Manowar have long been the supreme Kings Of Metal but they hadn't reckoned on GWAR, whose roots trace back to a time when rock and metal was something that spewed out of volcanoes. Paul Elliot listens to Joey DeMaio declare death on false metal, while Sam King hears GWAR's Oderous expound about drugs and dead dog sex. Manowar photo by Greg Freeman; GWAR by Ed Sirrs
"We're NOT about fire, bombs, monsters, stupidity. We're about sound. We make thunder. We have the most gear. We always will." Joey DeMaio's good eye twinkles with pride.
Manowar, The Kings Of Metal, are celebrating a decade of supreme power rule with a rod and a will of iron. Over six recordings, beginning in 1982 with 'Battle Hymns' (its climaxes enough to make even Barry White gasp), Manowar have led a bloody crusade in the name of True Metal. Befriended by Orson Welles (the great man narrated the band's first single, 'Defender'), Manowar have fought the good fight with Atlantean anthems and pectorals to match. It's been seven years since they dispensed with loincloths but Manowar still stand head to toe in snugfit leather
"leather is an animal skin," explains DeMaio, "and this is animal rock".
Manowar's battle rages on. Cometh the '90s, cometh the men.
"We've never thought of ourselves as anything other than musicians," announces DeMaio, ale-handed. "People go, What's it like to be a rock star? Well, a rock is something you see on the ground and a star is up in the sky wha 'a a rock star? It's weird. I was talking to Eric the other day (Eric Adams, vocalist, settles beside DeMaio on a Hammersmith Odeon sofa) and I said, Do you realise it's ten years now for the band? All of a sudden, we're an institution. In the early days, it was such a struggle to get the record out, to find a record company. Now I think the challenge is more creative. So that's the battle plan for the '90s, to make a better record than the last one and to get on the road again as soon as possible. Orson Welles said we're mavericks, like he was. I think he sensed the hard struggle we were gonna have, that's why he decided to help out. We wanted the ultimate speaking voice for the 'Defender' narrative. He heard the music, liked the text, and decided to do it purely for artistic reasons. We couldn't offer him anything."
Do you recognise in other contemporary arts your own maverick spirit?
"I see it all around me. And it's always gonna be there, because in any group of people there's gonna be a few who say, We're not gonna put up with this shit. And that's the spirit we believe in. One man against the world. Without it there could be no progress. "
A Roadie for Black Sabbath during Sabbath's pre-farce years, DeMaio once despatched each note from his bass guitar as "a black arrow of death sent straight to the heart of all who play False Metal".
DeMaio is sworn to rub out "falsies", but he won't name names.
"Well, I could, but I won't. I don't feel It's right for me to descend to throwing stones at other bands. But, at the end of the day, it doesn't take too much to figure out whether somebody can play the guitar, whether they can sing, whether they really love their fans and believe in what they're doing, or whether their motivation is strictly financial."
What Is Manowar's answer to those who...
"Take the piss out of us? Well, those are short sighted people who judge the band from an outsider's point of view. It's a trend to take the piss out of Manowar right now, partly because the band is on the rise. It doesn't sell magazines to knock somebody who's nowhere nobody cares. Ian Gillan told me a long time ago that this would happen. When you're in public life you set yourself up for all kinds of criticism. An objective critique is fine. And just taking the piss is fine too, because it only inspires our followers to rise up against these crumbs! Our fans swore death on one guy in Sweden who took the piss out of us! But, yeah, there's always been a sense of humour to what Manowar does, only we don't take the piss out of ourselves, because we believe in the quality of the music. We know other bands don't want to take us on tour. It's not advisable to put a loaded gun in your mouth. Onstage, It's a good 130, 135 dB. Cruising level. It's not noise, though. It's loud, but It's not distortion. It's thick and clear and rich. It's like a great stereo system."
"On eleven," says Eric with a hearty laugh.
Louder than GWAR?
"Louder than who?"