TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
In March of 2005, our American editor Tony Belcher had an often times rambling, maybe seemingly random, and perhaps even free floating interview with The King. Forget about Elvis, I’m talkin’ about the Great Dane himself -- King Diamond! His majesty discussed Uriah Heep, Ozzy, Dimebag, and even engaged in a bit of “six degrees of separation” with our writer. Without further adieu I give you our King Diamond interview….
Hi, King. How are you doin’?
Hey, good. How are you, Tony?
I’m doin’ alright, thank you.
I’ve been told we should keep this relatively brief, so I’m gonna try.
You are one of the last of a dying breed of truly clear yet gritty, high-range vocalists. I’m talking about singers like [Ronnie James] Dio, [Rob] Halford, and Warrell Dane of Nevermore. Who were your vocal influences in the beginning and how have they changed over time? Specifically, whom did you listen to when you were learning to sing and developing your own style, and maybe to whom do you look for inspiration now?
Oh, the same guys, actually, you know. That thing has not really changed. Uhhh, some of the main inspirations were the old classic Metal bands. I mean, my all time favorite vocalist is still today, even though he is not here anymore, was David Byron from Uriah Heep.
His range and his feeling and emotions he could put into it just blew me away. I saw Uriah Heep with him singing five times, you know, in the early days, and uh…
Definitely impactful [to see one band five times within a relatively short timeframe].
Yeah, it blew me away every time. And then of course [Ian] Gillan [of Deep Purple], Robert Plant [of Led Zeppelin], you know. I mean those guys totally influenced me. Ozzy [Osbourne] influenced me a lot, too. Alice Cooper, you know, for him it was very much how he could put himself into the situation he was singing about. He was so theatrical in his presentation -- you know, with his vocals alone.
The show was a whole different thing but just listening to him on albums was, like, a trip man! Ha.
That’s great that you mentioned Ozzy ‘cause there’s a lot of people I think nowadays that are kinda gun shy to give him the due that he deserves.
I think he’s an amazing singer, man. I mean, I truly do. He has a great range, you know, and maybe it was a bigger range in the early days, but still today. I mean, the early [Black] Sabbath stuff and his own stuff, too -- great range for a normal voice. I mean very good range and such a melodic singer, even when he gets heaviest, y’know?
And that’s something that is worth so much! And then, that sound of his voice -- I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in that sound. And that goes for most of those guys I mentioned, you know. They have such a unique sound -- they don’t sound like anyone else.
And that’s why, Dio, [he’s] a brilliant singer, you know, but for me, he never caught it with Sabbath, you know? I mean, when he sang old Sabbath songs….
The new ones that he did at that time, you know, from “Heaven and Hell” and those -- [they were] great songs, totally, and great vocals! But when he was live, you know, even though he could sing [the Ozzy-era songs], he was just [missing something]. That tonality of Ozzy’s voice, for me, was missing. That Ozzy’s voice is so unique. So is Dio’s, you know! You get someone else to go in and [sing like Dio], that’s not gonna happen, of course, but if that was the case, yeah, you can [try]. Say, Rainbow, for instance. Early Rainbow with Dio, you know, and then comes another singer [Graham Bonnet, followed by Joe Lynn Turner] -- a great singer, but…
…trying to sing those songs that [Dio] sang on the first couple of albums? Ah, man, it just doesn’t cut it for me.
When there’s a singer that has so much personality in his voice, you know, he’s irreplaceable in those bands. [Those types of vocalists] are [irreplaceable].
Thanks. That’s a great answer. You have paid tribute to some, you’ve been paid tribute to by others, and simply outlasted still others. This is perhaps related to the question about your influences, but who, if anyone, would you consider to be your true peers in the Metal scene -- today or earlier?
How do you mean that?
Uh, peers -- people that you think are on the same level [as you], that you respect. Everybody in Metal, I’d say is a brother [to one another] in one way or other -- these are our Metal brethren -- but is there someone from another band [or are there other performers] that you would consider to be a peer? Like, if there’s an ideal tour package where you could hang out with maybe some old friends, or something like that….
Well, we’ve actually done that with Metallica, y’know -- with Mercyful Fate in ’99 in Europe. We played, I think it was 12 shows, big stadiums, y’know, where we were on the package there with Mercy. And that was awesome! And we’ve gotten along so well all these years. It’s always been a pleasure every time we run into each other, y’know. Nothing but a pleasure and that goes back to since we played San Francisco in ’84 on the first [U.S.] Mercyful Fate tour.
And they came to the show and they were onstage headbanging with us, y’know. And ever since then, you know, we’ve had a very close relationship, which is a lot of mutual respect, I think musically, but also as people -- as persons, you know. ‘Cause we’ve never had any downrunnings or awkward moments. It’s always been very natural and very cool.
Right. It probably doesn’t hurt that Lars [Ulrich] is a Dane, himself.
Well, that, of course, has a lot to do with it too, you know.
We were there, I remember we were told [about him] because we didn’t know of Metallica at that time. When we came [on tour], we had never been in the U.S. before so it was limited, in Europe, at that time anyway, when Metallica had just released “Kill ‘Em All,” I think, that was the only album they had out at that time.
And I had not heard of it in Europe at that time so it was suddenly, someone told us “hey, there’s a Danish guy outside, a drummer, he plays in a band here in San Francisco and he lives here….” Then when we heard that his dad was Torben Ulrich, y’know…
…the famous tennis player from Denmark, we were like…
Small world, right?
[We were like] “Really? Oh!” Not because of [his father being famous], but we were like, “hey, man, bring him in, let’s say hi” [because he was Danish].
We just hit it off from day one, you know.
Were there other bands of that nature? I mean, I can recall on some of your liner notes [where] I believe you thanked all the guys in Pantera a couple of times and maybe Dave Mustaine and Megadeth….
Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson, y’know, those two guys, we were on tour [together before]. The two other guys have always been cool, too. I’ve always enjoyed whenever I could meet them. Uh, [Marty] Friedman and uh, what was it, the drummer….
[Do you mean Nick] Menza?
Right. Those [other] guys [in Megadeth], I haven’t met them that many times, but [it’s] always been so cool, you know? But Dave, the two Daves, I got to know [them] pretty good because they were out with us in ’86, actually. They supported us, you know.
And that was a whole U.S. tour and [there are] a lot of cool memories from there. [On] one of the reissues, as well, I think Dave Ellefson wrote the liner notes.
One of those reissues that Roadrunner put out a few years ago.
Right. “The Best of King Diamond” retrospective/compilation.
So yeah, definitely. We’ve always had a good relationship there and the highest respect also.
There’s, of course, a lot of bands like that around, you know, that have been like that where we had some really cool times. Savatage toured with us in Europe, and that was a great time. But I mean, [there’s] a lot of ‘em. Candlemass -- we toured with [them] and I always had a lot of fun with [them], y’know. And there was a band here from Texas that we had out a couple of times, Solitude Aeturnus…
And I still hang out with the old bass player from them [-- Lyle Steadham.] He has another band going [now] and I certainly see him [from time to time]. Sometimes we go out for dinner together. So yeah, I mean, of course, the Pantera guys, too, you know. I haven’t seen them that much the last couple years -- not for any specific reason, but they’re a little further away from me. I don’t go out that much to bars and clubs, you know, and they’re in Fort Worth, pretty much, and I’m north of Dallas.
So it’s like an hour and a half drive.
Are you still in Carrollton?
[*Sounding surprised*] Say what?
Are you in Carrollton?
Uhhh, no. I used to be. [I’m in] something called Frisco now.
Okay, I’m familiar with that. I’m actually from The Colony, Texas, originally.
Oh, okay! The Colony is like a step towards Dallas, haha, from Frisco towards Dallas. Yeah!
Right. I’ve actually got a quick question here. Am I right that you are in the pictures of the liner notes to Slayer’s Hell Awaits? ‘Cause all I’ve got is the CD version which has tiny pictures, but it certainly looks like you.
Yeah, that’s right! Yeah, because we met them up in, God, I think it was either Seattle or Portland, you know. When we had first arrived -- back before we even played our first show in the U.S. -- we were about to go down and meet them at an in-store [promotional appearance], I think they had an in-store.
‘Cause I think that was back in ’85 -- or at least that was the year that Hell Awaits was released…
That [meeting] was ’84 because that was the first Mercy tour in the U.S.
Okay, I don’t even think you had [your traditional] makeup on in the picture.
No, no, it was just at a record store and we met up there, you know.
Alright, let me shift gears a little bit here and ask what is the fate of Mercyful Fate? After 1984's "Don't Break the Oath" and before 1993's "In the Shadows" there were no new [Mercyful Fate] records, allowing your solo band to take flight, and again after 1999's "9" through today there has been no Mercyful Fate activity. Is it just the case that you and Andy LaRocque and Hal [Patino], and Mike [Wead], and Matt [Thompson] are having such a great time with your obvious chemistry together that doing King Diamond records is what feels right at the moment?
Uhhh, no. I mean, it is like that [with the chemistry], but there are other things that play an even bigger role, and where we don’t have a say and that goes back to when we released “Abigail II” and we suddenly found out how much record labels were hurting from the [illegal] downloading stuff….
…when there were no tour funds for the first time ever in our career. There were no tour funds and that was a shock, y’know?
And finding out why [there were no tour funds], you know, was like, not that much of a shock [because it made some sense in regards to all the illegal downloading].
It’s still hard to believe….
And because of that, you know, we had to renegotiate all our contracts. In the process of that, we tried to, what do you say, give ourselves some kind of power to be able to at least go on tour when the new album came out. And so we, for the first time ever had some amounts, not super sufficient amounts, but amounts that would make it probable that we could tour, depending on the fees we would get, you know. But there was a good chance that that was guaranteed in the contract.
And we never had anything like that before -- we never had a need for it, you know? But at the same time, of course, the recording part [of the business] just went down, and that was where we were actually in limbo for a little while, you know, trying to really twist our brains for ideas of “How can we record for less money than we’ve done before?” because it’s not like we are throwing money out the window sittin’ and just playing games in the studio. No, we’re working hard, 12 hours a day. And that was usually for two months, you know. We would block off the studio and then we’d do the whole thing there from day one till the final mastering. And that was not possible from the budget we suddenly had available and we had to find another way or completely stop, you know? Those were the two alternatives.
And then we came up with the way that is the way we did “The Puppet Master” which actually was the best sounding album we’d ever done, you know? So, uh, it’s not good for business that you have to do that, of course, but for the final product, it actually was good, you know, that we were forced into thinking a different way. And that was, use -- well, in a smart way we did this because… I don’t know if you know this, but Andy has a highly professional studio in Sweden.
Los Angered, right?
Yeah! And a lot of albums have come out from that studio now. What we do is that we load all the best gear he has in a couple of big flight cases and then we fly it over here to my house. And then we transform my house into a studio, pretty much. I have the same speakers here in my living room as they have in the studio.
Andy has the same speakers in his studio so we are very familiar with these speakers. And as we went along, we recorded for “The Puppet Master” -- we also mixed the album here. But what we did, we recorded all the written guitars and harmony guitars, all keyboards, all bass guitar here at the house. Then we went into Nomad Recording Studio [in Carrollton, TX] and cut all the drum tracks. And then Andy went back [to Sweden] and then they recorded in his studio the solos. And I went back in with Livia and did all the vocals at Nomad Recording Studio. And then Andy came back over here and we mixed the whole thing at my house. But not on, like, what you would call home recording equipment. This is top pro gear, y’know -- Pro-Tools, the top of the line.
And uh, that’s why it’s not like it’s a home production or anything like that, haha. This might as well have been in another professional studio. But the cool thing we found out about this is that we can spend more time without sitting there staring at the clock. You know, sometimes we would spend in the studio two hours to try and make a reverb unit behave because we have to have that special reverb to capture the right feel and it wouldn’t, arrgh!, come on -- something wouldn’t do exactly what we wanted it to do, y’know. And then finally [it did] after two hours and you sit there and look at the clock and feel like you’re just blowing money out the window.
But you have to do these things because if I’m not artistically satisfied, forget it. Then I don’t want to do it at all, you know?
So sitting here, [as opposed to someone’s studio,] it didn’t matter if it took five hours! Because we were not throwing money out the window in the mixing process, you know. And we spent all that extra time -- whatever it took, we did it.
‘Cause it was your own time.
And that was a big improvement, I can say. And another thing, which you hear in the sound, is that when you sit in a living room with carpets on the floor, you know, and furniture in it, that’s the environment that everyone else is going to listen to it. They’re not going to sit in this studio control room where the walls have certain angles and there’s these bass traps sticking out of the wall and all this so that frequencies can bounce the right way.
People are not going to listen to it like that at home, you know, they don’t have that. So when we sat here and mixed, we realized along the way that, hey, man, we felt so much more confident in mixing because we knew that when we turned a button and we could hear a difference, a change, we knew that other people would hear that, too, in their living rooms.
So that was like a big confidence boost and that’s why it sounds as good as it does. ‘Cause I really think that album sounds great.
And I agree.
You know, before, I’ve experienced many times coming from the studio, [getting] back [home] at 1 in the morning, you know, and you have to be back [in the studio] at noon the next day. You get up at 10 or 9 or whatever and then you go in and you listen to something you brought with you back home. And then you suddenly sit there at home in your living room and [say] “Whew! What the hell, man? Why is it so thin? What the hell happened? It sounded great in the studio.”
That’s the studio magic….
And then you write down things to correct ‘cause it’s not good, you know. Come in the studio you sit down and you listen [and say] “Okay, check this out now, listen to this now” and poof! Lots of booming bass. “What the hell? What is going on here?” Then you can’t judge what you’re doing [due to the difference between your home stereo and that in the studio] and it can actually be dangerous, I found out. It’s great to have these fantastic listening environments in the studio but if it’s not being reproduced that way in people’s living rooms, then to hell with it, you know? What’s the use? What’s the point?
And that’s why we also mixed the live album here and I think that sounds killer, too.
It was also mixed here on Andy’s gear at my house.
Cool. Well, I have to get back to the question….
And that’s the thing where instead of spending two months in the studio we spent maybe four weeks instead. There’s a lot of money saved from what we normally do. We had to ship gear forth and back but in the long run, you know, for a smaller budget, we can do that with King Diamond. The difference between Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, I’ll get to it, is that King Diamond always sold more albums.
We always had better contracts [then Mercyful Fate]. We always had bigger budgets, you know. And that still reflects today, it’s the same situation today. And when we had to renegotiate the contracts, um, the Mercy contract, you know, I mean if we go in and do a Mercy album, I won’t make a dime. I think we won’t make a dime. It would be for fun.
And to be able to do that, there has to be that vacuum in what King Diamond does to go in and do [a Mercyful Fate record] for fun. I can’t say like we did before: “Okay, we’ll do a King Diamond [record, then] we’ll do a Mercyful Fate [record]” ‘cause at that time it was okay to make less but you could still make money to live off [of it], you know.
But if it was only Mercyful Fate, I can put it this clearly, if there was only Mercyful Fate today, there would not be anything because it’s impossible for us to live off those deals that Mercy has.
Okay. I appreciate your answer….
But for King Diamond, it’s definitely possible still, you know. That’s a big difference because it makes you either continue or not, you know? And it’s not like it’s all about money, but when it comes to those things, it’s a necessity, you know?
If the money is not there, you know, and you can’t pay your bills, then, whew, you have to do something else and then it stops right there. That’s just a fact. I love it as much as I’ve ever loved it, you know, to do what we do today, and actually a lot of those things -- being onstage -- I enjoy even more now than I’ve ever done before, you know? And I guess that’s because we have such an incredible feeling -- that family that’s touring, you know -- our crew and everybody in the band, you know? Everybody knows that stuff so well that there is no need for worry when we go on stage. There is not going to be something technical screwing up for us, you know. [We’ve got] a killer crew that can make the worst P.A. [system] sound like it’s a dream P.A. It’s that kind of skilled guys. And I never worried about the guys screwing up a riff here or there, then they can [make it] sound like I screwed up instead, you know?
When someone plays something wrong, you know, it can screw me up. There are things that people don’t know. Sometimes if I lose where I am, for instance, and it seems like “Oh, my God, he doesn’t know his song!” It’s rare but it does happen. Then it’s good to have good fans that know all the records in the front…. Haha.
To help you out….
But it’s not that I forget the lyrics. What happens, and I really noticed this when we were mixing the live album, is kind of an odd thing here, that I can sit and listen to the live album and I can know exactly where I am on stage at all times. There is a thing when Andy plays a solo, and you can hear it -- and Andy is my favorite guitarist of all time -- so I’m not ragging on him or anything like that, but he has a tendency live when he finishes off a fast solo, he finishes off on a long, dragged out, hanging, feedback note, you know?
[He does that] to find the right spot to come back into playing rhythm, you know?
And every time he has that type of solo, I stand by his side because I don’t count beats, as we play…
You feel it.
Yes, I just feel the whole thing. And they play the same solos every night. I listen to the solo. That’s the way I know. If they play a solo wrong [or differently], then I’m in the shit, you know? Haha.
And then I will be the one looking like “Oh, he didn’t do a good solo!” [Or] “Ooh, King fucked up, too!”
You know? It’d be like that. But in the other scenario, if I don’t get away from him before the end of that solo and get over to Mike’s side where I can hear the rhythm guitar, I will have nothing to sing to. There has to be a riff, you know, that is, a kind of melody where I can…
Follow the song?
Where I can sing my lines over [the guitar melody/rhythm]. If there’s just the feedback note hanging there and I can’t hear anything else if I stand on Andy’s side, I’m screwed, man, completely. So that’s why when he finishes off his solos I’m always on Mike’s side. I just noticed that when we were doing the live [album mixing].
That’s very cool. That certainly gives your fans some insight into the live show…
That’s where being on stage you’re so dependent on what are you hearing up there. Can you hear everything alright? Or, things you can’t hear. And If I’m on one side, I mean, Andy might have a little mic up there somewhere over there, but that’s hitting right where he stands. If I’m standing next to Andy it blasts right by me, you know.
I can actually tell, if I listen to a bootleg [recording], where it was taped in the hall simply because of how the set-up is on stage for us. The four wedges in the front, right in the front, in the middle, [are] all mine. They are specially built -- we have five, actually, we have one spare -- but they were developed by our sound engineer for me specifically, for the way I sing and my voice. So there are only those five in the world, you know. And I have a special rack system that is only for those four speakers -- I mean, the amps, and all the filters, and all the shit, you know, the compressors and all this -- it’s only for me there, nothing else goes through there. There is not one hi-hat, I mean nothing comes through those four speakers except my voice. And they have two different types of horns there. There’s a long throw and a short throw. The short throw spreads the sound a lot. That’s the ones I hear when I stand down close to them. The long throw horns, they blast right by me. I won’t even hear them down there. When I’m up on that platform in front of the drum riser, it’s only the long throw horns I hear.
And those widespread ones, they won’t even reach me up there. But [the speaker system] was developed that way so I can move and hear perfectly [in] those two spots at least, you know. But when I move away from there, when I get out to Andy’s side, for instance, if I want to stand and sing out there, it gets difficult because then I hear a little bit of what is in the side fields of my vocals. There is a lot of drums there, you know, and some guitar and bass, you know, but a lot of drums are going through the side fields. But I noted in some of those bootlegs I heard, the guy must’ve stood right up front in center [to record it] because I heard a lot of vocals and I heard a lot of drums but very low guitars and that’s not how we sound live, you know, and that’s because he was up there and where these four speakers have only vocals blasting, even though they blast away [from the audience] they are very loud. There’s a lot of weird things there. It’s a totally different world, you know, when you’re on stage compared to standing and singing in a studio.
Cool. Well, let’s talk about your voice a bit. How do you keep your voice in shape on tour? That's got to be tough even after only a couple of nights on the road. You got any secrets for aspiring vocalists out there?
Um, well, you’ve got to take care of yourself, you know. I mean, I even have a very hard time doing that because I can’t sleep on a rolling bus. Not because I don’t trust the driver, or anything like that, but anything that moves, planes as well, I wake up every ten minutes.
Yeah, that’s got to be tough.
And so I’ve given up on that. I have to go to bed when we reach the next city, you know. I go straight to bed and then I sleep from maybe 2 in the afternoon until 6 in the evening. And then they bring some food from the gig, you know, and I’m up. Then I eat the food and I digest it and then I start putting the makeup on, you know?
Then they come and get you and it’s show time eventually and all this, and you come back to the hotel and that varies, you know, whether it’s 1 or it’s 3 in the morning. Um, then it’s hard to fall asleep, and maybe you’re hungry or whatever, and eventually after showers and all this stuff you might get 2 or 3 hours [of sleep] before you have to get up, pack your shit [and go]. So I usually can get 5 or 6 hours [of sleep] within 24 hours, you know, and maybe a couple of little [naps here and there]. It’s not that fun, you know, but that’s the way I have to do it. And then I stay away, of course, from alcohol completely.
On an entire tour you might see me drink two beers. That would be two separate days where we had an off day and we went to a nice place to have dinner or something like that, and then I might have a beer there. But otherwise I totally stay away from beer and I try to get that sleep that is available for me. Because without those two things, without doing those two things that way, whew, it’s tough man. I stay away -- I don’t do interviews on tours really…
Right, to maintain your voice.
It does wear your voice down, especially if you have a couple back to back and you sit and talk straight for 2 or 3 hours. It wears your voice down when it’s been mistreated every night -- because that’s what you do. It’s not like you go up there and just [sing soft]. I don’t sing soft, I sing extremely loud.
Right, you belt it out.
And it’s full power and it wears on the vocal chords, of course, you know. But in the long run, man, I mean, my voice has gotten stronger and stronger, year after year. And I still feel it this time. Last time, actually, the voice was probably sounding the best it ever has, on any tour, where I could feel it myself -- that I was hitting more of those hard and long notes, with more ease than before. And with more confidence, and that has something to do, I guess, with what I said before. We have really good guys that give us a good sound on the stage and I don’t worry about those kinds of things, you know. We go in there and make sure everyone has fun. That’s what it’s all about, you know?
And I enjoy playing those old songs, [like] “Welcome Home” and I enjoy playing them more now than I ever did [before], even then when it was all fresh. I think you can hear some of that, too, on that live album, because the voice is really…
It’s crystal clear….
I mean, that’s the first time we actually were able to mix a live album. The first one was not mixable.
Yeah, that was the live “In Concert 1987 Abigail” album, right?
That was from tapes that were already, well, that was the way they were. We couldn’t change a thing. This time we had control over how loud we wanted the audience and the voice. It was interesting to sit there and actually mix one, single voice of mine. Then Livia’s [voice] is there some of the time but it’s not a lot, you know. Most of the time it’s just my one voice that has to carry the vocal part and we don’t have all these backing [vocals] to support and create all these things. But I think it works really well, you know. You listen to “Welcome Home,” for instance, I think it sounds great on that live album even with just one vocal [line].
Well I think that song will always sound great, regardless.
Yeah! But again, there’s some extremely high notes in it, in some passages, which can be [hard to hit] -- they used to be hard to hit, you know, and I don’t feel they’re that hard [to hit] anymore. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like my vocal chords have gotten stronger and the control is still improving. You can never get good enough. Specifically if you’re playing a show where because of the way the stage is, maybe, or something like that, the sound bounces in a weird way and it becomes hard to hear everybody clear, what they are playing…
Then you count a certain part by some of the long, high notes, [like] in “The Eye of the Witch” or whatever, and before I reach that part it’s like, “hey, man, please let me hear what I’m doing there” so I can feel what I’m doing, too. That way I don’t have a problem singing it. But if I can’t hear my voice, oh, it becomes hard [to know where I am in the song] and it’s all by some feel, you know, whether I’m in tune or not.
Right. Well, you’ve been doing this for well over two decades. How do you account for your own longevity, musically speaking?
Well, you know, it’s like, uh…
You obviously enjoy what you’re doin’.
I think there’s some kind of tradeoff, you know, with longevity and popularity, or whatever you want to call it, you know -- success, [but] it depends on how you define success, as well.
We could have jumped on the bandwagon somewhere along the road, you know, and tried to get that hit album and maybe we would have had more success in the [sales] numbers of one album, you know.
But I don’t think we would have stayed, then, as long as we have here. What we have done [instead] is say “Screw that hit album.” If we do this here, we stay true to ourselves. We can stand with our heads high, you know, and say that we never cheated the fans in any way or fashion. We did what we wanted to do from the heart -- and that’s what they pay for, to hear on an album. That’s what they demand of us, that’s the feeling I have.
I mean, [I think the fans would say] “Stay true to yourself,” you know. “Don’t give us some lame-ass shit that you don’t believe in, we don’t want to hear that. We want to hear what you guys are about” and because we’ve always had the artistic freedom from the labels as well, you know, we’ve been able to go this long, I think, with that very unique style we have. Of course, you don’t find another band that sounds just like us where you’re in doubt [as to who is playing, saying] “God, is this King Diamond?”
If you hear a King Diamond song and a song from another band, you know which one is King Diamond.
But that also -- so that creates a niche of your own -- that also means that we have never had to follow the trend, like a lot of bands through time have had to do, you know?
When a new trend suddenly came in, they might have had to twist their style over in that direction. Maybe not out of their own will, you know….
[They succumb to] record label pressure….
Record labels, and [other people] coming into the studios and listening to demos of songs, telling the band “This is not good enough, this is not the style you want to play now.” [The band might say] “But that’s our style!” [and the outsiders would say] “Well, that’s not what you want to sound like now.” That must be the most frustrating thing ever.
I’m sure it is and it must happen all the time.
And I, fortunately, have never had to experience that kind of thing, you know. We’ve been able to stay true to ourselves and play from the heart -- right from the heart, you know -- and that’s [something] you can’t [put a] value [on] in [terms of] money. You simply can’t because there’s so much pride associated with it, you know? And then because of that unique style we never had to follow any trends. So we could go straight through whenever Punk was there, or whenever they were all [playing] the Seattle style [-- Grunge]. Whatever was the fancy, we went straight through and we didn’t feel that we were hurting, you know? Sure, we never had that ‘hit record’ but we’re still here.
Cool. I’m sure being on Roadrunner and then Metal Blade probably helped out a lot as far as a good Metal record label [that wouldn’t interfere with what you do].
Oh, man! Both [of them] are busting their ass with whatever they can do. They do their damnedest and their best. And that’s why I can tell you, also, that for our style of music and what we do, I don’t think being on EMI, or something like that, would do us any good. I think it would hurt us, you know?
They wouldn’t know what to do with you.
Not being their top act, or one of their top acts, we would be #283, maybe, you know? And then no attention is paid to you.
Yeah, EMI just would not know how to handle a band like King Diamond.
Well, they might know how to handle it, but are they willing to put money into it? A lot of bands that are signed to major labels find out that, well, they will release your album but they’re not gonna push it. If it starts selling, they might start pushing it. Unless you are [among] the top artists they have, you know. Those, of course, they know are sellers, and they need to be pushed, but a lot of the other stuff, they won’t invest money to see [if it sells.] “Okay, well, we’ll see if this happens. If it happens, great, then we’ll start putting in money into it. Then it was a good investment. If not, then it’s a write-off.”
That’s, unfortunately, the hard side of [the music] business, you know, that it can be like that. I don’t think we would get anything good out of [being on a major label]. For us it’s better to be one of the highest ranking acts on independent labels. Roadrunner, by now, are so big, you know, but they still have that independent attitude and that’s what I think is great. They did so much good for us [but] we did a lot of good for them, too.
Vice versa with Metal Blade, you know? You’re always going to be running into having these little skirmishes or contracts or payments or whatever stuff -- that’s part of business. But the big picture, man, is just all good. I can’t say anything bad about either of those two labels because they’ve only done good for us and I think we’ve done a lot of good for them, ‘cause that’s what I’ve been told a lot. Haha.
I mean, the owner of Roadrunner Records, Cees Wessels, I owe him so much. He was so open at the beginning when we got signed to Roadrunner, about the business side of everything, you know. And he taught me so much about the music business that has saved my ass so many times later on. I have a lot to thank him for, you know?
Very well. I just wanted to ask you one last question and this is one that is probably very “in vogue” now, but one of my favorite pictures I’ve got is actually of you on stage and there’s Rex and Dimebag performing with you. I was going to ask what your comment was on the tragic murder of Dimebag and has that affected or changed you and your approach to what you do on stage?
Um, that’s… I don’t think I want to comment on [that]. Uh, it’s not a thing to sit and, I mean, like, what happened there was insane, you know? And it’s, like you said, an extreme tragedy.
The guy, the way I know him, couldn’t hurt a fly. I mean, the nicest person. I have only seen Dimebag from the good sides, you know, and have the highest respects for him as a human being and as a musician. And in that way, it was a horrible tragedy to hear about. It hit home very close. It definitely did.
Even though I would not consider myself one of his close friends, ‘cause we didn’t see each other that much, but whenever we did see each other, which happened some times, it was always good. Always good. But I’m not what you would call a close friend. I would hope that I was considered a friend even though we didn’t see each other a lot, you know, but you know how those things are when these tragedies happen. A lot of people are there [in the media]. Some are respectful, some are not, about how to treat the tragedy. What way do you pay respect? Do you start talking about the times when you were this and that with those who were closest or do you leave it alone? And that way you have a lot of respect. I mean, it’s such a difficult thing -- what do you do in that situation? When you hear about it, and then the aftermath, you know…. Sterling Winfield is a producer…
Yes. I know of him.
He worked also on a couple of albums for King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. And he was like a brother to Dimebag, I know that. He used to tour with them. He was in the studio with them helping them co-produce their albums for a long, long time.
And he had just talked with [Dimebag] within 6 months before this happened. I saw him around Christmas and talked to him for a while about it, you know, and it’s incredibly hard. I know that Dimebag was like a brother to him -- a real brother, not just a friend or something like that, a close friend -- [he was] a real brother. And man, I could see how that hurt [Sterling]. [Dimebag’s murder was] just so senseless. I could sit here and talk probably for hours, which I’m not going to, and come up with all kinds of things to say about this situation but it’s not gonna do any good. Um, because it makes no sense.
I mean, it goes straight over my head to try and sit and talk about it in a sensible way because it’s so insane, what happened, you know? That’s how it is to me. When I start talking about it now -- I haven’t talked about it since before Christmas there with [Sterling] because it doesn’t make sense to talk about it. There is no sense in what happened.
Well, I appreciate and respect that [response].
And that’s the thing. It suddenly dawns on me as I sit and talk about it, that this is meaningless to talk about the thing that happened, because there was no sense in that action. And what is worth talking about is what a great guy [Dimebag] was and what an amazing musician he was, too. I mean, what a great human being and what a great musician -- that’s important.
And that’s important to remember forever, you know? But the actual act there, I think that should just be forgotten because the person that did that is not worthy of mentioning.
Right. Well, let me try to end this on an upbeat note…
You know what I mean? And this is because Texas is near and dear to my heart, but how did you choose Texas comin’ obviously from Denmark?
Well, this is where my [now] ex-wife at the time was from, you know. So all her friends were here. We lived for 2 years in Copenhagen after we got married and then decided that we would move to the U.S. …That was a personal decision [because] she had a little harder time adjusting to Denmark than I would have had to adjust to the U.S., you know. And I’ve always had an easy time to adjust and I always liked Texas from touring over here, you know.
That was the place that had that laid back feel that I was used to from Denmark. I love going to New York [City and] I love going to L.A. -- [but only] for a week or so. But I couldn’t live in either of those two cities. I’ve tried for a year and a half in L.A. and, uh…
Too much goin’ on?
It’s just, man, too far from what I grew up with in Denmark, you know? That’s the problem for me. Had I grown up in either of those places, I would guarantee [that I would] love it, but New York -- way too high paced and L.A. -- too much Hollywood, man! Haha.
I mean, for me, who comes from Denmark [and] who has [grown up in] this, like, very laid back little country, you know. And that’s where the laid back feel in Texas appealed to me because it is close to what I was used to [in Denmark].
Very good. Can you….
Have you lived in Texas a while, or where are you now?
I’m actually in Virginia right now but I was born and raised in Dallas, TX.
I went to college and everything there [in north Texas] and I actually, I believe I saw you in my high school, haha, in ’88 or ’89. And if it wasn’t you, it was some guy that looked exactly like you without the makeup and that kinda creeped me out on one level ‘cause I was like “that can’t be King Diamond” but then readin’ the liner notes [to your albums] and I see Deborah [at the top of the thank you section]…. ‘Cause my sister was friends with friends of your ex-wife.
Ahhhhh…! We did go to one of her schools once, I remember that. I was in town and she [said] “Hey, let’s go down and meet some of my friends.”
Yeah! So, for me, this interview is just killer. I thought “it’s just kind of a small world” when I found out….
Yes, it sure is! Hahahaha.
[Upon seeing that name in the liner notes, I always thought] “Is that the Deborah I knew of from high school?”
Well, I appreciate you taking the time for this interview.
Do you have any parting words for your fans, friends, and listeners?
Oh, man, just stay heavy, stay the way you are -- you’re the best fans ever! That’s just a fact, you know. You’ve been with us through all these years and all these things that have happened with the band through the years and it’s awesome to come to the shows and see old and young, you know?
A lot of the old fans are still there, you know, and then you see a lot of new, young fans -- 14, 15 [years old], you know, and they know all the words to those songs that were written before they were born. That is an awesome feeling, I can tell you.
The best feeling is to see them enjoy themselves, you know. That’s what it’s all about, you know. It’s the entertainment stuff. [That we can] rip people out of everyday life for a couple of hours and see them let loose and have fun, you know. I mean, a King Diamond show is [all] about [you] leav[ing] when it’s over with a smile on your face. That’s what it’s about, of course, you know.
And that will always be the message. All the other stuff -- in between all the lyrics and the life philosophy and things like that -- it’s there because it interests me and for those who want to dig deeper, it’s there. For those who don’t, that’s fine with me, too.
Right on. Well, hopefully I’ll see you here in Virginia, I think, near the end of April then.
Yeah, that should be it. The tour starts in Florida on [April] 14th, I think.
Okay! Should we wait for Michelle [Ferraro, Metal Blade publicist assistant]?
Michelle: I’m here…
There you are…
Michelle: Just waiting for you guys to finish.
King: Sneaking around?
Michelle: Haha. I always do, King.
King: I know.
Michelle: You have the best interviews to listen to. Haha.
King: I know that. Hahaha! Alright.
Thanks again King, I appreciate it.
Hey, you too, Tony! You take care, man and I’ll probably see you down there in Virginia then.
Alright, you take care.
Michelle: Goodnight guys.
Links of interest:
Metal Blade Records