Led by the outspoken Kory Clarke, Warrior Soul are one of the most influential bands of their generation. Releasing a string of albums on Geffen records in the 1990s; including critically acclaimed debut 'Last Decade, Dead Century, the band parted ways with the label after 1993's misunderstood 'Chill Pill', before shape-shifting completely for their next release 'The Space Age Playboys'. Now 'Back On The Lash' with their first studio album in five years, we caught up with main man Kory Clarke, for a chat about the disc, as well as taking a look at their explosive history. Punk and belligerent; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Kory, how are you today?
Fucked. How are you? We played a good gig last night; people went nuts, we sold all the merch; everything was great.
You’ve just released new album ‘Back On The Lash’; Is it still exciting for you to bring out new material?
Well, when I get the reaction I get, yeah. It’s had a great reaction; I've had nothing but five star, 9/10 reviews. I talked to a writer yesterday who wrote for a major magazine in the U.K., and he said he wanted to make it a five out of five, but he couldn't because the editor said he couldn't do that. So he decided to make it a ‘4/4’, and they changed it to a 4/5.
Well that must make you happy anyway.
It does, but it makes me want to kill editors.
The new album’s title conjures up a return to the ‘Space Age Playboys’ era, where the political side of things went to the side; is that the case?
I don’t know. I still make social commentary, but I wouldn't call it ‘political’; It’s like what Hendrix would say in a song, not even as extreme as Bob Dylan. I don’t know if it’s "to the side". If you read the lyrics, it’s really not very much to the side. I’m obviously pissed off about the situation that’s going on; the corporate takeover of the fuckin’ planet, but you know, what are you going to do? You can fight, but you’ve still got to get fucked up. They get fucked up, so why can’t we? Why do they get all the fun?!
You financed the album with an Indiegogo campaign; was this a new route for you to go down?
I’ve done campaigns before for my art projects, but I hadn’t really used it for music yet. It was fairly successfully, I’d say. It could have been more successful, but I take what I can get, and the record came out really, really good.
You must be happier to have full control over the product, as opposed to the early days when record companies had an input?
Well, as you know, I don’t really give a fuck what record companies think. I’ve already been butchered by them before, so it is a way to control your own stuff, but there aren’t really any real record companies any more anyway. Although I do love my record company these days, I don’t listen to these guys, but I do love my record company, yeah. Cargo actually really likes me too, which is nice.
You’ve had some exclusive listening parties for the new album in the UK and Germany; what was the idea behind that?
We’re playing live the album and other tracks, and hanging out with the press and people that are really interested in the band. We couldn’t really do another mainstream show in London; it would have been too much competition with the Croydon Rock festival, so we decided to do this instead. We get to meet some really cool people, and we get to charge what we feel is the correct amount to see the band. It’s not really a ‘listening party’; it’s a rock and roll show for thirty people, which is kind of cool. Also, we’ve been having a bit of resistance from German [promoters]s because they don’t like my attitude, so I’m going to bypass their bullshit and just do my own show.
The events sound like a fantastic experience for the hard core Warrior Soul fans.
Well, it’s cool because we’re also controlling the sound a lot more. We have a semi-open bar usually, and people are loose. The band can stop if they want and we talk to people. It’s really great for the real hard core fans who are really into it, and I don’t have to listen to people; nobody’s going to tell me when to play, and when not to play, what to play, how to play, turn up, turn down; fuck off, you know? It’s my show, so fuck you!
When you’re in that kind of environment, are you open to fans requesting tracks?
Sometimes. We’re not a jukebox, obviously, but, you know, let’s say it’s probably going to be coming up in the order anyway within a few songs. If there’s enough enthusiasm from a group of people who are usually drunk off their ass going; “WASTELAND! WASTELAND!”, we’ll placate them and let them have it. But, like last night, nobody could say anything because I just didn’t stop playing. I was going for two hours, and then we stopped and everyone was like; “We just blew your fuckin’ head off, man”.
With an intense gig like that, how does the set flow?
We open the set with the opening of the new album, and we go four songs in, and then we just kick right into something off of ‘Destroy The War Machine’ – it’s called ‘Burning Bridges’, and the thing just lights up. It’s a fuckin’ song and a half, so it’s like a greatest hits show, really, it’s great.
You’ve got quite a catalogue to choose from; the song ‘Hero’ for example rarely seems to get an outing.
I do it now and again, not all the time, but sometimes. I don’t do ‘The Losers’ that much, and I rarely ever play ‘We Cry Out’ or ‘I See The Ruins’, but we’re starting to throw those back in the set a little bit. You know, it’s just I’ve gone so far beyond all of it, and those songs are so old; it’s like The Kinks playing ‘You Really Got Me’ or whatever.
Some of those tracks are real anthems that haven’t dated at all.
Well, yeah. When are you guys going to start nominating me for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, man?
If it was up to me, it wouldn’t be an issue.
Well it probably will be, eventually; all those old fuckers are going to die and then we’ll take over.
When Warrior Soul first came on the scene, you had magazine front covers, MTV videos, and a multi-album deal with Geffen Records; did you feel like you’d made it?
Yeah, of course. But the thing was, I’d only planned for the record deal, and I didn’t know what to do after that. So, the whole thing was designed for the record deal; I just wanted to tell people to fuck off, and then it was like; “Ok, I’ve got the record deal, now what the fuck are we doing?” And I don’t understand the record business – I never will – so whatever, I just made the coolest shit that I could, and tried to be in front of everything that I could. I’ve influenced a lot of movements within rock and roll, globally, and some day people will understand that I did. Hopefully I won’t be dead by that time, but I think I will be recognised eventually.
Warrior Soul’s final album for Geffen; ‘Chill Pill’ was apparently a two fingered kiss-off to the record company that was set up to fail.
Well, it was a bad idea, and the idea came from [manager] Peter Mensch, and Q Prime. We wanted to leave Geffen. We had a two record deal at that point, and we wanted to leave because Nancy Jefferies at Electra Records, and a few other people really wanted to have Warrior Soul. They thought they could do something that Geffen didn’t. We were more than happy to go head-to-head with Guns and all these other bands, so we called our A&R guy, and I don’t know what was said or not - maybe Mensch was setting me up? I don’t know, there was a lot of intrigue going on then, so, anyway, we asked [Geffen A&R executive] Tom Zutaut; the contract was something like $250,000 for that record, and I said; “Look, just give us sixty grand, and we’ll walk”. And they go; “No, we’re not going to let you go”. And I’m looking at Peter Mensch and he goes; “They can’t see the forest for the trees; let’s take the $250,000 and give them ‘Chill Pill’ and let’s go”. And that’s what we did. I did the record for $10,000. I pocketed a quarter of a million dollars.
It was good business sense, but you wouldn’t say it was your favourite Warrior Soul album, would you?
Why? Well, it’s a great record. What I intended the record to be was, in between the Geffen deal and the third record, put it out in the winter time on a subsidiary label, and it was supposed to be out there while I was working on the real, big record, which a lot of the songs ended up on the ‘Fucker’ record, in demo form. So, it was supposed to be this kind of like ethereal, kind of trippy record, that just came out for the fans. But instead they put it out like it’s a major record. So they tried to fuck me, I fucked them, everyone got fucked, so there you go; welcome to record companies.
Would any of those tracks make it into today’s set?
I’ll tell you what, I go on the road, and the longer that time goes by, and more and more people realise that it’s not about haircuts any more – you’re not a tribe of people, this kind of thing, except for London, they don’t know that yet – it’s just a fuckin’ rock record that’s different. I heard ‘Mars’ today when we were coming back from a show, and I want to do ‘Ha Ha Ha’; we haven’t done that in a long time.
The next incarnation of Warrior Soul for the ‘Space Age Playboys’ album was a very different band.
Yeah, it was. It was a seminal change, and I think necessary. I never wanted to be a heavy metal rock band. I hate heavy metal, really. I find it amusing, but other than that, it’s just really poncy. But moving from that, the only way you could get signed at that time was to be that genre. But as you see with my solo record - which got a five star review in Rolling Stone - I don’t have to do just metal. So when the Playboys hit the stage, it was like a live thrash explosion. It was the peak of Green Day and all that shit, and I was right there with everybody; ask the Backyard Babies who their main influence were.
Warrior Soul split after that, and you started a band called The Space Age Playboys; was that how that album was supposed to be released in the first place?
They refused to let me. It was the $65,000 deal I couldn’t fuck with. Martin Hooker at Music For Nations decided that no, it has to be Warrior Soul, and I’m like; “no, it’s not helping me”. But I made it look so not Warrior Soul, so I got away with it.
One of your more controversial moves was when you released the ‘Destroy the War Machine’ album originally under the title of ‘Chinese Democracy’ in 2008.
Boy, did that piss everybody off, it was so funny. I really couldn’t come up with a god damn name for the record, and I remember walking with the guitar player, and he was like; “Why don’t we call it ‘Chinese Democracy?!” And I was like; “Fuck, that is funny, man, because it’s pretty controversial”. So, I decided to put it out on a limited thing. Now, I don’t know he [Axl Rose] was going to release it the next month; I thought it was just a dead project. I hadn’t talked to Del James [Guns ‘n’ Roses road manager], or any of those guys for a long, long time. But it was just a self-release, really, and it was really a publicity stunt. Everyone was like; “Aren’t you worried they’re going to sue you?” And I’m like; “What are they going to get? Some old cowboy boots and four track tape recorder?” But it was all fun and games.
Finally, looking forward, and what does 2018 hold for Warrior Soul?
These are the best reviews I’ve ever had, so we’re working on tours right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to try and tour. People are working with me in Chicago right now, writing the next record with me, so I should be hearing some riffs next week. They went in the studio last weekend, so we’ll see what happens with that. Elsewhere, we’re working on a comic book that’s going to tell the story of Warrior Soul.
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Warrior Soul's 'Back On The Lash' is out now, via Cargo Records.