Sounds Usa - September 1983
Interview taken by Jay Williams
This was the day that worlds would split asunder, gods would point fiery fingers earthwards, mountains would shake at the frightening punishments that were to be meted out. Grown men hide their faces in fear and shame, women gasp, torn between ecstacy and unbridled terror, ancient warriors rise from slumber. Today is the day I interview Joey De Maio from Manowar.
Bassman looks ridiculously out of place among the bumfluff chinned doorboys and the crawling house plants in the Paddington hotel. We order food (meat, naturally) and in between gulps of (no, not Bull's Blood) Perrier and orange juice, I find out how real men approach their music.
Do you feel is the most important part of what you do the music or the image?
“Well, the music is always the message. We don't have a stage show as in backdrops and that kind of thing our backdrop is amplifiers. We don't have fire or bombs or any of that bemuse, the music is everything. The whole thing with Manowar has always been and will always be the fact that our special effect is that we can actually play, whereas a lot of the other bands can't. Our whole thing is, 'why wear a guitar if you can't actually play it?...”
Do you think that's something which is becoming more the case more people picking up guitars who can't actually play?
“Yes; Definitely. 10% of the bands can play, and the other 90% is crap."read somewhere that you're trying to (and I quote) 'bring mannishness back into the world'.
Is this something that you're finding difficult?
"I think it's all a question of how you think and how you act. To me mannishness is a question of being straightforward with what you say, not pissing about, if you've got something to say, say it ... and also not saying things behind people's backs things you wouldn't say to their face. I think that's a good way to keep friends. Say for instance, if you say, 'Gee, how do you like my sweater?' (not something Manowar would wear, I reckon, unless it was made of mammoth fur) if it looks godawful, and you're going to walk out into the nearest street and make a fool out of yourself, a true friend would say, 'To be absolutely honest with you, it looks like shit'. In a sense, that's being mannish. Also I think 'The Look' is very important. I think an HM band that plays aggressive music should look the part. A lot of the American crap ... all the people have jacked up hairdos, and they're playing through small gear ... it's what we hate False Metal.”
you worried that people who come and see you are just going to look at the image and no further?
"We consider the way we dress to be secondary to the music. With the outfits, we're trying to get across to people that we are the most savage, animalistic metal band. That's why we choose dress closer to that of animals. We dress like a warrior would in time gone by. You know, in those days you couldn't just walk into a clothes store. But we don't want people to look up to us and say, ‘Wow, I want to be like that' you can be your own hero. We're our own heroes I don't look up to anybody else, there's nobody I wanna be more than myself. I think everybody should think that way. Manowar is saying 'do your own thing'."
Do have no heroes?
“I have no heroes. I’m my own hero.”’
You've never had heroes?
“Oh, definitely. I’ve had vast influences. Everything from movie characters to bands – anything that’s been great in whatever field has always left an impression on rim. Everything I've ever gotten into. I've always looked to see who was at the top, and consequently been impressed by him. “
what made you decide that you wanted to be the most savage band in the world?
"It's just a question of your own personal character. I'm the sort of person who is not happy unless I'm always going over the top. I've done that all my life with anything I've over done. I guess it's a good way to be and it's a bad way to be."
Do you consider it is a privilege to be able to play in front of people?
"Yes. And that's why we hate false metal. Because they're ripping off those kids who come through the door. They pay money to me for something good, and they don't see something good, they see shit. And that's why I consider it the greatest privilege in the world that I'm fortunate enough to be able to walk out onto that stage and have those people pay money hard earned money to see Me. For that one lousy hour, when you're up there, if you can't kill yourself for that crowd, then you don't deserve to be up there. You should die."
Do you ever get stage fright?
"Never. I belong there. I'm not frightened by it at all. The people that don't belong there are the ones that should get stage fright ... and they quite often do, because they know they got no place."
Presumably you respond warmly to a live crowd?
“Ohhhh ... for me it's the ultimate experience. There is nothing else except the crowd ... and I know that Manowar fans happen to be the staunchest supporters of any group. We're the type of group you either love or hate. The type of people that like Manowar are individuals."
What makes you different?
"Well we can play. Our singer can really sing. Our drummer hits the drums extremely hard. In terms of looking at metal, I think we are the ultimate unit. We go all out for metal.”
Do you always play to receptive crowds?
“We've encountered crowds that have been instantly blown away, and we've encountered crowds that have viewed us with a sort of apprehension ... they think 'oh, wait a minute, they're wearing these crummy outfits are they posers?' and in fact they are the kind of crowd we prefer, because that way you know you've got to be everything you're cracked up to be. That's why we're coming to England, because it is the most musically discriminating country in the world. I think that if you can be a success in front of an English audience, then the rest of the world is secondary. If they latch onto you, fine. If they don't, they're square. England started metal off, and now we're here to give back what you've given us, only double strength."
Do you think you will be accepted in Britain?
"Well, let's put it this way. If we're not, there's not really a lot of point in carrying on, because we certainly don't belong in America...."
Deriously are you going to interpret the response? Is it going to have a major effect on your career?
"Oh, definitely. I think if we go down a storm here, it will probably be the most important moment in my life. I've been working all my life to get a chance to play in England ... this for me is it. I'm achieving my life’s dream.”
Do you take criticism to heart?
"I'm actually beginning to get quite a kick from some of the slaggings we got in the press. I think it's really funny. I've got a good book at home called The Lexicon Of Musical Invective (Whaaattt??) and in it, every great composer Is slagged from reviewers of their day... all my musical heroes are in there being slagged, and they dealt with it, so I should be able to. But if you think that you've really driven somebody to go so far that they have to sit down and think of really rotten things to say about you, then you know your music has had an effect! We've always said, 'We’ll take your love or we'll take your hate’ it makes no difference."
How much have you been influenced by classical music?
"Very much so. My favourite form of music. I don't listen to heavy metal”
"Wagner, number one, Debussy, Bartok, Liszt..."
don't listen to HM at all?
"No, not really. I mean, I like Judas Priest, I like Black Sabbath, there are groups that I like ... it's just after listening to Manowar there isn't much left."
Bags of room for argument there. My girlfriend. who thought Manowar was a sort of large jellyfish until I told her they wore the most savage metal band in the cosmos etc. listens to the tape of the interview and comments: "I suppose they have to behave they're the best if they want to get to the top" fair enough. But I wonder if they are relentlessly barbaric enough to top the likes of Ozzy, Twisted Sister and others who have laid claim to the OTT throne. We shall see in November. you think you're going to be able to sustain this peak of greatness for a long period of time?
“I think everybody reaches their peak at what they do - and then it's time to knock it on the head."
you consider that your ultimate peak has been reached?
“Nowhere near it. I think that although we're the best at what we do, our music can become a bit more diverse ... for instance, I play four and eight string basses, and now I've got a special surprise that the English are going to be the first to hear ... being that I consider myself to be the fastest bass guitarist in the world, my speed transcends the instrument the bass guitar as we know it so I'm using an instrument now called the Piccolo Bass. It's a bass guitar tuned up to the pitch of a guitar, so I can play really fast and you can hear all the notes. The articulation is there. I've played it for a few people and they've said, 'If I close my eyes and somebody said it was Eddie Van Halen, I'd believe them'."
you got any more to learn with the bass?
"Yes. I consider myself still to be student of the instrument. Believe me, I'm quite far ahead of the game as fair at my competition is concerned, but it's all relative. I'm sure there's some guy sitting on a mountain top in Asia right now, and he's playing a bass guitar and he makes me sound like I'm sleeping. So there's always somewhere to go."
THAT IS the gospel according to Joey DeMaio, bassist for Manowar. He has brash faith in himself and the band, and whether or not it's all talk remains to be seen. He's a likeable guy and my opinion is that his commitment is total. And, dammit, I was thinking about Conan The Barbarian so much I forgot to ask him if he ate quiche or not.