INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
Doro Pesch is a German metal vocalist and songwriter. Doro started her career with garage bands in the Düsseldorf underground scene and achieved visibility and commercial success with Warlock in the 1980s. The band released four albums before breaking up in 1988. Later on, Doro decided to start her solo career under the Doro name. Many things have happened since then, but despite the massive changes in the music business, she has always survived. In fact, it’s been 35 years since the first Warlock album BURNING THE WITCHES, was released. And at the end of this month, Doro is putting out her thirteenth solo album, titled FOREVER WARRIORS, FOREVER UNITED. That’s a career what many can only dream of, so it was an honor sitting down with “the Metal Queen” last June, and discuss about the secret of her career longevity, changes in life, the new album, music business, and the possibility of more Warlock shows in the future.
THE 35’th ANNIVERSARY
The year 2018 marks your 35th anniversary as a musician and recording artist. When you started your career in the early ’80s, what kind of goals did you have, and how long did you think your musical career would continue?
Doro Pesch: Oh, man, I thought I would do this maybe for three, four, five years, yeah. I thought that would be awesome. And then I met Alex Globe, and he was my manager for 17 years. We always want to have an American manager, but we couldn’t speak English. So, Alex was American, but he’s born in Switzerland, so it worked out, and we met. And then he said, “Okay. So, tell me your plans.” And I thought, “Yeah. I want to do it till I’m 25, and then I will die anyway.” And he said, “Why?” I said, “Well, because I’m so exhausted already. I probably can’t take it any longer.” And he said, “What you mean?” And I was chain-smoking, didn’t eat right. And he said, “No. We have to change that.” He said, “I’m 58. You can definitely live longer.” And I thought, “That’s stupid.” And because when you’re young, you think that everybody are dead at 35. So, he said, “No, man. I’m 58. You can definitely live longer.” And he said, “I will show you.” And then I went to New York, and actually, I got– God, I had to do so much stuff. There was a coach. She was a coach of many rock stars, and I remember that. The record company must have spent a fortune on that. So, every day I had to get up at 7 o’clock, work out for five hours, take lessons. I couldn’t eat anymore what I wanted. I was not allowed to smoke. And when you don’t want to give up smoking yourself, it’s very hard, so sometimes I went home. I was living in Manhattan, and I was like a closet smoker. And then, oh, somebody came in, I was sort of, oh. And you could smell it. And then the person called Alex, and, “She’s smoking again.” I was, “Oh my God, oh my God.” But he actually saved my life too. So, it’s not anymore five years now, and it’s yeah– over 35 years. We want to celebrate our 35th anniversary this year because we started counting from the first record. It was done in the winter of 1983. So that’s the reason why it’s 35 years. But I started in 1980, and I never thought we would even last more than ten years. In 1980, the first band was called Snakebite, then was Attack, then Beast, and then Warlock.
Things have changed. I recently interviewed Gene Simmons and told him, “I read your interview from the year ’85 in Finland”, he was then maybe 36 at the time, but he then said: “There’s nothing more ridiculous than some guys on stage at their 50s.”
Doro Pesch: Yeah, yeah [laughter]. That is the same concept, yeah. Absolutely. When you’re younger, you have a different outlook, a different perspective on life. Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes, I guess the older you get, the more you can appreciate life. When you’re young, then you think, “Oh, fuck it. I’m just going to smoke or drink myself to death. It’s cool.” Not for nothing, but when many rock stars died when they were 27, I can understand that it’s a different feeling. But then I got more; I started to do all the great things. I started doing all the great festivals, meeting the fans, making the music. It means more to me. When I was young, I was thinking, “Oh, fuck it!” It was cool, we had fun, but it was not as deep, as meaningful. I wasn’t as grateful as I’m now. So, it was different, so I can totally understand that.
THE NEW ALBUM
FOREVER WARRIORS, FOREVER UNITED is your thirteenth solo album, and your seventeenth album if we count in the Warlock stuff as well. These days, almost everyone in the business says that it doesn’t make any sense to put out new records anymore. Instead of that, many bands release only singles and music videos now. But you are the total opposite to that, and you’re going in an entirely different direction. This new album, it’s a double album, and there are a total of 25 songs. So, why did you decide to work this way instead of following the current musical trends, and does it make any sense or not? “Laughs”
Doro Pesch: Yes. It’s the first double album, and I tell you, I wanted to do it because I wanted to show people that it’s still worth it to have a whole album, that every song counts. Every song is different. All the different musical styles, from anthems to fast songs to soulful ballads, and it’s all in this one album. And I wanted to do a double album. I don’t know if I would ever do it again, but it felt great and had so many ideas that were just coming out and popping out. And then I thought, oh god, I now have 35 songs. I have to get rid of at least 20 songs and thought, oh shit, I love them all. And I would like to do some special songs which probably are maybe more personal, or a cover version of a song which I love, like “Lost in the Ozone,” or “Don’t Break My Heart Again.” Yeah, and I inquired the record company, and at first, they said, “Yeah, in this day and age, not many people do double albums, and that stuff is more work, more money, and yeah.” But I thought, man, I want to do it. And then a couple of months ago, they said, “Eh, go for it. Just do it.” And I was so happy. And at first, there were discussions. “Maybe you do one album now and the next one in one year?” but I didn’t feel right about it because who knows what will happen in one year. And yeah. I want to have it now because the ideas and the zeitgeist are now. Who knows, in one year, if the world is still standing? It’s so confusing and so dark place now. So yeah, I wanted to put it out right now.
Is a double album something that you always wanted to do, but you never had a chance until now?
Doro Pesch: No, no. I never thought about it ever, no. For some records, for example, the third one, TRUE AS STEEL, we didn’t even have enough songs. It was so hard to get these ten songs or twelve songs together. And we had–I don’t know, it was sometimes you go through phases then suddenly if you’re very creative, you have tons of ideas, and sometimes when the pressure is on, then the ideas, they don’t even come up.
I understand it perfectly. You can’t force the songs to come out?
Doro Pesch: Exactly, exactly. Especially, you cannot force pure creativity or hits and stuff, but now everything was coming up very quickly. I knew the fans that were probably waiting for the album, but there was no pressure. I just could do what I felt. And in the ’80s or the ’90s, when we were doing a record, we spent like one or two years in the studio and then went to tour, but now we are doing everything simultaneously. We are doing festivals, tours, recording, and songwriting at the same time because touring has become more like the central part of the business. You need to survive. Some of my support bands’, I’ll just give away CDs for promotion. And I thought, man. Yeah, times definitely have changed so drastically. And I remember, touring, we always needed tour support in the ’80s, ’90s to even put on a tour because it’s very expensive. You know, the road crew, the tour bus, flying, hotels, and you need good technicians, not your friends who don’t know shit. So yeah. So, then we always needed tour support to be on the road, and now we try to survive from being on the road. It’s tough, it’s tough. I mean, I definitely saw the best times in metal in the ’80s, and the ’90s weren’t so good because of grunge and all stuff.
I’m sure that many bands want to forget those years…
Doro Pesch: Yeah. We want to forget about those years, but now I think it’s pretty good. But record sales are not– they are maybe 10% of what they were, no? Or maybe 5%.
That’s about right, but the positive thing is that people are still going to see the shows.
Doro Pesch: Yeah, and that’s great. At one point, people told me, “Ah, that will probably be changed, as well. People just want to see you on TV or a DVD.” And I thought, “Oh, I hope not.”So far, festivals and gigs are going great, and I hope it stays that way.
In my theory, the fans who were fans of the bands of the ’80s, when they became a little bit older, started to have families and stuff, and they kind of stayed away in the ’90s. But when their kids grew up, they started to see the shows again, and now they also bring their kids to the shows?
Doro Pesch: Yeah, yeah. And I think if you really love a band– I think, many fans, sometimes they go to any length to drive to a festival or a gig. But, of course, it’s hard when you have different interests, and when you have kids and a job, you’re exhausted when you come home from work, and there are so many other things. When I first started to make music, it was only music. There was nothing else. And now I have so much entertainment stuff, and it’s different. So not only music, which is– to me, it still is. It’s still the same. No other hobbies. It’s all about music. But for “normal” people, it’s not possible.
But you have also put other products but only music, like the wine, and some movie stuff?
Doro Pesch: Yeah. I put out the wine, and I did three movies. The latest one is “Anouk, Die Dunkle Flut.” It’s an independent movie, and it’s an adventure movie, and it will hopefully come out soon. It’s even harder to have a film released. Having a record released is hard, but a movie, it’s almost impossible because nobody wants to pay.
MORE ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM
As you mentioned earlier, the new album is a collection of different songs, from soulful ballads to metal, to big rock anthems. So, the first single and video from the album are “All for Metal.” Tell something about that song and how well it presents the whole album, in your opinion?
Doro Pesch: Yeah. Did you see the video, as well?
Yes. In fact, I watched on my phone when I was driving here “Laughs.”
Doro Pesch: Yeah. I can’t wait ‘till we play it live. We haven’t played it live yet and– yeah. There are so many friends and musician friends on the video, everybody together. And that is like the meaning of the double album, to give out good, positive, powerful energy, and that we all are together, fighting the good fight.
That video has a lot of joy and fun, but it also includes the element that I hate Wacken the most, the mud! “Laughs”
Doro Pesch: Yeah! But I thought, “Oh, this shot.” I love the mud, when they’re in slow motion, when the couple is falling in the mud, and oh, yeah. It’s so… the feeling is so “being free” on that video. Yeah. And then so many people are singing, yeah, like Mille, and Johan Hegg, and Chuck Billy, and so on. And Warrel Dane was the last time I saw him; it was last year in Wacken. He was doing good, and he was working on new music. We were friends since 1988 because then we did a long American tour together; Megadeth, Warlock, and Sanctuary. That was in ’88, and ever since, we have always kept in touch. He also came to our 25th-anniversary show. He had the longest flight. He came from Seattle to Dusseldorf, and it took three planes. It was 50 hours, and that was cool. And yeah, so man, time’s running out, so you never know. And he really looked healthy and good and was clean. I know he liked to drink but was totally sober then.
It’s sad but true, but that kind of surprising, sad news is happening more and more nowadays…
Doro Pesch: Yeah, we had one guitar player – he was with us in ’96, ’97, ’98, and Mario was his name. Mario Parrillo – he was such a fine player and such a good person and a cool guy. Yeah, and then we were on tour with Dio in 2000. And the first gig, I don’t know, we went to rehearse, and then Nick was like, “No, we can’t rehearse because Mario’s pretty sick.” And I thought, “Oh man. Maybe he has a cold?” I thought, okay then, let’s not rehearse. The next day, no rehearsal. I thought, “Okay. Oh shit, we need to rehearse.” Then it was the third day, we couldn’t rehearse, and then the tour started. And the first gig we did in this legendary venue in San Francisco – the Fillmore- and he as playing and he looked pale and I thought, “Oh.” And then the next day, he couldn’t play anymore. And the last day I’ve seen him in my life was in LA. We played, and Gene Simmons came down, and he was playing along with us, and it was great. And then Mario’s wife took him to the hospital, and then a couple of weeks later, he was dead. And he never drank, he never smoked, so, and he was 33, so.
You never know when your time is up?
Doro Pesch: You never know that. You never know, so, we have to do the best out of every day it’s crucial.
WRITING THE ALBUM
Going back to the album, what kind of team of writers did you have this time, or is it more like a band album?
Doro Pesch: It was both. “Turn It Up,” I wrote with my old-time friend, Joey Balin, who did TRIUMPH AND AGONY and FORCE MAJEURE. And then my old guitar player Tommy Bolin, we went to celebrate 30 years of TRIUMPH AND AGONY, and we did a couple of shows last year. The first show was in Swedenrock, and then we did Norway rock, and it was pouring rain, but we had so much fun. It was great. And then we went to the hotel room, and we were talking and talking, and then we said, shall we jam a little bit, and you know, let’s do it, then we jammed a little bit. And then we wrote, “If I Can’t Have You, No One Will.” And there was like, aw, it’s great, and I called up Johan from Amon Amarth and, since we did the duet on their last record, we’re great friends. So, I called Johan, and I said: “I have another idea here, check it out.” And I said, “If you feel like it, maybe you want to write the verses because we had some ideas for the chorus but no verses.” Then I send it to him, and then he did the verses. So, it was like a three-piece project with the song. When we played live with Tommy, I said, man, he’s so– he’s such a unique player, and the way he’s playing is very unusual stuff and like so energetic. And then I told Tommy I would like to have him play on this record. And then he played on “Turn it Up.” He’s doing all the licks, and then, in the end, he was also singing, that’s him singing. So, the early idea was to do that with Joey, but then it ended up with Tommy, and then we did some band songs like “Black, Sweat and Rock and Roll,” and then I did a couple of songs with Andreas Bruhn, the guy I did “Raise your Fist” and many other songs. We have worked together for over twenty-two years, at least. I did a couple of things by myself and one song I did with my guitarist Luca Princiotta. I recorded my first Italian language song, “Caruso.” It’s on the bonus tracks. So, Luca came here and coached me through because Luca is Italian. So, it was a group effort. So, there were many people involved in the album. “All for Metal” I did with Andreas, but then they said, we would like to have many people singing on it. Then we had our mobile recording with us, and when I was doing shows, whoever was like playing on the same bill, and I was like, “Hey, Mille do you want to sing?” And that’s how it came together.
I can guess that may be on the future shows, and we might see at least some of your “guest” vocalists visiting the stage to sing that track? “Laughs”
Doro Pesch: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Hopefully, they will come up and, you know?
There are two songs on the album which raised my attention after the first spin…
Doro Pesch: Oh, since I love them all its– I’m very curious to hear which ones?
The first one was “Turn it Up.” It’s a hard rock anthem with big hooks and great lyrics.
Doro Pesch: Yeah, yeah. It’s my kind of my life story the lyrics kind of tell my story “Laughs.”
I got it, “Laughs.” And then another one is “Blood, Sweat and Rock and Roll.” That’s a classic title of the rock song. Is there some story behind the song?
Doro Pesch: We played a show in a club, and Bas, our guitar player, was sweating and stuff, and it was hot, and it was a great show, so we were all excited and hyper, and we were sitting in the dressing room. And then he had his jeans vest. He wanted to put it on a hanger or something, so he put it there, and there was a nail – a rusty nail -, and he didn’t see it, and then he cut his hand, and it went right through, and then there was the blood and was like, “Uh.” And I thought oh, and I said, “Oh shit, Bas,” I said, “Well, it’s about blood, sweat, and rock and roll.” He said, “Yeah, it hurts.” And he said, “Oh man, that’s a good song title.” I thought, “Oh, let’s do a song out of it.” And then, a couple of months later, we did the song. It was out of pure energy and enthusiasm and the fans and survival through gigs, you know, it’s not a deep, deep, meaningful song, but it is about rock and what we love to do.
Speaking about the cover songs on the album, there’s a fantastic version of Motorhead’s “Lost in Ozone.” You were close with Lemmy for decades. Do you still miss him, and how much his influence can be heard on this album?
Doro Pesch: I still miss him big time. Lemmy was one of my best friends in the world. And I was on the plane, and I was flying to his funeral, and then the song ‘Living Life to the Fullest,’ it just came out. The lyrics were done, the melody was done. And then I switched on my cell phone, of course, because I thought, “I want to lay it down right now. It’s for Lemmy, to honor him.” And then I went to Hamburg, and I recorded it with Andreas Bruhn. And I said, ¬“Andreas, I have to record it right away.” And he said, ‘Yeah, come on over.’ And then we recorded the song. When Lemmy died, I was so heartbroken, but at the same time, when I went to his funeral, that was actually when I started to think that I had to– oh, I want to write. Oh, not that I want to write, but they, the songs, just started to came out. It was a wake-up call. I didn’t know that time is flying. I mean, I understood that you never know what can happen. And I always thought, “Lemmy would never, ever die. Never, ever”. And when it happened, it was so shocking.
Out of all those brilliant Motörhead songs, “Lost in Ozone” is an exciting choice. How you ended up recording that particular song?
Doro Pesch: Because I love that song so much, and that’s hard– it is probably one of the saddest lyrics I’ve ever heard. And I thought, maybe it gives other people hope who feel isolated or disconnected or super sad that when they hear the song when they hear the lyrics, it makes them feel good. That there are more people out there who think the same way. Even Lemmy felt at times totally desperate, totally lonely. So, I think it might be a good positive feeling that when you listen to the song that you feel, “Yeah. I’m not alone. It’s like it’s everybody feels at times like that shitty.” And I love the lyrics and the melody. And I like the soulfulness of Lemmy. I love “Ace of Spades,” but I love his sensitive side too. He was super intelligent. And he had a deep soul.
Last year, you played several shows under Doro Pesch and Warlock’s name and you played the entire TRIUMPH AND AGONY album live. Do you have plans to do more shows with that concept in the future?
Doro Pesch: Yeah, we probably want to do it a couple more times because the TRIUMPH AND AGONY album sounded so great in its entirety. When you think about that now, after 30 years, we are celebrating the album with Tommy Bolin. Let’s rehearse every song. Let’s see if it works. I always thought that every song on the album was special, also the songs we’ve never played before. Like the song “Make Time for Love,” which we’ve never played before. It was always in the shadows because sometimes you think, ‘One ballad is enough on the set.’ Then we rehearsed it, and while we were rehearsing, we thought, ‘This sounds so good.’ ‘Three Minute Warning’ is a great up-tempo song. I thought that all the songs were great. Maybe some of those are not as famous as “All We Are” or “I Rule the Ruins,” but if you know why it was so much fun, “Touch of Evil” is always fun with the screaming. Yeah, and “Kiss of Death,” we’ve never played before. Maybe played it once in ’88? But after that, we never did it. But that was kind of sweet. And yeah, it was fun. And we thought actually, maybe we want to do “Triumph and Agony” live album? So maybe next year we’ll want to do something like that and play some more festivals and with Tommy. I thought that Sweden Rock was already pretty nice. I saw the footage, and I felt that, yeah, it was very satisfactory.
Tommy Bolan is great, but maybe you should have asked Tommy Henriksen, who played on the album, to join the shows as well?
Doro Pesch: Yeah, but he is the guitar player now of Alice Cooper, and they have the Hollywood Vampires band also.
I know, but I met him and asked about this subject he said, he said that he was never asked. But he would have loved to do a show or two, for sure. Yeah, that’s what he says, but I know he’s a busy man nowadays.
Doro Pesch: That’s it. And I tell you, Nick, our bass player, he’s been 28 years in the band after all these years. So, I definitely want to make sure that the guys don’t feel that I do too much to the Warlocks staff and they don’t have a job anymore. I don’t want that, you know.
And you can play shows with three guitar players, but it wouldn’t work with two bass players?
Doro Pesch: No, and you never know if it works out. We did a couple of Warlock shows with Nick already in Spain. We did the Warlock reunion in 2004. Tommy wasn’t there, but the other guys were the line-up of TRUE AS STEEL, and then the old bass player, he had totally given up music. He was fed up with the music business, and he said he would never do it again. But he did one show in Wacken, but then he didn’t even take a bow with us. He was already really upset, and then we had to cut down the set a little bit. It was a festival set. He left the band. The more you do it; you know how it goes. But he didn’t play at all in a long time. He wasn’t used to it, and he was fuming. So, when we had more shows in Spain, he didn’t play with us anymore. And then I said, “Hey, let Nick play it because he knows all the songs.” And then Nick did it. I thought, “Oh, man. We click right away, and we don’t even have to look at each other or talk. It’s cool. We know what to do. So, yeah. I don’t want to take the risk that Nick or Johnny would leave the band. And we always play the Warlock stuff, so they know it very well. Nick is a killer guy. He’s a sweetheart, and he’s a great musician, super friendly and polite. You can live with that. That’s another thing. With some people, you cannot live in the same room for years and years, as they get on your nerves, or [laughter]– there’s always a problem. Or some people don’t even show up. So, it is always…it’s tricky. It’s like finding a new girlfriend or finding a new husband. It doesn’t work like that. But when it’s meant to be, then it’s cool. And after 28 years, I don’t want to mess with that.
I can understand that point of view.
Doro Pesch: There was only one American tour when our guitar player, Bas, didn’t get a work visa in time because it’s getting more and more difficult to go to America. And so, then we had only two guitar players. Bas was heartbroken, and that was already like a situation, but we worked it out.
Alright, Doro. Good luck with the new album, and I hope to see you on tour soon!
Doro Pesch: Thank you, Marko.