DORO PESCH, Queen of Metal talks to LRI about the “Raise Your Fist” tour, album, memories of early Metallica, Dio and more
Doro Pesch is an international metal icon, hard music royalty, the “Queen of Metal”. She has built a multi-generational, dedicated fanbase spanning the decades since her rise from Dusseldorf, Germany and her legendary beginnings in WARLOCK. Like most teen-aged metal fans, I could not believe my ears or eyes when I saw this massive, powerful voice projecting from this tiny, gorgeous little German woman. The most impressive thing is that 25 years later she looks and sounds as good as ever, backed by a powerhouse band with years of experience under their collective belts and a new album “Raise Your Fist” which is filled with much of the same energy contained on those classic Warlock albums. The band and DORO are set to tour America (and Toronto) for the first time in a long time this February and I was thrilled to finally talk to one of my childhood idols, Doro Pesch. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: It’s been a while since you’ve been able to do a proper tour of North America and you have been living in New York for many years. I know from speaking to your drummer Johnny Dee that he and Nick (Douglas, bassist) have got to be as excited as you are.
Doro Pesch: Oh totally, totally. I am sure Johnny told you but the three of us have been playing together for so many years, Nick joined in 1990 and Johnny in 1993. We have been playing together, living together, friends forever so it feels like they are my brothers and when we get to go out touring together, especially in America it is so special. When I first came here I fell so in love with America so to tour here is really the ultimate and I can’t tell you how excited I am. I am looking forward to this so much and the fans are the greatest part of it all. They have the best energy and have so much heart and soul and I always get so empowered and inspired. I just love touring the States.
LRI: Johnny said that sometimes the crowds aren’t quite as big in America but the people who turn up are just really incredible and dedicated.
Doro: Absolutely. They are passionate and they are metal. I don’t care if we play the biggest festivals like Wacken or the smallest clubs if the atmosphere is great and the people are totally digging the music it is so electric. It could be 200 people and be heaven so it doesn’t matter at all. It could actually be one person who digs and relates to it and feels that it does something for them and I am happy. I am so happy when we connect. Every single guy and girl in the crew and band gets excited when we tour America and this is the first tour in a long time where we are able to hit so many cities so it is really exciting for us. Sometimes we have gone out and hit New York, L.A and Chicago but we are getting to play so many dates for the first time in ages.
LRI: “Raise Your Fist” is a good album and deserves a good tour. All of your albums are solid but these songs hit me as strong as “Force Majeure”.
Doro: Oh thank you, thank you. We always try to make the best album we can with the most meaningful songs and the best mix of material and that means a lot. This album took about two or three years to make and the first song I wrote for it was actually “Hero” which I dedicated to Ronnie James Dio because we love him and miss him so much and I wanted to say “Thank You” and give respect and honor him. When I heard Ronnie passed, I was ever so devastated and so were tons of fans and we would talk on the phone, nobody could believe it because it was just so heavy. Then I was in New York and was ready to do a new record and fell asleep, I was almost ready to fall asleep and I just couldn’t get Ronnie out of my mind. I had this melody, actually the whole lyrics were there they just needed to be touched up a bit. I called up an old friend of mine, Joey Balin who I’ve worked with dating back to the “Triumph and Agony” album and “Force Majeure”. I said “Hey Joey, I have this song that is very important to me and it is great and right and it’s for Ronnie” and he said “Yeah, come on over”. Then one day later we had it finished and the next day recorded it and the whole record started from there. That song was definitely the most important to me and I just wanted to say thank you to him and we always play it live and dedicate it to Ronnie as well. I love the fans because you will always hear the chants for “DIO, DIO!!” before and after we play “Hero”, it is just amazing. It is beautiful and he is just so important and always will be celebrated.
LRI: A lot of the artists I talk to speak the same way about you Doro. How does that make you feel?
Doro: It feels great John, so great that somebody would say I mean something to them or inspire them to do something or be something. It reminds me of back in the day when “All We Are” came out and all these girls were telling me they wanted to start a band and it was just so cool, actually it was not only girls but guys as well who would say “We saw the video and wanted to form a band” or “I picked up a guitar or drums”. It’s great. It feels so good when you do something and something good, some positive energy comes out of it. That touches my heart because I know how it is, I remember the artists who inspired me then and inspire me now. I loved Judas Priest and then they gave us our very first big tour in 1986 and then my second big tour was in 1987 with Dio and to tell you the truth Judas Priest was my favorite band and Ronnie was my favorite singer. I learned so much from them both and they taught me so many things it was great, it was priceless. I thought to myself, “If I ever have a support band, I definitely want to treat them as good as they treated me” and yeah, we always try to treat our support bands as great as possible. It’s important, of course touring is not always simple and not always fun and games but we try as much as possible to support them.
LRI: You went through a terrible bout of illness as a teenager and your health obviously means a lot to you to be able to withstand the rigors of touring. How do you manage to look and sound so great after all these years?
Doro: My true secret is love for the fans. It flows both ways and it is my true metal power. When I see the people it is like all hell breaks loose. I feel ten times better, I can sing ten times better, I can jump ten times higher. When I see the fans I see the most important thing in my life and I can do anything. It makes me want to give my best every day, in every way. It is a sacred thing to be able to play in front of people and I take it very seriously, I always want to make them happy and make them feel good. That is the ultimate for me and I don’t need anything else, I don’t need drugs, I don’t need alcohol, nothing. Just the fans and when I see the excitement in their eyes it brings excitement to mine.
LRI: Rudy Sarzo said the same thing about Ronnie, that he would feed off the energy of the fans and could just spend all day with them and it was amazing to watch.
Doro: I would see every day when we were on tour together how he was always talking with the fans, making sure everybody was taken care of, giving autographs and hugs, cracking jokes and having a smile or conversation. I always thought everybody was like that. I love my fans and I think it is just something that goes without saying that the fans come first and they are the most important thing. To me, that’s the only way there is and I think for Ronnie also it was just 100% natural. I never watched him and consciously thought “Oh, that is what we need to do with the fans” it is just automatic, it goes without saying that it is the most important thing. I think that’s why Ronnie is so loved and so appreciated. He did it for the right reasons, his heart was beating for the fans and I totally feel the same. We connected on that level just like I connected with the fans on that level and I’ve done that from day one but it has grown deeper and deeper and deeper over the years. It just feels astronomical now and one day I just made up my mind that I want to dedicate the rest of my life to the music, the fans and that’s it. I made the conscious decision to not get married or form a family or have kids. I have dedicated my life to music making and it is so awesome!
LRI: Some artists would be happy with the adulation and the pats on the back and praise but you relate to fans AS a fan. You are as huge a fan of music as anyone, arent you?
Doro: Totally, totally. I am still a big metal fan. I still love so many bands and so many singers. I am still a big DIO fan and Lemmy fan and KISS fan. I am still a fan in so many ways and my biggest concern as a fan is that the fans feel great and feel happy and have a great time. I would go to any lengths to accomplish that. I never think about myself too much, I am actually a really shy person off the stage, in private or in normal life. I am so, so shy but then I get onstage (laughs) and I become different. It is strange, you have forces that do not exist in regular life. I don’t whip my hair and jump off or onto the kitchen table but onstage it is like being taken to another side and I can totally give everything I have energy-wise. Off stage it is very different, I’m not a party girl, I am very shy.
LRI: Does living in New York a lot of the time make it difficult to balance the kind of success you have in Germany or Europe?
Doro: No, no because Germany is so united in metal. Metal is so huge in Germany and it is so great! We have all these great festivals like “Bang Your Head” and Wacken and it is so exciting and great to have such a huge fanbase not just at home in Germany but all over Europe in Spain which is probably our biggest fanbase but also France, England, Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden, Scandinavia, metal is all over. I would say Germany is great but all the other countries are as great. South America is very big for metal and is a very huge market for us. We even went to China a couple of times and (very excited)…there is a new metal scene which is bubbling in China. It is awesome. At first it was hard to get into the country and there was some censorship going on and we had to send the record lyrics but then we got into the country and got to play all of the songs we wanted to play, even the cover version of “Breakin The Law” by Judas Priest which we were worried about a couple years ago but it was okay! All over the world John, metal is really alive, we travel all over and it is very exciting. I spend 80 percent of my time touring or in the studio but I had this beautiful apartment in New York and it’s been destroyed twice, first by Hurricane Irene and now totally destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
LRI: That is really too bad. I know a lot of people in the New York area and you just never think of New York like you do Florida or other Hurricane areas.
Doro: It is!! I never thought of it like that either, I’ve been in New York since 1987 and nothing ever happened and now twice, it is just unbelievable. To me though, none of those things are what’s important, I can still sing and play music and enjoy the time with fans, those are the real riches in life. I don’t need material stuff, although the apartment was nice and sometimes I think “Oh, shit, all these nice gifts from fans” because I always collect everything but it is all in the ocean.
LRI: I recently was listening to a four song demo of WARLOCK which had “Burning the Witches” and a few other tracks and it just took me back. What do you remember of that period before getting your record deal?
Doro: Those are probably our old rehearsal demos. I had my first band when I was 15 and it was called Snakebite and then it was called Beast and then Attack and then finally Warlock. Somehow I guess we just came up at the right time in the right place and we were there at the beginning of metal breaking through big and it was great to be a part of and be witness to. There wasn’t that many magazines or anything back when I started other than little fanzines but it all grew and it was so great. I remember one of our first gigs was a really small festival in Belgium and the guy said “Hey, do you guys want to play?”. It was a club that held like 400 people so we were like “Yeah, of course” and he was like “Hey, I tried to get another band, they are from America and they are new” and we were like “Oh, that sounds great” and it we played the show. It was a great crowd, big metal fans, headbanging and we got done and said “Hey, let’s check out the other band from America” and it was METALLICA!!. I think it was one of their first gigs in Europe and it was so great, they were so intense and had just released the “Kill Em All” album but you could just tell they were going to be huge. It makes me so happy that I was there to witness the beginning of their metal making. I never thought a little metalhead girl from Dusseldorf could meet all of these great people and tour with Judas Priest and W.A.S.P. and Megadeth and all of these great bands and make all of these great friends. One of my best friends is Lemmy and I love Lemmy. In the early 80s when I couldn’t even speak English he passed me a cigarette and a Whisky Cognac and we just became fast friends. He’s worked with me before and he’s on the new album on the track “It Still Hurts”.
LRI: If you watch that movie “Lemmy” there is so much of that soft, sweet side of him in it and it is all in your song “It Still Hurts”.
Doro: Totally, totally. I love “Ace Of Spades” and “Killed By Death” but I also love it when Lemmy sings so soulfully like that and the words he says, there are so much depth to them. Oh I just love it so much, it just touches my soul because he is truly so really, really sweet. Oh man, his singing on that track. We recorded it in L.A. and the engineer Chris and I would always look at each other when Lemmy was singing and I said “Boy, Chris I just get tears in my eyes and goosebumps when he sings like this” and he said “Me too, Doro, isn’t that cool??”. We were both just sitting there with our jaws dropped while he was singing and it meant so much to me.
LRI: People reviewing your album are astonished that he sings a ballad so nicely (laughs).
Doro: (laughs). He sings beautifully. I remember when he told me he had the song “Alone Again” and sang it to me in a hotel room on an acoustic guitar and I just thought to myself “Oh man, that is so beautiful” so I knew he could sing like that but I think everybody just expects this hard, gruff Lemmy and they are amazed to hear his tenderness. I would hope that eventually we could one time do “It Still Hurts” live, maybe on my 30th Anniversary show (laughs). I wanna do one big show at WACKEN and then two in a row in my hometown and then 3 big shows in 3 other big cities like New York, London and Paris with the big staging and special guests but I have no idea how I am going to top the 25th Anniversary show! (laughs). I truly have no idea!
LRI: One of my other favorite tracks on “Raise Your Fist” is the song “Revenge”. How did that song come about?
Doro: My guitar player Bas Maas and I wrote that and it reminds me of a lot of the good old stuff from the 1980s, it’s hard and fast and true metal. Since it’s the 30th anniversary I wanted this album to have a variety of all of the good stuff and “Revenge” is one of those straight metal burners. I wanted things to have a new feel but I also wanted to have some things that felt like my roots and “Revenge” sounds like 2013 but the songwriting, the structure, the aggression and attitude is almost of the “Burning the Witches” or “Hellbound” style.
LRI: Your album cover art has almost taken on a life of it’s own like so many great metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. You used to be a graphic artist prior to doing WARLOCK full time. How involved are you in your art presentation?
Doro: Yeah, everything, everything. Like you said, I was a graphic artist myself before I even started music I always loved doing that stuff and I am always working with the graphic artist together and we do everything, T-Shirts, art design all of that together. The guy who did this album cover for “Raise Your Fist” is the same guy who did the illustration for the “Triumph and Agony” cover as well as many, many, many more and his name is Geoffrey Gillespie. I talk with him a lot and it is always so exciting to have these beautiful artworks for metal albums. I always feel that for metal music it is best to have a painting or beautiful illustration. I am always involved in everything art-wise and would never let anything come out that I didn’t think was great.
LRI: Thanks for talking with us Doro, The new album is great,the title track is an anthem and I hope everyone can get out to see you guys and Sister Sin. Before I let you go, I have always wanted to know more about the video shoot for another anthem, “All We Are”. What was that like for you, was it difficult, fun? You know you burned a lot of images in a lot of kids heads with that moment in time.
Doro: Thank you John for talking with me, this has been so much fun. That video shoot was great, it was great! I remember it was one of the greatest video directors of that time, back in the MTV days it was so important to have the “right” director and there were tons of guys who wanted to do the video for “All We Are” and then we met Mark Rezyka and he just had the greatest idea. He said, “Yeah, we’ll do the Warlock and we’ll put you all on top of the tour bus and have hundreds of cars and we’ll do it in the L.A. river basin” and I just thought “Oh, that is the guy”. It was just so exciting, that was the same place where Terminator 2 was shot. It was my first time in L.A. ever, I remember that and oh it was so great! I felt so happy when I saw it after it was all over. It was a huge shoot but back in the day the budgets for those videos were just unbelievable, sometimes it was twice as much as the whole record. Those days are definitely over, I wish it were the same but video making now is very different. Back then it was a ton of money but, I think it was worth it and then it was put on heavy rotation at MTV and that was so important for us and suddenly everybody knew “Triumph and Agony” and “All We Are” and we were on tour people knew of us and I was just blown away. It did wonders for my career and it was definitely one of the greatest experiences and one of the greatest times of my life and I still love to think about it. It was awesome!
LRI: It wasn’t just a hit in the states it helped your career worldwide.
Doro: John it still is! That’s why when people say “How can you play ‘All We Are’ every night and not be sick of it?” and it’s because it is so important. That’s why we play it every show, “All We Are” is still an anthem, it is still great but I will say that “Raise Your Fist In the Air” is coming awfully close. Sometimes on this past European tour “Raise Your Fist In The Air” got the best response of all of the songs and we thought “Okay, we must be on to something!”.
|02.01.2013||USA – Tampa||Brass Mug|
|02.02.2013||USA – Atlanta||The Masquerade|
|0.02.2013||USA – West Springfield||Empire|
|04.02.2013||USA – New York||BB Kings|
|05.02.2013||USA – Baltimore||Sound Stage|
|07.02.2013||CAN – Toronto||Mod Club|
|08.02.2013||USA – Rochester||Montage Music Hall|
|09.02.2013||USA – Columbus||Ace of Cups|
|10.02.2013||USA – Cleveland||Peabody`s|
|12.02.2013||USA – Westland||Token Lounge|
|13.02.2013||USA – Joliet||Mojoes|
|14.02.2013||USA – St. Paul||Station 4|
|15.02.2013||USA – Waterloo||Spicoli`s Reverb Rock|
|17.02.2013||USA – Englewood||Moe`s|
|19.02.2013||USA – Seattle||El Corazon|
|20.02.2013||USA – Portland||Hawthorne Theatre|
|21.02.2013||USA – San Francisco||Thee Parkside|
|22.02.2013||USA – Los Angeles||House of Blues|
|23.02.2013||USA – Tempe||Rock Point|
Sites That Link to this Post
- Doro deals with loss of home | News | Classic Rock | January 24, 2013