The “Metal Queen” Doro Pesch, a solo artist and original member of the German 80s metal band, Warlock, is celebrating 30 years in the music business.
Later this month Doro will release a new DVD/CD set titled Strong and Proud – 30 Years of Rock and Metal. National Rock Review recently caught up with Doro whilst on tour in Europe to discuss her latest offering, where she also shared many memories from her long and successful career.
NRR: So you’ve been on tour in Europe. How have the shows been going so far?
Doro: Super, the band and me we are a good team. We play so much, so it is like second nature. Nobody has to think about or we don’t have to talk about it, we know what the other person feels and what to do. It’s a well-oiled machine at the moment I would say.
We played cities that we’ve never been to, like in Russia we were in Krasnodar and it was a big stage, it was as big as Wacken and I couldn’t believe it. The city is not well known but sometimes festivals pop up and it’s like wow.
NRR: So you are about to release your new DVD “Strong and Proud – 30 Years of Rock and Metal.” I was just wondering could you tell us a little bit about that project.
Doro: It’s our first Blu-ray and there will be different packages. One package for the diehard fans, that’s the best to get, it has a book with 60 pages of beautiful pictures and then two Blu-rays and three DVD’s and one live CD.
It starts with Wacken that’s like the first show we celebrated for the 30 year anniversary and it looks great, it looks big. We had many special guests on it like Phil Campbell of Motorhead, Biff of Saxon and the whole DVD has tons of great guests Udo Dirkschneider, Lordi, Blaze Bayley we do “Fear of the Dark” with an orchestra actually. Then we have a couple of songs with the fans “We Are The Metalheads” with tons of fans on stage. There’s tons of people you know like from other bands, people we grew up with and so that is Wacken.
Then we have two shows in my former home town of Dusseldorf. We thought let’s go back to the roots, the 25th anniversary we celebrated there and I didn’t know how to top it, so I thought let’s do two shows, one with an orchestra and guests and then one full metal show with guests. I think the whole package is eight hours of full metal and it looks great and it sounds great. The live sound was done actually by somebody who did my very first demos, even before Warlock his name was Rudi and I thought I wanted to have someone who really knows me well and he mixed it.
Besides the music and three concerts, there is a movie on it. It’s two and a half hours and from all over the world and the camera guys came with us for a whole year. There’s stuff on it from Russia, South America, from all over. It’s like behind the scenes stuff, like stuff that the fans haven’t seen so far. I think it goes very deep and intimate and it’s very interesting.
The two and a half hour movie I think it’s something very special. We always had little documentaries, like twenty minutes or half an hour, but that one is two and a half hours and gets really gets in deep.
NRR: That’s amazing, it sounds great. I can’t wait to see it. You mentioned there about Wacken, and I know that recently you also became the first German Female artist to perform at Rock In Rio festival and I was just wondering what was that experience like and how does it compare to playing a festival like Wacken here in Europe?
Doro: I mean I must say god in Europe we are so blessed with so many great festivals. Rock In Rio was I think five times as many people as in Wacken, I think there were 500,000 people I heard and they had like I think five hundred million people watching it on the TV set in South America.
Before I performed on stage, there was a morning show and it was somebody like Oprah Winfrey a very famous host. They asked me if I would do an acoustic set with the band Angra, because I did a duet with Angra and I said yeah, then I did it. After that, we were stuck in the hotel and I tell you there were thousands of fans outside. In South America, they are very you know like on fire, very passionate and it was almost a riot it was so great.
The next day was the Rock In Rio performance and it was great, but I was so nervous, I had to smoke a couple of cigarettes and I gave up smoking, but it made me so nervous and I knew it was so big. It was such an important festival, I thought man I hope I remember the lyrics, you know stuff like that made me so nervous, but then it all went well.
Then we did a couple of things together with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister we sang “We’re Not Gonna Take It” together and it was great, it was a big party. Yeah, South America man the metal heads there are so wired and outgoing and all, it’s like they celebrate every act, it’s great.
I’ve always wanted to go to Rock In Rio and that was the first time, but I tell you every festival I treat it like it could be the last. Every gig it’s a new challenge, it doesn’t matter if there’s a hundred people or if there’s a hundred thousand or if it’s a small club or a big arena, it’ doesn’t matter every gig is the most important gig. So I treat every gig like it’s the one, that’s the one and sometimes you are surprised in the smallest like dirtiest clubs we get the best shows. So yeah it was great but to compare it, it’s hard to compare it was just great and it was so huge.
Wacken I guess that’s one of the best metal festivals in the world. It’s so great because there is no pop it’s all metal, I love that. Some other festivals they have a mixture of like more popular stuff and then metal. I like Wacken because it’s only metal, all kinds of metal genres, but still only metal, and I think that’s pretty cool.
In Rock in Rio, they had many days and then a couple of days they had artists like John Legend and Rhianna and stuff. They had two metal days, there was Metallica and Motley Crue, so yeah it was a total mixture. But every day I think was like sold out, it was huge and it was great. I’ve played so many festivals, but that one I’ve been to and it was a special treat. We didn’t put it on the DVD because we tried to get permission but nobody wrote back, we didn’t get an answer and then we thought oh shit you know we better not mess around with it.
NRR: Maybe for another DVD sometime instead?
Doro: Yeah, exactly.
NRR: I was just wondering, you’ve got so much material. What’s your favorite track to perform live and why?
Doro: Oh there’s a couple of tracks which always seem like magical because the fans they respond so well. I would say songs like “I Rule the Ruins”, “Für Immer”, “Burning The Witches”, “Raise Your Fist” they are all like the anthems I think that I prefer live.
The fast songs are great for head banging, but when everybody sings along oh you feel like you are in heaven, it’s awesome. Sometimes the ballads, when I feel we really connect and I see people they have tears in their eyes because they feel so touched, oh that’s nice. But I always play according to the atmosphere in the club or the festival, whatever the fans want. My band they know, it’s sometimes difficult because we have a set list and then I go on stage and I see the fans and I think oh they want to hear more old school Warlock songs, so we put in some more old schools stuff.
The band is really flexible, the guys know me, but I always play according to the vibe and let the fans dictate the set list. We have some key songs but yeah many spaces for whatever feels good right at that moment, or when people call out songs.
I told you I just came back from Spain yesterday, in Spain they, for example, love Ronnie James Dio, and they wanted to hear “Egypt.” Then we thought OK Egypt is much later in the set list but one guy called it out you know early in the set and I thought ok let’s do it, let’s do it. Yeah, we play whatever feels good.
Sometimes when I do a set list it has many ballads in it and sometimes when I feel people want to party more and you know bang their heads we just throw them out and every day is different. I think there’s not one set list alike. They always call out songs they want to hear, the fans. In my world, the loudest wins.
NRR: I guess that keeps it interesting for you as well.
Doro: Yeah, very much, very much because then I know it’s so heartfelt and some people they want to hear something for a particular reason and I love that, I love that.
NRR: Obviously you are touring Europe at the moment, but I noticed there’s no UK shows on this run and I was just wondering if you’ve got any plans to come back to the UK anytime soon?
Doro: Yeah, there’s certain things in the making, it’s not confirmed yet but people are still working on it and working on some festivals. I’m definitely coming back to the UK, yeah there’s still some things cooking and so for maybe this year. I would love that, I love playing in the UK to me that’s the ultimate metal country and I still feel so metal when I can play.
We just did a tour a couple of months ago and it was all clubs, but oh man it was so wild, I love it and I will never forget you know that that was our big chance, it opened all doors when we played Monsters of Rock in ’86 at Castle Donington and England, the UK gigs and tour and the TV things back then it was very, very important and helped us so much, they are our roots.
Of course, I was a big fan of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, very much so and I still feel inspired by that. We just played with Saxon actually two nights ago in Stockholm and then I thought ah you know these great songs and yeah I was there at their special celebration last year I was a guest on “Denim and Leather” and it was hit after hit after hit and I thought wow man. It reminded me why I wanted to do metal in the first place and that’s sometimes so great.
NRR: Out of your 30-year career I was just wondering what has been your major highlight, do you have one particular defining moment that you look back and go yes that was it?
Doro: Yeah, I think what I mentioned before, playing the Monsters of Rock festival. I didn’t know how important that was at the time, but it was so important. Then we did ok, we did pretty good and everybody said ok let’s give that band a shot and then we could tour the world.
I got my first big tour with my favorite band, Judas Priest, the next tour was with Ronnie James Dio and in England as well and oh man unforgettable. Yeah, I would say Monsters of Rock festival. Then everything fell into place and playing the Judas Priest tour in Europe ’86, then in the UK was with W.A.S.P and that was awesome and then Ronnie James Dio tour. Then we went to America to tour there.
Yeah, but that had a big impact, I didn’t even know how big it was back then because there was no internet or nothing. I thought yeah it’s a festival, but then when I walked onstage I thought holy shit it was unreal and my knees were shaking, but I didn’t let them feel it. But yeah inside the metal gear, underneath all of the leather and stuff ooh my heart was pumping it was crazy.
NRR: You were recently awarded the Metal Goddess award at the Legends Awards in Vegas. How did that feel for you?
Doro: Oh yes that was too much to take for a little girl. It was great and it meant so much to me. It’s nice to get an award, I would lie if I would say it doesn’t mean anything to me. It definitely means a lot to me.
The first legend award I got in London a couple of years ago and that meant so much to me because England was always so important. To break into that market because everything else went from there, all the other countries decided, you know another record release or that we could go to America or we could get a record release in America.
Yeah, so to get an award in England that was to me unbelievable and it was at the time I was on tour and the tour was long. I’m sitting there at some dinner and so exhausted I thought man I was like totally beat and I thought god am I doing that to myself you know it’s painful. Sometimes a long tour can be really painful and I was a little bit down. I got a phone call and someone said hey somethings happening, something really nice and I said ok what, and then yeah we get the legends award in London in England and from then on the tour was great again (laughing) it breathed so much energy in me so.
Yeah, so sometimes to get an award was great. In America oh god it was super and we did a couple of jam sessions, I met some great musicians, old friends, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister was there and the Scorpions were there, Mickey Dee was there who was now playing for the Scorpions. Old friends, I had seen maybe twenty years ago like Kip Winger, I did one time a tour with Scorpions and Winger and Stephen Pearcy of Ratt was there, and it was a big party, it was great. Testament was there, we did a big jam session. We played “Ace of Spades” and “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Crazy Train” from Ozzy Osbourne. Everybody was onstage and grabbing the microphone, it was fantastic, it was a big party onstage and off stage and backstage, it was great.
I think the fans had so much fun too, it was definitely something so unique. I just went there for one day because the next day we played in Russia and one day before I had a TV show in Germany, so I just flew there, got the award and flew back and I thought wow. It was a hundred hours on the plane, but it was super, it was great.
NRR: You just mentioned there about some of the duets that you’ve done. I know you’ve performed duets with literally a who’s who of rock music and I was just wondering is there anyone still on your list that you would love to perform a duet with who you haven’t managed to do one with yet?
Doro: Wow, that’s so hard to tell. Of course my old heroes like Rob Halford, it would be great. David Coverdale, James Hetfield or Blackie Lawless. You know if there’s something like that we could do together and usually we always do a duet when maybe there was a festival and then you get to play with somebody else and that’s how usually the duets came about but yeah, there’s tons of great people.
But I tell you my dream came true when I did the three songs with Lemmy. Two songs on the Calling the Wild album, “Love Me Forever” a cover version and “Alone Again” a song Lemmy wrote on acoustic guitar. Then the last duet we did for the Raise Your Fist album, which we wanted to play live and actually rehearsed it on the last American tour we did it in soundcheck.
I tell you it was too sad, we all looked at each other, the band and everybody had tears in their eyes and I thought oh no let’s dedicate “Without You” to Lemmy, that was the first ballad I’ve ever written in my life. I think it’s a very sweet, heartfelt song so we couldn’t do it, it hurts, we always let it play after the show, when we take a bow. But yeah doing something with Lemmy was great.
I wished I would have done something with Ronnie James Dio and we actually planned something. I think Ronnie wanted to do “Magica 2” or “Magica 3” albums and then actually there was talks about it, I heard it from some journalist actually. So yeah, but that would have been so great and yeah but I have great memories.
We did a couple of songs together live onstage on a long American tour but it was in 2000 and nobody had cell phones and never got a video of it, some photos, but yeah I’d die if some fans had some video footage, oh that would be great in Florida at end of the tour. He got me onstage and said ok let’s sing the encore together, I said wow man I don’t know the lyrics, he said oh that doesn’t matter and put his arm around me and we sang arm in arm, he said just let’s have fun and yeah it was cool so. I love to work with great people …. I think it’s very, very special.
NRR: Most of your band have been with you for a very long time now and I was just wondering, what do you think has been the most important factor in maintaining the long and successful relationship you’ve got with your bandmates?
Doro: Actually it’s like we all treat each other really good and with a lot of respect. We give each other space. I’m always there when I know they need me like if maybe there’s a problem or if there’s something private or if somebody gets sick or if a relationship splits up, we are always there for each other. They know that and they know that I care and that it’s not just like you know the show on stage two hours.
Backstage and on the tour bus or when we do something together, we are best of friends and it definitely feels like family. I love the guys and we all get along great and they are all different, everybody has you know their unique thing, but it fits like a glove and I always try to listen or feel it even when somebody doesn’t want to say something. I feel when things are wrong or if somebody has something on their heart, I like to talk about it or to find a solution, whatever it is.
So just I guess caring that’s important, to care about your bandmates and they care for me too and take care of me, I know that. Playing is great, but just living together and on the tour bus in the smallest space, it’s all good. We don’t get on each other’s nerves, somehow it’s like all cool. One little dressing room, without a toilet, without a shower, we can still smell each other, it’s OK, it fits.
NRR: Last month you released your new single and video for “Love’s Gone To Hell” from your EP. I was just wondering could you tell us a little bit about that song and the concept behind the video. I know you also did a Pledge campaign for the video, how did that work?
Doro: Yeah for the first time, actually we are in the middle of writing songs for the new record. I wrote that song “Love’s Gone to Hell” with a great friend of mine Andy. I did Raise Your Fist and …many, many other records with him. I felt it had magic and I didn’t want it to wait for a whole new record, waiting for another year, who knows what will be in another year. I felt there was a certain urgency.
Then I thought yeah I like making videos, you know sometimes you can just go in the street or whatever, like you know like hardcore whatever cell phone video, black and white that could be cool, but for that song I felt it needed something very, very valuable that looks very expensive and what’s done right like in the 80’s. I always liked stuff which is like you know a little piece of art and that song I think it called for something really, really nice.
Then I was thinking, whilst I was talking to some people, but nobody has any budget anymore and videos are not important anymore like you know when Headbangers Ball or MTV were playing videos. Everybody said no, you don’t need a video and I thought no that song needs a video, it’s like I feel that song needs to be treated really like royalty.
Then I was talking a little bit to some fans. In America, it’s very common these days like Kickstarter or doing crowd funding … I heard about and I thought, I don’t want to do it, but then some diehard fans said hey we would love to support it and maybe get something special from the video shoot. Then I thought yeah you know we can definitely give something really valuable for diehard fans maybe for normal people it’s not valuable, but for diehards the stage clothes or you know like a lifetime VIP pass forever (laughing) and you know stuff like that. Then I thought OK let’s do it. The last night before it started, I was going to pull the plug and then our manager Hans he said hey Doro, do it, you’ve talked about this video for so long.
There was a video director, he had an idea and I told him I wanted to do it in the most beautiful castle because I’m a big castle and ruins fan. Then we found this castle, and I thought oh that’s like wow. So yeah and then we did it with Kickstarter and I think it worked out really well, we got all the money we needed. Then we went ahead and I saw all the people, there were some meet and greets and some stuff that people got and they were all so happy. They were something really unique, something you can’t buy at the merch table. The first thing that was gone was the film blood, the movie blood, the fake blood and it said blood group Doro and it said heavy metal (laughing) it was fun.
So then we presented it to the record company and because the story “Loves Gone to Hell” is like the love story, it starts great like it always does and then it ends up in disaster. They said it’s a little bit too hard when you show it in the afternoon and stuff or for little kids. So we did two versions, one just a performance piece and one story, it’s a little bit brutal love story but I think both versions came out really nice and then it came out and I’m so happy.
I know you don’t need a video anymore, but certain things you’ve just got to do for the sake of it, or for the song or for the art and I’m so glad we did. It was so cool that I know the fans are like totally behind it, that was so cool to see.
At first, I was worried like if you don’t get it together, like all the money which you call for the video, then everything goes back and you don’t do anything, you don’t do a video or nothing. I thought I hope we get the chance to do it, but then it was awesome. I don’t know if we would do it again, it was definitely a onetime thing, but it’s great to know that you have the freedom to do something just for the sake of it.
NRR: Out of your 30-year career is there anything that you would go back and change if you could?
Doro: Yeah, actually there’s not much, I think that things were happening for a reason. But one thing was very, very fucked up and I wish I could have changed it. We lost for a long time the rights to the name Warlock. It was really fucked up and because the name and the record company were so behind it, it was a big shock when we couldn’t use the name anymore and then I got the rights back now but it’s so late.
Back then it was a real disaster and that went to court, but I got so upset they had to remove me from the courtroom because I started kicking and screaming. Yeah, but then the name was gone and I couldn’t believe it, I thought that can’t be and then one year later we do it under the name Warlock anymore but it took so long. It wasn’t right it was like somebody definitely ripped us off, for the first time in Germany there is no justice and you know the judge probably didn’t believe us little head bangers with the long hair and the bullet vest on. I think he didn’t like us and he gave away the name and I couldn’t believe it. Yeah, but that was the only thing which always was like nagging in my heart and I know the fans were so sad, and some were really heartbroken, that was fucked up. I wish I could have changed that.
I never wanted to do a solo career, I never wanted to call it Doro, it was just like the second idea to have like the fans know. The record company said another band name and new band and no, they don’t want to support that. So we called it Doro and then the next record we were Warlock again, but that didn’t go as planned, it took forever to get the rights back. Back then as a band we didn’t have enough money to fight again when you lose one thing, you have to I don’t know put £50,000 on the table before you can even get a chance, and I was like wow. So I ended up a little upset about that.
NRR: I was just wondering in your own personal record collection, what’s the one album that you couldn’t live without?
Doro: Ohhh, “The Crimson Idol” by W.A.S.P. I know there are tons of great records, but that was the first one which came to my mind right now. There are tons of other great albums, no disrespect to all the other great bands, but that one was just like I love it so much, and because we just talked about the tour in the UK with W.A.S.P, yeah it was awesome.
Can I tell you a little personal story about the W.A.S.P tour? I mentioned before, but it was like in ’86 we did this big tour with Judas Priest and it was all over Europe and it was big, big arenas. We finished in Scandinavia and I was watching every sound check of Judas Priest and in Scandinavia we were playing the big ice hockey venues and I was standing on the ice and there was maybe a little thin carpet over the ice. The road crew always said hey you know you little girl, don’t walk on the ice, you might get sick. I said no it’s ok I’m made of steel, I’m not getting sick, I want to watch the sound check. So everybody told me that and then yeah I watched the sound check I was all happy.
The tour ended in Scandinavia and one day later we started with W.A.S.P in the UK, our first big UK tour. Then I got over in the UK and I was sick as a dog, I had a fever of 40 degrees, probably I had pneumonia, I was so sick I thought I was almost dying. The venues were smaller, they were like the clubs and there were sometimes only one dressing room on the W.A.S.P tour, they were great venues but not like the big venues where you could have toilets or whatever.
So I was like sitting on a staircase and it was dark and cold and oh man, I felt like shit, I had shivers. Somebody walked up and it was Blackie Lawless. He said “Doro, are you Doro from the support band Warlock” and I said “Yeah” he said “Man, you don’t look good, you look very, very sick” I said “Yeah” he said “Do you think you can make the show” I said “I honestly don’t know, I feel really sick” and he said “You know what, give me a second.”
He went to his dressing room and told his band members to just like take a walk or do something or go somewhere and give me the room. Then he came back to me and he said, “Doro I carry you to our dressing room, lay down on the couch” and then he gave me some magic potions for the voice and vitamins and fresh fruit juice, which was in ’86 that was not common. You could never find smoothies or fresh fruit, never then you know he got fresh fruit. He said, “You know what, just rest, sleep and I will wake you up when it’s time for you to get ready.” Then I slept like a baby, I was so exhausted. He woke me up, he said “Are you ready” and I felt so good, I felt so energized and we started the tour, I will never ever forget that Blackie Lawless did that for me. I don’t know if he remembers that, but I remember it saved the tour, it saved the UK tour and yeah it was one of the greatest things.
NRR: That’s an amazing story, thank you for sharing that. What else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Doro: Nonstop touring, hopefully hitting the UK again, certain things are still in the making/cooking. Then we are going to the Ukraine, I want to show the fans that there’s still care even though there’s so much turmoil going on, but we go to the Ukraine tour. Then another European tour, another American tour late September and then doing all of the festivals.
In between the festivals and the tour, we start a new record, and record and I want to do it all over the world and hopefully come up with great ideas. We had a couple ideas already and then recorded already. One song I wrote for Lemmy and it’s called “Living Life To The Fullest” and that has to come out great, I just have a little demo of it and I wrote it when I flew over to the funeral and I got this melody in my head, and the lyrics and I thought of Lemmy. Then I thought I’ve got to write a real nice song for Lemmy, so this will definitely be on.
I want to continue in the vein of “Raise Your Fist,” hard songs, many anthems, some very dark romantic songs and some important songs. There was one song on the last “Raise Your Fist” album, it was called “Freiheit (Human Rights)” and it was a song for a human rights organization.
On this record, I did a little TV show the other day and I met a woman and she works for Amnesty International. I always wanted to do something or get connected and now I met this woman. I felt yeah I want to definitely write a song for that. She said oh that would be great, and she said oh you have no idea, in so many other countries you are definitely not allowed to say what you want, you can’t speak your mind. As a girl, it’s even harder and sometimes no rights, no voice. I thought yeah I will write a song for Amnesty International. I don’t know if it will be on the next record, I think so, but maybe it’s just one song especially for them. So yeah some important stuff in the works, it’s tough I’ve never seen it so chaotic.
NRR: That’s great, it sounds like you’ve got a lot going on and it all sounds very exciting and we look forward to hearing some of that and hopefully we will get to catch you when you come back to the UK at some point later this year. Good luck with the tour and with the DVD.
Doro’s new DVD Strong And Proud – 30 Years Of Rock And Metal will be released on 24th June via Nuclear Blast. You can pick it up here and here.
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