I had the rare and genuine privilege of interviewing not only one of Metal’s Royalty figures but also one of my all time favourite artists, Doro Pesch. A person who has truly shaped the music of a genre, withstood all the fickle changes and fashions of the Metal world, and still sounds as valid and indeed enthusiastic in her musical output as she did way back in the early 80’s.
I talked in length to Doro about the forthcoming album release, current tour, Lemmy, Dio, being guided to Wacken by a farmer on a tractor, memories of Donington 1986 and everything else under the sun.
Amazingly, the forthcoming album “Raise Your Fist” will mark Doro’s 17th release. Which in today’s fast changing marketplace is a triumph in itself. I raised that point with Doro and in her own nonchalant way she replied, “ …. I can say it’s never been a walk in the park but it was always great”. Which in many ways sums up her never say die, never give up attitude.
I then asked if it took any longer in the studio than any other album, did she approach it any differently?
“Actually, for every album we always want it to be the best and I always start out with that plan, I feel however that this album is so great, and could actually be our Black Album! It has great songs and great anthems . There are 3 real metal songs , Revenge, Take No Prisoners and Little Headbanger (Nackenbrecher) which is the German word for neck breaker! I think it is fresh and has all the good ingredients of good old 80’s Metal songs …. great melody, powerful balls-to-the-wall sound, a lot of variety I think every song is different and it also has some beautiful ballads”.
In my opinion, on all Doro’s albums she always tries to get that balance of all-out metal, and then the ballads, a few slower ones. I asked her if she approached the album with that in mind?
“In the beginning, I try to write as many songs as I can ,and when I feel, you know, I’m good with all the
songs ,then I start to pick and choose which ones I really love because not every song you write is total magic. Sometimes in the beginning you think, oh that’s great but then after a couple of weeks you think, man, that song doesn’t have it as much as maybe the other songs but I will have loads of ballads and then in the end, I’ll think and choose which is really the one “
I asked if that was a hard decision to make as in every song she has to put the same amount of effort and time into – is it a difficult choice?
“ Sometimes I have this feeling that songs that don’t make the album were never meant to make anything, sometimes people say,’ oh you must have had so many songs, why don’t you put all the songs on your new record.’ There’s probably a reason for it!”
One of the songs closest to Doro’s heart on the new album which was so important and to her so personal is a track called ‘Hero’. I asked her to explain the meaning behind this song.
“It was written in honour and respect to Ronnie James Dio , I was thinking about what to do for the new album and suddenly the idea ,the melody and the lyrics ,everything came shooting out , and then I thought, wow , I’ve got to do this! I was trying to find paper, the pen, my iphone, to get it all down and then I called an old friend of mine, Joey Balin, and I asked him if he wanted to help me finish the words because its such an important song that every word needs to be right, and we all miss Ronnie so much .We as a band had the chance to tour many times together , and in the last 10 yrs we became really great friends. So this one was really important to me. I recorded it in New Jersey and finished it in Germany. We planned to go to Scandinavia to record some more but then I listened to the 2 mixes and thought – that’s it!”
“The other ballad on the album, which is my favourite, is with Lemmy from Motorhead it’s called ‘It Still Hurts’, I think it’s one of the most soulful songs we’ve ever done and when I hear the words, I always get moved to tears “.
I asked , as she quite often has guest musicians on her albums, how she chooses which track suits who, Lemmy for example.
“The chorus to It Still Hurts actually came about because of an old boyfriend with whom I still have a great friendship, he used to be a musician. Then I went on doing music, he went onto other things, got married and now he has a little boy. One day he called me and said: ‘Doro, I want to ask you something‘, and I said: What is it? ‘I would like you to be part of our family. Can you be godmother? and I said Wow! Being a musician you’re always on the road, you’re kind of a gypsy, sometimes the money’s great but it can be gone in a second, so I said I’m not sure I can take that responsibility, he said ,‘well, think about it.’ We were talking and talking, we still really get on great. So I hung up the phone and then suddenly it came over me “it still hurts!”
“Then I went to Hamburg and met up with Andreas (ex Sister’s of Mercy) who I’ve worked with for the last 12 yrs. I said to Andreas, I have an idea, I have a song, I want to play it for you, then I did the chorus and he said ‘Ok I think that sounds great but we need verses‘, so we were fiddling around and he was singing on some of the verses. I said ,Andreas it sounds great, it could be a duet. He said yes ,and in that moment, in my inner eye, I saw Lemmy! We recorded it in March and when Lemmy was singing, every word gave me goosebumps and chills and I thought, I love it – so soulful. It’s always a big honour to work with Lemmy .”
“We did work together in the studio 12 yrs ago, we did 2 songs – one was called Alone Again which Lemmy wrote and he played it for me on an acoustic guitar. We were in a hotel room and he said check out this song, and within a couple of seconds tears were rolling down my cheeks because it was so moving, I never knew that Lemmy could sing so soulfully. It’s so special. It moved me.”
I asked Doro about Joey Balin, her writing partner with whom she has worked with many times before. I wanted to know what made them gel as a team.
“For many years we didn’t work together because he moved to Greece, then Germany and also the States and then on the last record Fear No Evil I called him and said ‘Hey Joey shall we see if we still have the magic?!’ . And on this album, I thought for the song Hero I wanted to have a partner who would make sure that all the words were perfect. The chorus was there but the verses I wanted to be sure about, especially when English isn’t your first language. Anything else, I think, that’s ok , I can do it by myself but this song was too important to me and I wanted to make sure that it didn’t sound weird or strange.”
“Joey was with me back then on tour when we opened up for Dio in ’87, which was after the Triumph and Agony album came out, then we toured together in 2000 but in ‘87 Joey was with us and he was watching the whole band and, you know, he was kind of like the Tour manager . He knew Ronnie very well and I thought I want to have someone who exactly understands what Ronnie meant to us and that it sounds as sincere as it was meant to.”
‘Raise Your Fist’ represents Doro’s first album since signing to new label, Nuclear Blast. I asked her if this felt like a new chapter in the Doro history book.
“For 17 years I was signed to a major label, it was Polygram and then Warner Bros, and I must say being on an independent label, I think for a metal band it’s so awesome because you can be totally free and do what you want and I don’t feel the pressure. When you’re with a major label they always say: The hit, the hit! and with this album every song has a special meaning, maybe its not a radio hit but it’s something important ,so I love being on an independent label.
We did the DVD together for Nuclear Blast nearly 2 yrs ago so already we’ve proven we are a good team , my Product Manager, he used to work at AFM my old label. We always had a great relationship so he’s now back at Nuclear Blast ,so nothing much changes but I know they have a lot of power, they have great distribution. I think it’s great because we tour all over the world and when we’re in places like China, Japan, Thailand, Russia it’s great that the people can actually get the records. But having said that we’re still on very good terms with AFM and in fact they brought out ‘The Best Of ‘ (Under My Skin) record which we worked on together, I wrote liner notes on the story of each song ,and it has a beautiful box and bracelet and a poster for the die hard fans. We always meet up again in Wacken and other festivals and its always a good vibe.”
As Doro had mentioned the famous Wacken festival I asked how she felt about being confirmed for next year’s festival.
“Next year is the 30th anniversary and I want to celebrate it in a couple of different ways because Wacken is already sold out ! I played the first time back in in ‘93, we couldn’t even find the village! We asked a farmer where’s Wacken he said that’s a tiny little village I will take you guys there! He was driving on a tractor and the tour bus was following the tractor for hours and hours and then suddenly we were in the middle of nowhere and he pointed and said That’s Wacken! But that was in ‘93 and there was maybe 2000 people there then.”
“I’ve been there many times and have witnessed something beautiful grow and grow! And of course, they’ve helped us out many times. Nobody else wanted to celebrate the 25th anniversary in a big way but I wanted to do something really great so that people didn’t think it would pass without being marked. So, I rented out the biggest place in my former home town Dusseldorf – it’s a big ice hockey venue for 15000 people but it felt like nobody gave a shit, so I called the guys at Wacken and told them about the idea to stage something that the fans would never forget, with the best live stage show possible ,and they said let’s do it, we’re all in the same boat, we’ll do it together. At that time ,nobody else would even give me the time of day but they believed in it .”
“So this year they said do you want to celebrate the 30th anniversary at Wacken and of course I said yes! I also want to do 2 nights at Dusseldorf, something spectacular maybe with orchestra or great special guests again, something really outrageous and at the minute I’m thinking about what to do. It’s not 100% there yet but I want to do something.”
I then asked Doro if during the Dusseldorf 25th anniversary show she had been able to take a step back, take a breath and think “wow”, how proud am I to have all these guest musicians there including former Warlock members. It must have been an amazing show.
“I must say, for the whole show I didn’t have time but then in the very last minutes during the final song, All We Are, after a three and a half hour show the two girls ,Sabina Classen (Holy Moses) and Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes), suddenly, they took me by the legs and held me up in the air ,they were a little bit drunk , I thought oh god I hope I don’t fall ,and for that couple of seconds I was able to take it all in!
After the show, when everything was done, everything had worked out, all the guests came, there were no problems, the fans had a great time and then maybe for half a minute I took it in and it moved me to tears . After the show people were saying ‘It was really great but you didn’t play my favourite song!’ and this was after a 3 hr and 40 mins set!!!”
“I must say, looking back on it I think it was the most amazing day in my life, and the most important because afterwards everybody said ‘Let’s give that young band a chance’ and we got the Judas Priest tour a couple of weeks later, so it really started then , we also got our first worldwide release.
Also, it was so funny, I wanted to see the headliner which was the Scorpions and Ozzy Osbourne – they were co-headlining- I went there to see Ozzy and the security guy said you cant watch the show, you don’t have the right pass ,so I walked back to our dressing room area and then I saw Lemmy, he said ‘Hey Doro, where are you going? Don’t you want to watch Ozzy?’ I said ‘Yes, but the security guy won’t let me, I don’t have the right pass!’ he said ‘Wait a second’ and then he went to a very important person, I don’t know who it was, he took their pass and put it around my neck and said ‘ ok girl, let’s go’ and we went arm in arm to see Ozzy Osbourne!”
I then asked Doro about her recent dabbling in the acting world, starring in ‘Anuk – Path of the Warrior’ and it’s sequel and whether she would consider doing more acting in the future?
“Yes it will probably be released in 2013 or 2014. It’s the second part of ‘Anuk Path of the Warrior ‘,we filmed it in Ireland and Switzerland and it was hardcore again I tell you. I’m so ready for the tour now because doing the movie you have to get up every morning at 4am or 5am non stop and there are some battle scenes but not only with ketchup or artificial blood but a lot of real blood!”
“I love the independent movie makers because they put so much heart and soul in it and they inspire me to do other stuff , we will write the music together for the movie , I love doing movie soundtracks. They are always strange or crazy artists these independent movie guys – I love that. The first movie actually it influenced many of the songs on the Warrior Soul album. The song was the title track of the movie so it was very fruitful for me, I think also that’s the best boot camp – because you get into shape and now the tour feels like it’s a piece of cake! “
“In Switzerland it was so cold, high up in the mountains. The lakes are so freezing and I was actually swimming in the water for most of the time, then after 10 hrs in the water, they would say ‘ok wait a minute‘, and I would end up waiting an hour for them to put the lights somewhere else but then you’re still in the water and I was like, hey guys, we’re all dying here!”
I then remarked on whichever occasion I’ve seen Doro play live, she always has a smile on her face. I asked whether she ever had any difficulty getting motivated for a show.
“No, never! When I do a gig I always treat it like it could be the last one. I give it my all, sometimes I’m so tired, I think I can’t do another gig, then I have to walk out of my little bunk on the tour bus on all fours, as it usually parks in front of the venue, then suddenly, I hear people singing All We Are and by 6 o’clock I think Ok, I’m getting ready and when I see the fans again everything is great but it’s tough for the body and sure we always tour in the winter time so I’m always sick because there’s always somebody ill in the audience, or the crew, or on the bus which for a singer is always bad news. However I always make it, we never cancel a gig it’s always ok. Like when I was lying in the water for 10hrs per day, maybe my immune system got so sharp it can survive anything!”
I asked Doro whether she would consider releasing another album along the lines of the acoustic/orchestral Classic Diamonds.
“I love the cover version of the Judas Priest son (Breaking the Law). I don’t know if we would ever do it again because it was so sinfully expensive, like 60 people in the orchestra. At first we thought we’d do it quickly in like 2 or 3 months and then of course, one and a half years later …! The orchestra musicians they are not like rock and rollers who play for free, it’s different. But I think I may, eventually, in a couple of years, maybe!”
And with that thought in my head, the interview ended, leaving me really looking forward to the release of the new album and catching Doro on tour as well. 30 years strong, and still with loads of fuel left in the tank, she remains a true living legend.
“Raise Your Fist” sees it’s release through Nuclear Blast Records on October the 19th.