TALKING WITH: Karl DeKira of Pharoah

Pharoah is an enigma. Tell me, how often have you seen a glam band that actually has a message other then, “let’s party”? Take time to listen to their independent release “First Strike,” especially tunes like “Red Flag” and you’ll get some idea of their political bent as well as their unique sound. This is no Poison sound-alike you’re dealing with. Pharoah is what Pharoah is. They have something to say but their looks don't override the message. Obviously, this long-lived band are no slouches in the live department. They embody the meaning of glam. Many bands can’t do the “We dress like women”and look like fools, but to these stage veterans it’s become second nature and just like the two-color hair, its part of what is. Their perpetual draw is their outrageous stage show, complete with girls, smoke and the bands confidence in the ability to “out sick” and out psyche the crowd, according to lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Karl DeKira. “Pharoah doesn’t compromise and isn’t going to,” Karl declared to me at a recent meeting. “We’ve just gotten to the point where we’re staring to see the goal in the same way.” This led me to wonder just what it was the band wanted, what was Karl’s goal (other than that of which every musician dreams - the ever elusive record deal). DeKira allowed that he was at one time motivated mostly by the financial gain (“A boat would be nice”) but now after the experience of working in pro situations with different producers, he realizes that he would do it for no money. “If I could only get by and get my feelings across. I really don’t care if we’re the biggest band in the world. I don’t think I’d like the Beatles thing with everyone yelling and screaming and no one listening to what you’re trying to say. You could fake it and they’d be happy, not like some of our long time fans who can see through the show and really hear what we’re saying.” Pharoah’s fans have been able to appreciate the band in one incarnation or another since ’78-‘79, but they're practically unrecognizable from the band of the early 80s. They’ve been through many changes and transformations, both visually and musically and according to DeKira, they’re nowhere near finished.“When were working with a conceptual band like we are, with so many different sides, you’re going to make moves and maybe some of these moves might be where a member of the group might not want to go. Then, he’ll have to take a back seat, bow out or God knows what. As of now the show is defiantly changing. We’re planning some intense surprises that will be coming up soon.” I asked Karl why he thought the band was so popular as it is. “We look to create a mood; we really try to take people somewhere other than the rock club. Most people don’t understand what we’re trying to do the first time they see us; they can’t see past the show, but once they “get it” they start to create their own mood, their own reality at a Pharoah show. We like to feel we offer an alternative. We give the metal people a chance to dance, and we give the dance people a chance to punch the guy next to them. I think this carries over into the music as well; people can still feel the same thing about the record, the gut feeling of the song.” Video is one medium that this theatrical band has always taken advantage of, but now they plan to work on an even larger than life scale. “We’ve just finished a video for “Red Flag” that will be on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball here soon, as well as in England. Also, in the show that we’re currently revising will be new stuff shown that will closely match what is happening on the stage. It’ll be like nothing you’ve ever seen". As is true with almost every band, Karl is only one voice in Pharoah. I asked him to tell me about the other members: “Everyone in the band has their own style and it creates what we are. It’s a real team thing. Starting with the individuals themselves, Dick, that is, Rikk Fabio, guitarist, is a sound. He really has it together; he’s an integral part of the sound of Pharoah, very into creating the mood musically. Dennis Lords (bass), I think is the bad boy of the band, the dark side. I would say Dennis is Halloween. Nelson Pop a.k.a. “Ned” (drums) seems to be very upbeat, insane, to happy for his own good actually, but he keeps everybody laughing. Then we have Scott Archer who supplies keyboards, backing vocals, video programming and numerous other things. All together it makes up all the partsThere’s no two alike in this band. Same hairstyle, but that’s about it.” Curiosity compelled me to ask whether DeKira thought Pharoah would be able to handle the success that appears to be in the band’s future. Many bands are thrown from the bars to the stadiums these days but Karl says not to worry: “We’ve never played small clubs. I mean, that’s been our attitude. We’ve always tried to play the Garden, no matter where we’ve been. Success will only add more fuel to the fire.” Anyone who knows Pharoah knows that they’re the only ones who can top themselves. Fans should also be on the lookout for a limited edition picture disc of “Red Flag” b/w“Terrorist” (both versions newly recorded) and many scorching shows through the summer.

Cathy Coleman