Interview with DORO Pesch
Celebrating 25 Years of Metal!
by Tommy â€œHashmanâ€ Hash
She is undoubtedly the queen of heavy metal, who has not only kicked down the barriers for females in this hard edged music, but she has kept the torch burning bright for all things metal record after record, and her new album Fear No Evil (AFM Records) is no exception. From her albums with her band Warlock to her first solo album Force Majeure to more AOR laden material with records such as Angels Never Die all the way to recent full-blown melodic metal entities, Doro Pesch has never bowed down to trends – she has always been making music on her own terms, showing no benevolence to the commercial music during metal’s dark years in the early nineties when grunge and alternative ruled the charts.
With Fear No Evil being one heavy record filled with anthems such as “Celebrate,” “I Lay My Head Upon My Sword,” & “Running with the Devil” and darkened opuses such as “Herzblut,” “Night of the Warlock,” & “It Kills Me,” Doro is certainly proving that she reigns in metals kingdom and the record itself features a laundry list of guest vocalists such as Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Veronica Freeman (Benedictum) & Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes/ex-Theatre of Tragedy, artists that she helped pave the way for; as well as her friends from New Wave of British Heavy Metalers Girlschool & Saxon’s Biff Byford. Her career has been filled with ‘ups’ rather than ‘downs,’ through her collaborations, her acting on the German television program Verbotene Liebe (AKA Forbidden Love), headlining the first annual Flight of the Valkyries festival (a metal fest devoted to bands that are fronted by females), to her continuation of recording record after record.
“I wanted to make a record that represents all of the last twenty-five years of my career,” begins Doro on Fear no Evil, “really, really good old school metal elements like big anthems with of course, a more modern guitar sound, because I love anthems and I love fast heavy hard stuff – so I wanted to make a record that represents all of what I do best and what I love the most. So I picked the songs that I liked the best and it came out as a good mixture. The single “Celebrate” was the most successful single the band and I have ever had, it went to #3 in Spain on the normal singles charts, which usually, Heavy Metal is never in that chart, so that was great. The album hit #11 in Germany so it seems like it is a good climate for metal these days. So far we toured non-stop, all the songs they fit in so great with all the highlights during this tour, which we will be coming to the states this September after all the summer festivals are done.”
Her inspiration for the music & lyrics come from many areas of her life, and the ideas can come about at any time – nevertheless, she is always ready to save these ideas and bring them out when the time comes to write & record new material. Over the years, Doro has written with artists such as Jean Beauvoir (Crown of Thorns/ex-Plasmatics), Andreas Bruhn (ex-Sisters of Mercy), and has worked with Gene Simmons, and renown producers Jack Ponti & Barry Beckett – each occasion has been a great experience, the new album even warranted two new songs that would be written for a special occasion as a reflection on her career, “Actually everything inspires me, usually the fans,” explains Doro, “when I hear their stories, when I hear about what they go through; and there are some personal things as well as some political stuff too, but I like life and love and the ups and downs of life – I usually get the best ideas before I go to sleep – like when I’m in a state of when I am just falling asleep and something beautiful pops up; ideas like these don’t pop up when I usually do my everyday routine, but when I relax, I always have a little tape player in front of my bed as well as a notepad and I will write it all down because I might not remember it the next morning – those ideas sometimes aren’t there, so I keep everything right beside my bed and on my tour bus. I was working with somebody wonderful who is actually located in Nashville, he is Gary Scruggs, and I worked with him for many, many years and we always came up with the best ideas and I hope we can write some more songs together, maybe for the next record – (Gary and I) were a great team. I got to work with Andreas Bruhn, who is the ex-guitar player from the Sisters of Mercy and I did a coupe of songs with him – but as or the inspiration, it just comes out – usually when I am on tour I have a little book that I write down all the stuff that I think of that is interesting & important – when it is time to do another record I just get the book out and look through the notes and think, ‘Oh yes, that is what I want to write about.'”
“For the 25th anniversary I wanted to write two songs, one was “Celebrate,” which was one that we could all sing along to and literally celebrate the last 25 years of my career and the other was “The Night of the Warlock,” which was important because we wanted build like a stage set with a castle and ruins, where it would be very spooky and very magical – for the first time we had the ‘Warlock’ on stage and it was this big sculpture and took about a year to make – so I thought if we built the sculpture, we deserve to make the song. Those two songs were the first two songs written for the new album.”
It’s not just the people she has written with over the years but it’s with those who have actually sung along side her in the recording studio that have created special moments in her life, each collaboration being extremely special unto itself, from all the guests that appear on Fear No Evil to performing “All we Are” with Holy Moses’ Sabina Classen at Metal Female Voices Fest in 2007 to Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and former Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen – these moments have created not only good music and friendships, but one in particular helped the vocalist get through a very tough time, “Every collaboration was unique, special, and magical in it’s own way,” elaborates Doro, “every person had so much to offer, like it was always different, but it was always a highlight in my life. The time I worked with Gene Simmons in 1990 (for the self-titled album) – I was such a big Kiss fan and I never thought I would ever meet Gene; and then Tommy Thayer, who is now in Kiss, he was the co-producer and played all the guitars; so over time I walked in the studio I thought “wow, Gene Simmons is sitting there,” I could never get over it, for a whole year I was in Heaven – it was really amazing because he is so intelligent, I learned so much working with him, he taught me so many things about music and life. The duet partners such as Lemmy, Udo Dorksnider, Peter Steele, and Tarja Turunen, every time it was unbelievable; they were always my favorite songs on the record, every single time was unique, I couldn’t say which time was the best because they were all phenomenal in their own way. The best part was that we all stayed friends forever – it’s the best, we work together and then you have a friend for life, I cherish it for life. With Lemmy, we were also label mates at SPV, and then I wrote him a letter and said, “Hey Lemmy, I am with you on this record label and I am enjoying your new record and I was wondering if we could do something together or maybe a song together.” So I sent the letter out and totally forgot about it and then I had a very, very tough time; my dad died and was totally devastated – one day the phone rang and I didn’t even want to pick up the phone but I figured the call could be important and it turned out to be Lemmy and he said “Hey Doro, I got your letter, let’s do something together;” and I said that I didn’t know if I wanted to do anything because I was so sad that my dad had just passed away and Lemmy said that it was extremely important that we should try and work together and that I should come out to California, write some songs to take your mind off of what has happened. A couple of weeks later I went to L.A. and it was so good being out there, we had he best talks which helped me get over this heavy time; he gave me hope to go on. We wrote two songs “Love Me Forever” and “Alone Again,” it was great working together – he always gave me a kiss on the forehead and he would say “OK, now do good,” and I went into the recording room and I sang like a little bird.”
Like many artists, Doro has dealt with many record companies, having stayed with Pre-Universal Polygram’s Mercury & Vertigo imprints for years from her Warlock days up until the early nineties, to a brief tenure with Warner/WEA, to a declaration of independence with metal giant SPV, all the way to her current deal with another metal mainstay, AFM Records – with different business dealing and musical trends going through the motions here and there within the industry, she has seen a lot happen, “In the beginning, in the 80’s, it was a really good time,” elaborates Doro, “There is always this pressure to deliver a hit record, when you are a metal band, you can’t really compete with pop artists – when we were on Warner Bros., grunge was so huge and metal bands had so little chance to get attention. Sometimes it was a matter of times when things were better or things just didn’t go so well. In the 80’s it was really good with the big festivals, the big tours, my first tour was with Judas Priest in ’86 in Europe, so back then we had really, really good times – but then in the 90’s it was tough when the musical climate changed, when grunge was so important and so big the record companies would ask how it sounded and we would say “it has great songs and has a great sound” and the record company would ask, “well, does it sound like grunge?” and we would say “well, not really” and then the record company would say that they couldn’t work the album; they would say that times were tough and it had nothing to do with the record companies; it was just that when metal wasn’t doing so well (in the mainstream). Then I went to SPV, they knew what to do, they were mainly a metal label, they had all the metal connections and I was very happy on SPV. I am also really happy at my current label AFM, and even though they are not so big, all the people who are working there have a heart for metal, they are die-hard metal fans I think it’s a big advantage that they know how to market what they sell – all labels have their pros and cons, I must say. With the majors, every time it was a big fight for every record. Now I am on record number seventeen, I never thought it was ever easy to put out a record, but it’s always been good to have great people pushing your music. Back in the 80’s, money was really never an issue, but now it is – tour support and all that seemed to be available back then; but in the last five-to-six years the rules have changed. All the bands including us, are concentrating more on touring – back then I always remember we would do the record and we would do a tour to support the record and now, it’s the other way around, we put out the record to support the tour; but I always try to go with the times.
Recently, she was asked to sing a song for the 20th anniversary for the Wacken Open Air festival; after hearing the track, she could not refuse, “I was played the demo for the song and they asked me if I wanted to sing it and I said yes, I love it. We recorded it already although I haven’t heard the finished version yet; but I hear it’s turning out really great.”
With the new album out, as well as being off the heels of a successful tour worldwide, not to forget the prospects for more upcoming tours in places where Doro and her band have yet to play, festival dates (one that will include an orchestra), and another DVD being planned, the future holds well for the queen of metal, “I recently came back from Spain, I did one gig with my old band Warlock and we headlined the Metal Way festival, it was really interesting that we haven’t played together in such a long time,” concludes Doro, “We are gearing up for all the festivals such as Wacken and The Rock of Ages festival, which will have an orchestra – we are actually rearranging the songs for orchestra. We did it one time with an orchestra at Wacken in 2004 and it was so nice so we want to put another concert with all the new songs off the new record and all of the highlights. We are also gearing up for the tour of the states, I definitely want to sing with Tarja again, hopefully we will play some festivals together and we can sing songs such as “Walking with an Angels” & her song “The Seer” and then I’m starting to edge towards another DVD; we did the 25th anniversary show in December and it was the longest show, three-and-a half hours long and it was great and many, many guest were there – The Scorpions, Warrel Dane from Nevermore, Bobby Blitz from Overkill, and Tarja . I had ‘The Great Ladies of Metal’ sing “Celebrate” with me altogether, I definitely want to make a nice DVD out of it, but that will probably take a few months, so it will probably be out this year. This year it will just be touring, we just came back from China and we will be going back there and next year we will be going to India for the first time, all these people that I have spoken to, it seems like India is going to be the next big country for metal, I’m so excited – All these different countries where I thought I would never play, they all were opening up. On the North American tour, we will fly to Monterey, Mexico to play the Monterey Metal fest and then we go back to the states to tour.”