Interviewer: Hi Karl. How is HELL ON STAGE doing?
Karl: Uh, you mean Monsters Of The Millennium? That's what we're actually calling this [upcoming European] tour. The [current US] tour is a warm-up for Monsters Of The Millennium, and this is our first US tour in quite a long time.
Interviewer: [dumbfounded] Okay... But you're still promoting the HELL ON STAGE live album, correct?
Karl: Well, I guess you could say that, yeah. I haven't really looked at it that way. We are promoting our live album, but we promote basically all of our albums whenever we're touring. The band has so many albums out and we try to play a song from every one, something from the old, something from the new. In that respect, it's going very well. The live album is basically a compilation of the band's history, musically, and that's what we try to do on stage, is present that. Something from every album, something that everybody can remember and relate to.
Interviewer: I saw you guys about a year ago here in Chicago and that show was one of those "The History Of Manowar" shows...
Interviewer: ...where everything was played chronologically. I thought that was really cool.
Karl: That's what we try to do. We have fans that remember us from 20 years ago--obviously not me, but there are fans that remember us from years ago. Some fans have three of four of the albums, some have every one, some have six or seven... It always drove me crazy when I went to see a concert and a band would get up there and play stuff from the new album, and you didn't even have that album yet. You know, you were waiting for the old songs, basically. So we try to give the fans a little bit off of every album and I think that makes a difference. I think that makes them feel like no matter where you are in, more or less, your life with Manowar, whatever albums you have, whatever history you know of the band, there's always something you can relate to.
Interviewer: Like I said there were some US dates about a year ago. It seems like you guys are always in Europe or somewhere, but then now you hit Chicago recently. Are you on a regular US tour now?
Karl: Right now we're doing this US tour. It's the first US tour we're doing where we're just kinda breaking the market here again. We're using this tour to warm up for, what I said before, the Monsters Of The Millennium tour which will be playing throughout Sweden, Scandinavia, Finland, Russia... We're gonna have Motorhead and Ronnie James Dio opening up the show for us. We'll be headlining. So [the US tour] serves kinda two purposes: it takes us around the United States, the first time we've really done it since...1990 I think it was, and hopefully we're gonna try to herald in the new age of heavy metal back here in the United States. I'm not sure what's going on there right now, with metal, but it seems like there are a lot of bands that are combining rap and metal. To me that's not metal. That's just being trendy. We want to bring true heavy metal back to the clubs and show people that, hey, you know, it's okay to have long hair again, it's okay to wear leather... It's okay to be a heavy metal person. You don't have to be trendy or sell out to things that are current right now.
Interviewer: I have to say, you sound amazingly mellow for being the guitarist in Manowar!
Karl: Well, you know, I like to stay rooted. I like to stay very down-to- earth. We're fighting a battle here, let's face it. It wouldn't be any good to us, our fans, or our career if we lost our minds and carried around a big ego like, "Hey, I'm something," or if we wound up just getting completely off our rockers and losing sight of what really is a long fight for heavy metal and for the kind of music and stuff we believe in. I guess people do say I'm the quiet one of the group, but when I hit the stage, man, there ain't nothing fucking quiet about me. (laughs)
Interviewer: Ah, I was just saying that because I interviewed Eric a couple years ago and he struck me the same way. He seemed totally easygoing, a funny guy you could hang with.
Karl: I think that's the way you have to be. Heavy metal is really, truly the music of people who kinda don't feel like they belong to the mainstream. It's for people who've always been a little different, who do things their own way and don't necessarily sell out to anything. You see all these television shows about bands that went out and lost their minds, blew their minds on dope and booze... They lost their fortunes, they lost everything, and the bands broke up... That happens, but hey, we're a serious band and it wouldn't be fair to our fans. It wouldn't be fair to ourselves, and we really feel like we're carrying the flag of heavy metal. It would be just like us going into battle and being fucked up or under some kind of delusion about our strengths and our weaknesses. We know who we are, we're very down-to- earth. We get crazy, we have wild times, we fuckin' ride Harleys, we fuck a lot of chicks, drink some beer... But you now, everything's in its own place. We're not losing sight of the goal, which is to bring back heavy metal and the heavy metal scene. We believe in that and we believe in our fans. That's where we're headed.
Interviewer: You've been with the band what now, four or five years?
Karl: I joined in '93.
Interviewer: Oh... So you were there a couple years before LOUDER THAN HELL came out?
Interviewer: Even though I was joking about you being mellow, everything you just said obviously is coming from the heart. So you must've been a pretty good fit for the band?
Karl: Yeah. Joey and I met at a motorcycle store and exchanged numbers. We talked a lot on the phone, saw a lot of things eye to eye, and it just turned out to be a very good working relationship. We're individuals but we think a lot alike on certain things. Everybody else in the band, like I said and like you noticed, the attitude is just down-to-earth. We're like brothers, we sit like a family. That's what we convey to our fans; our fans are all our family, too. When you have a mixture like that, with four people plus the relationship we have with our fans, it's a really winning combination.
Interviewer: A girl I know, she wasn't really into the band, she maybe knew a couple songs off FIGHTING THE WORLD from videos 12 years ago, she went and saw you guys early last year. She just went because a friend wanted to go. She told me, "I never heard of these guys, but the place was packed, every guy there was completely losing his mind. There were grown men taking pictures of the band--I'd never seen that before!" She couldn't believe how fanatical the fans were. I thought that was interesting to hear from someone who was sort of an outsider.
Karl: Yeah, well we truly do have the greatest fans in the world. I really mean that and I believe that. Some of these shows we've been playing, there are people who've travelled 10, 12 hours. They've come from Canda, Brazil... Last night there was a kid from Brazil and people from...where the hell was it...Denmark. There's been people travelling from China, Tokyo and stuff like that. It's amazing. These kids come from all over the place. The dedication they have, and the desire they have to see the band... Everywhere we go our fans are the absolute greatest, and they're that way because they know that we're never gonna fuck them over. We're never gonna sell out, cut our hair, put rap samples or techno shit in our music. We're not about trends, we're about what the fans want. Without the fans there wouldn't be a band. There wouldn't be Manowar. We might be, but we'd be playing in our cellar somewhere, you know, playing local clubs every weekend having to work during the week. That's not what we're all about. We give the fans what they want. And they tell us what they want--they communicate with us on the Internet, through their letters, and that's really our source of information. It's our life.
Interviewer: So do you guys, the band themselves, mess around with the Internet? Or do you have people that do that for you?
Karl: No no, we have access to the Internet ourselves. We have our official Web site, of course, but Eric sometimes will jump into a chat room. He'll talk to people but he won't tell them who he is. When they found out they're all surprised. (laughs) Sometimes he evens calls fans up and stuff. Occasionally we'll all get on, if we're all together or there's nothing going on. But like I said, we've been so busy with touring and stuff like that, that we really prefer to meet the fans in public. You know, in person, to talk to them face to face. That's really when it's rewarding.
Interviewer: You've been with the band now a number of years. I don't know your background but I imagine it had to be daunting coming into a band with this kind of following and meeting some of these fans the first time?
Karl: Yeah. To tell you the truth, I came from a pretty...what would you say... When I was doing this, I was ready to make the jump from "local guitar hero" or whatever you want to call it. My resume, my experience was such that when Joey and I talked, obviously he wasn't gonna take somebody that was a beginner. It was daunting, in a sense, that there's a great legacy with Ross the Boss. There's always the stigma of being the "new guy." To tell you the truth, I've never felt that. I've never felt that from the fans or the band. It really hasn't been a big thing to deal with. There's been one or two fans, maybe, that I can remember over the last six or seven years that have blatantly said things about Ross or this or that. Occasionally you get the question, "Is Ross ever coming back?" But Ross is not coming back, I'm here to stay. The fans accepted me. I talk to them on the Internet, I talk to them in person. I really don't feel that. I really feel that I've been accepted, and it's just carry on from here.
Interviewer: "Carry On" is a great song by the way. (laughs)
Karl: Yeah, exactly. (laughs)
Interviewer: It's interesting for me because Dave Shankle was from the Chicago area, and a buddy of mine took lessons from him.
Karl: Oh yeah?
Interviewer: Yeah, so he was jazzed up when Dave joined the band, but that didn't last too long. Then we heard a new guitarist was coming in and we heard LOUDER THAN HELL. It was like, "Wow, Manowar definitely knows how to pick their guitarists."
Karl: Well thank you.
Interviewer: It's good to hear you're talking about being in it for the long haul. As a fan I think you fit the band perfectly.
Karl: Thanks, it's nice for you to say that. I've pretty much gotten that reaction from a lot of people. So you know, I feel pretty good about my place and about the acceptance of the fans and all that. It's the greatest band in the world, the greatest heavy metal band in the world, and we have the greatest fans. I'm just happy and honored to be a part of something that has a legacy that extends far back beyond when I was even into the band. It's really quite an honor. It's the ultimate heavy metal band and the ultimate heavy metal dream.
Interviewer: Was there ever a point, maybe right before you joined, where things were getting shaky because they were down to just two original members? Like the TRIUMPH OF STEEL, the tour, at that point?
Karl: If I understand what you're asking, I don't think so. I don't think there was ever a dark day of panic or fear or disbelief for the future. This band, Jesus, this band has carried on for 10 albums and 17 record companies at this point. (laughs) The band can't be stopped. That's the way it is, it's just a belief. There's a karma about the band. Musicians come a dime a dozen, it's just a matter of finding the right ones. Whether they were down to two original members or one original member, the band would carry on in some sense, in some fashion. We're honored and lucky that Scott came back to the band because he is, I think, the heartbeat of the band. And like I said, I fit in, and the band's been going strong ever since and I think it will continue to do so.
Interviewer: How much input do you have, or do the other guys have? I think a lot of people believe Joey is Manowar and Manowar is Joey...
Interviewer: ...because of the songwriting. How much input do the rest of you guys have, like when you're on this tour and you're pick a set list to try to play a little bit of everything. You weren't around when a lot of these songs were written. Did you sit there and go through the whole back catalog, and listen to everything and figure out which ones you like the best?
Karl: Not really. Every band has someone within the band who basically leads or conducts the band. That's a necessity in business and in anything in life where there's a group effort. Someone does take charge a little, they take the lead and make other decisions. As far as the writing process goes, all of the band is involved in that. Lyrically, Joey writes, simply because it's always been that way and when something works, why change it? As far as other decisions, Joey makes a lot of them as far as business goes, but what can you say? Like I said, the band's been around for 10 albums and 17 record companies, so if something's not broke you don't fix it. (laughs)
Interviewer: What are some of your favorite songs from the old days, like the first couple albums?
Karl: Geez, I'd be hard pressed to pick, really. There's two or three songs on every album that I think are great, and that are stuff I like to play live. Some of them we play live, some of them there's just not enough room for, you know? So I really couldn't say. There's just so many great songs.
Interviewer: I'm looking at BATTLE HYMNS right here. I've always liked "Shell Shock," I think the lyrics are really sarcastic and clever and funny.
Karl: Yeah, we've jammed to that before. We haven't actually played it live but it's something that's been brought up. When you make up the set list you have to find the formula that works. Right now we're not doing that one, but it wasn't really one of the more well-known songs.
Karl: We try to give fans the stuff they want to hear. We have them write in to our Internet site, we ask them, "What are your most requested songs?" "What are your favorite songs?" They picked the songs that we're doing on this tour. That's the way we work. What our fans want, we give to them.
Interviewer: So it's basically the same set list at each show, or do you mix it up?
Karl: It's basically the same. Sometimes we throw in an extra song here or there, or we mix it up. But don't forget--these are the songs the fans picked, the songs they want to hear. We stay true to that.
Interviewer: Can you throw out a couple song names, maybe some of the older stuff?
Karl: Well, you're gonna have to come see the show brother. (laughs) I don't wanna give away any surprises!
Interviewer: How long is this current US tour going to last before you head to Europe?
Karl: We finish up October 31 in Cleveland, Ohio, I think. We'll finish up on Halloween night and we'll be leaving very shortly thereafter for Scandinavia. Copenhagen, Denmark actually. That will be another 30-35 days. We'll be going through Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and actually playing some gigs in Russia, Moscow, St. Petersburg.
Interviewer: And all of those are with Dio and Motorhead?
Karl: Exactly. Dio will be going on first, Motorhead second, and then we headline.
Interviewer: Wasn't there talk of this package touring the US earlier this year, or was that never an option?
Karl: I don't believe that was discussed, but I don't know. Business, as far as that goes, that's not something I'm involved in. I couldn't really tell you.
Interviewer: The tour winds up near New Year's. What are your plans for 2000?
Karl: We plan to do an East Coast tour [of the US] sometime after the 1st of the year. This current US tour has primarily been the mid- to western US. In January we're gonna try to hit the East Coast basically, from Maine all the way down to Florida.
Interviewer: So you're still knee-deep in touring? Are you even thinking about the next studio album?
Karl: We're certainly thinking about it, it's just that at this point this seems to be the right time to do this. We certainly do want to get in the studio and record another album, and when it's time to do that it's definitely time to do that. But right now there's just some opportunities that've opened up for us and we think that you have to strike while the iron's hot. If the door's open, go through it. It seems like we're getting the calls from people who recognize our contribution to heavy metal. The market's open and people want to see us. We'd be fools to turn it down and say, "Hey, well, we've got better things to do." If people want you you gotta go where the people want you. Spread the word and the music, and help to bring heavy metal back to where it should be. Get rid of all this other shit that's out there.
Interviewer: People have been talking about the big heavy metal comeback now for, I don't know, maybe as long as two years. It seems like little by little it's getting there. First Kiss were gonna be the ones to come back when they reunited, and they were gonna bring everything back, and that kinda didn't happen. I think a lot of metal fans were looking forward to Judas Priest regrouping, and that kinda didn't do it. People are waiting but no big name has *really* done it. I'm glad to hear you guys are sticking your noses in there.
Karl: Well heavy metal has always been a grassroots thing. It's always come up from people who didn't feel like they belong. It's almost like an underclass. It's just gonna take time for the powers that be, certain record labels and corporate radio stations, to realize all this other fake music, this rap/techno crap and stuff that comes from computers, and all that bullshit, it's not music. That's just prepackaged shit, like fast food music. It's McDonald's for the airwaves. It appeals to the masses because it goes down so easily. But you don't fucking remember it. When's the last time you said, "Oh man, that fuckin' cheeseburger I had three weeks ago at McDonald's, I'm tellin' you it was fucking great." Know what I'm saying? It's just gonna take time for these people to realize that heavy metal is very unique music and the fans are loyal, they're crazy and they'll follow their heroes anywhere. It's just gonna take time for these people to wake the fuck up and get away from the easy money of the trendy crap and bullshit. In order to make back their investment [in heavy metal] they have to put an investment into it.
Interviewer: Well what does the band envision? What is the ultimate goal? You don't want to become--or maybe I'm misspeaking here--but you don't want to become *too* popular because then you become the flavor of the month.
Karl: No no no... We're never gonna do that. We've resisted all calls to do that. There've been record companies who've wanted us to be commercial and write that big hit. You know, bring in an outside writer, have somebody who can come in and write us that big hit and put us on the radio. Fuck that. We don't want to be in that position, and we don't need to be in that position. We simply don't need that. We're huge over in Europe. We're on par with Metallica over there. We headline festivals with Metallica over there. They played Saturday, we played Sunday. We headlined with them. We played all the major festivals--headlined the major festivals--in Europe last year. So we don't need this commercial success bullshit. That's like a carrot that record companies hold out in front of bands nowadays. They hold it out and they say, "We're gonna bring some other guy here to help you write this song. We're gonna support you and we're gonna make millions." Well of course they will. They'll make fucking millions and the songwriter will make fucking millions, and they'll use you and they'll suck you dry for the one hit they can get out of you, and then you're the old flavor of the week and it's on to somebody new. Frankly, we're just not interested in that. We've stayed true to our fans for 20 years and our fans recognize that and have supported us. The proof's in the pudding man--our fans are the most loyal, dedicated, crazy motherfuckers in the whole world and we're not gonna change. We're not gonna let them down. We owe the life of this band to the fans. We're gonna stay true to them and anybody who tries to change that or tries to push us into being successful by with something we don't believe in, well, we say, "Fuck you." We don't need that.
Interviewer: So you're not gonna be doing any ballads on any movie soundtracks anytime soon? (laughs)
Karl: (laughs) No, no ballads. No love songs. No nothing written by any of these popular songwriters who need to team up with the more popular rock bands out there. They put this shit on the radio, they put it on these wimpy movie soundtracks and shit like that. Where's the heart and soul of the band man?
Interviewer: You mentioned the festivals--I remember reading a review of one of them, I think it was one you did with Metallica, and the review said a huge portion of the crowd left after you guys played. "Everyone came out, sang along with Manowar, went nuts, and then left."
Karl: That's right. Because they know anything they're gonna see after that is gonna be anti-climatic.
Interviewer: Speaking of the festivals, I believe there was talk of Manowar doing Milwaukee Metalfest earlier this year?
Karl: Yeah... We got offered Metalfest but the promoter just didn't have his shit together. We didn't think it was gonna be the best venue for the fans, we didn't feel like the fans would get value for their money. And it just didn't turn out to be a good offer. It would be better for us to come back and play something, or to put together something ourselves, that would reach our fans in a more equitable fashion. More value for the money. We didn't think it would be something that would complement our philosophy, our band, and our fans.
Interviewer: I think most everyone knows you guys are huge, you know, elsewhere.
Interviewer: I picture Manowar overseas in front of these huge crowds, playing these huge stadiums, and then you hit the road in the US, and for whatever reasons--I guess the majority of American music fans are trendy sheep--you have to play smaller places. And here was this opportunity, Metalfest, where I thought you were gonna play an actual American festival, which there aren't too many of. If promoters can get their shit together do you see festival gigs in the US making a big impact?
Karl: You gotta look at it this way--you can take a car that's a piece of shit, you can take a fucking '67 Volkswagen that's falling apart with the wheels falling off and rusted out, and if you spend enough money on it, or promote it, and sell it to the people--put a fancy colored paint on it--you can tell people it's anything you want. You can sell that to them and they're gonna believe you. But when you're on the inside and you know the story, you gotta make a wiser decision based upon the greater good of the deal, and on your people and your fans. That's basically what we did in that situation. If promoters put together a show that we think is gonna be a value for the money for the fans, and you know, that seems to have all the professional trappings that should be in place at that level, then that's something we're certainly interested in. Will it be festivals that turn around the state of affairs in America? Not unless there's one in every single state, you know what I mean? It's just gotta come from the beliefs of the people. They gotta go out there and tell promoters and club owners that they want music, that they're sick of karaoke nights and they're sick of the fuckin' disco balls and the shit that's in clubs nowadays. It's just gonna take time. It's a movement that comes from peoples' hearts and it's gonna take time to sink in, basically. We don't expect it to happen overnight.