Metal Hammer Uk - 1988
WAR IS HELL!!
Interview taken by Bill Eikost
It was sort of deja vu. I had spoken to Joey DeMaio last November about Manowar's plan for a follow up to 'Fighting The World'. He informed me that they were going to record their new album in Chicago at Universal Studios because they liked the studio. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was being invited to the studio to watch them put it all together. I would then be one of the first people to hear the new (as yet untitled) album. I couldn't wait. This was a band that I had been listening to for six years and I still haven't grown tired of their style. One morning my phone rang. It was my leaders at Metal Hammer askingme to cover Manowar for a week in und out of the studio. It was almost a dream come true, a week in hell with Manowar. Actually, it was rather odd. I had made these plans six months ago. I accepted this assignment without hesitation. I would write a diary of events; this would give you the real feel of a studio taken over by the Barons of Deafness. So, here is my life in and out of the studio with Joey DeMaio of Manowar.
1st Day in Hell
I called Joey DeMaio at his apartment and made arrangements to meet with him around 7:00 p.m. Joey was glad to hear that I would be coming down a few days early; this would give him the chance to introduce me to the people that would be working on this Manowar album. It would also give me a chance to check out some of the bars in the neighbourhood. As we made our way into the Studio 'A’ control booth, I soon found that we were not alone. This booth was filled with people So jammed in fact that it was hard to move. Among the personnel inside were Rich Breen- engineer: Matt Gruber, known to the group as 'Elvis'; Rich's assistant; Vince Gutman - the man behind the Manowar drum sound; and Dave DiSanto guitar/keyboard tech, and the one who keeps Joey fed while away from home. Vince and Richard, at the time, seemed to be busy transferring drum sounds from computer disk to digital tape. Yes, this will be another digital album.Joey now suggests that the three of us move over to Studio ‘C’ so we can hear some of the digital samples that he has accumulated in the past few months. These sample were amazing, and many of them will make it to album. Some of these samples, without giving anything away, were dogs, cars, and even a bedtime story. Imagine going to sleep to the sounds and stories of Manowar. The next tape to be loaded up was Joey’s bass solo. Joey has been telling me all evening about this live tape he has. This was from one of the three concerts that Manowar had played here in late April.Joey kept saying, “you gotta hear this.".So, we did. This tape that Joey wanted me to listen to was a speech that he had given just before their encore of 'Battle Hymns'. Joey frequently tells stories about events that happen on the road, etc. while up on stage. This speech was about you, true Manowar fans. I will not go into details at this time, let's just say that this speech was very powerful and moving. It almost made me want to jump up and scream, "off with their heads." From the studio we went on to dinner. Joey, Gretchen and I strolled across the street to a restaurant. I began asking Joey about how he spent the past month in the studio. He just sighed and said, 'editing'. “Over the past month I have been editing tape that we recorded over in Birmingham, England”. He continued, “we have decided to use a 100 voice all male choir for this album. Wait till you hear it, it is going to kill!”. Our waiter Bill came to take our order. I ordered catfish, Gretchen ordered a shrimp salad, and Joey a half dozen shrimp and oysters. I am informed by Joey that he is a sushi nut. So, I guess in the next few months I will be eating a lot of raw fish.
2 Day in Hell
Met Joey, Dave, and John ‘Dawk’ Stillwell (the man behind the sound that comes from the Manowar equipment) for dinner at Bay Street. We had a few hours to kill before our “night out with the boyz”, so we headed back to Joey’s pad. Our conversation revolved around metal. That is metal and its future. Joey views metal as stabilizing because “there are no supergroups around today. Sure great musicians try to get together to form a supergroup, but it always turns out that they cannot get along together, or they have no material.”. Although Joey does not put down metal, he can only keep from laughing at some groups. "Without naming groups by name, I find it funny that some of these so called ‘metal' bands have to call in outside musicians to play their parts in the studio. To me that is not metal. That is what the Monkees did. What surprises me is that these groups sell 2 million albums. Manowar on 'Fighting the World' sold a little over 250,000 copies in the U.S. For us that is great, but we are not concerned with album sales. What Manowar is concerned with is keeping our loyal following happy with the true metal that we play."Joey has a hard time seeing the thrash scene getting any bigger than it already is.am not the biggest fan of thrash, but it is all starting to sound alike. It all sounds like Metallica, but even Metallica are getting away from the standard thrash sound. Doing different things is the only way that thrash can be kept alive.” “Eventually”, Joey adds, “there will be a constant sound in metal. But for the time being, it is up to groups like Manowar to play the true metal that we have in our heart, and the true metal that is in the hearts of metal fans around the world.” The Thirsty Whale was our next stop this fine, and very warm evening. This just so happens to be Manowar’s home away from home. This is the only place in Chicago that features hard rock or heavy metal on a continuous basis. Why else do you think Manowar plays here when passing thru town? Joey sees that metal does not seem to exist in Chicago, but he also sees that this is the only place in town that he can go to be with his true brothers and sisters of metal. Where were Dawk and Dave? They must have gotten lost. It was time to call it a night, but there was still no sign of Dawk and Dave, hmmm. It had been a long day for the two of us. We couldn’t wait any longer, so we finally decided to pack it in. this was an average day out with Joey DeMaio. He is not the type of person that likes to smash up hotel rooms, or bashing reporters in the face (at least I hope not). Joey is the kind of guy who likes to go out and have a good time with friends.
3 Day in Hell.
This is where the time with Manowar will seem to lag a little. The studio can prove to be tedious, for the musicians as well as anyone who observers the process night after night. I guess this why they call it hell.. This third evening with Joey is spent doing what else, editing. I am sitting around the synclavier room tonight watching Joey and Rich edit the choral parts that Joey recorded while in Birmingham a little over a month ago. This process is amazing to the novice who has never observed such a thing. It is my first experience with digital recording, so tonight was going to be spent learning, just call me the digital virgin. The process starts with choir parts that have been recorded on to DAT (Digital Audio Tape) machines. These sounds are then transferred to disks that remind me of large compact disks. From this sounds can be accessed by punching in a time number or location to a computer terminal. What this whole technique does is eliminate that endless rewinding of analog tape, which can wear its particles down to nothing. It also allows the editor to obtain more exact places on the source. Choir parts are being chosen, and then lined up to the drum and scratch tracks that have been recorded already. This is hair pulling work and lining up the parts can get as close as a hundredth of a second or better. Wouldn’t you just love to do this for a living? Of all the things that are done in the studio this has to be the worst. Imagine spending a month listening to choir parts, the same thing over and over again. And you thought studio life was glamorous. Joey takes a short break, for phone calls, with the women of course. Now he can finally get down to doing what he is here to do, lay his bass parts on tape. The first song that he cuts is not your typical Manowar song. The bass, along with the rest of the instruments, really move, you might say it is rather trashy. You better hold on tight when you hear this one. I did. A musician, Andy, was recording down the hall came in after Joey was finished. Andy was sure that it was a guitarist that was recording. You should have heard Andy when he found out that it was a bass. Around three o’clock, Joey and Rich have almost had it with the click track that has been blasting their ears all night. So, before they have to call in their hearing ear dogs (a small joke), they call it a night. Time sure did fly, it was now pushing 2 A. M. On my return to find Joey I ran into Manowar’s “social director” Randy Kertz. It seems that he has been the one who has arranged some of the fun and games for the band the last few times in town. After a quick hello, we all left for our various beds. Who knows what lay ahead for Joey when he returns to his room. Only tomorrow, make that later today, will tell.
4 Day of Hell
Finally Joey gets his shot at the recording studio. He is excited as well as relieved to get away from what is now being called the ‘stinklavier room’. Joey’s day in the studio begins at 6:00 P.M. with the setting up of equipment and figuring out the sound that will be put on tape. This alone can take hours, and it does. First thing to be done is to decide what amps are going to be used. This is one of the most important steps in the recording process. After Joey fiddles with his sound the tape type is to be decide upon. To decide this Joey plays bass to one of the numbers, this in turn is being recorded on both tapes at the same time. Both tapes are played back, switched back and forth to see the difference. This allows Joey and Rich to hear what sounds best to their ears. It is finally decided that digital will be the way to go.
Another Day of Hell (5)
Today was another day in the ‘stinklavier room’. Joey and Rich are again holed up in the den of Satan. Funny, some of the people around the studio think that Manowar are really Satan worshippers. Joey and Rich are having a problem, so I had better pay attention. The problem that they face is the choir does not end in the same place as the band. So, it is up to Rich to work his magic (not black magic) with the digital sources. When digital sounds are edited, they can be broken down into segments, or in this case syllables. All this work is done originally through a computer. All sounds are called up through computer disk and put onto a terminal. There, what you see are sound waves, or wiggles on a screen. These waves are separated and then replayed to see how the words end. If everything come out o.k. then it is placed back onto a disk and then later transferred to digital tape. It is a big headache for the engineer at this stage. He is the one that has to slave over the synclavier and the computer terminal. Joey’s job is to make sure everything sounds good to him. If not, Rich has to do everything all over again. Don’t say that Joey has it easy at this point because he doesn’t. Do you know how hard it can be to judge something after hearing it over and over. It all starts to sound the same. While on a break Joey and I start talking about our mutual interest in film. We start talking about favourite films and stars and I learn about the bands film hero, Erroll Flynn. He begins to talk about another film that is a favourite of his called “El Cid” film fest. My evening ends with Joey around 10:30 P.M. I tell him to expect me around the usual time tomorrow. He then says, ‘same time, same place brother’.
Day 666 in Hell
The remainder of the evening is spent recording and rerecording many tracks. Again, it can be meticulous work, and if Joey isn’t satisfied the tape starts rolling again. Joey finally declares himself and his ears dead and calls it a night (3:30 A.M.).Final Day of Hell Well, it is my final day on this story. I do not know if I am glad or sad. It is nice to know that my final day in Hell will be spent in Studio ‘A’. I arrive at 7:00 and find Joey strapping on his bass. Today he is going to be laying down other versions of the tracks that had been recorded the night before. Some of these are going to be used as over-dubs, others may be selected to be used alone. At this point Joey has about eight versions of bass on tape, and he hasn’t added his eight string bass parts yet. Rich even comments on Joey’s use of all the tracks for his bass. He says, "you have to saw room for the other instruments, or do you want it to be bass and drums?" Joey jokes, "I was going to add bells, chimes, lute and mandolin as well."
I told Joey I would catch up with him this weekend for drinks, and said goodbye to everyone else. Many of you are probably disappointed as to the lack of activity that went on this past week (True: Ed.). Life as a rock 'n roll star is not all fun and games. Manowar take their jobs seriously, and they feel that they have plenty of time to fool around. They are in town to record an album that sounds good. As Dawk says, "moderation is the secret to life." Take things easy and you will live a long life. I had a blast with Joey and the rest of the crew and will log this down as time well spent. Who knows, maybe when the Manowar circus hits the road later this year, I will be able to give you a firsthand look at their life on a concert tour.