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18th September 2012
Hot on the heels of a recently released EP, 'Raise Your Fist in the Air', the irrepressibly enthusiastic Doro Pesch is set to unleash a new studio album towards the end of October, 'Raise Your Fist', the twelfth under her own name and first for new label Nuclear Blast. Metal Discovery spoke to the legendary metal icon about her latest full-length ahead of its release as well as discussing her return to film acting and what plans might lie ahead to celebrate her thirtieth anniversary in the music business next year...
METAL DISCOVERY: How you doing?
DORO: Very good, and yourself?
(Doro Pesch on filming the video for new single 'Raise Your Fist in the Air')
"Then I was singing and, at first, we thought we would be all alone and, suddenly, people came out and all kinds of people…sometimes some gang members were ready to whatever, you know, knock our lights out!"
Doro Pesch - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2011 Frank Dursthoff
Interview by Mark Holmes
MD: Yeah, great at the moment thanks. Have you been doing many interviews today?
DORO: Yeah, actually, yeah. The voice is almost hoarse but I’ve been used to it for the last twenty nine years!
MD: Of course, definitely! So the forthcoming new album is called ‘Raise Your Fist’ and the opening track, ‘Raise Your Fist in the Air’; I read it’s about fighting back against injustice in the world?
DORO: Yeah, and rebellion and fighting the good fight all together. It reminds me a little bit of our anthem ‘All We Are’. We played it a couple of times live to see how the new songs would work and ‘Raise Your Fist…’, it was working great. There was a real feeling of unity. I ask people, “hey, show me your fist”…the first time I did it was last year at Wacken and, suddenly, there were sixty thousand fists in the air! It was unforgettable so then I thought, yeah man, I wanna have it opening up the album and as the first single.
MD: Marvellous. It’s a very anthemic, powerful sounding metal tune so was it important for the song to have that kind of drive so people could raise their fists to the track as a sign of unity against injustice?
DORO: Usually when I do stuff, I don’t have a plan. I don’t sit down and say, “okay, I do it like this.” It really flows out and, usually, the songs lead you the way. Sometimes it’s awesome, like when you feel there’s something that the song doesn’t need or doesn’t want and I always get a stomach ache, and when I feel it’s good I’m totally at peace. Usually, I don’t know where that comes from. It’s very interesting; I guess it’s magic sometimes! So with ‘Raise Your Fist’, yeah, the first time I played it to somebody, the guys who were doing the Wacken festival, I played them the demo, it wasn’t finished, but they said, “you’ve got to play it.” I said, “oh god, it’s not done”…they said, “play it anyhow, play it!” And then I did it and, actually, I sang the same verse two times but we completely felt okay.
And I played it a couple of times in other countries, in Moscow and in France, and usually I like to say something in the language of the people where we are playing. Yeah, and I asked, “what does it mean to raise your fist in the air?” and they said, “Lève Ton Poing Vers Le Ciel”. It sounds really good and I thought, ooo, sometimes I like singing in other languages like Spanish and Portuguese and thought, this one, I definitely want to give it a try. And I had somebody translating it and then I had to try and make sure I was singing it okay and, now, it’s a little hit, Mark. I just came back from France and they play it on the radio and we’re not used to having our songs or metal played on the radio but, yeah, it works great.
MD: Fantastic.
DORO: I was a big fan of the band Trust – I don’t know if you remember?
MD: I do, yeah, Nicko McBrain used to drum for ‘em and I know Anthrax covered one of their tracks.
DORO: Yeah, and I always thought their French versions were so cool, I loved it. The English ones were okay too but I think French, sometimes, has a nice hardcore vibe to it so I thought, okay, ‘Raise Your Fist…’ in French.
MD: Cool. And, of course, there’s the universal language of metal so everyone gets that, whatever language the lyrics are in!
DORO: Totally, yeah, yeah, absolutely!
MD: There’s a video for the track which you filmed in the Bronx, a very gritty looking video and I’ve read you described it as “the most rundown quarters” where you’ve said you “felt anything but safe”.
DORO: Yeah.
MD: I’ve also read you offered for some of the locals to act in the video as well so was that a case of making friends so you had a safer experience?
DORO: Totally and, actually, in New York City at the moment, it’s so hard to get permission to film. It’s almost impossible so we thought, okay, let’s rent out a truck and then go to all the great neighbourhoods which look great on film. Then we drove everywhere and we thought, hmm, that looks good…usually it was under a bridge. Then I was singing and, at first, we thought we would be all alone and, suddenly, people came out and all kinds of people…sometimes some gang members were ready to whatever, you know, knock our lights out! I said, “sorry guys”, and they said, “well, it’s our territory”, and I said, “I’m so sorry, I don’t want to invade your territory but we’re just shooting a video”, and they said, “oh, what kind of music?”, and I said, “well, let’s play it.” Then we played ‘Raise Your Fist…’ and, suddenly, all these gang members were dancing and whatever and then I said, “hey guys, do you want to be in the video?”, and they said, “sure”…and they were so awesome.
And then more and more people came out and there were actually some homeless people sleeping there and one guy who you can see in the video, he has a white t-shirt on, he’s actually seventy eight years old but he looks pretty young. And he said, “yeah, I love jazz, is this jazz?” I said, “no, it’s metal”, and then he listened to it and he was dancing and singing along! In the end I thought I definitely want all the people in the video. I thought it’s so nice that music can definitely touch everybody’s heart - it doesn’t matter if you’re a jazz fan or a rap fan or something. And then I thought I definitely want to do something for the homeless people in New York because I know it’s hardcore sleeping there and living there, especially in the winter time. I said, “thank you for being in our video”, and then we said, “okay, we’ll see you on tour”, and we want to do something that makes them happy where the fans bring some food, blankets, jackets when we play some concerts. You know, I want to do something.
MD: Awww, that’ll be so nice.
DORO: It was a great, great experience. And then we shot some Wacken footage last year when it was the first time we performed the song…luckily it was filmed, so it’s a combination between Wacken footage, live footage and all the stuff in New York – the Bronx, Harlem and everywhere where it looked cool and, yeah, lots of different people.
MD: It’s turned out really well, it looks great.
DORO: Thank you.
MD: You have a song on the album called ‘Hero’ which I gather is a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, the great man himself. I gather he was a personal hero of yours then?
DORO: Yes, he always was. When I had my first band I was fifteen and Ronnie was always my favourite singer. And many years later, we had a great chance to go on tour together and it was unforgettable; it was in ‘87. My first big tour was ’86 with Judas Priest and my second tour was with Ronnie James Dio. I couldn’t speak English that well so our conversations were a little bit like “great show” and “thank you”…but it was great. We toured together again in 2000 and it was so great because it was my first long tour in America again. It was after grunge was on the way out. In 1999 I felt, yeah, metal’s picking up again and, actually, I had a new record deal which I got from our fan club when they got the new record deal in the States. The guys in the record company said, “hey, I know that you were a great Dio fan and he’s in town for a release party for his ‘Magica’ album”, and they said, “do you want to go?”, and I said, “I would love to.” I’d just made my album ‘Calling the Wild’ in ‘99 and then I went to Ronnie’s party and said, “hey, congratulations for the new album”, and he said, “oh Doro, I’m so glad to see you and I’ve always wanted to tell you I love your version of ‘Egypt’”…we did that for a tribute album of Ronnie James Dio. And he said, “I love the feel, it sounds great.”
So we got talking a little bit and then a couple of weeks later I did the first interviews for the record and there was a radio station in America, KNAC, which was very important at the time and they are now online but, back then, it was the biggest and most important. I had a nice interview with the lady and she asked me if we had any touring planned and I said, “not yet but I would love to go out on the road with somebody or do a headline tour playing the clubs.” And she said – “You know who’s calling in one hour? Ronnie James Dio.” I said, “oh, really?”, and she said, “I’ll suggest it to him you guys go together out on the road”, and I said, “okay, okay, why not, I have nothing to lose and this would be great!” And I told her we were on tour before in ’87 and she said, “do you know what, I will ask him.” So, to make a long story short, a couple of weeks later we were on tour together and it was the greatest tour I’ve ever had.
We got along so great and then we could actually have some great conversations and we went out to eat and laughing, and Ronnie always loved to eat Indian food so we were always trying to find an Indian place. At the end of the tour, it was in Florida, the last couple of gigs he was a total gentleman and said, “okay Doro, let’s sing the encores together”, and then, arm in arm, we sang the encores for the last shows. Since that tour we became really, really good friends and then we toured together many more times and I’ve opened up for Heaven & Hell. He seemed really fine…I knew something, like there was a problem, but he sounded great, he looked great and then, actually, I read in the magazines he’s doing really fine and much better and then, suddenly, it was so shocking when we all heard he left us.
We were all talking on the phone, many fans, many friends, and then we did some concerts and a couple of weeks later I was going to sleep and then, suddenly, this idea ‘Hero’ was shooting out of my heart…the melody, the notes, everything was done; just some verses that were not totally finished, but the chorus was there. Then I thought, I’ve got to record it. Then I went to a friend of mine in New Jersey, we recorded it and then I asked somebody who helped with the ‘Triumph and Agony’ album in ’87, his name is Joey Balin; I contacted him and said, “hey Joey, you remember when we were on tour together in ’87?”, because he was actually with us on tour, and I said, “well, I want to make sure the words are perfect, it’s for Ronnie”, and we finished the song. And then I recorded some more stuff with the guy who did the song for Ronnie’s tribute album, ‘Egypt’, his name is Rudi, in Germany. Then I said - “Can you get me the files? I want to mix most of the album in Denmark with Jacob Hansen.” He said, “yes, I’ll get the files ready, can I offer you a mix too?” I said, “yeah, certainly.” Then I heard the mix and that’s the one which made the record because I thought it was perfect. I remembered that Ronnie liked the ‘Egypt’ version and the sound so I thought that’s the one.
MD: That’s cool. So you have nothing but happy memories of Ronnie?
DORO: Totally, totally. On one hand it’s so sad and heart-breaking but, on the other hand, every time I listen to Ronnie’s music it inspires me so much. And I was a part of the Dio Disciples tour in Spain because Ripper Owens, he wanted to go to his daughter’s wedding and the Dio office, they called me and said, “hey Doro, you want to fill in and sing Ronnie’s songs?” I was like, “ohhh, that’s too much” as, at the time, I was in South America, in Brazil, and I said, “but when?” and they said, “next week”, and I said, “ahhh, okay, yes, I want to do it.” And then, actually, I sung in Spain with another singer, Toby Jepson and it was with Simon Wright and Craig Goldy, and I knew those guys well because we did the other tour together. And it was great, it was fantastic. But it’s super sad and such a loss.
MD: Definitely. And you got to play on the Ronnie James Dio stage at Bloodstock two years ago, of course…
DORO: Yeah, exactly, and I love it that many people make a real effort to give honour and thanks. That should always stay that way.
MD: It will do. Forever, I think. You have Lemmy on the album as well, singing on ‘It Still Hurts’. Was that song originally written with Lemmy in mind to do a guest vocal spot or did you feel he’d be able to add something to it once it had been written?
DORO: Actually, we worked together before in 2000. It was for the ‘Calling the Wild’ album when we went on tour with Ronnie in 2000 and Lemmy, he wrote a beautiful song – it was called ‘Alone Again’. It was an acoustic guitar, it was very soulful, I loved it so much. And then I asked Lemmy if we can do a remake of ‘Love Me Forever’ so we have done two tracks before. I love his soulful side; I think that’s another dimension. So, on this record, ‘It Still Hurts’, it came about…I had a phone conversation with an old boyfriend and he was a musician but then became a doctor and he settled down, he’s married now and has a kid, and we’re still great friends. Then, one time, he called me and said, “can you be the godmother of my son?”, and I said, “wow, that’s so nice to offer but that’s a lot of responsibility and being a musician you’re always on the road, I don’t know if I can take the responsibility.” And he said, “please, it would mean so much to me”, and we had a really heavy, deep conversation. And then I hung up the phone and thought, “ohhh, it still hurts, oh god, it still hurts!”
Then the song came about and then I went to Hamburg and a great friend of mine, Andreas Bruhn, who worked with me on the album on most of the songs and I said, “Andreas, I have this idea and it’s a ballad.” I sung the chorus to him and he said, “hmmm, I like it, let’s work more on it.” Yeah, then we worked some more on it and he was singing a little bit on the verse and I said, “it calls for a duet.” He said, “you think so?”, and I said, “yes”, and then I heard him singing and humming and thought it would be great if Lemmy could sing on it because when we did ‘Alone Again’ and ‘Love Me Forever’, Lemmy has such a great, soulful voice and thought this would be something for Lemmy. Then he made me a rough mix and he said, “okay, try it and play it for Lemmy.” And then I was on tour with Lemmy and I always had the song in the back of my mind so eventually played it for Lemmy and he said, “I love it, let’s do it.” Lemmy recorded the vocals in LA and I was sitting there and every word I was melting away…I was so happy and it’s such a great honour to have Lemmy singing on it. We’ve been friends for a long, long time and I always love to do something together.
MD: Moving on from the album, I gather you’ve been doing some more acting recently for the ‘ANUK - Der Weg des Kriegers’ in Ireland and Switzerland…a bit of horse riding, biting off people’s ears and that kind of thing…
DORO: [laughs] Yeah!
MD: How was that experience?
DORO: Yeah, it was hardcore and, actually, it’s the second part of the movie. The first one we did in 2007 and it’s an independent movie maker whose name is Luke Gasser, and he’s wild and great and first we met because he asked if I could write some songs for the movie. I said, “oh yes, I could try”, and he gave me the script – and it was like one was written and the other one was painted, every picture was painted. Then I said, “yeah, I definitely want to do some music”, and he said, “how about you play a part?” And I said, “okay”, and he said, “well you can choose whichever role you want to play.” I chose a girl who’s a warrior, her name is Meha and I said, “hey Luke, Meha would be good”, and he said, “I knew that, I already had it in mind.” Yeah, and I tried it and I think it came out really good and now we are filming the second part and I have to do some more stuff in January. But I tell you, making a movie is almost like being in boot camp! Getting up at four in the morning and having to be ready by five, and then it’s almost twenty hours. It was a total adventure, a little bit dangerous…I was happy I’m still alive! There were so many things where I thought, okay, now I know why the real actors need a stuntman or stuntwoman!
MD: The perils of low-budget, independent filmmaking!
DORO: [laughs] Yeah, exactly, exactly! We went to Ireland because the coast is great and we wanted to do some helicopter shots and he said, “okay, we’ll put you here and just wait for a couple of hours; we are coming back over in the helicopter so just wait but be ready.” And then I had to be ready and, after five hours, I felt, oh god, I can’t stand up anymore! It was totally cold, like very windy, and I thought, oh my god. Then, suddenly, I saw the helicopter…I didn’t hear it; I thought I would hear it first but I saw it first and then they told me to get really close to the cliff. I did and I was standing there and there was really a lot of stormy winds and rain. Then, suddenly, the helicopter almost blew me away because the wind of the helicopter was ten times stronger than the wind! It was already hardcore and then I thought, oh god…and then I’m so glad I’m still here! They caught it on film, it’s all good, and I said, “well, it’s kind of dangerous”, and Luke said, “nah, it’s not dangerous”! I thought, okay, it looks great, it has to look real. There’s a little violence too and, usually, the blood is fake blood but some of the blood is real because I really got hurt and I got hurt a couple of times. But then I said - “hey, aren’t you a metal head?...Yeah, I’m a metal head, it’s okay!”
MD: That’s dedication! I guess it makes going on tour and being in a metal band seem easy by comparison!
DORO: Totally, totally! But I learnt so much from that and I learnt the body can definitely go to another limit. And I don’t complain anymore when I’m on tour!
DORO: But it was great; a great experience. Of course, that’s just on the side but it always inspires me and I wrote one song for the movie, it’s on the new record, ‘Free My Heart’. And we wanted some more songs and more atmospheric music for the movie so that will be coming out next year but ‘Free My Heart’ is the first one.