Metal Queen Doro Pesch returns to the UK this month in support of the mighty Saxon. The former Warlock frontwoman spoke exclusively to Rushonrock.
RUSHONROCK: Thirty-five years ago what were your aims and ambitions?
DORO PESCH: Actually we had no expectations at all. The first record we did as Warlock was Burning The Witches and at that point I just loved making music. We were rehearsing hard but we had no idea where that would take us. At some point, I guess, we were in the right place at the right time and we got to play a few gigs. We got the chance to come over to England and that was a very important turning point. We did a couple of TV shows and played at The Marquee. It seemed as if there was so much excitement around the band and that first show at The Marquee was sold out! We ended up playing all over Europe and the UK and more and more it became a dream come true. Until that happened we’d been rehearsing in an old factory and there were so many line-up changes that I guess we had no expectations at all. It was the usual stuff – one guy wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend and another wanted a real job. Everyone wanted to do their own thing and I guess I was the only one who was always serious – even back then I wanted to be in a band for the rest of my life! With music the more that I do it the more I realise how special it is. It’s magic. I’m so grateful it worked out. By the time we got to make the second record we’d signed to a major label. At that point I suppose we were very ambitious and we reassessed our aims.
RUSHONROCK: Did you ever imagine that you’d still be making metal in 2018?
DP: Heavy metal as a genre wasn’t really established as a popular genre at the start of the 80s. There were no magazines or even fanzines really supporting it in Germany back then. I think the first real metal-focused magazine I became aware of was in around 1982 or 1983. So I didn’t realise that we were making metal! But then a few fans turned up at our rehearsal rooms one day and asked if we were a heavy metal band. They thought we were. Back then I knew metal fans in Germany who would think nothing of driving 20 hours to catch bands in Belgium or Holland and Aardschok Magazine was making a name for itself back then. We realised we were making metal. The first band we saw was Whitesnake in 1980 and then Judas Priest, Accept and Dio. So we knew where we wanted to go. But I had no idea metal would last and no idea I’d still be doing another four decades down the line!
RUSHONROCK: When did you feel that music could be your profession as well as your passion?
DP: When we made the second record I quit my job. We’d been booked to play the Monsters Of Rock festivals in Germany and the UK and playing Donington was the biggest day of my life. It was such a huge festival with so many fans. We went on tour with Judas Priest – who are my favourite band in the world – and I couldn’t believe it. I’d been a graphic artist up until that point and although I loved designing all the logos and posters I never imagined I’d actually get to play music full-time. The guys at my workplace were pretty cool. They’d let me start early or late depending on what my band commitments but even at that point I was rehearsing every day. That was the rule. And if we were late it was £50 down the drain. Nobody had any money but everything we had went into the band and in that respect we were very committed. Looking back it was good to rehearse every day and take our music seriously even if, at that point, we didn’t know why we were taking it so seriously!
RUSHONROCK: What have been the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a musician?
DP: I’ve always had a love for the fans and for the music and whether I’ve played in front of 50 fans or 5,000 fans it’s never felt like a challenge. I’m happy as long as we’ve put on one hell of a show. Even if 10 people turned up it wouldn’t matter. I’d still give it my all. I’ve always played with a lot of energy and I want to make every concert a meaningful experience. That has been the only challenge.
RUSHONROCK: Your passion for music runs deep but where does it come from?
DP: I’ve always wanted to do music since I was three-years-old. I grew up in the glam rock era and remember listening to the likes of T Rex in the school hall at discos. I was very lucky that my dad was a truck driver and he always had a few boys – who must have been about 10 or 12 – who used to help him load in and out for some pocket money. They would show me magazines with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and glam rock bands in. That got me interested and then when I was in the cab with my dad he’d play some of these bands. Even though I was very young I loved rock music and glam rock was very much part of my childhood. I played with The Sweet in Berlin to celebrate their 50thanniversary this year and it was amazing. They were gods to me when I was a little girl and there I was singing All We Are with them. I was always a huge fan and now we’ve become friends.
RUSHONROCK: Was there a turning point when it came to realising your dream?
DP: I always wanted to make music but I just didn’t know how. When I was 15 I didn’t even know if I would survive after I contracted tuberculosis – I was in hospital for a year. That gave me a lot of time to think and it made me realise how much I missed music. As soon as I got out of hospital I formed my first band Snakebite. I’d reached the point where I thought I might die and so I lived every minute in the moment after that. I wanted to do something for myself and for other people.
RUSHONROCK: How tough was it to persevere during the 90s?
DP: In the 90s there were a couple of records after Triumph And Agony. In 1990 I made my self-titled solo album with Gene Simmons. I was a big Kiss fan and he was an excellent producer. It was still going well for me in Europe back then but you got a sense that the climate was changing. In 1991 we went to Nashville to make True At Heart and I remember listening to the radio and realising that I couldn’t hear any of the music that I knew. Suddenly grunge took over and it was really tough. The whole industry changed and I just couldn’t get a release for my records in America. I remember presenting four or five songs to the record label in the early 90s and they asked me if I was happy with them. Of course I was but then they asked me if there was any grunge. I replied that there wasn’t and their simple answer was that they couldn’t release the record. It was very, very tough but I still loved my fans and I still loved music so I decided that, no matter what, I was going to hang in there.
RUSHONROCK: When did things pick up again?
DP: I was in New York recording my 2000 album Calling The Wild. At that point we couldn’t realty tell if metal was making a real comeback but everyone was hoping so. A guy called Tony from our US fan club was so upset that they couldn’t buy new records over there that he offered to try and get us a deal. I said do whatever you want if it’s what you think is best. In two weeks we had four record deals on the table. In the end we signed with the first label we visited in New York. I played them my demos and they like what they heard. It felt like a second chance.
RUSHONROCK: At the same time you worked with Ronnie James Dio again – how did that collaboration come about?
DP: When Calling The Wild was released in the US I remember the A&R guy talking to me about Ronnie James Dio. He said he knew I was a fan and at the same time Dio was releasing his Magica album in New York. I went to the launch party and Ronnie came over to ask me how I was doing. He told me how much he’d liked my cover versions of his songs and that meant so much to me. A couple of weeks later I was doing a radio interview in New York and the interviewer asked me if I had any plans to tour. I said I didn’t and then I was asked who I would like to open up for and I mentioned Dio. The interviewer said she’d mention that to him when she talked to him the following week and the next thing I knew we were on tour together! From that point onwards I felt that metal was growing and growing again and we’ve been enjoying great times ever since. But I miss Ronnie. I toured with him in 1987 and 2000 and he was a very special man and a very talented performer.
RUSHONROCK: After the tough times of the 90s how much of a celebration of metal is your new double album?
DP: It’s a real celebration of rock and metal in every sense. All my heroes and friends are on there. There’s some great guitar work from Doug Aldrich and I loved doing a duet with Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth. It was so much fun to do the album and there ae so many great songs. When I told Nuclear Blast that I’d like to do a double album they pointed out it was pretty rare in this day and age to do that but they gave me the green light. And I think everyone’s happy with the end result.
RUSHONROCK: Are you surprised Saxon are still going strong?
DP: Not at all. What they do is the real thing. It’s so passionate and there’s so much energy. When Warlock were finding their way as a metal band I had three favourite influences: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and, of course, Saxon. We’ve toured together so many times over the years and they’ve always had so many killer songs. Biff is such a great frontman and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s one of a kind and the very definition of a metal singer. I asked him to be a part of our 30thanniversary set at Wacken and he performed with us at the 20thanniversary show too. He’s such a great singer and Saxon are an amazing band.
Forever Warriors, Forever United is out now via Nuclear Blast. Doro supports Saxon in Bath tonight before shows in Nottingham (Nov 10) and Newcastle (Nov 11).