Doro Pesch

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?  (laughs)

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 more.

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 world?
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.

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