author EW date 01/09/12

In the league of death metal, it would be fair to say only Decapitated and Behemoth could rival Nile in terms of relevance over the past decade. The South Carolinians are a formidable force on record and live and with this years “At the Gates of Sethu”, continue to release their own brand of inimitably intricate and brutal death metal. Not just this, but having had the following chat with guitarist/vocalist/mainman Karl Sanders at Bloodstock I can confirm they also possess one of the nicest guys you could meet in the genre. Read on to see what he has to say about inspiration, song-writing and The Mummy movies. Hi Karl! I’ll start off with the obvious question; how was your performance from your point of view earlier today?
Karl: I had a great time. I had so much fun today, the audience was really warm and made us feel right at home. Was the interest in Egyptian mythology something you grew up with through your childhood and school or it’s adoption something that came to fit the extremity of the music?
Karl: A bit of both. It was a childhood interest and when I one day found myself playing in a band called Nile, I asked myself "Well, what would I want to hear from a band called Nile?" So you joined the band called Nile? I thought it was your band from the start…

Karl: Well it was, but we weren’t always called Nile. In fact for a while we had no name at all and a friend of mine said, "well you guys like that Middle Eastern stuff, why don’t you call yourselves Nile?” and we all thought it’s a simple name, probably make a logo, easily read, different… why not? Ah, ok. I didn’t know it came that way around. I thought maybe that was built to fit around the lyrical themes… What is it about ancient Egypt that interests you so much as opposed to other historical dynasties such as the Romans or Greeks?
Karl: Well as it turns out we named ourselves Nile, that sort of gave us a course. It’s a start. You said as well you had a childhood interest…

Karl: Exactly. So was it the grandeur, the history of it…

Karl: I don’t have a degree in it, so you know it’s just a casual interest. You’ve taken that casual interest quite far by releasing 7 albums around it!

Karl: Well you know actually the casual interest, the more I research the lyrics the more I became even more interested. It’s like the more you learn, the more there is for you to learn. Do you set any boundaries on what your lyrical themes must be - must it be Egyptian themed?

Karl: No not necessarily. There are other themes that you wouldn’t necessarily talk about so much, like on the new record there is a song called "The Natural Liberation of Fear Through the Ritual Deception of Death", which comes from ‘The Book of the Dead’. There’s always been Lovecraft ideas we’ve worked with and sometimes ancient Babylonian/Sumerian. So it’s not exclusively ancient Egypt, but there is certainly a mountain of it. So there is no lack of material or inspiration for future Nile albums.

Karl: Absolutely not! There’s a huge deep wellspring to draw from so I’m not worried right now about losing inspiration. A friend of mine, Joss, had a very particular question for you: have you any plans to write a song about Ramesses II Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites from 1300BC?
Karl: Well durr! We already did one, it’s called "Ramesses Bringer of War" and we did another one "A Multitude of Foes" so tell your friend that he should like do his research a little better! I did question it but he’s a big Nile fan so I thought I’d trust him on this but I’ll tell he’s wrong then.

Karl: He must be younger, cause that’s like on the first album and second album, so if he is young enough and… 26.

Karl: Ehh…(Karl judges for a moment on this one…). Old enough I s’pose! I tell him Karl has told him off! Having read your lyrics and read about those topics in books, do you have any films you can recommend you’re interested in or that you would recommend to someone regarding the topic?
Karl: You can start anywhere. When I was a kid I saw like "Land of the Pharaohs", "The Ten Commandments" (plus a couple more I can’t decipher) but there’s a whole slew of them that got me interested and no matter where you start they’re not necessarily historically accurate but sometimes I even ask myself does that even matter. Like The Mummy movies - when I first saw The Mummy movies I was like that’s all nice but has nothing to do with history and it was kinda annoying to me. But then a funny thing happened: I had a kid and I guess he was about 9 years old at the time and he saw The Mummy movie, and he loved it. He didn’t care that it was historically inaccurate, he didn’t care, it was fun! So he must’ve watched it like 50 times, for 2 months straight, everyday he wanted to watch The Mummy... And after about 2 months of it I started suddenly to see the movie through his eyes and I went "oh ok, this is how young people are inspired" so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a historically accurate movie to enjoy it, so I started looking at things a little bit different. That’s a good starting point, interesting you put it that way. When composing new material, you do your research obviously, but do you find a story for instance and think ‘wow that has a particularly dark edge to it’, and then build the music around it?
Karl: That’s exactly how I do it. I always start with the lyrics first and the lyrics help me find the music to bring those lyrics to life. Just from my point of view I had a feeling that’d be the case. So when you’re writing the new songs and you’re pushing the boundaries of technicality and extremity in death metal, how do you keep an oversight on pushing yourself while still writing memorable songs? Do you consider that at all times?

Karl: That’s the balance, isn’t it? It’s always a balance. Ultimately you have to trust yourself, because each audience member perceives music in a slightly different way. Everyone has a little bit different background, so everyone comes to it from a different place. So how do you find that right balance? I don’t know. I strike the balance that’s good for me and in that respect it’s honest and true. Do you feel within the constraints of Nile, which are relatively tight in the sense that you are an extreme death metal band, how much further do you feel you can push the Nile name and push your music within what’s available to you?
Karl: In life you are dealt a set of cards, and all you can do in life is try to play those cards the best you can. And maybe if you play them well enough you stay in the game longer, cos that’s all you can do. I really enjoy this band and I’ve put 20 years of my life in to it. I’m having fun, we are making music, we are playing metal… I am happy! You’re still very relevant today as well which is saying something… You did a couple of solo records which were very different and relaxing to Nile. Any more plans for further records under the Karl Sanders name?
Karl: I would like to carve out some time to get going on a third solo record. They were a lot of fun, I originally started making it just to relax, just to get a little bit of balance back in my life. When I am on tour doing death metal, I hear 5 or 6 hour of death metal everyday between our soundcheck, others bands soundcheck, and all the support bands and our show, so that’s 5 or 6 hours of death metal every day. So the side-project was just a way of playing some variety, to calm down, to restore a little bit of balance. Did you ever take it out on the road?

Karl: I don’t really think I’m going to. A – it’s not really meant for the live setting and b, I have a wife and child. If I were to tour with 2 bands it would be very unfair to them. They stood by me with all the Nile touring being gone for half the year, every year, to take on a second touring band I feel would be a little unfair. Maybe you could play as your own support act!

Karl: Who knows… Ok, last couple of questions: What was the last great new record you’ve heard or bought and thought that was amazing?
Karl: Fleshgod Apocalypse. I really like their last record, it was very blasphemous. Lecherous Nocturne, they’re working on a new one that’s like "holy shit!", erm last thing Cannibal Corpse did, all good stuff. Ok and finally if you had to do a duet with someone outside metal who would you choose and why?

Karl: No - if they are not metal fuck ‘em!! Nicely said! That’s all I’ve got, thank you very much.

Karl: Thank you, it was a lot of fun!

In the subsequent conversation I had Karl also revealed that the tour featuring Nile, Morbid Angel, Kreator and Fueled by Fire later this year will be heading to the UK (as yet not announced) so watch this space for more!

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