Interview - Manowar Undisclosed

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BW&BK Canada - 31 1999


Interview taken by Martin Popoff

It's not exactly the sound of thunder, despite Joey DeMaio's marauding bass dominance. It's more like a supersonic slice to the cranium, an assault of mid frequency shockwaves that is the marriage of Joey's bass flurries, Scott Columbus' insistent sharp, dry, bass drum attack, Karl Logan's plain, straight to the face power chording and above the glorious din, the vocal overswell of Eric Adams. What I'm referring to, of course, is the sick, barely contained power of Manowar live.

Manowar have been a steady success in Europe for close to a decade now, taking their volume on tow, regularly building and maintaining a sizable following. And with the rise of HammerFall, Primal Scream, In Flames, Witchery, Stratovarius, and the continued success of Helloween and Gamma Ray, it seems their methodology has rubbed off and paid off. In essence, the rise of '80 power metal is a validation of Manowar and their all-things-metal credo. Now, after eight studio albums, the band has hit us in Kiss-like fashion with a wealth of live footage, first, last year's Hell On Wheels and now Hell On Stage. Joey explains the reasoning behind two live albums in quick succession.

"What we did really, was finish off the second part of the whole concept. When we finished recording Hell On Wheels, we realized we had more songs than what would fit on two CDs, which is because we waited for eight records before we made our first live album. So we figured, 'wow, we have Chapter 1 here, let's fill out Chapter 2'. So that's what we set out to do. And in order to say a special thanks to some of the fans in some of the territories that we played a lot in, we decided to include a free bonus CD. There's one for Germany, with songs recorded just in Germany, one for France, one in Portugal and one in Spain. We're thinking about releasing one more that will have a bonus for Brazil. And in the US and Canada, they get the German EP, and then in other markets, they just get the double album version."

The French issue contains a cover of Labelle's 'Lady Marmalade', a rare off-plan light moment for the band.

"It's not really a cover, it's just us sort of fucking around. The funny part about it was we're always talking about how we don't speak French, and we were joking around with our buddy at the record company. We wanted to say some words to the French girls, so we figured the earn would be 'Voulez vous couchez avec moi?'. It really look off, and boy, the crowd went crazy over it, and the whole place was singing it. Really funny."

To come up with the sprawling, catalogue deep Manowar mania that is Hell on Stage (including lots of rare Into Glory Ride stuff), the band recorded over forty shows, causing an endless process of sift and save.

"Oh God," cringes Joey at the memory. "We fell compelled to do that in order to give ourselves the best possible choices in order to select the best audiences, the best energy the best halls. There's a whole lot that goes into a live record. You can do it the way everybody else does it, tape one show, which is the easy way, the cheap way the easiest way out for everybody involved. Or you con do it the way we do it, which is suffer and totally break your ass but come up with something that is really really special. Think about it. You record a concert, big fucking deal! There's no guarantee the room is going to sound good, the audience is going to be great, the band is going to perform each and every selection to the maximum. It's kind of a rip off. So we decided to record the whole tour, and go back and select the best performances. It was really gruelling in the studio, I have to tell you."

Song selection was done, as are many points of business within Manowar, using an inspiring democracy that included the fans.

"Before we went out oil the tour, we looked at all the fan mail, the emails from over the Internet, things people have written in over the years, and just put together what they wanted. And it was interesting because a lot of the songs we had never played live before. And some of the songs we haven't played in a while. And it was great to do them, new energy. If you put this album together with Hell On Wheels, you get the definitive live record from Manowar. You can't really have one without the other. I just like the whole record. I think the bond was playing incredibly well, the audiences were great, we recorded in a variety of halls, and most of them were the right size to sound good. Places that are too big don't sound good usually. We were just very very pleased that everything came together. You can hear the animal crowds in every country. When yo uhave forty performances of each song to pick from, you can really give your fans the best value for their money. That's the most important thing for us."

As a final touch, the band has assembled a lavish booklet, artsy live shots, a track-by-track by superfan Olaf Heinen, a defiant introductory essay from the band, and as usual a crazy, over-the-top cover illustration.

"That's our artist, Ken Kelly, same guy that does all our covers. It's just another extension of Manowar's personality on the road. The devil comes out of us on the road, that's for sure (laughs). Ken's the same way we are. We work together on one concept, and then we drive it home. We don't fuck around."

But the reason our little chat was a cross-country call from California, and not with headquarters in upstate New York, was that Manowar were playing movie star, finishing up mixing on the band's first full-form video, due out in September.

"What's going to happen is that after we do this summer tour of festivals in Europe (ed. Co-headlining with Metallica at Dynamo in Holland and Gods Of Metal in Italy), we're going to release the video. That's something the fans have been screaming for years, and I know it's going to made a lot of people happy. It'll be maybe one, two, three hours long, who knows? It's going to be from the fan's perspective, all the craziness and wildness of Manowar live. So with Hell On Wheels and Hell On Stage, you can hear the craziness. Now you're going to see it. We've got everything, tour bus, hotels, backstage, onstage, fans, fans with tattoos, fans going crazy; it's going to be just complete fucking insanity. We've also started a record label, and we're looking for a bands that are interesting and different and heavy and wild and crazy and artistic. The name of the label is Magic Circle Music. So, if you hear any bands that are heavy and you think are happening, different and interesting, send me a tape. Canada has always been a stronghold of metal (ed. Go to the band's webpage and contact the boys if you think you can compete!)
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