by Daniel Hinds
One of the first women to really make a
dramatic impact in the world of heavy metal is most certainly Doro Pesch.
Her powerful, emotive voice propelled Warlock's first three albums, making
them an international sensation. Unfortunately, the band name had to
go (as she details in this interview), but she never slowed down, continuing
under the name Doro through the 90s and right up to this very day.
While she has experimented with various sounds over the years (even enlisting
the talents of Die Krupps to produce some of her work at one time), the core
has always been solid metal and there is no denying her drive. With
her latest record Fight getting a good release here in America, it was time to have a chat with one of metal's classiest and best vocalists…
So where are you calling from?
Germany. Just came back from France, we did a promotional tour all
over the world and got back two days ago. We did all the summer festivals
and then some in-store signings and acoustic sessions and it was unbelievable.
Heavy metal is alive and well! I tell you, I've never worked so much,
it feels like in the 80s. We played the festivals and all the promoters
said they had the most people ever. Who would have ever thought?
I know. Like ten years ago, you'd think, 'Oh, it's never going to be like it was again,' but…
In the States I guess we have to work on it a little more. But, we
played the Dio tour one and a half years ago, we were all amazed. Every
day was sold out, between three and five thousand people, it was unbelievable,
it was so good! I guess metal is doing well; just nobody supports it
in the media. Here, the media doesn't support metal either. MTV
only plays the nu-metal - no radio, no TV, just some magazines.
Going back a bit, was it scary to step out of Warlock and start a solo career?
The truth was it was never intended to be a solo career; we just lost the
name to our former manager. He was the merchandiser and had an interest
in keeping the name. When we played in Europe, supporting Dio in 1986
or '87, then we had two managers - one in America and one in Europe.
The European manager said he didn't want to do it anymore, he quits the job
and we never talked anymore about it and it was really sad. But what
was even more sad was then we got a letter from a lawyer and it said if they
ever see another poster with the name 'Warlock' or another record with the
name 'Warlock,' then we had to pay them like thousands of dollars.
We went to court and the judge gave the name to the manger. So then
he could sell all the T-shirts and stuff. He's not allowed anymore
into Germany, he lives somewhere in Turkey, so we could never get him into
another court room and so the name was gone. The record company suggested
that we call it Doro because they didn't believe that we could choose another
band name. So we said okay, if that's the way it has to be, I wanted
to go on making music. But it was never really intentional. For
me, nothing really changed. We just did what we liked. And now
I've got a band that's been ten years together, believe it or not.
Wow, ten years is pretty amazing! What is the creative dynamic like in the band?
The songs get written in many different ways. Every song has its own
history. I personally, when I start a record, I like to go to one person,
Gary Scruggs who lives in Nashville. I always go to him to tell him
the important ideas, like on this record it was "Undying" and "Fight By Your
Side," and I know that he has the sensitivity to really understand the stuff.
"Undying" was written because we lost two people who were very close to us.
Our second guitar player got sick on the Dio tour and died a couple of months
later when we were touring in Europe and that was so shocking. And
the year before I lost my father so I wanted to write a song about that experience.
Actually, I feel their presence sometimes around me so I wanted to write
a song which can maybe help other people relate or see something positive
in that situation, which is very hard. I have these dark, heavy things
that I can only write with Gary; I know I’m in good hands and he always treats
ideas like gold. He can always help me make it better with the words
and the melodies. Then when I have all the important things out of
my system, I can write anywhere. With the band, we wrote together on
this record "Fight" and "Sister Darkness" and there were a couple of other
people involved and we wrote a couple of other songs and just picked the
ones that we most liked. One song I wrote only with my guitar player,
the song "Descend." Whatever the song needs and however it wants to
come out, it comes out. It works in mysterious ways. (laughs)
Some lyrics I'd like to talk about - "Always Live to Win," "Undying" and "Fight by Your Side"
With "Fight by Your Side," it's an anti-war song, which we started writing
way back when the war in Yugoslavia was going on. Then it didn't make
the record because the A&R guy back then said, no I don't want it.
After September 11th, I thought I really need to put this song on the record.
That was the first song that was carved in stone, that it would be on this
record. "Always Live to Win" was written for this American football
team in Germany, they play for the NFL Europe. They're called the Rhein
Fire and we wrote the song "Burn it Up (Bird of Fire)" because they had a
new mascot, a firebird. I wanted to write a new one and that was "Always
Live to Win." I wanted to get a positive, winning high spirits…
we actually performed it one time a couple months ago when they were playing.
I translated it into French, which I think sounds so cool. Lately,
I totally get off on singing in different languages. When we are in
the country, then I like to say something or sing something in their language.
That's why there is a song in Spanish. It was originally called "Untouchable,"
but then we translated it into Spanish and we all liked that version much
Do you speak any other languages?
I'm just learning Spanish and French, just trying. Please don't ask
me something though! (laughs) We translated one song into Russian.
We're going there in two weeks so I want to try it out and see how it is
going over. If people don't know what I'm talking about, we probably
won't do it anymore (laughs). But I at least want to do it once.
Have you played in Russia before?
Yeah, one time on the last tour. It was really an amazing feeling and
so different. I tell you, the people are great but I think it's really
tough to grow up there.
You always seemed very driven. Were you always planning to make a career out of music from the very beginning?
I thought it would be like one record and after the second record, Hellbound
, I thought I could never do another record because it was so much hard work
and so much stress. I just couldn't see myself doing another record.
Then, fourteen records later… (laughs) But I always wanted to become
a singer, since I was 3 years old. I was a graphic artist when I was
younger and that came in handy because I could do all the logos and record
covers and stuff. But we got the European Judas Priest tour and I quit
my job and thought I would try it because I loved it so much. The longer
I did it, the more I loved it and I thought, 'I will never give up.'
It never dawned on me to give up, even when times were tough and they definitely
were in the middle of the 90s.
I think that positive energy really comes out in your music, too.
Yeah, that's good. I know not everybody will love it, but I just try
to do it for the people who love it. Everybody has different tastes
and every soul needs a different song, too. I always write things however
they come out, straight from the heart, and I don't care if they're ballads
or heavy stuff or aggressive or totally weird.
This is your second American release since
coming back into the market. Do you find a lot more interest coming
from America, a lot of people who didn't even know you were still around?
Oh definitely, definitely. After the last tour with Dio, that was so
good. When we play live, that's the best. No record can come
close to that, except maybe the live record that I liked so much. It
didn't get released in the States and it's my favorite record, it's really
a good one. I must say though, yeah, there is much more interest.
At first, we had this one guy who was always so into it, he was our fan club
guy, Tony. Then he had the first web-site on the Internet for us and
he always got so pissed off when we didn't get a [US] release and he asked
us if he could do something. It was when we working on the Calling the Wild
record and I just said, 'Tony, do whatever you feel like and don't even
ask, don't even ask the manager, just do it.' And he did, he sent out
demos and within two weeks, we had a couple offers. We met with this
guy from Koch who was a very nice guy who unfortunately doesn't work there
anymore. We talked and I played him a couple of songs from the last
record and we had a couple of demos, and he said he would be really interested.
So we [released the album] and he got us in touch with Chipster [PR] and
got the tour going. I saved all the money I've ever saved and blew
it on the Dio tour because I wanted to tour so badly and we didn't get much
tour support, it didn't even cover the gas. It was worth it, it totally
was! Now it feels like we never left and for so many years it was so
hard, especially since I was living in America and we were always recording
the records there. With every record, I had high hopes, especially
the Love Me in Black record, which was very nice and we worked on
it three years. And then it didn't get a US release and it was really
sad, but Tony got us a new deal. It's the same way I got my very first
record deal, it was the fan club sending out demos back in 1982. (laughs)
Do you think any of those albums will get released here eventually?
It would be so good. The live record and the Love Me in Black
record really deserve it. But I don't know, it really depends.
If everything goes well and people are interested, but they would probably
have to buy it out from the record companies and I know they wouldn't let
it go for free, so that's another little problem (laughs) Many years
ago, we couldn't get the new record released but the released all the back
catalog and I thought, wow, that's weird. But at least people could
get Burning the Witches and all that stuff.
You've only written a few songs in German
over the years. Do you find it easier to express yourself in English
or is it simply a way to communicate more directly with people all over the
Actually, they come out like they want to come out. Usually, I'm like
sleeping and my eyes pop open and I have this melody or thought and I have
to write it down because by the next morning it's all gone. If the
original idea is English, then it's in English, and if the original idea
is German, then there is something to be said about. I always try to
translate the German songs into English, but they never have the same… feel.
I could never sit down and say, 'Oh, I will write a German song now,' it
would probably suck. There has to be this deep urge that wants to come
out. Great things come out really fast, and you can really feel there
is some magic going on. When you sit down, even with other people,
and try to write a great song, that actually never happens. I must
say the German songs are a bit more difficult to write because every word
is so... It means so much and it's not as cool as the English language.
You really have to be careful in picking the right words. In English,
everything automatically sounds much cooler and in German it doesn't.
So it is sometimes hard to finish the German songs. On this record,
I only wanted to put [the German song] on the limited edition and then my
bass player and the co-producer loved the song so much, so we put it on the
international release. But there doesn't have to be one on every record.
I know some of the German fans missed it because we didn't have any on a
couple of records, nothing came out, I didn't feel like it, and so many fans
were so disappointed.
What do you do to take care of your voice? Have you ever had any scares along the way?
Not much, just always touring, always singing and always working. But
I guess it depends… When I love singing something, then I can sing
much better and when I don't like a song so much, it doesn't come out so
good. If I don't like a song or the lyrics or melody, then I can suck
pretty bad (laughs). Then I will usually say, no, we shouldn't put
this song on the record, it rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes, other
people might really love it, but if I don't feel good about, I'd rather not
put it on. So yeah, no tricks or anything, just singing all the time.
I guess it keeps the muscles in good shape, just like working out.