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Interview: DORO

Rock Stars...  


When I was first asked whether I would be interested in interviewing Doro Pesch, one of the leading personas in the world of female-fronted Metal for the last 25 years, I accepted based on the strength of all the albums that I had heard which were released by the Dusseldorf-bred artist back in the 80s.

The moment I first came into contact with her latest effort "Fear No Evil", though, I realised that this highly experienced German troubadour is capable of releasing albums that will not only satisfy her loyal fan base but younger Metal fans alike. Please take the time to read what I consider to be one of the most enjoyable interviews I have conducted thus far in my career.

Doro, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview, especially as I know that your schedule today is quite full. I have been listening "Fear No Evil" for the last one and a half weeks now and it is indeed a very easy-listening and pleasurable album, so congratulations are indeed in order here. How is the promotional campaign going thus far and what does it involve?

Doro: Everything is going well and I have been getting lots of positive feedback so far, something that of course always makes me happy. You see the record you are working on, your latest album, is always the one that you feel most attached to, so I am really happy so far - it's all going really good.

We have started our promotion tour in Spain, we did quite a few stuff in Germany and a couple of days ago we were in Sweden and Switzerland. It was only yesterday that I arrived in London and so far everything is going really well. I believe that people really like our new record, especially songs like "The Night Of The Warlock", "Celebrate", "Walking With The Angels" and "Hertzblut". Even people who like heavier stuff like it as there are songs like "On The Run" and "Caught In A Battle" which are for more die-hard metal fans. So far, everything is going well, but things are so busy, which on the one hand is a really good thing...a lot of things are happening, all at the same time (laughs).


Of all these countries that you mentioned before, which are the ones that provide an 'easier' market for you - one that is more 'open' to accept anything that Doro is willing to release, and which are the ones that you feel that you need to put a better effort in order to crack?

Doro: The one country where you will find our biggest fanbase is Spain. Ever since we first toured there back in 1986, my first ever tour there in support of Judas Priest, we have developed quite a strong fanbase there. There is a magazine there called Heavy Rock, Heavy Rock and Kerrang are one entity there, and for seventeen years in a row I get the prize for being first in the category of best female musician.

Wow, that is quite an achievement there.

Doro: Yeah, yeah (smiles unconditionally). Even at times when Metal was not so popular, there it was still going strong, so Spain is a really good place for us.

South America is also good, a place where we first toured a couple of years ago. There are so many Metal fans there and countries where people care about Heavy Metal, from promoters, organisers and journalists to fans themselves - you can always feel the difference when you are there as they give everything they have for you.

There is also one girl in the Czech Republic, whose name is Karla and who is a hard Metal fan, who is now the editor of a very cool magazine called Hard Rocker and who is a huge fan of our music.

Well, sometimes you really need the whole machinery to be working in order for things to happen and having people like them being involved in the overall process makes all the difference in the world. So far, everything is going really good, the record company (note: AFM Records) is taking care of all the stuff and so I am very happy.


I am happy to know that the reaction of the press has been a positive one, but I have to ask whether getting a good reaction from the press is something that you are indeed interested in. If you, as the contributing artist, are happy with what you have created, does it really matter what the press believes?

Doro: Well, the most important thing for me is for the fans to love it as I do this thing for the fans and not for people who are only really interested in comparing my work with that of other musicians.

I guess that being a journalist is a really hard job, as you have to come in contact with so many different products, even though some of them may not be what you would normally be listening to.

Anyway, I definitely care more about what the fans will say as it is for them that I do this, but it does feel really good when somebody writes something nice or has something good to say and it really hurts like hell when somebody says 'oh, I don't like this album' - it really cuts deep.

I once had this manager for seventeen years who once told me 'don't worry, when you get older you will not care anymore' but that thing never happened to me - I still care, you know? It still feels like I have only just got my first record out.

I totally understand that not everyone can like everything, especially with Heavy Metal, which is a special music for special people. There are a few songs with very specific messages that only people who have had a similar experience can really relate to them.

There is a song in our Fight (2002) album called "Undying", a song that some people didn't really care at all for but also a song that many people who had lot a loved one really related to - people who had a close relative or a girlfriend dying. This is a thing that I totally understand and accept - still, I am really happy when people understand my songs and manage to connect with them.

In the 80s, if you were a Death Metal fan you would not be listening to traditional Metal, but now things are far more relaxed - fans are more open and that is great.

Heavy Metal has been around long enough to witness the addition of many young journalists in its ranks. Do you find journalists to be far more open-minded nowadays compared with how their colleagues used to be back in the 80s?

Doro: Yes, I agree with you on that - they are indeed much more tolerant nowadays. Back in the 80s, if journalists did not like your record they were ripping you apart, but nowadays they go easy on you (laughs).

You tend to see that kind of attitude much clearer in festivals: back in the 80s, it was impossible to have all kinds of genres represented in one festival, but now things are much different. You have huge festivals like Sweden Rocks where you have die hard Death Metal fans watching a performance of a band like Status Quo.

We also played that festival and everything was cool. In the 80s, if you were a Death Metal fan you would not be listening to traditional Metal, but now things are far more relaxed - fans are more open and that is great.

I love to be able to surprise people with my work. I never thought about things becoming easier for me as a consequence of what you said before - my music comes out as it does and sometimes it is far different from what anyone would expect...

I see many young people nowadays, who normally listen to the heaviest stuff around, being happy enough to go to a Led Zeppelin concert and that is very promising. People no longer feel the need to be part of a very specific group of people, regardless to what that name might be and that probably makes your life much easier as an artist, as you now must have access to a much wider audience, right?

Doro: Yeah, that is true. As far as my music is concerned, I always act based on how I feel at the time an album is created. I want my music to be honest, even if that means that my record will not be dead on what people would expect.

I love to be able to surprise people with my work. I never thought about things becoming easier for me as a consequence of what you said before - my music comes out as it does and sometimes it is far different from what anyone would expect, but every record that I do is a mirror of the time during which it was recorded and of the experiences that I had at that given time.

I am, of course, also glad to see that young fans can appreciate bands such as Led Zeppelin as these are bands that we grew up listening to and whose music we fell in love with all these years ago.

My first experience of becoming addicted to music was at the age of three, at a time when Heavy Metal was not around, when I first listened to Little Richard's song "Lucille". I was immediately drawn by his energy and his voice...oh boy, it was mind-blowing.

I was listening to this song over and over again and I know that my parents were already getting worried about the fact that their kid was sitting all these hours in front of the turntable, only listening to this one song (laughs). Then, of course, I acquired a huge record collection, but my addiction to great music was from a very young age.


OK, let's focus now a little bit on "Fear No Evil". There has been a two-year gap between this album and your previous effort "Warrior Soul". When did you first starting shaping in your head the ideas that led to the creation of your new album?

Doro: I began working on new ideas back in September 2007, when I told everybody that I wanted to be left alone. I have two places, one in Dusseldorf/Germany and one in New York, so I told everybody that I was going to New York and I wanted to be left alone - not to have to pick up the phone, just to concentrate on creating the new record. It was while being there that I came up with the first few ideas.

I was thinking of our band's 25th anniversary, one which we celebrated a couple of weeks ago in Dusseldorf and of the show towards which I was working for more that a year, when I realised that I wanted to write a couple of new songs for that occasion.


The first couple of songs that I wrote were "Celebrate" and "The Night Of The Warlock" and "Walking With The Angels" came a little bit latter. These two songs that I first wrote were what we really needed, as I wanted one song that reminded me of songs like "All We Are" and "True Steel", a big anthem with a sing along choir theme that everyone can participate in during a show, and so "Celebrate" came to life.

With regards "The Night Of The Warlock", I wanted to write a song about the Warlock and build a huge stage set with him in mind for our anniversary concert - one that would include castle ruins and also a big sculpture of the man himself. Actually, it took as a whole year to build this set as it was quite huge and that's when I began thinking about a song capable of contemplating such a thing, an 80s sounding composition with a proper big intro, of which I was always a huge fan.

When I first recorded the demo of this song, I was the one to do the male voice in the intro and the result was hilarious (laughs). You see, we toned down my voice so you couldn't really tell that it was me doing the narration, but then I asked my drummer Johnny to do the honours as he loves doing such things and has an evil laugh that I love so much. So he did the voice, we recorded it at it worked really well.

The first songs that we recorded as a demo were "I Lay My Head Upon My Sword" as I felt like doing a political song with a lot of symbolism and a message that says that in the year 2009 we should be able to solve problems in a different way, not by the use of weapons ad through war!

Now, the message behind "On The Run" is a totally different thing altogether. I have many friends who are great guys with great hearts but who somehow always manage to mess up their lives, are always on the run and always close to getting in trouble, so I felt like writing a song with that in mind. After these songs were recorded, we went on tour in the states and we did all the summer festivals. A couple of weeks ago, we did a tour in China.


Now, that must have been a really interesting experience.

Doro: Oh, yes! It was so wild and different. At first it was a little bit difficult to get into the country as the authorities has to listen to all the music and read all our lyrics prior to giving us their consent. Well, I did give them all the harmless stuff to read, but we played absolutely everything live (laughs).

Our 25th anniversary show was also great as we played in front of 8000 of our fans and I also saw many of my personal friends and fellow musicians there. In addition, we finished our new record, something that I am really happy about, and today I actually saw the finished product for the very first time.

You mentioned before how you asked people to leave you alone in order to begin working on ideas for "Fear No Evil". Does that mean that you are the only person that gets involved in the creating process of a Doro album, or do your band members also get involved in the process?

Doro: Each time a tour comes to an end, I ask my band members to start working on new ideas, but of course I am the one who handles all lyrics and melodies. These ideas I either present to the band or to other people/musicians with which I feel a connection.

For instance, I did a lot of stuff this time around with a friend of mine that is called Andreas Bruhn who was the ex guitar player of Sisters Of Mercy - a person with whom I have been working for many years. It was to him that I have presented my idea behind the song "Hertzblut" as it was a German idea which I though that he would be able to understand better than most people. I worked with him in "Hertzblut", "Caught In A Battle", "It Kills Me", "Running From The Devil" and "25 Years". Working with him felt so good so me made quite a few decisions together.

Then, I did a couple of songs with the band, some songs I wrote all by myself. There was a song in my single "Celebrate" called "Rescue Me" which I did with a guy called Jean Beauvoir (ex-Plasmatics), so you can see how every song we did for this album has been handled in a different way than the rest. We worked in three different studios this time round; one in Pennsylvania, one in Hamburg and one in Bochum.


I have been meaning to ask you a question with regards the production of the album, as I believe that some of the most powerful compositions of the album such as "Caught In A Battle" and "On The Run" seem to suffer from a bad sound, especially on the drums. What went wrong there?

Doro: "Caught In A Battle" was a song that we recorded in Hamburg and "On The Run" was in turn recorded in Bochum. Sometimes, especially when you have double bass featuring all the way through a song, the guitars or the voice can end up getting washed out easily.

We tried to mix these songs in a couple of different ways but the voice ended up being almost non existent (laughs). The drums ended up sounding great, but the voice could not be heard, so we felt that we had to make a decision that led to what you can hear in the album today. I do remember my voice being too low on the final mix of both those songs and that didn't feel so good, so we decided to let the drums suffer instead (laughs).

What I really like about you, Doro, is the fact that you are not afraid to experiment with new things. Other artists with your history and presence in the scene would think twice before working on sounds and styles different from the ones that people are used to associate them with - still, you are confident enough to even add double bass drumming in one of your songs.

Doro: Yes, when I do love an idea I stick to it no matter what. In Hamburg, when we did "Caught In A Battle" and "Running From The Devil", a song which also features massive drums, we followed that feeling that I had. It is strange as both songs were recorded in the same studio by the same people, yet they are two totally different songs, "Running From The Devil" being a more mid tempo song.

Sometimes it is really interesting to see how a song develops with time...for example, for both "Hertzblut" and "Walking With The Angels" we had initially established some specific arrangement, but at some point we thought 'wait a minute, "Hertzblut" needs to have a more modern sound and "Walking With The Angels" a more traditional one'.

You see, I always go in life based on what I feel and it's hard to always manage to please everybody, you know? Still, I always do what I believe that feels best and exciting, even if that means that the drums should be slightly lower in volume (laughs). It really depends on what each song needs.

Metal was always meant to mean freedom! What is important is for songs to be powerful, have energy and feeling - that is what Metal is all about for me, not simply be fast and hard all the time. I love anthems and great melodies. Every song needs to be able to stand on its own.

So it is indeed fair to say that you do not feel that you, as an artist, feel obliged to work within certain boundaries when you either write or record your music, right?

Doro: No, I do not. Metal was always meant to mean freedom! What is important is for songs to be powerful, have energy and feeling - that is what Metal is all about for me, not simply be fast and hard all the time. I love anthems and great melodies. Every song needs to be able to stand on its own.

An album as diverse as "Fear No Evil" should be capable of attracting quite a varied audience. Do you feel confident enough that this new effort of yours will manage to attract the interest of the younger fans of our beloved music?

Doro: That would be great! I really gave this album all that I had so I will let it speak for itself. I remember that when we put out the "Triumph And Agony" album (Warlock) back in 1987, everything fell into place; the record company was totally behind it, MTV put our song "All We Are" on heavy rotation which was a big plus I must say, the fans were there and Metal was at its peak between 1987 and 1988!

Sometimes you do wish for everything to fall into place, but it's very rare that this happens as things need to work like a watch. For example, album sales are currently down and the whole music industry suffers as a result. We, as a band, are concentrating more on the live aspect of the business.

I am not a material person, I do not own a house...everything that I earn I put back into this band, getting a better light show or instruments that will create a better sound.

That, of course, makes absolute sense to me as most artists only really tend to earn money through their live performances, right?

Doro: Yes, that is indeed the case. When we started our career back in the 80s we used to put out a record and then the record company would take us out on the road for a tour that would support the album.

Nowadays we have to go out and tour without their support and that makes the survival process much more difficult. In countries like the US, many bands use their records as a promotional tool and when I first heard that I thought 'oh my God, times have definitely changed'.

Actually, I love doing records and I love even more being on the road. Touring is definitely super important and I really do it for the fun of it as I love playing music and I love our fans - as long I can survive, that's all I want to do in life.

I am not a material person, I do not own a house...everything that I earn I put back into this band, getting a better light show or instruments that will create a better sound. By the way, we plan on going on tour for the next one and a half years.

Doro, do you mind if we concentrate on two particular songs that specifically caught my attention? The first song is "Hertzblut" - does that translate to blood from your heart?

Doro: You know what, I recently found out that "Hertzblut" has its true meaning only in German. We tried to translate this word into many different languages, as we tried to make different versions of the song in our single - one in German, one in French, one in Spanish and one in Portuguese. That's when I learned that this word does not exist in any other language other than the German.

When you do something with 'Hertzblut', with 'heart blood' it means that you give it all you have as a person. We have lived by this rule for the last 25 years! As this word only exists in German, I described it in French as 'With My Full Heart".

What I really love about this song, apart from the fact that it is a classic power ballad, is the very fact that the lyrics are in German. Why? It's because that, even though German is a harsh/strong language, the feeling you get from this song is a truly emotional one. This is a beautiful song indeed in which strength and passion work in perfect unison.

Doro: That is great, as this is exactly what I felt too about this song. Originally I wanted to translate it into English but when I attempted to do that it didn't feel as good. I do not know if you remember the song called "Fur Immer"? There were so many people who were asking me why I did not translate it into English and I remember that, especially based on what the melody for this song was, the words 'Immer' and 'forever" did not work as good as people thought they would.

'Forever' sounds...well, forever, but "Fur Immer" sounds much more powerful and same applies with "Hertzblut". I guess that some songs are simply meant to be in a certain way.

When I get ideas, I tend to look for emotional power and then I let them lead me to wherever it is that they want me to go. I did work towards an English version for "Hertzblut", but things didn't really work out...who knows, maybe I will try again in the future.

When I first wrote the demo for this song, I sent it to Andreas hoping that he would like it. Then he sent it back to me saying 'listen to it, I have added some guitars, so check it out'. The moment I listened to it, tears started forming in my eyes. I remember saying to myself 'I love it, I definitely want to have it in the album' really hit me deep as well what you described. Sometimes when you finish working on a song you realise that what you have created is no longer yours but something that can stand by itself.... some songs need to be written in a very specific way I guess.... they have always been meant to, right?

Doro: Yes. I'll tell you something really funny; it was a couple of times when I was concentrating on a new record that I told myself 'oh man, I have a brilliant idea for a new song title' and I really believed that I would really be the only person in the world with this idea. Then, of course, I would turn on the radio or the TV and somebody would present a song with the same title as the one that I had just discovered for myself...

I have to say; I really believe that there is a 'well of ideas' somewhere maybe in the spiritual world where every artist draws their inspiration from (laughs). I would probably have to think about real examples here, but this has happened to me many times. These are weird but also very interesting coincidences.

The other song which I would like us to talk about, one that I do not think will come as a huge surprise to you, is "Walking With The Angels", your duet with Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish). I was pretty impressed by how well two different types of female vocals can coexist in the same composition. That, I assume, was the whole point behind this song, right? How would you describe the experience of working with Tarja and how did this collaboration came into being?

Doro: The first time that I met Tarja was in Wacken back in 2002, a time when Nightwish were just about to break through. That's when I first heard the band and I thought 'wow' - I was completely blown away by Tarja's vocals and overall performance and energy.

After that show, we met each other a few times over the years, last time being through my friend Regina Halmich which was a female drummer and a female boxing champion for over thirteen years. I had a great chance to write two Rocking anthems for her before she finished her career last year, one of which was called "The Queen".

I actually performed that song for her and as this was a big celebration, Tarja was also there. So, we saw each other during the sound check and again during the boxing match and we became to know each other a little bit better. That's when we said to each other 'maybe we could do something together in the near future'.

When I decided that what I wanted to do is to write a song about positive power, angel power, I wrote "Walking With The Angels" with the help of my friend Joey Taylor with whom I also wrote quite a few things for my first album "Force Majeure" and also the "Triumph & Agony" album.

When the demo was finished I though that it would be great if someone with a more angelic voice than me was to also sing in it as a duet partner. That is when I called Tarja and told her 'I have a song that I would like to sing with you - check it out and let me know what you think'. Her response was that she liked it and she also asked me if I could also sing on the winter edition of her last album.

The song that I ended up performing in is called "The Seer", one that means a lot to her. I told her at the time 'Tarja, send me the song and I will do this for you - I cannot sing as angelic as you do but I will give it a shot'. She sent me "The Seer", I sent her "Walking With The Angels", we worked on them and then sent them back to each other, so you can say that we swapped songs (laughs).

We played these songs live together for the first time during my band's 25th anniversary show and I think that we were both nervous as hell. It was all so exciting; we first did "Walking With The Angels" and then we did "The Seer" and a couple of times I remember us holding hands, trying to shake out our stage fright...


Doro, I cannot believe that a person with your experience still suffers stage fright!

Doro: Every time I go on stage I suffer from it; there is so much adrenaline involved and also too much excitement (laughs). When I started back in the 80s, I always had to throw up before a show 'cause I was feeling so nervous - that, I do not have to do anymore, but I still have plenty of anxiety. That I find to be good, though, as it shows that I am still interested and that I care about what I do.

Every gig is a new challenge, regardless if it is a big or small show - performing in Wacken or in a small venue. Each show is equally important as long as people are there to watch a show. To me people are sacred and I always want to give them something good, something positive and make them happy. I would give 120% even if I had to perform in front of only two people and I would probably still be quite nervous on stage (laughs).

I think that the difference between nowadays and the 80s is that, back then, there were only a handful of us but now there are many of them - ladies with great personalities, strong voices.

If some people think that I helped in some little way, then of course that makes me really happy.

Tarja is a very typical representative of the new generation of female singers in Metal. I personally believe that none of them would have been able to receive half the recognition that they do nowadays had it not been for people such as you and other female artists of the 80s such as Joan Jett and Lita Ford, all of whom helped kick-start the whole thing. It must make you feel really proud to see this as being the result of all the hard work that you've put in all these years.

Doro: Yiannis, I never think of this in this way. I am just happy when, sometimes in places such as Spain, girls come to me and say ' we saw the "All We Are" video and that's when we decided to form our own band'. That really feels good...I always try to give my absolute best, and if this inspires people then it's awesome, but I am not really responsible for any success that other female artists might have.

There are so many good and powerful and talented female musicians out there right now that it's really awesome. I think that the difference between nowadays and the 80s is that, back then, there were only a handful of us but now there are many of them - ladies with great personalities, strong voices. If some people think that I helped in some little way, then of course that makes me really happy. Anything that helps or affects people in a positive way is good.

I was checking your band's website for tour dates a couple of days ago and I only saw four dates as having been confirmed. Is that still the case?

Doro: Dates are still in the making. We have a couple of festivals that they have been confirmed, Wacken being one of them to which I want to bring the same production set that we had for our 25th anniversary show.

 Then we will play the Rock of Ages festival with the support of an orchestra. That was something special that I did a couple of years ago in Wacken and it was indeed something really unique and special. These are the two shows that have been confirmed, everything else is still in the process.

We are hoping to begin our tour in April, a tour that will last for one and a half years...there is something in the making that I cannot talk about because when something doesn't end up working, people get upset about it. Regardless of that, we are definitely coming to the UK where we will play not only our latest material but also all the highlights of our career.

Well, I will definitely see you in Wacken this year?

Doro: Yes? It's on the Thursday - don't forget!

I won't. Doro, thank you very much for your time - it was an absolute pleasure talking to you.

Doro: Thank you, Yiannis.

Doro's "Favourite Tracks from Favourite Artists" will be broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 1 February 18:00 GMT


Interview © January 2009 John Stefanis

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