First of all, congrats on At the Gate of Sethu. It’s a great album in typical Nile fashion. How proud are you of the final product and are you totally satisfied with how it turned out?
Karl Sanders: Right now, the album is still real fresh to us and we’re just really excited about it. We love it and we’re all gung-ho about it. It’s going to take a while until I start hearing things where I’ll go, “Oh I could’ve done this a little different, or that a little better…” Eventually that’ll happen because it always does, but right now we’re just loving the fucking record. There’s some really good stuff on there and there were a lot of challenges with it. It’s hard, it’s technical; it’s still a Nile record.
With the way you’re describing how much you love the new album, do you think it’s your best Nile album to date? If not, what do you think is the finest hour for Nile?
Sanders: Well, you know… best… “best” is such a subjective word. I would say that if you’re speaking in terms of what is best, if by best you mean if this is the cleanest production we’ve ever achieved, then yeah, this is our best. This album certainly achieves that. But I’ve found that most people’s interpretation of the word “best” is very arbitrary, particularly with Nile records. Fans of us are convinced that one record or another is “the best one” and it can never be topped or paralleled or what have you. I’ve come to the conclusion a while ago that I’m not shooting for convincing myself or anybody else that this song or that song – or this album or that album – is the best. I’m just going to do my utmost best to write some interesting music and play the best I can.
Looking back at your entire catalog with Nile, you guys have always created different sounding albums with different atmospheres along the way, yet you’ve always been able to retain that Nile sound, i.e. the technicality, the brutality, the speed, the heaviness, etc. How difficult is it for the band to continue to create new atmospheres and music that will differentiate it from past albums, all the while retaining that Nile sound?
Sanders: Well, that is the eternal quest, the eternal challenge! How does one retain one’s identity yet find ways to progress? For us, we’ve been focused on the musicianship, to push forward as musicians and artists. We do a lot of playing; Dallas [Toler-Wade] and I live for the guitar. We pour our heart and soul and passion into finding a tangible way to move forward. I mean, what else is there? You wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say to yourself, “All right, how can I do better? What can I do about it?” What we’ve done is just pick up our guitars and get to work. That’s how we do it. Speaking in those terms, from a guitaristic standpoint, this is definitely our best fucking record because there is some amazing guitar playing on it. And it’s been captured as clean as a fucking whistle to where you can hear every goddamned note. So, that’s how we face that challenge, by learning new stuff and challenging ourselves as players.
Can you explain to the layman out there who has never been in the studio the challenges you face in recording an album? How do you capture the sheer brutality and bite of your music, keep the music sounding raw and savage, yet produce it so clean that everything is heard clearly? That has to be quite a task.
Sanders: Oh yeah, I understand your question and that is a huge fucking challenge while in the studio. There’s an inverse equation to it all. If you play slower music, a band like AC/DC for example, it’s actually very easy to record a band like AC/DC and retain the natural vibe and make it all sound good. They play music that, by metal standards, is very slow. It’s a lot of mid-tempo and slow tempo, so it’s very easy. You can easily take that style of music, retain the energy, and make everything nice and clear so you can hear the individual fire of each member of the band.
Each time you get a little faster, that equation gets more and more inverted. The faster you go, the harder it is to make it sound clean. The more you try to get it right, the more you suck the life out of it. It’s a non-ending battle to try and capture super fast music and make it hearable yet keeping its life and conviction to it. It’s a super fucking challenge and that’s one of the reasons why it took so long to create this record. We wanted to hear everything we were playing and also have that life and fire and personality to it. That was a lot of fucking hard work. Holy shit!
Compared to the rest of your albums, this new one has more of a live sound to it, meaning the overall sound of the instruments is close to how you sound live in concert. It’s a much more concert-like or live-sounding album than all of your others. Do you agree with this statement and was this sort of a goal of yours?
Sanders: I would totally, 110% agree with that assessment. When [producer] Neil Kernon first came to pre-production and first heard our songs in rehearsal, one of the first things he said to us was, “Guys, one of the things I want to achieve with this record is clearly capture the fire that I’m hearing in this band room. The songs you’re playing here are raw, primal, naked, honest.” He wanted the real fire to shine through and we totally agreed with that. We wanted a production that was raw, stripped-down, clean, and naked to present to the listeners exactly what we’re doing with this band. There are a ton of records out there today where there’s all these layers and it’s over-produced and they’re getting further and further away from the real, live essence of the band. We wanted to tap into the raw, honest, naked savagery that makes metal have that fucking inner flame. That’s what we did with the production. It’s not as fast as some of our other records, but it’s brutally honest and you can hear what we’re doing.
You can read the rest of the interview here.