Heart of Steel: Interviews


Interview with HANK SHERMANN / MICHAEL DENNER/ MARTIN STEEN 

Questions by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
Pics By Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjälä

Force Of Evil as a name may not say anything to most of people when hearing the name for the first time, but when unveiling the names behind this new Danish metal combo, it is kinda obvious the interest toward will without any doubts increase tremendously. The band relies on the strong guitar work of the legendary Danish axemen Michael Denner and Hank Shermann, the strong bass experience by Hal Patino, the thunderous and tight drumming by Bjarn T. Holm and finally Martin Steen from Iron Fire giving his own verbal experience as the vocalist. Force Of Evil include more than experiences as well as the prestigious legacy of the heavy metal history on the background than most of new bands formed by old faces. The debut album already testifies the band's professional grip on the music writing process to come up the ultimate killer metal tunes. We managed to catch the band in the hotel in Stockholm while they were preparing for that night's gig. We had the amazing opportunity of interviewing the guitarists of Force Of Evil as well as Mercyful Fate and asked them to share some historical perspective as well as the current updates and Martin's involvement in the same interview session telling about how he got hooked up to be the band's vocalist. Here is the ultimate long and in-depth and above all exclusive interview with Force Of Evil, so enjoy…

 

 

HANK: Have you already heard our new CD? If you don't, do you want some?

Well I have it already. I ordered it from you..

HANK: Yes exactly.

 

 

 

It took three weeks to get it …

HANK: Oh I am very sorry…. We are so busy with orders... laughter!

 

 

There is only 1000 copies made of this first pressing, so how many do you have still left?

HANK: Four hundred copies or something I think, but it doesn't matter cos second pressing will be out of the print soon and there will be a different and new cover.

 

 

Funny thing that when I tried to find the Zoser Mez album in every damn place and I found some guy from Denmark selling that cd for 100 euros for one piece.. I was like "hey cmon"

HANK: Oh my… I have still five four left and I have just sold two copies to The States. I think that Michael has probably 15 or something left personally…?

 

 

And as far as I know only 1000 copies were made of that as well ?

HANK: Yes only 1000 copies, but 1000 cds and 1000 vinyls, so 2000 copies all in all.

 

 

Do you have it Martin?

MARTIN: No no…heh he… But I have heard it…

 

 

So this first pressing will be a kind of collectors item then.?

HANK: We have to wait and see. I hope so.. laughs.

 

 

Last time I met you, it was back in 1997 when Mercyful Fate did a co-headline tour together with King Diamond and you played in Helsinki. Lot of things have happened since then…

HANK: Was it 1997? Well a long time ago. We had one European tour with Mercyful Fate in '99 and there hasn't been that much about Mercyful Fate since then…. Time goes on really fast.

 

 

Let's focus on Force Of Evil cos Martin is here, hah. Well seriously, how did you get everything started in the first place and how were all these guys chosen back then?

HANK: It started as an idea back in 2000 or 2001. It was just an idea to do a heavy metal band, it was more "consumer friendly", like having a band with the friends to have some beer and listen to heavy metal and that was the basic idea for Mercyful Fate in the beginning. Then I got hooked up by Mike Wead. I went up to Stockholm and did three songs. But nothing happened at that time cos there were a lot of other things and I was doing a lot of photography things. Suddenly the idea popped up here in 2002 again and I contacted Michael Denner as it was an obvious choice cos we all live in the same city and close friends have have been playing together since app. 1979. It was real obvious. I asked Mike Wead again, but he was really busy. Generally the idea came back in 2002, that was very beginning. The most important thing was to choose a top quality singer, cos otherwise the whole thing wouldn't have led anywhere. We had choices and had some Danish heavy metal singers on our mind. When we heard Martin from Iron Fire and listened to it very carefully, I was like this is cool and realized the potential with his unique singing style. I called him up to ask if he is interested in writing some music and he was.

 

 

Were you somehow surprised to get a phonecall from Hank Shermann, did you think it was some kind of joke?

MARTIN: Yeah I was surprised.. Joke - No, no. I had talked to Hank before and he told me about the band thing and he was still looking for a singer and but of course I was really surprised when he called. He called me one winter night when I was babysitting my daughter, I picked up the receiver, he said "hi this is Hank " and of course I couldn't hear anything cos my daughter was screaming like hell. And I just told Hank that call back later and then I put my daughter to sleep and started waiting for his call and I was like c'mon call now. Time passed by and still no. Then finally he called he told they need a singer for a new band and of course I was honored..

 

It can be said that Force Of Evil line-up some kind of all star line up of the Danish metal musicians?

HANK: Of course, but getting the solid line up was naturally choice to have the dummer, Bjarn T Holm, cos we live close to each other and we have been friends since the 80's. He is really good drummer and we have the same kind of influences. Then the next natural choice was Hal, cos we had always talked about doing something because we live in the same city. That makes sense and came at the same time when we brought up Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, we have the same background and therefore it works so well. Martin is also into the old school stuff even though younger. So everything fits together really perfectly.

 

 

Is Force Of Evil a serious band or some kind of project thing?

HANK: It is very serious cos projects are always a little bit unpredictable. Project things are more like to do something and see what happens, "let's do something and see you 10 years later"…This is really serious and we certainly know what to do. Like now we have eight nine new songs ready for the next album and all the feedback has been really good. Especially living in the same city is a good thing cause we can meet each other and we rehearse together.

 

 

But this Force Of Evil is definitely different than for example Virus 7 or Gutrix ?!

HANK: Yeah, but those bands were a little bit more project based on the "Let's do a project" issue.. It has always been good tension to make a real band that would base on the success and having ten more albums, sometimes it turns out to be a project. Now we know each other for a long time, but in the projects it is a little bit different cause there are five people who don't know each other that well. They are like "lets do touring" "let's not" and some of them may get restless and then start new bands.

 

 

The sound of Force Of Evil has a lot of resemblances from the old NWOBHM and bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden … and of course you can hear some Mercyful Fate influences.. You kind of went back to your musical roots with this band after making those "more experimental projects"..?

Hank:  Yeah . It was a little different thing with Gutrix and Virus 7 … It was still the same guitars .. and it is still the same kind of basic classic metal sound, but this sound that we have with Force Of Evil it was a decision what we made by using the Marshall Amps from the 80's. We wanted to have more naturally recorded drums, not trigged ones. We wanted more to be live and natural sound. It is kind of old school, it still has guts at least I feel so. Also some Judas Priest … This is the way I like to play guitar. Mercyful Fate sounds like that, not like these nu-metal elements involved. It came very natural, not just like to choose to have the Slayer sound. This is basically how we sound and it was very natural. This how we sound live. Very live indeed.

 

 

Because of the Force Of Evil line up features members from both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and of course people start associating and listening to Martin's voice and try to compare to each other, what do you think of that?

MARTIN: It is a cool thing that is another thing we kinda thought about that. Of course there have to be a lot of Mercyful Fate elements when the guys play the guitars it comes very naturally. Of course my voice is different than Diamond's voice. But we try to put the MF elements into FOE. The Force Of Evil record came out for all the Mercyful Fate fans too.

 

 

When listening to the Iron Fire CD for the first time I though your voice sounds like Lizzy Borden … ?

MARTIN: Hahahah.. Okej… Is that a good thing then ?! haha

 

 

It is ! Have you heard him ?

MARTIN: No I haven't actually

 

 

Have you, Hank?

HANK: Heh oh yeah I know, I remember that from the 80's but I had already forgotten it…..

 

 

Gentlemen : This is legendary MICHAEL: Denner

This is getting very interesting now… Well Michael, we have to ask some questions from you, first off how did you get hooked up by these guys ?!

MICHAEL: I was my idea if I ever start again, so only with these guys or then I quit. Well we had some coffee one morning and talked about it and it came naturally. I told them I was sure that I wanted to do, so it was very easy after all. Well of course a lot of things have happened since those old days and I mean it is even more focus this time. I am so sure about this concept. The only thing was to get a right vocalist, which was after all very easy job. I mean it took one minute to get this guy..

 

 

Do you think it is a honor for you that people say the Mercyful Fate guitar duo belongs to the same classic metal guitar duo ala Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer ?

MICHAEL: I think it is great to be among them .. It is great to have someone to be related and counted on and it is like the telepathic stuff. There has never been any discussion who is playing and what. Hank has his own style and I have mine and we know each other. I mean, I have been in a band as the only lead guitarist and I prefer this.

HANK: I was inspired by Judas, Maiden and so on .. That is not something to think about. I do have my own fave guitar players and I never think like wow !! "I was inspired by Judas Priest and other bands as well".

 

 

Well can both of you name some of your personal favourite guitarist then ?! Like three?

HANK: Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker and ..hmm.. I don't know .. Jimi Hendrix, that kind of style is unique, Frank Marino, Yngwie Malmsteen, especially the early stuff of his is brilliant!

 

 

And what about you Michael?

MICHAEL: Well .. Michael Schenker in the mid70's, Uli Jon Roth …… and many others.

 

 

When you left Mercyful Fate I have understand you used to host a radio show ?!

MICHAEL: Well actually I have run a record shop since that …

 

 

Ahh.. Is it still running?!

MICHAEL: Oh yeah very well, still in Copenhagen

HANK: You can find some Zoser Mez from there ….

Laughter…

MICHAEL: hahahahah yeah sure, for a lot of money !! But it is out of print, all the stuff

 

 

I just told Hank that there was one copy on sale with 100 euros …

MICHAEL: Really? That's ridiculous..

 

 

That seller guy was from Denmark….It wasn't you…?!?

MICHAEL: Hahahahahaha .. No, no…. I would take 200 Euros for that cd…

 

 

Okay ..DVD.. Why so now, so early I mean you have only one done one gig before this .. and you are now filming a DVD?!?

MICHAEL and HANK: Why not ?!

HANK: Well this is the first show in Europe and it just came about and there is no point of waiting. This is what came to us and this is the same company releasing the cd in Europe, but they are basically a dvd company specialized in DVD releases and there are going to film Trouble and Candlemass for the upcoming releases. So why not to put us on the bill also.

MICHAEL: We were given a good opportunity.

 

 

There isn't that much material from the Force Of Evil CD for a full DVD release, so hmm do you have to play something from Mercyful Fate ….

Laughing

MICHAEL: Well something may happen

HANK: Well maybe something…Hmm. Maybe Satan's Fall.. I don't know

MICHAEL: We will anyway play some early Mercyful Fate songs, from Melissa …

 

 

Speaking about your new album, as it has been available thru your website, when will it be published officially and by whom?

HANK: It will come out on the 26th of January thru a label called Escapi… They are going to take care of the whole thing, by distributing all around Europe and there will be a distribution company in North America called Nevara as well.

 

 

And then you also have a special South American release?

HANK: It is partly released. It should be released in Argentina and in Brazil within one month. That's because we signed a license deal back in October with Brazil and Argentina to get it started. Agrentina and Brazil will have different covers. The old original cover will be replaced by a new one. All in all there will be three different covers.

 

 

Well, Martin, what is the situation with Iron Fire, cause you are on "hold" right now?!

MARTIN: Yeah we are working on it. Hopefully we will get everything together and start working on the next album, as it is a long time since the last one came out.

 

Do you mind people are definitely saying that Iron Fire is just another power metal band, because there are a lot of power metal bands coming out nowadays ?

MARTIN: It is a hard thing, we started to do these things power meal things and it was not that big and a year has passed by and we got about a lot of new bands playing the same kind of style of music. That is style that I write and like, melodic things. I won't change it, so that is a kinda tricky situation right now cause there are a lot of bands coming out with the same style. But I won't change it, cause I love this style.

 

 

Is it hard to pick good metal musicians in Denmark? I mean you picked up Martin from Iron Fire ?! Well it is not big country after all ….

MICHAEL: No, no, it is small it is, ok .... Everybody knows everybody and so you have to be very clear what to say to people..

HANK: If you live in Sweden, you have some more choices, but there is only very few in Denmark it is not like the good scene in Denmark

 

 

Bands that we know are kinda old ones like Pretty Maids, Invocator, Artillery. In general not that much bands..

MICHAEL: Do you know a band called Evil?

 

 

Yes I do know and I have some ep, but to be honest people don't know that much about the current Danish metal scene, is it so small that the local scene isn't big and not that much bands ?

MICHAEL: Not that much…

HANK: Well Iron Fire plays that power metal type stuff, and then us Force Of Evil and Mercyful Fate.

 

 

And Invocator plays more thrash stuff…

MICHAEL: Yes, and of course Konhkra… We know all these guys personally and names, it is like a network. But I am glad we were the first to start there and that gave us a privilige…bot big But everyones knows who we are in the secene anyway

 

 

As you mentioned this Evil earlier, but I can't help asking if they were influenced by you because of the same kind of image in my opinion ?

MICHAEL: I don't think so, they were more influenced by Iron Maiden. They had their own image and style. These guys came out just after us, a year or something, So I don't think they were inspired by us.

 

 

You just mentioned this connection or network between the Danish metal people, but there is also funny connection between King Diamond and Mercyful Fate guitar players: Shermann - Denner Denner - LaRocque Sherman - Wead LaRocque - Wead Quite interesting combinations … hmmm.. Have you Hank ever played together with Andy somehow?!

HANK: No, well I have visited King Diamond's gig as a special guest musician in San Francisco, but on the other than that, well we have recorded an album at his studio in Gothenburg. He played the guest solo on that album.

 

 

Mike now plays with both of you two?

HANK: I don't know, but right now he is in King Diamond…I don't know if he is planning to have a new band….?? Laughter!

 

 

He has also played in Memento Mori, Abstrac Algetra and even in Candlemass

HANK: Yeah even in Candlemass. He is really cool guitar player and it is not wonder why King Diamond asked him if it is ok if Mike could play in the King Diamond band, because of Fate is on hold. I was like yeah why not, sure go ahead.

 

 

What is the current state of Mercyful Fate, hmm .. you formed ZOSER MEZ back in 1991 and one thing led to another thing… Just speculating …

HANK: I don't know what the current status is actually. We haven't talked about any thing because King Diamond is right now putting 100 % to his King Diamond band and switching between two bands would cause some confusion. Now it is really important for King to focus on the Diamond thing and there is going to be a live album and dvd and so on and another album. If we make another album, it will take years as I see it

 

 

We met Sharlee D'Angelo last summer and he told he hasn't met King Diamond for three years ..

HANK: Exactly. I talk with him kinda frequently five times a year

 

 

But at least you and King have one common thing, management; Ole Bang ?

HANK: Yeah, yeah exactly he is also from Copenhagen, which is easy for me he makes choice all we need the guy who can take care of all the things.

 

 

He has been responsible for managing Mercyful Fate since the beginning ?!

HANK: Yeah right, he is basically the sixth member of Mercyful Fate. He has always been there. gradually he has got two managing kinda things going on…

MICHAEL: He started out as a light man, then he has become higher and higher in the rank. Now he is on the top.

HANK: He is the manager of Candlemass as well and also tour manager of Deep Purple on the recent tour

MICHAEL: And Status Quo, Hank Marvin… he is very busy man

 

 

As for the touring plans of Force Of Evil, could you tell something about it ?

HANK: Right now we don't know that too much. We are going to do the concert tonight and have this DVD release and then will try to get some big festivals, but I don't know what will happen with them.

 

 

But you are going down to Greece with Virgin Steele ?

HANK: Yeah in February we are gonna have two concerts with Virgin Steel in Greece… Hmmm… Well they are not that much my style..ehh.. But I mean they are all in all ok

 

 

Well do you like Manowar then ?

Everyone laughing…

HANK: Hah, actually the first Manowar album is pretty cool.. That was different.. You know Ross The Boss was on it..

 

 

I remember having read and heard there used to be some kind of tension between Manowar and King Diamond in the past ?

HANK: Of course that was such a tiny thing after all which was turned upside down by the press by exaggerating the whole thing. But it was so little problem after all.

MICHAEL: That gave really bad press for us in The UK and basically ruined our career in England .. That happened a long time ago…

HANK: We won't go into any details hahahah..

 

 

Ok Hank, a couple of words about your "dark past" in a band called Fate…

HANK: Fate was very good..haha.. Well actually I was the only one from Mercyful Fate and Michael did the guest solo on the first album. There was four albums released from that band and I was on the first two ones. (Hank is looking at some old bootleg version of first Fate album) Oh my god, well we were young kids back then … but the sounds on this Fate album are terrible.

 

 

When looking at those old pics of Fate, I have to ask …. WHY?!? (laughter)

HANK: Hey, it was the mid 80's, the silly thing was that after the break up of Mercyful Fate. All these bands like Europe and Bon Jovi came around and it was essential to have and look like this. And … I was out of Diamond's place anyway. He was doing the second album. The funniest thing was that in some point, cause members of King Diamond looked like more glam than Motley Crue and it is funny how time passed by and all those hair things like this…

 

Was it your attempt to get rid of this "Evil" image somehow?

HANK: No, no… To me it was always like the same guitar and the same amplifier all the way. Of course the music was different, but the guitar sound was the same anyway.

 

 

Well what kind of respond did Fate receive?!

HANK: It was really good actually, we got some radio play in Denmark and the second album was released in The States and in Europe, it was really hard time because of Bon Jovi. Then I bailed out after I got a producer job and wanted to do it and focused on it. Then I called up Mike and started working on the pre version of Zoser Mez thing by going back to heavy roots. We started making more and more heavier sounds

 

 

When you left Fate, but the other guys carried on ?!

HANK: Yes with two records

 

 

Meanwhile when Hank did Fate, but you Michael continued with Diamond on Fatal Portrait and Abigail, you didn't want to get into that "softer" style?

MICHAEL: Actually there was a problem because Hank and I have something special going on between and he went on with these guys. King called me and asked if I want to join his band so it was a kinda mixed feeling so I wanted to do both the bands , but it was impossible, when they recorded the first Fate album I was a guest, it was very hard. King didn't wanna have any compromise, it was like "if you do this, you do this, but you can't be in two bands at the same time". King gave me to produce and write songs and co-produce the material for Fatal Portrait, I got rights and credits in the process. Tim Hansen came in too.

HANK: Basically the whole thing was to get me out, it was very obvious I mean all the other guy got in and I was not. It was really easy to see that.

 

 

Was it like that King wanted to replace you with Andy?!

MICHAEL: No, no, no.

HANK: King just wanted to get rid of me. That's the whole point.

 

 

Michael, you left from King Diamond after brilliant Abigail album. One of the reasons was because they changed the style and hair and so on to be much more "glam"? That's what I've heard …

MICHAEL: Yes I did, one of reasons was the discussion in the rehearsal room about the Motley Crue look because seriously I am not this Motley Crue type of guy. King got out of the discussion and they wanted to have this "new look". I was like "No way I won't do that and left the band".

 

 

Mikkey Dee said that he left from King Diamond because it didn't felt a real band anymore. It has turned to be just King Diamond and his "backing band". Do you agree with him on this case ?

MICHAEL: Yeah exactly. That's another reason why I left. King was very close to me personally and we were like a family in the beginning. But when I left the band it broke something in the family type as well…

 

 

Mercyful Fate is always considered one of the most important bands having influenced the current metal scene like black metal, how do you view that and think ?!

HANK: It is cool to be sort of inspiration. Sometimes I don't get why we would be that big thing. Nowadays we are quite light compared to the current bands. But that is probably in more the lyrical side written by King Diamond, not the musical side that much. But it is nice to have that kind of respect.

 

 

Asking this because some time ago we had a extreme top 50 list and the list became damn huge including At The Gates, Death, Kreator, Slayer, Morbid Angel, after all Melissa and Don't Break The Oath took the double win there..

MICHAEL: That's nice indeed

 

 

But you are not that exterme compared to other bands, unlike in the 80's when you were extreme…

MICHAEL: Yeah back then, but not anymore, definitely not anymore.. hahah… That's ok... We had our time to be different then..

 

 

You are still listed under a black metal title, even though you are not that basic black metal…

MICHAEL: I would prefer to call it progressive heavy metal but King's lyrics are quite black metal oriented and old school things.

HANK: We started at the same time with Venom and they were really well, you know, brutal…

MICHAEL: They played simpler, but comparing Venom to us is pointless.

 

 

So the gig tonight at Fryshuset, any expectations ?!

MICHAEL: Have fun of course

HANK: Good show.. We will be playing some old stuff also .. yeah!

 

 

The album is quite short whereas your running time today is longer…. Hmmm

HANK: We will play a new song too… And perhaps something else…

MICHAEL: Yes one new track from the next album.

 

 

As for the festival dates like hmmm… SwedenRock ?!?

HANK: Hopefully yes .We are working on it.. I like Swedenrock very much because there is a lot of classic stuff.

 

 

Okay. Time is running out soon .. Last question … Tell us something about your gigs in San Francisco in the old days?!?

HANK: We played there in Kabuki, Warfield and I think that was 1983/1984 and we had Metallica joining us on the stage as King invited them. They were really drunk..

MICHAEL: Kirk came in and got knuckled by King by accident…

Laughter..

 


The official site of Force Of Evil www.forceofevil.net
The official site of Mercyful Fate www.covenworldwide.org

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