And to kick off our HOT METAL series we bring you an exclusive interview with the delightful Doro Pesch – celebrating 25 years in the business with a brilliant new DVD/CD package.
rushonrock: How have you enjoyed your latest year in metal?
Doro Pesch: It’s been a very busy time. I’ve been in Japan and then Russia and it’s great. I think the demand for a Doro show is greater than ever – over the last couple of years it’s gone through the roof! Back in the day, in the 80s, it was just a little tour here and there from time to time and mostly in Europe or occasionally the US. Now I’m everywhere, all of the time! I’m seeing the world in 2010 – whether it’s Japan, China, Russia or the Czech Republic. And I’m loving every minute. And of course there weren’t the number of festivals there are now, dotted all over the globe. Rock and metal is truly worldwide these days and it’s getting bigger and bigger again. In 1993 I played Wacken and that was when rock and metal was on its way out. I played a huge stage bit there was hardly anyone there. Now, every year, there’s 80-100,000 people at that event and it’s hugely popular.
rushonrock: Is it true that you’ve never been in greater demand on the live scene?
DP: The 90s were a tough time if you were a traditional metal head. But now the scene’s never been bigger. And it’s the main reason why we’re constantly on tour and playing so many shows. Doing records is still very important but if I’m honest it’s not the priority like it was in the 80s. These days, when we tour the States for instance, there’ll always be a couple of bands that give their albums away for free as a means of promoting the band and persuading fans to check them out live.
rushonrock: But was it especially tough to be a live metal band 15 years ago?
DP: Well Wacken is the great survivor when it comes to metal festivals and live music and even they had it touch for a while. They first put it on in 1991 and it became very small for a number of years but it became more hardcore. We did a live record in 1993 and it turned out to be pretty good but things were already in decline by then. The metal spirit was still very much alive but it was very hard when grunge took over.
rushonrock: Earlier in your career, and at that time in particular, did you ever imagine you’d be celebrating 25 years in rock?
DP: Not at all. When it all started for me I never imagined I’d still be playing live and making records 25 years on. At the time I was just starting my first band and I had no expectations whatsoever. I just wanted to make music and I had no idea what to expect. But after two records I’d almost had enough! The second album was such a tough record to make and so difficult for me to do. I was so exhausted I thought I’d never be able to do another record in my life. Now it’s something like 16 studio albums and counting!
rushonrock: What caused that ‘second album syndrome’?
DP: The first record was easy. We went into the studio, laid down the tracks and that was that. The second album was very different. The pressure was on. Some of my musicians said they didn’t want to be professionals – they were happy playing the music as a hobby. I was never of that opinion and eventually I got used to it being my job as well as my passion. I embrace hard work and fighting for the good stuff and the best music possible but I did find it hard when I was starting out. I’ve toughened up now! I suppose, like any job, you just get used to it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And I have the love of the fans to repay. I do what I do for the fans and the people who love my music. It doesn’t matter how I do what I do but I have a responsibility to those people.
rushonrock: You’ve long since become a role model for metal ladies everywhere – is that something you’re proud of?
DP: I have a strong bond with many of the metal ladies out there. If you check out the track Celebrate on the DVD you might just see what I’m talking about! There’s Sabina Classen from Holy Moses on there and Liv from Leaves’ Eyes and some of the Girlschool ladies – there’s a whole gang of us and everybody is singing their heart out. It was so great. And then there’s a duet I did with Tarja. I have friends across all genres but the one constant with all of my female metal friends is that they have such a strong passion and such great voices. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman as long as you have the passion for metal.
rushonrock: As a female in the rock business is there a constant trade off between the music and the image?
DP: In the early days I didn’t ever think about the fact that I was a girl singing metal. It really was all about the music. When we were doing the shows the image didn’t really matter. Maybe there were some good photos to be had but I was more concerned about whether people thought the song was great!
rushonrock: How much pressure did you face to sexualise your image?
DP: Some people tried to persuade me to do some very silly things in my younger days. There were a couple of times when I felt very uncomfortable doing the photo shoots. The label wanted me to be a bit more sexy here and bit more sexy there but all the time I was worried about the seriousness of the music. In the US, in particular, there were a lot of big discussions with the record label and my management about the image and the music. They didn’t like the heavy style – they wanted me out of the leather jacket and into something more girlie.
rushonrock: When did the issue reach breaking point?
DP: For the Love Me In Black album the label said I should cut my hair off and dye it black. I said I didn’t want to do that at all but they were determined to make me more feminine and more commercial. In the end I said ‘it’s cool – if you don’t want to release the record with me looking like me, then that’s fine’. But for a lot of years the talk was always about changing the image when I just wanted to talk about the music!
rushonrock: But you did emerge at a time when image was everything…
DP: The 80s, of course, was all about image. Suddenly you had death metal bands dressed up in make-up and hairspray. Some of the bands I’d always loved managed to shock me when I saw the way they’d changed their look. But everybody had to go through that at that time with the power of MTV and the massive marketing budgets that were around then. I suppose it’s just part of the music business.
rushonrock: Throughout your 25 years in the business do you feel the German metal scene has remained one of the few constants?
DP: I like the fact that the German metal scene is still so strong, perhaps even stronger. The festivals here are second to none and metal heads from all over the world come to Germany to celebrate the genre. They like to live it and that’s what we do here. The die-hard fans in Germany still have the leather and the denim jackets covered in patches. They sew on nice things, they wear their hearts on their sleeves and those clothes are their pride and joy. You always see a lot of headbangers in Germany. It’s been the same since the 80s. I am lucky to have a lot of good friends in the metal community back home but it’s the same right across the world.
rushonrock: How do you judge the UK metal festivals?
DP: Bloodstock was a great experience this year and I’d love to play Download, given the chance. But I have to wrap up 2010 before I can think about 2011! We’ve been out on the road with Motorhead in Germany and now we’re doing some headline shows and we’ll be done by December 30. I’ve already started writing the new record and that will be my focus for the start of next year.