Interview with King Diamond conducted by Bill Zebub
(This interview was published in Issue #7)
I had brought to Kings attention that the song “Melissa’ did not have vocals over a certain part of the song when the album was released by Megaforce Records. But when Roadrunner Records released it, suddenly there were new vocals! Also, the Megaforce version had a very thick reverb on the voice, whereas the Roadrunner version had no such processing on the voice. I sent King Diamond the two different versions.
Did you receive the two versions of “Melissa?’
How do you think that happened?
I have absolutely no clue. It’s like I told you, it’s a physical impossibility. It makes absolutely zero sense.
Yes. If you handed in the master to Megaforce, how could they have erased vocals?
What I hear is that giant reverb that you talk about… You talked about that too, remember?
And that I hear big-time. Wow, man! I do NOT understand how that could’ve happened.
So which version do you prefer, the Roadrunner or the Megaforce?
Well, the Roadrunner is the original.. I know that. I really cannot explain how that can happen because it’s impossible.
That ‘Melissa’ song is like the Bermuda Triangle.
Did you hear the backwards message that I also provided, where you are saying, “What message is this?”
That I did not hear. No. Did you include that on the tape?
Yes I did. Perhaps I shall send another.
That is very interesting. Maybe there are even more powers to that song. That other stuff there is so strange because I remember the first time we talked about it I was like, “No fucking way! There’s no way in hell that that can happen.’ And I still would say that there is no way in hell that that could have happened. But I have now heard that it exists, which is mind-blowing to me. You just can’t add to vocals. We have the 24-track master. They could never have gotten a hold of that, first of all. They get a finished master. They would never get a 24-track tape. That remains in the studio. What they would get could be a 1/2” master, which is everything mixed down. It’s what they master the album from. So the only thing they could have done there, if somebody thought it was funny or whatever, go in and add some extra reverb or something. But then it would be through the entire thing. It would be guitars, bass, drums… everything, because you can’t divide up tracks on a 1/2.” It’s not possible.
Someone was interpreting your vision.
Yeah. But probably not humans because it’s physically impossible.
Indeed this is quite a mystery. It is so odd that,
of all backwards messages that could appear on his album, the one that would result when the words “”Satan”s cross upon the wall” are played backwards is “What message is this?’ Let us delve further. Could the backwards message be asking “What are we telling you by wiping out vocals even though it is not physically possible?” Is this evidence of the supernatural?
I have been discovering gold mines of old material when Kim Ruzz was in the band, even video footage from Holland.
There Is one show from Holland that nobody has which is EXTREMELY good quality.
It is coming to me even as we speak.
Yeah, but it won’t be that one. Guaranteed. We have the only master tape of that show.
Maybe one day fans worldwide will be able to have that.
We even approached the record label about that. Why not compiling all our video’s that we have done so far? There is quite a few by now. We do have some live stuff that we took from people who were shooting it right there. So we have the only copies ever made. There is some interesting footage there.
Somehow, someday, the earlier albums must be transcribed into sheet music and tablature, not so much for the chords, but some of the guitar is just so bizarre at some points.
That’s true. That’s very true
It would be very interesting to find out what was in the composer’s mind.
Of course, sometimes guitarists play chords in a different way. Others would transcribe it in a traditional way. You wouldn’t get the right sound out of the chord, you know. But you’d be very close. But the difficulty, mainly, is more the memory. You need to have really good memory to play all the way through that song (Satan’s Fall), and to play all those riffs in the right sequence because it’s not logical at all. And that’s the problem with playing that song… very illogical build-up.
You have angered so many guitarist whom I’ve approached, begging , ‘Please, pick out the notes from these solos.’ They give up!
You would not want to know the insults that were spoken against Hank Sherman and Michael Denner by the frustrated guitarists whom I have sought to employ.
The funny thing about most of Hank’s solos… they’re planned. He’s the guy who plans his solos. He does very little spontaneous solo-ing. Michael Denner is the opposite. He does most of his solos spontaneously and then he pretty much learns them afterwards.
That is so strange. There are a few very unusual time changes. But they’re more strange in that they are not noticeable unless they are looked for.
Are you responsible for that?
Well, very much, yeah. And also, Hank, definitely in the songs HE wrote. The thing is, the longer we play this style, the more naturally things come to us. It’s not like we sit and plan to do anything complicated at all. It doesn’t seem complicated. That’s not a thing that you pay attention to unless you sit there and try to play along with it. The time changes are not something that we sat down and said, “Let’s do a time change.” We just write straight from the heart like we’ve always done. That’s why it’s tough for other band members to get involved in the songwiiting. I’ve seen it before… several times, when Hal Patino was playing with King Diamond… Tim Hansen tried something with Mercyful Fate in the old days. Snowy Shaw, the drummer, is a pretty good guitarist actually, and he used to write a lot of songs when he was in the band Memento Mori. Even Sharlee tried to write something for Mercyful Fate. But it didn’t belong there at all. Hank and I didn’t want to say to them, “That stuff doesn’t cut it. It’s not Mercyful Fate music.” But we actually sent it off to Brian Slagel. He heard it and said that it’s got nothing to do with Mercyful Fate. There has to come a certain feel from the music. It’s not enough that you have skillful writers because they will force putting something complicated into the music just to please us. It doesn’t work if it doesn’t come in a natural way. That’s why it takes such a long time. Andy now is beginning to write more and more songs for King Diamond. There is a certain feel that needs to come from what’s been written. When there is complicated stuff, it’s nothing that we’ve been planning. It all seems natural for us.
Time changes usually attract attention, or they disturb the listening experience. But the time changes on the new album flow so well that it took a drummer to point out the changes to me.
That’s why it’s so difficult to write that way if you don’t feel that way naturally. If you just come in there and just write straight from your heart, most people would not put the time changes into the music where we do. We just feel a little different about these things.
The newer music seems to be more melodic. That seems to give it a more up-beat feeling, whereas in the old days it was more dark. Do you agree?
I think that both things are in there because there is some obscure shit that is in there. You know that we were very straightforward in the old days on a lot of songs. It might be the way that we arrange songs now. We always had melody. The song “A Dangerous Meeting” has a lot of breaks. But it has a lot of melody and choruses. “Nuns have No Fun” is a very straight forward song. We had a lot of those. “Evil” is very straightforward too, even vocal-wise. So THAT I don’t think has changed a whole lot. I know that on the new album there are a couple of tones that I haven’t used with my voice before. It just felt right for those types of songs. “Into the Unknown” really reminds me a lot of old stuff that could have been from “Don’t Break the Oath” very much because of the intricacy and how I sometimes sing there. Some of the stuff on that song you would have a very hard time hitting my timing if you were singing along. If you had to stand there and sing it on your own, with the band, you would have an extremely hard time getting that specific time feel. Sometimes you go in, not on the down beat, but a half beat later. If you go straight in on the down beat it’s much more aggressive. But it’s a matter of varying those things and finding what suits the riffs.
It is so strange that there are so many components to something that, to an ear that is casually listening, sound simple.
True. Yeah. There is a part in “Into the Unknown” where I’m singing “Sin … sin … sin” The timing of those extra words “sin”… if you try to hit it, it’s a feeling thing. It’s kind of like Robert Plant… he has this incredible ability and flair for timing. Very few people can mimic his timing… the way he pronounces words, how he drags them, how long he holds them, where he starts certain words. He’s very feeling-oriented and not so much technical oriented like “Get in on the down beat there.” It’s very much like coming a millisecond after.
Has there been an annoying producer involved on the new albums?
We are completely responsible these days for our stuff. We have Tim Kimsey, who is pretty much one of us, who was hired as an engineer instead of Roberto Falcao. But because of the killer job that he does, he deserves to be credited as co-producer. But he was originally hired as an engineer on the album “In the Shadows” because Roberto Falcao was unable to leave Denmark and come to the U.S.A. and record that album with us. When I talked to him he said, “All you need now is a good first engineer, because you can produce yourself.”
Currently Texas is your home. Does living there influence your outlook toward music?
Not a bit. Not one bit. No.
How involved art you in the Texan culture? Has it rubbed off on you in any way?
I don’t think so. You won’t hear me say “ya’ll”. I know what’s going on now in the United States. But I’m still 100% Danish. I’m aware now how things are done in the U.S.
The reason I ask is, your pronunciation and word usage in the past has been more like that of classical literature. But now, your pronunciation in phrases like “who’s GONNA die” seem to be directly from the Texan way of speaking.
You know, yeah… that’s a thing that has happened gradually. If you went back and took it album by album, you could gradually hear it. In ’88, when we moved to the United States… you get stronger in the language, and your vocabulary expands. You just know a whole lot more words. I don’t even think when I speak English. In the early days, when doing interviews, I literally had to sit and think. When someone asked me a question, I was thinking in Danish and then I had to translate my Danish thoughts into English. It was pretty tough explaining, because it was not easy subjects that we were dealing with. There was a lot of explaining to do. But these days, I even told my wife that I dream in English now. When I write little notes for myself – what I have to do – “remember this” and “call this guy” – it’s sometimes English, sometimes Danish… sometimes half and half. Plus it’s a benefit for me, writing in English feeling more comfortable in the language, not to think for five minutes before actually writing what I have to say.
There is a new kind of singing… the best way
for me to describe is, your voice is strained almost to the voice of breaking… but not being lost. I know that many Southwestern vocalists employ such techniques.
Yeah. That’s some of the new stuff that I am completely aware of. You find a lot of old-fashioned Mercyful Fate in there. But there are some new ways that I use the tone of the voice. There are times in there when it would just be easier to do a low falsetto. Then usually you would have to multiply them by quite a few because we’re not singing Barry Manilow or something like that, where you could sing with this bawdry soft voice. If I did that it wouldn’t fit the music at all. It has to be full power. Singing in a very low falsetto – full power – that makes that low falsetto crack. But then you could get by and do something completely crazy. But then you might get away from the original idea you have. They are chosen there on some spots to go full blast, as high as you can get with a normal voice – I can get pretty high with a normal voice, even when I sing powerful. Most of the vocalists you hear on albums today – they sing no louder than I speak now. There you will see one hell of a difference between what I do. I am full blast in the studio. I am full blast live. That’s one thing that I’ve been told by our sound engineer. “God Damn man! Singing so much power into that mike!’ How can I have those emotions that I feel in me for certain things if I didn’t sing full blast and holding back just to be clean?
Did your father die recently?
No. That’s a long time ago. Eight years ago.
In the song, “Daddy” remembering your father’s death, did that…
Of course, you do think of your own dad. But it’s nothing like I saw him recently as a spirit or something like that. It’s a tool you use. You put that emotion into the vocals. A lot of people would get very emotional from listening to that song. I know for a fact, when we did record it, that song was one of the very few songs that has been done with no additional vocals. It’s one lead vocal. That’s all. Most of the times I double the lead vocal – sing twice exactly the same to create a certain sound of the voice. That’s extremely hard because of all the bent notes and crazy shit I do. That one song, ‘Daddy’ was one lead vocal all the way through. And it was done in only four takes. I had the lyrics done in twenty minutes. It’s the fastest song I’ve ever done in my life. The second engineer, while I was recording it – when I was halfway through, he walked out of the studio, crying. It was pretty heavy. And Tim Kimsey, he went out and called his dad in the middle of the night just to see if he was O.K.
I knew there was a special dynamic at work there. It had to have been an actual loss. That emotion cannot be faked.
No. Also, the second engineer, his father died two years ago, and it brought up some memories when I was singing that stuff, that he just broke out and left the studio.
I must admit that that song does work a potent spell. No pun intended. Thou art the Pied Piper.
You can say so. Yeah. If you look at other things that we talked about – putting full-blast emotion into the vocals – the ending of the song, “I Am” where I’m pretty much screaming at the top of my lungs, “Die!” – I picture this guy, McEnzie, the mayor in this story, who’s a child molester – I picture this fictitious guy who I know exactly what he looks like in my mind. But you have to be able to get so deep into the story that you pretty much become who you’re singing about. I saw this guy. It was all clear when I was recording the ending part of that, and just completely freaked out. So everybody was laughing in the control room afterwards.
To me, the operatic vocals of earlier albums were operatic in a “classical” sense. Does it have any meaning to you when I say that, these days the operatic vocals are operatic in a “metal” sense?
I don’t think of it in those ways. I don’t plan that they have to have a certain classical feel to it. It always comes down to what fits the music and the story and the lyrics.
Your critics say that new Mercyful Fate sounds no different from new King Diamond. They disagree that new Mercyful Fate has any relationship with old Mercyful Fate. The reason that I am telling you this is that it is a sentiment that some fans feel, and I think it would be good for you to address that.
O.K. I haven’t heard that. With regards to these two new albums, in over a hundred interviews in Europe, when Hank and I were over there. and everybody else that wee talked to that has heard it so far, has been able to hear probably the very clearest difference between the two bands ever. The sound of the two bands, the musicians that are involved, the whole concept, even my vocal style on the two – there’s a big difference. Of course, you should be able to recognize my voice because it’s so special that you would always be able to. But the musical style and all that stuff, the kind of feel that comes from one band compared to the other… I have experienced from people’s views, the extreme difference.
I just wanted to bring that up.
Oh yeah. But I have heard only the opposite with regards to these new albums. There’s a bigger difference between the two of them than has ever been. It’s like one album could be Deep Purple and the other could be Black Sabbath. That’s how different they actually sound, both production-wise and song-wise.
I did see something on the new Mercyful Fate that I didn’t think that I’d ever see. And that is the word, ‘Lucifer.’
But that was even on the last album.
But now there is an actual track called, ‘Lucifer.’
I thought that you were trying to shy away from that in order not to scare away the more narrow-minded fans.
No. I’ve never been shying away from anything. I’ve been using different words to describe things, to not be misunderstood. I don’t think that is the case anymore. I think that I have done so many interviews that people know what I think. There might be people out there that have never given us a chance to know what we stand for. They might feel a little awkward. Then they ARE narrow-minded. (laughs). If you have an open mind, that’s the only way you’re ever going to learn in this world. That is why you are here, in my opinion. If people don’t have an open mind, they probably won’t listen to us anyway.
That Is true. But I was very relieved when I saw that.
The word “Satan’ is even in there.
Tom Warrior, from Celtic Frost, was so angry toward your earlier lyrics because he thought that, by you not explaining anything in songs like “Black Masses” that you were subverting children. I had to laugh at him when he told me that. But he was an enemy of yours in that regard. He did not approve of such demonic words. I know that on that King Diamond album, there are a lot of nasty things going on lyrically. But there is a warning about the events not being glorified by the listener. Perhaps you would like to talk about that.
First of all, all King Diamond albums deal a lot with the human mind, and what’s going on in the present time. Even stories like “Abigail” that took place in the I8th century. This new story does take place in the present time. But there’s always been that part in there. There’s the story, for those that don’t want to get deeply involved in anything. That’s fine, because buying the album should be entertaining. But for those who do want to go in deeper, there is always a question being asked, trying to make people think… make up their own minds about certain things. That’s what I like to do – raise questions about subjects that people might not always be thinking about – not telling them what they should do or what’s right and wrong, because it’s all individual – but definitely raising questions. You’re never going to solve problems if you don’t talk about them. I know that there is beginning to be, for that very reason, some organizations speaking out a little bit more.
I know nothing about the Danish prison system. But I heard that in Sweden, murderers are given vacations from prison – maybe a weekend out of the month, to go home or something.
I don’t think murders are allowed to go home. But I know that they have some STRANGE rules. It’s because everything has to be so humanitarian. It goes for everything in this world. It’s always the bad guy that comes out on top. No matter what the hell they do, they have to be treated with kids gloves. They perform an action and they make a choice. They are aware of the consequences. Give them those consequences. But you’re right. You hear about these crazy things. ‘Open prison’ it’s called. They don’t put murderers in there. But there might be a wife beater or something like that, in jail for four or five years because he beat her into nothing. This guy will be allowed to go visit his family maybe once a month, followed by a prison guard or what do I know? They have TV’s, stereos… they have whatever it takes – “Well, they’re in there in that little room. They’ve got to have something.” They made the choice to end up in that room.
Wouldst you assume that every human being has a basic goodness?
I have always been reading that psychopathic people, or sociopaths, as they are called, are incurable. That is a real blow to the concept that everyone is good. But through studying the brains of criminals, it has been discovered that the front part Is not really as active in people who are impulsive killers. Do you think that punishing them in prison is the right thing to do?
I don’t think that people are innocent because of a momentary insanity. That can happen again. Should they just go free? “Oh, I didn’t know what I did. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t in control.” “Oh sure. We’ll let you go free because you didn’t know what you did. So there’s nothing bad in you. You’ll do it again. And then we’ll just talk to you again.” The problem is, there are certain types of humans that are not fit to live in a society.
This is true. My question was more about the treatment of these particular people in prison. The reason why I say that is, have you ever been so angry at a person that you would want to beat that person?
But something stops you. There is a censor. You are aware of the consequences, or perhaps it is just obvious that it would be the wrong thing to do.
It might be the right thing to do as well. If some guy was kicking in the door of my car. I think I know pretty much what I’d do to him.
But let us say it is just an argument. Let us say you are disagreeing over the new King Diamond album. What if some alien race, for one moment, took away your ability to censor impulsive thoughts, and you just went ahead and destroyed this other human being. Do you think that you are accountable, since you had no censor to use to stop yourself?
Of course I am. Who else would be accountable? The alien that you don’t have proof that exists? You have to go by rules and you have to go by known facts. That’s all you can go by. I do believe that there are other life in this universe. I think that it’s narrow-minded not to believe that there will be life somewhere out there in this thing that we live in that is so big that our brains can’t even comprehend it. But that doesn’t mean that people should not be held responsible for their actions, no matter what condition they’re under. If you kill somebody, whether you’re insane or not, there’s a good chance you’ll do it again, especially if people find out there is something wrong with you. Then you need to be kept away from society.
I agree with you about keeping the person away.
If you put them back out there, the same thing’s gonna happen again.
Why even keep a person alive, if the person is kept alive in humiliating conditions? Christians, who are most into the revenge against criminals… I mean, there is no other word for it… I do not see it as justice. I see it as revenge against the criminal. I just think it is hypocritical of people who pretend to live by the philosophy of “turn the other cheek” – when hit on one cheek, they want to instead of turning the other, they vengefully turn the person in. That might be one of the things that make people crazy – it is the radical theory of schizophrenia – that people just cannot accept the moral contradictions of reality and go into their own world.
But see, that’s a christian philosophy about ‘turn the other cheek.’ But again, a lot of the christian philosophy is not based at all on human instinct. And human instinct you just cannot take away, no matter which book you read or what movie you watch or whatever you do. Human instinct is something that is just there. It will make you react in a certain way to certain circumstances. Right? I know exactly what you’re saying, and this thing about some people believing in turning the other cheek – that’s fine. But if you really believe that strongly in it as you pretend, then live by it too. But they don’t live by it in many cases, right?
It is only when it is convenient – then you bring that thing up. But when it is a thing that suddenly affects you – it’s a different matter now.
I just want to make clear that I am not any kind of unrealistic humanitarian.
(laughs) Oh I know you’re not. I KNOW.
Do you think that a lot of people who are that way, and who defend criminals to no end – if they had a personal tragedy, if some person came into their house and mutilated the entire family, would they still have the same attitude?
You KNOW it’s gonna change ANYBOY’s viewpoint. You know it is. It doesn’t matter what god you believe in, as soon as those things come into the picture then things always get twisted out of proportion because people can’t teach a religion to themselves. They always have to judge others by their own religion, not realizing that hey, other people are different. That’s why we are called individuals. If you can’t respect that, then you don’t even have respect for yourself. I know that it’s so easy that when nothing bad has happened to you to put yourself on a pedestal. You’re up there and you’re like, “Oh no, you’re not doing this right.” I haven’t experienced any of these really bad things, Fortunately, knock on wood and all this stuff. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t get emotional when I talk about all these things, or when I see what’s going on around the world. That really affects me a lot. That’s because I have an extremely open mind. There’s a lot of people that don’t have that. And seeing that is like, “God damn!’ But that’s the way this world is.
Humanitarians need to temper their attitudes. They should just act, FEELING that they are good instead of needing to PROVE that they are good… it appears that we have strayed quite far from music.
This is interesting shit to talk about, for sure. But it’s also very difficult to get around in the right way. It has a lot to do, when you’re talking about these things, with your spiritual background – of how you see different things, of how you are ALLOWED to see different things. There are ways of killing too, right? You also kill in wars. You can, without being prosecuted. How do you tackle that subject?
Would kill if you were a soldier?
You can’t say until you know the circumstances. It completely depends on that. If I were in my dad’s shoes during the second world war, when he was a freedom fighter in Denmark and had to flee to Sweden because his group was discovered by the SS, or somebody squealed who the SS had gotten a hold of and talked under torture. I might have had to escape to Sweden at the bottom of a fishing boat. That was after he had been a freedom fighter for years. If I were in his situation, yes, sure. I would have killed to preserve my country. I’m sure that there were some Germans who felt like they were in the right to do what they did. That’s where we get into another crazy thing. What is right and what is wrong? They’re so individual. That Husein thinks he’s actually right because something tells him in an old book that this and this and this territory should belong to him. At least, that’s how he interprets an old book. He can’t believe anybody else can’t see it. But that’s this world. That’s human beings. There are no perfect solutions.
Isn’t that a spice of life?
Exactly. Without it, there wouldn’t be life. You can’t describe a good day if you’ve never had a bad day. All this stuff that we’re talking about has a lot to do with my personal spiritual beliefs. I don’t know where I’ve taken it from – I haven’t seen it in any book. But I have my own views. I do believe that it might take several lives for the power that we all have in us – it might take that power several lives in a human shell to have experienced all possible feelings that you can experience before you’re ready to move on to a completely different life form. That’s the only reason I’ve ever been able to give myself for why a two-year-old kid dies. But it does make sense if that power, having lived eight lives, by that time – two years old – that child has experienced what was needed to go on to a new life form. You don’t have to be on earth anymore. There’s no point for you to be here.
Or that child could have died so young to serve as a lesson for other people going through their journeys.
That Is true. If you had to experience all experiences that there are to experience, then there are a lot of things that make sense when you think about good and bad. It makes total sense to me that, if you imagine how many powers are in people here on earth, I believe some of them are first-timers, some of them may be fifth-timers. But a fifth-timer that is here gaining experience and knowledge has thoughts – four other lives – sometimes there are more of the powers here to experience bad stuff because they already have gone through some good experiences in other lives. Now it’s mainly bad stuff they need to experience. It’s hard to explain this. I could go on for hours. But those are a few of the points.
Because your beliefs and attitudes are so non-traditional, you must have had contact with judgmental people.
Yeah. If you don’t have an open mind, I can see it immediately. I don’t even want to associate with those people. You’ve got to have an open mind. Otherwise you can’t have a discussion. They will always feel that, no matter what, they’re always right. You’ve got to be willing to listen to another person. That’s the only way that you will learn. I’ve learned SO much stuff by having an open mind – things that I thought were like this or that – I found out “Hey! Wait a minute. That guy was right.’ I’m sure everybody has to experience all powers. I’m not saying every single human being on the earth right now has to experience the killing of another human being. But I think that I probably already have. Maybe I was even a witch hunter during the Inquisition. Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing some of the stuff I have now.
To atone for the past.
That is a possibility, yeah. I might have killed too. It might have been in a war. It might have been in self defense. It could be many ways because you can get the same feeling from many different actions. You have to go through every feeling – not every single action possible. It’s feelings we’re talking about. That’s my personal belief.