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I had the privilege of interviewing Manowar's drummer Scott Columbus the day of their recent show in Worcester, MA. I met him at his hotel and, I have to admit, I was rather nervous. Shit, this is Manowar! They're the Kings of Metal! But after talking with Scott for nearly an hour, I really came to understand why Manowar has such an amazing relationship with their fans. He was quite friendly and easy to talk to. Scott may be a King, but he showed he's also a regular guy as we talked about the new album 'Warriors of the World' and what they've been up to for the past six years. The interview kicked off after Scott showed me the video for "Warriors of the World United" on his laptop computer.

METAL UPDATE: Do you ever get sick of watching that?

SCOTT COLUMBUS: No, no it's still fresh and exciting to me.

MU: Do you feel the same way about the album?

SC: Absolutely. It's funny, we've lived with it as a band for so long now because we wrote it, recorded it, and of course now's the time - the long time - between completion and release. So it's production time and the manufacturing process and so forth. It seems like an eternity since the time we recorded it, but yeah.

MU: When did you record it?

SC: We started about the middle of 2000 and went right up until the end of 2001. Of course, we were mixing and mastering in Belgium - was it December? So it's been a while from the point of completion to the point of release. And also, we're going to be releasing on Super Audio CD.

MU: Yeah! I actually had a question about that.

SC: It's very cool. We did some of the mixing at Galaxy Studios in Belgium. And our engineer, Ronald Prent, is, I think, head of R & D for Super Audio CD for Sony and Phillips. We submitted this record and they absolutely loved it. So this will be the first true heavy metal album to come out in Super Audio CD, which is also in 5.1


MU: What exactly is super audio?

SC: Without getting too technical, in essence you'll be able to put in the CD and have it sound exactly as the master does. There's no compression. There's no limitations on the sound, on the audio. It's a completely identical copy of the master recording. There's no loss or compression. It has a full dynamic range. Also, it's in 5.1. If you've ever gone to a movie theater and watched any kind of recent or current movie in 5.1, you're familiar with sounds coming from all directions. There's special LFE information, Low frequency Effects- that's what that stands for. So there's a dedicated channel for low end. There's also the five discreet channels. We purposely mixed the record with that in mind. As a matter of fact, one example is "Fight Until We Die" - the last track in the record. Eric does a scream, and he did it five different times So it's going to come from five different directions and then end up in one specific point. So we specifically recorded and mixed this record with digital audio in mind.

MU: Is that going to be more costly?

SC: I think a little bit more - not much. And you have to remember, here we go again with technology: you're going to have to have a Super Audio CD player to play it on. And they're competitively priced. They're not that bad. So all you people can throw away your DVD players and give 'em to your in-laws or relatives or friends and pick up the SAD player because those, kinda like the latest version of the DVD player, will play SAD CDs, DVDs Regular CDs and any kind of minidisks and so forth. So there's different models and price ranges and so forth. If you pick up a SA CD player, you're not limited to just audio CDs.

MU: It will be worth it just to hear the Manowar album!

SC. I'm gonna pick one up. (laughs) I've been looking.

MU: I've noticed there's a lot of secrecy behind the new album. For instance, the promo I got was just a burn. Are you trying to keep the lid on it?

SC: Kinda, sort of. Because, you know, you want it to be big - a surprise - and you want it to have the full impact. I think that's the way to achieve it. Wait 'til you get your hands on it and get it in all its digital glory. So you have not seen the artwork yet?

MU: Oh, I've seen it on the website.

SC: The complete artwork?

MU: Yeah, it's finished right? Because I know it was going bit by bit.

SC: Right, that's what we did. We kind of put it up bit by bit. It's kind of a tease. It's fun! Have you heard the CD?

MU: Oh yeah, I've listened to it many a time. Which leads me to ask you if the events of 9/11 had any influence on the songwriting on the album.

SC: Jeff, it's more coincidental than anything because we actually had "Fight for Freedom" written and had all the raw tracks all recorded by the time the events of September 11 came along. Of course, once that happened. . . lyrically what that song is saying about the fight for freedom, and that freedom comes at a cost etc, etc. . . . it kind of is a parallel there. So what we did was on the record we dedicated that particular track to the families and people who were involved in the whole 9/11 event. We didn't specifically write that song for 9/11, but we did dedicate "Fight for Freedom" to the families.

MU: That's cool. That particular song definitely made me think of that. Also the cover, he's actually holding an American flag.

SC: That was conceived before the events happened. It's more coincidence than anything else.

MU: I was wondering how long ago you wrote everything because there can be a significant amount of time between when an album is finished and the time it comes out.

SC: It's funny you mention that because after the shit went down on 9/11, after the dust settled a little bit, I'm thinking, "Man, people are gonna think we wrote that for that." Even the American trilogy is kinda like that - a patriotic message - but a total coincidence Jeff.


MU: I was actually going to ask you about the American trilogy. What made you decide to do that?

SC: Well, we've been around for a while and we've never covered anyone else' s music on one of our studio records. However, we have, from time to time live, played a few cover versions of different material by different bands. We thought that this would be the perfect album to do it because the way the album started taking shape. Once you get a bunch of songs together and you start writing and hearing how the album flows from front to back, we thought this would fit in nicely. It fit in perfect. If we tried to do it on 'Louder than Hell' I just don't think that song would have fit in on that particular record. We've been toying with this idea for many years of putting, A: a cover song on, and B: particularly one of Elvis'. This particular track done by Elvis - he didn't write it, but he included in his encore material towards the later part of his career. And yah, we've been fans of Elvis for quite some time. He was a pioneer for his day for rock n' roll.

MU: He's the King of rock n' roll. You're the Kings of metal.

SC: There you go! You said it best. And you know, he didn't give a fuck what he did, you know what I mean? He went out even though they shot him from the waist up on tv because his moves back then we're a little risqué and a little frowned upon and he didn't give a shit. He did it anyway. He pretty much lived his life and played his music as he wanted. And that's pretty much Manowar's philosophy too. So we've been wanting to do this for quite a long time, and this is the time to do it.

MU: I think it works because this album seems to be more of an eclectic album. Style-wise there's a lot of things going on on this album. For instance the Puccini piece.

SC: Right. "Nessun Dorma" We initially came up with an arrangement of that in 1999 and we worked it out for the Gods of Metal festival in Milan, Italy. When we performed that live the reaction by the audience was so amazing. The looks on the fans faces - they're jaws just dropped to the floor. They couldn't believe that a heavy metal band was, A: doing an opera, and B: doing "Nessun Dorma" and the reaction was so incredible and so emotional. I mean, there were people all the way back as far as you can see dialing on their cell phones and holding them up in the air with tears running down their faces. Really, they were so moved that we said that we have got to put this on a studio record.

MU: How did you choose that particular piece?

SC: Well, just hearing it, it's a beautiful piece, A, and B: it's a well known piece of classical opera. It's just appropriate.

MU: I think it's really great for Eric. He gets to do something - really show off his voice - show what he can do in addition to singing metal.

SC: That's another reason we did this. How many heavy metal bands could pull this off with the "American Trilogy" or "Nessun Dorma" more specifically. You have to have a singer who can sing, which is sometimes hard to find these days.

MU: It really demonstrates his versatility.

SC: Yeah, I mean, he's done versions of songs in French. He's done versions of songs in German. So this is Italian - what's next? Maybe Spanish!

MU: What's Eric's vocal range? I've heard it's like four octaves or six octaves. . .

SC: It's incredible. I don't know the specifics, but it's a huge range. He's versatile and one hell of a front man.

MU: Is it hard being on Nuclear Blast in Europe and Metal Blade in America?

SC: No, it's fun because each of those companies know the band and they know that Manowar knows what they're doing. It's far better to be in this situation than it is to be with one huge company that says, "Alright you guys, don't you think it's time to take off the leather?" or "Don't you think it's time to start smiling in pictures?" You know what I mean? And fuck, we've been through that dozens of times and it's refreshing, actually, to be with a company that realizes that we know what we're doing and pretty much let's us do what we want to do. It's a great relationship.

MU: How do you manage to keep it all fresh after 20 years?

SC: You have to be aware of what's going on and where you're going. You have to consciously make a record that's gong to be a logical step forward, and you don't want to regress or make a lateral move. You always want to make something that will surpass your last work, and we go into this with that frame of mind. We get tons of input and we're influenced heavily by our fans. There's plenty of inspiration to be fresh.

MU: How come there was such a long time between studio albums?

SC: Let's see, it was 1996 when 'Louder Than Hell' came out and we started touring non-stop. We took a complete digital recording rig out with us, and we took a complete video crew for the most part of our shows. Fans were screaming for an official Manowar live record. For fucks sake, there's plenty of bootlegs out there, it's about time to give them something quality - that's actually us. The fans wanted a live record so we went out and put out 'Hell on Wheels' in 1997. And, oddly enough, because we had eight studio albums prior to that when we put out a double live album, many fans and writers and so forth, still went this double live CD is great, but I'm still missing "Guyana" or I'm still missing whatever songs weren't on the first double live CD, so we went ahead and made a second double live CD.

MU: I'm really glad you did because 'Hell On Stage' includes "The Warriors Prayer" - the whole crowd knew all the words. It's amazing. It's got to feel great, doesn't it?

SC: It's pretty amazing. It really is. Like I said, we get tons of inspiration from the fans. Letters and seeing them in concert, emails and they show up with the tattoos, full body tattoos - it's amazing. So we put the studio album out then we put out two more, the double live albums, so that's five CDs that came out in that period of time when you look at it. Then we put out 'Hell On Earth' which encompasses Manowar on tour with all the wild and crazy shit that happens when we're out on tour, on the bus, behind the scenes, in record stores, and of course the live tracks. So that' s released 'Hell On Earth' Part One, which is on DVD and VHS and also in this period of time we're speaking of, we produced 'Hell On Earth' Part Two and Part Three, which are both done and ready for release. So coming up towards the end of the year perhaps, they will be released. We also got our archives together. We had a huge archival room just packed full of banners from fans, posters, photographs, photo albums, slides, video, picks, drumsticks, old outfits. We got all this stuff together and organized it. Like one writer said to me, "Manowar is one of the biggest packrats I've ever seen." I said, "Is that bad." He said, "No, it's fucking great! Because I was doing an interview with 'so and so' and he wished he had a photograph from some period, and you guys have everything." What I'm getting at is we databased and organized all this archival material and now it's at our fingertips. You can find a photograph from 1986 with Ross the Boss in it. Everything's archived and databased, so it's all organized so that helped us tremendously when we remastered, remixed and re-released the first three albums, which were 'Battle Hymns', 'Into Glory Ride' and 'Hail to England.' They were re-released and sonically improved, and include significant liner notes, photographs and material regarding that particular recording. So we did that as well, re-released those three earlier records and got our website pretty much all on one page, organized and up and running during this period, early 2000. We founded our own record label called Magic Circle Music. This is something here again, which was done between the time we stopped touring in Moscow in 1999 - that's the last show we played for the tour of 'Louder Than Hell' - we're talking now from this period of 2000 to today. We started Magic Circle Music. We wanted to locate and help bands put out an album, get started without the bullshit of a record company. Without A & R people telling you, "Well you have to dress like this" or "You have to do this in pictures" or maybe "This song is too long." We give these people total artistic freedom and develop them in that way. The first release just came out on Magic Circle: Bludgeon, which is a band from Chicago. They've actually played several shows with us on this tour that we're on now. So in producing them, Joey was the master producer of that. Then I went out and helped with the drum sound and helped things happen in that way. Also David Shankle the previous Manowar guitarist is coming close to the completion of a project as well. Rhino - who was on 'Triumph of Steel' - he's got a project he's pretty much finished which should be released sometime in the near future. He actually wrote a heavy metal rock opera.

MU: Did he really burn his drums when he joined Manowar?

SC: Yup, his old drum kit right?

MU: Yeah.

SC: So we got those things happening. And also in the beginning of 2000 we started to put together the ultimate digital recording studio in upstate New York where we wrote and recorded this latest record. That was a long and arduous process because you get all this digital gear, amplifiers and everything and it has to be locked in digitally, and a digital clock has to lock everything together. Everything is computer based and so forth, so it's a period of trial and error just getting the right system up and the right combination of equipment to work hand in hand seamlessly. When you press record you just want to perform, you don't want to hear the computer blow up or something.

MU: How long did it take until you got the studio functioning?

SC: Oh I'd say a good six months or so. I mean, we started from scratch, from nothing. We actually ended up putting it in Joey's house in the basement, so he has no more basement. (laughs) He has a studio in his basement now. It was so arduous putting it together that there's a plaque on the door with one word on it, and that's "Hell." Honestly, you go down there and you enter Hell.

MU: How is Manowar different now than twenty years ago? What's changed? What 's stayed the same?

SC: Changed? Well I'd like to think we've learned to make better recordings. I mean sonically. I think if you listen to some of the earlier stuff, then you put on 'Warriors of the World' there's a big difference. Some bands want to embrace the old technology, use old methods of recording, analog versus digital - not really go with the flow. We've always tried to stay on top of recording, the cutting edge. Whatever's the newest and fastest and the most efficient way to do things. How have we not changed? I think we still write music from the heart. We really listen to what our fans say. We haven't, so to speak, sold out in any way. We pretty much stay true to what we do, and that's probably a good part of the reason why we're still here. We didn't try to go grunge. We didn't cut our hair off. We're gonna say fuck it. We're gonna do what we do no matter what anybody else thinks, aside from the fans.

MU: Yeah, I don't think I could think of another band that has such a great relationship with their fans. Manowar fans love Manowar. Like at the show in Haverhill, I was sitting there during the other bands and there was this guy who was yelling out, "All bands that aren't Manowar suck!" You know, I think that sums up a lot for your fans.

SC: Tried and true. I mean it's amazing! You look on our website and you see the tattoos. In Los Angeles - I got a photo on here [his laptop] - I take a lot of pictures with my digital camera - this fan came up - he had a full back piece - shoulder tip to shoulder tip - the bottom of his neck to the bottom of his back. The whole back was covered with Manowar artwork. He had a piece on his front as well. Look for that on the website as well. When we have two seconds to get home we'll put it on the fan page. Then last night in Cleveland there's some guys who go, "You guys are the fucking coolest!" This is like in the afternoon. "We drove from Detroit. We saw you in Detroit and then drove here. It's the longest I've ever driven for a concert, but fuck it, we're here!" He goes, "Come on, take a look at this." I was out in the parking lot, and on the back of his truck: Manowar. Detroit. So I got a picture of that too. The license plate was Manowar.

MU: Why do you think Manowar has such a great foreign appeal? You really seem to have a better appeal than most other American heavy metal bands.

SC: Yeah, it seems that way. I don't know. . . To me, over all, the fans in general, the European fans are a little more old school and hardcore. What I mean by that is when they pick a band to follow, or to be their favorite band or whatever there's a high loyalty factor there. They won't deviate from that and they stay fans forever. It's just a very hard and loyal sense of devotion from the fans. I'm not saying there isn't here because we just talked about it, but over there it just seems to be a little more widespread. I mean, here some fans may be swayed by what's on MTV or VH1, and over there it's if they're into heavy metal, they're into heavy metal. If they're into Manowar, they're into Manowar. Period. They don't give a fuck what's on TV or on the radio. Here people seem to be a little more influenced by the media.

MU: When was the last time Manowar didn't headline?

SC: (pause) That's a good question! That is a very good question. I'll have to think about it. It's been a long time, I'll tell you that Jeff.

MU: I was just curious.

SC: No, it's a real good question.

MU: I couldn't think of a band that you would open up for, you know what I mean? So I was just wondering when the last time. . .

SC: Well I'll tell you, most bands don't want us to open up for them. Seriously. I'll have to get back to you on that one. Seriously, it's been that long. Actually, wait a minute. . . in the late 90's we opened for Rammstein at some festival - a very good band by the way. I think that's the last one I can remember.

MU: Is there anywhere you haven't played that you would like to play?

SC: Sure. There's little pockets. There's countries all over the world that seem to be craving heavy metal and Manowar in particular. Pretty much any flag that you see on the new album cover - any one that's not there, that's where we want to go. Actually, the band went to Japan during the 'Triumph of Steel'. I wasn't in the band at the time, but Japan's a big one. Maybe China, Korea. We're going up to Canada tomorrow. I think we might have played there once, or we've never played Canada. So that's a new adventure right there. Tomorrow night we're in Montreal.

MU: Could you tell me about your drums?

SC: Well, I was one of, if not the first in heavy metal to trigger. You have a sound module and you stick a trigger on the drums, so you strike the drum and it triggers the sound in the sound module. We've always liked to get the purest, most killer drum sound possible. I've been doing it since 1986, so I 've gone through the period where triggering drums was not so fun up 'til now where it's pretty sophisticated and pretty refined. But without getting into details, my drums have internal triggers and they trigger a couple of specific sound modules that have our custom made sounds in them, and some of the sounds that are on the record. So what you hear live is actually some of the sounds that are on the record. Plus, with a band that actually plays this loud on stage - I mean the stage volume is incredible. A lot of bands will just stick an amplifier up there, they'll stick a wall of Marshals and have only one stack on and they'll mic one speaker. That's not us. Everything's on all the time and it creates this huge whirlwind of sound onstage. I'm not talking about the front end P.A. now. I'm just talking about the stage volume. When you get a stage volume that's that loud it's difficult to have open mics on the drum kit. With all sorts of sound bleeding through there you get all sorts of feedback. You have to be very careful, so here again that's one of the reasons we started to explore other options. We're just so fucking loud!

MU: Do you still have the record for loudest band in the world?

SC: I believe so. Yeah.

MU: A lot of songs talk about the enemies of metal. Who are the enemies of metal?

SC: It's more of a generalization where any fan of heavy metal knows who those bands are. If you ask three different people, you might get three different answers. Without getting specific, it's any band that claims to be heavy metal or tries to portray themselves as heavy metal but are not. Some of this stuff, it's rap music with D tuned guitars, but that's not heavy metal, you know what I'm saying? You can pretty much pick and choose who you think the false metal ones are.


MU: I just want to say that I have a friend who I grew up with and he went through a very low period in his life, and you didn't actually play on this album, but whenever he was feeling really down he'd listen to 'Master of the Wind'. . .

SC: Great track. . . Great track.

MU: It would pick him right up and he was able to get by, to make it through those rough times and Manowar was able to help him in his life. And he was really down and I know. I was just wondering what you have to say to someone like him or any of your fans that have just been touched by Manowar.

SC: That's really the underlying, the main message in our music: don't let anything get you down. Keep a strong mind, a clear head and know what you believe in your heart is true. Don't let anyone else, or anything else sway you. Follow your heart and you'll succeed and win any of life's battles. Be true to yourself and you'll be victorious.

MU: I've been wondering what you guys do in your spare time when you're not doing Manowar, or is it just Manowar 24/7?

SC: Born to rock, drink and fuck. That pretty much sums it up right there. We blast around on our Harley's - have a good time. We all have recording studios of different magnitudes and we're constantly writing whether it be on Manowar's music or just sharpening our own skills or whatever. Everything pretty much leads down to the same path.

MU: Are any of you guys married?

SC: We're married to heavy metal.

MU: What's better than that right? What kind of motorcycles do you guys ride?

SC: All Harley's. All softails.

MU: Here's my last question to you: How long do you think Manowar can go on for? Could there ever be a point where you just say, "I think we've taken this as far as it can go, maybe it's time to try something else?"

SC: Who's going to win the lottery tomorrow? Who's going to win the World Series in 2004? That's hard to say. We don't see an end to it, and fortunately at this point, as long as we keep making records like 'Warriors of the World' and all the rest. . . I think it's timeless.


review of Manowar 'Warriors of the World'






Interview: Jeffrey Schaefer [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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