The standout qualities of this album are the flat female vocals and the fuzzy guitar. That’s not an insult. Sometimes an album like this can hit the spot. A flat vocal performance makes it feel a bit more trance-like, and while the riffs aren’t doom per se, they are mellow, and combine with the singer to lull the ear.
Luckily, I was able to find a video for a song, so you can hear how close my description is, and see for yourself that “flat’ does not mean “bad.” it is the opposite of “sharp” – if you will.
It’s hard to categorize this album because it has familiar elements yet it does not belong to any group in particular. The vocals can be death metal, the lower register of black metal, clean, and also may fit pagan metal, if you pardon that term. The foreign tongue adds to the feeling of the music.
Throughout the album there is a sense of something being not quite right. This uneasy feeling is further coaxed by odd instrumentation and atmospherics. The tempo is mostly mid-paced, so expect neither brutality nor doom, but be thankful that the black metal cliches are absent.
The first thing to notice is the thick production in which the guitars ooze into your ears. The warmth of the distortion reminds me of stoner doom, but the riffs are sludge. I like when an album makes me try to orient myself.
The vocals are stertorous, cementing this is the sludge bracket, but the extra dimension of the guitars, the strange mix of fuzz, warmth, and atmosphere, tear at the confines.
If you are in the mood for sludge then this will satisfy beyond expectation, and you get to enjoy some ingredients outside of the style, which is quite stimulating.
interview with Agathon conducted by Bill Zebub for issue #23 of THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS
Thy vocals are destined to become legend. Have other bands tried to lure thee onto their albums? Thy vocals can instantly make any album sound cool.
Thanks. I do little parts in Soulgrind’s albums and I did few whole songs when I was in Thy Serpent. Actually I don´t think that vocals on Blood… were good enough. Since then I have sung more and I think that in “Life?” all went far more better. I tried nothing… just screamed.
Was Whisper used because of her extreme beauty? I think I am still in love with her.
She´s free now. Come here and try to pick her up… She was my girlfriend and since we broke up she didn´t want to be in any contact with me. So, we decided that in “Life?” we are not going to use any female vocals, and synths replaced her. Actually, in my opinion, that was very good decision, and we are not going back with female vocals. Synths can´t make you crazy…
If Hitler were to come again, dost thou think that he would get away with the same practices of torture and slaughter? Would the majority of society join him? That is a rhetorical question. By the same reasoning, why is it that the majority of society embrace Christianity when it is responsible for MANY holocausts, not just one? We all know about the Inquisition, and the Crusades, and even of the bloodbaths between Catholics and Protestants. But there was much more systematic slaughter of entire sects, like when Pope Innocent III ordered 30,000 Cathars to be slain, regardless of them being women, children, and elderly. Thy lyrics have a poetic anti-Christian stance. I wonder what has made thee take such a position because thou art far from a rebellious teen-ager who just wants to defy his parents.
At first my lyrics were pure Satanic, because they told of the things which happened when I was 15. In “Life?” all the lyrics tells about the visions what I saw when I was at hospital at summer ‘98 and was in coma few days. I am not worshiping none but myself. Bible was only written to dominate people and keep them quiet. I still think that “evil”, like christians think it, is more pure than any kind of “goodness”. Actually, in my opinion, there is no such things as evil or good. There is only different happenings and people. Satan represent to me that animalish, pure side of man, which every christian try to deny. All religion try to deny humans’ real feelings. I try to be like animal, which lives through its instincts. So-called goodness is always learned from somewhere, but your instincts are pure. If I feel I want to be nice to somebody I can be, but if I don´t feel like it I don´t have to be. That’s simple and I can´t understand that shit what christians try to feed to everybody… that we have to love each others even thou they are fuckers to us. Christianisms were brought here with sword, so how they can say they love us? All religions come from people… without people there is no Satan or God. We are the only ones who really dominate.
Thy music is neither death metal nor black metal, but the vocals and thy affiliations suggest that thou art more a fan of black metal. Is this true?
Many have said that our music is “Horror Movie Metal” and I agree. In fact, I am big fan of old school thrash and black metal like Slayer, Exodus,Venom, Bathory et cetra. Agathon is more like feeling and He works through Gloomy Grim. I don´t want to be personalized as Agathon from Gloomy Grim, because most of the time I am not that person. If people start to believe what I preach then all my work has gone in the sand. I want people to think by themselves, and Agathon can only give guidance, but not exact ways to think.
As thy popularity grows I am sure that there will be a demand to see thee perform at fests. Is that something thou wilt deny?
Hope it does… I don´t have any reason why we could not make gigs. Actually, we were at France at April with S.U.P and Divion Alpha.
We had 7 gigs in there and I was amazed how well we were known there. We used DAT tape for the synths and drums. Of course, guitars, bass, and vocals were live. After the next album I think that we are using real drummer at the stage too, but that is someone else than me. I want to keep Black Mass at the stage.
Hast thou ever grown disillusioned by being signed to Holy Records? It is not very easy to get their titles in America, and I would think that Gloomy Grim has a market here.
Not this far. They have done great job for us. I don´t know the situation at America, but I assume that at least in Europe Holy´s records are well distributed.
This is black metal that has stayed away from the gay screeching, so I was more receptive. If you get the album, listen to “Rapace Planare” first. The song goes through some interesting changes toward the end, foreshadowed by heavy phaser on the guitar. Suddenly you will hear crooning. These clean vocals fit perfectly and are pleasingly sung with a dark quality.
Yes, this album has black metal traits, like dissonant chords, but it’s a dynamic offering with some heavier elements that are not common in that style.
interview with Snowy Shaw conducted by Bill Zebub for issue #27 of THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS Magazine
I prefer a personality interview as well as a musical interview, unless you prefer a totally insulting interview.
Why do you choose to go that way? I mean, to insult people – is that to make it fun for the readers or something?
It’s fun for the whole world.
So people that you don’t like or don’t respect – you just give them a hard time.
I pretty much give everyone a hard time, and people like George Corspegrinder from Cannibal Corpse have a lot of fun being assholes back to me. Let’s begin. Mickey Dee badmouthed King Diamond in interviews and stuff like that. I was at a Motorhead show and I was wearing a Mercyful Fate shirt, and he said “Why are you wearing that? That band sucks!” He wasn’t even in that band. And this was apparently after King Diamond had a talk with him and asked him why he said things like that. He’s still an asshole. I don’t know why he has problems with King Diamond, but I was talking to King and he said that in the press he saw that you felt constricted in the band.
That I did or that Mickey did?
That you did. I know that if you say something negative it wouldn’t be as an insult. I know that you would have a reason for saying something that sounds negative. The press might make it seem nasty.
Yeah, I realize that it’s stupid to say anything negative because nobody believes me. If it’s a question about “Ok, is it a drum machine on The Eye?” or something – I mean, that is kind of a stupid question…
That is one of my questions.
The thing is, it was my decision to use that kind of drum patterns and stuff like that, but nobody would believe me. Yeah, I’m the one who brought it up, and if I didn’t say anything, nobody would know about it. Nobody believes me. They believe King instead, of course. But I have nothing against King.
The question was more “what was the problem?” He said that you were doing all these crazy things and you said “I’m going to do everything I ever learned as a drummer” and that he was holding you back. Like, every time there was a change in a song you would have massive drum rolls. They were good, he said, but it just made the music a bit more complex than it needed to be.
When I joined the band, he wanted… OK, Mickey Dee was good. It’s fine to have a drummer that could be like a puppet. You can have control over this guy. Maybe King all the time wanted not that kind of complicated drumming and strange drum arrangements. I know Mickey told me that King told him “Stop playing that! You’re ruining my songs!” But back then they were a band and Mickey Dee would say “Fuck You! I play the way I want to!” But when I joined the band I didn’t have that kind of position of course. So I just had to do what he told me. We kind of compromised and arranged things together and so on. I don’t know what it was, but I felt I want to do what I want to do. It’s not like I want to be a modern drummer and that is my major goal. I want to play good drums. Sometimes I thought some of his ideas, or arrangements, was kind of simple and standard and stupid or something… (laughs)
When you left, were you thrown out or did you voluntarily leave?
Yeah, I left the band. “Ok, now it’s a European tour coming up. Oh no! I quit.” Kind of strange, but that’s the way it was. It’s like putting a lid on a volcano. It’s a stupid expression maybe, but I needed to express myself musically. I wasn’t satisfied with just being a drummer and playing (ed. – Snowy makes sounds imitating a drum beat). It didn’t give me that much so I needed to quit and try to write my own music and start my own band.
It’s very important for me to clarify right now that you’re not saying anything in a nasty tone. Some magazines are irresponsible and they don’t mention that. They try to make it look like you’re trying to start a fight. Notre Dame does not have showy drums – like you’re showing off. It seemed like that was the argument in King Diamond. Do you agree?
He comes up with some stuff and it’s basically my arrangements, but when I wrote some songs myself I tend to arrange the drums so it’s pretty simple just because the song itself should be in focus instead of different musicians showing off what they can do. It’s quite the same for thing for King. I think I play better drums if I don’t like the band, because then I just want to have fun playing drums.
Your accent sounds more Danish than Swedish.
Nobody told me that before. Maybe I have a sore throat or something because they sound a bit like they’re supposed to throw up when they’re talking.
Maybe that’s the reason. So what do you have to say about the production of the drums? I thought that you would be over-produced based on what I’ve heard about you. But it’s a mild production.
The overall production – I don’t really like it because we have kind of a limited budget. We have to go mix in a friend’s place or something. Next time around it will be a lot better because we’re working with this friend and he’s a real producer. The drums sounded quite bad the last couple of albums.
That helped me understand the elusive personality of Snowy Shaw a little bit. I heard that you like American Indians.
Yeah. I was really into that some years ago. I was into reading about the Midwest Indians.
Any particular reason?
I don’t know. I mean, for various reasons I guess because they were very cool and proud and they had a great history. It was magical and mystical. I thought it was very cool. But I kind of left that, and since I’m working with Notre Dame I’m watching horror movies and being more into eerie and stupid horror comics.
So you were never part of any drum circle?
Indian drum circle? I never had the opportunity, but maybe in the future.
You don’t prefer to play drums with your hands.
With my dick.
The first time I heard Notre Dame I didn’t know you were in the band. It was on the Mercyful Fate tribute on Listenable Records. It was Into the Coven. The very next time I heard your band it was on this latest album Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You.
That’s the second one?
No, the new album is a re-issue – the Second Coming. It was four and a half songs originally, but now it’s like eleven. We added a bunch of bonus tracks from the same time – the same recording sessions and so on. We fucked it up totally. I think it was better the first time. It’s better as a mini album because you tend to get tired after six songs – not when you record them but if you listen to them. You’re pretty much satisfied when you’ve heard seven songs.
I’m sure Osmose will love to hear the way you’re talking about the album.
Yeah, but what’s done is done. I just wanted to… because of the lousy distribution… I’m sorry… I’m burping here from drinking Coca Colas. But anyway, we just wanted to give a second chance because the distribution wasn’t working that good and maybe Osmose distribution isn’t working that good either, but it’s much better anyway. But they wanted to add a bunch of bonus tracks, and I looked into some old material that’s never been mixed and so I recorded some vocals and some guitar on some songs. We made it like a totally new album instead of just a re-issue.
So the vampire theme is going to be common to your next album as well?
No, not really. I mean, the character Vampirella – she’s still in the band. Maybe we kind of focused on that for some time, but it’s basically just shock shock rock and horror metal. I grew up with KISS and Alice Cooper. I was really influenced by those kinds of shows and the kind of image that Alice Cooper had. I think this is my interpretation for the new generation. It’s not just about vampires. I grew up reading all those horror comics. So this is just the logical development.
Back to the old days when Mercyful Fate reformed – there was an American tour. Did you have any problems playing drums for the song Satan’s Fall?
No, absolutely not. That is my favorite song. Maybe there was a show where I fucked it up.
No, there was a lot of Snowy in that performance rather than Kim Ruzz.
Yeah. I really like that song so I couldn’t keep relaxed. I just went berserk. Maybe I fucked it up.
Is it easy to fuck up in that song?
Yeah, maybe it is because when we played this big festival in Copenhagen that is the only time I fucked it up. There are so many changes in the song and I was so excited and everything so maybe I forgot something because I was waiting for the last part which is the coolest. So maybe I skipped a few parts of that song. That song is so fantastically evil. When I was a kid I listened to it and I thought “this is too much!This is really scary!”
Did you ever imagine that you would be playing with King Diamond?
No, not really. I didn’t realize they were from Denmark when I was 14 or something. I didn’t see that coming. But after a couple of years Mickey Dee and Andy Laroque joined the band, and all of a sudden we had some kind of relation to them. It wasn’t that far-fetched to actually join the band after a couple of years because they had close relations to Gothenburg musicians.
For the band Notre Dame what is the reason for the choice of black metal vocals trading off with sort of like the theatre style vocals?
Maybe I was into that somehow. They’re the same kind of songs that I wrote for Memento Mori. It’s just that we don’t play the drums that slow. (ed – makes drum noises) It would be boring to play it that slow. So instead we speed it up and play the fastest part possible – all these kinds of patterns. But when it comes to vocals maybe it’s that I can’t sing that powerful so I’m just trying the best I can. I’m also into Metal Church and Nazareth and Udo,.. Accept and stuff like that. I don’t know if it’s black metal vocals. It’s just really distorted vocals I guess.
The first track on this second edition, The Bells of Notre Dame, reminded me of Immortal, and then I took a look at the cover and you have the diamond-shaped corpsepaint around your eyes just like the singer. So I was wondering if you have any admiration for Immortal or if that was just a coincidence.
I never listened much to them, but they look cool (laughs), especially this Battles of the North album. But this is just some kind of coincidence because I didn’t use that kind of make-up for a long time. I think he has much bigger diamonds than I do. It covers pretty much his whole face. Most of the time I just have some mascara and I look more like…
No, not like a girl. But it was more like a raccoon. This was the only time when I was like, “this looks kind of theatrical,” like pantomime, or scary in some kind of circus way. I did not think of Immortal when I did that.
I’ve seen the movie The Decline of Western Civilization, and I saw it because I thought it was going to be about metal but it was about posers. And there was this one poser in there who was talking like an absolute faggot…
And his name was?
I don’t know his name. Half of his hair was blonde (Snowy laughs) and half of his hair was black, and I also noticed that in the Notre Dame pictures half of your hair is blonde and half of your hair is black. So I was wondering if you know the poser from that movie.
No, I don’t. But I heard that the singer from Madam X dyed his hair black and white. I was thinking more of Carella Deville (spelling?) the Disney character. You know, I’m blonde, so that isn’t very evil. So should I dye my hair black? No. That’s boring. So let’s do it halfway as a compromise.
So it’s not a symbol for bisexuals?
No. I can do that and still go around buying groceries. I don’t give a fuck. It was just a thing. After that I shaved off my hair completely. But now it’s growing back and I look like…
A German look, or something. This was a long time ago.
A long time ago I interviewed Candlemass and the lead guitar player told me that he found your drum configuration very strange.
Yeah. On your rolls, what you do is each hand goes down your sides instead of going in front of you. Do you know what I’m talking about?
No, not really.
Was he just imagining things?
I don’t know. I mean, I only have one rack tom and I have two floor drums.
One on each side?
Yeah, actually when I bought this Ludwig I had four floor toms so I can have two on each side, but it’s just a poser thing because I can’t play on my left side. I did it with Mercyful Fate to look cool, but it’s OK with just one rack tom and one floor tom. I’ve been playing drums for so long, and I don’t think about drums very much nowadays. It’s not like I’m, “OK, check out that new drummer from this band!.” I just play the way I play. I don’t think that much about it. Maybe some people find it strange. I’ve been out playing festivals with this power metal band now called Dream Evil, and people seem to like the way I play. People say, “Oh, you’re my favorite drummer!” and so on. I don’t really know what’s the big deal. I’m just playing straight bullshit. I can’t really see what’s so special.
But at one time were you obsessed about learning drums?
Yeah, I was, when I was still a teen-ager. Now my goal is elsewhere, like to sing better and write the best possible songs I can do. It’s not like I’m practicing drums very much these days.
Is Notre Dame a project or a band?
I guess it’s both. For me it’s a good forum, or something, where I can write my kind of music. We’re starting to do shows now. We had to turn down some offers from big festivals in Europe this summer. So we will be starting with the King Diamond manager taking care of the whole business because I don’t know how to handle that stuff. I can’t negotiate with foreign promoters and stuff like that. But for some time now it’s been like a project – a recording project pretty much. Have you seen our video?
No. Is it available N.T.S.C.?
I don’t think so. I don’t think that Osmose have done what they should do.
They have been doing a lot because they believe in the Grimoire. A lot of Europeans don’t see the value of advertising in America. They don’t believe that the American market is worth it.
Yeah, it’s so bad because I don’t think that our albums are even released in America.
Yeah, it’s hard to find. But if anyone here wants to get an Osmose album it’s pretty easy to get There are enough metal merchants. But you have to be a real undergrounder. A lot of people in America are very lazy about their music unless they’re enthusiasts.
Yeah, but people are that way everywhere. You go to record stores – what you see on the shelf is what you buy. It’s not like you’re running around to five different stores trying to find something. I wouldn’t do that nowadays. Maybe when I was 15, but not now. It’s a shame. You’ve got to just feed the people.
If you want to succeed.
It’s not like I want to make a lot of money. I would be an idiot if I did with this kind of music. Maybe I am an idiot. We spend so much time doing this stuff that we want people to at least be able to find it if they want to, and to reach out to as many people as possible.
Maybe this interview has helped.
The song “Daughter of Darkness” – was the piano in the beginning taken from Beethoven?
Vampirella said, “Listen to this song! You stole that part!”
It’s not exact. It just sounds like it’s based on a Beethoven song.
Yeah, it’s Moonlight Sonata, or something. I never sit down and “OK, I should steal this”. I’ve always had some kind of obsession with the Halloween theme – that’s where it’s coming from. I always have that kind of sound in the back of my mind. When I’m writing, maybe it sounds familiar, but I don’t know what it is. About Beethoven I really liked that song when I heard it. When I wrote that track it didn’t even cross my mind that it reminded me of something, but a year after we released that CD. I went to a record store and bought a vinyl album of Pahntom of the Opera, and I put it on, and then I heard it (the opening of Bells of Notre Dame). It’s, like, unconscious. I pick it up somewhere but without knowing it.
The titles of your songs are like B movies, like “Dracula Sucks”.
Yeah, I borrowed it from some B movie. It was such a cool title.
It’s so funny when an originator is not original. There’s also “The Misconception of the French Kiss”. I get a feeling of French theatre. Is that how you got signed to Osmose, which is in France?
I don’t know, but somehow with different projects you get different visions, and like, I was really into Indians like I was talking about, and I wrote Indian music. No, not really, but anyway, this French kind of style – I think it’s a bit elegant and just the kind of image that you get from watching movies. Ok, I went to the ballet and drink wine. The French theatre pretty much inspired me to write this music.
Speaking of Indians, do you know what the sitar is?
Yeah, but that’s the real Indians from India.
Actually, the Cherokee Indians invented the sitar, and when the Indians from India found out that the native people of America were called Indians, they sent spies over to see why they would be called Indians because they wanted to be the only Indians on earth.
Yeah, but it’s hardly the American Indians’ fault.
I know, but the Indians stumbled upon the Cherokee and stole the technology for the sitar and brought it back to India, and India made an agreement with the French government to kill any Cherokee with a sitar because they wanted to be known for that instrument on the planet earth.
Seriously? That sounds so strange. I never heard anything like that.
No, I’m just joking. I want to know what you think about Kim Ruzz. Was Kim Ruzz an originator?
Do you mean like he invented his own style?
He brought a unique interpretation into this style of music.
I don’t know. I mean, Mercyful Fate – the whole band were pioneers. You can very much hear Stained Class with Judas Priest in combination with Iron Maiden. I guess they just picked up from what was going on around them.
Sharlee D’Angelo said that one of the things that really set Kim Ruzz apart was that he wasn’t really a metal drummer, yet he played in metal.
Yeah, I really haven’t analyzed it since I was 15, or something. But I don’t consider myself being a metal drummer either. I’m more grown up with Sweet and KISS and Deep Purple and so on. I’m more of a ‘70’s drummer. I’m not that good at playing metal, really.
Do you agree that it’s harder to play slow, like at an extreme doom tempo?
Yeah, I guess you learn a certain way. I play very hard on the drums and so does Mickey Dee, for example. A lot of black metal drummers play so fucking fast but they don’t play that hard. They don’t break any sticks and hardly any drumheads either. If I want to play really fast, I’m not really used to that because I’m playing so hard and it takes so much energy from me, so I have take away some of the strength and play loose and just focus on the speed instead. I was supposed to play with Candlemass and I thought, “OK, that’s so easy.” You have to get used to that because you’re not supposed to play on the ride cymbal, for example (ed – Snowy makes drum noises) I can’t express this. But you should play very few notes and still keep the beat. There’s so much space in between the notes, if you know what I’m saying. So it’s easy to fuck up that way. If you play as fast as you can play there is not so much space that you can fuck up with. I mean, every music has its difficulties. Some people say that AC/DC is so boring. But Phil is good at what he’s doing. It’s complicated in different ways, I guess.
You don’t seem to favor the off beat too much.
Offbeat? What is that? (laughs)
You’ve been called a technical drummer by some people, but you don’t really do jazz beats and stuff.
Like I said, I kind of developed my own – it sounds stupid maybe – but it’s pretty much my own style. I’m not saying that I’m unique. I don’t check out other drummers and steal their chops because I find no interest in that. I’m just trying to play to the music that I’m playing in a tasteful way. I inspired by from Dio or Black Sabbath and Sweet – those old guys – and I took it from there. I don’t know if I’m technical or something.
So what does the future hold for America? Is there a Snowy Shaw tour?
Yeah, that would be great! I haven’t been in America since ’95, and it really pisses me off that Osmose can’t get it out there. With other bands that I’m in now, and this Dream Evil that’s power metal and very popular in Europe right now – but I guess it won’t sell too many records in America – so I doubt that we will be going on tour in America. I would love to come back and see how things have changed.
I think that if more white people live in America that metal will come back. But right now immigration favors the third world countries, and metal is a bit too complex for them. They like rap.
I don’t like that kind of music.
You call it music?
(laughs) I was just trying to be polite.
I talked to Tom Pasquale who is a writer for Meal Maniacs. He also puts tours together, and he said that metal seems to be getting stronger here because there are now five big agencies that book metal tours, whereas before, everyone was at the mercy of this person called Finberg.
Who was that?
He was a person who allegedly took advantage of metal’s lowpoint in America.
I hear there’s a lot of black metal bands. Isn’t black metal growing in America? Marduk, I heard, frequently tour America.
Well you know more about this than I do, but I heard that black metal is dying in Europe, but America just started to follow that trend.
Yeah, pretty much. I’m the wrong person to ask about stuff like that because I’m in my house and write my own music and live in my own world. So I don’t pay attention to what’s trendy and what’s going on and what’s in fashion. I don’t care about stuff like that.
This interview was very merciful, wasn’t it? Get it? Mercyful Fate?
Very Mercyful Fate.
So no insults. Are you surprised?
Yeah, pretty much.
I’m making a movie called “Metalheads”. So far Jensen from Séance, Ross from Immolation, and Agathon from Gloomy Grim have given me permission to use their music.
Yeah, you have permission to use Notre Dame. I don’t know what I’m saying yes to here. But of course, spread it around
It’s a comedy. This is great. I didn’t even have to negotiate with you.
So how did you negotiate with Jensen? Did you do certain favors for him? (laughs) You would love the Thrillogy movie that we’ve done. It’s done in the 1920’s, like Nosferatu, style of movie. It’s also the ‘60’s and ‘70’s cheesy style of horror movie. I guess you would really like that kind of video.
(editor’s note – there was more to this interview. When I have archived more of the great articles from the printed mag i shall go back and include the bits that were left out (like the Anal Cunt interview). These shorter edits were due to the web page limitations with the software i was using in the old days (the program was called “Frontage” and there was a page length limit)
Upon getting this album, the first song that you should play is “VITKISPA” because it is the best, and it will ease you into the other tracks.
Hearing this language and the mood is a bit different from listening to what some people call “folk metal” because there is a sense of something old here, and of course, this isn’t really metal.
Not every song on the album carries this weight, but this song alone is worth the price of the whole thing. It has just the right amount of darkness and morose passages to warrant a space in my collection.
This is a black metal album that has a clean production, but that is not written to dissuade the gaylords who regard good-quality recordings as “commercial” – no, it is more an assurance that this album isn’t recorded stupidly. It’s still gay, because it’s black metal, but at least there was some effort.
This album has some elements that can lump it into the “sounds-like Dimmu-Borgir” category, namely the pseudo-symphonic parts. There is also the raspy and throaty vocal delivery that doesn’t interest me at all, but as I made an attempt to hear something to break my apathy, I gazed upon the cover art, which I strongly suggest that you avoid. The gayness meter immediately spike to the red. Leave a comment if you wish, but this is where I stop.
This is a strange album. There are a few moments when the music bears a resemblance to something that is known,, but madness eventually prevails. Does this description not paint a picture? Well, hearing the music will make you equally unable to describe this album to someone else. Perhaps it is better to render an opinion. This album seems like a novelty at first, but the occasional operatic soprano, gothic crooning, and the fleeting familiar styles and musical ingredients make this border between creativity and psychosis, which I find highly stimulating. No brutality resides here, and neither does the bragging of dexterity (playing intruments for show rather than for feeling) and jarring tempo changes that are sometimes the components of albums categorized as strange. No – this is a bizarre experience worth the aural journey, and the writer’s inability to draw a comparison says it all – this is unique.
Interview with King Diamond conducted by Bill Zebub for Issue #16 of THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS MAGAZINE.
EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: I had run a contest for readers to make their version of the cover of the NUNS HAVE NO FUN EP, using photographs. It was meant for humans to imitate the drawing on the album, but the winner actually used dolls. This picture was later used for movie covers – twice, actually.
You’re aware of the contest for the front cover.
Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing that. I received some very strange photos. Some person (Damian Pring from Yardley, PA) depicted the Nuns Have No Fun cover with dolls. When I first looked at the pictures I was asking myself what sort of strange effect was on the photographs. Then I realized they were dolls.
That’s creepy, in a way, isn’t it? It’s more creepy than a real life photo could be.
The King Diamond album The Graveyard has this lunatic in it. He’s killing off people and hanging their heads on the wall. He suddenly sees them as dolls. There is an instrumental version of The Immigrant Song done by Mercyful Fate somewhere on this planet that you haven’t found yet.
I think either they threw the tape out or they went over it. I remember us trying it, and it didn’t work. It just would not sound right. So I doubt that it actually exists. In those days they tried to save as much space on the reels as possible. It might have been an expense-cutting maneuver.
Yeah, and also, for the reissues Hank went into the studio where we recorded those albums and asked them for the master tapes. They said, “No, we sent them to Roadrunner”. What? When? Then we spoke to Roadrunner, and they never received any tapes. So in between people they just disappeared. I do have some really old stuff. I told you about that before… that Black Rose stuff. Every time I play it I say, “God man, this sounds pretty fuckin’ cool”. Even though it’s a rehearsal recording, everything’s so clear. I joke with Brian Slagel. I say I have this thing that no one has ever heard. And he says, “Any time. Just say the word and i’ll release it.”
You’re too much of a perfectionist for your fans, because there is a wealth of older stuff that you don’t want to officially sanction because of the drop outs and unstable recording levels.
You’re talking about the bootlegs. Right. The song Nightmare, in its earlier stage…
The very first version was called Shadow Nights. Then it changed into Nightmare – the old version. Parts of that were mixed in with the Nightmare you hear on Don’t Break the Oath. I have the recording of the concert with Shadow Nights, and that was when you yelled, “I hate disco!”
We were booked in a very wrong place. We were booked in a school, and it was the school’s last night. They thought they were getting a disco band. So there were ten people in the middle. The rest were boo-ing us, giving us the finger. Truck Driver…
That was in a Michael Denner 3-piece band. Danger Zone?
Yeah. That was when I was singing Mission: Destroy Aliens. It was written about this game where you shoot down these little things. You know what I’m talking about? Like an arcade game? So it’s actually a song about a video game?
Yeah! That’s why it’s so horrible! I could not relate to it. What the hell was the other song? Of course, Truck Driver comes to mind. I almost refused. I asked, “Are you serious? You want me to sing this? Can I change some words?” I ride down the highway in my truck. I’m a truck driver. God! Where does that come from? You know? He’s never driven in a truck himself. Where would he get an idea like that? I heard that Scandinavians have some sort of romantic notion of the cowboy subculture. And you are living in Texas…
(laughs) There you go. No, but serious, man… it was horrible. There was not 1% feeling behind it. It was a rock ‘n roll song first of all. It was not even metal. It was so not belonging anywhere. The song Persecution came from that era too.
Right. But that had feeling to it.
Well it was better than singing Truck Driver. So you might have gotten 25% out of me there. I want to get back to the song A Dangerous Nightmare. Supposedly it came from a London performance. It has the catchy part of the version on Don’t Break the Oath. Over it you sang the words “Eyes of Fire”. Does that ring a bell?
It might be something that John Kibble recorded, you know. That’s where I got it.
Well, there you go. He didn’t tell us about everything that was going on. Believe me. We didn’t know about certain shirts that were sold. Then we saw one. What the hell was that? “Hello dude. What are you making on that?” Then he had to explain that it was just for promotion and no profit. Yeah, right. I bought 7 cassettes from him for $40. But I am not accusing him, because if it weren’t for him, the world would never have these songs.
As long as people know these are bootlegs. That’s what bothers me. When some of it came out, also with him involved, it was presented as real albums. They even convinced some chains to carry the album. They (the F.B.I.) found the storage in London, and destroyed the whole shit. 5,000 or 10,000 copies were destroyed.
That’s quite a lot of copies.
He was selling to normal stores! I could go to Blockbuster and find it. You’re selling bootleg albums? “No, no. It’s from this record label here.” Three months after they destroyed it it was in the market again, but not in the shops though. It was presented as a genuine release, and that’s where you go really wrong. A person coming in for the first time, picking it up… “God, this really sucks!”
I actually heard that comment from someone who bought the Satan’s Nightmare bootleg album.
There was another one… Live From The Depths of Hell.
Yeah, that was the album that got me into Mercyful Fate. I’m sure you know the name Gene Khoury.
Oh yeah… He played live Into the Coven on his radio show, and he’s kind of responsible for me knowing anything about real metal.
He’s one of the early guys. Yeah. But the passion in your voice on that song (Into the Coven) was spellbinding. On the song A Dangerous Nightmare, your voice is so powerful, and I think it would be such a novelty for it to be released in some official way. But I guess the person who has the master tape would be John Kibble.
I would imagine so. I have not been able to track him down.
When you bought the tapes that long ago, did you buy them form a U.S. address? I wrote to the fan club address on the back of the Melissa album. My letter was answered with a flier from England, and it listed a band bio as well as a menu of tapes, and I bought them all. But anyway, I tried to write him again because my tapes have degenerated over time, and I thought his would be the most pristine on earth. But what I now know, and it is quite a surprise to me, is that he has the master tapes to those live shows.
That’s because it was never intended to be recorded anywhere. He must have had a tape recorder set up somewhere without anybody knowing it.. just recording shit and then selling it. Suddenly these bootlegs appeared out of nowhere. Then when you track it down and start asking people where they got it… “Oh, John Kibble.” What? He’s recording us? He’s supposed to work for us, but he records our stuff and releases them as bootlegs. Gee, that’s great. But I don’t know of a set from London recorded live. We played two shows back then in London… small clubs, while we were doing the B.B.C. sessions. He must have recorded one of those. Yeah, the other two songs from that bootleg are a version of Satan’s Fall with different lyrics… instead of “I don’t need your god” you sing “Satan is better than god”.
Yeah, that’s right. That’s a super early version. Then there was Nuns Have No Fun. There might have been a mike problem because the first verse wasn’t sung. But it’s so interesting for a fan. I can understand not wanting to have people listen to that stuff as a first-listen. But it’s extremely interesting.
Let’s say our fan club in Holland… if they had those things available for fans to buy through them, I wouldn’t care about that. But then, I know it’s a fan who already knows about the band, and it’s not going to be misunderstood. You know what I mean? If we had a good version of it and could mass produce it in a responsible way, then I’m sure that the record label wouldn’t bother if it was sold through the authorized fan club, because we don’t get any money – the fan club is run by some people in Holland who have been given the right to run the fan club. If they want to do something, they just have to ask us. They don’t have to account to us in any way.
Let’s talk about some of the changes in Mercyful Fate. I noticed you kind of dispensed the vibrato. Your voice does not waver so much anymore.
Oh it definitely does, Bill. I remember making the songs on this last album, and it was so hard making the backing vocals vibrate the same way as I just did for the lead. I do it by feel, you know. I don’t think about it. I do it naturally. They say in the control room, “You’re vibrating a little off”. and I’m like, “Let me hear it again.” Then I’m like, “Ok, don’t think about it. Just sing it. Let it come by itself.” But there’s definitely vibrato still. Did you not listen to the new album? I did, but I only got it today.
Oh ok, you’re excused. That’s a thing that, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get rid of because I do it automatically. Perhaps it is just a confusion of words. Perhaps I meant “operatic vocals”. There was such a heavy amount of sorrow in your voice in the early Mercyful Fate days.
You know what I think you’re talking about? Vibrato will come in there to some degree no matter what I do, right? You’re probably talking about the exaggerated vibrato.
Yes! The character singing that you invented in the King Diamond albums kind of loses the classical sound that the early Mercyful Fate albums had. The vocals seem more lively… more upbeat. In the past, you had a very dark way of singing. Did you notice the transition?
No… I can’t even relate to what you’re saying. Now I’m gonna go and listen to every album again. It’s more like the color of the voice. You had such a tonal sadness.
Well, I was unhappy the day I sang the Melissa song. Now I’m so fucking happy all the time. But seriously, I have not noticed any difference. I think that it has a lot to do with what kind of music you’re presented with. It might be the tempo of the song. Melissa is a slow one. It depends on how much of that music there is to sing it to. It could also be the choruses of A Dangerous Meeting. It opens up for choirs because it’s so melodic… and it’s slow tempo. If you sang it straight, without vibrato, it sounds lame. I don’t think that any of what I’m doing today sounds lame or uninspired. But I am going to listen to the albums because you brought it up. I don’t take it as bad criticism. I always take it as good. I might be missing out on something here. I will never ask you anything out of disrespect, or out of criticism.
I’m positively going to go back and listen to some of it because… you might have a point is what I am saying. I mean it, seriously. That’s how I started singing falsetto, you know. Some guy told me, “Hey, you should work more on that.” Yeah, I think I will do that.