Faces Rock Usa - April 1987
THUNDERING ACROSS AMERICA
Interview taken by Jem Asward
How many times can you get hit on the head before you stop getting up again? The guys in Manowar must have asked themselves that question more than once. To say that they've overcome adversity is just a bit of an understatement: Each of their five albums has been for a different record company, and although they're a top concertin Europe, they've never toured the States even though they're American.
While their European success has paid the bills and given them the fan support that every band needs, Manowar is hungry to bring their, uh "unique" stage show Stateside. The band was signed to a worldwide deal by Atlantic Records last year, and their latest album, Fighting the World has just been released. And yes, an American tour to support the album is scheduled for April.
While they're hardly a household name in this countryin headbanging households from the metal underground circuit has given them a respectable following here. "It's neat," enthuses bassist Joey DeMaio, "because there's a following for the band in every major city across America. The fans have been waiting for four years, and now, finally, we'll be thundering across America this spring. "
Manowar formed in 1980, when DeMaio and guitarist Ross the Boss met while both were working on a Black Sabbath tour. "We both grew up on bands like Black Sabbath that actually had talent," DeMaio says. "And we wanted to form a band like that, of great musicians that would play really heavy music, but do it melodically and do it well. Our music stems from classical musicnot your basic threedirge, falsetype of sound."
The two were joined by vocalist Eric Adams, and, later, drummer Scott Columbus, and the band was signed to Capitol Records on the strength of their demo tape. Their debut album, Battle Hymns, was released in 1982, but that's when their problems began: a scheduled 30tour with Ted Nugent ended after five shows, when Nugent asked them to leave the tour. The band was dropped by Capitol, and found themselves back at square one.
However, the album was a big success in England, and Manowar spent the next three years and three albums playing almost exclusively to European audiences. "We've been touring England and Europe as headliners for the last three years," DeMaio says. "Not actually ... well, probably by choice. We've got a strong following all over the world that's been very loyal to us. In fact, our fans are probably the most devout in the world. They've been there right from the beginning, and the band has progressed and grown with each album. And Atlantic saw that."
For a band that's come back as many times as Manowar, there can't be too many chances left, and with Fighting the World, they took exceptional care in getting the sound right. The album was recorded digitally in Chicago last year, and the band was extremely conscious of getting their sound to match their imageperform onstage wearing animal skins and breastplates. "We've got an image of being warriors and very animalistic and very aggressive," says DeMaio. "And we wanted the album to sound that way throughout. So therefore we had to tailor the sound of the album, like for instance, the background vocals, to a very aggressive, Vikingof chorus. There are some songs that we did 100 overdubs for the vocals alone."
The band collaborates on the songwriting, and DeMaio writes all of the lyrics. But
he is quick to play down any implication that his contribution might be greater than any other member's. "I want the band to be perceived as a band, and that we're four guys who actually like each other and like being on the road together. And therefore I don't really feel that any one member should appear better or stronger or more anything than the rest. We're all equal."
While DeMaio has kind words for the older bands that influenced Manowar (he cites Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Mountain), he has little fondness for most of the new generation of metal bands. "I just don't hear many great songs being written," he says. "A lot of today's stuff is just rehashed garbage, thirduntalented people playing. It's an insult to see someone wearing an instrument and they can't play it, and that's what predominates in the industry. Metallica's a good younger band, and Megadeth, and some of these young groups are fine.
"But the commercialised side of heavy metal, the guys wearing the bandanas and the long coats, it's ridiculous. Their first concern is not music and melody; it's flash. And that's why they cover up the fact that they can't play with smoke and bombs and fire and dragons. That's not heavy metal! Once you take the focus away from the performer, which is obviously their intention, then you undermine the quality of a band's performance. And that's one thing we don't do."
Now that things are going their way, Manowar is not looking to change the world or sell a million records, although I'm sure they wouldn't mind. "I just wanna bring the religion of true heavy metal to America," DeMaio says. "The quality and the standards are so low right now, and that's really sad. Each generation is getting weaker and weaker, because they're being influenced by guys who can't play their instruments.
"We have a band of real musicians that can play their instruments, and we're all classicallySo we are sort of dinosaurs in that respect. 1 don't think there will ever be another Manowar."