Within seconds of meeting him, PHIL WILDING was convinced that KORY CLARKE, singer and lyricist with New York-based ‘New Age Metal’ quartet WARRIOR SOUL, is an angry young man. Very angry indeed. Former drummers, drug runners, AIDS, lazy people accusations that he is a pseudo-intellectual: all these things make him even an I.
But does this make him a New Age hero? Or just…Joan Baez with a Marshall Stack?
WARRIOR SOUL’S Kory Clarke is unforgiving and unrepentant. He’s hostile to corporations, religion, fools, the non-thinking.
Though when recently departed drummer Paul Ferguson’s name comes up, it’s simply a case of refusal to forgive.
“He thinks his cock is made from solid platinum,” he says. “He’s a dick and he walked out on three contracts.”
His replacement. Mark Evans (ex-AC/DC), sits to my left, guitarist John Ricco and bassist Pete McClanahan face me. Kory’s somewhere way off to my right, slumped dejectedly into his seat.
He laughs infrequently, demands occasionally and takes charge of practically every question constantly. We’re at the New York edge of New Jersey in some cavernous rehearsal rooms. The cumbersome fan heater above our heads is barely sufficient to combat the cold Spring evening that’s falling outside. I’ve just remarked on the comments made by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor, with regard to Heavy Metal. Warrior Soul are, in essence anyhow, a Heavy Metal band with a lyrical perspective all their own. But, your city’s Cardinal? Pete shakes his can of Bud at me.
“Jesus, man. That should be some indication of that guy’s intelligence…”
He draws a breath and Kory, the eloquent master of hate, though his words are tempered with a genuine degree of care and concern, moves quickly in.
“He just wants to stir some shit up because he’s not getting any attention. He’s hated, coalitions of people who are trying to get more money for AIDS research really hate him. He’s got tons of bad press for it. His publicist probably told him to go for the common denominator. I think he’s just using it as a propaganda tool.
“He claims to have done these exorcisms on kids, trying to save them from rock ‘n’ roll, it’s unbelievable. He claims that his head honcho has a direct line to God, is actually God’s spokesperson on earth. That’s who he reports to, how can you take this seriously?
“The Catholic religion’s always been a corporation. They’re screaming that we’re trying to take over people’s brains. Take a look in the mirror, pal. If anyone takes O’Connor seriously…” He runs out of words, exasperated.
“I mean, f**king hell, man! The whole thing is scary. If you want religion, go some place low-key, not some palace, not vaudeville, that’s the Catholic Church.”
The words ricochet, thudding awkwardly off the partially draped walls. Kory, his torso and face almost completely shrouded by his massive rug of hair, tightens his lips.
I think to tell him he could encounter a lot of trouble talking like that, but he already knows. Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach has already threatened to punch out Clarke for remarks made about him in interview.
“He’s threatened that he’s going to clock me when he sees me. Oh, I’m scared.”
WHILE THE album, ‘Last Decade, Dead Century’, an evocative tumble of the very Metal and the very perverse, looks set to make this band either international superstars, overlooked, or labelled as pretentious pseudo. He snorts contemptuously. All these words, surely it’s nothing more than shallow, convoluted nonsense? Is it what the kids want, Kory?
“Well, look,” he begins with only half a smile. “I don’t care what the kids want. We’re not writing for the one audience at all. If we did what, quote, unquote… the kids want, then we would sound like Warrant or something like that. ft’s an assumption, do the kids want rock bitches? Guys with hairstyles?
“I think they should take mc as the genuine article. I am. I just choose to sing about this stuff— drugs, homelessness, love, corruption, politics, hope, religion — because it’s what interests me. I get tired of hearing the same old thing all the time.
“You got to sing about something that actually has some context to it. Like poor people being ignored, rock ‘n’ roll people being shoved into corners… ft’s more of a challenge to make that sound cool in rock. You’ve got to deliver it in a cool way to make people dig it.
“I’m not changing anything, I’m just describing situations and offering different perspectives, telling people about things.”
So, ‘I’m in touch with my feelings’ (‘Trippin’ On Ecstasy’) is a simple description of drug experimentations?
Don’t you think, or worry that you could encourage drug abuse? And, of course, leave you open to more criticism.
“But, it also says, ‘My mind’s a wreck/I’m losing weight… ‘you know?” he insists.
“That’s how it is on that shit, that song’s a description of what it’s like to trip out. In all my experiences in tripping on that shit… it totally describes exactly what it’s like. And the music dictated what the words were going to be, that was all I could sing when I heard that rift That’s what it was like for me; it sounded like going out on a bad Ecstasy trip. It’s just one of the songs on this record where I’m more introverted.
“As for the critics, they can all go to hell because I know why I wrote it. If they try to crush me, I’ll try to crush them. I’ll be out in front of 10,000 people a night, I can tell those people to do shit too.
“Will they listen? That depends, if people try to crush me out, then I’ll start playing political ball with them too. I’ll work on their votes.”
HIS SLENDER frame is focused with taut hate. I glance briefly around me to see the rest of the band as entranced by this diatribe as myself. When Kory Clarke talks, people listen. And when it conies to Warrior Soul, their direction, their motives, their singular attitude and angst, he can talk.
“I can find issues to talk about besides guys and girls and break-ups. I can go for quite a while without doing that,” he smiles briefly, “though, it’s not that I can’t. On the record, ‘Lullaby’ is introverted and it’s about my wife.
“We’re not afraid to do songs like that, and we could do more of these types of songs. But does it always have to be limited to one sort of issue, or type of context in music? Does it always have to be girls, cars, ‘I’m superbad!’, you know?
“I almost feel that I’m being accused of being a bleeding heart, but I’m not. Listen to the record, it’s more anthemic, it sounds more like Joan Baez-gets-a Marshall-stack! It’s an intelligent approach as opposed to a simply physical approach.”
You think a Metallica crowd could go for that?
“I think you could put the Warrior Soul record in a collection that had the Metallica record. I’m sure to some people that Metallica are almost commercial now compared to, say, Demon’s Death Mask” he laughs.
“The sound on our record is based on grooves, so I’m sure some of those kids won’t dig an entire album. Though they might dig something like ‘Downtown’, or ‘Charlie’s Out Of Prison’.
“I think we’re going to reach a lot of people who’ll enjoy it, just judging by the reaction we’ve been getting.”’
SOMETHING OCCURS to him suddenly…
“I think we’re Post-Metal, I think we’re kind of a New Age something. There’s a new psychedelic – not the retro kind – but a new kind of music. It’s got different values, it’s black and white psychedelia, shapes and hints of grey, shadows…”
Now you really do sound like a pseudo-intellectual.
“A pseudo-intellectual?” He pushes forward almost out of his seat.
“People are going to think that? Then they’re assholes, I’m not, I’m f**king not. I’m just me. I try to explain myself and if people don’t like it then that’s too bad. I’ll go into a word battle with anyone, I can defend myself and this band, because there’s no bullshit involved.
“I am not going to answer questions like, ‘Yeah, dude, it’s kind of like Sabbath, but different.’ I’m just not going to be that way. I know people are going to try to make light of what I’m doing, but the truth is going to prevail.”
You think things are going to get better and, consequently, there’ll be a place for you?
“Yeah, I think things are going to change for the better. You can’t say that the Totalitarian system going down is a bad thing. A lot of this stuff was written before that happened, but because it deals more with social issues in the United States it doesn’t make the record any less valid.
“People are going to listen to the music and make images in their mind, images that they can’t fit into their lives. I want it to reach out, I think the vocal wrings out a little bit of hope, kind of reaching out, trying to gather us together.”
LIKE THE ‘new generation’ you speak of in ‘I See The Ruins’? In what way are we a New Age?
“We’re a new generation of attitude, we’re the AIDS generation,” Pete intercuts momentarily.
“It’s a generation where you turn on the TV and you see oil spills on the Hudson, this world is f***ing up and people are so lazy, man! They live on tabloids and TV crap. Warrior Soul isn’t about being lazy, it’s about thinking -and to some people that’s a lot of work.”
Kory stalks back into the conversation. A low, far-off hum that builds to thunder.
“We need somebody to get out there and say that we want to start and move somewhere. I’m just part of the new thinking, and if anyone wants to do that with me…
“We’re just trying to shove it in the face of everybody. When your trash leaves your house it goes to someplace and then they throw it in the ocean…”
He paraphrases his own lyrics. ‘You live For nothing… People eat it up, and I can’t handle it…’”
So is ‘We Cry Out’ for our generation too?
Kory: “It’s an anthem for people who live in the rock sub-culture, you know? We don’t want to f***king hurt anybody, and everybody is on our ass. We just want to listen and have fun, and it’s a cry against that. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, these kids are having fun, they’re talking about sex’…”
HIS MOCKERY is savage. The night before in the Alcatraz bar on the Lower East Side we’d spoken of the characters he employs in the telling of his lyrics. He was once a performance artist.
How much character acting is involved in the aforementioned ‘Charlie’s Out Of Prison’? If that’s for real it sounds as though he’s going to kill you. Your genuine employer from your drug-running days in Detroit?
“That’s real, totally real. It was the only way I could get out of Detroit with my band. Charlie’s really crazy and really violent. We had an agreement, but he’s totally crazy.
“He’s still out in Detroit, he called me about a year ago and sounded cool, but if he guy start getting mixed up with the wrong kind of chemicals is his body then he’ll probably need added security when play Detroit.
“He knows I’m in New York, I told him I’d give him five grand if I ever made enough money. He said that’d be cool. I think he’s a lot better now, I hope so.”
There are more stories in this dark heart. As Pete relates one of his, you begin realise where the black energy of this music comes from.
“I used to run with a petty f**ked-up bunch myself. One of the guys is dead trough drugs and the mob, the other guys are in Prison. But they found this one guy, well, actually, all they found of him was a piece of his chest, and they identified him because he had a tattoo on his chest, that was all they found of him. They cut him up and threw him all over the State.”
There’s little regret in his voice, just acceptance. So, I go to wrap it up with ‘In Conclusion’, just as the album does. Is that track simply that?
Kory nods: “It’s a teacher to someone younger, and it also takes a look at the feeling of the whole record. It finalises it in a very artistic and cool way.”
He’s positioned himself so that he’s almost over the top of the tape machine. He has no qualms about expression or false modesty.
“It’s the perfect ending song, it encompasses the whole thing perfectly”
‘Last Decade, Dead Century’ is the future now, here’s to the New Age…