Interviews / Presse
|Titel: ||Dante Bonutto joins Manowar on the Highway to Holland|
|Interview with Joey DeMaio |
Published by : "Kerrang" UK n°80
Interviewer : Dante Bonutto
Published on : 1984
Dante Bonutto joins Manowar on the Highway to Holland
"So, Do you come here often?"
The tattooed sword arm makes a panoramic sweep...
"All the best people do, y'know. We get them all here!"
Like a warlord taking stock of freshly conquered territory, Manowar bassist Joey DeMaio sniffs the afternoon air, nostrils flared, eyes burning embers and mouth... a broad grin! Who says this band don't have a sense of humour? (Apart from Mercyful Fate, of course, now inevitably known as Mercyful Fake within the Manowar camp).
We're standing, Joey and myself, on the civilised side of the Holland/Belgium border (i.e. we aren't in Belgium, though only just), confronted not by blood-soaked Hyborian wastelands, but a drab expanse of red-brick dwellings and no obvious sign of intelligent life. And this is Saturday! The weekend, y'know! A day for slicking back your hair, stepping into something black and tight and carrying that red paint-brush as proud and as high as the Olympic flame. Well, that's what usually happens, anyway... But here, with the exception of the odd BMX-boasting youngster, intrigued as to why so many vehicles - including the giant Manowar tour bus - have suddenly converged on the local hall, there isn't even the faintest twitch of a curtain to assure us that the band's appearance this very night has been acknowledged. This, we silently concur, must be it - the place that put the 'nether' in Netherlands and the damn in (cough) dam; a one horse town minus the tumbleweed and fossilised cheroot stubs, though with myself, photographer Ray 'no nickname' Palmer and 10 Records' getaway man Peter Price having already availed ourselves of a meal (and then some) in the 'downtown' district, that particular status might well be no longer applicable. Welcome, my friends, to the Manowar (End Of The) World Tour, a riotous unrepentant sweep through a half-dozen European countries guaranteed to put hair on the chest of the local populace from Belgium through to Finland. Guitarist Ross the Boss (ex-Dictators, Shakin' Street) has been through this particular routine before, but for Manowar the band it's very much a case of breaking new (uncharted?!) ground, a platform-building exercise that, has with all structural work, can be tricky and occasionally messy. The smaller, more remote halls of Europe are primitive structures to say the least, offering about as many refinements as the average mud hut. For a band conceived with wide-angle vision, a band with big ideas and a backline to match, this doesn't leave an awful lot of room for manoeuvre. And should anyone want to take a shower (a headstrong request, certainly, but you know what these musicians are like!), well now we're talking serious hardship, the usual procedure being a trip to the local lido, rolled-up towel in hand, where more often than not hot water is something heard of in distant legend only. With band and roadcrew spurning the use of hotels and travelling together on the bus (a twin-tiered model similar to the one used by Quo on their last UK tour), nerve ends might have been getting a little raw. But during my couple of days 'neath the Mercurial Mallet, the only obvious bone of contention appeared to be the slumber-breaching impact of Commander In Chief 'Dawk's sonorous laughter, the result of prolonged exposure to old Three Stooges movies, now on video.
"Dawk," would come the cry, thin and forlorn, "Could you turn it down to deafening, please..."
I guess what really binds everyone together and keeps tempers in check is the sense of commitment in the Manowar corner. Certainly, the band have definite objectives, a clear plan of attack designed to cast the shadow of the eagle across upturned faces the length and breadth of the civilised world (and Belgium), but what we're talking about here is something more intangible; a sense that The Cause is what ultimately matters, and that, within that Cause, each man has his own particular part to play. The democracy of deafness, you might say... Remember that tin drum you had when you were a kid, and how you took great pleasure in banging away on it, Keith Moon style, whenever the grown-ups wanted to talk? Well, combine that kind of gleeful, mischievous noise-making with treasured technical know-how and the odd secret ingredient and you have a band who play at a volume we in the trade describe as 'loud' (technical, huh?); a band unafraid to blow a few speakers if that's what it takes. Indeed, 'All Men Play On 10', the current single (there's unlikely to be another in the near future), far from being a record company plug, as certain cynics have implied, represents a no sell-out statement of animal intent, forged in frustration and delivered from the heart. A while back, Joey and vocalist Eric Adams, teamed in another band altogether, got so teed off with being told to 'take it easy' that they vowed never to tone or turn down again, never to compromise basic instincts. They screamed into a pillow and a song was born... What's more, for Manowar's 'Bonfire Night Wreckage' at the Hammersmith Odeon on November 5, the second to last date of the current UK tour, they plan to make use of precisely twice the amount of PA they ushered through those hallowed portals last time around. Now that really should annoy the grown-ups! As far as the younger fraternity goes, however, aural rape'n'pillage of this magnitude would seem a fairly universal calling card, with DeMaio and associated brethren discovering fans in places they probably didn't even know there were places. For this, the first of the band's two shows in Holland, a few hundred followers appear as if from nowhere, a bristling, bustling landing party apparently beamed down from some passing starship. If dispatched (and it seems to be the way with these affairs) to boldly go where no man has gone before etc, they really couldn't have picked a better spot... The Dutch, it's quite evident, like their Heavy Metal and they like it, if you get my drift, heavy. Give one of their HM compilation albums a spin and you'll see what I mean. The likes of Foreigner, Journey, REO Speedwagon, et al, bands who occasionally work their way into the HM charts, just don't cut it with the kerrang-orientated cloggie. When his turn comes to stick a digit in the dyke, you can bet he'll have his walkman well'n'truly stoked with live Metallica demos and special limited edition mixes of Venom's Cronos throwing his bass down the stairs... and Manowar, maybe. The Oath' perhaps, or 'Kill With Power'...The latter band may be several storeys up from the Thrash Metal basement, but they come suitably well-endowed (in volume, mouth and hair) to break down any barriers caused by their ability to play and sing in time. Indiscretions like that can easily be forgiven... All, however, is not hunky dory. There's a problem. Backstage, while support band Alaska (featuring, of course, the very likeable Bernie Marsden) warm up the assembled throng with some polished rock'n'roll raunch, Manowar huddle round to mull things over, plumbing the depths of one of life's eternal mysteries... namely, why aren't there more women at European rock shows? It's all very well being Big in Benelux, but...
"Any females in tonight?" inquires Joey, more out of habit than genuine hope.
"Oh, yeah," comes the reply, tour manager Paul Clark having just returned from a scouting mission, "She's here!"
THE FIRST gig of the tour, in Belgium the previous night, had been a 'thumbs-up' event of quite significant stature. And as the band now video all their shows - a good way to check on the lighting and the stage presentation generally - we're able to watch the day old performance from the safety and comfort of the tour bus. As with all opening nights, things hadn't gone entirely to plan, the four being initially engulfed in giant wafts of smoke that reduced the Spectacle Of Might to a couple of roving guitar necks. But the response of the Belgian 'bangers', half of them perched on the other half's shoulders and running on 'fast forward' to a man, had made it a memorable outing nonetheless.
"Just look at that crowd," screams Joey, jabbing a finger at the screen, "They're INSANE"
At tonight's gig the audience prove equally keen to hoist their true, manic colours, but with a series of power failures breaking up the show, it's hard for them to get going. The Manowar set-up consumes power with a vengeance yet when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere there isn't always enough to go round. Someone turns on a hair-drier down at No 23 and boom, boom, that's yer lot! Three times, in fact, the power suddenly quits, giving the band no option but to leave the stage having just experienced the closest musical equivalent to premature ejaculation! It all sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the crowd, though a little thrown, generally cope rather well, treating the long bouts of silence as welcome opportunities to head for the bar and refresh working parts for the next steamy session. Basically, they've waited a long time for this moment and, come hell, highwater or heart attack, are determined to make the most of it... During opening number, 'Manowar', for example, one of the many front row revellers makes a sudden spontaneous bid for glory, jumping onstage alongside Ross to embellish the guitarist's solo with some phantom rhythm parts before belly-flopping back into the sea of waving arms splashing against the rim of the stage. Each to his own. Another follower, equally committed, shows his support in a less demonstrative fashion, arriving backstage before the show with a banner for the band, while a third, rotund and ebullient, makes his way to the dressing room afterwards where he proceeds to sell the virtues of two females acquaintances with all the animated gusto of an Arab negotiating a good price on his sister. The two are duly summoned and, with the go-between interpreting as best he can, a deep and meaningful conversation gets underway...
"Ask them if they like sex," prompts Joey, renowned for the subtlety of his chat-up technique.
One of the girls says 'no',
The other... "Aaaah," muses Ross, floating sylph-like across the dressing room floor,
"Isn't life wonderful!"
The following day Manowar are scheduled to headline a Dutch festival, some two or three hours drive from the previous gig, within the confines of a building that's as fine an example of the Stafford Bingley Hall school of architecture as you could hope to find. As with most European festivals, the level of organization is minimal to say the least; French rockers Trust, due to occupy the Special Guest slot, have already pulled out (perhaps due to illness, perhaps not), and with the few security men pretty much dead on their feet, the thousand plus crowd simply get on with things unhampered... which results both in the police being summoned when one particular individual, very large and very out of it, starts hurling things about, and the Manowar dressing room being suddenly stormed by a gaggle of about ten fans, hungry for photos, autographs and the chance to link arms with a star. As it turns out, this breakaway bunch prove amicable enough and are soon happily on their way, but with the band's battery of prized guitars (eight-string bass an' all) standing proud in one comer of the room it could have been a very costly visit. In the world of Manowar, y'see, these first-choice weapons, lovingly cared for and adapted by 'Dawk', hold a near sacrosanct position. Every instrument taken on the road is dutifully unsheathed - nothing is for show - and all are finely tuned not to maim or wound but kill, swift and clean. It seems that Lords Of The New Church vocalist, Stiv Bator (back in his Dead Boys days), broke the neck of Ross' most cherished guitar by knocking it off its stand, but with subtle renovation you can't, as they say, see the join. Joey's main bass too has been through the wars, yet with 'Dawk' always scrubbed and on hand for major surgery, it's now stronger than ever and is handled by its user as if it's just been pulled, scratchplate shining, from the solid rock or else handed to him from the depths of a lake, the celestial choir working overtime, of course! The rest of the festival bill, with the exception of Alaska and a brief guest appearance by guitarist Nikki Buzz, isn't of any particular note, leaving the path to fame and glory largely uncluttered. Due to the nature of the event, Manowar can't use their own PA or lights, but they acquit themselves with honour nonetheless. In terms of music and presentation, all excess flab and flannel has now been carved away, so that from the Awesome Orson intro tape through to the 'Sign Of The Hammer'/'Battle Hymn' finale it's action all the way with just 'Secret Of Steel' slotted in to provide a certain balance, a momentary breather before that double bass-drum kick from Scott Columbus raises the pace once again. All the band's four albums are duly represented, the point being hammered (!) home with a particularity effective medley of their fastest numbers - 'Kill With Power' from the 'Hail To England' LP, 'Fast Taker' from the first 'Battle Hymns' release, 'Warlord' from 'Into Glory Ride' and 'The Oath' from the new 'Sign Of The Hammer' album. And if you manage to bang your head through this quick-off-the-mark quartet, not to mention the furious mid-section of 'Thor (The Power Head)', delivered much faster than on album, I can only surmise that you must be on something and might I have some too?! Joey's bass solo remains, though in more streamlined form, centering now on 'William's Tale' from the first LP, while 'Battle Hymn', thankfully, has changed not at all, building from the gentle bass intro to a spectacular sword-wielding climax, with Joey and Ross beating on lofted guitars like disgruntled cavemen barred from the communal nest. Cecil B. de Mille would be proud. After the show, the dressing room fills up with fans and various members of the European press, both studded from head to toe with the odd tell-tale trace of denim or leather occasionally peeking through. As conversations strike up and interviews develop, it soon becomes clear that, in Europe at least, Manowar's general lack of flippancy is a positive boon, whereas in other parts their so-called 'serious approach' has been a source of continued criticism.
"Why can't they be more like Thor, he's a nice chap?'
"Why can't they laugh at themselves, inject a bit of humour?"
It's a constant cry...Now, personally, I've never had a problem relating to the band, be it across a well-stacked table in an Indian restaurant ("We live for Indian food," claims Joey, which might explain why they've now shortened their set a little!) or watching them 'fire up' onstage. As indicated at the start of this piece, they do know how to have a laugh and are certainly not averse to a good time (their adopted hero is Errol Flynn!), but when it comes to matters of a mannish persuasion they don't act lightly. After all, if they didn't take themselves seriously, there's no earthly reason why you should either..... right?