Interview with guitarist and vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 27, 2016
US deathsters Nile have been keen on telling stories about epic Egyptian themes through their music ever since they formed back in 1993. The band released their eighth studio album, titled What Should Not Be Unearthed, in the end of August 2015. Since then, the guys have been touring heavily; doing for example a long European tour in August and September 2015, together with Suffocation right after the album was out.
Now, on their second leg of the European tour in 2016, which they have been doing together with Melechesh and Embryo, The Metal Crypt got a chance to sit down with Dallas Toler-Wade in Helsinki, Finland on March 30th, to talk about the current tour, Karl's neck injury, the digital age, this one ball of dirt floating around in and outer space, and many other, more or less interesting topics as well...
Luxi: First off, I guess I have to say welcome to Finland again.
Dallas: Thank you.
Luxi: You have been here before with Nile, so what kinds of memories do you have from your experiences in Finland?
Dallas: It's always great. We love Nosturi, one of the highlights of touring here. It's a great club, nice sound, really cool people, we always have a great time here.
Luxi: That's nice to hear. I just heard some bad news just 15-20 minutes ago that Karl has got some sort of a neck injury, which actually started quite some time ago when he was on tour in the States, right?
Dallas: Yes. It was a complication to an injury that's already been there. We've been banging our heads for decades, and he does MMA classes and sometimes he teaches. And he had an injury that already aggravated a problem that was happening. He's recovering from it. He's already feeling better than he was a week ago. But at the end of the tour he'll probably get some physical therapy. And it will be okay. He'll be fine, he's strong, man. That guy is strong. But he's doing well. But he is in pain.
Luxi: But he has to take some painkillers for this injury, just to keep the pain in control and the tour going, right?
Dallas: Yes. And he doesn't want to have to do that, just in case.
Luxi: Yesterday you played in Tampere, Finland. So, how was the response there? Did you have a nearly sold-out crowd in Tampere?
Dallas: It was pretty packed. We were in the smaller room and the last time we played there was in 2011. I think Bible Black was on the bill. And that was a pretty packed show too so it seemed like it was – I would say it was sold out but it was pretty packed in there.
Luxi: Okay, coolness. Brad Paris (22) is a new gun in the Nile ranks, joining last year. How did you find him, and what convinced you that he was the guy you were looking for to play bass in Nile?
Dallas: Well, we were doing a tour in the US and we had hired him as our lighting engineer. And when things weren't working out with Todd Ellis that we had at the time, it just seemed like kind of the natural thing because a lot of times at the end of the show we would sit in the back of the bus and play guitar and bass guitar back and forth, check this out. Come to find out, he's like a Rush song book on the guitar, he can play all that Alex Lifeson stuff. And he had already had experience playing bass and stuff like that. And after things weren't working out, we just thought it might be a good idea to check it out. And after talking with him, particularly this time, we tried him out and he learned the stuff very quickly. He is very solid, got a nice stage presence, can help out with the vocals as well, he did some vocals. That little scream hanging off in the end of the song "Evil to Cast out Evil", that's him. [*chuckles + imitating scream*]
There's a great brotherhood with him, he added a little bit of life to the band. And we decided to do the right thing this time and go ahead and make him an official member. So he's an official member, he's not like a hired gun. We've tried that route and said, "Okay, well if you're still around in the couple years then maybe we'll consider it." This time we were just like, "Screw it. Let's just go ahead and put him on, see what happens." What it was going to hurt? And it's the happiest I think I've been with the lineups.
Luxi: Would you even say that he was a Nile fan even before joining your ranks?
Luxi: That's nice. Obviously he must have felt pretty honored when you asked him to join the band.
Dallas: Yes. Another cool thing about Brad too is like, in order to really kind of cut it in this band, you've got to have some Rock 'n' Roll in you. Because while we are what people would call an extreme Death Metal Man or whatever, there's just that I hear a lot of that Rock 'n' Roll composition and those big heavy hooks. There's always been something kind of rock about this band.
And he's a rocker [*chuckles*]. It just fits. It fits.
ABOUT TOURING, SET LIST AND FANS
Luxi: Also, you finished a long US tour on February 12th, touring there like... eh, how many weeks? 3-4 weeks as far as I remember reading?
Dallas: Yes, actually that tour was about four and a half weeks maybe. So yes, I don't know the exact shows but usually we do anywhere from 25 to 35 shows a tour. And actually the last time we were in Europe, we had two days off in like 35 days. So usually we don't like too many days off. Nevertheless, the US tour went very well.
Luxi: Did you get to play in some places on this tour – even at some bigger venues where you have never played before during Nile's career so far?
Dallas: No, it was pretty much the same. There was some new up and coming venues but these are still just kind of some smaller clubs. And that's fine. The interesting thing about doing the American tours as we've been having just local openers open. So that's been a lot of fun and that's actually drawing a lot of people out. It's kind of a handshake. They get exposed to people that wouldn't necessarily listen to them and – I don't know – helps breathe some life back into the local scenes. It's really good and some of those bands were good.
Luxi: Was it hard to nail down the final set list for this European tour, giving that you have so many albums and songs to choose from? I happen to notice that you have done four songs off the new album on your US tour and the rest were older songs...
Dallas: Well, that is a trick and that's something that we've had a lot of discussions with. Actually, probably since Ithyphallic, we were already like, "Man, we've got so many songs here and we've got so many that we want to play and so many that they're going to want us to play." And basically the answer is, we have to play at least 90 minutes [*laughs*]. A lot of headliners, they just play an hour. But we are not going to be able to cover everything. We could probably do one song from each album and play an hour, easy, if not more. So the bottom line is we have to play longer. We're slated for 75 minutes on a lot of these and if there's not a hard curfew, then we play an extra song. And I think it's clocking in to about 85 to 90 minutes, total.
We did a 20th anniversary tour in the States. And we actually did two sets. We did two one-hour sets. But I think as time goes on, we're just going to have to at least play an hour and 30 minutes, if not to get everything that we want to play and everything that they want to hear.
Luxi: How much do you actually listen to your fans regarding your set lists for tours? I assume they also have their own favorites, what they like to hear when you play live for them. How much do you actually follow your Facebook messages, when your fans may tell you that you should play this and that song when you come to their town?
Dallas: On a scale of one to 50, I'd probably say 40. I see some comments and stuff like that. There are definitely songs that we'll probably play until we're dead. Like "Black Seeds of Vengeance" and "Lashed to the Slave Stick." There's a few in there that people ask for every night. And usually the ones I listen to are the ones that are in the crowd in front of us. If a bunch of times in a row somebody keeps asking for a song then, we kind of look at each other in the band and go, "Well, maybe we should add that one back in because people been kind of asking for that." You get your random, obscure B-siders every now and then too. Like, "Play 'Invocation to Seditious Heresy'" or "play 'A Chapter of Obeisance before Giving Breath to the blah, blah, blah Crescent Shaped Horns.'" Hell, I don't even remember that one [*laughs*]. So you get your odd ones out but we do listen and we do try to do what people ask for.
THE FUTURE OF RECORD SALES
Luxi: This year seems to be full of touring for Nile. Do you think it's essential for any band nowadays to tour if they are ever going to make some money out of playing in a band. I mean, as we all know by now, trying to make some decent money out of just record sales seems to be very difficult for most bands nowadays due to this digital age – free downloading and everything related to that, you know?
Dallas: Yes. So basically we're an extreme Death Metal band, so honestly, we never really did like a whole lot of record sales anyways. And our main income has always been from touring. Honestly, our sales haven't dropped that much. And there been pretty steady and I think one of the reasons why is because there are a lot of people out there that like to collect this stuff. And that's one of the things that helps out with Heavy Metal, there's a lot of avid collectors out there.
Luxi: And that's so true.
Dallas: I'm the same way with collecting stuff. Back in the day it was comic books, now it's DVDs and Blu-rays and the old vintage video games and CDs. I like to have the actual physical thing. And there are a lot of people that really like that. I personally will never own an MP3 player because I don't think they sound good but I think what's going to happen ultimately is, you remember when the CD came out, right. And you put that thing in and you were like, "Wow, that sounds really good man." [*laughs*] And there is just like a blanket lifted off the music. I think the next step is going to be some sort of high-resolution CD or – for instance – there are already some bands that, if you buy like the box set or whatever, it comes with a card and you can download the 2496K version of the album. So I think that's where it should go. I think that's where it SHOULD GO. Because that's the way it was going. We had records. Records sound pretty cool but they wear out after a while. Now they sound really nostalgic and lots of people are really into that.
Cassettes, they were never that great. And then the CD came out and that was the standard and still is the standard.
Luxi: True. I have to agree.
Dallas: So that's what's going to happen. If we're going to see an increase in any kind of physical sales, we need to up the game on actually what it is. So I would love to see how Blu-ray, high resolution [would work]. That could be the future. I always try to be positive about it.
Luxi: Many times you also treasure your new stuff so carefully that you wanted to record them on a tape so that the original CD or vinyl would have been kept in an as perfect condition a possible... Were you one of those people when you first started buying music for yourself?
Dallas: Yes, it was the ritual back in the day. I would go get a CD or get an album and I'd go home immediately and dub it onto cassette. So I could listen to it in my truck, you know [*laughs*].
BACK TO THE OLD FORM
Luxi: As for Nile's latest album, What Should Not Be Unearthed, do you think it's a more fan orientated, more fan friendly album than your previous album, At the Gate of Sethu, which was perhaps too polished, technical and clean-sounding album for many Nile fans?
Dallas: Yes. It's definitely more similar; it's very similar to the sound on Those Whom the Gods Detest. And for me, Ithyphallic was pretty cool but it sounds like bass guitar. Annihilation had this big weighty sound to it. And Those Whom the Gods Detest was a little bit more refined version of the big weight. And we did Sethu and it was too clean. It was too clean. We wanted it to be clean though. I see that as our kind of Thrash album in a way. We wanted it really precise and where you can hear everything. And who knows, half of the people that make judgments on the way your album sounds, they're listening to it on a speaker that big. What the hell do they know? But yes, we definitely kind of wanted to get back and you know, break out the Marshals, that kind of thing. Although, we ended up using Ingle on the last record. But you know what I mean. It was a return to form as far as the sonic thing of it. We just wanted to write something heavy.
Luxi: Anyways, I still believe that you – first and foremost – want to please yourselves first whenever you are working with new stuff for Nile - and then it's up to the Nile fans basically whether they like your stuff or not, right?
Dallas: Sure. I mean all the stuff that we do comes directly from the heart. And I think that's the most important thing. I think that people that listen to music, that's the connection that they get. They're connecting on an emotional level. You can play two chords and do that [*chuckles*] or you can play a million notes and do that same thing so. It's all about just that connection with the listener and giving them the goosebumps. That's what we want.
Luxi: I am also kind of curious to know how important and essential do you see the role of all these more unusual and special instruments – Bouzouki and Baglama Saz for example – as a part of Nile's sound? Do you think without their presence, it would be damn difficult, or nearly impossible even, to create the sort of mystical musical aura around Nile's sound, which you obviously are very much known for?
Dallas: It's definitely one of the defining things of the sound. But we've gotten crap for that like for instance, people were saying, "Oh, they have too many keyboards and two minutes of this and too much that." And then we put out Annihilation of the Wicked and didn't hardly have any of that stuff, it was just savage. Like there's fire coming off of the CD! It's just Heavy Metal. And then everyone is like, "Oh they don't sound like Egypt any more, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." It is like, you can't win, so you may as well do what you want to do. And we will do that as we see fit and Karl will bring these beautiful passages to the table for interludes and stuff like that. I'm just like, "Man, this stuff sounds fucking great. Let's do it. That sounds awesome."
THE MESSENGERS OF ANCIENT TIMES
Luxi: Nile has always been known for its strong interest in Egyptian mythology. Do you also feel like you teach something about that ancient culture for today's kids when they listen to your music and delve into your lyrics, perhaps learning a thing or two about this ancient and gone civilization? Do you also see yourselves as some sort of teachers to these kids, making them curious about the ancient times – thanks to your whole concept that you have built around Nile over the years?
Dallas: [*laughs*] I don't know necessarily about teaching but it definitely gives one more element to grasp a hold of and become interested with. I mostly just write music, like Karl writes a lot of the lyrics. All of them since, I haven't any since Shrines I think, or whatever, but for us, when it comes to putting the music together, it gives us a kind of a vision in what and the soundscape that we want to paint. So you're reading this and then you hear this and it goes together, it fits together. That's a very important thing. As far as necessarily teaching them, it's just some extra thing that gives it some interest. One more spice on the top [*laughs*].
Luxi: And speaking of ancient civilizations, Melechesh has been a support act for Nile on this European tour. Have you had any interesting conversations with Ashmedi about the ancient civilizations and cultures, and so forth?
Dallas: A little bit, not really. Usually, we end up talking about guitars and stuff or just talking about random stuff that happened, things like that. Every now and then, I mean the conversations go anywhere. But usually we just have a few beers and talk about guitars and Metal and stuff [*laughs*].
EXTREMISTS GETTING MANIPULATED BY RELIGION FOR THEIR OWN NEEDS
Luxi: I also assume you do have a pretty strong opinion about ISIS' actions in the ancient city of Palmyra, am I right?
Dallas: Wow... That sounds familiar [*chuckles*]
Luxi: You even shot a video for "Call to Destruction" related to this topic, one of your songs off this new opus...
Dallas: Yes, it is terrifying stuff. Especially from my perspective, I've said it a thousand times, we're on this ball of dirt floating around in and outer space. And we have a limited time here. If we're going to progress as a species beyond this world, we need to stop fighting amongst each other and work together, so we can get the hell off of this rock, because it's not going to be here forever.
And that it just totally appalls me but I'll also say this, I'm not a religious person at all. I have nothing against religion at all but this is obviously an extremist group that has manipulated it for their own needs or what they are trying to promote. It's sick, it's crazy. I can't believe the things that they're getting away with but I do have a feeling they will be getting away with it much longer [*laughs*].
Luxi: If you follow the news, you can actually see that these extreme terrorists in ISIS are gladly just struggling really bad right now...
Dallas: Everybody's wanting to get them now.
Luxi: Destroying ancient relics is simply said, just wrong. A bunch of some very radical and extreme Muslims who are obviously understanding Allah's Quran a bit wrong way, feel that they have some sort of right to do so, just blowing all of these ancient relics to pieces in the name of their extreme beliefs, whatever really...
Dallas: Yes, totally. There's no validity to it but here we go, human current has always taken religion and manipulated it for their personal gain. Since the beginning of time. That humankind always uses it; they change it to fit their agenda to control this massive populace. So it's totally ridiculous. Of course they're destroying those monuments because it is a direct saying, what you're saying is not true. It's saying that that's why they don't want people thinking about that, they don't want people believing they want to destroy it all, because it's discrediting what they are trying to push on the people.
Luxi: Okay, let's change to a bit lighter topics now. Nile has done a lot of touring ever since your debut album came out in 1998. Are there still some places in this world where you would like to bring Nile for gigs, knowing there are some true Nile fans out there that are just waiting to witness the band live?
Dallas: Pretty much anywhere that we could play and that would have us, that's safe [*chuckles*], or that doesn't have like a lot of problems with visas and all this bureaucracy. That's also a thing that – I'm not even going to say the country – but one time we were supposed to go this particular country and they didn't accept our visas because our signatures went outside the little box.
Dallas: Yes. Once that stupid crap stops happening then, we'll probably be able to get to a lot more places. But of course we'd love to go and play in Egypt. We will either at least go as a tourist someday but yes, there are still plenty of places to go that we would like to -definitely go and reach out and be able to play for our fans.
Luxi: Have you ever been in Egypt as a tourist?
Dallas: No. But we will.
Luxi: Have you already had any chance to work with some new material that could be meant for the next Nile album?
Dallas: Not really yet. We're just concentrating on getting some shows done and promoting the record that we put out. We're probably going to be just stay in on that for a while before we start working on it. But we're always kind of working on it when we're home. We're always practicing. And any time I have an idea, I just record it, that way it's there.
Luxi: Have any of you ever done any songwriting while Nile have had a tour going on?
Dallas: A little bit. A little bit. That has happened. Back in the day, there was a thing that Karl was riffing on and we started playing this riff together and it ended up being kind of one of the riffs in "Lashed to the Slave Stick." So that does happen sometimes.
Luxi: Because an inspiration for doing new music may come unexpectedly, no matter where you are. You may start humming some melody or guitar riff at your hotel room, or while sitting. Then you grab your instrument and trying to do it something, just to remember it, back home.
Dallas: Yes. And nowadays with the studio set ups we have, if I'm singing some melody in the shower and then I get out of the shower and I go up pick up my guitar, I can record it. And then it's there and then I don't even have to remember it. And then, I can call it back later and be like, oh that's pretty cool or I can be like, no, no [*laughs*]
Luxi: How much do you follow what's going on in the underground Metal scene? Do you follow any media publications with a careful eye what might be the next hottest thing in like in Death or Thrash Metal for example?
Dallas: A little bit.
Luxi: But not that regularly though?
Dallas: Not that regularly. Like I said, we're so busy. And then when I'm home, I'm home. And I got my family and all that stuff. So I don't have as much time as I would like to actually check things out. I'm with a pretty good network on my Facebook or whatever. I have a lot of friends all over the world and they're usually posting a lot of stuff. So I get to check out new stuff like that.
Luxi: I am sorry to tell you but it seems like our time is running out. Lastly, I have an "easy" question for you: what's your single most proud moment with Nile... Ever?
Dallas: Most proud moment... hmmm? I just have no idea.
Luxi: So it wasn't making your debut album, and finally getting it in the shelves of record stores all around the world?
Dallas: No. I think the most proud moment would probably be... Hell, I don't know. We have many proud moments all the time. So I couldn't really say that there's one particular one. But the proud moment and the proud feeling is when we haven't seen each other in a while and we get together and we hit that first note together and it's like, we're home.
Luxi: Okay. That feeling is always good.
Luxi: All right. That was it. Thank you Dallas, for your conversation with me - and all the best for your gig tonight and for the rest of the tour as well.
Dallas: Thank you, man.
Luxi: It was pleasure to meet you.
Dallas: Definitely, man, definitely.
|Other information about Nile on this site|
|Review: Black Seeds Of Vengeance|
|Review: In Their Darkened Shrines|
|Review: Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka|
|Review: Annihilation of the Wicked|
|Review: Annihilation of the Wicked|
|Review: Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka|
|Review: Those Whom the Gods Detest|
|Review: Worship the Animal - 1994: The Lost Recordings|
|Review: At the Gate of Sethu|
|Review: What Should Not Be Unearthed|
|Review: Vile Nilotic Rites|
|Interview with Dallas Toler-Wade (Guitars, vocals) on October 17, 2009 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)|
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