Andy LaRocque & Mike Wead of KING DIAMOND

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INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA

TRANSCRIPTION BY ANDY OSBORN

Many things have happened in the King Diamond camp since their last visit to Finland. The band has released two studio albums ABIGAIL II and THE PUPPET MASTER, and also a live album called “Deadly Lullabies,” which came out in 2004. Although it’s already been three years since the release of “Puppet Master,” King Diamond hasn’t been able to do any touring outside the U.S for a while, and this tour is his first in Europe in five years. So it was about time to get an update on what’s going on in the world of King Diamond. I managed to reach bands guitarists Andy LaRocque and Mike Wead before the band’s first sold-out show in Helsinki, and they were nice enough to have this brief conversation. I hope you like it!

NEW KING DIAMOND ALBUM

First of all, I would like to hear something about the new King Diamond album. How is the process going, and when can we expect the final product to be released?

Andy: I started composing songs in December 2004, and then we had a little break because we did a US tour in between and what else happened? I got divorced, I guess. [laughs] That took some time also, but we finally composed the last few songs last December and January, and then we started recording the album in March in Dallas, Texas. Then we went home for about three weeks. We recorded guitar, bass guitar, drums, and a few keyboard lines. And as far as I know, King hasn’t started working on the lyrics for that yet, but he might be able to start during the tour now, start working on lyrics. He’s got a very brief storyline, but I don’t know any details about that. Then, after the tour, Mike will go over to the studio and record leads and solos, and it’s the same with me over in Gothenburg. I’m going to start recording solos and then King; as soon as he’s done with the lyrics, of course, he’s going to start recording the vocals in Dallas. Then we will get together at the beginning of September and start mixing the whole album. Then hopefully, it’s going to be released, say, end of January or February; something like that followed by a US tour, hopefully?

Do you already have a title for that album?

Andy: No titles for that yet, no. I just know it’s going to be thirteen songs on the album.

Is it going to be a themed album once again?

Andy: Yes. I don’t have the storylines since there are no lyrics written so far.

What kind of musical direction is this album? Will it be something like Puppet Master or something else?

Andy: I think it’s going to be better.

Mike: I think it’s a bit darker; the mood of the songs is a bit more evil or whatever you want to call it. But it’s a really good thing, in my taste.

I spoke with your drummer, and he said it’s the most aggressive record you’ve ever made. It’s more straight stuff, more like early Mercyful Fate, do you agree?

Andy: No, not if you compare it to the last one.

Mike: I don’t think it’s that much heavier.

Andy: I think it’s more aggressive, some of the songs. But still, a lot of melodies in it. So when it comes to a new riff that we’ve never used before…..some of the stuff is totally King Diamond, within the frames of King Diamond. But some of the riffs are like, wow, cool, you know? A little bit different than we’ve done before. I think it’s going to be a great album. It’s just that it’s a natural progression. I think that Puppet Master was really good, and we thought that wow, it’s going to be hard to beat this, but we worked on riffs for this one, and we already made it to be better than “Puppet Master.”

It’s usually Andy and King who wrote all music for King Diamond albums. How about the rest of the guys? Mike, have you written anything for this forthcoming album?

Mike: No, I’ve never written anything for King Diamond. I wrote some stuff for Mercyful Fate but not for Kind Diamond. Not so far.

Andy: Matt [Thompson] came up with some riffs for the last album that he and King worked with, but I can’t even remember what song it was?

Mike: “No More Me.” That was his riff.

Andy: Yeah, initially I think it was when they worked out something together for that album, but now it’s just King and me again.

One question about the ABIGAIL II album, which was released in 2002, wasn’t that like a kind of attempt to get back in your early roots like in the vein of the first ABIGAIL album, and how did you succeed with that?

Andy: No, I don’t think we tried to get back to the roots on that one. Even though we talked about it for a while to get Roberto the old producer to come in and do some stuff and maybe have Michael Denner to do some guest lead and maybe Mikkey Dee to do some guest drums and stuff like that, but we thought, no this is almost twenty years later so we wanted to follow up the story but have a sound that fits for today as a modern sound. So I don’t think we tried to get back to the roots on that.

Mike: It’s always hard to do sequels like that because the band progresses and the new lineup. Even it was the old lineup, it wouldn’t sound like the first ABIGAIL anyway because people progress and get influenced by different stuff and change their music tastes.

For ABIGAIL II, you didn’t have any touring in Europe because King had some visa problems.

Andy: Well, it’s been five years since we’ve toured Europe. Yeah, 2001 was the last time. Since we couldn’t leave the country, we did two US tours instead, and we recorded a new album, mixed the live album, and did ABIGAIL II. But, what can I say? It takes some time to deal with the visas and all that, but everything is clear now, and as soon as it was, we decided to go for a European tour.

As you said, this is your first time in Europe in five years, and you had toured only in the U.S. What about other territories, for example, when you guys last time played in Japan?

Andy: We’ve never been there, and we’ve never been to Australia either. We would like to go to South America again because it’s been a long time since we were there. I wish we have done those places, but it’s all about getting some promoter to have us down there, but they are no plans at this point.

When was that South American tour?

Andy: 1996

Because you don’t have an actual album to promote on this tour, you are now doing more or a less a kind of “best of…” set on this tour…

Mike: I don’t know about that. For me, this is almost like the second part of the world tour. It’s similar to the DEADLY LULLABIES: LIVEthing that we did in the states last year.

Andy: But from the beginning, we had like four or five songs from PUPPET MASTER. Yeah, back in 2004, we toured in the US; we had three or four songs from PUPPET MASTER, and we took them out one by one and replaced them with different songs. For different reasons, I guess, but now we’re playing only two from that album. Yeah, I guess it’s like a best of. It seems like the fans really like the set we are playing now.

Are there any songs you guys personally would like to add to the current setlist? For example, I would like to hear at least something from Voodoo?

Andy: It’s just hard to fit everything in. We want to do some of the best songs through the twenty-year career, but some things got to go. But we still want to promote the last album, so we’re doing two songs from PUPPET MASTER and then trying to squeeze everything else in. It’s kind of hard to fulfill all the wishes of the people. You want something from VOODOO, and somebody else wants some from SPIDERS LULLABY. We’re trying to give the audience what they want, but it’s really hard to put all the songs in an hour and a half. So some things have to suffer, I guess.

Mike: I would like to play more songs from the THEM album because that’s my favorite album and I would like that very much. I don’t think there are any particular reasons why we don’t play from that one….but I would like to play “Tea” and “Bye, Bye Missy” and maybe “Twilight Symphony.”

KING DIAMOND DVD?

There has been lots of talk about possible a DVD release from King Diamond at some point?

Andy: We’re working on it right now, collecting materials just to see what we have. But I don’t know when it’s going to be together and released. But we are planning to release something, yes.

That’s great news because there isn’t much good quality material available, even in bootleg format from King Diamond. I didn’t like the quality of the bonus DVDs either, which were released as a bonus for KD re-master albums some years ago?

Andy: Well, you’ll be surprised at how good it looks and sounds, even if it’s some old stuff from 1989 or 1990? So we’ll put out something that I don’t think will disappoint the fans.

How about doing a complete live show DVD from the current tour?

Andy: Yeah, we’ve been talking about it. I don’t know where or when it will happen, but we’ve just been talking about it. I guess we’re a little slow here, “laughs.”

BITS AND PIECES

Andy, when you first started working King Diamond, how did it start?

Andy: Mikkey Dee and I played in the same band over in Gothenburg back in 1984. Then Mikkey quit the band, and he moved to Denmark with some Swedish guys who had some contacts with Michael Denner and Tim Hansen from Mercyful Fate. Then, when King decided to leave Mercyful Fate and go on with King Diamond thing, Mikkey Dee was asked to join the band with Michael Denner. In the very beginning, they had another Swedish guitarist for a little while, but he didn’t work out in the studio, so Mikkey asked me to come down and check things out. The day after he called me, I took my guitar and amplifier, went down to Copenhagen, went into the studio, did a few lead things, and was in the band.

Mike, how much were you into King Diamond before you joined?

Mike: I listened to them a lot when I was younger. I bought the first EP on a really, really expensive import. I had never heard about the band and just bought the record, and I liked it very much. It’s pretty expensive these days, and it’s hard to get.

Andy, how about those other projects you have done during the past twenty years. What other things have you done besides working with King Diamond?

Andy: Yeah, a lot of producing. I’ve been doing a lot of producing, and I’ve also been a guest lead guitarist on many different bands like Dimmu Borgir, At the Gates, In Flames. Oh man, I can’t remember everything. But I have no actual band project so far, but maybe I’ve one coming up?

I remember that about five years ago, you said that you were planning a solo album. Is that still going to happen someday?

Andy: Yeah, maybe. We’ll see; I don’t think it will be a solo album; I think it will be more like a band thing because I want everyone to be involved in everything.

Will you sing by yourself?

Andy: No, I won’t do that “laughs.”

One of the most exciting things you have done outside of King Diamond is your work on Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns.” Death music is pretty different compared to King Diamond stuff. How did you end up working with him in the first place?

Andy: Well, I knew Chuck Schuldiner was a big King Diamond fan, so when they moved on to Roadrace Records, which was the name back then, he called Monty, who was the A&R guy at Roadrace and said, “Hey, I really want to have Andy play on this album” so Monty called me and invited me into the band. That was back in 1993, I believe. So I said yeah, sure. I wanted to do something different because we weren’t doing anything with King Diamond at that time. So I just flew over to Florida, and I spent like ten days there just having a lot of fun with the guys and putting down leads. That’s about it. I never toured with the guys or anything, but we were in touch for a few years. Chuck used to call me every new years eve; “Hey Andy, how are you doing? “Blah blah blah…” He was a fucking cool guy.

How did you react when you heard what happened to Chuck?

Andy: Well, of course, it’s horrible when you hear things like that. What can I say? Shit happens? It’s too bad! He was a really cool guy.

THE FUTURE OF MERCYFUL FATE?

Mike, because you are here, something has to be asked about Mercyful Fate. What is the state of Mercyful Fate at the moment? I mean, is that band alive at all?

Mike: Yes, I think so. We haven’t talked about anything else, but we haven’t put the band to rest. Everything revolves around the King Diamond band because we’ve got a good lineup here, and we get good shows, and the crowd seems to be growing a little bit tour after tour. I can’t really tell, but I think King wants to focus on King Diamond for the moment, and that’s fine with me. But in brief, Mercyful Fate isn’t officially dead yet.

There are rumors about a possible DVD release from Mercyful Fate?

Mike: Yes, that’s right, but I don’t know when.

Could you ever imagine doing another tour with both bands in the future?

Mike: No, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

In my opinion, both bands suffered from that?

Mike: Yeah, especially King’s vocals. So it’s kind of hard to do that. I mean, we did it once, and that’s fine, but it was a good experience.

Have you heard Hank Sherman’s project band Force of Evil?

Mike: Yeah, I’ve heard some of it. Hal Patino is in that band too.

What are your opinions about that band?

Mike: I think it’s pretty good, but I haven’t heard that much. My music taste is a bit heavier, toward the darker, slower side of music, but I still like Hank’s music in Force of Evil because it’s more classic-oriented like Judas Priest style, and I like that a lot. It’s what I grew up with.

Andy: I’ve only heard a couple of songs. I think it’s cool. I think it’s fine, but it’s not my cup of tea.

Okay, guys. Our fifteen minutes seems to be used… Thanx for your time!

Andy & Mike: No problem

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