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.”
Interview with King Diamond conducted by Bill Zebub for Issue #31 of The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds magazine.
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. That
doesn’t make sense.
If anyone knows, it’s you, because you have a reputation for being meticulous.
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 multitrack 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 hing 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
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?
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 up 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 any 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 there 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 up. 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 the 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. It’s much easier to make an impact with an album like that at THAT time, than twenty years later 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 never 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 o 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 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 make 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 DVD’s 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 Mercyful Fate, 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, and 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 little 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 own 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 practically 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 Mercyful Fate 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 theaters, 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 Mercyful Fate, 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 sign 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 the
demos where I play everything. (laughs)
I’m very upset with the security you have 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 of those albums with 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 time 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 Kol 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 little 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 surprised.
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 Mercyful Fate 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” was 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 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 III 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 out 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 the 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
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 Mercyful Fate, 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 (sarcastictone) 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 that 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.
So MTV has the rights to that, not you.
Interview with King Diamond conducted by Bill Zebub for Issue #16 of THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS MAGAZINE.
EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: I had run a contest for readers to make their version of the cover of the NUNS HAVE NO FUN EP, using photographs. It was meant for humans to imitate the drawing on the album, but the winner actually used dolls. This picture was later used for movie covers – twice, actually.
You’re aware of the contest for the front cover.
Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing that.
I received some very strange photos. Some person (Damian Pring from Yardley, PA) depicted the Nuns Have No Fun cover with dolls. When I first looked at the pictures I was asking myself what sort of strange effect was on the photographs. Then I realized they were dolls.
That’s creepy, in a way, isn’t it?
It’s more creepy than a real life photo could be.
The King Diamond album The Graveyard has this lunatic in it. He’s killing off people and hanging their heads on the wall. He suddenly sees them as dolls.
There is an instrumental version of The Immigrant Song done by Mercyful Fate somewhere on this planet that you haven’t found yet.
I think either they threw the tape out or they went over it. I remember us trying it, and it didn’t work. It just would not sound right. So I doubt that it actually exists.
In those days they tried to save as much space on the reels as possible. It might have been an expense-cutting maneuver.
Yeah, and also, for the reissues Hank went into the studio where we recorded those albums and asked them for the master tapes. They said, “No, we sent them to Roadrunner”. What? When? Then we spoke to Roadrunner, and they never received any tapes. So in between people they just disappeared. I do have some really old stuff. I told you about that before… that Black Rose stuff. Every time I play it I say, “God man, this sounds pretty fuckin’ cool”. Even though it’s a rehearsal recording, everything’s so clear. I joke with Brian Slagel. I say I have this thing that no one has ever heard. And he says, “Any time. Just say the word and i’ll release it.”
You’re too much of a perfectionist for your fans, because there is a wealth of older stuff that you don’t want to officially sanction because of the drop outs and unstable recording levels.
You’re talking about the bootlegs.
Right. The song Nightmare, in its earlier stage…
The very first version was called Shadow Nights. Then it changed into Nightmare – the old version. Parts of that were mixed in with the Nightmare you hear on Don’t Break the Oath.
I have the recording of the concert with Shadow Nights, and that was when you yelled, “I hate disco!”
We were booked in a very wrong place. We were booked in a school, and it was the school’s last night. They thought they were getting a disco band. So there were ten people in the middle. The rest were boo-ing us, giving us the finger.
That was in a Michael Denner 3-piece band.
Yeah. That was when I was singing Mission: Destroy Aliens. It was written about this game where you shoot down these little things. You know what I’m talking about? Like an arcade game?
So it’s actually a song about a video game?
Yeah! That’s why it’s so horrible! I could not relate to it. What the hell was the other song? Of course, Truck Driver comes to mind. I almost refused. I asked, “Are you serious? You want me to sing this? Can I change some words?” I ride down the highway in my truck. I’m a truck driver. God! Where does that come from? You know? He’s never driven in a truck himself. Where would he get an idea like that?
I heard that Scandinavians have some sort of romantic notion of the cowboy subculture. And you are living in Texas…
(laughs) There you go. No, but serious, man… it was horrible. There was not 1% feeling behind it. It was a rock ‘n roll song first of all. It was not even metal. It was so not belonging anywhere.
The song Persecution came from that era too.
But that had feeling to it.
Well it was better than singing Truck Driver. So you might have gotten 25% out of me there.
I want to get back to the song A Dangerous Nightmare. Supposedly it came from a London performance. It has the catchy part of the version on Don’t Break the Oath. Over it you sang the words “Eyes of Fire”. Does that ring a bell?
It might be something that John Kibble recorded, you know.
That’s where I got it.
Well, there you go. He didn’t tell us about everything that was going on. Believe me. We didn’t know about certain shirts that were sold. Then we saw one. What the hell was that? “Hello dude. What are you making on that?” Then he had to explain that it was just for promotion and no profit. Yeah, right.
I bought 7 cassettes from him for $40. But I am not accusing him, because if it weren’t for him, the world would never have these songs.
As long as people know these are bootlegs. That’s what bothers me. When some of it came out, also with him involved, it was presented as real albums. They even convinced some chains to carry the album. They (the F.B.I.) found the storage in London, and destroyed the whole shit. 5,000 or 10,000 copies were destroyed.
That’s quite a lot of copies.
He was selling to normal stores! I could go to Blockbuster and find it. You’re selling bootleg albums? “No, no. It’s from this record label here.” Three months after they destroyed it it was in the market again, but not in the shops though. It was presented as a genuine release, and that’s where you go really wrong. A person coming in for the first time, picking it up… “God, this really sucks!”
I actually heard that comment from someone who bought the Satan’s Nightmare bootleg album.
There was another one… Live From The Depths of Hell.
Yeah, that was the album that got me into Mercyful Fate. I’m sure you know the name Gene Khoury.
He played live Into the Coven on his radio show, and he’s kind of responsible for me knowing anything about real metal.
He’s one of the early guys.
Yeah. But the passion in your voice on that song (Into the Coven) was spellbinding. On the song A Dangerous Nightmare, your voice is so powerful, and I think it would be such a novelty for it to be released in some official way. But I guess the person who has the master tape would be John Kibble.
I would imagine so.
I have not been able to track him down.
When you bought the tapes that long ago, did you buy them form a U.S. address?
I wrote to the fan club address on the back of the Melissa album. My letter was answered with a flier from England, and it listed a band bio as well as a menu of tapes, and I bought them all. But anyway, I tried to write him again because my tapes have degenerated over time, and I thought his would be the most pristine on earth. But what I now know, and it is quite a surprise to me, is that he has the master tapes to those live shows.
That’s because it was never intended to be recorded anywhere. He must have had a tape recorder set up somewhere without anybody knowing it.. just recording shit and then selling it. Suddenly these bootlegs appeared out of nowhere. Then when you track it down and start asking people where they got it… “Oh, John Kibble.” What? He’s recording us? He’s supposed to work for us, but he records our stuff and releases them as bootlegs. Gee, that’s great. But I don’t know of a set from London recorded live. We played two shows back then in London… small clubs, while we were doing the B.B.C. sessions. He must have recorded one of those.
Yeah, the other two songs from that bootleg are a version of Satan’s Fall with different lyrics… instead of “I don’t need your god” you sing “Satan is better than god”.
Yeah, that’s right. That’s a super early version.
Then there was Nuns Have No Fun. There might have been a mike problem because the first verse wasn’t sung. But it’s so interesting for a fan. I can understand not wanting to have people listen to that stuff as a first-listen. But it’s extremely interesting.
Let’s say our fan club in Holland… if they had those things available for fans to buy through them, I wouldn’t care about that. But then, I know it’s a fan who already knows about the band, and it’s not going to be misunderstood. You know what I mean? If we had a good version of it and could mass produce it in a responsible way, then I’m sure that the record label wouldn’t bother if it was sold through the authorized fan club, because we don’t get any money – the fan club is run by some people in Holland who have been given the right to run the fan club. If they want to do something, they just have to ask us. They don’t have to account to us in any way.
Let’s talk about some of the changes in Mercyful Fate. I noticed you kind of dispensed the vibrato. Your voice does not waver so much anymore.
Oh it definitely does, Bill. I remember making the songs on this last album, and it was so hard making the backing vocals vibrate the same way as I just did for the lead. I do it by feel, you know. I don’t think about it. I do it naturally. They say in the control room, “You’re vibrating a little off”. and I’m like, “Let me hear it again.” Then I’m like, “Ok, don’t think about it. Just sing it. Let it come by itself.” But there’s definitely vibrato still. Did you not listen to the new album?
I did, but I only got it today.
Oh ok, you’re excused. That’s a thing that, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get rid of because I do it automatically.
Perhaps it is just a confusion of words. Perhaps I meant “operatic vocals”. There was such a heavy amount of sorrow in your voice in the early Mercyful Fate days.
You know what I think you’re talking about? Vibrato will come in there to some degree no matter what I do, right? You’re probably talking about the exaggerated vibrato.
Yes! The character singing that you invented in the King Diamond albums kind of loses the classical sound that the early Mercyful Fate albums had. The vocals seem more lively… more upbeat. In the past, you had a very dark way of singing. Did you notice the transition?
No… I can’t even relate to what you’re saying. Now I’m gonna go and listen to every album again.
It’s more like the color of the voice. You had such a tonal sadness.
Well, I was unhappy the day I sang the Melissa song. Now I’m so fucking happy all the time. But seriously, I have not noticed any difference. I think that it has a lot to do with what kind of music you’re presented with. It might be the tempo of the song. Melissa is a slow one. It depends on how much of that music there is to sing it to. It could also be the choruses of A Dangerous Meeting. It opens up for choirs because it’s so melodic… and it’s slow tempo. If you sang it straight, without vibrato, it sounds lame. I don’t think that any of what I’m doing today sounds lame or uninspired. But I am going to listen to the albums because you brought it up. I don’t take it as bad criticism. I always take it as good. I might be missing out on something here.
I will never ask you anything out of disrespect, or out of criticism.
I’m positively going to go back and listen to some of it because… you might have a point is what I am saying. I mean it, seriously. That’s how I started singing falsetto, you know. Some guy told me, “Hey, you should work more on that.” Yeah, I think I will do that.
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.