German metal queen Doro has been a staple of ‘our kind of music’ for nearly forty years now, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that her latest best of collection, Magic Diamonds, should weigh in at a gargantuan fifty six tracks in length. However, the fact that we’ve never featured Doro before in our hallowed pages beyond the odd news piece or review meant that we’d have been keen to talk to the diminutive chanteuse about here career even if she was putting out a two track seven inch of bird calls and ‘forest sounds’… even an early morning phone slot didn’t deter your humble interlocutor, and so here we are, ready to talk metal with one of the genre’s most enduring heroines…
The first time I saw you, in Warlock, was at London’s Marquee Club (this elicits a cry of delight at the other end of the line). The next time I saw you, a couple of years later, you were playing at the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival in 1986. That’s quite a fast rise – were you surprised just how quickly things happened for the band at the start of your career? “Yes, totally. When we recorded our first record, Burning The Witches, we had no idea that anybody would hear about our little band. It was released by an independent label (Mausoleum, in 1984) and suddenly we were able to play all these great festivals. Or go on tour – and play places like the Marquee Club! We had no idea that Monsters of Rock would be so big- we though maybe a few thousand people would be there, but there were eighty thousand! That was a shock but it was awesome… then after that festival I was able to play with my favourite band, Judas Priest… that’s when I quit my day job as a graphic designer. Our second tour after Donington was with W.A.S.P. in England and the third was with Ronnie James Dio. I couldn’t have asked for more – all my heroes, all my favourite bands… Saxon, Motörhead, we played with Megadeth in the States, Scorpions… I was a huge Kiss fan growing up so working in 1989/90 with Gene Simmons on the Doro album was a dream come true! I am so blessed!”
And now to the Magic Diamonds release. We’ll talk about the music of course, but first I’d like to talk about the fact that the album comes with it’s own perfume – not the usual bonus you’d expect to come with a heavy metal record I’m sure you’ll agree. How did that come about? “From touring for so many years, touring for two or three months with twenty people, it sometimes good to have some perfume on! (laughs). I’m a big perfume lover, and since 1993 I’ve been making my own, and now my perfume is included in the limited edition box set version of the album! I always try to do something special, and at first it was just a perfume for ladies. But then I went into my record label Rare Diamonds‘ office, some of the people there said ‘where’s the perfume for the men?’ I didn’t think that any would be interested, but the guys in the office said yes, so then we had to try to find a really nice smell for the men… But of course, it’s up to everybody’s taste. The bottles are really cute, so if you don’t want to use the perfume they still look great”.
So, to the music – as I noted in the intro, there are fifty six tracks on this release – how hard was it to make the selections, and also to decide which specific version of songs to use? “Man, at first I thought, ‘maybe we’d put twenty songs on a best of’, and then I went through my archives and found many nice songs, deep cuts, great live versions and I thought ‘no, we’ll do thirty’, then forty, then forty five and then fifty six! And there are still some songs not on there that I thought would have been great! Everything had to be worked on, except the studio versions of songs that you can find on the original releases; but all the live stuff had to be remixed, the engineers had a lot of work getting rid of feedback and making sure that the guitars were in tune… these fifty six songs were my favourites, but maybe in four or five years there’ll be a volume two! We asked the fans as well, we asked what songs they wanted to be featured, and some of their suggestions were songs like Fortune Teller and Even Angels Cry. Songs we hadn’t played in many many years, but we found nice versions of these songs, so… it was nice to use those versions. Also I wanted to make sure all the duets I’ve done over the years were included. Descent, which I recorded with Pete Steele (Type O Negative) who unfortunately isn’t with us any more, the first duet I ever did which was with Lemmy, for the Calling The Wild album (2000); Bob Kulick and Eric Singer also played on that session, which was magical!”
I’m glad you mentioned the duets – there are a lot of them on the record! Is there anyone left that you’d like to collaborate with that you haven’t yet? “I would have loved to have worked with Ronnie James Dio! he was my hero. We wrote a song for him, Hero, on Raise Your Fist (2012). I recorded Egypt (The Chains Are On) for a Dio tribute album. It’s my favourite Dio song. In 2000 I was invited to go to a party in America, the release party of Dio’s Magica album in New York. Ronnie came up to me and said he loved my version of Egypt… that meant so much to me! A couple of months after that we went on tour in the US with Dio, starting in San Francisco and ending in Florida, and for the last three Florida shows he would bring me out and we would sing the chorus arm in arm with the audience to that song! That was so awesome. I wish that someone had recorded it, but back then there were no cellphone cameras, and I’ve never seen any video footage of it either. So Ronnie James Dio would have been great. I could imagine doing great songs with Rob Halford, Blackie Lawless, James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine… David Coverdale! There are tons of people I’d still like to work with, but it depends on the circumstances, you usually have to come together by playing at a festival or doing a tour, there needs to be meaning behind why you do something together. But maybe for the new record coming out that I’m already working on something will turn up! Maybe destiny is paving the way for something new to happen!”
Let’s talk about touring – you have a lot of dates in the pipeline for next year – have you any idea whether you’ll end up playing them? “We are hopeful. We had so many gigs lined up for 2020, festivals, two European tours, two American tours, South America, Australia… so much got postponed or cancelled. We just had a couple of drive-in shows which we did. But I’m hoping that next year things will get back to normal although it doesn’t look so good. But I’m hoping for the best. But it has to be safety first, I don’t want to put the fans or the band or the road crew at risk”.
How did those drive-in shows go? “It was a totally different animal! It’s not like a normal festival or show but it was so much fun! It looked like the All We Are video that we shot in 1987! There were all these cars… but the people had a great time, we had a great time. It just takes a bit of time to get used to because you don’t hear fans screaming or singing along – the feedback is not the same. You don’t get all the wet hair in your face when the fans are headbanging! At first it’s a little strange but after to or three songs you forget about it and just try to put on a great show. The version of Love Me In Black from this new album was recorded at the last Drive In show! I think at the end of the day we have to be flexible. To make people happy is my mission in life, wherever, whenever”.
Now, normally when we have a chat with an artist about their new album we like to go through the record with them track-by-track (slightly worried laughter at the other end of the line here, where it’s the time is approaching what we in the trade call ‘bedtime’), but we’re obviously not going to make you go through all fifty six! Instead I’ve self indulgently picked my favourite ten tracks from the record to have a chat about – can you tell us a little about them? “OK!”
The first one I’ve picked is All We Are, which opens the album. The version here is The Fight version. Tell us a bit about that. “A great friend of mine was the undisputed boxing champion for twelve years, Regina Halmich, who I’d written many entry anthems for over the years. She was engaged to fight a famous German TV personality and asked me if I would do a new version of All We Are for her. She won! So I wanted to use that version on the new album because there’s a lot of nice power and All We Are is still one of my favourite songs. I don’t think I’ve ever performed a show without singing it since we wrote it!”
The next track I’ve selected is Thunderspell. “That’s another one I love so much! It was the last song we wrote for Fear No Evil (2009). I love the melody and it has a great vibe. A typical metal song, I would say”.
Thirdly we have Haunted Heart. ‘That’s a song that was originally on Warrior Soul (2006) which was the soundtrack to the first movie I was in, which was called Anuk – Der Weg des Kriegers. I played a warrior, and wrote many songs for the movie. This song reminds me a little bit of a Judas Priest song – the riffing. It has a very soulful melody and a good message”.
Next up is The Night of the Warlock. “This is the first song I wrote where The Warlock speaks! In the beginning I wrote the lyrics and it was me speaking as The Warlock, But then we slowed it right down and it sounded funny but spooky, so I decided that maybe my drummer Johnny Dee should speak the words, so the voice of the Warlock is now Johnny Dee! It’s a weird, spooky song about the Warlock, who I think was a great symbol for the band. Perfect for Hallowe’en!”
I’ve picked Für Immer next. “From the album Triumph and Agony, one of my favourite records. I mover to New York in 1987 and then everything fell into place. We wrote many great songs and Triumph and Agony became my most successful album. Für Immer was the first German song I’d recorded, although it has English German and Spanish parts in it. It talks about deep friendship, deep love which will never ever end. Like All We Are I’ve sung it at every show I play, and many times at Weddings!”
The next song is Raise Your Fist In The Air. “From the album Raise Your Fist! (2012) – a killer live track, you know, ‘stand up for what you believe in!’ follow your heart, do what’s right! All the metalheads, their hearts are always in the right place! The video was filmed in New York, in a bad neighbourhood… we were under a bridge, suddenly some people came out and started dancing with us! They looked like they would like hip hop more than metal but they loved us… it’s a cool video people that hopefully people will still check out on You tube!”
I Rule The Ruins is my next selection. “Another one from the Triumph and Agony album! We have two versions on Magic Diamonds. The first is an awesome, kick-ass live version and the other is a nice orchestral version. The strings sound great! It’s another of my favourite songs which is why it’s on the album twice! But I do think both versions are really nice”.
Love Me Forever – tell us about this one. “That’s the first duet I did with Lemmy. We recorded this in Bob Kulick (Balance, Kiss, Meatloaf)’s studio in Los Angeles. Unfortunately Bob passed away a few months ago. Eric Singer plays drums which was awesome. Lemmy was my best friend. He and Ronnie James Dio meant so much to me and I still miss them so much. I love this version, it’s so soulful”.
What about Love Me In Black? “One of my favourite songs ever. There was an album called Love Me In Black which was never officially released; we worked three years on it in America but it didn’t come out, although I think our diehard fans know about it. This version was recorded at one of our Drive-In shows, and I think it feels magical. It’s dark, romantic and one of the coolest songs we’ve ever written”.
Lastly – It’s Now or Never. “A high energy song! Someone I always love to work with is Andreas Bruhn, who used to play guitar for The Sisters of Mercy; We’ve worked together a long time, since 1997 I think, and this is a special version of the song which I wrote with Andreas because Slash came to New Jersey where we were recording to play a solo. He was so quick – so ‘on’. We went out to dinner an he was very cool. I’m so glad he came to play for me”.
Thank you! It’s not often you get to hear some insights into your favourite songs from the person that recorded them! Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers before we sign off? “Yes – thank you all for your support from the early eighties all the way to today. I’m so pleased we can all rock out together still they are my inspiration and motivation in life. I’m totally dedicated to the fans and to metal forever! I wish everybody the best – stay rocking, stay healthy, and I hope that we will see each other again very soon”.
Magic Diamonds – Best of Rock, Ballads & Rare Treasures releases on November 13th.
Warlock photo at Donington: Neil Goosey.