Metal Usa - April 1987
MANOWAR TAKES WHAT'S THEIRS
Interview taken by Teri Saccone
Like a reckless avenger rendering complete annihilation upon everything in its path, Manowar blasted out of nowhere in 1982, changing the course of heavy metal forever with the most massive amount of power ever known to mankind. Since that fateful time, rock's heaviest entity has been on an unwavering path towards absolute heavy metal supremacy. In 1987, Manowar is about to conquer the known universe with their fifth and mightiest release: Fighting The World - and according to Manowar's spokesman and bass guitarist Joey DeMaio, this conquest is gonna render a helluva lot of bloodshed.
"It's been a long hard road to get to where we are now," begins DeMaio in his usual manner of conversation: determined and fired-up.
"We haven't had the benefit of some big-time manager loaded with all kinds of cash, doing all the planning, overseeing the business side of things. We never had a big booking agent to back us up, either. And until now, we have never had the full benefit of a big record company behind us and all the powerful promotional tools they have. In short, we've done everything for ourselves, on our own, and on the merits that this band delivers action-packed, totally obliterating live performances. So it has been a hard road and it's gonna continue to be long and hard, but on the good side of it, the fact that it's been so tough has just tempered our steel and made us a real wrecking machine of a band. Now that we're in the position to reach more people than ever, it's gonna be death to all the people, bands, and forces that ever stood in our way. Every time we get out there and play it counts," continues Joey. "We don't waste anything. We're armed with superior firepower which comes from years of ass-breaking touring. Now that America has begun to finally shake the hold that false metal has had on radio, things are starting to change. It's been great that bands like Metallica and Slayer have emerged, and it seems that everyone is starting to catch up with what Manowar was doing five years ago. As far as all the old bums - the groups that are still hanging around for some unknown reason - who are blocking our path, they're gonna get the fuck blown out of 'em when we wind our way through all the shit. Five years later and Manowar is here to take what's rightfully ours."
The last five years have certainly been difficult in many ways for Manowar - especially in the States, where the band had never really cracked the American market. On the other hand, the group has totally destroyed European audiences since their very beginnings. Each of the band's four landmark releases - Battle Hymns ('82), Into Glory Ride ('83), Hail To England ('84) and Sign Of The Hammer ('84)h - have charted well, and they've been on the covers of every real metal magazine over there for years. But perhaps the truest testament to Manowar's greatness and glory is the fact that few bands have had the balls to allow Manowar to share a live bill. Of course it's hard to share the same stage with a group of musicians who are virtually unequalled in talent in all of heavy metal. So while most of Europe has had the good sense and fortune to fully experience Manowar, metal-hungry American fans have, save for the N.Y. area, been completely deprived of their music. Joey views this indiscretion with a rather philosophical vantage point.
"It's very simple - the American music industry is loaded with square people. Like I said, there's a change happening now, but back in 1982, when we put out our first album, we were way ahead of our time. Other people have gone through this, too - we're not unique in that respect. Let's face it, every great composer has just about had to die before his music was ever recognized. I think greatness always takes a long time before it catches on. It's taken us five years to come back to our homeland - America - and during the last four years, we've been touring Europe steadily. We cracked Europe first because their record companies recognized that the audiences were starving for true metal. Now that we've signed with Atlantic Records - and let's face, Atlantic has Led Zeppelin, so if they don't know true metal when they hear it, no one does - things have finally begun to catch up with us. I also want to point out that we were signed on the songs we write - we would never resort to the lame remake trip that many bands rely on."
Over the years, Manowar has unofficially earned the title as being "The World's Loudest Band," and when you finally get the chance to experience their overwhelming volume this year, you'll no doubt agree. But Manowar's collective raging force is also rooted within each of the band member's talents: the earth-trembling voice of Eric Adams, who is virtually unparalleled in range and strength, the monster "kill or be killed" guitar devastation provided by the inimitable Ross the Boss, the bludgeoning drum attack of Scott Columbus, and the maniacal, speed-of-light bass lines courtesy of the world's fastest - bar none - bass player, Mr. Joey DeMaio. Add all that up and what you've got is the very heaviest that metal can offer. Manowar has always set themselves far apart from the rest of the pack by playing music that burns with hellfire, and with lyrics that go beyond the obvious. Joey explains that this reflects the band's uncompromising attitude towards originality.
"Everybody does songs about drinking, screwing, doing dope, life on the road, etc. That's all cool and it has its place - I'm not saying that we don't partake in having a good time - but to write every song on a record about having a good time can get real old real fast, and it becomes a cliché. We're not song machines. We lead a lifestyle of heavy metal and we play in that style, and that goes along with a basic philosophy: no compromise. We have a commitment to originality and that's where the uniqueness comes in. You see, we have always done the opposite of what everybody else does. When we did the first album, Battle Hymns, people said to me: 'It's not heavy metal because it's not fast.' And I used to think 'My God, Black Sabbath started as a heavy metal band - in fact, they started the whole thing - and they never played fast.' If you take a dictionary and look up the word 'heavy,' you'll find out that it doesn't mean 'fast.' The word 'heavy' denotes weight, which does not denote speed, because something heavy cannot move fast. So I thought about this," he continues, "and we eventually decided to continue to do the opposite of what was happening - the whole speed metal thing was starting up back then - so we decided to play as slow as we possibly could. We played real dirge-like and positively heavy, which we also did on the second album. We certainly have made a name for ourselves as speed players over the years, but we have always taken the opposite path of what everyone else was doing at any given moment. Always. Now that I've noticed that a lot of players have begun to slow down, we'll probably begin to play faster again."
DeMaio has always been a crusader for true heavy metal. He comments that it cannot be faked - it's an attitude that goes beyond the music.
"You know, people often think it's simply a type of music," he begins. "The music is really important, but heavy metal is a lifestyle, it's a spirit. It's gotta be in your blood, and either you are a heavy metal person and you have that spirit and it comes out in your playing or you aren't. All the clothes, all the stage sets, and all the fakery can't make you what you're not. I think a true heavy metal player sounds angry. He doesn't look happy onstage for that matter, either," he continues. "He does not smile, bounce around, shake his ass, that type of thing. Heavy metal is a sound of anger, vengeance, might, and power, and I could never understand these bands who've I've seen smiling on stage. What the fuck are they smiling about? What the hell are they so happy about? When you're on stage playing, you shouldn't be smiling, you should concentrate on your playing, and delivering power to the crowd in a real, convicted style. I've yet to see any; real serious musician - metal or otherwise - smile when they're playing."
DeMaio has always been an outspoken and controversial musical figure, and I, since he has legitimate criticisms, why stop a speeding train, so to speak?
"This all ties in with what gets me angry about a lot of the so-called 'metal' that certain people have falsified," he says. "I'm constantly disgusted with all the fakes who have been allowed to perpetrate the hoax that they call heavy metal. The fact is that many non-musicians - untalented individuals - are thriving in this business. They substitute hair spray, stage sets, smoke bombs, all the fakery you could imagine, for talent. They use these to distractions to take the audience's attention away from the fact that they have nothing to offer. Manowar are like an elite military unit - we're armed with dangerously superior firepower. We've got it all - the greatest singer in all of rock 'n' roll: When it comes to Eric, no one, but no one can compete with him and his voice. And Ross has the biggest guitar rig and I have the biggest bass rig in the world. From the first time I heard Ross play, his guitar went through me like a knife, and he is the most underrated guitarist in rock at the moment. Our drummer Scott plays in a style that perfectly suits our sound - he's straight-ahead, a classically-styled metal drummer. And my trip is speed and power - I've always considered myself to be the loudest, fastest bass player in the world. Like an elite military corps, we are set to strike hard without warning. We demolish, we kill and we leave. Remember, we always survive and we always win."
OK. Manowar can easily back up any claims that are being made here. The music is there for the taking, if you've got the taste and courage to be challenged. But in the meantime, does the band perhaps take themselves just a bit too seriously for their own good? I mean, music is a form of entertainment, isn't it?
"How could anybody possibly take themselves too seriously?" Joe'y shoots back. "You're either serious or you're not - there's no middle ground. Because we are so serious, we are able to achieve a level of intensity that others cannot. But it's not as though humorous moments don't happen in our shows. Like when women throw their undergarments up onstage, or when some chick grabs one of us by the crotch and really goes for it. Anybody would have to find that sort of thing amusing. We're not averse to humour and amusement, it's just that we don't base ourselves on that because we don't take ourselves as a joke. Other bands have no choice but to take themselves as a joke because what else have they got? I mean, don't consider taking $12 or $15 from a kid for a ticket as being a joke. If a kid pays that kind of money to see us, they don't want a stand-up comic. They want loudness and intensity and real metal, and they want somebody up there who can match the energy that they're putting out. The only way to get that done is to get out there and play."
DeMaio points out that the fans, or the "followers," as he prefers to call Manowar's legion of listeners, are the number one incentive behind all that Manowar stands for.
"The reason why we are where we are and why we are successful in different parts of the world is because of our followers," he remarks. "We're not in the habit of taking them or their devotion lightly. Our followers have had the faith and loyalty to stick with us for the long haul and it's hard to stick with anything for a period of years, because most people don't have the conviction to remain with something they believe in because of out-side pressures. One week one band will be hip and they next they'll be just a memory. It's hard for most kids to stick with one band for a long time, but if they do stick with it, they will win in the end. That's what it's all about - if you've got faith, you win. If you don't you lose. That's how some of these untalented bands manage to succeed - they rely on nothing more than pure faith, and that just goes to show you how powerful it can be. When we started working of 'Fighting The World', we knew exactly where we wanted to take the LP, and we knew that this would be another sign to our follower all over the world that would prove once again, Manowar have no intention of wimping out or changing. We could never change too drastically from what we have alway been - a band committed to power, volume and quality. So with the new album, we had the means to make the very best record that we possibly could, so we made that our top priority. We wanted to capture our sound on record as accurately as possible, which we don't feel we've done in the past. We feel that each record was an improvement in some ways over the one before it but we never really had the time to work as closely or intensely on them as we wanted. This time, we used all the state-of-the-art equipment available, and because the album is digitally recorded - it's only the third heavy metal album to be recorded this way- it really captures the raw intensity of this band. in fact, someone told me today that 'Fighting The World' literally set their speakers on fire - that's how much power is packed on - to the recording. I think there's gonna be a warning sticker on the record that says: 'We cannot accept responsibility for people's stereos blowing up.' There's so much power packed onto the tape and record that it s gonna overdrive your stereo system automatically, whether it's big or small. But aside from the volume" he explains "I've wanted the utmost in quality sound so we brought in all the top engineers within their respective areas, used all our vast amount of stage gear - we've got the most gear - and we took our time to make what we consider to be a high-fidelity, high power, bone-crushing album. Everybody's performance was pushed to the maximum and what happens when you do that is that you ultimately obtain the greatest performances possible. Everyone has set milestone achievements on this record. There is double-bass drumming on this that is just unbelievably fast and consistent. There's burning, ripping guitar work that's certainly the best playing that Ross has ever done - I know he's really pleased with it. Eric does a landmark vocal scream - and this is without studio effects- that's higher and louder than I've ever heard anybody on record do. I defy anybody to top that. And once again, I set the land speed record for bass playing on the last track of the record called 'Black Wind Fire And Steel' We used all sorts of real explosives throughout the record and there's a song that's a tribute to our Vietnam veteran brothers, complete with real helicopters, jet planes, machine, guns, and bombs. This is one very visual album. It's not just a bunch of happy songs that you're gonna come across on the radio. And one Manowar album is always a continuation of the one before it- we're adding on volumes. Everything is thought-out, down to the smallest detail. It's all part of concept."
One of the most significant concepts behind Manowar's philosophy is the human struggle that all of us has to contend with each and every day, The universal fight for survival is the theme behind 'Fighting The World'.
"It s a constant struggle every day " asserts DeMaio. "Manowar takes the part of the underdog because that's what we really are - we're basically an underground band that's never been given a break by any of the big bands. We've been purposely kept down because nobody, with the exception of Motorhead who is the one band with guts - would allow us to share the same stage with them. Motorhead is a man's band who play real heavy metal. They are not filled with fear. Most bands have good reason to run and hide. But our followers stuck with us and they re growing and increasing every day so none of that matters. We're going lo be playing here and nothing is gonna stop us - just as we've done in Europe. We don't care where we play, we don't need anybody's PA systems or lights - we just want to play, and when people see the show all that's there cannot be denied "
Manowar is touring Europe during the early part of '87 before following that up with their long-awaited American tour. With the release of the monumental LP and the anticipation of American audiences, Manowar is one of the most eagerly-anticipated acts in the business, and no words could ever substantiate their music. They must be witnessed live as well as on 'Fighting The World', to be believed.
"Our followers are waiting and so are we and it's gonna be outright death," projects DeMaio. "After waiting for five years, let me tell ya, we are heavier, meaner, crazier, wilder, and more insane than we've ever been, and you can only imagine what it's gonna be like for us to come back to our own country and play after lighting up the rest of the world. It's just gonna be fucking death for anything in our path. We're just comin' through and nothing can stop us. If somebody is brave enough o let us open a major tour for them, then that's fine, we'll play the arenas. If nobody's got the balls, then we'll play the smaller venues - it doesn't matter. All that matters is our followers because they have always been there. Record companies have come and gone, management have come and gone - everybody has come and gone at one time or another, but our followers and friends have stayed behind us. They're gonna get the best we've ever had. The time is so fucking right - this is when it's supposed to happen. We're not gonna let anybody down - nobody's gonna be disappointed. Fuck the world"