“Warrior Soul” Interview by Jay Rollins
Kory Clarke is the frontman who has been calling for societal change since Warrior Soul’s inception in 1987 and their critically acclaimed 1990 debut record Last Decade Dead Century. Warrior Soul defined a sound by amalgamating aspects of punk, glam metal, and pure rock ‘n’ roll into a jaded sound seething of sleazy metal that reflects a seedy reality of society. When the band moved from Detroit to New York they saw no formidable competition as the momentum of their career quickly made Warrior Soul one of the top acts in New York City. From the beginning the band was politically charged with anti-corporate sentiments which appealed to a socially charged European audience. Despite thrilling live audiences around the world, in addition to working hard in the studio, industry suits chose to focus on a different agenda that didn’t prioritize Warrior Soul. From the fray and turmoil Kory created one of his prized records, The Space Age Playboys. Shortly after the album’s release Kory decided to take a hiatus from Warrior Soul and focus on other projects.
Now Warrior Soul has reformed and for the last few years they have been stronger than ever, exceeding long-time fans’ expectations while blowing away those people newly introduced to their music. The guys are back to good drinks, loud tunes, and wild performances with a general “fuck you” to those who oppose their rebellion through art. In this spirit Warrior Soul has once again been wholeheartedly embraced by Europe. If you want a taste of what Warrior Soul is all about live then check out the latest release Tough As Fuck: Live In Athens, a vibrant recording from yet another sold out show. Whether it is through visual art or rock ‘n’ roll Kory is a constantly producing work that reflects his impression of the world. On stage he is the crowd provoking frontman with plenty to say and Warrior Soul is once again the primary outlet for Kory Clarke.
Kory Clarke is here with Metalheads Forever Magazine to fill us in on the music behind the intoxicating good times. Thanks for joining me.
This incarnation of Warrior Soul has been steady on the road the last few years playing all over the USA and Europe. On November 11th you released Tough As Fuck: Live In Athens which gives fans who’ve yet to see you a taste of your live show and a chance for those Metalheads who have seen you to relive the madness. How did you decide that Athens was the place to do a live recording?
Well obviously Athens is the bastion of rock and roll democracy apparently so I’ve got an audience there that’s pretty rabid. I realized this about five years ago when I sold out the An Club in Athens. During a riot, for some reason they like to light the inside of the city on fire every weekend.
It’s like a cleansing.
And you know what? And well they should, because especially five years ago when the economy changed to the Euro, a lot of people lost their benefits and the Bundesbank and the German hierarchy of banking-ness kind of took them and shook the tree a little bit and said “well we’re going to have to get rid of some benefits” and stuff like that which has really, really hurt people in a huge enormous way. You have no idea how much that has hurt people here. These people in Greece really need help, they need help anywhere in Portugal or Spain, Italy. When they went to the Euro they got sold out to the Germans and well, here they are.
Struggling to get back.
Well, struggling in a way that people in North America don’t understand. Yet.
So I guess it just makes sense with that backing there for you to do the live album there and capture that energy on the album.
Ha ha yeah, thanks for returning to the subject. I did have a sold out crowd there a few years ago, 2011/12 something like that, and we kept trying to get back there every year, but there’s a lot of, oddly enough, politics that go on with playing in Athens. It just so happened that the wheels turned right, Jupiter was aligned with my asscrack you know, ha ha, the stars were right, and whatever they gave me a show and we sold it out. I’ve got it on video and it’s going to be released next year probably in the first quarter.
Warrior Soul was started on a bet you took in the late 80’s to become the biggest band in New York and in under a year you were signed to different records—
Yeah so what? So what?
Well it’s still pretty impressive though, to get that big, especially in that scene I would imagine at the time with the stiff competition.
Well you have to understand that, you know coming from Detroit which is probably the stiffest competition on earth for a rock band, especially in the late seventies, eighties, what I saw in New York was a fashion show. As far as I was concerned there was nobody that was serious competition for me, at least the people who were standing at that point. You know obviously there were later-comers that came on the scene, Circus of Power really great band, Degeneration, guys like that. These guys weren’t up to Warrior Soul level for sure, but at that point I could say something like that boldly. I went out and I took it, I mean I really did. I have never been that focused. The last time I was that focused I did the Space Age Playboys album. It was a very focusing thing, when you put down a bet and you say you’re gonna do something man, that really focuses you and as they say it motivates you to a massive extent.
Absolutely, would you say that the Detroit rock scene was working harder earlier than the New York scene? Not that New York didn’t eventually come into its own.
You gotta understand this. Detroit has a giant chip on its shoulder. Detroit’s attitude is this: We gave you fucking wheels, what the fuck more do you want from us? We gave you punk fucking rock, we gave you Motown, we gave you fucking cool cars, and what’d you do? Fuck it up. And now you look at us like we’re pieces of shit. Ha ha, the Detroit people are just like, “we are so much fucking better musicians than you guys in New York right now.” At that time a lot of the Detroit musicians were in LA already. The Eagles and those guys, don’t think they’re not from Detroit, the rhythm section from the Chili Peppers, these guys are from Detroit dude. People living in Detroit are just like “fuck you man, we’re awesome. How come no one likes us?” There’s a pissed off-ness and a competitiveness with the world that really makes people polish their ability, hone their craft as they say.
For bands getting on the go now, do you think it is even necessary to sign to a label in order to sustain a music career?
I don’t know. Ha ha, ask Rick Rubin maybe he knows. He might have an enlightening thing to say, Rick’s a great guy by the way. He’s a good guy man, seriously. So where were we?
You are the originator and initiator behind Warrior Soul. To craft the sound of Warrior Soul you utilize a musical troupe of trusted artists. Now that you’ve been on the road with the current lineup for so many years do you think it will change the Warrior Soul writing process?
Absolutely. The writing process for each album has been evolving. Sometimes we’re in a cabin near a lake, other times we’re just on the road, just dippin’ into studios. Other times it’s basically, hang out at my house bar-room brawling it recording, it always changes. Whatever group of people are working with me, their personalities I try to accentuate into the project. I think it’s a technique that possibly Frank Zappa used or the Beatles used in a certain way, the Stones certainly used in a certain way. Where you bring people in, I mean the Stones use session musicians. I prefer to use musicians that play with me on the road, come in and do their bit because they really have a feel for what the history of the band is, and it gives it more of the authenticity of the music. If you just hire a guy who comes in that’s played on Billy Joel’s latest piece of shit, or you know whatever, that’s the guy you’ve got. But if you’ve got guys that are on the road with you and you guys are out there sweating and blood is on the stage, these guys are going to come back with some real Warrior Soul material. Warrior Soul being me at the end of the day.
Kory over your career you’ve written songs that deal with personal experiences in a band, politics, trippin’ out, and destruction, what has been the most meaningful writing experience of your career thus far? Any particular songs or albums that really stick out, like this was really what I needed to put on this album at this time more so than others?
I would like to question the statement “tripping out.” Ha ha, I’m not sure what that means. Yeah well, material that sticks out to me. I mean, Salutations from the Ghetto Nation is something I’d consider a masterpiece, all the records have this sort of majestic feel to them. If you listen to a Warrior Soul record, even the Odds and Ends record, or what is called Fucker in Europe, has majestic flows and songs that are just very meaningful, they’re not throwaway. Even if they are throwaway songs, they’re meaningful throwaway songs, ha ha.
There’s still thought and emotion put into them.
There’s a majesty. Yeah I mean I don’t know what’s great, I love some of the stuff that gets overlooked sometimes, like a song like “Trip Rider” on Salutations, or a song like “Soft” on Chill Pill. These kind of songs get lost, “Golden Shore” off Salutations or “Children of the Winter” off Drugs, God and the New Republic. There are songs that kind of get lost in the mix, because they’re too hard to play live because guys don’t know them, or we just don’t have the right sound equipment to make it happen. I think all of it is incredibly majestic and I would hate to include or exclude stuff, but I think maybe to answer your question would be the song “Drugs, God and the New Republic” kind of encompasses the ultimate smooth cool feeling of Warrior Soul.
Do you stockpile lyrics and pull from the repertoire when needed or do you write all the lyrics fresh for every album?
No I burnt out my stockpile years ago, ha ha.
So many albums, you can’t keep up with the writing.
Well you know, you jot stuff down but after a while you just kind of go off the cuff. Certainly Iggy and Bowie and Jagger all do this. To sit down and write solid poetry, if you’ve heard my solo records, the opium hotel series, Opium Hotel I and Opium Hotel II, you would understand what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of spoken word poetry, there’s a lot of stuff that has never been released to be quite honest but I just, at the moment I’m not in that kind of relationship with words. When I want to do right now is be alive and play the stuff that I’ve got over thirteen albums.
Absolutely, makes sense.
What do you think revolution entails and do you feel it always takes such extreme measures for societal reform?
Revolution is a really hard thing to deal with, because if you’re talking about revolution in your own life, think about that. A revolution in your own life is to re-take command, it’s a mutiny on yourself, on all the things that you believed and because the overbearing thought that has taken power is detrimental to your being, your inner self, you’ve got to change that. It goes beyond ying and yang, it’s like ying kicking yang’s ass ha ha.
Ying vs yang.
Ha ha yeah so I mean, when you put it into populations and giant mass psyche, you’re dealing with very serious stuff. The American Revolution, if that was not enough to try for the rich guys in America, against the rich guys in England ha ha. If that’s not enough, you got the really poor people in France that really want to get rid of the really, really, really rich people in France. The French razor is a pretty compelling implement and if people just look back a couple hundred years, and it’s not that long ago, it’s not like Romans. Fuck if the Romans ever figured out how to make the guillotine, could you imagine?
Oh, rough times.
Ha ha you know what I mean? There would be skulls from here to Timbuktu.
They’d just be rolling them around.
Why bother nailing people against these pieces of wood? Ha ha just line ‘em up. Now, revolution can turn into really weird stuff, and unless there are laws and really responsible people ahead of that revolution, you’re gonna have problems. Castro, Lenin, and who did those revolutions? Who is in charge of that? These are mass market revolutions. I happen to believe that Castro was probably actually in charge of his own, ha ha. But you know, it’s pretty bizarre that twenty five guys can take over a country, you know what I mean? But you come to your own conclusions. I think a revolution is the overthrow of oligarchy over the top of you, and that’s my definition of it.
Kory not only does your music promote activism and that people can make a difference but your visual art also coincides with this philosophy, at least that’s what I interpret from the visual art and music. Are there any modern or classical visual artists that influence your paintings?
Uh, no. Here’s the truth. I into expressionism. I’m the one that suggested that Lars buy Pollock. You know, it’s like, I think it’s a great medium. I think that it’s expression for everyone, as a human, expressionism and that’s what it is really. Pop art, whatever, all art is cool. If you paint, you’re cool, if you rock, you’re cool, if you dance, you’re cool, you know unless you’re into dance music and then you’re a douchebag ha ha.
I noticed a few paintings that incorporate flags in the piece. What was the catalyst for you to start expressing yourself through painting?
Cash, ha ha. It’s like some months I make more money making paintings than I do making music, so. When I was growing up I wanted to be a painter, and when I got to the tenth grade the lady that was my art teacher, she goes “you suck” ha ha. Because everybody in my art class is now like a superstar artist, but whatever. So I’m like, I suck? She’s like “you can’t draw your way out of a paper bag.” I’m like, alright, so I basically I started concentrating more on playing drums and working on music at that point, and playing hockey at the same time ha ha.
It has been said that music is a necessity of yours vital to your very existence. If you hadn’t become the essence of Warrior Soul what do you think would have become of Kory Clarke? I guess I should say instead of Warrior Soul or painting, because if you weren’t doing that I guess you’d just be doing painting all the time.
Well I’d probably try to knock off a couple banks I know that.
Turn to an exciting life of cowboys.
Yeah, you know I don’t know. When I was in Detroit I came up with a band called The Trial and I made my way out to start working with the producer Kim Fowley, and I got into all kinds of trouble out there in 1984 and to this day the repercussions are there. I stayed at the Tropicana hotel with the likes of, well everybody ha ha. It was pretty cool though, I had a room by the pool and it was like, if you listen to the songs you know how I financed it. If I wasn’t in Warrior Soul I’d be doing Warrior Soul in a different way. Now what I’m thinking of, which I’m not going to tell you, is I’ve got a really great idea about making a lot of money, ha ha but I’m not really interested in money. I’m interested in just getting art done at the moment.
Yeah money and happiness doesn’t always line up when you’re an artist.
Well we were all creating art there wouldn’t be very many wars, besides getting in fights about who’s gonna get the best gallery spot. If everyone would just concentrate on art, I think we’d be a much better off people and I think that’s an important thing to say. Artists get a bad rap because basically society considers us bums because we don’t buy into their corporate class symbolist rigmarole for lack of a better term. I just think artists are the lifeblood of all our societies and always have been. We’re the shaman, the high priests of humanity. We’re just like the American Indian, shoved down in a fucking hole. I hope someday somebody at some bank might actually look up at the fucking Picasso that’s sitting on his fucking wall and know what the fuck he’s got.
You are back overseas in January 2017 to further the Warrior Soul agenda in Italy with a headlining stint which will culminate with the main slot at the Fuck You We Rock Festival XII. In closing is there anything you would like to share with the Metalheads Forever nation? Perhaps some new Warrior Soul music is in the works? I know you mentioned that the Athens DVD will be coming out.
Well yeah, excuse me, I need a shot. Ah. Hi kids! Yes, the Athens DVD will be coming out very rapidly, and at a high expense too! That’s gonna make art flow!
No uh, we are really excited to go to Italy actually. There’s nothing like touring in Italy in January. Touring in Italy is going to be great, although I do have some misconceptions as to the names of the bands that I’m working with, but other than that, nice people. You can’t beat the food, the wine or the girls, so it’s gonna be amazing. Now, to be quite honest, seriously, now I’m not off the cuff, what I want to say is the festivals that these guys have put up in January ***** because there is no competition, they really have a nice roster. These are more punk bands, this is more of a punk kind of festival. The scene right now in Italy is so cool, I mean forget the names of the bands, listen to the music. They love New York Dolls, Iggy and fucking pure rock and roll from the fifties, I mean they are completely dedicated to this, it is unbelievable the dedication level. These guys are purely into this to rock and it’s an honor for me to play with them, it really is.
I’ve been hearing great things coming out of Italy I’ve been blown away all year. Literally every month a band crosses my path and I’m like who’s this and it’s another band from Italy and I’m like woah.
Dude, it’s just rock dude. These guys are rocking like fuck. I’m serious, they take no prisoners. And I’ll tell you what – backstage? You’ve got the best pasta and pizza you could ever imagine! It’s amazing – Jay you should come over. It’s not that *****
Oh I’d love to, Europe is high on my list. Especially for the art and culture.
Well listen, me and January are here, if you ever want to call us, we’re here.
That is amazing. You’ll be regretting that, ha ha.
Ha ha I hope so.
Perhaps some new Warrior Soul music is in the works?
Yes, hugely. We were on it last night, the only problem is the words “fuck you” just doesn’t stop. It’s like, okay, one song I’m just gonna tell you right now. The first song has “fuck you, fucked up, fuck you, fucked up” four times before the first verse gets in. I mean that’s just getting to the verse.
So it’s going to be the happiest album yet.
No it’s gonna rock dude! I’m just like where the fuck are we gonna get any airplay?
That’ll be the single “fuck you we’re fucked.”
Ha ha ha it’s outrageous, it’s just so stupid, I have to bar myself from saying that word ha ha.
Pure rock and roll fun.
Oh dude, well I appreciate your interview man.
Well I’ll let you get back on the road, thanks on behalf of myself and Metalheads Forever!
Warrior Soul: www.facebook.com/pg/koryroxart/photos
Jay Rollins: www.facebook.com/jayrollinsMHF
MHF / Jay Rollins
WARRIOR SOUL: Tough as fuck, Live In Athens (ALBUM REVIEW) by David Maloney
What can be said about a band and a front man that’s been around to experience the highs and lows of the turbulent and competitive Metal music industry? What can be said about a band that has toured the World, headlining and supporting some of the greatest bands in the world? What can be said is that this underrated Rock star with one of the most unique voices in all of Rock, Hard Rock, and Metal is back with his newly reformed band WARRIOR SOUL. They are killing it on their newly released live effort “Tough as Fuck: Live in Athens”. The band didn’t miss a beat, right from the opening track “Fuck the Pigs”. Kory Clarke, possessing one of the greatest voices in the business, is in top form as he kicks into high gear and takes control of the stage from the first strum of Rille Lundell’s guitar. Kory is a master and doesn’t hold back continuing a relentless assault as they lead into the second track, the anthemic “Punk and Belligerent”, followed by “The Drug”. At this point the crowd is in a beautiful ballistic Rock n Roll fury within a wave of Warrior Soul Heaven. The party doesn’t stop there and Kory Clarke is just starting his groove and has the crowd in his majestic fingers. As this train rolls on down the track, the fourth number is one of the most pleasing and probably the song that bridges the night from the first drink straight up to “let’s get wasted”. Now the crowd are all in for this ride and taking no prisoners, they are at Kory’s mercy and ready for more. From Track five to Track ten there is an all-out musical assault that takes the mind, body, and soul on a journey that is one way, Kory’s way, and everyone is along for the ride. This is one live album without fillers, this is one for the ages and a ferocious tenacity that keeps burning up the night as we close in on the end of the album. Next up is arguable one of their most well-known songs in their discography and they deliver it with the impact of a Jackhammer. Track eleven “Love Destruction” absolutely delivers and the crowd is in a collective fireball of Rock energy that just keeps fueling itself as we continue with one of Warrior Soul’s biggest hits, “Downtown”. This song hits the crowd with a undeniable wave of synergy and the band is just ripping it up and ripping it out. Still, Kory is vocally in control like a wizard as they burst into their biggest crowd pleasing anthem. Everyone has lost control as we hit track thirteen, “Wasteland”, the final and best song of the evening and the crowd is just going wild. What I can say is that this album is amazing from top to bottom and full of energy that captures exactly what the band is and who they are playing for. They are back, better than ever and this album is back to the front and moving forward. (8/10)
MHF / David Maloney