Interview with DORO PESCH

February 2005

She’s a fighter. One playing heavy music can’t allow him- or herself to be weak. So Doro’s been fighting for two decades now – with herself. Because she loves what she’s doing, at first with WARLOCK and then with a band of her own. And because she can’t get rid of her sensitivity: she’s a lady after (or before) all. That’s why recently recorded "Classic Diamonds" album shows the real Doro.
It was a lot of fun talking to the lady. Having got used to standard questions, she had to be constantly pushed off the beaten path. The fighting felt good, and the conversation lingered on even after the recorder was switched off…

- What is the least expected first question you might hear?

The least expected question?.. Oh my God, that’s a tough one! (Thinks long, murmuring and laughing.) That would be a funny interview, as I don’t even know what to say on the first question! The least expected one would be, “Why did you never come to our country before?”

- Well, that would be the most obvious one.

The most obvious is, “How does it feel to be a woman in the metal scene?” That’s the question I always hear.

- Most people think of you as of metal Valkyrie, but how do you see yourself?

As something for the fans. I love the fans and I love to do something that makes them happy. I’m totally dedicated to the music: there’s no family, no children – I love music more than anything else. And it feels great, it really, really feels great, and I hope I’ll be able to do it for the rest of my life. I would love to do that!

- Do you think people’s perception of you has changed over the last twenty years?

I was lucky to begin in the Eighties – it was a fantastic time! – while the Nineties were very difficult for heavy metal bands, with grunge coming along, but the last five or six years have been beautiful. The scene changes every couple of years, there’ve been ups and downs, but I always tried to stick up for the fans. I started [playing] music when I was sixteen, and in the beginning many people thought, “She’s just a girl and she won’t last long – two or three years, and then it’s over”. As I grew older, they respected me a little bit more. The fans always liked what I did, but with the press and the music industry it was a little bit tricky when I was so young. After the third album, though, people started to see me as somebody who takes it very serious and who would last much longer than they thought. Yes, I was a girl, but I grew up and felt like a woman now, which makes people look at your differently. I had to prove it, I had to prove it twice as hard, because we were coming from Germany, and the record companies were always tough with a German band trying to get into the British and American music scene. Anyway, I was the first woman who ever entered the stage of the legendary “Monsters Of Rock” festival, in Castle Doningston, with WARLOCK – it was in 1986, with Ozzy Osbourne, SCORPIONS and MOTORHEAD.

- Is there a big difference between your public image and the real person?

On-stage, I’m hard, even though I’m actually very sensitive, very soft and almost shy and totally different from when I’m on-stage. Contrary to what people think, the real person is very humble.

- When you began there was almost no women in heavy metal. So who did you model yourself on?

My inspiration were actually men, like David Coverdale, Marc Bolan from T.REX – I loved him! – Rob Halford of JUDAS PRIEST. Later on, Janis Joplin and Ann Wilson from HEART.

- Not Robert Plant?

Ja, ja, doch, doch! Robert Plant was wonderful, he was one of my inspirations when I started. Doch, doch, ja, ja!

- I’d never think Marc Bolan was your inspiration: you’ve never used his vibrato trick…

It’s all the vibe. I was a very young girl when I discovered T.REX and I’d never heard about heavy metal. I grew up in the glam rock times, when there were SWEET, SLADE, T.REX… Especially, Marc Bolan and T.REX who were my biggest idols. He was the first singer who blew me away. I think I was not even at school yet, I was maybe three or four years old when I heard him sing, and I got big taste of music right there and then, and I thought, “I want to become a singer”. It wasn’t metal, of course, but if was soulful and emotional and just phenomenal.

- So if you were to cover any of Bolan’s songs, what would it be: “Buick Mackane” or “Children Of The Revolution” – or what? “Deborah”, perhaps?

Oh yeah, I loved “Children Of The Revolution”! But “Deborah”… no. And not “Bang A Gong” ["Get It On"] either: I thought it was one of their most commercial songs. So maybe “Telegram Sam”, “Children Of The Revolution”, “Solid Gold Easy Action” – they were my favorite songs. Well, “Children Of The Revolution”, that would be probably the best song to cover. I have a feeling that could come out really good.

- You did some covers before, like “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. Why did you choose these songs?

“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” was the first cover version I’ve ever tried to sing. I loved PROCOL HARUM, I loved that song so much. We were finished with the songwriting, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll try a cover version”. We actually had two other songs, like “Ball And Chain” by Janis Joplin, so I tried those three, and “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” was excellent. We did this track at six o’clock in the morning at the end of our studio session, when everybody was tired, so we did this song once and wanted to play it more tomorrow, but then we thought, “Ooh, it’s pretty good!” The next day, we came in, but the feeling was not good, so we listened to the last night’s version and said, “That’s the one!” We kept it and just fixed it a bit, and that was my first cover.

- Don’t you think HARUM’s “Conquistador” would have fit your image better?

No, I loved that song, I always had the gut feeling from it and didn’t think of any other song.

- And now, this new cover of JUDAS PRIEST’s “Breaking The Law”…

That’s actually one of my favorite songs on this album, which I did with Udo Dirkschneider of ACCEPT. We [WARLOCK] were on tour with JUDAS PRIEST, my favorite band, for the first time in 1986. That was the time when I quit my job. I was the graphic artist before, and when I heard that we are doing the tour, I quit the job immediately! It was so wonderful! I would always be watching their shows and we became really good friends. It was nineteen years ago, but I still have good memories of that tour. And I thought, I would love to sing this PRIEST song and it would be interesting to do it in different arrangement.

- Whose idea it was to slow this song down?

I was fiddling around with it in the studio, and it almost developed itself, I must say. There was a good vibe about it.

- Did you actually sing together with Udo or your voices were spliced later?

No, we sang together. I know Udo Dirkschneider for twenty-five years, I sang a song on his album two years ago, it was called “Dancing With An Angel”, and then we wanted to do a video clip for his DVD, so I was in the studio in Cologne, in Gernany, when he asked me what I was doing. I said, “Well, you know, something different, like working with an orchestra”. Udo said, “That sounds interesting”. I said, “Ja, Udo, you want to drop by and check it out?” He went, “Yeah, I’d love to”. And I, “There’s an arrangement of “Breaking The Law” that I think is really cool. If you like it, maybe we’ll do a duet on it?” A couple of days later he came into the studio, checked it out and said, “Ah, this is nice”. And we sang it together, and it was actually the first vocals for the whole album. We sang it all the way through and then put some bits and pieces in.

- Working with orchestra – was it all recorded live or overdubbed?

It was all live. The first time that I worked with orchestra was in 2001: it was a great adventure, and I didn’t think that I would like it so much but I did. Then, one year later, I participated in a benefit concert for a little organisation called “Animals In Need” who collect money for abused animals. They asked me to take part in the concert, and I said, “Yes, I would love to”. They said they had the Metal Classic Night Orchestra: there were young people, all classically trained, but they love rock and metal. We did a rehearsal and it worked out so well that we thought about recording it. At first, I wanted to record it live, like at the concert, even though it’s very uncontrollable: if one person plays a wrong note, it’s all ruined and you can’t fix it, so we took it out in a studio, while on the DVD ["Classic Diamonds"], there is that concert footage. I think, it was a good idea to do it all in a studio. There were about forty people, and we spent a lot of time on pre-production, because almost every song had two or three new arrangements and we had to find a right one. Luckily, I have somebody in my band, a keyboard player Oliver Palotai, he’s Hungarian – he’s like a conductor, a great assistance when working with an orchestra.

- Did you find it difficult or easy?

It was much more difficult than we thought. When we started, I thought it would take a couple of months, as we’d done it live already, but it took eight or nine months and it was much more work than we thought.

- Did you have any classical training yourself?

Not really. My father loved classical stuff, but I must say I was out of it, it was too strange to me, though I went to opera houses with him. So I knew a lot about it but, being a teenager, you couldn’t help but not like it. I was a little bit rebellious and thought, “Ah, it’s standard!”, but I learnt from it when I grew up.

- Then, difficulty and easiness: what do you write more easily – a ballad or a rocker?

I can’t say. It all depends on the song. But my experience is that when the melody and the lyrics come at the same time and you really feel an inspiration, it’s always good: it means, there’s something to be said which needs to come out. I always felt that it’s more important than anything else. Writing a song for the sake of writing a song is never so good. I like it when it almost shoots out, and it can’t be a rocker or a ballad – that doesn’t matter.

- Don’t you feel confined by the genre borders, confined by metal? Doesn’t it make sense to try to cross over?

No. I always thought that heavy metal is about freedom to do whatever you feel, whatever you like. It’s extremely intense, and, to me, all kinds of things are metal, even if it’s gentle, sensitive, meaningful ballad. I think, metal ballad sometimes feels much better than a pop one: there’s a lot more emotion and power – usually, not always. When it comes out, there’s no limit. Once I did a record which I love very much, it’s called “True At Heart” – we did it in Nashville – and there are ballads, like four different songs you wouldn’t even call metal, but I don’t care what they’re really are. It’s all a feeling.

- Where the line is between playing metal and playing in metal? I mean, for many musicians of a certain age metal is like a game they must play to make a living, and they’re not too serious about it.

I’m still as serious as when I started. I think I’m even more serious now than when I started, because now I can appreciate it much more. Then, it was great and I had a great time but I couldn’t really appreciate it as much as I do now, when I know that some people really like it, that it makes them feel certain things and encourage them sometimes. There was one song on the “Fight” album, called “Undying” – it’s on “Classic Diamonds”, too – that was about my dad who died a couple of years before. I wanted to write a song about it and say that everything’s not lost and life goes on, and there were so many people who said it hit them because similar things happened in their lives. So I take it very seriously, I carefully pick every little word – especially with ballads. It’s not a standard rock song that people listen to and go, “Ah, that’s cool!” When I started I just made up lyrics from English words thinking how they’re good. They were heavy metal lyrics, but now I think of it much, much more, as it’s very important – whatever you say and whatever you sing. I look into people’s eyes and see they’re very serious about it too, and it’s wonderful: it’s a kind of love that’s sacred, totally sacred.

- A great attitude! With this attitude, if you weren’t a musician, what profession would you take?

I started as a graphic artist and I probably would like to be a painter, but I guess, without music my life would be really empty. I like to paint, I like all kinds of classic arts, I learnt it way back then not even on computer, but manually, drawing by hand and enjoyed it all.

- Who’s your favorite artist?

I like [Claude] Monet. And there’s a friend of mine, Jurgen Weber, an independent artist, who’s fantastic even though a little bit dark sometimes.

- What’s your normal day like, outside of music?

I love sport, and a couple of weeks ago there came movie producer, a really cool guy, who gave me the wonderful script about the Stone Age, called “The Way Of The Warrior”, which I loved, as it’s spiritual as well. So I said I’d like to write some songs for the movie, and he asked if I would like to play a part in it. I never did touch the thing before but this could be really great. There’s one girl in the movie, her name is Meha: she’s a little girl at first who becomes a leader of her country, there are some enemies come, of course, and she grows into a warrior. So now I’m learning to work with a bow. The film’s shooting starts in September, and I have some months still, but I have a good feeling about it.

- Now I’d like you to play a part of an interviewer. What question would you ask yourself?

(Laughs.) Oh Goddamn! Why don’t you have any children? Why don’t you have a family? – that’s what I would adk myself.

- And then you would not answer!

No, I would answer, because I love the fans and I love music more than anything else.

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