Let me being with just an open-ended “what’s new, Mr. King?”
(Laughs) You shouldn’t think that there would be a million things new in all that time that has gone by. There’s not that much new because a lot of the time has been spent, of course, getting new record deals in place. That takes way more time than it aught to take, but it just takes that time, and it always does. But what has happened… the Abigail tour is postponed, you can say. It didn’t come around simply because of bad economy – with the record label. You heard that it’s everywhere, since then – that the record labels are suffering . And they are. Hopefully it will turn around slowly. Of course, we had to re-evaluate what we’re doing, and new contracts were due anyway because the old contracts were fulfilled. Yeah, we went in and started negotiations and all this stuff. That took a while. But that’s in place now. Everything is written now, regarding the music. All the music is done. I did receive the package from Andy, with his songs, and I listened to them yesterday, and they’re awesome. So that’s in place too. But that has taken time. I mean, it was from about the first of October up until two weeks ago that I spent writing. It’s nine songs, and one of them is a short two-minute thing, you know, which is more like an intro song – like a prologue, or something like that. It’s not like the traditional horror intro, but it’s an intro that will set the stage for what is going to happen. So it’s kind of like a prologue, but it’s a full song with organ – there’s church organ on it, and there are violins, and full-blown guitars, bass – the whole thing is there. It sets the whole stage up until it’s cut off real sharp, and you will hear the words, “Let the show begin!” and it will definitely give the listener the feeling of “Wow! That was prologue, and now we go here, and then come double kicks right in your face, which is “The Puppet Master”. The first little piece is called “The Cellar”, but then the first real song is “The Puppet Master”. The feeling it gives me, myself, is in the direction of “Welcome Home” with the double kick drums, you know, really fast. Of course it varies. The song is never just fast throughout. There are a lot of really intricate parts and arrangements going on in that song. Creates some really good feelings. There’ll be twelve titles on the album. Nine of them I did. Andy had an instrumental piece that is going to be attached to one of mine, and then he had three full songs. So that’s where we are set with that. We are that far, and I am going to start working on the lyrics. I have a lot of ideas. I mean, the story is written out. The story is done. It’s even divided up into chapters. All of the songs have titles, but I will not give all the song titles now because I know myself – I often change them as we go in the studio and, “Ooh, that title would have been better if it was this because now I changed that over there.” But the titles are in place for me, and for all the different chapters of the stories. I spent more time, this time, on writing, than I have done before. I haven’t spent this much time on writing. It’s really, in some way, paid off. It’s not like it’s different. I talked to you before about how I see “King Diamond’s” style of music as a painting on the wall. It’s in a frame, but the painting has not been completed. You still see white spots on the canvas. A lot of those white spots, I feel, I have covered with the songs I wrote this time. I’ve gotten into some fresh areas, but it is totally King Diamond. I expect a certain level of compositions from Andy, and he does the same from me. And now he has had a week to listen to my stuff, and it was great to hear his response. He was very positively surprised, he said, and he felt it was more aggressive than it usually is from me, and there was just much more covered in what I did this time. And I really feel like each song has its own atmosphere. You can really distinguish from song-to-song what I’ve done this time.
Have you invented any new chords that confused Andy?
He hasn’t had the time to go in and actually try and just turn everything to the left and figure out what is the guitar doing on the left side and what is the guitar doing on the right side. There are definitely some things that I have not done before. I have not used those kinds of chords before. There’s a few of those in there. Then, arrangement-wise, there is definitely new styles of arrangement that you will get some extra goodies out of if you put headphones one – where you can really pinpoint the stereo picture.
Have you ever thought about performing guitar on stage?
On stage? No. I want those free hands to concentrate on the other aspects than just singing, and that is of course to pay attention to the audience, and those things that are part of the show. I don’t think you’ll ever see me play guitar on stage. (referring to playing guitar and singing) You have to have the microphone standing, and all this stuff. I like the freedom of just having that bone in my hand. (laughs)
And the line-up is exactly the same?
Yeah, it’s identical to the Abigail 2 line-up, which is definitely – I don’t even have to say “in my opinion” – it is the best line-up we have ever had. When we did the European version of “House of God” (tour) – that’s where the line-up was complete the first time, and I got the feeling of how these guys are, live on stage, and it’s the tightest unit we’ve ever had – the most skillful unit we’ve ever had. I know the people over there felt that too when we played those shows over there. Everybody just has a huge enjoyment out of doing it, and that can be felt from the stage into the audience. There’s no doubt it’s the best line-up that we’ve ever had.
You’re returning to the same studio to record?
Well we are using a different process this time, actually. That’s one of the things we’ve been forced to do, even though we got new deals. They are very good deals for how the whole scene is at the moment. It’s hard to get a good deal. A lot of bands are suffering. A lot of bands have been told, “We simply can’t have you anymore. Bye-bye.” Some bands, especially if you’re living off it – I’ve been living off the music since ’83 – it’s been my job, and it’s so positive to have a job that you totally love. To me, working like that is the best possible way it could be. But at the same time, it’s a job. You’ve got to make sure that’s what puts the bread on the table. If, suddenly I couldn’t live off the music, I’d have to say, “OK, I have to do something else.” And that could have been a problem had we not found, let’s say, a new way of actually recording out material. The way that we have planned the whole thing out now is probably going to end up giving the fans an even better product. But you really don’t think about that when you are so used to going into the studio – and you go for two months or two-and-a-half months, and you do the whole thing there – finish it up and that’s it. Now you’ll be in the studio finishing the album. This time around, Andy has a studio in Sweden where he’s produced so many bands, so many albums, and stuff like that. It’s just been growing and growing, getting better and better in quality. He’s actually going to bring a bunch of it over here to my house. So it’s going to be like, you can say, a mobile recording unit that he’s flying over here, and it’s going to be set up in my living room. I have the same speakers here that they have in the studio, both in their mastering suite and in their control room. But it’s a much better listening environment, actually, because in the studio it’s a little tight in the control room and you can’t really sit behind the engineer, so you get an off-center listening position. Here, there’s space in my living room to sit comfortably, with a perfect stereo picture, and like I said, the same speakers. Another positive thing is that the sound you are listening to in a home environment is with carpets and furniture, which you don’t have in the studio. You usually have a very hard floor and very hard walls. So you get more of the listening environment that the fans are getting at home, which is actually what you should go for, because they are the ones that are going to listen to it, not the people sitting in the studio. So there’s a lot of really positive things, in that respect. It means that we’ll be using the same kind of equipment – we’ll have the same quality equipment to record on, but we will have much more time to go into details. Sometimes when you sit in a studio you can have trouble with a certain reverb unit that you really want to use on a certain effect. It could be one spot on the album, but it’s really important to create a certain listening experience. You can sit there and work with this unit for two hours maybe, and when you think about it, suddenly $160 went out the window. We can do that here and not think about it. We can spend four hours on a thing like that if we had to. It’s not costing us studio time. So what we’re going to do here is record all rhythm guitars and harmony guitars, in exactly the same way that we do in the studio, on exactly the same equipment. We’re going to do the bass in the same way, and all of the keyboards. Most of the keyboards that I recorded, I was really thorough recording already in my demo studio, which is digital recording anyway. So that’s going to be loaded into the other system and used there – probably most of it. Some of it might have to be re-recorded, but most of it will be right where it should be. And then we, of course, are going into the real studio. There’s a 98% chance that they will give us a good deal on going in there and recording the drums. We can’t, of course, record that in the house here. That will be after all of the rhythm guitars and keyboards are done, with a click track – bring that into the real studio and put the drums down. And then we’re going back here and Hal will fly in – I think it’s on the 20th of March that he’s going to come here, and he’s going to put all his bass on here, using the same equipment that we used in the studio the last time. No difference at all. The only advantage will be that I will, in at least the next three weeks, until Andy gets here, be doing vocal demos for the first time. I never really did demos, you know. But at my home studio, I found a way to do it. I’ll put demo vocals on so Hal has all the vocal melody lines. Not the right vocals, but the right melody lines that he can add his bass to. He’s a very versatile bass player. Sometimes he will follow what the kick drums are doing. He’ll go with the guitar riffs sometimes. Sometimes he’ll follow vocals. It’s that style of bass that Uriah Heap used to have, where he would go his own little way sometimes and follow different things, not just always follow guitars or drums. So he will have everything he needs to lay down the right bass lines, and he will even be given the opportunity to put three full different versions on, that all fits with the vocals, so we really choose later on. That side of it will be much more interesting than it’s ever been before. Then we’re going to do a rough mix of it that Andy will bring back with him to Sweden, and he and Mike will do all their solos in Andy’s studio. The vocals will be done here in Dallas, probably at the same studio again, with a different engineer this time because the other engineer is not in town anymore. But the guy that is going to do it is overqualified – an amazing engineer. He has been second engineer on the past two albums. So there’s no problems there either. And then Andy will come back over here to Dallas, probably in June, and that’s when we’re going to mix it all here, at my house, with the same equipment pretty much as you have in the studio – all the same tools, except we can spend more time. Can you just picture – you sit in the studio and then everyone gets hungry. You have to eat dinner every day. Sometimes you decide to go to a restaurant and eat dinner. If you think about it, you go to a restaurant, and it costs so-and-so much money to eat a dinner, but then you can add $160 on top of it because it took two hours. But you have to pay for that. It doesn’t matter. It’s not like, “We’re gonna leave now to eat dinner.” “OK, we’ll stop the clock now.” No, you’re block-booked. It’s going to cost money. You look at those things when you are in the studio. It creates a little tension sometimes. “Come on! Let’s move on now! It’s taking too long!” But you want the quality there, so we usually always end up going over budget in the end. We will not sacrifice the quality. Now we’re going to be having all the time that we want. That’s going to be such a cool feeling. We all know that doing this way here is a necessary way, but we would not have thought of it had it not come to that part where Metal Blade did not have enough money to put us on tour, and we had to renegotiate new deals, and stuff like that. It was a matter of, “Can we still live off of it – those of us that live off of it – can it still be our job?” We found a way that makes it possible so we sit exactly as we were before. It’s great that you can come up with an option that makes you sit where you were before, but actually will be able to come out with a better product. So we’re in a very good situation, and we’re all extremely positive about what’s going to happen now. We’re looking so fucking much forward to it – also because of how the material has turned out now. It’s just like FUUUCK! We can thank our fans for putting a lot of pressure on us. There’s always going to be albums in your career that, even though you’re putting everything that you have into it, there are so many circumstances in your life that will affect maybe the way a product is – or the studio that you’re in, or the way that the engineer was handling certain situations – where you’re not as proud of the overall final sound – not so much the compositions – but more the final sound, which actually plays a big role in how people perceive a song. If you have an album where the kick drum is just thundering loud, and sticking out every time you hear it, it’s just irritating to listen to. That has happened on one of our albums. I wish I could go in and remix the whole shit with a new sound because then it would have a whole different expression. But that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is with all artists. If you go back and listen to some of the old Ozzy albums, for instance – I loved them, but if you start analyzing them a little bit, oh my god! The drums are so dry! And the guitar is very trebly. If they only did that again with a more full sound, and not like, up here hangs the guitar and down here is that dry kick drum, and stuff like that, the songs would sound better. They are awesome songs, but if you are into that ‘sound’ part of it, then it means a lot. It can bring a song to life, or it can kill a song. And we’ve had that sometimes. There have also been periods of the band where we didn’t have… well, I would say, the ‘best’ line-up. We have the best line-up now that we’ve ever had. That is why I look so much forward to the next album. That line-up was doing Abigail 2 as their first product. That worked out really well, but it’s going to be even better now. The drummer knows exactly how we go about things. He knows exactly that he has much more space than he even took himself last time. The fans can, and should, expect something exceptional this time. They will get it. They will definitely get it.
I remember when I was present for the re-mastering of the back catalog on Roadrunner. The producer explained – he was basically re-equalizing the sound – and he was telling me that the reason why there was such a high treble on “Them” was because, at the time, vinyl was being put out, and that the grooves for bass are much wider than for treble, so a trick that they did to save vinyl space was to increase the treble and lower the bass.
And back when “Them” first surfaced on CD, for instance, in those early days of the CD they would just transfer straight over. They didn’t go in an EQ and re-master them. It might say “digitally mastered” or whatever, but that’s just the process of bringing it from one form into another. But to actually go into the mastering session and start EQ-ing on it – that wasn’t done in the early days. Sometimes certain frequencies would suffer. And that makes all the sense in the world what you’re saying.
You’ve had the experience so it’s not that special to you, but to me, to hear your music right off the reel on the best possible speakers was worth any price of admission, even though they were good enough to invite me down.
Yeah, it is a hell of difference. There was one of those re-masters – I can’t remember – is it “Conspiracy” that I wasn’t impressed with, actually – I didn’t feel it sounded better than the old one. It sounded louder, but not better. Maybe the top was a little bit over. Maybe it’s “Abigail”. It could be Abigail.
There were also great demands for time. They had a certain schedule and it was very aggressive.
I know. The main part of it definitely turned out sounding more powerful and better. It’s hard to make them all sound “right on”, you know. It was time-consuming, yeah.
I would like to address something that you would also want to vindicate yourself. The lyrics that were included – only your earliest fans have seen lyrics to “Devil Eyes” – fans who bought the E.P. when it came out. But even lyrics that were officially put into vinyl, like the Melissa album when it was on Megaforce – those lyrics were not used (for reference on the re-masters). The lyrics that were used were taken off the internet, and they were wrong, like at the end of “Melissa”, instead of “They’ve taken her away from me” it’s “They take the pain away from me”.
Oh god!!! Well, I don’t know where they get the lyrics from. You know? We don’t see a print of it – the actual jacket and the packaging until it’s out – with a thing like that. We were not really involved in doing the packaging. I didn’t know what photos they put into it, for instance. I didn’t see it until it was in the street. They sent me copies. “Oh, OK, they used that photo over there.”
You should thank me for me stopping them from using photos that they had planned to use. (I had selected the photographs for the re-masters. There was a limited pile of photographs, and some pictures that were chosen have King in make-up that was not characteristic of the particular album era, but they were preferable to the selection that was available from the pertinent time period. Some pictures were chosen because of their rarity).
Oh really? When you’re on the label, you’re not involved in that respect. We were involved in the re-mastering process in finding those bonus things, and you were too (ed. – I am the one who gave them the version of “Black Funeral” from the “Metalstorm” compilation, and that bonus track appears on the re-master of “The Beginning). That’s great. I think they did a good job. I liked the way they did the packaging. But the thing about where did they take the lyrics from – well, you’re always going to run into those things. Almost every single time you will run into things where you say, “What happened here? What is this? Why?” You sometimes get an explanation where say, “Why didn’t you first send us a copy so we can see it?” You know the old misspellings. I mean, welcome “princess” of hell. (sarcastically) Oh that sounds so heavy. It’s like I’m thinking of Sleeping Beauty. We’re not singing about princesses here. And it’s in the title, big and fat! In the lyrics it’s correct. That makes you wonder “Why?”, “How?”. And when “Fatal Portrait” came out the first time, I remember clearly – I saw it the first time in a hotel room in Paris where I was doing a photo session, and a guy from the label was there and he showed me. I saw it and I flung it like a Frisbee through the room so it splintered against the wall. I got so fucking mad. He ran out of the room, I remember. He came back like twenty minutes later. I was sitting there, just foaming. It looks like a fucking Monopoly game, you know. It had all the colors from the monopoly game sqeezed into the logo. There was pink, light blue, and I don’t know what color they used in the logo. Everything had a different color there. Almost every letter had a different color. It’s the most horrible shit I had ever seen. They had already produced so-and-so many thousand. They had changed it for the next one (pressing). I don’t know who had that brilliant artistic idea to turn it into something that you can play Momopoly on the logo if you want – you get it/ We had so many of those little things that have been going wrong. One guy on the “Abigail” album, on the back – I don’t know if it was Andy or Michael Denner that had turned into a left-handed guitarist. They thought it had looked better if the guitars were both going to each side, pointing to the outside of the cover – suddenly one of the guys was mirrored. He’s like, “I’m not a left-handed guitarist! There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m just not!” Those things, man, were just done over your head for an artistic purpose that made no sense. And it’s always too late to change. It’s out there on so-and-so many covers. Sorry!
If you had more time to dig up material, would your cover of “The Immigrant Song” have appeared on the “Melissa” re-master as a bonus track?
No, because we never fulfilled it. I don’t know if there’s anything on tape, actually. They were rehearsing it. The engineer might have pressed “record” while they were rehearsing so that we could listen to it, but he might have gone (recorded) over it, using that same tape for other things because at that time, those big reels cost money, and you have only six reels at your availability, or three, or whatever. So he might have gone over it completely. There was never vocals. I never actually sang it. The band was trying to get it right, but it never got the right swing that Zeppelin has on their version. It wasn’t working. The band just couldn’t play it that way. It could also have something to do with the sound we had. There’s a very special fat bass line going on in that song. Since then we never did it (a cover) except for “The Ripper”. We were already in the studio, and I had sung that song before, live, with some of the Pantera guys, for fun, at a New Years Eve party. In that respect, I had my own touch on the song. I didn’t want to try and copy Robert Halford. I don’t think I could, because he has a certain sound to his voice. Just the same, I don’t think there’s anyone who can copy me because I have a certain sound to my voice – not the things I’m doing technically, maybe – but more the sound of my voice. The same with Ozzy. No one can sound like Ozzy. People can sing the notes that he’s singing, sure. But his voice has a very unique sound. You shouldn’t do that anyway if you are paying tribute to a band and you’re trying to do a version of their song. It should be your version of their song – how your band sounds, playing that song.
You’re not a cover band – you’re a band.
That’s exactly the issue. That’s it, exactly. You pay tribute to a band. You show, “You influenced us, and this is what your song would sound like if we played it.”