KARL SANDERS (NILE) sentenced: “the best reason to make music is to share it with people”13 min read
After a long time, we had the pleasure to talk with the talented Karl Sanders, the reason was a new solo album called “Saurian Apocalypse”, and the new European Tour of NILE with their “Vile Nilotic Rites” (2019), and this time, Karl talked about everything, you´ll know a lot of his creative process, music influences, and advice: a guitarist (and a band) that YOU MUST EXPERIENCE.
Are you doing international touring again?
KS: In September we did the Monterey Mexico Fest, we have an upcoming tour in November in Europe.
Cool, I hope it goes well in Europe everybody expects a new lockdown or something like that because the Covid chaos continues.
KS: yeah, me too, me too.
How was it playing live again after the pandemic?
KS: it was great, from the very first minutes that we played on the first night, hit the first fucking chord started the song, and like “oh yeah, this is why I love doing, this yeah fucking yeah, here we go”.
It was quite hard, isn’t it?
KS: yeah, at the time we were in the middle of the Omicron surge so it meant we had a lot of fucking rules and protocols on the tour bus, and it didn’t make life very easy at all, it was difficult to keep order on a bus with a dozen metal guys and they all have to follow rules, and metal people don’t necessarily follow rules so good, haha, that’s not metal, nobody was happy, but we were happy to be making music so that part was great.
Right, that’s the best thing for us too, so we were very happy to hear about your other project. How do you feel with your own music, besides NILE?
KS: well, it’s a very calm kind of project, it’s quiet, it’s very tranquil and meditative so, it’s about chilling out, so it’s relaxing music, before to sleep.
How was your inspiration for starting this project?
KS: Well, I really just wanted some peace and quiet, when you play Death Metal when you go on tour and you spend a lot of time touring, you are surrounded by Death Metal all day long you got, you’re not just your own sound check but every band that’s playing on the build their sound check too, then to show you hear all those bands again and that’s fucking wonderful, right? you’re surrounded by Death Metal all day long if you’re in the building there’s some Death Metal going on that’s great, you who could if you’re a metal fan who could ask for anything better than have metal all day long, every day.
But after 10 days you need a balance, right?
KS: I just want a little peace and quiet, I want to hear myself think, without my brain being beaten into jelly with blast speeds and double bass and people screaming at me all day long.
Right, I mean I need to be so quiet I downgrade to Metallica.
KS: there you go, it’s pop music, haha.
How long did you think about this project to make it real?
KS: I didn’t think about it when it first started it wasn’t an actual project at all it was just music that I was making just to be happy but Matt Jacobson had Relapse Records, heard me playing some of it on my day off and said “you know what you gotta release this, you got to share it with people, you can’t just keep this to yourself it’ll be good for people, people will like really enjoy what this is because it’s really restful, kind of peaceful dreamy like stuff, you’ve got to share it” so I went okay, all right and so then it became a project.
It’s an excellent compliment because somebody tells you that you have to share your music.
KS: I took it that way as well like you know if you’re doing something share it with people and let other people have good from it too, why not that’s the best reason to make music.
Are you planning any tours to support your solo project?
KS: I don’t think so, I think I have enough NILE touring to keep me happy, some of this music would be really hard to reproduce just like it is, exotic instruments like lots of musicians it would be a challenge, like if I had a Hans Zimmer size budget right, then I could do it if Hans Zimmer’s money and no problem, haha.
Right, it must also be nice to be able to Jam away and never have to play again, out of inspiration without memorizing everything so exactly, that must be a nice feeling as well.
KS: yeah, like it’s creatively very healthy to do a piece of music and then let it go, it’s done, it’s away from me and for other people and I don’t have to think about it anymore, I can just if I want to hear it I can just press play, just like everybody else and enjoy it that way I don’t have to fucking think about it, it’s I really like that, it’s creatively very cleansing like I did this thing, now my mind is free to think about something else.
It’s also much less pressure than in this NILE issue, it’s like a real business, so it’s completely different, just express yourself as you want, don´t you?
KS: yes, I think there’s a conceptual separation between making music and music business, right? and once you take this, this pure free thing, is creative, making music, and you try to do this, with it, this isn’t as fun anymore, as soon as it becomes a business it’s not fun anymore, so yeah the story albums are a lot of fun and creativity without all the stress and headaches of NILE.
NILE will write completely different songs as you´ll change your style or will it be always faithful to the original style?
KS: if you’ve been a band for many years and fans appreciate what you do, then doing something too different it’s got to be different enough to be interesting, not so different that the fans who love what you do can’t relate to it, so I think there’s kind of a duty to your fan base not to fuck over your fans by doing something so ridiculously different that they don’t understand it the same way, now established pretty well already, but now it’s all about, so I think it’s reasonable that if one is a NILE fan one should have a reasonable expectation with a few little surprises maybe, but pretty much it’s not going to turn into AC-DC, haha, we’re looking for new jobs if we did that anyway, I think that’s where bands really go wrong is you got to respect your fans.
What brought you into metal, what was your first album, and what’s your story?
KS: first album well BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, CREAM these were the things I started listening to when I was young and that was a pathway, so by the time when I was a teenager that IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST came along, I was already with that mindset because of BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, CREAM, LED ZEPPELIN so what’s this shit I loved, so it was kind of a natural evolution for me and all of a sudden IRON MAIDEN fucking “Killers” what a killer record, I still listen to “Killers” it’s a great album.
Do you still like those bands?
KS: yes of course I do, I still do.
You transition slowly into the harder stuff, what was your first Death or Black Metal album?
KS: it’s a fucking good question because, like POSSESSED “Seven Churches” isn’t exactly Death Metal it’s pretty fucking close so I think right about that time you had your early SLAYER things like “Hell Awaits” or “Haunting The Chapel”, the early SLAYER, that POSSESSED, I didn’t really like VENOM because I thought it was a little bit clownish although we had to love the imagery, yeah I also really like the first BATHORY records, I remember hearing those and going “man this is some dark shit”.
And when did you decide to learn how to play your actual instrument?
KS: I’ve been playing since I was nine years, in my school, yes, all my life, I was in fourth grade, and in my school as an elective, you could take guitar so okay I’m all on that, so there were 20 kids in my class, and out of all those 20 I was probably…the worst, haha, one of my early teachers who said to me “Karl you will never be good enough to play your own music, don’t even bother with it”, I had to work for it, I wasn’t the most gifted kid in the class, I had to work, I had to put the time in, but that’s what matters, what matters is how bad you want it, that’s what counts.
A great path, some magazine publishers that you are the fourth-best Death Metal guitarist of all time, what do you think about it?
KS: some folks appreciate what it is I do but you know I don’t put too much stock in polls and what magazines say because like there were 10 guitar players on that list, but I could name a hundred guitar players who should have been on that list who weren’t, guys that I take lessons from, who plays circles around me so a list you gotta take it with a little bit of grain of salt, it’s just a list, it doesn’t actually mean anything…I mean it means something, I appreciate the people who appreciate what I do, that means the world to me but I don’t think about myself as the best or even close to it, that’s not what it’s about, it’s about making some music that people enjoy, and Death Metal just happens to have lots of guitar and drums and screaming it’s got a lot of it.
Who do you think is an underrated Death Metal guitarist?
KS: someone who wasn’t on the list that should have been Moyses Kolesne from KRISIUN, dude, that guy is scary good, like when we were on through with KRISIUN we talked with them several times over the years dude when he starts warming up, every guitar player in that room stops what they’re doing and get some free guitar lesson from just by watching this guy he’s that fucking scary good, scary good like kind of good that makes you go “OHHH”, you gotta experience it if you haven’t seen KRISIUN you cannot call yourself a metal fan, because what they are some of the most metal guys on planet Earth yeah!
Which newcomer bands do you discover on YouTube or Spotify or touring maybe?
KS: mostly send me stuff in my inbox and some of it’s awesome that’s not so awesome so yeah, I hear new bands but, yeah…that’s all I want to say on that, haha.
It´s hard to involve a new band like you have to be really good since they come on my regular playlist, what’s your last addition?
KS: yes, what’s the last addition to my playlist? yeah new IMMOLATION, haha, right yeah as if I’m just making your point because, of course, we’ve all loved IMMOLATION for years and they’re fucking Gods right so it’s kind of an answer that’s cheating what’s new on my playlist.
How is it for you when you are with family, with friends and people ask you “what are you doing?” What’s the moment for you?
KS: I try not to say anything because if you say to most normal folks “hey I play in a Death Metal band, we make records, we Tour the World”, they’ll either do one or a couple of things so either go “you do what?’” or if they understand what it is all of a sudden now like they want to talk to you “oh you do? you make records you travel have you ever been to such and such blah blah blah” and then you find yourself in like some really stupid conversations with people who aren’t talking to you like a human being anymore like now you’re like some sort of exotic creature in a zoo, so mostly I just shut the fuck up, haha. So, I should have up and things are better wow, imagine that as a life guidance philosophy it’ll go better if I just shut the fuck up wow, FRANK ZAPPA said it once he had an album it was called “Shut Up ´n Play Yer Guitar”, and I thought that was a brilliant album title shut up and play your guitar.
Are you still learning about Egyptian culture to inspire your music?
KS: all the time, all the time there’s been a whole lot of stuff in the last two years in the news, incredible new discoveries, I got in Saqqara some of the stuff they’ve dug up really amazing shit, yeah they’re building new Museum of Egyptology, this fucking thing is huge when I was there, they were just like starting and I was like holy shit but I think it’s almost done now so I’ll be pretty interesting, pretty interesting.
How do you write the lyrics of your songs?
KS: I always start with the lyrics, when my students ask me “how do you write songs” I start with the words first, it makes everything else easier.
Interesting and what comes next, the guitar riff?
KS: yep, the riffs come next, like I got the words right I got I print them out so they’re on a piece of paper, then I take him in that room, where I practice guitar, you probably see the guitar, I’d start playing and I got the words right in front of me, so I have time to think about it like if the word says whatever that’s as I’m playing the guitar, that’s what I put in my mind and eventually the words inspire the guitars.
What’s your inspiration in the songwriting process?
KS: it can come from wherever, like one of my favorite things to do is to go to my shelf over here, pick a book, any book, it doesn´t matter which book. Take the book, you hold it in your hand and then, next very important part, is you got to close your eyes, turn the book and your slide it open, wherever it opens (silence) all right, all right here it goes “wherein was a white unicorn with a silver color whereupon Graven the alpharum linear vertices Jaret Universal” okay it’s a fucking song yeah! This is a start, so that’s my fucking start, but there might be something on the next page, write the riffs and slowly you get an idea of how it, all fits together and you need to never have the same result twice, always be something different, the universe is guiding the creative process, not me, the universe. That´s how it´s done.
Now we know, I have many many books here, so I’m gonna try!
KS: you can do it I believe in you, haha.
Do you have to revise your lyrics a lot, or it comes out straight away?
KS: I think it’s very important, as I’m working on it, if I don’t like it crumple it up and throw that one away, that way in my mind I’ve closed the door on it and it’s gone and whatever bad part about it is, I just don’t think about that part more I just remember the good parts and what was good I’ll keep what was good and I’ve already thrown out, like that throw it out, very important, so as many times as it takes a month, it might take two months, it might take three months, it might take 50 different versions that’s okay, no one has to hear those 50 terrible ones, the only one that fans will hear is the finished one, you don’t have to listen to the 50 bad versions of the song, the only one that had to suffer through that shit was me.
Does the band collaborate with the compositions of the songs?
KS: sometimes, more or less, I usually do a lot of work on the song before I even bring it to the guys, and then usually they’ll take whatever it is and add their own thing or take away their own thing or completely fucking it up altogether, but that’s cool because that’s part of the creative process.
How long does that take to finish a song? Do you have to rehearse a lot, how is that process going?
KS: Well, since our drummer lives in Athens, Greece, well you do a lot back and forth when we send the song, and by the time we get together we pretty much know the songs already, we’re just working out the little bugs, the little kinks and if we do this we’ll do this you do that, but pretty much we know where the song’s supposed to go before we even walk in the band room.
Cool, interesting process, are you planning to come to Latin America, maybe this or next year?
KS: I’d love to come to Latin America, there are so many great metal fans in South America, how do you not go to South America? There will be some sort of metal crime right if you’re banned and don’t come to South America, and how metal that band actually is, so yeah, we’re coming I’m not sure exactly one yet probably after the new record, but of course, we’re coming to South America.