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“Metal” refers to music that cannot easily be categorized, or that has no strong traits that are associated with any of the subcategories. It is thus simply called “metal” and if you don’t like it, your brain will auto-categorize it anyway,
You may not remember this, but many years ago I interviewed you for the first issue of this magazine. Back then it was just a fanzine that was photocopied and stapled in the corner. I will again ask you the very first question that I have ever asked you to see if your answer is different, and then we’ll get on to the serious interview. Are you ready? Yes.
If there were a warmth emanating from thy buttocks, what would it be? A fart.
Yes! That was the same answer, so now I know that you are an honest person. In the early days there were some cover songs that appeared on albums, like the Judas Priest cover. When I saw your show at BB King’s, one of the encores were Mercyful Fate’s “Black Funeral.” Did you ever record “Black Funeral” in the studio? We never recorded it.
There was an Orff cover on one of the albums. I was wondering if you were ever tempted to do something in the same vein from Strauss, like “Biem Shlafengehen” or the Commendatore finale song from “Don Giovanni.” Anybody can do classical covers, but the most interesting thing is to break new ground.
In America there are television commercials for a breakfast cereal simply called “Shredded Wheat.” On one side there’s frosting and on the other side there isn’t. In Therion, I personally prefer the opera over the prog side. That’s very gay. I caught you.
That’s so funny. You insulted me before I insulted you! Well I’m gay too. We can go to Denmark and get married. It’s legal there. (pause) But it’s interesting that people in metal actually prefer that side. I think that people like that we make the classical and the opera more accessible because they don’t really have, for lack of better words, the capacity to go deep into all of this musical information that some opera contains. If you listen to a metal album, or rock, or pop, or whatever – there’s a couple of riffs in each song, and it doesn’t really contain much musical information. You can pretty much judge the album by one listening if it’s a regular rock album. If it’s a metal album than you can judge by a few listenings. But even a very short song in opera contains so much more musical data than, let’s say, five or six metal albums. A lot of people don’t really have the energy, or whatever, to actually take the time it requires to penetrate the surface and go deep into this sort of music. So what we do is actually a shortcut that, because we have the rock structure with classical content as well. It’s a shortcut to opera and classical, which is very convenient for people into metal. Maybe they could like a few highlights. They might buy a CD with Ride of the Valkyrie or some highlight part from an Italian opera, but they wouldn’t sit and listen to opera for a few hours. I think that we’re filling a function for people who could be potentially really interested. So we can start stuff with this, and if they get really enthusiastic they could find a way to more sophisticated music.
You are the gateway to opera. A few people might take the next step.
Have you heard Elend? Yeah. A very long time ago somebody made me a cassette. They’re French, aren’t they?
French. Austrian. One of the members of Korovakill is in it. If you heard the right album, it’s a blue album (the re-release with bonus tracks is red). Instead of bringing operatic vocals and orchestral instruments into metal, they brought death metal vocals into opera. But these days they don’t have the death metal vocals anymore. That’s a brilliant idea. But that’s precisely what I didn’t like about it. (ed – the death metal vocals).
When I listen to opera, I prefer the very dark opera. It’s vary sad. I was always hoping that there would be that sort of opera presence in Therion, and I was wondering if there is any way for that to happen. I know that you are a live band and you like to create a certain mood for that. But could there be a song or two, not meant for live performance,that delves into the realms of sorrow? There might be. But the thing is, the way that we write songs is very spontaneous. I’m hopelessly trapped with whatever I write. If someone said to me, “I’ll give you five million bucks if you write a ballad. You have a weekend. Here’s a guitar.” I would write ballad, but it would be the most miserable piece of shit ballad you will ever hear in your life. That’s how it works. I cannot shit on command. I write what I write. It’s what I’m stuck with and what everyone else gets.
If there is a way for me to send you some music, hopefully on some level it will influence you. Actually there is a lot of sad opera that I like. (editor’s note – We discussed opera, which to you would seem like an inside conversation. Christof went on and on to praise a particular soprano opera singer). She is the best singer in the history of recorded music.
Well, by that reasoning, if she can turn shit into gold, and if you force yourself to write a sad opera song and it will be shit, then she should sing on it so that she turns your shit into gold. (laughs) By the way, have you seen this movie “Holy Mountain?” That describes the modern culture so well. You know the scene – everybody gets color on their butts and then they put it on paper – it’s mass-produced art.
A long time ago I did try to contact you to hopefully be able to send you some music, but the only Email address on the website is for the webmaster. There is some sort of explanation about that along the lines of, if any band member’s Email were to be known, you would get overwhelmed. That’s true. But it’s usually not a problem for people from the press to get it. If I gave my Email out then I would have to get a new one every month.
Were the Emails about penis enlargement? I wish it was. It’s more about boring questions like, “When will you come to my town?”
In Sweden, is penis size very important? No. They’re all
I had heard that Sweden has even more concern about penis size and that it has spread to veterinary science as well, with penis enlargement programs for dogs and cats. No. That’ completely wrong. That’s totally American.
I did notice that there’s a tremendous difference between the audience at a Therion show and a crowd that sees any other band, and that difference was the extreme level of respect. It was also your respect toward the fans. I was told that you did not want the usual barricade between the fans and the stage. And the end of the performance was the metal equivalent to a standing ovation. Is that a common reaction throughout the world? Yeah. We’re very spoiled. But I think that is related to people having bought the records and they had been waiting ever since. They never thought that we would come. For a lot of people, it was more than just a concert. It’s something more special. The same thing happens in Europe when we play countries we never had before. Same thing with Latin America. We get an explosive reaction. In many countries they have a really tough life, so when people go to a show, they switch off their daily problems for a while. It’s almost like a religion.
Your main opera singer – I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but the way she puts on make-up is sort of the mistake that a little girl makes when she puts on make-up for the first time in her life. Is that the look that she was going for? She’s the only one who’s a trained opera singer so I told her to make something very theatrical.
Oh, so that’s why she walks on stage like she’s a Gestapo officer patrolling the concentration camp. That is what is turning you on. (laughs) She has nothing to do with metal. She doesn’t listen to metal. She’s just doing her thing to our stuff.
There’s a blonde to the far right, if you have the same set-up every night – I was wondering if you could have her in the front instead. Well, that’s an idea.
She’s Swedish, right? She’s Finnish but she lives in Sweden. We’re going to sell tickets on the next tour to the back stage.
Can you let her know that I love her? Yes, I will do that.
Some people say that Sweden is very conservative and some people say that it is very liberal. Conservative? Are you fucking kidding? Our conservatives would be condemned as being too liberal. Ralph Nader would call our conservatives liberals.
I learned that when I ask someone about a country, it’s almost like asking someone in America what America is like. It’s not a true representation. If you ask a communist, of course he will say that we are conservative. But if ask someone who is somehow in the middle, politically, it is hilarious. We had a social democrat ruling this country in the second world war. It’s like a one-party state. But you have a one-party state too. You just have two names for it. The difference between democrats and republicans is that republicans piss in your face and they say. “Hey, we pissed in your face. We’re happy about that.” Democrats will piss in your face and if you ask them about they’ll say, “No, we never pissed in your face.”
I have not verified this, but I have heard that in France they have passed a law which protects their language. On television they cannot use non-French words, especially slang, and the term “Coca Cola” is one of the no-no words. In direct opposite thinking, America, because it is so sales-driven, has allowed the most niggery language to be on TV. People leave out verbs. It’s almost like hearing Tarzan talk. Poor grammar, nigger-slang, and simplified language. The American version of English is now completely destroyed. We learn Oxford English in school.
Is Sweden protecting its language? Protect the Swedish language? Are you kidding? That would be racist!
Yes, Snowy Shaw and I had a conversation about how the Swedes are pussies. Yeah, I read that. Those things you cannot say in Sweden. I showed that interview to a band and they thought that Snowy is joking. If you do that interview in a Swedish magazine then your career is over.
In America it’s very trendy to think of the French as pussies, but I look at them as heroes. The French deserve respect for standing up for their culture. I’m very conservative when it comes to things like culture. A lot of things are better these days, but I don’t understand why you have to ruin everything from the past. A lot of liberal ideas are very good, like equal rights for women. And in interracial marriage, it’s up to people what they want to do with their lives and if they want to have those kinds of kids. But there comes a point when you fulfill the rights of minorities and start to go in the other way.
We’re in the other end of the swing. In Sweden we completely crossed that line a long long time ago, and maybe that’s the reason why we went from being #1 to… (ed-I laugh so loudly that I cannot hear the rest of that sentence as I transcribe this)
“Lucid Dreaming” was an album that I had to buy because it was at that time that I found out that what I had experienced actually had a term, and that other people had similar dreams. Many years later a girl I know interviewed you and she said that you had out of body experiences. Is that true? That’s correct.
What came first with you, the lucid dreaming or the out of body experiences? The astral projection came first.
Was this something that you learned or something that happened accidentally when you were falling asleep? It happened accidentally. It has happened to many people who have had their first out of body experiences that they are in their room outside of their bodies. Actually, I didn’t even look at my body. I was looking through the window, and was drawn outside, out over the woods. And I had a very strange feeling that I can’t really explain these colors.
You are able to induce these now. Yeah.
Did you learn that on your own? I’ve been a member of the Order of the Dragon for some years now. They collect ideas and develop techniques.
When I found out that my lucid dreams had a name, I discovered a scientist, Stephen LaBerge, and he had developed techniques, and one night I actually had three lucid dreams in a row. It was crazy. But prior to having had experienced lucid dreams, I had thought that out of body experiences were a hoax. Very easy to think that if you are a rational person and if you never had that.
Right, but there are parallels between lucid dreams and out of body experiences. In fact, lucid dreams are the perfect launch pad to out of body experiences. That’s actually how I most often do it. I usually find a gate, like a mirror or window, and I project through that.
Lucid dreaming, to me, is a purely mental phenomenon because, although I am aware that I am dreaming within the dream and I control everything around me,it is still a dream. So is an out of body an actual phenomenon in which your awareness somehow extends beyond your body, or is it a mental state? When I thought about the matter, whether it is internal or external, it doesn’t really make a difference. So I haven’t really made up my mind because the experience remains the same.
In Sweden, do you have the Christmas carol “Tis the Season to Be Jolly?” Yeah, we do. But our main songs are about the yule, which has nothing to do with Christianity.
In the song I asked about, being that you are a musician, I was hoping that you could help educate Americans. They are probably the most ignorant people in the world, judging from the interviews I have done with people all over the world. Stupidity is our #1 export. Your big companies don’t want people to think. They want people to work for minimum wage and to pay taxes and to consume a lot. Here, we pay 33% in taxes but hospitals are free. If you are unemployed you get money that you can actually live on, and so on and so on.
Americans are not interested in the rest of the world, and for those that are interested, they look at the world thinking it’s the same as it is here. It’s really bad that your education system is that way because that makes people that much more unable to have opinions about international affairs. There are a lot of similarities with the Roman empire. You can see a lot of degeneration in empires that are falling, but it won’t be a few centuries. Here we are talking about only a few decades, maximum. You import a lot more than you export. And there’s a lot of loans. You consider yourself the richest country on the planet, which is correct on paper, but if all the international investment would be withdrawn from the United States…
Interesting. But if you look at America’s capital, it looks like a third world country. Washington D.C. But getting back to the “Tis the Season to be Jolly” the end of that song is “fa la la la la la la la la.” I would like you to tell me the notes of the major scale of C. I am happily uneducated musician.
Really? It’s C D E F G A B C. I’m very thickheaded to learn things unless I am interested. If I am interested, I learn very quickly. Notes and stuff like this is like learning Latin.
I will still ask you the question. The scale that I just told you, in other countries is DO RE MI FA SO LA TI DO. Your B is called H in Germany.
Getting back to DO RE MI, when you sing the fa la la la la, it should actually be the notes F and A. But they’re not sung as F and A, and I would like to know if this is some sort of conspiracy. But you can write a song any way you like.
Certain things should not be intentionally misinterpreted. You wouldn’t have a guitar that is shaped like a swastika, right? Not on stage, but it would be fun to own one. I‘d like one like a banana, and one with a hammer and a sickle.
But you know what I mean. The swastika is a cool symbol and it meant something else prior to World War Two, and now if you see it you cannot remove the associations that define it. If you were playing India it would be very popular.
It’s really not easy to interview you. Well, you do not have an easy magazine.
What happened to that word “god” being in the pledge of allegiance? America is a theocracy! Do you, as a Swede, see America as being too religious? Yes. In Sweden, only 2% of the population consider themselves Christian.
You have heard of moslims who blow themselves up believing that they will be rewarded with virgins. Well first of all, if you’re in the afterlife, you can’t do anything with corporeal things. And even if you could, why would you have sex with virgins? They are not good in bed. It’s not just a moslim concept. Christians thought they would get rewarded if they died in the Crusade. I don’t know that much about Judaism. I think that they are a bit more hedonistic and think that you should get more out of life.
When you tour Israel, you should ask. I actually had an opportunity, but it wasn’t enough money to make it worth going there. We don’t want to compromise the things we want to bring. They have a similar thing to America – do you believe that we paid $1,000 a head? So we have to play a lot of shows to make it worth coming.
If you play in Israel, would you go on stage with a backpack that has a lit fuse on the bottom? That would be a pretty cool effect, but it wouldn’t be worth it.
Getting back to the moslim thing. I don’t think it’s really a good reward to be given virgins. Virgins are terrible lovers. It’s much better to be a rock star (instead of a suicide bomber) because it’s very easy. You don’t have to blow up yourself. Just learn how to play guitar.
So the more realistic way to fight terrorism is to support the rock bands that the terrorists form. But define “terrorism.” According to the term, the United States is a terrorist state. You bombed Iraq while there was no war declaration. If you don’t declare war and bomb the country, you’re a terrorist.
Don’t say “you” – I’m not an American. Ok, so you’re not responsible then.
This interview with King Diamond was in issue #30.
I don’t know if the Abigail 25th anniversary edition is going to be different from the recent remaster. Do you know if it will have the same bonus tracks, or the same audio processing? That’s what I heard so far. There have been ideas thrown around. What the end result is going to be, I’m not 100% sure right now. There WAS talk about getting it remastered by a topnotch guy. Abigail falls short a little bit. That was unfortunately the one that I feel was not given the right treatment when they did remaster them. That one turned so bright that it hurts my ears to listen to it. That’s the one where I would say “Well, the older version sounds better.” Now we get the chance to do it right.
I was told that Abigail and Them came out when they were mastered for vinyl, and what that means is that the equalization favored the high end because bass makes wider grooves on the record, and that can limit space. Well, it sounds fine on the original. What about the others from the same period of time? Right there it kind of contradicts itself. I was listening back and forth, that and the original, when I got it. There was a lot of time pressure on that. I realize that. Things HAD to be done. There was a deadline. So there was no means, time-wise, to go back and re-do it. That’s why, if they remaster, give it to a top-notch guy. If they can’t get the actual master tapes, which I doubt. Well, they might have them still. But if they can’t find them, they can definitely do a killer job just grabbing the old original CD and do it from that. They can get it up to a decent volume without jeopardizing the frequencies.
I had asked you if you had ever been tempted to go back and not just to adjust the equalization, but to actually re-mix the multi track tapes and remaster in the true sense. You told me that once you do something, you leave it, because you would never be satisfied, no matter what is changed. Abigail I would never touch. That album has the right feel for what the album’s about, for the TIME. If I had to do that album today it would sound totally different, of course. There’s a different sound that you get today. The things you CAN do today… The Puppetmaster, and even the last live album – those have got some REALLY good sounds, in my opinion. They have a nice spectrum of top-to-bottom, clarity, and authenticity. Those, I’m very happy with, and also the old Abigail. For that time, it was exactly what it should be. Everything else – I can go in and pick shit apart – high hat too much to one side for my liking, or too crisp, or it interferes too much with the attack of the snare – there are so many things. There are certain blends of some of the choir parts that I would like to change to feature a different part in it that would probably give more of that atmosphere that I was after. So many things. I can go in and change ALL the albums, except Abigail , The Puppetmaster, and the very last live album. Everything else I could definitely go in and go nuts with, and I would probably finish up with something that I would probably, two years from now, NOT be satisfied with. (laughs) It’s a healthy thing to not be satisfied with what you do. That makes you search continuously for making things better.
Of all the King Diamond albums, did you spend the most time in post-production on Abigail, mixing everything and applying filters and such? I don’t think so.
What about the actual recording? Was that your longest stretch in a recording studio? No. (laughs) I can tell you, if you took a metronome and ran it with those songs, you will HEAR that it did not take that long to do. (laughs) There are passages that are speeding up, and then there are passages that suddenly drag down. You can go from a fast verse that goes faster and faster toward the end of it, then comes this heavy chorus – WHOA! – What a tempo drop! These days, we like to be in time with the songs.
You play with a click track? Yes.
And you did not back then? No. (laughs) You can hear that, big time. If you put it to that test, you can really hear it. Some of those things I remember from back then… Andy was usually the one who would play a cue guitar in a little booth somewhere in the studio. Mickey would have it in his headphones. Andy would probably play a little sloppy sometimes, not out of bad intent, but Mickey knew all the parts – he just needed something to show him where he was in the song. So then you don’t have to be that precise because it’s not the real guitar you’re recording. Suddenly Mickey would stop and say, “What the hell?” And Andy would say, “You’re speeding like crazy!” “I wasn’t speeding! you’re just playing sloppy now!” Those whose-fault-is-it kind of things… When we record today, there is nothing to discuss because you have to be on the beat. That’s the end of it. There is a way to set it like that so that it’s correct. So those kind of things made for it not taking any longer. It was a very LIVE feel doing it that way. But still, it was an instrument at a time. We never recorded where everybody stands together and plays. Then it would probably take longer than other album because, with that style of music, someone would make a mistake through a song. It would just take too long.
The strange this is, Abigail has been hailed by musicians. If musicians themselves are applauding that work, is that sorcery that makes them overlook what you just said? You know how anal some musicians can be when critiquing another artist. It’s not a bad thing that it speeds. Sometimes you like that live feel. It’s the kind of feel that you have when you are in a live situation. Most songs, played live, are faster than studio albums. That’s just the extra adrenaline pumping from having an audience in your face. You totally let go. You get caught up in the mood of the whole thing. It’s not a bad thing. It just gives a different feel. The songs themselves – the writing and the performances – that’s what made that album what it is. There are also other things. It was the first of the genre where there’s a full-concept horror story with metal music. It had not been done before, ever, by anyone. A lot of bands have done a concept album, but never a horror story. The style was very unique. It was an early part of the career when people had not gotten used to that style. So the album had everything going for it much easier to make an impact with an album like that at THAT time, than twenty years when everyone knows your style. They expect you to stay in your style. I would never do a country album, of course. It’s such a trademark style. You can always tell when it’s us. Fans would not want us to go away from that. The trademark style has given us a longevity that very few bands experience. It’s still going very well, as you know. Because it’s such a unique style, we were never affected by any trends. We just plow right through on our own little road. But then, we were never right there on the bandwagon when something was very popular and able to sell a platinum album. That has meant that much to me. You also know that. The pleasure itself of playing and being able to have my hobby as a livelihood… I don’t need sixteen Ferrari’s in my garage. It would be nice, but I don’t have those kind of values. I never had. I guess I’m a lot easier to satisfy. That’s the best road for me – the longevity and still being able to have that fun. I have more fun playing those old songs live today than it was when the album came out. It’s a more enjoyable situation now because the guys that are around are the best I’ve ever played with in my life. There’s that 100% trust. They’re not going to screw up. It has to be something serious for that to happen, like an amp blowing up, but we have one of the best crews in the business – I trust them so much that I don’t even do soundchecks anymore, and I have perfect sound… well, as much as is possible. There can be rooms that are weird, like having carpets on the walls. It sucks the sound in. You feel like the whole room you’re playing in died. Nothing bounces off the walls. That’s a weird live feel. I like to feel the reverb of the room and hear a little of the P.A. and the delays it throws out. I feed a lot off that stuff. When the sound is dead, it’s so tough, and the crew can’t fix THAT. But everything is done so pro now, and that give more energy to give a party instead of concentrating and thinking about the next part that has problems. There’s not so much to worry about, like in the early days when every man was pretty much his own roadie. That means a lot. I look forward to the high passages today. I know my voice can handle it, unless I’m sick. The very high, long notes, in “Eye of the Witch” for instance. I look forward to that because I can feel like I can show off in some ways. I really do. I feel confident I can hit those notes. Five years ago, when I got to that part, I would wish that I could hear myself properly. It’s not that I can’t take the note, it’s just so that I can hear the note, so I can. A lot of those problems I eliminated now. That’s a big part of why we still want to go on the road. All other aspects, you know, I hate. It makes me want to puke to sit on a bus for eight hours,rolling thumbs. You can only do so much of one or another thing. They have only so much DVDs on a bus. And I can’t sleep on a bus when it rolls. Then there’s bad food, and sometimes no food at all. Lack of sleep. I usually get six hours every twenty-four hours, but it’s divided into two or three little go’s of an hour and a half or two hours each. Not a whole lot of time to enjoy. The only time I enjoy is that hour and forty minutes on the stage. That’s the highlight every day.
You amass quite a sleep debt. At the end of the tour, do you sleep for sixteen hours straight? When I get home, I can tell you, I don’t want to talk to friends. I don’t want the phone to ring. I don’t have the energy to speak to a grocery clerk. I need groceries, the house is empty, and they’re always friendly. “Hey! How was the tour?” That’s the last thing I want to hear. I want to see my bed. I’m tired of sleeping in a soft bed, then a hard, bed, then a soft bed, then a bed where something sticks up in my back. I can tell you, when you get into those kinds of scenarios, you’re always sore.
Getting back to the speeding up and slowing down, maybe musicians hailed it because they considered it to be dynamic. I think it’s the songwriting and the performances. It’s very melodic and still heavy.. It’s raw. It’s got mood. That’s why it’s one of the albums that I am most satisfied with. And The Puppetmaster too. The moods in that album are much stronger than on Abigail. But it’s an album that came so many years later, and it will NEVER be hailed among the fans as up there with Abigail. It’s a real treat for me because I know how much it takes for an album to be so high in a fan’s opinion. It means that that album has to be a lot better. That’s the pure fact of it. It’s hard to compete with something that was so unique at that time. It was a shock for a lot of people to hear that style for the first time. A lot of fans have said that to me. It’s hard to compete with yourself in that respect. The things with Abigail that were the hardest to do were not the recording stuff. You have to remember that, at that time, we were all in the same country, or pretty much. We lived so close that rehearsals were possible. We rehearsed more, together, you can say. There are better musicians now that don’t need that rehearsal time, but back then, the songs were rehearsed by the whole band before we ever went in and recorded them. With Mercy, we had even played some of the songs live before recording them. Sometimes for a year we played some of the songs that were later recorded. That’s not the case later on in the career. We’re spread out all over the world, you know. So that didn’t take as long as one might think And the mixing process didn’t take as long as you would imagine simply because we didn’t have the means for it to take long. There was no automation. We didn’t have the chance of working for two hours getting specific reverb to open up in the right way in those five words at the end of verse 2, or whatever, and program it in so that it does it itself so we don’t have to worry about it. We spent time on it, came up with ideas, and now it does it by itself. Back then, we had to do it all manually. We were all in on the mix. Everybody’s fingers were on some kind of buttons on the mixing board. That’s why we delegated in a smart way… and said, “No Mickey, you’re not going to control the snare drum. Andy, you’re not going to do your own solo.” He’d argue, “Well I know how loud..” No, no, no. Let Mickey do your solo, and you can do Mickey’s snare, and so on. There were marks. We had done test after test run. How loud should that solo be? OK, here’s the mark. Don’t go over that mark. And you can be sure that Mickey wouldn’t go over the mark, and visa versa with Andy going over Mickey’s snare. You could trust better , otherwise you would have to do it again and again and again if people weren’t kept in control.
You should never let people edit their work. No, not in that scenario. it was 100% analog. You couldn’t start in the middle. You would have to do the whole thing again. So in that respect it was a little faster, mixing it. First of all, we didn’t have the capability to go so much in depth with every single little thing. There were not enough hands to do it. You had to do what you needed to do, on the fly. Let the thing roll. So there were limits there. Today there are piratically no limits. You could sit and spend three hours on the reverb for five words, and we did on Puppermaster.
Getting back to the timing thing, there have been Mercyful Fate songs, like when you sing “It is so much colder in here.” That was done purely by feel, not by metronome. Would you make a song like that on a future album? It’s a different matter for me, as a vocalist. I don’t sing to a metronome. I sing by total feel, no matter. I don’t think that I have ever needed a metronome in a break. If you listen to “No More Me” it’s full of that type of stuff. Those total emotional, feeling-out breaks. It’s nothing but. Of course that song was recorded with a metronome, but for the vocalist, it’s a totally different matter because you are free. You can go over beats and this and that, and then pick it up, being on a beat later. The more precise they (the musicians) are, the more free I feel. If they started suddenly speeding up at the end of a verse, and I had to do something, it might not leave me enough space to do an emotional thing. That emotional thing, to fit, would have to be rushed, and that wouldn’t sound right. But when I have that solid tempo going, then I don’t even have to think about it. It’s almost how I feel pitch, for instance. It’s totally automatic. I found out. When Mercy was playing shows with Metallica in Europe in ‘99, there was a show in Milan where the Metallica guys invited Hank and I to go up and do the whole medley from the Garage Inc. album, all twelve minutes, or whatever, as one of the encores. At first, I was like “Doesn’t Metallica play detuned a little bit? How the hell am I going to sing that?” I had sung some of that stuff earlier that day, but in our key,and now I had to drop it half a note, or whatever it is. That scared me to death. How is that going to work out? But once we started, I didn’t even feel that I was singing it differently. It actually became a little easier, singing like a semitone lower. It’s a matter of feeling the key inside. The same thing with the beats, when they’re going. I never ever count anything. when there’s a solo going, I don’t stand there and count. “OK, that was three rounds, four rounds. Ok, now I have to start singing again here.” Never. It’s all feel. But, the guys always play the same solos, and if they were improvising half the time, good luck to me, because I would have nothing to go by. I know those solos by heart. That was one thing funny about listening to the live album. I could picture exactly where I was on stage the whole time, and then I realized certain things as we were mixing it. If Andy is playing a solo, I will usually be closer to him so I hear his solo clearest. That’s what I go by, since I don’t count. But by the end, when the verse starts, I am on the opposite side where I could hear Mike’s rhythm guitar more, or visa versa. Andy is my favorite guitar player of all time, so I am not saying anything bad about him, but he has this tendency, live, when he finishes a fast lick or whatever – he will hold a long feedback note. Listen and you will hear that. In those places, I had to get away from him. I can’t stand over there by the feedback note because I have nothing to go by. That dawned on me while we were mixing. If they, for some reason, screw up in the middle of the solo. or the amp goes out just for five seconds, I’m screwed completely. I will not know when to come in. I will not know where the other guys are. was it five or six rounds that they played? I hadn’t been paying attention to how many rounds. Suddenly it changes key and goes into the verse, and I can’t pick it up there. You just aim the mike at the crowd and the crowd starts singing. (laughs) They ALWAYS know. What do you call those… in theatres, you have this little old man sitting in a box, with a book, speaking to the actors. Whatever he is called, the audience, the first row there, they are the best of that. I’ve had to use it. I admit that. Those situations… what the hell are you going to do? Suddenly you’re two rounds in. The lyrics don’t just sit like that., like “OK, I’ll pick up from the second line.” No. I pick it up by cue words. I know the first few words of each verse. The rest is automatic. I don’t even think about what I’m singing. When the cue words are NOT there, I can’t just pick it up. It’s impossible. Then I look down at the audience, at those desperate eyes… it’s rare, but it does happen, and God,do I feel miserable afterwards! I swear, if I didn’t have that white on I would be glowing red like the reindeer’s nose. That is embarrassing. the same thing if someone is out of tune. You will hear that on bootlegs. There could be one guitar not matching. That’s very difficult for a singer. If a guy’s out of tune somewhere and I start hearing him, I follow him with that automatic pitch. I sound off, but I’m dead-on with the guy I can hear. You’re lucky in the studio. You have all the time in the world. With mercy, when we played Satan’s Fall live. Everybody’s like, “King! You’ve GOT to talk longer before Satan’s Fall! We all need time to tune perfectly.” By the end of that song, everyone’s a little off, each other. They have no time to tune for twelve minutes. That’s a problem when you play live, in a hot sweaty humid room. The guitar will slowly drift out of tune. It’s got to be dead-on in the beginning and you will not be that far in the end. At the end of it there’s a lot of single-note playing and harmonies. I have to sing to them. Oh man! That’s the real world of a musician. There are lot of things that no one knows about and can’t see unless you tell them. This is how hard it is.
I recently unearthed a tape that I had a long time ago. It’s an interview that Ole did with you that was done before “Fatal Portrait” was released. You were actually playing guitar in that interview, giving fans a chance to hear riffs that were on the forthcoming album. It was pretty strange hearing you play guitar. Is there a secret part on any album in which you actually play guitar? Well… (in a nonchalant tone) there’s a few places.
Ha! I knew it! It was strange to hear you play guitar. But it was also strange, sort of comical, to hear you and Ole talk to each other in such a respectful manner, as if you were perfect strangers. (laughs) the good old days. People didn’t know us yet.
Wow. I’ve just unearthed some trivia! King has actually played guitar on the albums! Yeah, here and there, bits and pieces. Most has been in scenarios where I had a very crooked finger position that was impossible for the other person to do. I use some very odd chords sometimes. Sometimes it’s a feel thing. Each player has different techniques. I have a very unique way that dampen the strings when I want these (vocalizes what the guitar sounds like). it has sometimes been very hard to get out. I want them sounding a certain way, fat but still very crisp. It’s not all that easy. I have my style. I play both up and down strokes. A lot of guitarists play only down strokes. It’s different techniques. There are some things that are awkward for Andy to play, with the up/down strokes, but that’s what it demands or you’re simply not going to get the right mood out of the riff. There were some places here and there where I’d do that little bridge, or this or that. One thing that was cool about The Puppetmaster is that Andy has never gotten that close to my expression of my songs, the way I play them on the demos. I have all the demos here where I play all the guitars. There’s a drum machine, and I simulate the bass by playing the guitar through an octave. Some of the keyboards turn out to be the real ones. There, you can REALLY hear my style of playing. It’s demos, so it’s not that perfect, of course, but the overall feel of everything is exactly there the way I want others to play it. Sometimes I play little pieces (on the album) where there’s certain kinds of chords, or certain kinds of structures that just doesn’t fit the other player’s technique at all. Maybe one day I should release demos where I play everything. (laughs)
I’m very upset with the security you when you record. Nothing leaks out. It’s very frustrating for a King Diamond fan Well maybe one day I will release them. You do hear me play guitar on one those albums with the bonus stuff. For “Them,” I think. I play one of the guitars on the rehearsals because Pete Black wasn’t there at the time. That rehearsal tape, that’s Andy and me playing guitars.
Abigail, to my ears, has the most amount of choir, of all your albums. I’m not sure you’re right. Not with the backings,and how many there are, and how layered
It sounds like that. It’s probably the album with the most REVERB on it ever. It does make everything sound more like we recorded in a church almost.
A Satanic church. Of course! Are you kidding? (he pauses, and then laughs) Do you know what I am saying? Some of the stuff on “Conspiracy” – there’s so much (choir) on there, and later on too. There’s lots of that stuff. You can go all the way up the albums. There’s tons of layered vocals. But everything is dryer. Even if the guitars are reverbed more than usual, they will create an atmosphere for the vocals, of course. The more swimmy the guitars are, the more swimmy the vocals will sound, even if they don’t have reverb. How you put the whole band in a certain room for the whole duration is something you determine from the early phase. What kind of room do we want to be in? Then you add more reverb to a certain snare because it has to have a special effect. I’ve gone away from using reverb on my vocals. It’s only used for specific effects. I use delay instead. There’s a delay at all times on my vocals, but you don’t hear it in the music. This is an odd thing, actually, No matter what tempo the song is in, we set the delay at 666 milliseconds. You’re probably thinking I’m lying, but I’m not. That amount of delay time fits ANY of our songs. I don’t like to have that swimming around if there’s a quiet passage, for instance where I’m talking, because then it sounds stupid. When I’m playing live, I don’t like a delay hanging on my voice when I’m between songs, “Thank you very much.. thank you very much (he mocks a repeating echo getting fainter with each cycle). That sounds so stupid in between songs. The same thing for taking parts in music. You kill that delay. But for the singing parts, that’s what’s on my vocals all the time. It’s a cool feel for how we produce the albums today. They are a LOT dryer than back then. When you’re a guitarist, and you try to make out what we’re playing on Abigail, on certain passages you will NEVER know what chords we’re using. You simply can’t hear it clear enough duplicate perfectly.
When did you start producing your own albums? Well, it started with “Don’t Break the Oath” when we decided we had had enough of feeling like going to a dentist when recording an album. That’s what it felt like. That’s the strongest memory I had on “Melissa.” I felt like being at the dentist’s office, being called in. “Mr. Peterson?” Then you walked into the control room and were played a song. “What’s this? Where’s THIS, and where is THAT? Why are the guitars so low? Where is that harmony? This is heavy metal, not the pop you normally do!” Great producer at that time, but he was a pop producer, actually. That’s what he had done most – Danish pop music. Very good productions. Very skillful guy. We didn’t have any other names of producers. It was probably because of the studio he had. We got a little bit of that taste on the mini LP. I had all of the backing parts ready for that. Those songs were supposed to have the same style of backings as on the “Melissa” album, until I was told “You have two tracks.” You know the story with Hank. He was taking to long. It cost a lot. “I’m sorry, man. This one has got to be IT. Whatever we do now goes on tape and it goes on the album. I don’t care anymore.” Talk about pressure. (laughs) And that’s what happened. So that was the first time we felt these other people in control. And it continued on ‘tile “Don’t Break the Oath.” I had enough. “I’m going to stay here whether you like it or not! When I say turn that keyboard up, I want to hear what it’s like when you move that thing. I want to SEE you move it, not send us out and bring us back in and try to fool us without having moved anything and see if we hear it, because I DO hear it!” So during “Don’t Break the Oath” that’s finally when the band ended up in the control room. So we, of course, got a little bit more experience there. Then when Roberto came in on “Fatal Portrait” and so on, we knew a bit more and were involved the whole way. He had a lot of ideas. He was also a great link between our ideas and how to bring it to tape. That continued for many albums. It was awesome working with him. He and I would sit and play keyboards together. Some of the things on “Conspiracy” and also “On the Eye” was played four-hand, actually. It was him and I. Otherwise we didn’t have enough tracks. (pauses) I forget. Where was I?
About producing your own albums. (we both laugh) I can’t remember if “Them” was… no, I don’t think “Them” was automated either. There was a part that Andy had forgotten to record. It was a make-or-break riff for “The Accusation Chair” I think. He was already back in Sweden, and I had to go back and get my guitar and record the part. We were losing time, and we were up against other people who stood outside waiting with all their gear, and we were still mixing the last part. Before that, we must have been mixing for twenty hours straight. I was so dead, sitting on a chair, listening next to Roberto, and suddenly blacked out and fell forward into the mixing desk and onto the floor. Roberto is like “Go take an hour on the couch! This is no help.” Then we finished later. Some tough times.
Did anything strange ever happen in the studio the way strange things have happened in your apartment in Denmark? I remember that I almost burned the studio down when we did “Them.” I used to have candles to see my lyrics. Just candles. Nothing else. I found ways to put them where my lyrics stand was, and it was one of those times when I was so tired that I took a break. There must have been some wind going in there, blowing the candles over towards the lyrics. They were burned! They were gone. I came in there. “It smells smokey in here.” There was a big black spot burned into the floor. I fortunately had copies. (pause) But I don’t think there was a demon in there blowing at it, or something like that. The first thing we were in the studio that I KNOW things went haywire was with “Conspiracy.” There was this female second engineer that we barely used. She was the one who was freaked out completely. She was screaming, crying, all kinds of shit, because of what was going on there. That is not a rarity. That is more the norm. SOMETHING will happen. Other people get freaked. I think it was on “House of God” when Koll Marshall was working a little overtime. We were mixing, trying to get done, and we both saw a little man in the doorway. But the weird thing was that i had seen that little man at two in the afternoon, and of course, the whole studio is dark. But I had seen him there. “Am I THAT fuckin’ tired? This is too weird.” About five hours later, we’re sitting there. Koll was at the mixing desk. It was across the room, to his left, where that doorway was. I would be sitting, usually facing the console, but from his left side. Suddenly, man, he just got pale, and he totally froze. He was looking over in that direction, and without me even turning my head, I said, “You saw him! I know you saw him!” He’s was like, “This is not REAL! You CAN’T know that!” I said, “The man over in the doorway? I know you saw him.” He was totally freaking. He usually closed up the studio by himself, but he was begging me to stay for the rest of the night. (laughs). “You don’t have to leave right now, do you?” That’s why there is a mention in the credits for that. (Ed- I swear I saw the Glitcher! King saw him too)
I had asked you prior to the Mercyful Fate reunion if you would ever re-do a song. You answered that you are always moving forward, working on new material. When you re-did “Return of the Vampire” I was suprised. That was a unique experience.
Did it ever cross your mind to do a sort of re-visit album and do the songs from the mini LP, and songs like “Shadow Nights” and “A Dangerous Nightmare?” Those were all chopped up into other songs, the last two. But the others – I almost said it before, when we talked about the mini LP and how that was recorded, the other vocals were prepared but never done, and I wonder how those songs would have sounded… maybe I will never know. It all comes down to time, and money too. Is it going to be interesting enough to go in and do those songs? What would it look like to other people if Mercy does another album in a year or two and we put that in there – would the fans think that we are out of ideas? I always worry, maybe too much, about those things. I worry about what people think. In that respect. I don’t want to appear pathetic.
Well maybe if I keep asking you to do it every time that I interview you. (laughs) That’s the reason why “Abigail II” finally done. Inside, I felt there was so much more I could write about this story. Gramma is one of my all-time favorite characters. I would love to be given permission to do another album with her in it. It would be so cool. I know what the cover would look like. It’s a very passionate thing inside of me. But if we did that, how would it look? Honestly. Conspiracy, Part III , with Gramma? No matter what the story is about, it would still look like Part II to other people. It’s like, “He has to go all the way back there to get inspiration!” I don’t dare do that. It would have to be fan request, like it was with Abigail II. So many people kept asking me to do another thing that reminds of that, and has that complexity.
How many signatures do you require? What? (laughs). Two! I really want to do it that bad! (laughs) But seriously, it is like that for me. I don’t want anyone to think that I ran of ideas. But if that were not the case, I would love to go back and give those songs the full treatment.
Maybe you won’t re-do “Burning the Cross” but is it possible for you to write down the lyrics for me to print? Would that be a pain in the as for you? Yeah. To find them?
You wouldn’t remember them from hearing the song? I doubt it. I don’t know how clear it is there on the actual album. (pauses) Maybe after the tour.
Keep that on your list. It will be a treat for old-timers like me. I think I have it somewhere. I was thinking of it that way, that I wouldn’t have to sit and listen. It was very early-days, as you know.
I’ve heard earlier versions of Satan’s Fall with more aggressive lyrics. You moved away from in-your-face evil in favor of the more mysterious. It gets old very fast. It doesn’t leave too much to the imagination. Do you like splatter movies or more psychological movies? Which one puts you deeper into a certain mood? The first one is like (makes a gore, splat sound) “That looked cool!’ The other one, you feel uncomfortable for a long time. It’s much bigger impact. To misuse the word “Satan” does not make you heavier. I think it’s so anti-tough to misuse it. I’ll still use it any day. It’s a very good word. It doesn’t matter which camp you’re in. That word has a uniform meaning to most people. It gives them immediate association, which to me is not the real meaning at all. Even I see some pictures in my head, even though I know it has nothing to do with that. Do you know what I mean by that? It’s like a label. Like picking up a bottle of Johnny Walker. It gives you something that you don’t have to think too long about. Drink it, and you will like the taste or hate the taste. It depends on the kind of person you are.
One of the things that I heard that I thought was rather shocking, having had grown accustomed to the later style of lyrics, is the an earlier version of “Satan’s Fall” in which you sing, “Satan is better than God.” I will stand up for any lyrics, ever, because there are meanings behind those things. That thing there is very tongue-in-cheek, of course. I should have chosen better words to make it more lyrical. Well, Satan is, in many situations, a better choice than God. There would be less killing. You know that’s true. The Crusades, whatever. Even if you believed in the worst scenario of Satanism, in what I call the completely distorted fake rituals, if that was all true, it would have hurt so much less than the Crusades. When you just said that line, I immediately got the feel from back then, what I felt inside. But the words,I think, “How fuckin’ primitive!” It’ s like “Walking down the stairs to hell” or something like that. How corny.
You seemed more confrontational back then, You know also why. There was nothing like that back then. Attacked from all sides. Venom didn’t really do that. We were simultaneous, but they had a whole different way of talking about these things. With them, I think,it’s like watching the old Hammer horror movies. It looks cool, sounds cool, but maybe it doesn’t mean as much as was said. I think Cronos has said that himself sometimes, that you need to take things with a grain of salt and lighten up sometimes. I try to do that too. That’s why sometimes you see the band in Christmas outfits and stuff like that. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. You know there’s a lot of humor on the albums too. It might be a little twisted, but it’s there. back then, I can tell you, English was not that easy for me. I had not traveled much at that time. When we the first U.S. tour for “Don’t Break the Oath, there were lots of times when I did interviews, and I remember clearly how it was not natural for me to just say things. Like, now, I dream in English. But that’s because I’m in the environment. I only talk Danish when I talk business to Ole, or my mom, or my brother. Everything is English around me.
You are immersed. Absolutely. But back then, if anyone asked me a question, inside my brain there was this translation going. I translated in my head to Danish. I must have seemed so slow back then because I’d come up with my Danish answer and then translate to English. To say anything took me time. That’s why there are those famous… “Sarcophagus” was “sarco-fay-gus.” Then later on it’s like “I have to sing it the wrong way.” I think about it every time we play that song.
I remember you used to introduce “Into the Coven” as “Into the koh-ven.” Yeah, well that’s a thing that you can say either way.
If you want to hear something funny, I had never used the word “coven” unless I was mentioning your song, and whenever I said it, I said it your way, and people were yelling at me to say it right. You messed me up! But you know what? People came up to me and said the same thing. No, no, no. you can’t be right. That must be wrong because it doesn’t sound as tough. There’s a big difference there.
Exactly. Getting back to “Burning Cross,” but not in an annoying way, for the DVD material that might be provided as a bonus, you said you had video footage of Ben Petterson playing. That’s a treat for all of us who don’t know what he looks like. Did he write “Burning the Cross?” Yeah, with me. (pause) There should be a good possibility of that early show from ‘82 when Michael Denner is not in the band
Is this bonus video footage would go to Roadrunner and not to Metal Blade? I know you have stuff coming out on Metal Blade. Yeah, but there’s a difference between these things. The stuff that Roadrunner is getting is stuff that some collectors had seen – maybe not a lot of the King Diamond stuff that I am intending to give them – the Mercy, a lot of collectors have seen, but not in this quality. It’s been through digital processing with a company from Sweden. It’s actually a three-camera shot of us playing a little club in Holland called “The Dynamo” at that time, anyway. For us to give it out is where I am not living up to my (sarcastic tone) perfectionist image. There are some bombers in there that you would not believe. I have one and the band has one, and they’re big. It’s not like I have to tell you where they are. Then of course everyone just plays as if everything is normal. For King Diamond, it’s a show from Gothenburg, Sweden, on the Abigail tour. But I think is two camera angles. That one, I haven’t seen yet. Our own stuff for Metal Blade has never before been seen. we have the only master tapes. There is some killer shit. I freaked when I saw it. There is fifty minutes from a show in Amsterdam at a place called Paradisio (ed. spelling?) which used to be a church. I think that’s from ‘84, if I’m not wrong, before we did “Don’t Break the Oath.” But we did play “Come to the Sabbath.” There are more. There is this big festival in Denmark where we went on stage at 4:40 in the morning. But people stayed. You can see in the distance when the sun starts coming up. We have quite a bit. King Diamond stuff too. There was a park in Copenhagen, a gig that we did in the middle of recording “The Eye.’ We tore our gear down and then played this one show and then put it back up and continued recording. Unusual.
That would put to rest the rumor Snowy programmed a drum machine instead of playing electronic drums. There you go. Electronic drum pads are definitely not the same as playing a drum kit, you know – an experiment that wasn’t bad but it was not what it could have been.
I’ve seen clips, after the reunion, at the Dynamo festival. Yeah, that would have been the big open air one. MTV was there.
This interview with Sharlee D’Angelo was conducted by Jennifer Ligierie for issue #17. Jennifer was introduced to me by her boyfriend at a show. He asked if she could be a Grimoire Girl. I told the two of them that the answer is yes, but she still has to submit the usual way (sending a roll of film that I develop. In the print-version days of the Grimoire, the high end digital cameras were not even 5 megapixels, but even if they were a million, I insisted on a roll of film that I developed, to reduce any chance of fakery. For example, a mad guy could send in pics of his ex-girlfriend. That would backfire, of course, because at least 40,000 people would see an attractive girl scantily clad and worship her. I also had to make sure that she was metal). Jennifer called a lot, and we hung out, but there were no pictures sent. One night, she broke the friendship barrier and kissed me, and we fooled around for some time. I just kept it at the making out level because she had a boyfriend. Due to my having made out with her, I considered it a conflict of interests to award her the Grimoire Girl status. Instead, I had her interview bands. I had her and Sharlee take some joke pictures, and in one, they were each eating a waffle that connected their faces. That idea came from seeing a commercial for a Disney movie in which two dogs eat spaghetti, and they accidentally slurp the same noodle, which brought their faces together for a kiss. Jen and Sharlee chomped the waffle that joined their faces, and suddenly Jen and Sharlee kissed. Well, I guess I knew what her boyfriend would feel like when she told him about her and me, ha ha. Sharlee was blameless. After the initial contact, he opened his eyes in shock. He was not to blame. Jen and I became an item after she informed her boyfriend of my immense sexiness. OK, maybe that is not what she told him. But the fling didn’t last. That is why she finally became the Grimoire Girl. When she submitted her pictures, it was no longer a conflict of interest. We stayed friends until her death. She was in a few of my movies, including Assmonster, Dirtbags, The Crucifier, and The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made/Horror Odyssey.
(Muffy Stuffoleese/Jen) Are you straight? (Sharlee) Ah… sometimes my nose is a little crooked, but the rest of me is pretty straight, yes.
The world wants to know if the breasts of the girl who poses as a nun in your ads are real. Yeah, they’re real… I mean, they exist.
Are they silicon? They think, therefore they are.
How have Americans reacted to your penis? Were women shocked by your foreskin? And how big is it? Well, the foreskin itself is pretty huge. I mean, sometimes you get filled by a mass of flesh. It’s a bit frightening at points… especially the foreskin… they just don’t know how to deal with it. They haven’t seen it before. It’s just like, “Why is this guy wearing a polo shirt?” That’s what they say. But other than that,it’s been OK.
Do you warn women beforehand? No. I want it to be a surprise. If they really love me, they can deal with it. (There is a momentary pause in which Jen looks him over, her expression unreadable)
Can I see your penis? Bill never lets me see his, and I’m really curious what an uncircumcised penis looks like. Well, the thing is, you do not want to see Bill’s.
I heard it’s pretty small. It’s pretty obvious it’s very small. It might not be as small as you think, but it’s not huge or anything. Well,you can see my penis, but not now.
Do you have gel in your hair? No, I do not. Unlike Mr. Zebub, I wash my hair sometimes, and it’s not as nice and frizzy as his hair is. Doesn’t it hurt when he deep-fries his hair?
Is Witchery the #1 priority for Necropolis Records? Negro Police? Yeah, because they don’t have any other band on Negro Police Records, or Castro Police Records as it’s known by now.
It would be pretty gay to imitate the vocals of a person who’s a flaming homosexual, wouldn’t it? Uh… it could be, but it could also be, like, a lot of fun to do that, as happens with some bands.
Why does your singer sound like Udo sometimes? The guy is a fag and a half. Well, the thing is, our singer never wore camouflage clothing. He painted his face black and white, so it’s not camouflage colors. But that’s really what he wants… the camouflage colors.
Do traditional black metal bands get mad at the feminine way that Witchery wears corpsepaint? Traditional black metal bands are very feminine, in my opinion at least. They’re from Norway. Norway is a feminine country. Just listen to the melody of the language( Sharlee sounds like Dizzy Galespi’s trumpet to illustrate the gayness of the Norwegian language). That’s so gay. No, but seriously… we never heard anything like that. We are welcoming anything that they have to say.
Are you embarrassed about the musical mistakes on the EP of cover songs? A gay magazine suggested that you were. No I am not! We’re all perfect. Everybody should know that. Witchery is completely perfect. There are no flaws anywhere.
But apparently there was an interview in a magazine, the editor of who looks like a gay tennis player, wherein Jensen apologized for musical errors. Which he should not have done. He must’ve been out of his mind or something. To apologize to someone who looks like that… (Sharlee makes a pfft sound in disgust)… I mean, would you do that?
Will Witchery be doing a track on the King Diamond tribute coming out on Necropolis? We might do that, actually, although we won’t be doing it as Witchery. We are calling ourselves The Flaming Andy LaCocks. I don’t know what song we’ll do, but we’ll see. If we find something with pink in the title. We just might do it, just as a salute to our record company boss.
(Jen laughs ) Bill fell off his chair. (Jen composes herself) How was your tour with Dismember? It couldn’t be better. It was, like, four other fat guys from Stockholm.
Do you think that your lyrics and song titles are gay and cheesy? No. See, it’s not cheesy. I mean, they’re, like, gay and dark… completely like down in the dungeon, if you know what dungeon I’m talking about.
Maybe. Do you perform hip movements on stage? Absolutely. All the time. I’m a little preoccupied with playing, so sometimes I just miss doing it. If I do it, I do it right. But otherwise, always.
Any funny stories from this particular tour? Yeah, we played at Birch Hill, and I met this guy who was wearing these god-awful shoes. It’s like, he thinks it’s hip. His hair is deep fried. He probably went down to the Village and bought this really cool bracelet that’s, like,orange.
How old do you think he is? Like 52? He’s probably around 38. But he tries to be 23. The thing is, his sideburns… the handles… what can you do with that?
I don’t want to know. Did Grimoire Girl #9 pay a surprise visit to your hotel? Not my hotel. Who’s #9?
Felicia. Yes! She did! She scared the shit out of me. I was sitting down with my guitar player, just on the bed talking, and he mentioned Felicia called about 15 minutes ago. He says, “Speak of the devil.” I turned around and there she is, standing there all dark-looking and lovely.
Do you think she’s gorgeous? Oh yes.
(Bill Zebub) Do you think Jen is gorgeous? Absolutely.
(Bill Zebub) Jen, show him your tits. (Jen launches a furious attack) You fuckin’ prick!!! Get a hold of yourself, Bill! You don’t say things like that! She’s a lady!
(Jen, after she beats the shit out of Bill Zebub and makes everyone in the dressing room laugh) Are you in any other bands, or have you stopped trying to be everyone’s bass player? (Sharlee answers while Bill keeps repeating “That didn’t hurt”) I’ve stopped that for now. I think I’ve had just about enough of bands that suck for a while. No, really, I’m basically concentrating on three bands at the moment, which is still a little bit too much.
(Jen asks while two security guards come into the room to see what all the noise was about, and they ask why the guy with the frizzy hair is holding a bloody tissue to his nose) Bass wasn’t your chosen instrument, was it? I heard that you originally played it because no one wanted to learn bass in Sweden. Bass is obviously a loser instrument, and everybody wants to be a guitar player. Those who are left behind have to play bass. Since I couldn’t play fast enough on the lead guitar back when Yngay Malmstein was a god, I just had to settle for bass. I enjoyed it in a way, and then I had to tell myself that bass is the only instrument for a real man. So basically I am a loser and here I am.
(Bill Zebub) When you talk to people for the first time, what country do they think you are from, you damn Polak? They think Switzerland, or they say Sweden, the land of clocks and cheese.
You’re definitely straight? As I’ve said before, some parts of my body might be slightly crooked. Otherwise, I’m straight.
When I walked into the Birch Hill, a music venue in New Jersey, two of the girls who worked there told me that Dave (Oderus) asked them if Bill Zebub ever went there, and when they told him yes, he instructed them to bring me backstage if they saw me that night (GWAR was playing). Dave/Oderus wanted to reprimand me about the magazine, but he had realized that his humor was the same as mine – it was just that I had taken a different approach. It’s easy to take something out of context, or to think that something is the enemy when you are fighting that particular type of enemy (and are on the lookout against that enemy), but I provide enough clues in my magazines, radio shows, and movies, what my intentions are. I make mistakes, often, but I am not a professional – I have no crew and no advisors. I often tell people that if I had a big budget, the biggest improvement wouldn’t be massive explosions and big special effects; it would be the hiring of experts who would let me know that my ideas don’t work (and they would show me how to make them work). I usually have to wait after I have made something for me to realize “Oh, that was a failure.” So in that sense, I am an artist, because I am the only one who decides all things. It’s not collaborative. Dave gave me a warm welcome, and we were friends ever since. I did not ask him to be in my movies until after I had felt that I had built up my name to the point when the inclusion of a celebrity wouldn’t affect my baseline of sales. What I mean is, Peter Steele helped me in the early days when I had no name in the movie industry. I vowed to make my own waves, just as I had done with this magazine (and my radio shows). When I finally invited Dave to be in my movie JESUS: THE TOTAL DOUCHEBAG, I was of my self-sufficient status. Dave died a month after we filmed. This interview was conducted back stage at the Birch Hill, and the things you will read might seem harsh, but it was three people hanging out, knowing that we were kindred spirits, and we trusted our fans, or our enemies, because we had established what our humor was, and what it wasn’t. Newcomers might become angry, but if they are smart, they will figure things out. Incidentally, Peter Steele was the first one to say that when the norm was to be left, his humor was then to be right. You can hear and see him say this in one of my interviews with him. I wonder if Pete or Dave would have said and done about the censorship, anti-intellectualism, propaganda, and blind conformity of this era. In many ways, I envy them that they died before they tasted the poison, but I am sad that these great iconoclasts are not here. The elves are leaving Middle Earth. What will become of you when all are gone?
This interview with Oderus and Ballsack appeared in issue #28
Oderus, I’m going to give you the floor to talk about things that you’d like to take off your chest that can’t be printed in magazines like Rock hard in Germany (Oderus) Europe can suck my dick because they don’t like our new album, they don’t like our old albums, and they don’t understand that we don’t like them either. They don’t want us over there. Well fine, we don’t want to come over there anymore and drink your beer and fuck your women, you cheese-eating, chocolate-chewing, closet-fascist fucks! If you don’t want to like our album, fine! But if you wanna like our album and not bring is over, that’s fine! But if you wanna think it’s fine to be a Nazi, that’s cool! But if you wanna not have us over there to eat your cheese, you can fuck off! But send more cheese. (Ballsack) American cheese sucks! (Oderus)American cheese blows, and it sucks that we’re stuck over here in America now, eating American cheese all the fucking time! Also, I don’t like the new Christine Aquilara look at all. I liked it more when she looked like she had A.I.D.S. Now she tried to put on a few pounds, but obviously they did it with surgery and liposuction or reverse-liposuction – blippoblow-tion. It’s not working, girl!
Am I to understand that GWAR loves Metal Blade now? (Oderus) Isn’t Metal Blade that label that won’t advertise in your magazine? Well, we’re stuck there, aren’t we? And we have been, pretty much. Oh look! (Beefcake walks in). It’s Beefcake the Mighty! Absolutely different that the last beefcake the mighty that was on tour with us. We can’t keep musicians in this band. (Ballsack) He’s got some blippoblow-tions going too.
Is Beefcake sort of like a poltergeist who inhabits different bodies? (Oderus) Whoever the fuck can get into costume every night is basically what we’re talking about. We’re not really from outer space.
But more words on metal Blade. I heard that… (Oderus) This is horrible – the band that is opening up for us.
Is that to be printed, or not? (Oderus) Oh I don’t care. We won’t specifically say which band it is that sucks, but god! It’s like Sick of it All with keyboards. When GWAR does keyboards it’s not all stupid. We don’t have a keyboard player on stage with us. It’s all prerecorded. And they don’t either. That’s even worse!
But are there specific things about Metal Blade that have to be said that other magazines won’t print? (Oderus) Are you deliberately fishing for Metal Blade dirt with me? Is that something that you are trying to do? Are you trying to get me in trouble with my label because they hate you? Is that what you’re trying to do? I’m not going to slag Metal Blade at a professional level. I will, however, on a personal one. Brian Slagel freaked me the fuck out last time I saw him, and I’ll tell you why. He walks in, and he’s like, “Hey Brockie, what’sup?” All of his hair’s gone, plus he has no eyebrows. Meanwhile, Mike Faley’s house was destroyed in an earthquake, then his wife divorced him. He used to drive around in a Firebird, now he’s got an old beat-up Toyota. But Brian Slagel’s got a brand new Corvette! Meanwhile I don’t even have a car. I don’t really need one, but I was fucking a girl on the hood of his car, and scratched it all up with my key ring. He wasn’t very happy about that. But that just came off of the royalties of our new album, which we never got anyway. We got charged for our royalties by them. It’s like we sold all these records and we made all this money, but instead of getting the money, we got a bill for the money they owed us.
That’s sort of reversed, in some way. (Oderus) Reverse economic Antarctic racism, man. It’s like a double-reverse racism.
Slymenstra is with GWAR on this tour. Is it because people demanded her the way they demand go-go dancers? (Oderus) No. Europe didn’t want us, and no one else in the world wanted us to come and play, we were forced into the very pathetic prospect – we couldn’t get on any festival, either – we were forced to go on tour in the United States just to pay bills. So were like, “What can we do? Slymenstra, save us!” So I had to agree to her coming out and castrating me every night on stage. A little excess baggage gone for a while. (makes sniffing motions) God, I smell! I smell like sleep!
Have you seen the movie “Monsters Inc.” (Oderus) No. It’s animated. I’m not interested in that fake shit.
I heard that Hunter is gone from GWAR. (Oderus) Hunter? Who’s that? Oh, Techno Destructo? Yeah, he had his final paranoid fit of delusion and he imploded on stage. His role in GWAR was limited. I mean, how many times can you go out there and eat the gray matter out of my head, especially when I don’t really have a lot of that up there to begin with. No Hunter, no Danielle, but then Hunter, then Danielle, then not.
Have you heard the band “George is Dead”? No. Are they funny?
They’re supposed to be funny, but I don’t think that Danielle found them funny. He cuts his forehead like a pro wrestler, and he bled all over her amplifier, and she said that she caught Hepatitis C once and doesn’t want to catch it again. (Oderus) Well, I think that once you catch it you’re got it forever. (Ballsack) She also had a small case of the A.I.D.S. (Oderus) Yeah, a little case of the A.I.D.S. Danielle was in here earlier – it was really funny – Slymentra was in here trying to figure out the GWAR anagram – she said, “Gay angry women against GWAR – that spells out GWAR.” No! It’s G-W-A-R!!! Gay women against rape spells GWAR.
Is anyone in GWAR a negro? (Oderus) Mike Tyson is with us again just because the costume is really good. We thought we’d get another tour out of it.
But as far as the alien race of GWAR… (Oderus) You know the government wants us to hire a negro. We just can’t do it. We don’t want to do it. It’s not that we don’t like negroes, but we know that if we don’t hire negroes and we continually quote Hitler, we’ll make people in Europe angry.
Why are people in Europe upset about Nazi-type lyrics when they were the ones who were Nazis? We’re just the ones who love the Nazis. They are the ones who are the Nazis. (Oderus) I know! It’s like, you guys ARE the Nazis. How can you be upset about them? We didn’t go around making concentration camps. They did. (Oderus) We’re not the ones who built the concentration camps. We’re the ones who saved them. We saved their way of life. If it wasn’t for the Americans who saved Europe…
Are there any notable victims other than Mike Tyson and Goetz from Rock Hard? (Oderus) No. We like to beat up Moslem people as well. They seem to be pretty popular as people to be hated right now. In fact, there is new legislation to make the new World Trade Center into the new World Death Center, and it’s going to be this big giant missile pointed at the sky, and if anyone fucks with us again it’s gonna blast off and destroy Mecca.
Mecca is sort if mecha-nical. (Oderus) It’s like a Moslem MacDonald’s – like MeccDonald’s.
So if Techno Destructo were a Moslem he would put the Mecca in Mecca-nical. (Oderus) Oh no! Bill, I’ve been doing this so long. I’m so confused. I’m so bitter. I’m so angry that my career hasn’t been more successful. I’m so sad that I don’t get to go back to Europe and fuck all those cheap whores in those crappy hotel rooms in Frankfurt and shoot up in the alley. It’s really a sad, sad thing. Oh, also I’m sad that I’m on Metal Blade still.
What do you think of the Dave Brockie band? (Oderus) Fuckin’ great! It rules! That fucker is the hope of modern music. Actually, that project has been really cool and successful. It’s on Metal Blade, though, which is the problem. You listened to the record. You tell me. It’s awesome.
The interview is more about you and what you have to say. (Oderus) Right, well you asked me, fucker! You asked me to say something and I threw it back at you. So there. Yes, it’s fun. It’s enabled us to get more mileage out of our flagging careers and people seem to enjoy it. The Philadelphia Eagles like it. We got called by the Philadelphia Eagles and they play the song “Masturbate” in the locker room all the time. I smell. I’m sorry I don’t have anything to wear for this interview, Bill. I wasn’t all psyched up and ready to go. But I’m ready to go now, man!
I’d like your opinions on some world affairs, since I don’t know anything about politics, and you seem to be politically-engaged. (Oderus) Well, politicially-incorrect, at least.
What are your views on the situation with Iraq? (Oderus) I think it’s funny. It’s like, years of strangling them with our economic policies just aren’t enough. We need to go over there and start killing them with conventional weapons. And I think that we can guarantee some pretty exciting television from it. (Ballsack) The new cameras that the armies been working on… (Oderus) Baby-Burning Cam!
What about the disease that you supposedly spawned? (Oderus) I’m a little disappointed in A.I.D.S. It’s kind of slowed down. It seems like only black people are getting it now. That wasn’t the idea. I wanted everyone to die. If only black people are killed I guess we’ll have to deal with that. I’ll have to figure out some sort of white dick-cancer. The homosexuals will inherit the earth. That’s GWAR’s scripture.
What about the gay muppet on Sesame Street? (Oderus) There should be more! They should have sex and teach children how a blowjob from a priest is the warmest wettest washcloth ever. (Ballsack) It’s how god kisses people. (Oderus) Ballsack doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s usually funnier than what I say?
Is there anything in American politics that catches your fancy these days? (Oderus) Not really. That’s pretty horrible, isn’t it? I was a little disappointed the anthrax thing didn’t go any further. I liked Gore with the beard. I think he had a chance then. But then he shaved. Ted Kennedy is still fat as fuck and he’s still alive. If he’s not gonna drive off a bridge, one is going to collapse underneath his weight. Hilary runs a whorehouse in upstate New York.
Is Osama going to be on stage tonight? (Oderus) No. He’s buried in the rubble of Tora Bora, unfortunately. (Ballsack) The republicans swept the NBA finals. (Oderus) No, that was the election. (Ballsack) Well they swept something. (Oderus) It was the World Series, dumb-ass.
Are you talking about basketball? (Oderus) Do you know what I don’t like about basketball? It seems like a lot of black people play that. I think it’s discriminating that more white people don’t play basketball. (Ballsack) Where are the great Asian basketball players? (Oderus) It’s very racist that short Asian people don’t play basketball. (Ballsack) I think they should force them to play!
Yeah, like they were forced to build our railway system. (Ballsack) We can round them all up and put them into basketball camps, with barbed wire. (Oderus) Little yellow fuckers!
Shouldn’t they be called Orientals? (Oderus) Why did Hitler and the Asians get along? They were one different sides of the world and they didn’t have to see each other so much? I don’t think Hitler would have liked all the little people all that much.
I heard that Hitler thought that true Aryans were the Mongolians. (Oderus) Wow! (Ballsack) You really dropped a bomb on us there! We have to re-think our racism now.
Are there any human authors whom you think are worthy of praise. (Oderus) No, not really. All the human authors who you think are worthy of praise are actually inhuman monsters, like H.P Lovecraft, Michael Jackson, Bill Zebub – uh, who else?
Are you actually writing a book? (Oderus) Yeah, but no one cares.
Is it fiction or fact? (Oderus) It’s factual fiction. Rollins didn’t care, and after that, my bubble was bust.
What is the soft side of Oderus like? (Oderus) Do I have a soft side? It’s the stinky smelly smells-like-sleep-smell. It’s that rolled-up-in-a-bunk-for-twenty-hours, farting repeatedly – the blanket smells like breathing – and you’re just rolling around in your smell. That stuff will melt armor after a while. My whole flesh is just so saturated with the smell of my own ass. I’m a softee in general, until I put this shit on (points to the Oderus rubber).
Does GWAR make any kind of costumes for Spencer Gifts? (Oderus)No, but we’re gonna do the new Skipknot outfits. Those fuckin’ Spencers – they really have their own miniature GWAR… we didn’t get a penny for that!
But they just have portions of latex, like the shoulders and the head. (Oderus) Yeah, these people show up at our shows. That’s one more sap. This one guy shows up at a (?) show in Milwaukee dressed up like Oderus Urungus – pretty nice job, actually – but he showed up with the costume on a good four hours before the doors were open and waited around another four hours after they were opened – wore the goddamn thing for about ten hours straight – I felt complimented but I really felt embarrassed for him at the same time, and then ultimately embarrassed for myself.
Is foam rubber preferable to latex? (Oderus) No. Foam rubber falls apart. You gotta have latex, and only latex. We inject foam into these things, but foam rubber will fall apart. You only use that for Hollywood productions that have to work once or twice. This shit has to work every single night on stage, and even then, it doesn’t.
There was a band that seemed to use GWAR stuff on stage that was on Metal Blade as well. (Haunted Garage) (Oderus) They were doing GWAR stuff? Who cares? We act like people who invented this shit. But if it wasn’t for KISS or Alice Cooper we wouldn’t know what the fuck to do. I think bands like Slipknot and things like that is a logical progression, but instead of a logical progression forwards it’s a logical step backwards into something that’s really bad. Like, GWAR – we got it really good – we’re ready for the next DECO or something else that’s even better than us, and then we got Maralyn Manson – that was horrible! And then we got all this new metal and whiny fat-faced overly-manicured facial hair bands that suck that have aggression with no meaning. Words with no meaning. Truth with no lies! Lots more money than we do! That’s why I hate them!
Looking back, on the road behind so-to-speak, at which point… (Oderus) Did I lose control of my career? I would have to say, as soon as I joined the band. I never had any control of it. Always told to “be here, be there, sound check then, beer here, beer (he asked me) Do you need another one? (beer)
All right. You talked me into it. You know they don’t serve beer in this club. (Oderus) How the hell are you supposed to have a GWAR show? I hope the kids are in the parking lot, shooting up heroin. I
Is it true that Europe’s mad at you because of your heroin use? (Oderus) I don’t use heroin. Oh it would be fun. You should try it. (pauses) What else can we say that’s funny? We can make fun of this band. (Ballsack) We’ve done that already.
Are there any new schemes for this tour? (Oderus) Basically, Slymenstra is pissed off at me because all I do is talk shit about her. I didn’t invite her on the last tour. I didn’t put her on the new album. I act like a jerk all the time. She chops my dick off. I beg her to get it back. I cheese it back and I blow cum on her, and a big monster comes out and beats me with a club. Then another big monster comes out and eats that big monster. Then I urinate on everyone and we stop playing, but I keep urinating. Then Slymenstra comes out and cuts my dick off, and another monster comes out and sucks it. Then I get fucked with my own dick, in the ass. I beg for it. And this is all while dancing and singing. (listens to the opening band some more) Wow, he said “Let me see your hands.” (Ballsack) We don’t like bands that tell the crowd what to do. (Oderus) If I’m in the audience and the guy says, “Let me see your hands” I’ll show him my feet, or my feet, or I’ll just leave. If I even think a band is going to say anything, I won’t even go to the show. I don’t like it when bands say stuff. And I don’t like it when they play music. Like, who are you to play music for me? Fuck that! I would rather stand in a parking lot! I hate these singers who make words with their mouths. It’s so limiting. (Ballsack) Yeah, but it’s better than the ones who just sort of growl. (Oderus) I like that – when you try to form a turd with your throat. Yeah, like that’s creative. Let me just go on right now about how creative those bands are that just go (growls) – cookie monster bands.
Cookie Monster is not a very scary monster, is he? (Oderus) You’re not from hell. You don’t worship Satan. When you ride the bus, you don’t look like that. I do. I sleep in this shit, man! I mean, if they would just admit what a fuckin’ joke they were, then I would be able to laugh at them more freely. But if you go there and start laughing, they don’t like that.
Is Frankenberry a gay monster? (Oderus) He’s pink, isn’t he? He’s Frankenstein, so he’s part gay. Parts of him that were used to make him are gay. I think Count Chocula, who could easily be Count Cockula, easily could be gay. He could suck blood out of your penis.
I’m detecting a homosexual theme in the Kellogs cereal line. Chocula and Hershey Highway… (Oderus) Your finger is on the pulse of the nation’s penis.
A.I.D.S. is attributed to you. You made A.I.D.S supposedly. (Oderus) I take credit for everything, Bill. I really haven’t done anything.
Is there a new disease on the horizon? (Oderus) East Nile virus. That shit is sick. It’s like, you wake up and you look in the mirror and you’re Rosie O’Donald (spelling?). Game over.
That is a fate worse than death. (To Ballsack) Can you pay some attention to this interview, please? (Ballsack) I’m sorry. I’m just paying attention to Suzie (looking at centerfold of Grimoire #27).
Do you want this interview to be lackluster and not funny at all? (Ballsack) It’s already been all that!
Well turn it around, Ballsack! (Ballsack) Why don’t you bring any of these Grimoire Girls to our show? You’re not allowed to any more of our shows unless you start bringing them!
Well, you get to see her later if you have a DVD player on your bus. (Oderus) How much more of this inane banter do we have to endure?
Just a couple of minutes. I guess this is my last question. What was your favorite mass human suffering? (Oderus) The Trade Center. That was hilarious!
Did you believe the conspiracy theories that said that America blew up the Trade Center – that it was imploded? (Oderus) When the Japanese construction firm that made the Trade Center first built it, they were like (imitates Japanese accent) “We love America. If you ever want to knock down Trade Center, you fly plane into it. Whole thing fall down.” Whoa! What a great idea! So when they got to the point where they were just too fuel-inefficient to run anymore – and you know how much it costs to knock one of those things over – they took out a big insurance policy and then hit the big “plane” button and everything fell down. And of course, none of the Jews went to work that day.
So there were no Jewish casualties on 9/11? (Oderus) Yeah! (we all laugh) (Ballsack) Do the research! It’s true. (Oderus) I know there weren’t any Japanese people in that building either. (Ballsack) Definitely not any Japanese because we would have heard about that. (Oderus) I’ve got to say just one more thing about this band that opened up for us – the singer comes out there and he says, “We’ve gotta stick together.” Man! What are we doing here? How can we come up with that kind of lyrical genius?
I remember watching the Dave Brockie Experience, and there was ridicule of a band called Creed. I never heard of Creed. (Oderus) What?
There’s no metal on the radio, so why bother? (Oderus introduces me to Gizmack who just walked in) This is the infamous Bill Zebub.
So that’s it? No gripes? I thought you were full of gripes. (Oderus) I thought I griped quite a lot. I made fun of Europeans, Jews, Japanese, Moslems, Americans – I ripped on Slipknot, the opening band – I made fun of Ballsack, I made fun of Slymenstra, I ridiculed myself – I admitted my career was a failure – I made fun of Metal Blade (Ballsack, in a German accent) What about ze Germans? (Oderus) Yeah, I ragged all over them! How much more abuse can I give you? Then I’m gonna go out there and do the show in a little while, and that’s nothing but hatred. I’m just too good-natured. Is that it?
Yeah, you’re definitely a different kind of Oderus. (Oderus) Oh shit! I feel like I let you down somehow, Bill.
No, you haven’t let me down. You said plenty. (Oderus) Just take the interview and re-arrange the words and have me say anything.
Who’s the brains behind all the GWAR videos, like Skullheadface? (Oderus) Some of them were a real group effort. Some of them, one person did. I’m responsible for the lousiest ones.
So not only do you sculpt your costumes, but you also dabble in animation and computer effects. (Oderus) Yeah. I don’t really know what I’m doing, though.
What did you use? Adobe After Effects? (Oderus) Yeah, AfterEffects. On the new Immortal Corruptor video they used AfterEffects. They actually got a nice film look to the digital video that we used. I don’t know shit about the technical stuff, though. I just try to make up stupid ideas.
Would you ever do a non-GWAR video? (Oderus) Sure. This next year is going to be a lot of D.B.X. stuff. Yeah, we have tons of ideas for stuff besides GWAR. But we just never get to do them because GWAR takes up so much of our time, and also because we’re pretty much lazy and drunk all the time.
I would think that you’d be most suited to the slasher sort of stuff. (Oderus) No, no, no, no, yes. Sure! It could be anything. I think it would be more like skit humor, like Monty Pythion kind of shit with my music in the background. Yeah, there’d be a good amount of blood and poo and vomit. I don’t know if so much slashing would be going on – maybe cheese grating.
When is the next GWAR record? That was just to throw in some cliché question. (Oderus) Could be any time within the next twenty years.
Will there be any of that death metal that you were raving about before? (Oderus) No. I think that the next GWAR album will be exactly like the last one we did, except we’ll change the lyrics and the music around.
I guess this is toodles. (Oderus) Well thanks, Bill, for keeping up your slovenly work and your obnoxiously good habits of annoying people that I hate.
How come negroes’ teeth are so white? (Oderus) It’s contrast, like when the moon is closer to the horizon it looks bigger. (Ballsack) Are you saying that when my dick is closer to the moon it will appear bigger? (Oderus) If you moon my dick it will be bigger.
Let me being with just an open-ended “what’s new, Mr. King?”
(Laughs) You shouldn’t think that there would be a million things new in all that time that has gone by. There’s not that much new because a lot of the time has been spent, of course, getting new record deals in place. That takes way more time than it aught to take, but it just takes that time, and it always does. But what has happened… the Abigail tour is postponed, you can say. It didn’t come around simply because of bad economy – with the record label. You heard that it’s everywhere, since then – that the record labels are suffering . And they are. Hopefully it will turn around slowly. Of course, we had to re-evaluate what we’re doing, and new contracts were due anyway because the old contracts were fulfilled. Yeah, we went in and started negotiations and all this stuff. That took a while. But that’s in place now. Everything is written now, regarding the music. All the music is done. I did receive the package from Andy, with his songs, and I listened to them yesterday, and they’re awesome. So that’s in place too. But that has taken time. I mean, it was from about the first of October up until two weeks ago that I spent writing. It’s nine songs, and one of them is a short two-minute thing, you know, which is more like an intro song – like a prologue, or something like that. It’s not like the traditional horror intro, but it’s an intro that will set the stage for what is going to happen. So it’s kind of like a prologue, but it’s a full song with organ – there’s church organ on it, and there are violins, and full-blown guitars, bass – the whole thing is there. It sets the whole stage up until it’s cut off real sharp, and you will hear the words, “Let the show begin!” and it will definitely give the listener the feeling of “Wow! That was prologue, and now we go here, and then come double kicks right in your face, which is “The Puppet Master”. The first little piece is called “The Cellar”, but then the first real song is “The Puppet Master”. The feeling it gives me, myself, is in the direction of “Welcome Home” with the double kick drums, you know, really fast. Of course it varies. The song is never just fast throughout. There are a lot of really intricate parts and arrangements going on in that song. Creates some really good feelings. There’ll be twelve titles on the album. Nine of them I did. Andy had an instrumental piece that is going to be attached to one of mine, and then he had three full songs. So that’s where we are set with that. We are that far, and I am going to start working on the lyrics. I have a lot of ideas. I mean, the story is written out. The story is done. It’s even divided up into chapters. All of the songs have titles, but I will not give all the song titles now because I know myself – I often change them as we go in the studio and, “Ooh, that title would have been better if it was this because now I changed that over there.” But the titles are in place for me, and for all the different chapters of the stories. I spent more time, this time, on writing, than I have done before. I haven’t spent this much time on writing. It’s really, in some way, paid off. It’s not like it’s different. I talked to you before about how I see “King Diamond’s” style of music as a painting on the wall. It’s in a frame, but the painting has not been completed. You still see white spots on the canvas. A lot of those white spots, I feel, I have covered with the songs I wrote this time. I’ve gotten into some fresh areas, but it is totally King Diamond. I expect a certain level of compositions from Andy, and he does the same from me. And now he has had a week to listen to my stuff, and it was great to hear his response. He was very positively surprised, he said, and he felt it was more aggressive than it usually is from me, and there was just much more covered in what I did this time. And I really feel like each song has its own atmosphere. You can really distinguish from song-to-song what I’ve done this time.
Have you invented any new chords that confused Andy?
He hasn’t had the time to go in and actually try and just turn everything to the left and figure out what is the guitar doing on the left side and what is the guitar doing on the right side. There are definitely some things that I have not done before. I have not used those kinds of chords before. There’s a few of those in there. Then, arrangement-wise, there is definitely new styles of arrangement that you will get some extra goodies out of if you put headphones one – where you can really pinpoint the stereo picture.
Have you ever thought about performing guitar on stage?
On stage? No. I want those free hands to concentrate on the other aspects than just singing, and that is of course to pay attention to the audience, and those things that are part of the show. I don’t think you’ll ever see me play guitar on stage. (referring to playing guitar and singing) You have to have the microphone standing, and all this stuff. I like the freedom of just having that bone in my hand. (laughs)
And the line-up is exactly the same?
Yeah, it’s identical to the Abigail 2 line-up, which is definitely – I don’t even have to say “in my opinion” – it is the best line-up we have ever had. When we did the European version of “House of God” (tour) – that’s where the line-up was complete the first time, and I got the feeling of how these guys are, live on stage, and it’s the tightest unit we’ve ever had – the most skillful unit we’ve ever had. I know the people over there felt that too when we played those shows over there. Everybody just has a huge enjoyment out of doing it, and that can be felt from the stage into the audience. There’s no doubt it’s the best line-up that we’ve ever had.
You’re returning to the same studio to record?
Well we are using a different process this time, actually. That’s one of the things we’ve been forced to do, even though we got new deals. They are very good deals for how the whole scene is at the moment. It’s hard to get a good deal. A lot of bands are suffering. A lot of bands have been told, “We simply can’t have you anymore. Bye-bye.” Some bands, especially if you’re living off it – I’ve been living off the music since ’83 – it’s been my job, and it’s so positive to have a job that you totally love. To me, working like that is the best possible way it could be. But at the same time, it’s a job. You’ve got to make sure that’s what puts the bread on the table. If, suddenly I couldn’t live off the music, I’d have to say, “OK, I have to do something else.” And that could have been a problem had we not found, let’s say, a new way of actually recording out material. The way that we have planned the whole thing out now is probably going to end up giving the fans an even better product. But you really don’t think about that when you are so used to going into the studio – and you go for two months or two-and-a-half months, and you do the whole thing there – finish it up and that’s it. Now you’ll be in the studio finishing the album. This time around, Andy has a studio in Sweden where he’s produced so many bands, so many albums, and stuff like that. It’s just been growing and growing, getting better and better in quality. He’s actually going to bring a bunch of it over here to my house. So it’s going to be like, you can say, a mobile recording unit that he’s flying over here, and it’s going to be set up in my living room. I have the same speakers here that they have in the studio, both in their mastering suite and in their control room. But it’s a much better listening environment, actually, because in the studio it’s a little tight in the control room and you can’t really sit behind the engineer, so you get an off-center listening position. Here, there’s space in my living room to sit comfortably, with a perfect stereo picture, and like I said, the same speakers. Another positive thing is that the sound you are listening to in a home environment is with carpets and furniture, which you don’t have in the studio. You usually have a very hard floor and very hard walls. So you get more of the listening environment that the fans are getting at home, which is actually what you should go for, because they are the ones that are going to listen to it, not the people sitting in the studio. So there’s a lot of really positive things, in that respect. It means that we’ll be using the same kind of equipment – we’ll have the same quality equipment to record on, but we will have much more time to go into details. Sometimes when you sit in a studio you can have trouble with a certain reverb unit that you really want to use on a certain effect. It could be one spot on the album, but it’s really important to create a certain listening experience. You can sit there and work with this unit for two hours maybe, and when you think about it, suddenly $160 went out the window. We can do that here and not think about it. We can spend four hours on a thing like that if we had to. It’s not costing us studio time. So what we’re going to do here is record all rhythm guitars and harmony guitars, in exactly the same way that we do in the studio, on exactly the same equipment. We’re going to do the bass in the same way, and all of the keyboards. Most of the keyboards that I recorded, I was really thorough recording already in my demo studio, which is digital recording anyway. So that’s going to be loaded into the other system and used there – probably most of it. Some of it might have to be re-recorded, but most of it will be right where it should be. And then we, of course, are going into the real studio. There’s a 98% chance that they will give us a good deal on going in there and recording the drums. We can’t, of course, record that in the house here. That will be after all of the rhythm guitars and keyboards are done, with a click track – bring that into the real studio and put the drums down. And then we’re going back here and Hal will fly in – I think it’s on the 20th of March that he’s going to come here, and he’s going to put all his bass on here, using the same equipment that we used in the studio the last time. No difference at all. The only advantage will be that I will, in at least the next three weeks, until Andy gets here, be doing vocal demos for the first time. I never really did demos, you know. But at my home studio, I found a way to do it. I’ll put demo vocals on so Hal has all the vocal melody lines. Not the right vocals, but the right melody lines that he can add his bass to. He’s a very versatile bass player. Sometimes he will follow what the kick drums are doing. He’ll go with the guitar riffs sometimes. Sometimes he’ll follow vocals. It’s that style of bass that Uriah Heap used to have, where he would go his own little way sometimes and follow different things, not just always follow guitars or drums. So he will have everything he needs to lay down the right bass lines, and he will even be given the opportunity to put three full different versions on, that all fits with the vocals, so we really choose later on. That side of it will be much more interesting than it’s ever been before. Then we’re going to do a rough mix of it that Andy will bring back with him to Sweden, and he and Mike will do all their solos in Andy’s studio. The vocals will be done here in Dallas, probably at the same studio again, with a different engineer this time because the other engineer is not in town anymore. But the guy that is going to do it is overqualified – an amazing engineer. He has been second engineer on the past two albums. So there’s no problems there either. And then Andy will come back over here to Dallas, probably in June, and that’s when we’re going to mix it all here, at my house, with the same equipment pretty much as you have in the studio – all the same tools, except we can spend more time. Can you just picture – you sit in the studio and then everyone gets hungry. You have to eat dinner every day. Sometimes you decide to go to a restaurant and eat dinner. If you think about it, you go to a restaurant, and it costs so-and-so much money to eat a dinner, but then you can add $160 on top of it because it took two hours. But you have to pay for that. It doesn’t matter. It’s not like, “We’re gonna leave now to eat dinner.” “OK, we’ll stop the clock now.” No, you’re block-booked. It’s going to cost money. You look at those things when you are in the studio. It creates a little tension sometimes. “Come on! Let’s move on now! It’s taking too long!” But you want the quality there, so we usually always end up going over budget in the end. We will not sacrifice the quality. Now we’re going to be having all the time that we want. That’s going to be such a cool feeling. We all know that doing this way here is a necessary way, but we would not have thought of it had it not come to that part where Metal Blade did not have enough money to put us on tour, and we had to renegotiate new deals, and stuff like that. It was a matter of, “Can we still live off of it – those of us that live off of it – can it still be our job?” We found a way that makes it possible so we sit exactly as we were before. It’s great that you can come up with an option that makes you sit where you were before, but actually will be able to come out with a better product. So we’re in a very good situation, and we’re all extremely positive about what’s going to happen now. We’re looking so fucking much forward to it – also because of how the material has turned out now. It’s just like FUUUCK! We can thank our fans for putting a lot of pressure on us. There’s always going to be albums in your career that, even though you’re putting everything that you have into it, there are so many circumstances in your life that will affect maybe the way a product is – or the studio that you’re in, or the way that the engineer was handling certain situations – where you’re not as proud of the overall final sound – not so much the compositions – but more the final sound, which actually plays a big role in how people perceive a song. If you have an album where the kick drum is just thundering loud, and sticking out every time you hear it, it’s just irritating to listen to. That has happened on one of our albums. I wish I could go in and remix the whole shit with a new sound because then it would have a whole different expression. But that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is with all artists. If you go back and listen to some of the old Ozzy albums, for instance – I loved them, but if you start analyzing them a little bit, oh my god! The drums are so dry! And the guitar is very trebly. If they only did that again with a more full sound, and not like, up here hangs the guitar and down here is that dry kick drum, and stuff like that, the songs would sound better. They are awesome songs, but if you are into that ‘sound’ part of it, then it means a lot. It can bring a song to life, or it can kill a song. And we’ve had that sometimes. There have also been periods of the band where we didn’t have… well, I would say, the ‘best’ line-up. We have the best line-up now that we’ve ever had. That is why I look so much forward to the next album. That line-up was doing Abigail 2 as their first product. That worked out really well, but it’s going to be even better now. The drummer knows exactly how we go about things. He knows exactly that he has much more space than he even took himself last time. The fans can, and should, expect something exceptional this time. They will get it. They will definitely get it.
I remember when I was present for the re-mastering of the back catalog on Roadrunner. The producer explained – he was basically re-equalizing the sound – and he was telling me that the reason why there was such a high treble on “Them” was because, at the time, vinyl was being put out, and that the grooves for bass are much wider than for treble, so a trick that they did to save vinyl space was to increase the treble and lower the bass.
And back when “Them” first surfaced on CD, for instance, in those early days of the CD they would just transfer straight over. They didn’t go in an EQ and re-master them. It might say “digitally mastered” or whatever, but that’s just the process of bringing it from one form into another. But to actually go into the mastering session and start EQ-ing on it – that wasn’t done in the early days. Sometimes certain frequencies would suffer. And that makes all the sense in the world what you’re saying.
You’ve had the experience so it’s not that special to you, but to me, to hear your music right off the reel on the best possible speakers was worth any price of admission, even though they were good enough to invite me down.
Yeah, it is a hell of difference. There was one of those re-masters – I can’t remember – is it “Conspiracy” that I wasn’t impressed with, actually – I didn’t feel it sounded better than the old one. It sounded louder, but not better. Maybe the top was a little bit over. Maybe it’s “Abigail”. It could be Abigail.
There were also great demands for time. They had a certain schedule and it was very aggressive.
I know. The main part of it definitely turned out sounding more powerful and better. It’s hard to make them all sound “right on”, you know. It was time-consuming, yeah.
I would like to address something that you would also want to vindicate yourself. The lyrics that were included – only your earliest fans have seen lyrics to “Devil Eyes” – fans who bought the E.P. when it came out. But even lyrics that were officially put into vinyl, like the Melissa album when it was on Megaforce – those lyrics were not used (for reference on the re-masters). The lyrics that were used were taken off the internet, and they were wrong, like at the end of “Melissa”, instead of “They’ve taken her away from me” it’s “They take the pain away from me”.
Oh god!!! Well, I don’t know where they get the lyrics from. You know? We don’t see a print of it – the actual jacket and the packaging until it’s out – with a thing like that. We were not really involved in doing the packaging. I didn’t know what photos they put into it, for instance. I didn’t see it until it was in the street. They sent me copies. “Oh, OK, they used that photo over there.”
You should thank me for me stopping them from using photos that they had planned to use. (I had selected the photographs for the re-masters. There was a limited pile of photographs, and some pictures that were chosen have King in make-up that was not characteristic of the particular album era, but they were preferable to the selection that was available from the pertinent time period. Some pictures were chosen because of their rarity).
Oh really? When you’re on the label, you’re not involved in that respect. We were involved in the re-mastering process in finding those bonus things, and you were too (ed. – I am the one who gave them the version of “Black Funeral” from the “Metalstorm” compilation, and that bonus track appears on the re-master of “The Beginning). That’s great. I think they did a good job. I liked the way they did the packaging. But the thing about where did they take the lyrics from – well, you’re always going to run into those things. Almost every single time you will run into things where you say, “What happened here? What is this? Why?” You sometimes get an explanation where say, “Why didn’t you first send us a copy so we can see it?” You know the old misspellings. I mean, welcome “princess” of hell. (sarcastically) Oh that sounds so heavy. It’s like I’m thinking of Sleeping Beauty. We’re not singing about princesses here. And it’s in the title, big and fat! In the lyrics it’s correct. That makes you wonder “Why?”, “How?”. And when “Fatal Portrait” came out the first time, I remember clearly – I saw it the first time in a hotel room in Paris where I was doing a photo session, and a guy from the label was there and he showed me. I saw it and I flung it like a Frisbee through the room so it splintered against the wall. I got so fucking mad. He ran out of the room, I remember. He came back like twenty minutes later. I was sitting there, just foaming. It looks like a fucking Monopoly game, you know. It had all the colors from the monopoly game sqeezed into the logo. There was pink, light blue, and I don’t know what color they used in the logo. Everything had a different color there. Almost every letter had a different color. It’s the most horrible shit I had ever seen. They had already produced so-and-so many thousand. They had changed it for the next one (pressing). I don’t know who had that brilliant artistic idea to turn it into something that you can play Momopoly on the logo if you want – you get it/ We had so many of those little things that have been going wrong. One guy on the “Abigail” album, on the back – I don’t know if it was Andy or Michael Denner that had turned into a left-handed guitarist. They thought it had looked better if the guitars were both going to each side, pointing to the outside of the cover – suddenly one of the guys was mirrored. He’s like, “I’m not a left-handed guitarist! There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m just not!” Those things, man, were just done over your head for an artistic purpose that made no sense. And it’s always too late to change. It’s out there on so-and-so many covers. Sorry!
If you had more time to dig up material, would your cover of “The Immigrant Song” have appeared on the “Melissa” re-master as a bonus track?
No, because we never fulfilled it. I don’t know if there’s anything on tape, actually. They were rehearsing it. The engineer might have pressed “record” while they were rehearsing so that we could listen to it, but he might have gone (recorded) over it, using that same tape for other things because at that time, those big reels cost money, and you have only six reels at your availability, or three, or whatever. So he might have gone over it completely. There was never vocals. I never actually sang it. The band was trying to get it right, but it never got the right swing that Zeppelin has on their version. It wasn’t working. The band just couldn’t play it that way. It could also have something to do with the sound we had. There’s a very special fat bass line going on in that song. Since then we never did it (a cover) except for “The Ripper”. We were already in the studio, and I had sung that song before, live, with some of the Pantera guys, for fun, at a New Years Eve party. In that respect, I had my own touch on the song. I didn’t want to try and copy Robert Halford. I don’t think I could, because he has a certain sound to his voice. Just the same, I don’t think there’s anyone who can copy me because I have a certain sound to my voice – not the things I’m doing technically, maybe – but more the sound of my voice. The same with Ozzy. No one can sound like Ozzy. People can sing the notes that he’s singing, sure. But his voice has a very unique sound. You shouldn’t do that anyway if you are paying tribute to a band and you’re trying to do a version of their song. It should be your version of their song – how your band sounds, playing that song.
You’re not a cover band – you’re a band.
That’s exactly the issue. That’s it, exactly. You pay tribute to a band. You show, “You influenced us, and this is what your song would sound like if we played it.”
This interview with King Diamond was conducted by Bill Zebub in issue #10.
I interviewed Glen Benton, from Deicide for this issue. He was not very happy with you. I tried to calm him down. He thinks that when you spoke of Deicide in the past that… What does he keep on about that for? I’ve NEVER spoken about Deicide in ANY fuckin’ way. I don’t know where he got that from. I never talk about any bands. Everybody pretty much knows that by now. The only time I’ve ever in my entire career stagged a band, which was a mutually-agreed for-fun things, was with Venom back in God-knows-when… ‘84 or ‘85. Cronos and I went at it, just for press. That was the only time ever in my career that I stagged a band.
I told him that you would never ever make fun of them or say anything just to be negative about them, because that’s not your way. You’re not really negative about anyone. I never have done that. I think doing that is unprofessional. I’ve always been of the conviction that it doesn’t matter what kind of music, what kind of lyrics, whatever the hell you do is your own private thing. As long as, I’d say, one person buys an album released, there’s a good purpose for that album because hopefully you made that one person happy, or that person got some entertainment out of it. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re entertainers. We’re here to try to entertain other people. That’s always been my conviction.
Yeah. I told him, as far as I am concerned, I tried to ask you about them. But you told me that you had never heard their music. I haven’t. And there’s MANY bands that I haven’t heard. And the reason for that… I’ve also explained that to you a couple of times… I’m not very much on top of what goes on in the music business at the moment. That could be a good and bad thing. That means that I’m not influenced by anything anybody else does today. But again, it might be nice to know what’s going on. My personal interest in music, if I had to listen to it at home, is like progressive heavy rock bands from 1970 up through 1976. I collect those Cd’s, you know… all kinds of obscure bands. It’s always been my Interest. I have a huge collection of bands from that time.
Well, just to put a final cap on it, he DID admit that he knows the press invents things like that. I have seen things invented, man, from here to hell and back… about me. I’ve DIED a couple of times. (laughs). The weirdest things can be mentioned sometimes, especially when… like, we’ve done a couple of pretty, say, in-depth interviews where you’ve ALWAYS been correct In referencing what I’m saying. But It has happened sometimes when you get into depth with somebody, one word can switch the entire meaning of the interview around. One word, misprinted. Instead of a ‘no’ or a ‘I think so’ or ‘I don’t think so…” after you have explained a lot of things, and then there’s another question, and you sit there and read it, it’s like that makes absolutely NO sense! After all the stuff I’ve said then comes this question and then I’m supposed to have said that? I would never say that? It’s completely out of context. That’s the danger. But it happens all .the time. It’s nothing new. There’s nothing you can do anything about. And you’ve got to do interviews and stuff no matter what. If you want to sit there in a little shelf at home and say, “I don’t want to do anything because people misunderstand me” you’re not going to get anywhere. That is the same for I guess everybody who is just a little bit In the spotlight somewhere. God! They’ll make up a story if there is none.
Anton LaVey didn’t want to do interviews anymore because he was always taken out of context. just look at that dumb-ass Geraldo show… Geraldo Rivera sent a crew to Florida to do an interview with us. I spoke to this guy for 45 minutes. They filmed all the time while I was putting on make-up and doing this interview at the same time. And there was not enough sensationalism in what I said for them to use it on the show where they had all these shadows standing behind screens, telling how they had sold their babies for Satanic rituals and bullshit like that… I got 5 seconds on the air where I said some line about something, and he said, ‘Bull’ and that was it. They had shot 45 minutes. They showed 5 seconds because he couldn’t use it for anything. That’s not what his show was built around. And it happens all the time. You do this because you feel you know what you’re talking about and you would like to explain it to these people who you already know have a total misconception of what’s going on, so It’s nice to enlighten not really them, but the people that watch them. Then to get that kind of stuff where everything is totally manipulated for whatever purpose they need it for.. you have no control. It’s like, do it live, or don’t do it… that type of TV stuff.
The key to all this is, if, in an interview you appear to be ridiculing or Insulting anyone, it’s pure flction… that you would never say anything like that. I would never. I never have. As I said, I have done it once with Venom. But that’s after meeting Cronos. “We started saying, ‘We should slag each other in the press. That gives them a lot to write about. We’d get,God, five times the press.” And we did It, just for the fuck of it, to see what would happen. I was sending Christmas regards to ‘Cron-AIDS’ and he was “King Billy” and all kinds of shit. While all that happened, we were partying in a hotel in Holland. But for real, I would never slag anything, and it doesn’t matter what kind of music either. For me to say, ‘Ah, country sucks, hardcore” well, country artists sell millions of albums. How can I say that it sucks when so many people like it? It might not be what I listen to at home. But that doesn’t mean that the music sucks. Like jazz… I don’t listen to any jazz whatsoever. I’ve been to a jazz club twice with some of the Metallica guys in London. That was an experience, you know. I was surprised. It was actually interesting to sit and watch those musicians go at it because they know their shit, usually. But it’s not something that I could sit and have a good time with at home. I hate the sound of a saxophone. That gives me the creeps. I don’t know why. But that instrument, in my book, should not have been invented. But then again, other people like it. That’s one thing that doesn’t have anything to do with a band.
Are you aware of all the Mercyful Fate tribute albums coming out? There is one, right?
There Is one on “Listenable Records.” There is a man in Poland putting out a tribute. And I know that Odin, from Moribund, wanted to approach someone, maybe at Metal Blade. But you have the rights to all the songs that are on album. So maybe he will approach you and ask you. It’s up to the record labels, you know, really… and the publishers, because we have the contracts with them and they are the ones that will legally have to take care of those types of things anyway. I can’t say to anybody, “Oh go for it, man. just go.” Then I would be breaking the contract I have with the publisher or the record labels. But it would probably be Roadrunner Records and Metal Blade Records who are involved. They could contact the publishers. I don’t think it’s a big deal. I don’t think anybody says, ‘Don’t. No. You can’t do that.”
The one on Listenable Records is out in the mail to me, and one of your label-mates, Immolation, did a song. Besides that, Ancient, which is also on your label, did a cover of “Black Funeral.’ Usurper did a cover of “Black Funeral.’ They’re on Necropolis Records. So how does it feel to get so much support from the bands of these days who recognize the power of Mercyful Fate? It’s killer. It’s definitely killer. It’s an honor to be able to TODAY influence people to start a band and go for it with music that was done when they were born, pretty much. That’s a huge honor, I think. They probably didn’t listen to us back In ‘82 or ‘83. But some of those songs are the ones that they cover now and pay tribute to. That’s a major honor, man. It doesn’t even matter how it sounds. It’s the thought and the mind behind It that counts. It doesn’t matter if they present ‘Black Funeral” as death metal, growly version… it doesn’t even matter. It’s the thought behind it, and that they’re doing it.
Immolation has been listening to you since the early days. But I was talking with Ross and we were both laughing at how tricky the albums “Don’t break the Oath’ and ‘Melissa’ were. There are some parts in there, he was saying, the bass goes lower while the guitar goes higher, and then they reverse. That’s very strange. And just the timing of certain parts of songs were not able to be recreated. We do it still today. And it’s not even a thing… we never really sat down and “God. We gotta have more complex shit on this album.” It’s always from within. It doesn’t feel complex to us. We realize of course, “Wow, this is really working great when you do all these strange things.” But it always has to be able to pass right by people who are not into complexity in the music. It has to still have the drive and the feel without you being disturbed by the tricky parts. That’s the trick of being able to do that. And that can only be done if you do it naturally and don’t think too much about what you’re actually doing. You’ve probably heard many bands that will force complexity into the music, and it seems Stiff.
You don’t come off as pretentious, and a lot of the tricky parts are known only after a couple of listens. You sit down and you say to yourself, ‘Wait minute. What the hell are they doing? Sometimes I fool myself. I remember clearly when I was writing “Eye of the Witch,” just sitting there fooling around with the keyboard. “OK. That’s cool. Let me try to put some drums on it so I can start working around it with keyboards and start recording some of this stuff.” and just trying to set up the drum machine, I had a HELL of a time. I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. And I was humming this shit and playing it on keyboard and it was as straight as could be. It turned out that it was added one-fourth measure somewhere every round. So the drum machine just would not pick it up unless I totally re-programmed it. Playing the rhythm guitar to it felt very awkward, actually… until you got the hang of it. We have that today, still. There’s quite a few songs on the new King Diamond album that I wrote, Andy was just like, “What the fuck is that? I can’t even grasp what it is. You gotta show me.”But I also use a lot of weird chords… strange chords. I like to use, even though it sounds like the guitars are playing the same from side-to-side, they might be playing very different. One might be playing chords. The other will play single notes. Together, they create a certain sound. Sometimes these octave chords create other types of sounds. It’s a matter of a certain feel I want out of a riff. You can write it in many different ways, and not just have the two guitars playing the same rhythm and then add a harmony. A lot of it is right there. There’s some of those things where, Andy has come up… we’ve been sitting here before actually, going into the studio and just going through my songs so he knew exactly what I’d done, because he was listening to 4-track tapes and some of it he couldn’t pick out. Then I see him do these crazy cryptic chords to cover all the notes that were in something. Then I’m like, “No no. There’s two guitars playing a different role.’” “Damn, I couldn’t hear that.’ On that new King Diamond, I feel, and that’s also what I’ve heard from some people, even some fans that are hardcore King Diamond fans, that it sounds a lot like going back to the earlier King Diamond albums… Abigail, Them, in the aggression and the complexity of the songs, and the use of massive vocals again, which hasn’t really been that prominent in the last two albums, but is really back again this time, but still sounding new. It probably has to do with the production as well, I think. And no one dies on this album. No. Isn’t that weird? But they don’t have a good time though. That’s for sure.
Last time that I talked to you, you mentioned that Robert Plant and Brian Adams are fans. Well, yeah. Brian Adams showed up at one of our concerts in Boston. He said he was blasting it on his tour bus and the rest of the band hated it, and he did it anyway. Robert Plant… yeah, that was our sound engineer that met him at a show they played in Denver the night before we were playing there. I wanted to see it because I’m a huge fan of his. But I had to take care of some other business. So there was no chance for me to go there. But our sound engineer came back and said, ‘Oh yeah, he’s playing old Mercyful Fate and King Diamond on the bus.” So it’s very nice to know that kind of stuff. I know Robert Halford enjoys what we’re doing too, and a lot of other people too…. Motorhead, after all the tours we’ve done with them. And you get surprised all the time. Pantera is divided into two camps, almost. (laughs) You know Vinny and Darrel really like King Diamond more than Mercyful Fate. But they also like Mercyful Fate a lot. Phil is a big-time Mercyful Fate fan, but also enjoys King Diamond too. I wish we could go out and tour with them. That would be a killer show.
I have always insisted that the “Melissa’ album, even though it’s so old, sounds fresh to people who hear it for the first time these days. The proof of that is on my radio show. Even when I fill in for another D.J. when I would not play metal at all and then all-of-a-sudden throw on “Satan’s Fall’ or “Melissa,’ I always get a call and am asked, “Who is this?’ and “’Can I get It in a music store?” People think it’s new! I’m just so sad that when that album came out it didn’t get proper promotion, in my eyes. Yeah… it was the early days of a band starting, and the label growing… and all this stuff. Definitely finances played a big role in where they could take it. There wasn’t even a U.S. tour for that album. It was not until the “Don’t Break the Oath” album that we finally got to the States. But now all these things have been re-issued by Roadrunner, which I think is a good thing because the sound quality has been improved a little bit. They’ve been remastered and the volume is up, as pounding as anything else you put on, whereas the old master versions… some of the 9 db below what you do today as the standard because that was the early days of the CD. So they’ve been given a nice face-lift, without taking the feel away at all. There’s some interesting bonus tracks on some of that stuff, especially the King Diamond stuff. It has some really crazy bonus tracks that we’ve found.
I like the ones on the Abigail album… the rough mixes. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I was blown away when I heard it the first time. It was like, ‘God Damn! There’s vocals on this that we didn’t put on the album.’ That is pretty wild. Some choirs were exchanged with a cello part, and stuff like that. Some third harmonies had been taken away. So it was just 2-harmony pieces. The third harmony was maybe a little extreme. But it’s cool when you hear it again.
I know that project was pressed for time, and you had some bonus tracks in mind that could not arrive by the deadline, among which were an instrumental cover of ‘Immigrant Song.’ Yeah. We actually DID look for it. But the studio had closed down. It didn’t exist anymore. That was something I learned in the past year, actually. I remember trying for it. But we never did finish that song. We didn’t feel that the basic tracks sounded like Led Zeppelin. It sounded a little stiff. But the tracks would probably still be there somewhere. There just wouldn’t be any vocals on it. We never got that far.
Is it true that you were offering an album with many rarities like this in the future because some of the things you were searching for could not make the deadline? Well, there’s a limit. We also contacted the record label that would be in possession of some master tapes in Holland. THEY were pressed for time. They didn’t have time to look for these things. Usually we would be storing the things at the studio because they had the best facility. Those early studios that we recorded the early King Diamond albums in, they don’t exist. We were told by a guy that was involved with them that those tapes would have all have been sent to the record label when the studio closed down. We had immediately told them that that was what the studio people had said. But still, they didn’t come up with anything. They didn’t have time to look for it. They didn’t know where to locate them. That’s what happens.
There is a live album, the Abigail album… but I know that you are in possession of soundboard recordings of early Mercyful Fate shows. Have you ever considered putting out a live Mercyful Fate album with the material you have? No. It doesn’t seem like it has a quality that is up to where you would want it. It has too many drop-outs. Yeah, it might be fun for some fans to listen to. Oh yeah, here the guitar totally dropped out. They must have had some problems with the power. But it’s not up to the level where it should be.
I have heard a ‘Black Rose” song… ‘Evil Lord.’ I don’t know if you remember that. No. That’s not a title we ever had.
Really? There was another band that released albums under the name “Black Rose’ after we even stopped the band. I don’t even know where that band was from, actually. I think they did maybe two albums. I never heard it.
Maybe I will send this to you to actually confirm its authenticity. But it’s only one song. I remember when I was talking to you, you said you had ten tracks of that band. Yeah.
Did you ever consider giving that to Metal Blade for an album? Yeah. It might happen some day. It’s interesting to hear where it started. That’s the interesting part – you can hear the voice not being completely developed at that time… not using a lot of falsetto… here and there there is a little bit. It’s pretty good quality. We recorded it on one of these 2-track recorders… just with these big reel tapes. But it sounds pretty good just for recording in a rehearsal room. You hear us talking Danish and all sorts of shit in between songs… people fucking around. But I think it has ten original songs and our version of “Radar Love.’
Whatever happened to Pete Black? I know that he was In trouble for stealing King Diamond equipment. I think some of it was given back. He might still have some of it. That was never resolved with lawyers and shit. It just went out in the sand. But he had another band called ‘Totem’ or something like that. I really don’t know what has come of it. I have never seen an album come out from him. I know he’s very involved in… I wouldn’t say “anti-drug.. but anti-drinking. In Sweden he’s doing lectures for alcoholics. He had a problem at the time he was in the King Diamond band, especially with drinking. It was not so much that he was always wasted out of his mind. It was not like that at all. But the problem was that when he did drink too much he totally lost control of himself and got so mean that he was trying to hurt everyone and everything around him. It was a real problem for him, and he obviously grabbed that by the horns and got rid of that problem completely. I don’t think he’s had a drink for years now. But I don’t talk to him, you know. It’s just something I hear from Andy… might have run into him in Sweden or something like that. So I don’t have any contact with him at all. But I know that he’s lecturing on that subject and is very hardcore against it.
I see… LaVey passed away October 29th. There was a rumor spread by someone that he kicked you out of his apartment. But the truth of the matter was that you were on a friendly level. In fact, he endorsed you, and only you, In one particular biography. Oh yeah. I still have handwritten letters from him that I hold very dear. I have photos of me and him at the Church. But that’s another thing about me… the way that I am. He told me after I met him at the Church, “Whenever you want to call me, it doesn’t matter If It’s day or night, you can call me if you just want to talk about Satanism or anything. It doesn’t matter.” I wrote him a letter thanking him for inviting me to the Church and put some other pointers in there to get a copy of some of the photos that he had taken when I was there, and he sent them back to me with a letter. I have a couple of letters that he later on mailed me. I had been moving many times since as well. But It was a very unique 2-way experience, a lot of mutual respect coming from that meeting. You definitely see that in his letters too. I remember in that one letter he sent me that he would have liked for me and Zena (editor’s note – Lavey’s lovely daughter) go a little further than we had done. We went on a couple of dates and just had a good time and stuff like that. But he would’ve really liked that to develop. That’s certainly an endorsement from somebody.
Yeah. I heard that the man Zena ended up with was sort of rebellious against LaVey. Yeah. That’s what I heard too. I don’t like to take advantage of situations. I didn’t want to be the kind of person “Oh man. I’ve met LaVey, and I’m going to call him every Sunday or every Friday and just chit-chat and bullshit.” I just don’t like taking advantage of situations. I never have. I’d rather keep it at a certain level… a higher level of respect maintained.
That’s one thing that I’ve admired, because there are people who are using the fact that they’ve had contact with LaVey, or that they are card-carrying members of the Satanic Church, and they use it as a sort of band promotion. But you’ve never used it that way. I have a special experience that I will never forget… spending the entire night at the Church there and actually being invited into the ritual chamber which had been locked off for two and a half years at that time, re-energizing. Only he had been in that room, and he let me in there. That’s where we talked for probably an hour and a half, and that was an experience I will never forget. Never. I would never want that to be put into a promotional buy for a record label. That was a very private moment, and I wouldn’t be able to give it the credit it deserves anyway in words. It was an inner feeling that can’t be described. So there would be no reason to try and use it for anything like that. He never interviewed me in any specific way for this or that. When I met him for the first time, he had kept tabs on us a while, he said. That’s why he invited me to come down there. I knew about him and I knew about his Church in San Francisco. But I had never imagined that suddenly there would be somebody at one of our shows saying that we had a personal invitation from LaVey. ‘… If you would like to come there tonight after the show.” I certainly like that very much. That would be very interesting. What it really meant to me was, I had read the Satanic Bible at that time and felt I could really relate to a lot of what was in there. What I actually went down to the Church to do was to, for myself, to confirm that this was not a guy who wrote a book just for the fuck of it, but that this was actually a guy who had meant what he had written in there, and felt what he’d written in that book… to make sure for myself that this was not a phony. And that I certainly had confirmed so heavily by being there and by meeting the person and talking a long time in complete privacy. So that was a very unique experience that I will never forget. I’m not promoting the Church in a conscious way. I write whatever comes to mind, whatever I feel is important to me to write about in the lyrics. Usually, King Diamond Is a full concept horror story, and it is again about voodoo, and it delves in the real heavy side of the voodoo religion, not just the sticking little pins in dolls and shit like that. It just fascinated me what is in that religion and how it’s looked upon, and then creating a whole scenario to try and do a suspense kind of horror. It could almost be a movie. That’s always the way I look at it. This time it’s taken a little further on the album. You can see all the characters painted on little tarot cards so you can relate a little more to these people because you know what they look like now. There’s a map of the surroundings where it takes place. It gives the listener a whole different experience. We never have done that before. We’ve always left it up to people’s imagination to picture how this person looks like. It gives even me a cool perspective because even though I had them in my mind, the artist that did the cover artwork for this album did an unbelievable job. I believe it’s the best artwork we’ve had ever. It’s just so good to sit and look at. (returning attention back to the lyrics) It has a lot of what Satanism’s all about… humanism, you know. It has a lot of that… how people interact with each other… and feelings… how you feel when you do this and that to another person. That’s always something that I’ve been very interested in. The Mercyful Fate album that’s called “Dead Again,’ it’s very much back to the roots. It’s an extremely heavy album. Killer sound. It’s got the longest song that I’ve ever done in my career. There’s a 13 minute and 24 song second. It’s more In the vein of the old Mercyful Fate. If I feel like saying the word “Satan’ in a song, well, I’ll say it, or I’ll say “Lucifer” or whatever the hell. It doesn’t matter. And it’s there several times. It seems a bit more free, not thinking too much of what is this person or that person going to think about this and that… are they going to misunderstand this, or what? If they haven’t got it by now, they won’t get it. (laughs) So to hell with it.
I was at one of your shows with an issue that had Ernie from Sesame Street… I don’t know if you are familiar with him. But he was crucified in place of Jesus on the cover. I was surrounded by security guards and the owner of the club who ejected me, saying that he didn’t want that kind of stuff in his concert hall because the patrons would be offended. And I asked, “Do you know who King Diamond is? How can any of his fans be offended by this?’ So I ended up handing the magazine out on the corner anyway. When I got it I took it to the studio of course. Everybody was just laughing their ass off so hard. It was so fucking cool, man.
But there are plenty of idiots out there. I regret I don’t have a copy of the new Mercyful Fate album. (Advance tapes were not available). By the time this hits, people will be anticipating. Yeah. Well what can I say? I personally think also that it’s some of the strongest compositions we’ve ever had. We feel so strongly about it. That’s also from hearing from those few people who have heard it.
Has anything changed with the actual tone of the guitar? Not a bit, man. Hank is using the same guitar. He’s using the same amps and shit like that that we recorded Don’t Break the Oath on. But there’s an improvement in the overall sound on this album, and that’s got to do with the studio. They had a brand new mixing desk in there. They got new tape recorders for us. And one thing is that the studio was rebuilt two years ago, I think, and all wiring is top-line cables everywhere. Everything worked in the studio. Everything had the clearest cleanest signal I have ever experienced. And that was actually something that was totally new for me, to actually go into the recording room where all the amps and shit was said up… hearing the sound in there, and then go into the control room hearing the same tone… that was amazing to me. Usually it takes a little while to set the microphone up the right distance, and then flnd the right speaker in the cabinet that sounds the way you want it to sound. Each speaker will sound completely different depending on how far away and how you anchor it to that speaker, and all this shit…. you can get so many different sounds. But it came within an hour. And that amazed the shit out of me. So we’ve gotten the real sound now.. the real guitar sound. You can still recognize it as the one from Don’t Break the Oath. It just sounds better, bigger, fuller. You only had so-and-so amount of frequencies in the early days. Now you get the whole frequency of that guitar, actually.
If the album has a similar approach to the old days, the drums of the old days… seemed, because of the reverb on the toms, almost like war drums in the distance. I’ve noticed that the drums of new Mercyful Fate are more up-front… more like a “small room’ feel rather than a big cavern or a valley between two mountains. What is the equalization and the reverb of the new drums? The drums sound completely different. We never had such a good drum sound as we have on this Mercyful fate album We didn’t have to fight in any way. It came so quick. That’s the scary part about it. That was again… you were in a room with mikes that actually captured that right sound. You don’t have to sit and fuck around with 800 different microphones and still think “God man! That snare sounds so weak!” We got a big fat sound on the entire drum kit immediately. And we didn’t use very much EQ on anything. It’s very much the natural sound In the room that comes across. The drums are very powerful, and Bjarne Is playing better than ever. There’s some complex shit in there, and he’s just all over that kit in a very good way. I don’t think I’ve ever played with anyone that put down drums that well. Bjarne can be proud of what he laid down on tape this time. And his kit does sound killer. And his kit has always sound killer. But this time It just came through the whole way.
Is he the same drummer from Hank Sherman’s project, which was simply called “Fate?” Yeah. He goes so much further back. He was the flrst drummer approached by Hank when Hank and I started Mercyful Fate. But he was busy in another project, playing some progressive… Emerson, Lake, and Palmer style of music. And he didn’t want to let those guys down. So he had to pass. Then we found Kim Ruzz instead.
He is a mailman now. Yeah. (laughs)
Someone remarked to me that the musicians who play for you… It’s a very close-knit family, and very related to old days. It certainly Is. Mike Wead is the, you can say… the new guitarist recording. But he’s been playing with the band for quite a while now because Michael Denner has been… I would say, slowly retiring over the last couple of years. It started out with the U.S. tour where he couldn’t really get off and his wife was pregnant. He was expecting his flrst child. Then he got married in between the U.S. tour and the European tour we did in the Spring last year. There he was not really able to go out and do the full tour because his wife had just had a baby and there were some small complications which have been totally rectified. There’s no problem at all. He was a little scared of her condition. So he didn’t want to go out for a longer time. He said, ‘I can go out and do the flrst ten shows, maybe. And then Mike Wead can come in and take over again.’ That was not good for us and would be totally unprofessional, and not fair to Mike Wead nor the fans. It would be double work for us. You rehearse all the songs in the set before the tour, and then what? Mike Wead suddenly comes flying In and, ‘OK, here are the songs we are playing.’ Then we have to build up that tightness feel. It was just not working out that way. Nobody can live with that, and he understood that totally. Then we pretty much made the decision for him and said, “It’s probably time that you retire.” And he said, ‘Yes. I guess that’s exactly what I am looking for.’ So, of course, we are the very closest of friends still. That will never change. But, for Mercyful Fate, It was a good move because we now have a guy that is committed 200%. No matter what it takes, he’ll be there, where Michael Denner had a lot of circumstances that made it impossible for him to commit himself that much. Mike Wead had done a full U.S. tour and a full European tour, and that’s when we decided that it’s probably best because then Michael Denner might fly in and do the album and then he might not be able to do the next tour and maybe he’ll do the tour after that down the road… we couldn’t live with that. We needed a stable and very firm line-up that we could trust the whole way and know we can always count on. It’s been a great transition because Mike Wead was actually suggested as the stand-in for Michael Denner on that first U.S. tour. Michael Denner said, ‘That guy, I guarantee you, he can play my solos maybe even better than I can these days.” He has that Schenkar feel that Michael Denner has, and at the same time has that modern touch whenever that’s needed. In total respect he learned Michael Denner’s solos note-for-note. That’s the way it should be. So many of Michael Denner solos are very memorable, and you expect to hear those certain notes when you listen to the band live. That’s why It was so cool that Mike just went in and copied them. It was like ‘Some day I’ll get my chance to do my own solos.’ And that’s what he’s done on this new album. And sometimes it sounds like Michael Denner. It’s scary. Sometimes it’s a different style, which is great. It’s Mike Wead.
Interview with Nichole Drohomyreky and Jason Hartman conducted by Bill Zebub for the Grimoire of Exalted Deeds magazine.
Nichole, I must begin this interview by confessing how lost I have become in your voice. I cannot compare you to anyone else. You have truly developed a new style. Is there anything that you would like to share about your approach?
(Nichole)Thank you. I know my voice is not for everyone and I have a hard time hearing it myself… on voicemail, or even played back in the studio…But this body of music was a very cathartic experience for me to write. I hope the listener feels the experience too. It was a strange time for Jason and m moving back to Wisconsin from PDX and being new parents. A lot of emotion was flowing out of me, and may have inadvertently affected or cultivated the style.
The song “Heavy Dreamer” is magical. I have listened to it fifteen times in a row and could have gone longer if I did not have to attend to some biological functions. I think that it is impossible to tire of it. I even daydream about it. It’s impossible to ask just one question about it, so I hope that you don’t mind it taking up a larger portion of the interview. Let’s begin with the singing. Your voice invites me into the world of the song, and it really does feel like I am in another place. Nichole, you guide me in with a an otherworldly voice, serene and wizened, and you launch into intense emotion. It’s quite an experience to hear you. You go up and down in feeling, and the melancholy parts are beautiful. How did you come upon this mastery? You sang to my soul.
(Nichole) Oh man that means a lot that you connected to this song. I love this song too, and its still super fun to perform. Oddly I wrote the chorus first on this one, which is in reverse of how I usually put songs together. I honestly don’t even remember how the “Child in Time” thing came into it. It’s been referenced much,almost comically, and I do love that song deeply, so it may have subconsciously snuck into the work. Another song that didn’t make the album was absolutely inspired by Deep Purple and not sure when we will release that one. I’m a sucker for a ballad and LOVE to write them. I could easily see myself releasing nothing but ballad albums. If I can keep the guys enlisted (laughs) The song is very personal but I really tried to open the lyrics to share with others to have their own experience. It was,however, inspired by my daughter, and the great love, admiration, and inspiration I have for her and her true spirit. It means a lot to hear that other’s are feeling deeply connected to it, as I, and the band do too. I have to give credit to Hart,our drummer, for writing the back up vocal production on this song, and Rachel Catherine Kent and I performed it on the recording. It’s lower in the mix and behind the main vocal, but when you hear it, it is quite lovely. Rachel Catherine Kent has been playing shows with us since the album’s release, which has been a thrill to hear that stuff live, and changed in a really great way. She sang in a band called ‘No Hoax‘ here in Madison and completely blew me away. The song would never be as majestic if it weren’t for the incredible guitars work of Jason -my favorite solo on the album, and the tasteful, skilled playing of Jerry Sofran and Hart A. Miller. Such a dream to play with such killer musicians.
Jason, the guitar in “Heavy Dreamer” is another spellbinding part. The distortion is quite a deep fuzz, but is is also the playing that makes it seem like each strum of a chord is played like it is sound to be savored. The chords also spring upon the vocals like a flourish meant to enhance all of the song elements. It seems like this song was lovingly crafted. What was in your mind? Surely this was not meant to be simply a tune. It feels like each part of the music was chosen to ensnare any person capable of deep emotion.
(Jason) Nikki deserves most of the credit on “Heavy Dreamer” the song AND the album. She wrote the majority of the songs. The song “Heavy Dreamer” was written by her on organ and synthesizer in its entirety before I added the guitar. So I had those instruments as a guide, as well as the vocal melody. So yes, the guitar is built around her ideas vocally/ musically/ emotionally. I usually have a lot of different ideas and try to incorporate the best ones. It is usually pretty easy to decide what to choose and Nikki generally likes my input. We have played together for so long and grown musically together in the same directions, it is sometimes uncanny. I tend to want to make things busier than needed at times and I’ve been working on simplifying, just using the necessary notes for maximum emotion. Nikki is also a busy player so we have to leave room for each other. Jerry Sofran (bass) and Hart Allan Miller (drums) laid back on this one and kept the rhythm section open which was needed for this I think.
Would you like to talk about the production of the album? I am specifically intrigued by the choices in modulation and echo. I don’t dare guess whether you favor delay or reverb. I’d also like to know how you achieved such dimension.
(Nichole) Our drummer Hart Allan Miller is a very talented engineer/ producer. We recorded the drum,some guitars, keys at a local studio called Blast House with Dustin Sisson, and the rest was done by Hart at his studio, “Nightmare House”. He engineered and produced the album with us. Also, Rachel Catherine Kent performed some vocals on tracks, ‘Creation,” and ” Heavy Dreamer.” Jason and I have always been heavy effects users and I could literally drown in reverb and love it… interesting dilemma with sound engineers particularly at live shows! Hart worked relentlessly on this album and I agree, his choices to feature certain instrumentation,like the keys and effects at times were very thoughtful and absolutely made a band as “dense” as ours have balance and not turn to mud. We’ve always went to expensive studios that were really over our heads and budgets really, so much was compromised. Dimension was honestly realized this time by the sheer work and dedication from Hart as an engineer and producer, but also we worked really long and hard on writing these songs too.
I noticed that the official videos show, shall we say, the band in sort of after-images, visual trails – this suits the psychedelic aspect, but is it a statement that the music is to be heard and for the sound to create the visuals? I know that in my case, whether my eyes are open or close, I no longer see the earth when I listen to “Heavy Dreamer.”
(Nichole)I think that’s exactly how I feel about the videos. I want visual imagery and sound to come together to create an experience together, rather than they being separate which I think a lot of bands do with video -and can be done well, but I definitely prefer the more artful approach. We wanted darkness to meet beauty and largely I feel that came across. We ended up enlisting a very talented videographer, Aaron Hall, from Rockford, Illinois, who filmed and edited the videos. Aaron really brought the ideas to life, gorgeous footage, and incorporating very creative effects,. Was a thrill watching the ballet dancers, skaters, and transforming a warehouse, bedroom, and a roller rink into dreamy worlds. As an artist, having the ability to add imagery and movement to your sound is a thrilling and symbiotic concept.
I thought that your band was surely from another country. Have you been told that you don’t sound American? There is just too much creativity at work in your music.
(Nichole) (laughs) No. Well, at least don’t think so. I’ve definitely had people be off guard that we are from Wisconsin, but have not heard that before.
(Jason) I have heard that before. Even our bassist Jerry has said that was one of the things that drew him to us, that our sound was very un- American. Jerry is a fan of a lot of German music from the Kraut Rock of Amon Duul 2, Can, Neu , . as well as hard rockers The Scorpions, Accept to thrashers Kreator, Destruction as well as electronic music of Kraftwerk. A lot of great music from there. We targeted European record labels to release this album because we thought they might understand it or at least accept it as I think it is more open minded and creative over there in general. We ended up picking Svart out of Finland, an incredible and diverse label. We hope to get over there soon.
Jason, I was surprised that you had known about me before this interview. Are you surprised that I am not making any jokes? Well, you know, as a reader of The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds, that I don’t joke with people when the music is vital, like in my King Diamond interviews.
(Jason) I am a reader of the Grimoire! Your questions and interaction have been so heartfelt that I felt no apprehension or worry about jokes! It’s part of the fun!
The keyboards sometimes are prominent, and sometimes drop in volume, which I think is cool. It seems like each component in a song takes turns being accented, and of course, there is the mastery of the parts coming together to for greatest effect, building each other up. Do you write songs almost like creating an adventure for the listener?
(Nichole) As a group, we all tried our best to write our parts thoughtfully, thus giving space when needed and vice versa. Laying back during solos and vocals et cetera. Jerry is a masterful bassist – always serving the song so beautifully, and Hart and Jason both shred and pull back when needed. Really was important to us and took awhile to construct and choose what should be highlighted at particular points in each song.
I noticed that the album didn’t come with lyrics. Is that intentional? I wonder if it is a proclamation of art – that the listener should hear what he or she wants to perceive.
(Nichole) We did release the lyrics with the vinyl, but it’s funny you mention that, as I really did open my lyrics up in a more, deliberate and broad way in hopes to share the experience with others. Still personal and abstract though.
It’s funny that even as I ask these questions, I can’t get ‘Heavy Dreamer” out of my mind. I am working on a black metal documentary, and I am tempted to include an excerpt of that song. I think that it is so incredible that it will turn on anyone, no matter what the clique or musical preferences are. Have you noticed that your fans are diverse? Are there any examples of people who surprised you when they revealed their appreciation?
(Nichole) I’ve not noticed a huge commonality with our fans yet, except that the most enthusiastic and passionate responses have been from men. I was hoping to reach more women, especially since I’m such an emotional creature I’ve actually been surprised by the metal following, as we’re not the most brutal band in the world (laughs). I and the band all have a nicely varied musical palette. We all do love metal though, and the Cure, and Pink Floyd, et cetera. so I greatly appreciate anyone who can see through the need to pigeonhole a sound and ‘genre-ify‘ it? Is that a word? We’ve always, as a band, sort of existed between worlds. We’re not metal enough, goth enough, psych, et cetera or too much in one way for others. So thank you to anyone who can just listen to it and appreciate it without needing to label it.
I want the world to know about you. If I didn’t have a radio show and a magazine, I wonder if I would have discovered “Vanishing Kids.” Your album is too important to die unknown. What are some ways that I can help, and what challenges hurt your climb to the top?
(Nichole)Oh man, just truly listening and feeling the music means more than you’ll ever know. Our attention spans as a species are changing and people give music a 5-10 second chance on their crappy computer speakers. So many bands put so much heart, money, and time into their work and it’s literally just dismissed quickly. Remember the albums that we had to listen to over and over and then it hits you like a ton of bricks?! Certainly happened for me with bands like Sonic Youth, Voivod, and Rush…Or HAVING to actually go to a venue to check out a band. Please truly listen to music before dismissing it. Music is personal, and I promise you that I and my bandmates put our whole hearts and soul into what we do. To write and perform music is my most favorite thing in the world, next to my family. .If you are truly paying attention that is the greatest contribution. Spreading the word is greatly appreciated too, and check out a show in your area if you can. Its hard for us to tour and a big endeavor when we can make it happen – this,means a lot to see fans.
Plug any site or anything you wish.
(Jason) You can get “Heavy Dreamer” at vanishingkids.bandcamp.com or at svartrecords.com Although it is 90% sold out! I hope they repress. Nik and I are writing the new album currently and hope to have that recorded over the winter. Nik and I are also working on a more traditional 80’s hard rock EP under the name Diati. Also I wrote a song on the new Thor album “Hammer Of Justice.” The song is called “Wotan”. I played guitar, Nikki did back up vocals and our drummer Hart played drums, bass and recorded it.
Interview with Tom Sutton conducted by Bill Zebub for THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS magazine
Israfel is an angel who has mastery of music. In that sense, I can understand why the band uses the name. Your riffs are quite tasty. But is it not a strange choice to use the name of an angel, especially when the lyrics are sometimes demonic?
Yeah, there’s plenty of good old-fashioned satanic panic in the lyrics, for sure. But the idea for the band was always that the music would ultimately be uplifting. I wanted to share happiness with people, even if the music is presented in a melancholy way. I think religious imagery always has a kind of majesty and weight, so I liked the idea of using the name of an angel for the band. So far, all the songs have some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure it will always be that way, but that’s the way it has been so far.
It may be none of my business, but wouldn’t your band be best suited to a label like Svart Records? I love many of the albums on Napalm Records, but your classic riffing and vocals seem a tad out of place on that label.
My other band, Night Viper, actually did our first album on Svart. Yeah, it would have been a good fit. Napalm just expressed interest very early on, and we liked their approach, so we didn’t feel like we had to think much further than that. Napalm have started really diversifying, though. I think they want to be a label that covers a wide range of heavy music rather than just one or two styles. They have released Candlemass albums, so there are other bands that we have things in common with on there.
Do you know Chritus from Goatess and Count Raven? I am not sure why I am asking this.
Haha! Yeah, we know him well. We have played a couple of shows with Goatess. He actually got on stage with us at our second show to do a cover of Candlemass‘ ‘Solitude’ along with Mappe from Candlemass. My first exposure to Saint Vitus was actually the video clip for ‘Fear’ which was from the album Chritus is on. That was Saint Vitus as far as I knew for a pretty long time.
Your band is not stoner doom, but some of the riffs flirt with that style. I’d like to call you heavy metal because some of your songs remind you of how I felt when I first heard Black Sabbath. Rather than ask you what your category is, because that is more for retailers than for music fans, I’d like to know what you are thinking when you create music.
It varies from song to song, I guess. It depends what kind of feeling I get from the early riffs in a song. Like, something that feels spiritual will lead me to think of some kind of lesson or message. I’ll reach for something deep and universal. Something that feels more cinematic will lead me in more of a narrative direction. I always want each line of lyrics in the song to play its role in telling the story of that song, so I’m trying to make sure I’m disciplined about that rather than just throwing stuff in because it rhymes. And then as we’re putting the details into the song, it’s about creating an interesting color palette for the ears and making it more exciting or giving it more atmosphere.
The vocals sometimes remind me of Jethro Tull. I don’t mean that as an insult, or even as a comparison. What I mean is that the vocal delivery seemed very good for storytelling, and your lyrics are of things happening, words of action.
Ah, thanks. Our bass player loves Jethro Tull, and we even asked Ian Anderson to play flute on our second album, but he didn’t have time. Kind of crazy that we even got a response. Yeah, I think it’s great to engage the power of story-telling in songs, and in those cases it’s important to be able to hear what the singer is saying. I’ve never written any short stories or whatever, but I love creating stories in songs. Actually, ‘The Noctuus’ from the first album and ‘A Shadow In The Hills’ from the second are parts one and two of a single story. I gotta come up with at least one more part now. Can’t leave the story hanging!
It’s cool how you have radio-length songs, like four minutes, and you also have a fifteen-minute song. You also vary from upbeat to something more like a doom dirge. Peter Steele would have called you “Schizo-phonic.”
Thanks. It’s something that bothers me a bit with Sabbath-family bands these days. They tend to pick one tempo or one vibe and then do that to death. I find it really boring, actually. The bands that established all this in the first place all had a lot of variety in their music. From Black Sabbath to Cathedral to The Gates Of Slumber, all my favorite bands in this style knew how to use light and shade and dynamics. I think it’s really important.
I’ve seen some live clips and it makes me envious of those who have been able to catch a show. Is America not ready for you to do a headline tour?
Man, we’d be playing all the time if we could. The fact is that all bands are at the mercy of how popular they are or aren’t, and whether or not booking agents are willing to put the time into booking tours for them and whether or not promoters in each city feel like they’ll make their money back. We’ve been pretty lucky in Europe, touring with Pentagram, The Year Of The Goat, et cetera, but the costs involved in coming to the US when it’s hard to say that anyone would come up just don’t make it feasible yet. I toured the U.S. once when I was in Church Of Misery, and it was one of the most fun tours I’ve ever done, so it would be fun to come back some time, for sure.
“The Vow” is quite chilling. Your songs sometimes can be left to interpretation whether or not the band has occult inclination, but this track has strong words. What effect has this had on fans who may not go this far into horror?
I’ve only ever heard one person outside of reviews talk about it. She loved it at least. I’ve never heard that anyone had a problem with it. I’m just surprised that no-one has recognized it for what it is. It’s from a film, actually. The guy who produced the album set up the sound effects, and I recorded the dialogue. It actually plays into the story of the song that follows it on the album, so I thought it would be cool. I still like how it turned out. Maybe I should do more spoken word!
“The Order of Israfel” makes me remember a time when bands sounded different from each other. Do you think that it’s harder for a unique band to become known in a time when people seem to be in musical cliques?
Maybe, but bands that don’t have much personality only get so far. They might find some kind of following, but people will always want something that stands out from the pack. It’s nice that you think we sound a bit different from other bands. I would hope so, but it’s hard to know about your own band, of course.
This is the first interview that Bill Zebub conducted with King Diamond, which was recorded on camcorder (lens cap was on – it was recorded this way because the audio was better quality than a micro-cassette). It was played on Bill Zebub’s college radio show. This was done during the THEM tour and the interview was conducted backstage at a club in Brooklyn called “L’amour.”