With new album, What Should Not Be Unearthed, due on the 28th of August, we had a chance to talk to Karl about it, Nile’s history and how they put things together musically – from writing lyrics to tuning their guitars and Karl’s own signature line of 6-strings. The last time I’d crossed paths with Karl was when they were touring with Ex Deo a couple of years ago and unfortunately I missed most of their set as I was interviewing Maurizio. It was nice to get a chance to make up for it and spend some time talking to Karl, who proved to be very interesting!
Thanks, as ever, to the lovely Claire at Nuclear Blast for organising everything.
The new album comes out on August 28th. Is there a particular theme or concept to this album?
It’s not a concept album in the way that Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album. It’s more like some metal songs that are mixed to be enjoyed and to be played live. It’s a metal record.
Was production any different on this album or are you into a bit of a routine now?
It’s a similar kind of sequence in terms of order of events, but this one is coming from a different place in terms of what we were trying to do, what sound we were going for. I think this one has a really big, crushing kind of sound which is something I think was lacking on the last record.
Are you the main songwriter for the band?
I contributed a few songs for this album. Dallas – our guitarist – he wrote a few songs as well. The album’s a kind of collaborative effort. It’s not a strict democracy, but it’s not a dictatorship either! It’s somewhere in between!
You’ve got a new member in Brad Parris on bass as of earlier this year. Did he contribute to the writing process or was he a little too late in joining?
He was a little too late. We hired him as a touring musician. On the record, Dallas and I both played bass. We’re really happy to have Brad with us. He’s done a Brazilian tour with us, and he did exceptionally well. He’s like a breath of fresh air. He’s got a lot of youthful enthusiasm and metal spirit.
Where did you find him?
Actually, he was the lighting engineer and merch helper on our last American tour. Over the months we came to see what a great guy he was and that he could absolutely shred. Beyond that, he knew every metal song that was ever written ever in the history of metal! So when it came to the time when we needed a new bass player, he was the first guy we called.
What led you to pick the likes of Egypt and the Middle East as themes for your albums?
Years ago – back around ’93 or so – I woke up and realised I was playing in a band called Nile. I asked myself, if I was a listener, what would I expect to hear from a band called Nile?
So the band name was first and the lyrical content followed?
Absolutely. That’s the way it happened.
For the last few albums you’ve included comprehensive liner noted detailing the story behind each song. Can we expect this with the new album?
Absolutely. I wrote the liner noted this time and it was a lot of fun. A lot of the fans appreciate them so it’s become part of the Nile tradition.
Were you already interested in the Egyptian mythology and so forth which you’re putting into the music, or have you found yourselves learning more and researching because you picked it as a topic?
I think it’s a little of both. I had an interest in it before Nile, and when it came time to write Nile songs I found that if I was going to do it then I wanted to research all the lyrics and word to make sure I had a solid base for writing about these subjects. It was quite a bit of study and research in the early years… buying books and over the years fans have sent me books, literature, texts, all kinds of artifacts. It’s been kind of a growing process over the years.
Could you ever see yourself straying away from those topics either with Nile or with a side project?
If I ever did choose a different topic then it would have to be under a different name. I do have a solo project and it’s quite quiet, ambient soundtrack music. It’s mainly music with just a little bit of vocals, but they’re quite weird vocals.
You’ve got two solo albums out. Are there plans for a third?
Everyone’s been asking about that and truthfully I’ve not had the time for it yet. Nile is quite a demanding consumer of my time.
You do play a lot of live dates. Is that quite exhausting?
The travelling’s exhausting but I like playing shows and I like meeting metal fans. But I’v got to admit- if you spend twenty hours on an airplane to fly around the world… that’s tiring!
Your music has been highlighted as being particularly technical. Has this, do you feel, become a defining feature of the band?
It has been something that’s been focussed on quite a bit. I think with the new album we took an anti-technical approach. There may be blazing fast drums and there’s a high standard of musicianship in what we do, but with this album it’s all been harnessed for a higher power. The goal was to take what we do and make memorable, catchy songs with it.
Perhaps to make the album more accessible?
I hate the word “accessible” because it implies elements of commercialism which your by no means going to get when you put on a Nile record! But is it able to be listened to by the listener? Yes. There was a focus on, by using careful song-craft, building memorable songs.
One thing I spotted regarding your music is that you use drop-A tuning. I this true?
That is true, it’s not a lie, it’s not a myth. Drop-A tuning is sort of like drop-D tuning, but you’re going down from A. Or another way to think of it is it’s A-E-A-D-F#-B. We go for a heavier gauge string as it’s a lower tuning. It’s a 70 on the bottom. I use a 10 on the top and Dallas uses a 13 on the top.
You have a signature guitar coming out through Dean soon?
That is correct. It’s a copy of the USA hand-made black V that I’ve been playing for years. It’s got a scalloped fretboard and another interesting feature is that the pick-up is straight-wired to the jack. There is no tone nob and there’s no volume nob. Keeping it really basic because you get a hotter, cleaner sound. It’s pure tone with nothing getting in the way. It’s as simple as simple can possibly get.
How did you end up working with Dean on that guitar?
I’ve been playing Dean guitars for years and the Dean guys thought it was time that they did some kind of guitar with me. Certainly, I have a lot of unusual ideas for guitars that work for me and, given the chance, lots of other people might like playing these guitars.
The fact that Dean have asked you to work on these guitars with them must make you feel quite proud about Nile and how well you must be doing?
What it makes me feel is that I hope they sell a lot of guitars otherwise Dean are going to have egg on their face and they’ll be mad at me! I want to sell some guitars so I stay in good standing with Dean!
The last time I saw you was out on the road with Ex Deo. You guested on their first album. How did that come about?
I was friends with Maurius and he just asked me to do it. I said sure! We toured with them over there and over here. Those are great guys.
If you could pick any artist to guest with, who would it be?
Maybe Earth, Wind and Fire. I’d like to take what I do and make it danceable!
You’ve got tour dates sorted across Europe coming up. Are you looking forward to that?
Absolutely. We’re touring all over Europe and the UK with Nile and Suffocation. It’s going to be a great metal night for sure.
If you were doing a world tour and you were completely in control of it, what two bands would you bring with you?
Erm… Immolation and Krisiun. Krisiun are a Brazilian band and they’re completely brutal. Their guitar player is an incredible guitarist! Holy fucking shit! Moyses Kolesne is amazing. Metal as fuck.
Thinking back to when you were just starting out before your first album. Imagine a band in that position now. Knowing what you do now, what advice would you give them?
That’s a tough question as it’s infinitely tougher for bands nowadays. There are fewer places for a band to practice their craft. As many young bands will probably attest, when you start marketing yourself you’re competing against thousands of other bands all vying for the public’s attention. It’s like a giant wall of indifference nowadays. No-one gives a fuck. There are so many bands it’s so hard to get people to pay attention to a new band. It takes a lot to stand out.
I would say work on your songs. Your songs are what people will listen to and ultimately that’s what will take you somewhere. Working on your music. Honing it, polishing it. I think that’s first, prime, paramount importance.
Finally, going back to the new album, are there any special editions being planned?
There’s a vinyl edition, and a box set as well. Fans can look forward to having plenty of interesting new Nile product!
What Should Not Be Unearthed comes out on August 28th through Nuclear Blast.