Interviewed by EvilG
All live photos by Arto Lehtinen
Transcribed by HannTu
Interviewing King Diamond was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done for Metal-Rules.com. It will certainly be one of the more memorable moments for me as I’ve been a fan of King’s for close on 20 years. Getting the opportunity to speak with this metal legend was nothing short of amazing. King came across as being very enthusiastic and passionate. The only regret is that we only had 30mins. With King giving very detailed and long answers, there was so much more I would of loved to hear about. For me, the best part of the interview was the end where he talks about the storyline for the new album GIVE ME YOUR SOUL…PLEASE. It was like having a personal reading….just wow! So without further ado, gals and ghouls……..KING DIAMOND!
It’s an honour to speak to you man!
Let me just start out by saying that the new album, I only got the promo from Metal Blade on Friday, and I’ve been spinning it all weekend and I love it…
All right cool!
…and I think it ranks up there as one of your best actually. Not that I didn’t like your other albums but I think there’s something special about it, it grabs you on the first listen. I was wondering if you could tell me a little about the writing process you went through for the album, was it anything different this time or have you pretty much nailed down a routine for when you’re writing songs and recording?
Well, it is kind of a routine in some way you know, but still this time it was very unique I can tell you. We in the band feel that, even Andy and I, taking everything we’ve done into consideration, that this is by far our absolute best ever. I know that it takes a lot in a fan’s mind to get up to the level of ABIGAIL, but I think this blows ABIGAIL away, in my opinion, but that’s my own taste, people have different tastes you know. THE PUPPET MASTER last time, a lot of fans had that opinion that it was up there with ABIGAIL, that was a really good feeling. This one blows THE PUPPET MASTER totally away I think, in all aspects.
I mean, that’s the way it was this time around, it’s the same procedure of writing and recording and mixing and all this stuff, but still did something different, and several things actually turned out to be different, and it was like a strange feeling in the band of all the little pieces of the puzzle falling into the right places this time. The best way to describe it is that it feels, for the band, as if we tried for 20+ years to get a driver’s license, never passed the test. This time, we see the license in our hand. That’s how we feel.
The sound that is on this album should’ve been on all the other albums, it is so clear that you can hear every little nuance in the vocal, every emotion in the vocal. The bass guitar, you can hear every note Hal is playing. Normally these days, maybe because there is so much compression normally on albums, it’s very hard to pick out what note the bass guitar is actually playing. And with this kind of music that we do, there is sometimes eight backing vocals going, that all need their little space in the soundpage, plus maybe a harpsichord or a church organ or whatever you know. So it becomes essential. We wanted to do it but never really dared to do it, and we did it this time, was say “hey you know what, forget the industry standard of compressing so hard everything, we’ll compress less this time and we’ll get a much bigger clarity of how you hear everything, and it’ll fit our music better. There’s a lot of other bands where that hard compression does fit them very well, but for our kind of music it works against us. So this time I think we really achieved something.
And then the writing itself, I think the songs have better riffs right from the beginning to the end with each song, they really flow well together all the riffs, and that has inspired vocal melody lines that I think work much better with the riffs here. I mean, when I listen to all these songs, it seems like they all fit perfect with the vocal melody lines. When I go back to ABIGAIL and listen, I was like “Why did I use that vocal melody line there, I could’ve done something much better”.
Looking at it now, at that time you always do your best, but that’s what it feels like here. And the performances, this lineup has been together for quite a while now too. Andy said to me that “I haven’t played solos like this since THE EYE…”
Yeah that’s one thing I noticed too, that there’s a lot of really good lead guitar…
Yeah and Mike, Mike is very hard to, uh, I mean he’s very uh, I wouldn’t say, mellow?…but very humble, you know, Mike Wead, and on some of the stuff here, I was like “Man I can’t believe that solo you did there, where did you get that from!” and he goes “yeah it’s okay”…
…“No it’s awesome, it’s some of the best I’ve ever heard you do”…“Yeah I guess it’s okay”. But he said “I’ve never been this inspired ever, playing solos, EVER in my career. The music just speaks to me a whole different way, I don’t know what happened here.” Hal? He’s all over the place, you can’t hear what he’s playing on his bass, and sometimes I lead vocals up against his bass on this album. And Matt, typical also example, after he heard the final mix he was like “I can’t believe you let me get away with all that” and for me it was like “What do you mean get away with”. Matt’s full of these little tricky things and I love that stuff, but it has to fit, and it DOES here, it TOTALLY fits. So it really came together on so many aspects.
The story as well, I mean, Andy said to me his personal taste was that it was the best story ever wrote. That’s what he said. I don’t know if you’ve had the chance, you probably don’t have the lyrics yet…
I haven’t got the lyric sheet yet, no…
You REALLY need them to really understand and see what the whole story is about, but again there’s some very fresh elements in it. That also comes nicely to life with the package, the booklet is 20 pages, full of cool nice stuff.
Are you going to do packaging like THE PUPPET MASTER, with an extended booklet and a DVD or anything at all?
Er no no, no DVD planned in it. The album itself is I think 54, 56 minutes long, something like that, but the very nice packaging and the booklet, I don’t know if they’re going to do a digipak over here, but I know they’re going to do a digipak in Europe but no bonus material. And they’re also going to do standard vinyl and picture disc vinyl in Europe.
Ohhh…I just had that thing you asked before and then I lost it again now, I can’t believe it! Yes I know, the story, it’s the story! One thing that is really fresh that’s very important this time around is it’s written in the present time . The story happens as you listen to the album, almost like the TV series 24. I never tried before to actually put it right there, and it gets much closer to the listener when it’s “I see a black shape coming from the corner of the room” than saying “And then I saw a black shape coming from…” It becomes much more powerful and closer to the listener. So that’s the whole story is like that, I don’t know if it would work but it seemed that in the end here that it worked out really well.
I wanted to ask you something else with regards to writing. I’ve read that you do a lot of writing for the band on guitar, and I believe that way back you even played guitar on your first band. So can you tell me a little bit about how much of an accomplished guitarist you think you’ve become over the years, and have you ever had any desire to play any guitar live, cos I know you did do some recordings on some of the King Diamond albums. You’ve played some of the guitars because sometimes I believe the chording and things you’ve come up with is not something that can be copied as easily by some of the guys, so you’ve actually recorded some guitar parts…
Well yeah, they are very little stuff, but you know, the other thing is that, yeah I play guitar and all this stuff… I mean I can’t read music; I’ve never had a lesson of singing or playing any kind of instrument. I know what an A or an E is on the guitar, but that’s where it stops for me. So it’s all feel and ear, 70% of King Diamond music. It’s…feel and ear. Same with the keyboards, I don’t know what I’m doing when I play the keyboard, but I do something! *laughs* And if it sounds right and feels right then it’s right to me. What can I say, it puts less of a limit on me that I don’t know music, because I do think that I might have known if I knew music that now “you don’t do that”. I do them anyway, and if it suddenly works in a certain passage, I’ll use it. And sometimes when Andy is trying to pick up what I’m doing, because he records all the riff guitars, he sometimes says “I can’t figure what the hell you’re using”, the chord you know, and it’s like, well, that one chord you’re trying to do, you can’t do with five fingers, or with four fingers, you can’t do that chord. You need six. So it’s a combination of two chords that I was playing together, that’s the way you can make it sound like that. And then showing, what is this, G minor or whatever these things are called, he’ll ask and then he’ll suddenly realize “oh that’s right, King doesn’t read music”. Well this is it here, it looks this or it looks like that, I’ll just show him and that’s how it works. And that’s fine.
Then with Andy, what has really been awesome the last couple of albums, specifically on this last one here, is that he has picked up MY technique of playing guitar. So that my songs now sound 100% like if I had had the chance of sitting and recording them myself with my technique. Certain dampening , certain up and down strokes, this and that, the way I do it has a certain feel and stuff like that. Then you hear someone else play your song, or record it, and you’re like, ahh that riff there does not sound the right way that it should. You need to dampen harder, and this and that. “I am dampening!” You need to dampen way down at the very end of where the bridge starts, and then really hard, that’s the only way you can make that sound. But he’s adopted my technique into his technique, and I can actually hear that in a few of his songs now. I was like “hey you’re playing up and down strokes there, you always used to play mainly just down strokes”…“Yeah well now I tried, I’ve played so many of your songs this way now so that I incorporate it in one of mine”. And it’s a cool thing and an awesome effort by him, to actually get my technique to make my songs speak more like I intended them to speak. That’s an awesome plus.
Definitely. With regards to the storyline for this album, did the music come before the story or did you kinda write how the story goes and the music at the same time or…
It’s usually that I get an idea that I would like to write about, so it’s almost, without having written a short story, kinda becomes like a short story, lots of little notes and stuff on paper. And then knowing some of the things I want to have in the story that gives a certain emotion and feel, that then when I start writing the music, translates into the music. That’s why the music seems to follow pretty well with what the mood of the music, what the mood is of the story.
The second part after that is to tell Andy, what ideas I have so far. And he will also have some of that feel hopefully, and put that into when he writes the music. And after the music is written then we start recording it. When it comes the time to do lyrics, what happens at that point is that I do write that short story kinda thing, and then divide it up into as many chapters as we have songs. And then start from there on to say okay now, what song fits Chapter 1, one of those 13 musical pieces and pop it on there. You paste them on all the chapters, whatever you have fits best and then sometimes you move a few around a few times. Finally, you get the sequence of all the music for how the storyline is going to go. You have the storyline in little chapters and then you start writing those chapters into actual lyrics. That’s the only way that this parcel actually works so that it seems like it was written from beginning to end, I can’t do it that way. So that’s the way it works there!
So you don’t ever plan on doing an album that wouldn’t be a concept or a story? That’s pretty much what inspires you and it is how you write…
Err yeah, it’s become very important because it’s a lot more fun, and it’s a lot more challenging, more rewarding if it works. And for those reasons, you sit there and you create your own little worlds and your own little characters, make them do this and do that, and you’re totally in control of their little lives. I mean, it’s not that I have a god complex or anything like that *laughs*, but you become your own mini-god there in your own little story, and you can decide if that little guy is gonna do this or do that. That just makes everything more rewarding in the end if it works, because it’s a helluva lot more complex, to make it work and make sure that after it’s all done, no one can come and say “hey you totally contradict yourself, you said it in the 2nd song this and you say 5th song that, explain that to me”, and if you don’t have an explanation, you’ve failed. I must be able to defend and explain the entire story, no matter what question anyone might have. So that makes it a really big challenge. And if it’s interesting and has other things in it too that people can use or relate to, that’s the way you wanna go, for us.
Cool. In an interview you did with us back before you had the PUPPET MASTER or maybe it was your live album, you were compiling some material for a Mercyful Fate DVD. I was wondering if there was any further news you can give us on that, and have you been thinking about maybe a King Diamond DVD anytime in the near future?
Well, all the talk there was about some older retro stuff, you could say bootlegs but of a very very high quality and never before seen footage that no one had ever seen before. That is still being thought about, but the label has decided that they want King Diamond first. But the process is going so slow that it’s frustrating. To get the deal sealed the right way. I mean, you have to protect yourself of course, you have lawyers to do that. But between the lawyers from the record label and ourselves, it just takes a LONG time. I can’t say anything, we have the best lawyer in the world and I’ll say that any day, I just love the way our lawyers are. I’m not gonna put fingers on anybody, but it should not be necessary to go through all this. There’s not a lot of money to be made on it, no matter what, and it’s a benefit for the fans, is what it really is. It’s like “get on with it” you know. I have to say it very diplomatically but it has just taken too long, and it’s certainly not been our fault the whole way. So without blaming anybody for anything, we’re trying to work it out, but it’s just taking too long, that’s it. Without being nasty to anyone it’s just taking too long. It’s been…errr…when did I mention it the first time, it’s years ago now…
It’s been at least two years…
It shouldn’t take that long, no matter what. But it is, and it’s a mercy it’s a thing that would come after the King Diamond has been hopefully done sometime down the road. But this, the King Diamond stuff, it’s also like some very rare stuff, some of it was shot with 5 cameras and all the song titles have been selected for what goes on. So they’re that far, we’ve had to go that far before we could start renegotiating. Also the label has to negotiate with publishers, what kind of rates do they have to pay the publishers, and we don’t control any of that, that’s BMG as the publishing. So you know, long chain of events you have to go through before it becomes a realization. But that has to be edited together too, these 5 cameras, that this special King Diamond show filmed in 1990. It was while we recording the album THE EYE that we towed down all the gear in the studio, and we brought it into a park in the centre of Copenhagen, and there we played a free concert. A Sunday afternoon, broad daylight. Really weird, but it’s shot with 5 cameras. It could be really cool, a very unique thing, very unique seeing us in broad daylight, and it WORKS though, it still works. There’s a lot of funny incidents happening during the show.
The DVD that came with THE PUPPET MASTER was kinda cool too.
Yeah that worked very well…It was a very simple set-up. Set up a camera here, tell you a story, now we move the camera over here, tell it again so we can clip. And then we move it a little closer, and then tell the story once again. We have 3 camera angles so that we can edit, simple set-up, great people. And they made it work and it was an interesting bonus. It was only a hi-take, hi-fast and this and that, but they made it look nice.
As mentioned, I haven’t seen the lyrics for the new album yet…so maybe in a nutshell you can explain kinda what the story is basically about, the title GIVE ME YOUR SOUL…PLEASE. If there’s a way to encapsulate that in a short amount of time, you can probably just give us the gist of what the story is. And maybe you can tell us also, about how the album cover art kinda inspired this whole thing, something called My Mother’s Eyes, a painting or something?
Well, something started that rumour that the painting inspired the errr…No no, it didn’t inspire the story. It actually made it a little harder to have the cover, because I had to incorporate the cover into my story. So it’s quite opposite. I mean, there is one song that shows, I think it’s a song called “Mirror Mirror”, that is the front cover, that explains the front cover. That’s one song out of 13, so it’s not like it inspired the story in that way. That’s a total misconception. “Oh I got that wow I’m gonna write a story about the picture”…No no no, totally wrong. It became a little more difficult. I LOVE that cover, it was so right for us to use. But then when I write the story I have to incorporate that thing into it. So it’s not like, yeah, I think you understand. *laughs*
It’s the other way around, it even made it a little more difficult. It was not like, wow I got a free story about my picture, not at all! So that’s it about the cover. The frame on the mirror by the way is in my hallway right here in my house.
To tell you the story in a short way is gonna be REALLY hard. There’s a LOT going on in the story, and there’s several different stories running simultaneously. It almost feels like to me, because a big part of the story deals with the shadows and darkness we all have in our houses at night. How in this story they practically come to life and eventually turn into shapes of black that look like human shapes. Questions about whether when it gets dark, is that the door to the other side, where they can come over and cross over into our world.
And then there is of course the girl you see on the front cover, she’s dead. But she stands there, it’s a spirit that has materialized in our world. The blood on her dress is her brother’s blood. Just a few things man, I can tell you something. The intro right away there, you hear a boy and girl talking, brother and sister. It starts off with the boy saying “Where are we now, what is this place”. And his sister says “Don’t you remember little brother, we died, we’re dead.” And then he says “But what are they going to do to me, am I going to hell”. And then the sister says “I don’t know, that’s what they say. I’ll try to find you another soul.” And then she says “Do you hear that organ playing?” Then you hear the church organ really start playing. And then she says “I must go to where the organ player is, I must go and I can never stay.” And then she finally says “Now to this house I go” which is the house you’re listening to. And then the little brother says “Don’t let anyone see your bloody dress”. And then this girl is obviously trying to cross over, she has some helpers with her, some other spirits that are a little more experienced than her. One of them is the nasty one that I call the Floating Head woman. But they cross over into our world. She’s gonna try and steal a soul for her brother, a soul that is free of sin…
Oh yeah good luck! *laughs*
*laughs* My house! But then, so much happens, that if I start filling you in, you have to have an hour at least. But a lot of things start happening when they come into the house. My lights start flickering, the electricity goes out, I light candles everywhere. Then I start feeling more and more threatened, I hear these voices, saying, whispering “Help me help me”. I hear little footsteps from the hallway where the mirror hangs. My black cat Magic, who is here for real, Magic is my cat so she’s here in the story too a little, she’s mesmerized by these things out in the hallway, and it has happened so often for real. So a lot of this stuff, some of it is me and some of it is imagination. A lot of things happen on the way down to the cellar and things like that, the mirror, these weird things, it gets weirder and weirder. It builds and builds throughout the album, and gets more and more theatrical.
The thing is that they’re there to get the soul. The reason why they’re trying to get a soul for the brother is that in the song “Give Me Your Soul”, you actually hear, even though I told you it’s the present time that everything happens for the story, I’m still being told, I’m lying exhausted at this point, there’s a little piece called “Pictures in Red”, I’m lying on the floor in the hallway totally exhausted from an experience down in the cellar, and as I’m lying there with one candle only burning, I start getting these weird pictures in red sent into my brain. So it’s as I’m lying there, realtime I get these pictures that show what happened to the little girl and her little brother.
I see they were playing down in the cellar in the house, and their dad came in in a rage, just completely insane, screaming and yelling. Suddenly they see he has this axe in his hand, he goes over to the little boy and just hammers the axe down into his head. So it’s the little brother’s blood that’s all over the little girl’s dress on the front cover. Then he gets the little girl and he starts to choke her. They still make me feel horrible when I hear those lines pass by when I listen to it, the lines that say “Daddy’s hands are squeezing her neck/Pictures in red/Little girl’s dead/Daddy’s got a hole in his head”. It is just the most brutal ever I think, and you can say that it’s not really inspired by…it just describes a sad fact of life today that you hear about way too often: parents killing all the kids and then themselves, and usually the family around them never saw any signs. “How could they, they always seemed so happy” and all that.
It was written a while ago, and how many times since I’ve said “There you go” to my wife, “Same shit again, I can’t believe it”. It happened just days ago here, in Texas. A woman living alone, divorced, 4 kids, she tried to kill all 4 kids and herself. She tried to hang them in her closet, and then she hung herself. 3 of the kids died, a little 8 month old kid did not die from the hanging, but survived it. I mean, the 3 kids man, innocent, they can’t defend themselves, they had no chance, they were just robbed of their entire lives. I can’t explain or express in words how furious I get over that injustice. And imagine the one that did survive, growing up. “Oh, your mom tried to kill you you know, but she didn’t succeed. She DID succeed in killing your three sisters and herself.” “Oh great…”
That’s put into the storyline. And then further to explain why they’re in the house, is after that happened, after the kids were killed, they moved to the other side. It doesn’t matter what religion people believe in, just use a few labels to make it clear for everyone, it doesn’t matter what people believe in actually. But they go beyond to the other side, and there they’re gonna be judged, whether they’re gonna go on to the good side or the bad side, in this afterlife. And in the story, there are 13 judges sitting on the bench. When the little boy comes up in front of them, they say “Ohh you’re suicide, you’re going to have to go to hell” and he’s like “WHAT! No no it must be a mistake” and he’s screaming it’s a mistake. They say “You’re suicide, you’re going to hell”. Finished, that’s it.
It’s just like setting up this little scenario of: imagine if we were ever judged by how we lived our lives here on earth, and you get to whatever it is you get to, and those who judge you make a mistake and you only have one chance, that’s a pretty horrifying scenario. Why wouldn’t they be able to make a mistake? Maybe they had a coffee break, or maybe they were playing chess, who knows what goes on in this other place!!! But imagine if they get it wrong and you had that one chance, and you lived a great life. But that’s what’s in here as well in the story, and that’s why they’re here trying to find…and they get to my house, and they try to kill me several different ways throughout the story. Eventually I find out that my only defense is light, but my electricity’s gone and my candles are burning out. I get to where I have not much defense left, and now I have one candle left in my hand during a song called “Shapes of Black”. That’s why these shapes seem to, from the normal shadows they seem to start growing into human shapes and I can feel them start sitting on my bed, right next to me in my bedroom.
I just sit with this one candle. This nasty spirit that has come over with the little girl to help her that I call the Floating Head woman has earlier tried to drown me in my bathroom sink in front of a mirror. Here at this point here, at the end of the song “Shapes of Black” you hear me singing “So little time/So little light” several times. Then you suddenly hear the Floating Head woman do this *King blows out an imaginary candle and growls* “No more light!”, so she blows out my last candle and I’m defenseless now. I have no defense left.
Then suddenly this little girl materializes in front of me, and I can really see her. I had a chance earlier in the cellar, but I was disturbed by a lot of black winged insects that just attacked my face. So I couldn’t see her down there, but I was not allowed to see her because she can only show herself to me in total darkness. These other stronger spirits, they can do things even when it’s not completely dark. But the little girl suddenly appears and she’s solid, as a spirit, totally solid and standing in front of me, because now there’s no more light. How can I see her? Well, only because there is a full moon outside that’s shining into the window right on her, I can see her.
And when she grabs my hands I feel her brother’s blood on my hands, and it gets really weird and nasty. I can feel her eyes going into my soul and looking around inside of me, checking out my life, what kind of life I’ve lived. And I’m finally able, towards the end, to communicate with her spirit, making her understand that “You don’t want to take my soul. If you do and bring it back up there, you can be sure your brother is going straight to hell, they won’t even ask anymore questions. So you got to move on, there is still a little time left. Use that time, build up your power and move on to another house and see if you can’t find a soul free from sin there.”
That little game is going forth and back during the very last song, and finally she finds that strength, and the last thing you hear her say is “I’m moving on, to THIS house”. And if you sit and listen to it at home, then it’s your home she’s coming to.
So but hey, there’s a lot more in there. At some point, in “Shapes of Black” for instance, you’ll be “Ooh now I’m starting to think about the Spider’s Lullaby, because of what’s said in the lyrics”, suddenly you’ll think of mercy, because it suddenly mentions the old oak tree. There’s a lot of these things going on for people to sit and find, “Well this reminds me of this and that”.
And then I used for the first time also here where I take the song title of one song and use it in the chorus in another song. It happens quite a few times, where in “The Floating Head”, that song, I’m singing “Pictures in red/Are still in my head”, and there is another song called “Pictures in Red”. The song called “Black of Night”, then in the song “The Girl in the Bloody Dress”, there’s “In the black of night/I see this…” etc. but it’s cool, it works really! There’s a lot of stuff to sit and have fun with it, without it just being “okay that was that lyric”, no there’s a lot, look for it, go in and look for it cos there might be a lot of fun to have with it.
Excellent. All right then, thanks for your time and good luck for your album. I’ll be looking forward to the release for sure. Thanks a lot!
Thanks a lot too! You take good care then!
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