
'Real Man Condoms', 'Pleasure Slaves', 'Chinese war music', 'Disco Music': this feature by Dave Reynolds is packed full of such 'Kings of Metal' X-rated controversy and should NOT be read by the followers of False Metal.... Are you still with us? Thought so, there is no Wimpwire this week, but here's the MANOWAR story...... aaarrgghh!!!
JOEY DEMAIO, demon bass player with Manowar ushers me into the band's dressing room backstage at the Hammersmith Odeon and introduces me to relatively new guitarist Dave 'The Death Dealer' Shankle.
"Dave, I'd like you to meet Dave Reynolds from Kerrang!, a true brother!"
Joey's like that. If he likes you and you're honest with him about all things Manowar then you're classed in this life and the next as one of the faithful. There have been times in the past when Manowar have been a little hard to stomach, mainly the rather disappointing, perhaps pretentious 'Into Glory Ride' and 'Sign Of The Hammer' albums, but along the way there have been moments of almost divine inspiration, the band's fifth album, the gargantuan 'Fighting The World, being just one. Many openly mock Manowar for the way they look, their music and for their often hilarious and undying tight against False Metal. But hell, I actually respect these guys for shrugging off the barbed comments and wicked reviews with a smile and continuing down that road to Valhalla without compromising or wimping out one iota. Real Metal is the only way. Kill with power. Joey and I decide to do the interview on the latest battle tank - a huge double- deck multi-berth tourbus that's been ferrying the band around Europe for the past month on the final leg of the 'Kings Of Metal' tour. We some how manage to veer off at a tangent and talk about the quality of various condoms, Joey giving me a highly re-commend Ramses 'Real Man' model from the States, before conversation returns to just why Manowar have decided to hit Britain again so long after the release of their sixth album, the aforementioned 'Kings Of Metal', last year.
"We actually wanted to come over and play here during the first leg of the European tour a while ago," states DeMaio. "We've always played the UK after every record but we just couldn't get the venues... Hammersmith was one in particular that we were unable to get. It was booked solid during the period we wanted and you know as well as anybody that if we can't play Hammersmith then we don't play London, it's as simple as that. This is our home away from home. It's funny, some people got their asses in an uproar thinking (hat we weren't gonna play the UK and were ignoring our fans here. That's bullshit. People just love to stir up shit like that."
When Manowar were last here, they had original guitarist Ross The Boss in the band. Since then, Dave Shankle has been welcomed into the fold and the Chicago born-and-bred warrior is loving every minute of life in the band.
"It's great," he smiles. "Manowar are the best Heavy Metal band in the world and things couldn't be any better "
What made you decide to join?
"They had discovered me Chicago and I had been a big Manowar fan for a long time, one thing led to another and here I am."
"Dave fits in like a glove," claims Joey "The funniest part about it was that when Ross was in the band we had started the 'Kings Of Metal' album and we had been in the studio for two-and-a-half weeks and this was our first time in Chicago and we needed to get out and meets some chicks. We met this one girl who took us down to a club and there were tons of hot chicks there but there was also this band that Dave was playing in who were gigging there that night. He knew all our material and tho friendship developed. When Ross turned to us and said that he'd had enough, it was logical that Dave would come in because he was virtually part of the team by then."
Prior to hooking up with Manowar, Shankle had played in various local bands in the Chicago area and had done some recording but, as he says,
"Nothing of note to really talk about",
So is very excited about the forthcoming Manowar album on which he'll make his major league recording debut. But when will album number seven surface?
Joey: "That's kind of a good question! Each record has always done better than the last. 'Kings Of Metal' has actually done better than we thought. It's sold 50,000 in Germany alone. So it's a weird thing to follow up on an album like that, but we're just gonna go back home and start jamming and take it from there and not worry about whether it'll be as successful as the current record. Actually, we'll be setting a new precedent for ourselves by recording three albums in a row for the same label! For some strange reason they really like us at Atlantic! I really find it amazing that we're about to go into 1990. The band has been together for near enough 10 years, yet it seems like only yesterday that 'Battle Hymns' was released. It's been a long, long road though! I still get people in America coming up to me and asking me, 'Isn't Manowar that band that wears loincloths?'. We haven't worn loincloths since 1983!! It's so funny the ideas people have about us."
But be fair, that's the image of Manowar everyone relates to!
"The important thing is that the Heavy Metal fans relate to it. We've always been animal. Yeah, in the early days we wore loincloths and people thought we were Vikings or something, but back then we had to make a statement to make people look at the band and listen to us and discover that we could actually play! The image basically said that this was animal rock, kick-ass music. Jeans and T-shirts is what everyone else is wearing now and it was the same back then. We wanted to be different. we still do."
So that terrible rumour going around New York a couple of months ago that you were now just going to go in stage in jeans and T-shirt was something started by the False Ones, right?
"We will always wear leather. It's animal skin, it's our image. Jeans are man-made, leather is animal skin and we play animal rock. What more I can say?"
The other rumour was that Scott Columbus (long time Manowar animal skin basher) had left the band. Any truth in that one Joey?
"Well, he's still here! It's okay though, because as long as people are talking about us, that's fine by me. we've certainly had our fair share of people saying all kinds of things about us.."
Doesn't it annoy you sometimes the way the press have a real go at you - years in, year out?
"Now the last laugh is on us because people have to take us seriously. How can you deny a band that disregards the people who don't take us seriously and has such a strong following? If you're asking me as a person whether is annoys me, well, it could. But I have to find it humorous because, on the one hand I've got writers telling me they find it hard to take me seriously, and on the other hand, we're sitting here with two double-decker coaches, a couple of semis and a crew of 50 people and the tour is sold out with the record still selling... so how ca I take the people who laugh at me seriously?! (Ed's note: Manowar's gig at Hammersmith Odeon on December 14 was not sold-out) It's just one of those things. I find derogatory articles about us funny. It's fashionable to take the piss out of Manowar. When we first came to England we had so much press and everyone was really into us, regardless of whether anyone wanted to take the piss back then. But I can remember having a drink with Ian Gillian one night and he said 'Watch it mate, the day is going to turn around and it'll be the fashion to take the piss out of Manowar'. And sure enough it did. The thing is, that if you're a musician and you prepare yourself for this kind of life the you must prepare yourself for criticism. while one magazine might say you're the greatest guy in the whole world then another will say you're the biggest asshole. You can't let either one effect you because, at the end of the day, you or the band aren't important but the people who come to the shows and leave a show saying that they saw a brutal, loud Heavy Metal show and it kicked their ass! I've always felt that way."
In many ways, Manowar stand alone these days as sole exponents of a more traditional form of Heavy Metal. Whilst record stores are clogged up with Hardcore, Thrash, Glam or melodic AOR, the quartet refuse to be budged from their Real Metal stance.
"I think what has saved us in many respects is that the people who were into us from the beginning, writers included, whether they've liked us musically of not since, have always admired the fact that the band has always played Heavy Metal songs, anthems written for that fan in the crowd. The one thing that has sewn Manowar together and had given us the lasting power is, at the end of the day, you might not like it, you don't have to like it but the money is spent on putting together a Heavy Metal show."
What are your views on the current Metal scene, Joey? What do you think of all these variations on one theme?
"You can play this Christian Metal horseshit, be Black Metal, Green Metal, Pop Metal, Thrash Metal whatever, but, at the end of the day, you can either play well or you stink. That's really what it's all about. I think people are trying to split themselves into these different categories to get a little extra recognition and create a little niche for themselves."
Wasn't that just exactly what you succeeded in doing when you arrived in the scene?
"Yes. We had to at the time because there wasn't anyone playing Real Metal. We came up through the disco explosion of 1978/79, and in 1980 Foreigner and Journey were considered to be Heavy Metal! People had forgotten what Black Sabbath and Mountain had done because it was no longer fashionable to like thein. But here in Britain at the time it wasn't a question of fashion but a way of life. That's what blew my mind when I came over here in 1980 working for Black Sabbath." (Joey used to be part of the
Sabs crew - Ed.) "Back in America even though those bands were still playing and still touring the media was trying to deny that these bands existed. It wasn't cool to say 'I'm into Black Sabbath'. Europe was just as f*kin' crazy and I felt back then that Heavy Metal would never die. True Heavy Metal will survive and that's the reason why, when Manowar started, we took up the cause of true Heavy Metal. We certainly didn't create it but we just want to keep that flag flying high. People can say we write to a formula or we're clichéd, whatever. I really don't care. We believe in the Heavy Metal cause and the fans because that's our life."
Dave Shankle gets a word in finally:
"Manowar's fans are always gonna be there as long as there's Heavy Metal. And that isn't going' to go away either."
But when will Manowar begin to make real in roads into the US market? Europe still remain Manowar's fan base.
"The band simply doesn't fit with what the American media says in Heavy Metal," explains DeMaio chomping at the bit once more. "At the end of the day we're not saying we're gonna do anything to break America. If America can dig what we're doing then that's great, if they don't, then that's the way things are. We're not going to turn into a pop band overnight to break it at home. It's always been much more important to be accepted in Europe. Sooner or later America will catch up but it'll be on our terms and not theirs. But we are actually very proud of the fact that we've risen to the point we are today through the power of the people, we've had no help from anybody else. Let's face it, Motorhead are the only band who have been willing to let us open for them in the past... even Ted Nugent only stood us for a couple of shows."
At this point, vocalist extraordinaire Eric Adams joins us in the bus slipping on a steaming hot cup of coffee and seems somewhat disappointed that Steffan Chirazi is safely at home in San Francisco after writing a less than favourable piece on the band last time they were featured in K! following the release of 'Kings Of Metal' . Our chat moves on to the band's continued use of that irritating Chinese music they play over the PA prior lo their arrival onstage each night.
"It's Chinese war music," laughs Joey, "the Chinese are great warriors and these are war themes that we have that we use to..."
Drive people nuts?
"Ha -ha! No, it gets us in the spirit to go out and play. We listen to it backstage ourselves. A lot of people don't understand the significance."
But to put things into perspective, the audience thinks it's shit and can't wait for it to end because then they know that you'll be on at any second!
"I guess a lot of people don't appreciate Chinese music the same way they don't appreciate Chinese food!!"
The trio are almost in hysterics al this outburst.
Eric Adams: "At least when the music goes on, the fans know how long they've got to get into their seats!"
DeMaio: "It does get people wound up, but it gets us in the right frame of mind to go out and play. It works us up. Our show will remain one that kicks your ass and melts your face if you stand too close to it. There has always been an element of fun involved, it's just that a lot of people have never seen it. I've heard it said that we have no sense of humour. We've always had a sense of humour but nobody could ever see us beyond the image. We really have a good time onstage. We always drag a kid up and let him play guitar on 'All Men Play On 10' and we drag a girl up too and pour beer all over her tits...Y'know that's another thing, everyone gets into an uproar about the 'pleasure slave' situation..." (he means groupies, readers!) "...and how we can say such things about women, but, hey, these girls, they're the ones after us! The other day, when these two Finnish chicks flew in to meet us, they were standing there with Eric with more luggage that the whole band put together! They turn up at the shows with their luggage 'cause they want to be on this bus, they want to be with the band and treated like gold. It's an honour to be a pleasure slave for this band because we give 'em money to go out shopping in the afternoon, to go and buy some clothes or do their hair. Honestly they don't want to leave at the end of the tour...The problem is that we keep adding to the entourage in every country we go to that at some point we're gonna have to hire a bus for all the girls too 'cause it's starting to get crowded!"
Wouldn't that be a costly exercise?
"Oh yeah, but I'm sure everyone would chip in for this noble cause. I mean, I'm sure you'd love to come out on the road with us next time to do another piece on us now, wouldn't ya?! We've got a new record and a new world tour planned next year so that's even more of an encouragement!
I'll have to consult my diary!
"In all seriousness though, at this point in the game we've already established what the band and sound is so that now it's just a challenge for us to write better songs and make better quality records. Someday we'll do a live album and perhaps a live video to go with it, but that's all down the road right now. We want to have the money to do all that right and not do it from a budget full of peanuts."
Eric: "We're just gonna keep at it, keep pushin' and kickin' a lot of ass along the way. There's new blood in the band with Dave for the next record, he's got a load of ideas and there's a great deal of excitement within the band as a result."