Interview: Doro Pesch

Who is the Queen of Metal?… Lita Ford? Sharon den Adel? Tarja Turunen? Amy Lee? Angela Gossow? Or maybe a new comer like Lzzy Hale? Or Kobra Paige? You can argue amongst yourselves, for me it is pretty clear and has been for thirty years, it is… Doro Pesch. In 1984 she burst onto the metal scene as the front woman for German rockers Warlock, since then she has managed to survive in this cut throat male dominated industry and remain standing while many others have fallen by the road side. Over the journey Doro has recorded four studio albums with Warlock and twelve studio albums as a solo artist, her latest “Raise Your Fist” could possibly be her best to date. I recently caught up with “The Metal Queen” to discuss her new record, thirty years of dominance and her best friend Lemmy.

Rock Man: Congratulations on what has been an outstanding career; could you have imagined when you started out singing that your career would last 30 years?

Doro Pesch: Oh no, no it was like, when I started I thought maybe two, three, four years, after thirty years it has been great. It has been a hard fight but it has been fantastic touring around the world with many great experiences, many great friends, we toured with all the bands I love, that I would never have imagined I’d have a chance to talk to them, then we were on tour with all my heroes, Ronnie James Dio, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Motorhead and it has been a great amazing time.

RM: Can you tell me about when you discovered music and your early influences, because I understand you wanted to be a graphic designer when you were younger?

DP: Yes, actually I loved music since I was three years old, that was my dream to become a singer and then I was fifteen, sixteen and I had my first band but I had to do a job, so I was a graphic artist and we had the first couple of gigs and actually it was my job to do all the poster, the logos, album sleeves, everything. Then after a couple of years I said, man it is really getting serious and then we got the great offer to be the support band on the European Judas Priest tour and Judas Priest was my favourite band and that was the day I quit my job. I ran to my boss and I told him “I can go on tour with Judas Priest” and he said “What is that?” and I said “Well, It is the greatest metal band” and he said “Is that the reason you always look so funny, with your bullet belts and your leather jackets” and I said “Yes, that is what metal is all about” and then he said “You’re crazy, but I wish you all the best and good luck” and then I quit my job. But music took over from the first band I had back in 1980 and then in 1983 we had our first record out, Burning The Witches, with my band Warlock and from then on there was no stopping.

RM: Congratulations on the release of the Raise Your Fist album, you must be incredibly proud at how this album turned out?

DP: Yes, yes absolutely. I think, you know, what can be better than a duet with the man, Lemmy Kilmister, I love that song, it is called It Still Hurts, it is very soulful and it is totally different to what people expect but I think it is a killer song. And the title track Raise Your Fist In The Air actually is our new anthem, almost like the same feedback like All We Are, which is usually our big thing. We play All We Are as the last song in the set and everybody gets crazy, but Raise Your Fist In The Air, you know, is totally doing the same, I always wanted to have another anthem. Then there are a couple of very fast speed metal songs like Revenge and Little Headbanger and one song which I really love is dedicated to Ronnie James Dio which is called Hero and I play it at every concert and people are usually moved to tears and I know millions of rock fans feel the same and we had a great chance to tour with Ronnie and we actually became great friends over the last ten years.

RM: Do you remember the first time you heard the tragic news about Ronnie James Dio and where were you at the time?

DP: Yeah, I was in New York and I could not believe it. The first chance I had to tour with Ronnie was in 1987, our album Triumph And Agony had just come out and we toured a great tour, but we didn’t have too much contact, it was just like “Hey, have a great show”, “You did great”, “Hi how are you”. But then we did another tour in 2000 in America and we became really great friends and it was awesome. Actually I could not believe it when I found out, I heard in all the magazines that he was doing much better and that everything was going really well and then it was totally shocking and for two weeks I could not even talk. I remember many people called me or emailed me, and many fans they said, man, you know. The song Hero actually was the first song we wrote for this record it just came out one night and, yeah, what a loss.

RM: What sort of feedback are you getting from the fans about this latest album?

DP: Oh, very good, very good great feedback. When we play the stuff live it is doing really well and it is fitting right into our set list, actually it does not feel like a brand new record it feels like an old classic with songs like Raise Your Fist In The Air, Rock Till Death or Hero it sounds like we have played it for twenty years but it actually came out last October. I think it feels right, I think it feels good, great songs and I think some songs will never leave our set list, I am pretty sure of that.

RM: I think Raise Your Fist and the last album Fear No Evil have had a very strong Warlock feel about them, do you feel that too?

DP: Yeah, well I think you could say that. Yeah it is more the metal spirit, I feel the last couple of years that metal is getting so huge again, I think every record is a sign of the times and I think the last five, six years it is bigger than ever. When I start writing a record I do not think like that, I do not think about it but in the end when it comes out or it is finished you think, yeah it has a lot of old school great things on it. I always love anthems, but stuff comes out when it comes out, you know, sometimes you cannot even force it, when something comes out naturally that is what you are hoping for and I think on this album many things came out naturally.

RM: One of the great tracks on the album is Sealed In Blood (Human Rights), this is a subject you have touched before on previous albums, how important is the whole subject of human rights to you?

DP: Yeah very, very important. I mean, doing music, to me that is like the greatest, that is the best and from touring worldwide I know that in some countries people do not have the freedom, especially women, they do not have the freedom even to sing, or to say what they feel and I dedicated the song Human Rights for a human rights organisation, they are called Terre Des Femmes, and they take care of young girls, young women with severe problems. So I wanted to dedicate it to that and of course I love all people and I want to support all the people, but I think in some countries for young girls, young women it is extremely difficult and being a woman, you know, somehow I feel like I have to say something I have to do what I can, even if maybe it is not much, but I think music can transform the world, so maybe it can add in ways that you do not know.

RM: When you look back at all the albums you have recorded, is there one or two that stand out to you as a favourite?

DP: Yeah I like two records so much, Triumph And Agony which was really, I think, a magical album full of great songs and the album cover, my first tour with Ronnie James Dio, it had so many great memories. And then a record, which I must say did not come out all over the world, but I think it is very special, it is the Love Me In Black album. It is a very classy album and it came out in a time, it was 1998 and it was hard for metal coming out worldwide, but it is a stunning album, it is a little bit different, different sounds, but I love it so much, the whole band, we feel like it is our favourite.

RM: How do you feel about making music videos, is it a process you enjoy or a necessary evil?

DP: Oh no, I love it. Actually in the 80s we had more of a chance to do great videos with huge budgets, sometimes the video was more expensive that the whole record, but in the end it was always a struggle to get it played on MTV or the other music channels, so for a long time we did not do any videos anymore. So on the Raise Your Fist record everybody said, “No, you do not have to do a video” and then I said “Let’s do it on our own” and we did it. But I love doing videos, I totally enjoy it.

RM: If I can take you back to 1986 and 1987, Warlock released two of the best albums of the decade with True As Steel and Triumph And Agony, on reflection what do you remember about making those albums?

DP: Actually the True As Steel album it was very difficult to make because the record company put a lot of pressure on us it was not so easy, but the Triumph And Agony album, I love it. It was my first time being in New York and after a little promotion tour, I did a promotion tour for like two or three days, and then I stayed and everything fell into place. On that record I met great people, we went to great studios and then we started writing and recording the Triumph And Agony album. To this day we always play songs like All We Are, or I Rule The Ruins, East Meets West, Metal Tango, Fur Immer and I think it came out so good, and you could feel there was magic in the air and you could tell there was something big in the making and I did not feel any pressure, they were so great, somehow I was told I could do what I felt.

RM: After Warlock disbanded, you found yourself as a solo artist, was this a difficult time for you and were the first couple of albums difficult to make?

DP: Well, I never wanted to do a solo career. We lost the rights to the name Warlock, that was really when the problems started and of course I always wanted to make music and then the record Force Majeure, we wanted to put it out and then we got in a big lawsuit and we could not use the name Warlock anymore. Actually twenty years later I got the rights to the name back, so it took a long time and actually it was very hard to survive. Doing the records was fun but I was very sad I could not perform under the name Warlock anymore and it was never my choice to do a solo career. But one record was awesome, the record Gene Simmons produced, actually Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer, it was 1990 and Kiss was my favourite band when I was growing up and it was awesome. Gene was one of the best producers I ever had, really nice, really great guy and somehow we can do it under the name Doro but it was definitely not easy. And now it is pretty late in the game and I own the rights to the name Warlock, there were some problems in the band way back when too, it was tricky times.

RM: You have had a long standing friendship with Lemmy from Motorhead and he has appeared on your records, can you recall the first time you met him and why is it that you have remained friends for so long?

DP: My first time I met Lemmy was in England, and I was invited to a party, and the most important magazine back then was Kerrang! Magazine in England, and they had a party and I was there to perform a couple of songs, to introduce myself and it was a very important day and record company people, magazine people, everybody was there. I did some sound checks, there was another band playing, they did not fly the whole band over so I had to perform with another band, so we did some sound checks and everything was okay, so I had a couple of hours and I walked around the corner and there was a pub and that was the first time I met Lemmy. Lemmy smiled at me and said “Are you Doro?” and I said “Yes, are you Lemmy?” and we smoked some cigarettes, had some whiskey cola, and after a couple of whiskey colas I though “Oh my God” and then he said “Don’t you have to do a gig?” and then I said “Oh yeah” and I walked out of the pub and thought “Oh my God that whiskey was so strong” and usually I do not drink that much or not at all. I walked on stage and totally forgot all the lyrics and I could not even sing and I was sitting on the drum riser waiting until the guys were done playing the song, it was all instrumental and then after the gig was done I walked off stage and people were in shock and they said “Doro why did you do it? That was the chance of a life time” and I said “I am so sorry, I met Lemmy of Motorhead” and then everybody started laughing, “Okay, now we understand” and they said “Let’s give her another chance” and everything worked out fine. But it was a day I’ll never forget, it was the first time meeting Lemmy and from then on we became great friends, I love Lemmy so much and all the Motorhead guys, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee, and we went on tour together many times and he is one of my best friends in the heavy metal world.

RM: A question I ask a lot of bands I speak to is about metal fans and their incredible loyalty to the genre, do you have any thoughts on why they remain so devoted and loyal to their favourite bands the way they do?

DP: I tell you that is why I have never been married, I love the metal fans. To me, it is like they are my family, my closest friends and I would do anything for the fans and that will never ever change, they can count on me because I know I can count on them. The fans worldwide have a heart of gold and they are great people with great spirits and I would totally trust them with my life which I always do every day. I am so happy to belong to this great metal family, to be one with them, to be a part of them, and I am a fan myself, I think it is something special, something unique, and I am still a big metal head.

RM: You appear to be always touring, can you tell me about your touring plans for the next twelve months and do you have any plans to revisit Australia?

DP: Yes, Definitely looking to come to Australia, I hope the beginning of next year. It was a great tour, I know it was many years ago, I will never ever forget it, I hope early next year we can come to Australia and the next couple of months we are doing European dates and we just did our first concert for the thirty year anniversary celebration at Wacken which took place two weeks ago and we want to do a couple of special cities with a big celebration with guests, the best lights and pyrotechnics, you know, something really magical. Then we will see, maybe another record, whatever it takes to make the fans happy.

RM: Again, congratulations on the Raise Your Fist album and all your success over the past three decades, from all of us here at Full Throttle Rock we wish you all the very best.

DP: Thank you so much, thank you for talking to me, you were very sweet. Hi to all the metal fans, thank you for the support of thirty years, I love you and hope to see you very soon and all the best.