Interview: Kory Clarke, Warrior Soul

As we talk, the character that emerges is somewhat of a surprise. In much of the press surrounding both the release of WARRIOR SOUL's debut Last Decade Dead Century and their UK tour with METALLICA, Kory was painted as an extremely intense, serious, and fragile man with little time for laughter or humour. Whether he was attempting to retain some kind of mystique or merely had yet to relax under journalistic interrogation I can't say.

As both lyricist and composer, Kory expresses anger, sarcasm, vision, bitterness, and hope; a wide range of impassioned and potent emotions spread across a hard, heavy, and undulating musical landscape. With repeated plays, their latest album Drugs, God and the New Republic reveals more of its many subtleties to the avid listener, and is not an album to be approached lightly. However, though it may not be a regular rock n' roll record, the sound is as hard-hitting and straight ahead as a mechanical hammer. Kory agrees:
"Yes, we used a different technique on the guitars. We don't do so much layering and what happened when we did less tracks on the guitars was that it opened up my rhythm section so you can hear what they're doing better. And as you listen to the record you will hear the bass and drums doing some amazing playing. This record is really heavy duty. The first side is unreal, and if people don't get that, they're fucked!"
Considering 1990 closed amidst the death and destruction of another war - namely the hideously unnecessary Gulf Conflict - did the fact that Drugs, God and the New Republic was being recorded at the same time have any effect on the end product?
"Not lyrically. I guess it had a slight impact on the vibe of the record, just because it was a strange feeling. I felt that the lyrics that had been written a year and a half to two years before seemed to fit real well. But there was no conscious response to it."
Drugs, God and the New Republic was originally produced in conjunction with Geoff Workman, who also worked on the band's debut. It was then remixed by Kory and pre-production engineer Don Fury, which, from what I am told, probably accounts for the increased aggression of the new record. Over to the NY end of the telephone line...
"The record label called up and said they liked the demos approach better. I said 'well, let me hear what you mean,' and we checked out the demos with the tape that we had just finished and I too felt that the demos were better. What had happened was whilst I was recording, Geoff Workman told me that my management and my record company didn't like my demos. He thought it was stupid for me to listen to them and reference them whilst we were making the record. I believed him and as it turned out it was a lie. I don't know why he did that, it was kinda crazy. But I think he was just a little bit lazy and he didn't want to deal with it. So that was the mistake in using him. What happened after that was I went in and produced the record myself. I recut all the guitars and did a lot of extra vocals and remixed in thirteen days. I'm pretty proud of that and I think we did a fantastic job. But that's up to you guys to decide - not me!"
A gift to any interviewer, Kory Clarke has a habit of composing answers that are as clipped and precise as his speaking voice. He knows exactly what he wants to say and does so without prevarication or overstatement. Similarly his lyrics are straightforward and simply structured. Is this vital to presenting his views and feelings I wonder, or would a more poetic or surreal style of lyricism work just as well?
"Umm, well, it's a certain style that I have. I guess it's sort of individualistic compared to what's going on in Rock N'Roll and Psychedelic music, but at the same time, the lyrics on the record are more surreal than on the first one. But I think the impact is similar. On the title track I was using a technique that [Jack] Kerouac used, where he would start on an idea and let the whole idea flow without any punctuation marks. Like...the entire song is one paragraph. That's the most advanced song on the record I think."
My favourite song is closing track Children Of The Winter, which does, admittedly, have a poetic feel to the chorus - viz "Children of the winter, walking to the springtime." Bearing a more positive stance, a message of hope, the track makes both poignant abd optimistic listening. Is that intentional?
"Yes, if you remember the song In Conclusion, which closes the first record...this is a similar thing. It's more of an epic type song, more uplifting, and I wanted it to be that way. I like to close my albums like that."
Of course with each album one has to get out on the road and tour to make any headway. At the time of 1990s UK trek in support of management stable-mates METALLICA, Kory had been quoted as expressing concern over WARRIOR SOUL's problems in obtaining suitable US support slots with which to promote Last Decade Dead Century. How did they fare?
"It came true! Last summer there wasn't much happening and we were either too big for some tours or too small for some others. So what can you do? We ended up going by ourselves - doing the US - and we went with DANZIG for a couple of weeks in the South. Then we started in LA by ourselves and we had quite a good time doing it. But, if you're gonna sell some records and make some big impact, you gotta play in front of a lot of people for a lot of time. And that still has to happen."
With a management team such as Mensch and Bernstein - one would think WARRIOR SOUL would have little trouble securing live work. Yet even the support slot to Q-Prime colleagues QUEENSRYCHE - a tour Kory was ready to commit violence for! - took three months to come their way. Was that worthwhile?
"The band's playing well and we're received very well. But our record sales in this country aren't doing that well. I'm not sure what it is - nobody really knows. We're well liked, we have great press but we're not getting any MTV exposure and we're not getting any mainstream radio play so people aren't really very familiar with our records. Also I'm figuring a lot of people make tapes for their friends of it, and we're still a new band. I mean, we're doing our first US tour and it's still early in the game for us. I think the next album is what'll say if people either dig us or they don't."
While the recession continues having a major effect on the level of live work across the US, there are other problems involved which are unique to the States. Kory bitterly elaborates.
"There's a lot of real strange attitudes towards the government. The generation that's followed the baby boomer generation of this country really has no identity and it almost seems as if they're rebelling against having an identity, just because the baby boomers have such a big one. It's almost like they want to be nothing. It's really hard for me to try and inform these people or have them entertained by someone who's telling them a different side of the story. I'm not really sure if my message can get through to them at this time. I'm just so sick of being an American. I don't mind being in New York, but seeing the the rest of the country is pretty scary. Maybe moving to Europe and getting out of this country would make me happy."
By the time this sees publication some of you will have seen WARRIOR SOUL perform a one-off show att London's Astoria Theatre as part of the American Dream series. Not being a METALLICA fan and being unfortunate enough not to have been able to attend the WARRIOR SOUL headline show at the Marquee last year (boy have my ankles been subjected to some severe kicking since!), this is one of a small number of gigs during 1991 that neither wild horses, hell fire, or even freak tornadoes could keep me from attending. It is also apparently the band's last date before commencing work on album number three. Does it bother Kory at all that their UK visit to promote Drugs, God and the New Republic consists of just one show some months after its release?
"Well, I don't know how cost prohibitive it would be to come and do a full tour. I think maybe after I've recorded the next album it would be viable to come over. Just breaking even would be a good thing."
How does the band project the feelings of anger and aggression present in the lyrics and music in a live situation?
"I guess the simplest way to describe it is that we are a very intense band live. There's not really much more you can say about it, except that we are artists, and on stage we are very intense."
Do you actually directly involve the fans in your shows?
"They're directly involved in the music anyway. I don't say 'okay, everyone clap their hands, let's go!" Kory intones, his voice rising to good-time Rock N' Roll party cadence. "It's none of that shit. But they're involved in more of a spiritual way and going to a WARRIOR SOUL show is an experience."
One thing that has concerned me in the past is seeing Kory quoted as claiming a WARRIOR SOUL show would be greatly enhanced by being viewed during an acid trip. SO I challenge him on this and the possibility that young fans might be influenced by his words into believing drugs are an essential part of having a good time.

"Well aren't they?" he replies laughing deeply, before continuing on a more serious note. "No, I think people can figure it out for themselves. It's a bit tongue-in-cheek when I say stuff like that. If you're an impressionable kid I don't think you should do drugs in the first place. Drugs are not a good thing and I think trying then or whatever, is up to the individual. If you can't handle it, or you're just doing it to prove something to somebody then don't do it."

Nevertheless, drug abuse does form a major problem in modern society - a subject which Kory covers from personal experience , amongst the many other problems he highlights in his songs. Is he seeking to develop people's awareness of the world around them? The reply is very carefully considered...
"Well, I want them to just be aware of what I'm singing about. I'm not here necessarily to enlighten people to everything; I want to give them a view of the world through my eyes that is different from the view that you would normally get from another artist. I'm not on a crusade to make people more aware, but if I do make people more aware I'm not gonna lose sleep about it - I think it's good."
So, would you agree with Geffen Records describing you as an 'agit rocker in their press biography?
"Um, sometimes, yes," Kory states after giving vent to a light-hearted expression of disgust at my mention of official biogs. "I mean," he continues, "sometimes I'm a poet, sometimes I'm a producer, writer, sometimes I'm a politician. I go through many, I wouldn't say...disguises, though I definitely transcend a lot of different occupations within the format I work in. It's too simplified to say that I'm an agit rocker, but I do irritate and I do speak the truth, and if speaking the truth is agitation, I do fit the bill there."
Bearing in mind that WARRIOR SOUL is born out of the frontman's dissatisfaction with the world we live in, the biggest surprise is yet to come. To conclude a fascinating and revealing conversation with one of the most intelligent and eloquent Rock musicians it has been my pleasure to interview, I ask Kory what is, or would be, his ideal world. And this, as my chin hits the floor, is what he has too say...
"I guess the one I'm living in. I like to fight, y'know. I wouldn't know what to do if there wasn't a challenge. I think a lot of things are getting better and people are becoming more aware. I also think there's still a lot of problems but there's a lot of good as well and it is a very interesting time to be alive. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Lyn Guy
Riff Raff
March, 1992
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