Vintage Hard Rock and Heavy Metal


May 12, 2013

Heavy Metal is Doro Pesch’s special calling

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Written by: Peter Lindblad
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Some women give themselves over to God and become nuns. Doro Pesch had a different calling. Devoting her life to spreading the gospel of heavy metal to every corner of the earth, the German-born artist is a true believer, a warrior for the cause. She’s bled for it and sacrificed, even going so far as to quash any possibility of having a family or a spouse. Doro is the Metal Queen, and she takes that royal title seriously.

So when Pesch, a fearless trailblazer for women in a genre traditionally ruled by men, demands that you Raise Your Fist, as she does on her latest album, as a fan of metal, you pull on your patch-covered battle jacket – no questions asked – and go to war against whatever forces are conspiring against the music you love. Yes, like your good ol’ Uncle Sam, she wants you, and Raise Your Fist – her 17th studio album overall and running the gamut from traditional, leather-and-studs metal, glorious power metal and balls-out trash – is her newest recruiting endeavor.

Positive messages abound, as Doro espouses a “never give up” philosophy on Raise Your Fist, released last fall on Nuclear Blast. Doro never did, not even when she had tuberculosis as a child and had to actually stave off death. She would go on to help found the German metal band Warlock as a mere teenager, with members of the bands Snake and Beast. Warlock toured with such metal heavyweights as W.A.S.P., Judas Priest, Dio and Megadeth.

Warlock recorded four albums, including their 1987 breakout hit Triumph and Agony. It went gold in Germany and landed at No. 80 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. Their videos for the singles “All We Are” and “Fur immer” were afforded heavy rotation on MTV’s “Headbangers’ Ball.” But, when Doro decided to settle in America, Warlock disintegrated and the band Doro was born. Since then, she’s continued to record and tour with a relentless energy few can muster, becoming a role model for other females in metal, who regard her as a trailblazer.

2013 promises to be a big year for Doro, and she talks about what’s coming up and her amazing history in this recent interview.

How was the most recent tour?
Doro Pesch: It was a wonderful tour. It was awesome. The weather was so severe. There was lots of snow, though, and lots of snowstorms, and oh man, in some cities, there was so much snow and ice, we were afraid that nobody would show up. But, it was always packed, even though it was cold out.


Do you think the material off Raise Your Fist was well-received?
DP: Yes, yeah. It was great. And you know, it was great, and I think it fit right in with all the classic songs. What is this, record No. 17? Yeah, it mixed in really good and “Raise Your Fist” … actually it reminds me of “All We Are” and it made people so happy, and I always asked them to show me your fists before we played the song, and oh, it was so great. So “Raise Your Fist in the Air” was definitely one of the highlights. And “Revenge” was especially for people who like old-school metal, and there was a lot of metal in that and everybody was head-banging. And one of my favorite songs, “Hero,” I sang it every night, and I dedicated it to Ronnie James Dio, who I loved so much. And that was definitely one of the highlights. And then every night we played different songs off the new album. Sometimes we’d put in “Cold Hearted Lover” and other stuff. It’s hard to choose a set list because there are so many records we try to highlight, and then every night we try to change it for those who come to see it a couple of times, so everyone gets new songs. Yeah, yeah … the new record was received very well. We were happy.

Is “Hero” one of your favorite songs off the new album?
DP: It is, and it’s one of the most important. It was Track 1 that I wrote for this record, and I just kept saying I want to give honor and respect to Ronnie. We got the chance to tour together a couple of times. My first time was actually in ’87, and one of the great times was in 2000 in America. We had a long tour and then we became really great friends, and it was so much fun. And I know how much Ronnie means to all the heavy-metal fans. And I feel the same. So when I heard that he was in heaven … oh God, it was so devastating. A couple of weeks later, I wanted to go to bed, and I almost fell asleep, and then this melody comes out and the lyrics and the chorus was exactly there as how you hear it on the record. And then I finished the verses a little bit later with a friend of mine, Joey Balin, who did [Warlock’s] Triumph and the Agony with me and the Force Majeure record [her first solo album], and I called him up. And I said, “Joey, I have a song that’s very important to me. It’s for Ronnie and every word has to be perfect,” so he said, “Let’s do it.” And he knew Ronnie, too, because we toured together in ’87. Joey was on the tour, but back then I couldn’t speak English that well, so the conversations between Ronnie and me were limited to, “Hey, have a great show,” and “you did great.” But in 2000, we had long conversations and great laughs, and it was awesome. We became really great friends.

A couple of really big powerful anthems on the record are “Raise Your Fist in the Air” and “Victory.” I know you stated in the press material that when you played the Wacken Open Air Festival, those songs just made the whole place shake. What was that experience like?
DP: Oh, it was the ultimate. Actually, Wacken is one of my favorite festivals in the world – not because it’s in Germany but because it’s for all the metalheads all over the world. It’s definitely one of the best festivals. That’s what so great about the festival is that it’s definitely a festival for the fans. So these two guys, I played them the demo for “Raise Your Fist.” It was a couple of years ago, and then they said, “Oh, you’ve got to play these at the Wacken festival.” And I said, “No, it’s not done. It’s just a demo. We want to record it. We want to put it eventually on the new record.” They said, “No, play it, please.” And I said, “Are you sure?” And they said, “Yes.” And then I played it and actually, it was not even finished, but we played it. I always could open up the Wacken festival. I sing the Wacken anthem, and then I did either “Oh Yeah,” but in that case I did “Raise Your Fist” and it was great. And then I knew, “Okay, this song will definitely make the record, too.” And then we recorded it and the title was Raise Your Fist; it was actually the record title. And so this year, I have my 30-year anniversary coming up, and we want to play all over the world, and do a couple of really, really special shows, with great guests and lights and sound and the whole spectacular things. And in Wacken, that’s actually the first time we will celebrate it at Open Air, and all this. So definitely “Raise Your Fist” will be in the set. And I want to do it in London and Paris and New York, and we’ll see after we talk to the touring agents. But I want to celebrate it big for the 30th anniversary, yeah.

I always wanted to make people happy and give them something they can believe in, something that can lift them up.

It seems like only yesterday you had your 25th anniversary.
DP: You’re right. It totally feels like a couple of weeks ago. Yep, yep, but times flies, and I toured with my first band when I was 16 years old.

You have another duet with Lemmy on the new record on “It Still Love Hurts.” Tell me what that was like and if you have a favorite Lemmy story, as everybody seems to have?
DP: Yeah, yeah. I do have, actually, many Lemmy stories, but I can tell you the first one. It was in the very early ‘80s, and I’ll tell you, I don’t think Lemmy remembers it, but I remember it. When you drink whiskey cola with Lemmy, you know, it is 90 percent whiskey and 10 percent Coca Cola. It was the first time I got invited to go to London, to England, by a magazine … that was very important. It was Kerrang magazine, and it was before I had even gotten an American release. And back in the day, it was like you had to do really good in England to get a chance to go to America. So it was a very important day. I got invited by the Kerrang people to a party. And they said, “Well, can you play a couple of songs.” I said, “Okay,” but the record company said just one person goes over from Warlock, and I said, “Well, okay.” So, I went over and they put together a band for me, like a couple of other musicians, and we were doing sound check and it was maybe ’82 or ’83. And yeah, and then we were rehearsing, it sounded really good. I covered a couple of Free songs and they sounded good, but the pressure was on. I was so stressed out. I thought, “Oh God, I’ve got to represent well for the record company, for the magazine people,” and there were tons of press there.

And then, to kill some time after sound check, I went around the corner to get something to eat or to get something to drink, and I went into this pub. And then I saw somebody who was standing there, and I thought, “Is that Lemmy?” And then I walked up to him and said, “Are you Lemmy?” And he said, “Yes. Are you Doro?” And I said, “Yes.” And I thought, “Oh, that’s great,” but I couldn’t speak English at all. I had no idea what he was saying, and I said, “Do you wanna have a drink – whiskey cola?” And I thought, “Oh yes, yes.” And we smoked some cigarettes, and it was one whiskey cola after another. And when you drink whiskey cola with Lemmy, you know, it is 90 percent whiskey and 10 percent Coca Cola. So, I had a couple of drinks, and I wouldn’t want to say, “No,” because I didn’t want to chicken out. So I had a couple more, and I thought, “Oh my God.” And he said, “Dora, don’t you have to do a gig?” I said, “Oh, yeah.” And then I walked out of the pub. I couldn’t even … I think I was probably shaking. I didn’t even know where I was going. So I found the club where the party was supposed to be, and then people were saying, “Doro, you have to jump onstage. Your show …” And I went onstage and I couldn’t remember the lyrics anymore. I couldn’t stand up, and then I was sitting on the drum riser, and then I waited until the band was finished. And then I walked off. And the record company and everybody were in shock. They said, “What happened to you? What happened?” And I said, “I met Lemmy.” And then everybody started laughing. They said, “Okay, little girl. Now that’s a good excuse.” And that’s how we got our record deal in America.

So that was my first time meeting Lemmy, and ever since we’ve become real good friends, and we actually did great stuff together. Two years ago, we did the tour with Motorhead. We opened up for Motorhead in Europe and Lemmy did two songs with me on the Call of the Wild record in 2000 and on this record, yeah, I wrote “It Still Hurts” with a great friend of mine who is the ex-guitar player of (Sisters of) Mercy, Andreas Bruhn, and then we were working on the song, and then I said, “Andreas, somehow I feel this calls for a duet.” And then he was singing the male part, and I said, “You know what, in the back of my mind, I hear Lemmy singing the song.” And he looked at me and said, “I made you a rock mix. You want to send it to him?” I said, “Oh, yes.” And then I sent it to Lemmy, and he said, “Oh that sounds great. Let’s do it.” And then we did it on the same day when I did “That Metal Show” with Eddie Trunk. Yeah, and then at night, I went to the studio and Lemmy sang his part for “It Still Hurts,” and I was so happy. It was great. It’s one of my favorite songs on this record, and it’s always a great honor to have Lemmy sing something.

My favorite song on the record is “Little Headbanger.” I wanted to ask you where that song came from.
DP: Yeah, I wanted to write like a real old-school metal song, like something that’s good to head-bang to. And actually, I had this idea and I did it with Andreas Bruhn as well, and I said, “Andreas, we need the real ‘80s – a no bullshit sound, not ‘90s. I want to have it ‘80s style.” Yeah, and that was the last song on the record, and then I squeezed in some little German words. But, it sounds cool, it’s great. And there are a couple of little German things, and it’s a song about a real headbanger, and actually, on the last tour, we had these t-shirts for kids, and they had “Little Headbanger” on them. So all the people when they’re buying little t-shirts for their little girl or boy … I’ve gotten tons of pictures [sent to me] where it says, “Our little headbanger” on them, and they’re so beautiful, and they say, “Now they’ll be a little headbanger when they grow up.”


I was doing some research before the interview, and I didn’t realize that your first memory of listening to music hearing “Lucille” by Little Richard.
DP: Yes, I think I was about 3 years old – maybe 3 or 4 years old. I can honestly say I think I fell in love with music so hard because of that song. I loved music before, but when I listened to it, I didn’t even know who it was, but I was just old enough to make the record player play the same song over and over and over, and my parents thought there was something wrong. But I knew then that I wanted to become a singer, and then, later on, I grew up with it and bands like T-Rex, Sweet, Slade, Alice Cooper, and then later on, Led Zeppelin, but there was no heavy metal when I was 7, 8, or 9 years old. Then, when I was about 15, there was the beginning of the heavy-metal movement, but of course, there wasn’t any Internet in Germany. There weren’t really even any magazines. There were just maybe little fanzines coming out, and later, around ’82 or ’83, we founded Warlock, and we were in the right place at the right time, and we toured and played with great, great metal bands. And somehow, we thought, “Hey man, I guess we’re part of the heavy-metal movement,” but at first, we just did what we wanted to do and it sounded like what we loved, but we had no idea it was called “heavy metal.” But then, later on, yeah … we knew.

You were one of the few female voices in metal at the time. Did you experience any problems with that, or were you accepted from the start?
DP: Yeah, Peter, actually there were absolutely no problems whatsoever. I think the fans and the other bands … like when we opened up for other bands, everybody knew I was dead serious about metal. You know, I was dedicated to metal, and I think everybody knew it. So, there was not even a question if you were a man or a woman. They knew I had metal in my heart. And the fans … from Day One, there was a deep connection, and I love the fans. I get so much feedback from the fans saying it didn’t matter if you were born a girl or whatever … you have to work with what you have, but they were nice to me. It never mattered.

The only time it mattered was when we went to go to Japan in the ‘80s – especially the German metal bands were huge there. And then, we were talking to the record company. They were selling tons … just millions of records there, but then, like the promoter said, “No, we can’t go because Doro is a girl.” And I thought, “What?! What the f- -k is that?” I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. Then, in the year 2000, we were signed to another independent label. It was SPV. And then the record came out in Japan again. It was actually the Call of the Wild record, with the two Lemmy duets on it. Yeah, and then I talked to my product manager, and I said, “Well, it’s a huge success in Japan,” but he said, “You guys can’t go.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “It’s only because you are a woman.” And I said, “Oh, I can’t believe it. I heard that shit in the ‘80s, and it’s still that way?” But then actually I went to Japan now. I guess we’re lucky that times have changed, but yeah, for the longest time, that was the only, only time I heard something like that. Probably, it was one person who makes the decisions, you know, because we had tons of Japanese metalheads and metal fans, but that was the only time I heard something and it was a problem. But, sometimes, when there is problem, then you put even more energy into it to overcome the hurdle, or it’s a bigger challenge. But that was actually the only time that I heard something. Everything else, there was always great support by the other musicians and bands, and our first big tour was with Judas Priest in ’87 …

That must have been amazing. What was the highlight of that tour?
DP: Yeah, yeah. The highlight of that tour was actually when we got the tour, I quit my job. My manager called me and the place where I was working as a graphic artist and he said, “Are you ready to quit your job?” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “So you can go on tour with your favorite band.” And I didn’t really dare to think … and I said, “Who do you mean?” He said, “Well, your favorite band.” And I said, “Does he mean Judas Priest?” And I said, “No f- -king way.” Then I quit my job. I told my boss that I wanted to quit my job to go on tour with Judas Priest. He didn’t know what that was. I said, “They’re the biggest and the best.” And he said, “Is that why you’re always dressed like so funny, with the bullet belt and the studs?” I said, “Yes, yes. That’s why. That’s one of the reasons.” And he said, “Okay then, good luck. I know I can’t keep you here. I wish you good luck.” And then we toured and the last gig was actually in Scandinavia, and I didn’t know it, but usually on the last gig, the headliner always does something to the support band or the support band does something to the headliner. And then we were playing “Burning the Witches,” and it was the “Turbo” tour, and suddenly, all the pyro and the “Turbo Lover” – it was like this big kind of robot – went on. Like we got the whole pyrotechnics and fireworks, and at first, I was like shocked and surprised, and then actually they gave it to us, like the whole Judas Priest guys and the crew, the band, they said, “Let’s give them the full show.” And then we played “Burning the Witches” with the full Judas Priest show, which usually, the headliner is the headliner, and we got the full-blown pyrotechnics, lights … it was unbelievable, and it looked like a million bucks. That was one of many, many highlights.

Yeah, I bet.
DP: And then my second tour was actually with Ronnie James Dio, and there were so many highlights there, too, but it would take too long to tell them all. Every day was a highlight with Ronnie, of course, and Judas Priest, my favorite band, and then Ronnie James Dio, my favorite singer … so I can definitely say I’ve been totally blessed in the metal world.

I told my boss that I wanted to quit my job to go on tour with Judas Priest. He didn’t know what that was.

Tell me about recording your debut album, Burning the Witches, with Warlock and your last studio album together, Triumph and Agony. How would you compare the two?
DP: Yeah, let’s see, the first one actually we signed to a label, Mausoleum Records. That’s because [they had] the coolest logo. It looked like metal, and it had two drops of blood on either end, so that was already the decision. There was no legal advice for us – nothing. It was just … it looks like metal, so it must be cool. So we started writing the … Witches album, and actually, I had no idea then that you can record something many times over. So I did all my vocals in one take in a couple of hours, and then sometimes I didn’t say the right lyrics and stuff – I wrote it down somewhere, but the lyrics got lost. So I just sang it, and I said, “I hope nobody will hear it.” I had no idea that you could ask the engineer, “Can I sing it again?” I did it all in one take, one song after the other. And I said, “I hope nobody will hear that I sang a couple of times the same shit and all the mistakes,” but then nobody said a word. I thought, “Okay.” And then I was done.

We recorded the whole record in seven days, and the first mix was actually so awful I burned it and I fell down in tears, it was so awful. We remixed it again and I blew all my money on this record, and it was … yeah, that was the first record. And then we met somebody who actually did our Hellbound (1985) record and True as Steel (1986) record. His name was Henry Staroste. He actually saved the record. He was actually an artist at Polygram, and he helped us to make a nice mix on the Burning the Witches record. And he brought in his friend, an engineer, and his name was Rainer Assmann, and he was really good. So the record, Burning…, which sounded okay in the end, he said the recording is good, but not so great, but he said, “I think it was his first time in the studio, too.” So it was actually our first record, but it was such a surprise and totally unexpected, but it was a big success. We had no idea that people would even find out that we existed. It was great, and then the second record, actually, was on Polygram then, not Universal. And then it was not taking seven days; it was actually taking nine months and it was close to taking the whole year, and then I went to America. And I fell in love with America. I just went to New York for a little promotion tour, but the promotion lasted three days and after two days, I told everybody I want to stay. And then I stayed.

Then I got in touch with so many great people, and we recorded the Triumph and Agony album in actually the best studio in the world. It was called the Power Station back then, and that’s where it happened, at the great Power Station studio in New York City. And we had great people playing on that record. Cozy Powell played many of the songs on this record, and it was the time of my life. Just being in America, I loved it so much and we had so much energy and we were overflowing with ideas, and then with Joey Balin, who produced the record with me. I told him all kinds of ideas and he went, “Wow! That’s very interesting,” and my first song was “East Meets West,” because I told Joey how it is to play in an Eastern country. We went to Hungary and it was totally like you could smell the Cold War. It was so empty and because he was American, he had no idea what I was talking about. And then I tried to explain to him how it is there, and we came up with the song “East Meets West.” It was the first song and I played it for my manager, and he said, “That’s great. Go on. Do more stuff.” And then we did song after song after song, and then we recorded the tracks actually in the Power Station in New York and in Pennsylvania, at the Kajem studio. Yeah, and I felt it had magic, and I told everybody, “I know it will be gold, it will be gold.” And everybody said, “Aren’t you getting a little bit crazy?” And I said, “No, no, no.” And yeah, it was our most successful record. We did a one-and-a-half-year tour after this record, and it was my first long, big tour in America with Megadeth, and still to this day, I love this record so much. It had so much energy and the songs … “All We Are” was edgy and put on heavy rotation on MTV, and it was shot in a river basin where “Terminator” was shot. It was shot by a great guy. Mark Rezyka was the video producer, and he was the hottest video producer in the ‘80s, or one of the hottest. And then “All We Are” was on heavy rotation … I remember when MTV had “Headbanger’s Ball,” when I first saw “All We Are” on “Headbanger’s Ball,” I screamed so loud, it was like I just couldn’t believe it. And then the next time I saw “Headbanger’s Ball,” Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, they were hosting “Headbanger’s Ball,” and they said, “And here’s another band from Germany called Warlock and ‘All We Are,’” and it was just, “Oh my God …” I almost got a heart attack. It was too much.

What was Gene Simmons like to work with?
DP: Oh, I was a big KISS fan, and I introduced KISS in 1989 at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Germany. The promoter said, “Doro, I know that you are a big KISS fan. Would you want to introduce KISS live onstage?” I said, “Oh, it would be great.” So, I did, and that was my first time when I met the guys in KISS, and I went up and met Gene Simmons. Yeah, and he left a big impression on me, and I thought, “Ah.” And from that day on, I was always thinking of maybe covering a KISS song, or maybe do something with KISS, and then I called my manager. I said, “Do you think it’s possible to maybe get connected and stuff?” And my manager, his name was Alex (Grob), he said, “I don’t think so. They don’t have time for that.” And I said, “Well, check it out.” So a couple of weeks later – he was a great manager by the way; I worked with him for 17 years, Alex – and then, a couple of weeks later, Alex said, “Doro get dressed, and meet me at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel on 57th Street,” and I was living in the Village, and I said, “Why?” And he said, “Well, it’s a surprise.” And I thought maybe it was some friends of mine were coming to New York, and then I went to the Le Parker Meridien Hotel. It was actually the first hotel I ever stayed at in America, so I knew it well. Yeah, and then I met Alex, and I said, “Please, tell me who it is,” and he said, “No no. You’ll find out. It’s somebody really great.” And I said, “No way!” And he said, “Yes.” And I said, “No way. Why didn’t you tell me it was Gene Simmons?” And he said, “Because I wanted to surprise you.”
And I got like … I was so nervous, and I ran around the block three times, and in New York, it’s a huge block, and then after three times, Alex said, “Are you finished now? Are you ready to face Gene Simmons?” And I walked into the hotel, and Gene was sitting there. And he was very nice, very … you know, like very calm. And he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “I thought maybe one song together?” And he said, “Okay. Let’s try it out. If nothing happens, that’s okay, but you know, let’s check it out.” So we worked together really well and we recorded the whole record in L.A. and Gene was the executive producer, and Tommy Thayer was the co-producer. And Tommy Thayer played many of the guitar solos, and it was a time when I had great producers …you know, it was awesome. He was very, very nice – very intelligent and very caring, just super.

Your records have a lot of positive messages, and your lyrics hit on themes of perseverance in the face of different things and determination. Do you get that from when you had tuberculosis as a child and you had to fight to really even stay alive?
DP: Yeah, maybe. Maybe that had something to do with it. If you’re really close to dying, something is changed. You are not anymore so … I don’t know. It’s definitely … yeah, I think it had something to do with it. And I always wanted to make people happy and give them something they can believe in, something that can lift them up. If somebody has a shitty day, just you know, I’d always say, “Put on a record or ‘All We Are’ and you feel better, you feel empowered.” And with the live shows, that’s what I always feel I can do best. I really feel I can give people good energy, and it goes by fast, so I hope those good feelings last. When I can touch their hearts and soul … God, that’s great. And in the same way, I always get energized by the fans, and that’s why I could do another 30 years, because the music business is rough. It’s always going up and down, and it’s really hardcore. So I always owe it to the fans that I can still do it and I cater to the fans and the music and that will never, ever change. I’m a hundred percent sure of that.

What’s next for you? What’s on the horizon? And what are your long-term plans?
DP: The “Full Metal Cruise,” that’s another cruise liner metal thing going in Europe. And then we want to do all the summer festivals and do some more gigs in the States. And keep touring for the rest of the year, and then I celebrate my 30th anniversary in music. And I want to do it a couple of times. I want to do it the first time at Wacken, at the Open Air festival in Germany in August. And then I want to do it once in New York and in Paris, and then probably do a great DVD out of it, because, of course, I want to do it great, with great guests and spectacular shows and the best pyrotechnics and whatever … it’s great, great, great. Yeah, and then doing a DVD – all of it. And then I just did the second part of [the film] “Anuk – The Way of the Warrior.” [In the first movie, released in 2006 with Krokus’s Marc Storache also acting in the film, she played the warrior Meha] We did the first part and now we’re doing the second part. I’m writing some more songs for the soundtrack, and I hope it will come out in 2013 or 2014. It always takes a little longer to break into the cinema, so probably the beginning of 2014, I guess. And then more touring and hopefully, another long American tour.



Nightwish start world tour in NYC

Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish started their world tour at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on April 9th 2015, with Sabaton and Delain.
by Frank White



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