Interview With Sharlee D’Angelo
Interviewed in Jan. 2000 by EvilG
Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo is a name you cannot escape. This guy has contributed bass skills to several bands including technical melodic death metal gods Arch Enemy, super-group Sinergy, and the ill-fated Ill Will. Sharlee is currently an active and full-time member of both Witchery and Mercyful Fate. I spoke with Sharlee in early January on the eve of the European Witchery tour.
Hey, this is Sharlee from Witchery.
Oh man!! How are you doing?
I’m doing good thank you and how about you?
Not too bad! Where are you calling me from?
I’m calling from my home in Gothenburg.
So are you from Sweden?
Yeap, I am.
Ok cool, I wasn’t sure if you were from the states or something.
No, I was born and raised over here.
I hear you are starting a tour with Witchery next week.
Yeah we are. All the way through Europe so it’s gonna be a good one. Normally the European dates are like 10 dates in Germany then like maybe one or two in Holland and one in Belgium and basically that’s it. But this one is like a little more than 6 weeks and it’s going through countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, you know the whole deal…and all the way through Scandinavia and one gig in the UK which is very good.
Have you been over to North America, or will you on this tour?
We don’t know yet, hopefully. We’re not in the position now where we can do a headline tour but if we get an offer from anybody…I mean out label always keeps their eyes open if there is something going on that we could do. It would be good.
The main question I wanted to talk to you about is that I am completely AMAZED at just how many bands you are in or have recorded with. How do you manage to juggle all the time schedules?
You don’t manage?
No. It’s just completely impossible. For a while it works. As far as it comes to studio work – it’s ok, but once it comes to touring, usually all tours happen at once. That happened to me a couple of times now where schedules collided. For example, I was just about to go on tour with Mercyful Fate and the very same day we got a call that we’re getting an offer to tour with Emperor in the states. And it was like wellllll…maybe we can do it. But then it was like the Emperor tour started a week before the Mercyful Fate tour ended. So the only way we could do it was with a replacement, or not do it at all. It was better to get someone to fill in for me and do the tour. So things like that happen all the time and it’s just impossible to handle the whole deal. You have to constantly make choices.
For the record let’s make sure I know all the bands that you’re a part of – there’s Witchery, Mercyful Fate, Arch Enemy, Sinergy and ILLWill?have I left anyone out?
The thing is Ill Will doesn’t exist, it hasn’t existed since ’96 I think. But the album just got released last year, finally, because the label that it was originally on just went belly up. I’m not a part of Sinergy. It was more of a studio thing that I did at that time. And ahhh…. unfortunately, I’m not a part of Arch Enemy anymore either just because right about now we were supposed to go on this Witchery tour and the Arch Enemy American tour with Nevermore happened too…so I had to go one way or the other. So those are the things that happen when you bite off more than you can chew.
So right now I guess you consider yourself a full-time member of Witchery and Mercyful Fate?
Yeah, at the moment. We’ll see what happens in the future with everything but hopefully it will work out.
Have you turned down any offers from other bands that have asked you to play on their albums?
I really haven’t had time on the past year or so, it’s just been constant. The period before Christmas (1999) has been like the only time I’ve had more than one week at home (for a long while). I’ve just been away constantly.
How much input do you have in the writing for material with these bands? Is it mainly you go into the studio and play?
Yeah it’s been like that mostly because just being a part of rehearsals, doing studio work and doing the touring that I could do it’s been so much so I didn’t really any time or energy to come up with anything. I’ve done a little bit with both Mercyful fate and Witchery when it comes to the writing part, but no too much though. It’s not like I feel I have to contribute to everything because in all the bands I’ve been in they have all had really talented songwriters. when it comes to Witchery, Jensen is the main songwriter and also Richard Corpse, the other guitar player. All the best songs are the ones that end up on an album so even if I have stuff it might not be as good as theirs. There’s no real point in just pushing things just because they are mine.
The first time I heard your name was when you because a part of Mercyful Fate. What bands were you involved with before that?
It was mostly just local stuff that really didn’t go anywhere. That’s when, when I finally got the opportunity to do something like Mercyful Fate (they were a band I had liked for a long time and where a big inspiration for me when I started playing) so I just jumped at the opportunity to do it, to finally do something, not just going on in the basement all the time.
How did you hook up with Mercyful Fate, didn’t someone in the band know you?
Yeah it was through people that I knew. It was mostly through Snowy Shaw who was in Mercyful Fate at that time of their re-union. I had been playing with him a lot all through my teens so he suggested me and I tried out and they thought – yeah why not.
You played with Snowy and and Andy La Rocque in Ill Will. Did you do that more as a favor to them or or were you into the music?
It was something that we all basically started together. Andy started it at first, it was supposed to be his solo album but he was supposed to do something with a lot of different singers but then he found this one guy who sings on the Ill Will album and he made one demo with him and Snowy suggested that we just form a band and do one kind of music. That’s how Ill Will happened. We tried for a long while and it was just apparent after a while that everybody in the band didn’t share the same view on things. It was basically four people trying to do almost four different things within one band. I think it was an OK album, but it was a little bit too shattered in the end. It was a long process doing the album too and after we had done that everybody was just like turned off the whole thing. we put so much work into it and nothing really happened. All the deal with the label and all that just went to hell so we basically got tired and basically it just vanished.
So it’s a dead project now then?
Yes it is and it has been for a long while.
Do the rest of the guys in the bands you’re in call you a band slut or what?
Most of the time, yes. They call me “whore” all the time.
Exactly. But I mean there’s a difference here because a whore usually gets paid but I do it because I like it so I’m just a regular slut!
Do you mind, or is it just all joking?
Yeah, it’s just joking.
Do you play any other instrument besides bass?
Yeah, but at the moment I obviously haven’t had time for anything but I started out on guitar and then switched over to bass because at that time during the 80’s there were so many talented lead players and everybody wanted to play super fast all the time and I just didn’t have the patience to sit down and practice for something that I didn’t really appreciate. That’s why bass seemed more appropriate for me because I’ve always been more rhythmically orientated more than just like technique and all that stuff. As soon as I switched over to bass, there was a lot of openings everywhere because everybody wanted to be a guitar player, nobody played bass. So it was a good decision, the smartest career move I ever made.
It’s easier to get into band when you’re playing bass.
Yeah, it is. Everybody wants to be the super guitar hero with the tight leather pants that gets the blow jobs so….(laughter).
You play a Rickenbacker right?
Have you been playing that since day one? Is it the only type of bass you are into?
It wasn’t my first bass but that was like the main goal. I always knew this is what I want, this is the instrument that I wanted. Basically mostly for it’s looks. Even before I had touched a Rickenbacker, I just loved it because so many of my heroes used it like Rodger Glover, Glenn Huges…ahhhh
Lemmy, of course and Geddy Lee, Joey Demeio, you know everybody. So it was like – I want one of those! Just by accident I fell over a used one that I got for really cheap. I thought it was a bit awkward to play at first but then I got used to it. So for me it was like the only instrument. It’s a lot different, especially from modern types of bass guitars. I have a hard time playing one of those things and I don’t like the looks of them either so Rickenbacker is the only thing for me.
Do you have any favorite bassists besides who you’ve mentioned, or are they the main influences?
Yeah people like them and Geezer Butler of course, especially the work he did on the “Heaven & Hell” and “Mob Rules” albums. And Steve Priest from The Sweet is also a very big influence. Francis Buchholz from the Scorpions – he had a style of his own. He played very simple things but so efficient and very effective stuff that he did. Also, Peter Baltes from Accept – I also really like him.
I guess you’re over the initial shock of actually playing with King diamond in Mercyful Fate but it still must be pretty wild. So what’s the King like in real life? Is he a crazy fuck or is he pretty down to earth??
Ummm….well he’s a normal person you know. He’s not a monster. He’s not eating babies for breakfast.
No, that would be like too heavy for him. He usually starts with the infants around lunchtime….No I mean, he’s in many way’s just a regular guy even though sometimes he pretty much keeps to himself. But he’s a guy with a great sense of humor. It’s very hard to describe someone to someone who hasn’t met them but he’s a really good guy, really nice to work with too. He’s very stubborn when it comes to getting his ideas through but then so am I so (laughs). It’s not like it comes to really bad clashes or anything because we are all grown-up people, we can always work things out. Everybody in a band always got a different view on how things are supposed to be done or what you want to do once you’re in the studio or whatever. He’s really easy to get along with.
Have you done any writing with King for Mercyful Fate?
Not with him, no. I might have written the music and then he writes the lyrics and does the vocal thing on it so…but we haven’t really done anything like sit down together.
What would you say that your favorite work that you’ve done with Mercyful Fate is so far?
My favorite work would probably the last album “9.”
Did you miss out any any tours with Mercyful Fate this last time around, are they your main priority?
Yeah, I haven’t missed anything with them at all. I’ve been with them the longest so they come on top of the list. Also, we’ve done quite a lot this past year (1999). This year, were not going to do anything until maybe later on in the fall so I’ll have plenty of time to do other things.
Who is the semi-nude nun in the Witchery CD booklet? Is she married to someone in the band, is she a crazed fan, or do you just pay her enough to pose??
Well nuns can’t be married, as you know.
Well I didn’t think she was a real nun…
Hmmm…well who knows? Maybe she is. Nooo….she’s just a girl that someone recommended for doing things like that since they knew she had a pretty nice set of…yeah (laughs). I think she fits the part in a way.
Will you use her again in any future albums?
No, we just used her for that one. We used a different girl for the “Dead, Hot & Ready” sessions, so it’s nice to use different ones. I don’t know if we’re going to continue the thing with the girls. It’s always nice. It seems like people appreciate it, at least the male half of the population!
Yeah, well it caught my eye when I saw the ad in a magazine for “Restless & Dead”! It’s like – “who are these guys!!”
It’s a cheap trick but it works.
Yeah but the music still backs it up, so it isn’t just all flash.
It always helps to have something to have something to make people pay attention.
Regarding the mascot that Witchery has – he’s been on the cover of every album so far. Is that something you plan on continuing with?
Yeah, the thing is he just won’t go away. We told time time and time again, but he just comes back. We don’t have the heart to fire him. He actually wanted to produce our first album…but it didn’t work out at all. He wanted to have keyboards and things on it. So we said you can pose for the album cover instead and he said “yeah, I always wanted to be a model!” so he did that and he was really happy with that – getting all the attention from the girls so we just let him do the other covers too. He’ll probably be back to haunt us for the next album too.
Who in the band came up with the idea of the mascot?
It wasn’t a thought out deal at first because at first we didn’t know anything. That’s the whole thing with this band, we just wanted to have fun playing music that’s not so dead on dark and serious and “god we are so evil.” It was nice to do something slightly tongue in cheek without being completely crazy like have colorful pants and go on skateboards all the time….but still funny in another type of way. so that was the thing when we came up with the album title for the first one – “Restless & Dead” – we just started laughing because it’s a contradiction in itself. Then we came up with an image that could go well with the title with just a dead person coming up from the grave. Then the title makes perfect sense in a way. After we had Kristian W?hlin “Necrolord” painting the cover. When we saw it for the first time we were like “WOW, this is so old school. Why don’t we have the same type of skeleton on the next cover.” It then just evolved from there. We game him a name and all that…
Yeah, his name is “Ben Wrangle” isn’t it?
Yeah which is something that a non-Swedish person wouldn’t understand the joke. Spelled differently, the word “Ben Wrangle” is something that kids use instead of saying skeleton, it basically means rattling bones. So we just made it into an English looking name.
What’s the story behind the 3-finger “W” sign that you guys have patented?
It was also an accident. It happened when we were out one night during the “Restless & Dead” recordings and I think it was me…I was trying to do the normal “devils sign” but between my index and middle finger I had a cigarette. So what happened was I had just three fingers up and I think it was Jenson that pointed out that it looked like a “W.” Then it’s like whoa it’s Witchery!! We all just started laughing and we continued doing it. It caught on like wildfire because when I’m out with Mercyful Fate, constantly every night I get the “W” flashed out from the audience, it never fails. It’s such an easy thing because you just have to form your hand in a certain way and then it’s like – it’s the band and everybody knows what you mean. It’s really cool actually (laughs).
I’ve read that Witchery are planning on a live CD entitled “On a Broomstick To Hell” – Is this still scheduled and if so when?
Yeah but we haven’t had any live recording where we thought the quality was good. Maybe we’ll try to do it on this tour or we will schedule some special shows for recording. After “Dead, Hot & Ready” we thought it would be the best thing to do but we wanted a few more live gigs under the belt first and see what happens. also we thought that maybe we should do another studio album so we would have more material to choose from. I don’t know if today a live album would really go down that well but still if you do the recording cheaply and mix it quickly it’s not that big of a cost. You can then release it in a limited edition thing at first and just see if it sells. Myself, I like live albums, so we’ll see if anybody else does (laughs).
I think it could be pretty cool. Would you do any of the covers from “Witchburner” or just stick to the Witchery material?
It depends on what would come out well on the recordings when we do them. So, yeah, we might. So far we only play two of the covers live which is “Fast As A Shark” and “I Wanna Be Somebody.”
Do you plan on doing any other covers, or is that something left to the Witchburner thing?
Maybe we’d do something like that again or records something to have for b-sides or something like that. I don’t think we’ll ever put it on a real album because it doesn’t really make sense. It’s something that gets you between things.
So what is your opinion on all the bands these days putting out cover albums. It seems like almost every band has a tribute album or a cover album or whatever…
Yeah, after all the tribute albums, then comes the cover albums now which is like the latest trend. I haven’t heard any of the cover albums. I know Overkill did one and Helloween has done one….I haven’t really heard anything from them so I can’t really say if it’s anything good. Generally I just think if you listen to most of the tribute albums that have come out, usually people just to a really bad copy of the original version which I don’t really like. It’s better to do something to make it like your own song.
I think that was definitely achieved on Witchburner.
In a way yes but in hindsight I can say we stuck a little bit too much to the original version. But that was also something that we did because we wanted to enlighten people about what our influences are and where we come from. We just want people to listen to that, and if they haven’t heard about it before, well go check out the originals. That was the basic idea. If we would do something more now we would probably try to change it a lot more and make it more Witchery sounding than we did. To take an example of what I think is a good cover song…you remember the Black Sabbath tribute?
Nativity in Black…
Yeah and how many good versions were on that…the only one that was like really, really original was Type O Negative’s because they took the most evil song in the history of metal and made it even darker. I think that’s the way to do it. I guess you’ve heard of the Swedish pop band The Cardigans?
Heard of, never listened to.
Well if you ever come across their first album, I think it’s called “EmmerDale”, they have a version of “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath” on there and it’s just completely brilliant because there is nothing that reminds me of Black Sabbath on it but it’s still the same song, you can easily hear exactly what song it is. But it just doesn’t sound like anything you ever think it would. I think that’s a brilliant way to do a cover version, just change it around.
Can you give me an idea of what some of the bands you’ve been listening to now.
Well, it would be…my favorite bands form the newer bands of the past few years is Defleshed.
Right, they are from Sweden aren’t they?
Yeah, have you heard them?
Yes, but I don’t have any of their music, I’ve heard a bit on the net. A lot of people have recommended that I should be checking them out. I guess they are categorized as a death metal band?
Well, they are sort of a death metal band that plays thrash metal in a way. So they have everything from normal thrash to blast beats. It has the type of energy that is lacking in many other bands. It’s not so super heavy, it’s just like more energetic. Especially their album “Under The Blade.” It’s one of the best thrash albums of all-time I think. It’s something you should definitely check out. the new on “Fast Forward” is amazing…”how can you play that fast?” And it’s still got that rock and roll feeling, somewhere in there. It’s not just fast for fastness sake or anything like that. It just rocks. I think that’s important. That’s also one of the most important aspects of Witchery I think. For us, it’s not the brutality or the speed or like the evilness of things. For us is has to ROCK! It’s like the key word for everything we do because we don’t think very much about anything, we basically feel. Everything is just done on gut feeling. If we start playing a new riff and everybody just starts banging their heads simultaneously we know it’s a good riff and we keep it! So it not so much sitting down and thinking hmmmm… I wonder what would sell… It’s not like a process of the mind it’s more the crotch in a way (laughs).
So you don’t sit down and say hey lets transpose this riff to like “Q minor” or something? You just play whatever and if you like it you keep it?
Yeah, exactly. When somebody comes up with something and we try playing it and if it sounds really good. Most of the time you have a feeling of what would be the next thing. You can instantly feel like we should do something like this or that here and we should go down or we should blah blah blah… We just try something. when we have that energy going, the process of making the music is really, really fast. For “Dead, Hot & Ready”, I think it took us nine days to put together those 10 songs. We were in the rehearsal room for something like between eight and 12 hours a day…just playing and playing and playing…only stopping for food breaks. When we were done we were just like set to a schedule. It was like this is the last day because after this I have to leave or something like that. Tracking was done in under two days then it was add vocals and the lead guitar then just mix the whole thing. It was done originally in a little under six days. But then we were unhappy with the mix and unhappy with the sound so we re-did some of the instruments and re-mixed it again. So this is like our Pyromania album with like a long studio time.
So basically all in all it basically took almost nine days to do. It’s a lot longer. “Restless & Dead” was done in five.
Do you look back on say “Restless & Dead” and say I wish we did something differently, or are you completely happy?
Yeah I’m completely happy with it in a way because since we didn’t think at all when we did it there’s no sense in having any regrets about what we did. the only thing, there are a few mistakes here and there. Everything was basically done live except for the vocals and the solos. So it was done in that way and we just kept a take when we felt like it rocked basically (laughs). There are al of of mistakes, especially on that album, there’s so many things there that shouldn’t of been there, but nobody really notices things like that because they don’t know it was supposed to be like originally.
So only you guys notice the…
Exactly…I’m still really, really, proud of that album and also when it comes to “Dead, Hot & Ready” I think it’s brilliant too in that way. the only thing I’m not really happy about is certain aspects of the production. Some things because a little bit too clean which probably had something to do with the mix or something or the recording. You never know because we don’t any master plan when we go in a do it. It’s basically plug in and ask someone to press record and hope something sticks to the tape. you can look at it and say maybe we can change this thing for the next album and you know we don’t think about it too much, we try not to break it down and say ‘this wasn’t too good hmm blah blah blah.’ Just never mind, you can’t do anything about it just do it better next time instead. As long as you are happy with your songs and you’re playing that’s all you can do unless of course the production sucks so badly that you cannot appreciate the songs anymore. But since that’s not the case I mean production doesn’t really matter as long as it comes across as at least a little bit powerful. If you play it well enough and if your songs are good, it doesn’t really matter.
Can you give me a run-down on your plans are for Witchery and Mercyful Fate for 2000?
Hmmm…I don’t really know. As far as Witchery goes well we have this tour to do now that will take us into the beginning of March. After that what we’re probably gonna do is start preparing for the next album, if nothing else comes up. If we get an offer to do something in the states we will probably jump on that if it’s a good enough thing. It would be nice to take in the North American continent once again….especially Canada because it seems like Canada is like the single country in the world that appreciates us the most.
Well hey, that we’re you’re calling today.
Yeah I know. I don’t know why this is?!
I don’t know. I would like to think that some of us are not so trend orientated and we don’t worry about shit like MTV.
Yeah, that seems to be the case. There’s not too much MTV it’s not that…It is different and you always know it when you are on tour and you come from the states and go into Canada. It’s still America you know, but it’s a lot different. You see a lot of differences in the attitudes in people. It’s always really cool, and really cold.
Yeah, it’s pretty cold here today and Sweden it not the warmest place either.
Not really no. (laughing) I guess around this time of year we could have a competition to see who’s most miserable.
We’d probably win though.
I have a feeling you would actually.
What happened to Michael Denner of Mercyful Fate, why did he leave the band and do you know what he is up to now?
He left because he basically just started a family. He just got his first kid and he got married to a girl who had two kids previously. so he just became a father of three. It was hard for him to be around touring all the time. He has his own record store in Copenhagen. The band wasn’t his first priority but there are no hard feelings. We always knew…he told everybody from day one that with the reunion he couldn’t put the band first in his life because he’s got the normal steady life going too and that’s very important to him. When it came to that point, we just asked him after having a replacement for two tours, we asked him what he wanted to do and if really wanted this. We had a perfectly good replacement so he didn’t have to feel too bad. He was kind of relieved because he felt like he didn’t let us down or anything. But he has started making music again. It’s completely different music – more like 70’s type of rock. So he’s doing that on the side.
Inside in the credits for the “9” CD what is with the thank you to porno director Matt Zane and pornstar Jasmine St. Claire “for good clean family entertainment on the 1998 US tour”??
Well Matt he just provided us with some you know…reels of entertainment (laughs) for the tour bus. You know how rock bands are!
I guess, what else are you gonna do when your on the bus all day?
Exactly. What is there to do when you’re just traveling, there’s not much else to do. And Jasmine, she’s just a friend of the band. She usually shows up when we play around that area and she’s a really nice girl. It’s just something like that (laughs).
Do you think a time will come when you will have to commit to one band? If you had to pick, would you or do you think this will work out with Witchery and Mercyful Fate?
It’s really hard to tell. I’d prefer to burn that bridge when I get to it (laughs). Between Witchery and Mercyful Fate it has worked out pretty good so far except for that thing with the Witchery US tour. There was really nothing I could do there since I was already on my way to a tour when I got the offer to do another. There was not much time to do anything about it. apart from that, it’s always worked out.
Well King manages to do Mercyful Fate and his King Diamond band so when he’s off doing that you can do the Witchery thing.
Exactly, and that’s what’s happening now and it’s always like that. We had a pretty hectic year with Mercyful Fate doing the whole festival summer and we also did a bunch of gigs with Metallica this past summer in Europe. We’ve never been this busy, as far as I can remember, in one year. In 10 months (or something like that) we recorded an album, released it, played Europe, South America and North America. we basically did all we could do. King was supposed to be doing the King Diamond album earlier but he pushed it off a little bit so we could finish everything that we needed to do. so now he’s doing that. There probably won’t be any Mercyful Fate stuff happening until probably the fall of 2000.
Do you think it would work out if Witchery ever opened for Mercyful Fate, if you both were on the same tour – or would that just be too much?
Well it might be a little too much but I wouldn’t be opposed to doing it. It would be good if there was another band in the middle too so I can at least take a few quick breaths.
Well that’s everything I had for you. Thanks for your time, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you.
Yeah it’s been a pleasure to talk to you too. Take care of yourself.
Have fun on tour!
Yeah, thank you…bye!