Metal Hammer Uk - 10 1989
METAL KINGS RULE! - Joey DeMaio in retrospective mood
Interview taken by Chris Welch
When It comes to passionate debate and savagely differing views, then Manowar are never far from controversy. The band with the bulging biceps and hairy chests have forged their own distinctive image which never ceases to either amuse or amaze. Perhaps its not surprising that opinions about the merits of Manowar are most sharply divided among the girls. They either seem ready to pour ridicule upon their He Man poses or swoon at their feet. One thing beyond argument is the musical power and skill of the outfit dubbed 'True Metal Warriors' or 'The Last Great Metal Band'. Their last album 'The Metal Kings' (Atlantic) was a remarkable piece of work, the phenomenal playing standard typified by mainman Joey DeMaio's bass solo 'The Sting of The Bumble Bee'. This was played at a speed of 208 beats per minute on the metronome which shows what that muscle power is used for - among other activities no doubt.
The band, with singer Eric Adams, guitarist David Shankle and drummer Scott Columbus have just completed a major European tour which took them from Oslo to Paris but alas didn't include the U.K. this time.
Says Joey: "We still haven't ruled out the possibility of us coming to the U.K. later this year, in the Fall maybe. We couldn't play there this time mainly because of the lack of Suitable venues of the right size."
Earlier I talked to Joey about the rise of Manowar and the way the band has developed since they released their first album 'Battle Hymns' back in '82. He explained that they were "really vibed up one hundred per cent" about doing their world tour which began way back in the snows of winter. He was also delighted about the digital recording which gave 'The Metal Kings' such a cutting edge.
I'll tell you something. You know me, I'm known for having a big mouth, sometimes in defence of Manowar and some times in offence. But I have to say I was really happy with that album and the digital recording medium is pretty cool.
"I m glad you liked 'Bumble Bee'. When I started out with Manowar I had a pretty good rapport with a lot of writers who took to the band immediately for all the wild reasons that make a band. Now we have got to the point, particularly in England, where it is fashionable to be anti-Manowar to a certain degree. Ya know What I mean? It's interesting to go through that phase in our career. Ian Gillian told me it was gonna happen. It's a thing with the English press where they love to find a band out of nowhere, build it up and then be the first to tear it down."
But Manowar have a long and distinguished career now and deserve respect. Joey cast his mind back to their early days.
"I guess officially Manowar was born the day Ross The Boss and I met in Newcastle, England in 1980. (Ross left after the completion of the last album) That's where the line from 'Manowar' comes from...'We met on English ground.' That was really the beginning of the band. I was working with Black Sabbath at the time. I Was working with Geezer Butler who was using some of my bass equipment which was custom made. Ronnie Dio asked me along to help Geezer out, and later on I helped do pyrotechnics. I was helping out road managing -whatever needed to be done, I helped out. I have a background in pyrotechnics. I also grew up in the same area as Ronnie so he called me in for a couple of those reasons. Once I had sorted out the bass guitar gear to Geezer, Ronnie wanted me to put the pyro together."
Did Joey have a clear concept of what he wanted from Manowar?
"Yeah, we really wanted a a band that would write songs that were powerful and memorable, right from the start. We have always appreciated the heavy metal audience's camaraderie. There is nothing so gratifying as seeing the whole place head banging, and chanting with their fists in the air, the lyrics to a song. There is something unique and exciting about a heavy metal audience. It's magical and that's what inspired Ross and myself to go for music.
But whence came their distinctive loincloth look?
"The image was born out of the fact we were just totally bored whit the way everybody looked and perceived themselves as musicians. We had this aggressive attitude and decider 'Really we ARE warriors!'. People misconstrued it and said: 'Oh, they're Vikings!' That's because we had a couple of songs that had references to Vikings. But it was never a Viking image. It was always the wild warrior within us, a spirit that permeated the band."
There were lucky they had the bodies to match! Most of rock musicians are spotty, weedy and concave in structure. Joey laughed.
"Well, that didn't' come over night. That's another aspect of the band. We wanted to look different, so we would stand out and people would say 'Hey, look at this.' Even if some people though we looked ridiculous, we had to take that chance, and be able to convince them with the music. Manowar IS a musicians band. But people don't' look at something, unless it catches their eye. At that time, in the early Eighties the rock scena was boring, and particularly Hard Rock. It was being played but a lot of people believed it had gone out of fashion, and in America it pretty much had. The whole country was ruled by Disco. So that's why it was so great for me to come over to England in 1980 and see the English audience. It blew me away because it was the first real heavy metal audience I had seen. American audiences were so weak back then, compared to their U.K. Then I went to Europe with Black Sabbath and I was able to see how Germany did it, and I thought, 'Man is really alive here!' This is the place. I always dreamed of playing Hammersmith Odeon in London, and it was a dream that came true."
Most bands have a tough time when they start. did Manowar have a rough time with finding money and rehearsal rooms etc.?
"Actually no, it was just the opposite. We put the band together and did a demo tape which got us the interest of EMI who financed a proper demo tape and from the tape we immediately got a deal. But from then.. hard times followed. we did everything in reverse! Most bands start with nothing and built their way up. We started with nothing, got everything and lost it all and started to go back up. You must remember the band was dropped from EMI after signing a very large record deal. WE get off the Tedd Nugent tour of 1983 and then we had to clean house totally and get new management. So we went from nothing to everything to back to nothing again! That sort of set the tone for 'Into Glory Ride' "
This was their second album released in 1983 with a recording contract literally signed in blood. The music was fast and angry and included the cut 'Hatred' aimed at those who earned money from what Manowar called 'false metal'. So much money did Manowar have?
"We had plenty of money when we went on the road with Tedd Nugent, and then after being dropped, we had nothing. So we had to sell guitars and do whatever we had to do. The trouble was EMI didn't' understand heavy metal at that time. They couldn't get radio play - obviously. They just don't have any experience of this music. They didn't want to be involved with it. Heavy Metal is a strange animal, It breeds curiosity - and fear. Particularly when the ingredient of greatness is thrown in. Something bid, powerful and strong always initially breeds fear."
What the normal reaction to Manowar from people seeing their image for the first time? I must admit when I first saw them I thought of them as the sort of wattle and daub, butchering their own meat and hunting with spears.
"Yeah, I think a lot of people mistake our image and do so purposely. Human nature makes us tend to shy away from things that look different. With something as unique as Manowar it does tend to pur people off. They'll say 'Ugh, that's not for me' without giving it a fair chance. But some people will give it a listen and we all want someone to test the water for us. But now heavy metal has boomed in the last few years and its a good feeling for us to have been around at the start of it. We coined the saying 'Death to false metal!' That's when the scene was filled with bands like Foreigner, Loveboy, that type of stuff."
So Manowar went out on a limb with their music and image?
"Yeah we really did. I like to think we were way ahead of our time. I can't say things got better, because they are what they were in terms of the band's attitude. We have been on a steady growth. The best thing that could have happened is that we were dropped from EMI, and that the management turned out to be terrible. We had all the wrong things, and the best thing that could happen was that we lost it all and had to start from scratch again. That experience helped us out as people, to respect other people and what they do. We're appreciative of what we have and we are at the point where the band is starting to happen BIG now. The bad experience prepared us for success. When you have success too fast you become inconsiderate of other other people, you become jaded and develop a bit of an attitude."
Like ninety percent of most rock musicians over the past twenty years?
"Well you can forget you are a human being and that's the worst thing that can happen to anybody. We've all seen that happen, to our friends and surely to ours enemies. It's disconcerting. But our band has reputation for being decent, civil people. Whatever you think of our image I always like to feel that we treat everybody as well as we possibly can and we are considerate... of fans.... everybody"
What was Manowar's first gig like? Did Joey remember?
"I certainly do. It was in Florida. You have to remember Manowar did the demo tape and then we went straight in and did the record. We never played a live gig together, so we were dying to play live. We set up a few dates in Florida before going out with Ted Nugent. We played a place called Summers On The Beach in Fort Lauderdale. It was a pop-rock type place. We had brand new equipment and we fired up and it was unbelievable. The manager said. 'Well there aren't many people here but they are all girl' That was nothing to complain about. Anyway we shook the place. We were unbelievably LOUD. Afterwards the manager came up and said 'Well, what do you think?' He was pissed off and said: 'I'll tell you what I think? You are the greatest think I've ever seen, but you'll never ever play here again. It was too damned loud! You almost broke all the windows.' He complained to the record company that's what really started our reputation. It was in June of 1982"
Life on the road has always been pretty tough with Manowar in more ways than one. On a night Joey would probably prefer to forget he took a dive into an hotel swimming pool with some girls thinking he was going in at the deep end. Instead he was diving head first into the shallow end and severely smashed up his face.
"That's an exclusive party story that I've never told to anyone." said Joey "You should come on the road with us and we can give you some first hand experience"
I wasn't too keen on this idea, as my idea of a riotous nigh out nowadays is a quiet glass of alcohol free ale and a plate of microwaved beans in the local pub. Wrecking swimming pools with my forehead is something I've been trying to give up. Joey gave a deep chuckle.
"Well there's a lot more I could tell you about the story of Manowar. It 's quite a saga. Think about it. Six record companies in four years! We had EMI, Music For Nations, Megaforce, a label in Japan, Virgin, and Atlantic. Actually I can't slag Virgin. They were good people. It was 10 Records. They had these special kind of wallets, the ones you can't open? And of course they folded and we're still around. We are very proud of that."
Manowar have stayed true to pure metal while all other bands have dabbled in everything from glam to trash. And nobody can accuse them of selling out or cultivating their image just for quick money because it has taken them many years of hard work and much soul searching to fin themselves the right level of acceptance. Through such albums as 'Hail To England' 'Sign of the Hammer' and 'Fighting The World, Manowar have won a huge world-wide following and kept up their reputation for supreme musicianship and energy. Apart from that it would be harder to find a more courteous and friendly guy than Joey DeMaio. So don't' let those loin cloth fool you!