by Dark Winter
Photos courtesy of Metal Blade Records
There are so many bands out there that have blessed us with greatness over the years, but there are so few that have ever had the audacity to push forward constantly without compromising their creativity. These people are far and few in between, but don’t lose faith for many years ago in the depth of the darkness a king arose and he would never break the oath to his loyal subjects. Who you ask? How dare you ask such a foolish question you impudent mortals! You know of who I speak...a living legend who wears the crown of the merciless fate - that awaits you all in this moment with King Diamond.
Recently I was given the opportunity to here my phone ring and from other side I received a call from the mansion in darkness. It was grandma and she said would I like to talk to King? So how could I refuse such a gift from Them
Now you all shall bare witness to the accounts that followed...
Dark Winter: So, how are you feeling, I heard you damaged your back.
King Diamond: Yeah, herniated disk. It was pretty bad. It's getting better. It's a slow process for that kind of stuff, but you just gotta take it as it comes. I think it's probably the biggest challenge I've ever had regarding patience and willpower.
DW: Yeah, I know. I hurt my back a few years ago. I know how tough it can be.
KD: Fuck it man, you can't do what you normally do, you know. Well, the doctors definitely got it right when they told me it's the worst pain a human can experience. No doubt about it. Yeah, I would say so. I mean the worst earache, the worst toothache you can ever imagine compared to this it's like being in the park watching the birds sing. You can't really describe what that pain is like. There's 75 steps to get completely healed, and I'm on step 50 or something. So, it's definitely going in the right direction, but there's still a way to go.
Dw: So, what are you doing in all of your downtime right now?
KD: Well, there's still time to do other stuff. The video was done even with a bad back. For right now, we have interest with these old recorded retro dvds. We have our own video material that was shot a long time ago that no one has ever seen, because it's ours. Then we have some really cool stuff from both King Diamond and Mercyful Fate that I think the fans would really love. Brian Slagel has seen the material here at my house, and I told him it was really cool stuff. When he saw it, he went "Oh my god, I didn't know it was this cool." One of the King Diamond shows was outdoors Sunday afternoon in a big park in Copenhagen where we played a free concert. While we were recording 'The Eye.' We had just recorded "Eye of The Witch" 2 days before in the studio. We don't play it too good, but we play it alright. (laughs) We have 5 camera angles on that.
There's some really cool shit to watch, I can tell you that. Some live Mercyful Fate stuff from 'The Oath' and 'Time.' There's some interesting stuff there that I hope we can get some of the downtime to get something productive out of it too. There's some other things that is going on also...
DW: So, when you heard you were nominated for the Grammy, how did you feel?
KD: I was a little shocked (laughs) Brian Slagel called me that morning. I never really paid any attention to any of that, because I've never seen King Diamond as being the type of band that would ever get any nomination for anything. We've always done our own thing and have our own style, and become a little bit timeless. Because we've never followed any trends with the music. We were always given the artistic freedom from the record label to play straight from the heart, as we have done. That creates a very unique sound and stuff.
So, we were never really right by the trend was. But, we were also near out of time, because we had our own thing going.
DW: When they told me that you got nominated for the Grammy I thought I had a heart attack.
KD: (laughs) My response was why? Why would they do that? Because it was so far from anything I could imagine. The cool thing is of course that when you think about it, in the end you were selected for that category with 4 others. Amongst everyone who plays music in that category all over the world. Then it's pretty nice to be recognized like that. On the other hand, it doesn't make you better or worse. It doesn't change anything really. But definitely it's an honor you got chosen by those people who do this thing. But, I can also tell you honestly I never watched the Grammys. The only few times I've watched the Grammys is if Metallica was performing. I'm honored that they chose us absolutlely, but for me it's much more of a testament to our fans. Their undying support that has been there the whole time. It's much more their nomination than ours in my book. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them.
DW: It's just amazing to see all of the years that you've been putting out albums between Mercyful and King.
KD: That has something to do with of course we love what we do, and how amazing the fans are in their support. You also should not forget all of the other little wheels. The record label is very important of course, and them giving us the artistic freedom. Journalists who are writing about us, record stations who are playing us, MTV who will play us. Everything makes the wheel go round. One should never forget that. It's a matter of realizing that hey, you're not just doing albums because you might think you're good at what you do.
No, it takes so much. It's good lawyers, good contracts, good everything to be able to still do these things. But the thing about King Diamond I think has to do with that artistic freedom, you know. And the fact that we've been able to do our thing straight from the heart. We were never forced to "you must sound like this" because that was popular at the time. We never did that. We never compromised suddenly to the big thing (at the time.)
Then it was alternative rock from Seattle, and one thing after another would take over. We just went straight through it all.
DW: I was remembering when the Seattle scene took over for while. A lot of bands at that time were losing vocalists or breaking up, or just throwing in the towel. You just pushed right through. You were always there.
KD: It's always been like that. We didn't see it as "oh, now we can't do concerts" or "nobody comes and watches us." We just kept on going. That has a lot to do with we have this style that is timeless when you have your own thing going. You're not depending on what's popular or not. It also means on the other hand, that you're not going to sell platinum. I mean that's for sure, that's not going to happen. But, that's not again, a thing that matters that much to me. I've been given this amazing life experience by chance, and everyone else that's been supporting us. Doing work what should be more like a hobby. Or it seems like a hobby. It's hard work at times, definitely. But it's what we love to do. To get that chance, you can't describe how cool that is. But I much rather be here still today doing this, than having a hit album back in the 80s, and then doing 2 albums and that was it maybe.
DW: I know that was such a depressing time (the 90s) for a lot of us in metal. We were not getting a lot of our music that we were used to. I remember still being able to get a Mercyful Fate album or a King Diamond album coming out every so often. It was like "someone's still around," "someone's still making good music." That was a great inspiration that we were still having Metal coming at us. We owe you for that.
KD: Absolutely, man.
DW: Now you did the voice over work for Metalocalypse recently.
KD: Yeah, yeah, yeah! That was fun!
DW: We were watching it, and we were like "is that King?" We had to go look it up, and (we found out) "oh my god it is!"
KD: I gave them 3 different voices for each of those characters so they could choose which one they felt fit the film. The one with that black devil, I had a much better voice for that. They chose the one that was most normal. That voice was not the coolest one.
There's a game that's coming out sometime in 2008 called 'Brutal Legend.' I've seen a lot of screenshots and little things from it. They have showed interest in using some King Diamond music in there, and they've also talked about maybe doing a voice-over.
DW: Oh, wow.
KD: I know that Halford has done a voice-over for that game, and Dio is doing stuff in there. Lemmy is doing a voice over. It's about a roadie of a band that goes to Hell, and he has to fight his way out of Hell. The landscapes look like classic album covers that you would recognize. I heard this thing about Lemmy Kilmister, they have a character there called "The Killmaster." Which is Lemmy's character and he's riding a motorcycle up in the sky. (laughs) It sounds really cool, and the graphics that I've seen look pretty damn cool. They went into a merger with someone else, so it was put on ice a little bit until that merger has been finalized. But they were gonna get back to us. So, hopefully they haven't forgotten us. We'll see what happens there, you know. Nothing's for sure, but it could happen.
DW: A buddy of mine was telling me to watch 'Clerks 2' and I finally got to watch it. They had "Welcome Home" in the movie!
KD: I know that! (laughs) "Could we get something a little less demonic?" I thought it was funny the way it was used, and also the acappella thing at the restaurant there where they were mocking that guy singing a line from a King Diamond song without the music; that's cool too. They used it really well. But, when you hear someone say that they're using King Diamond music in a comedy, it's like "how the Hell does that work?"
DW: You've been a great influence on a lot of bands. But a lot of these bands have gotten a lot more publicity. Do you feel that the radio plays a huge part in that?
KD: Yeah, I think it varies from area to area and state to state. Some areas actually play us on FM. Others are college stations that play us a lot. It's not like they won't touch it, you know. But, I guess there are also a lot of restrictions. Then when you get into it, then you can start talking about the the whole business behind how radio stations are run. Who gets what from what labels to play what. (laughs) There are other things under the whole political part of it that you're not always in control of.
DW: You never hear a 'Mandatory King Diamond' like you do 'Mandatory Metallica.'
KD: They could do it, but of course you gotta realize that Metallica's probably the biggest metal band in the world. So, it's pretty obvious that they would play more of them than us.
I can see why they would do it.
DW: I know it's gotta be great for you when Metallica did the Mercyful Fate covers for 'Garage Inc.' That had to make you happy.
KD: Of course. I consider them very great friends of mine. They've always been so cool, you know. I had so many good experiences with all of them. I have the highest respect for those guys as musicians, absolutlely.
The way that I heard the 'Garage Inc.' stuff was out of the blue Lars called me and said, "hey, how's it going, and what's been going on." We talked a little bit, and (then Lars said) "hey I have something I want to play for you over the phone, can you hear it?" I said "yeah, I guess I can hear it alright." And he started playing it, and I'm like "what the Hell is this?!" Lars said, "we took the liberty of recording a few songs together for what we are doing." Then he explained what they were doing, and I'm like "Oh, my god could you play that again!" It sounded fucking great!
DW: The first time I heard it they were doing a live set on the WRIF out here. And they said "we have a surprise for you, we're gonna do 12 to 15 minutes of Satan." And we're like "what's this?" Then they played it, and I'm like "oh, my god they're playing Mercyful Fate songs." That's probably the only time in history we're gonna hear Mercyful Fate on the radio. Then the album came out and we were so ecstatic. Then the tribute albums to Mercyful Fate and King Diamond came out and we were really happy to start seeing some more appreciation.
KD: Hank and I got the chance in '99...we did some big festivals. Metallica was doing a European festival tour. Then we were on quite a few of those festivals, you know. There were couple of shows that was just their own stadium shows where it was us and then another band, and then Metallica.
When we played a big festival in Milan, they played the whole medley live with Hank and I onstage. So I sang, James sang backing vocals, and Hank was there playing; that was an unbelieveable experience. We rehearsed I think 2 times before just to get used to...Metallica plays a little detuned, you know. So, that was the thing that worried me where it's not the normal tuning that we play the songs in. But, it's a natural thing I guess inside. You feel where the key is, instead of trying to shoot a little low. That made it easier singing the songs, because I didn't have to go quite as high. I was just an amazing experience, it was so much fun.
DW: How do you manage keeping your voice so maintained for the shows and concerts? Do you have a special kind regimen you have to do to keep from not blowing your vocal chords?
KD: Smoke cigarettes and drink lots of coffee with sugar and cream. (laughs) I don't party on the tours, I can do that when I get home. I feel I have a responsibility both to those who come to see us and to myself. I have to do my absolute damnedest to sound the best I can. When there's trouble sometimes you get sick. You're always the last one to get sick on tour. Suddenly the crew starts coughing, and you're like "oh god, here we come now." You're on the same bus and you start sweating; you know you're going to get it at some point. But you don't know how it's going to affect you. Sometimes your throat is maybe not affected, but your lungs! That's the hard part because then it gets very hard to breathe on stage.
DW: Well, I remember when your first live album came out and it didn't have that really great recorded sound. But, when 'Deadly Lullabyes' came out, I just sat back and I'm in awe how clean it is. I just remember thinking how perfect 'Deadly Lullabyes' sounded. The whole album was perfectly clean. Your voice didn't show any stress at any point. It just sounded so perfect. All the guys in the band sounded great.
KD: I think I sing those old songs better today than I did back when they just came out.
But the live album, you have to remember there's just that one lead vocal that's going.
That's jumping up and down, and picking whatever harmony it is that I think is the most true when you hear the studio album. So, there's some strange jumps I have to do. It's not just singing the lead vocal. It's spreading the vocal. Ok, here do the lead part, here do the 1st harmony part, now here jump to the 3rd harmony part. Yeah, it's a challenge when you don't have all of this extra baggage creating all these special moods. Sometimes the baggage creates a lot of power too.
But I feel like I have more control over my voice now. I can easier hit the notes of all the old albums. Like "Eye of The Witch," the high note there, or "welcome Home" or whatever. It feels better to sing. I have more fun with them today. Because I can control my whole voice better than back then, you know. You learn the whole time to try and take care of your voice. Because it toughens you up, 2 1/2 months, you know. Shows are 5 nights a week at least. You have to be careful, because you catch a little cold man, you could get in trouble. That's one of the reasons that's always been so articulated "why does King mysteriously disappear after the shows?" No, no, no it's nothing like that. When you're on a tour you really have to take care of yourself. It is has a lot to do with having respect for the fans, actually. Because yeah you could stand and talk to someone after the show and you're dripping wet, the spots are up there, people have been there all night, the oxygen is sucked out, it's hotter than Hell. I sweat probably more than Matt does behind his drums. When you stand afterwards outside, you start freezing.
That's the best way if you wanna catch a cold; take a shower with all of your clothes on and then just go outside and stand for a while. You can't imagine what that feels like. That's why I try get into a car as quick as possible, get to the hotel, and get the wet shit off. Then take a hot shower. To say "ok, I did what I'm supposed to do for those who come tomorrow, and the day after and so on. To be my best also that day." Instead of just saying, "yeah, let's have fun and talk today and why not get drunk too and then screw the rest of the tour." I can't do that! I can't do that to myself either. If I have a night where, even though it might not be my fault, that it doesn't sound too cool. Maybe I've gotten sick from this disease running through the bus. It bothers me so much, you have no idea. It's a matter of pride.
That's how it works also when you go through the songs. That I feel stronger and better.
When you get to these parts in "Eye of The Witch," for instance, "oh, here comes that high note." In the old days it was a little scary. You got that note and it's like, "I hope I can hear myself properly otherwise I'm gonna push too much and then my voice might crackle a little." Now, it's more relaxed and more enjoyable because we have a much more professional crew. That makes sure it sounds good on stage. I have my own monitors that's built for me. The only ones in the world. There are 4 that I use and then we have 1 spare. They have special long-throw and short-throw horns in them that make it possible for me whether I stand up on that platform front of the drums or I stand right in front of them. I will hear the 2 different kinds of horns depending on where I am. There's nothing but vocals that come out of them blasting. I can hear my voice in my chest, you know. So when you do it that way and you have that kind of equipment, you look forward to that. It's like "here comes this note, I can prove myself." So you look forward to it instead of in the old days, "oh god, I hope I can hear myself. I know I can do it but oh if I don't hear properly enough it might not come out right." There's a whole different feel to being on stage these days than it was back in '87. It's much more enjoyable now. Because the band is the best lineup we've ever had. There's is no doubt about how tight it is live. I know what everyone's doing, and they do all the right things. The equipment is top notch, and all this stuff. So, you feel safe when you go in there. You don't have to think so much about "oh, I hope the band doesn't burn out again tonight, or we get guitars that are not tuned right."
There's nothing worse than standing having to sing to guitars that are out of tune. Because you as a vocalist will sound like you cannot sing. If the 2 guitars are a little off of each other, which one do you follow as a vocalist? And it doesn't matter which one you follow, because you're out of tune with the other one. So the voice will usually sound worse than a guitar that's out of tune. You pay more attention to the voice; "ooh he's not hitting it right there." Yeah, but I follow the one guitar, I can't follow both at the same time, I don't have 2 voices that can produce sound at the same time.
DW: Have you ever considered maybe writing scripts for a movie or even a novel of horror stories?
KD: I wish someone would make some of the stories into a movie. I had somebody suggest to me to do a graphic novel with some of this stuff.
DW: I always wanted to see 'Them'
KD: Them and Conspiracy would be perfect for it. The Puppet Master really would be one for Rob Zombie to do.
DW: He's (Rob Zombie's) got a really good eye. I figured between you 2, that would be a perfect movie right there. Horror movies had kinda gone downhill, and when he started coming into it, it's like "oh wow, movies are scary again."
KD: Yeah, absolutely. I have a high respect there. That would just be an honor if he saw the potential in one of the stories. You could really scare the crap out of people if you did it right.
DW: I remember the time I first listened to 'Them,' and when you're doing the Grandma voice; "Kiiing are you stiiil there," it's like woah!
KD: "Aaarre you stiiil there?!" That one?
DW: Yeah, I love that. You brought in Livia right? The female vocalist on the last 2 albums.
DW: She is just a compliment to your voice. The first time I listened to "So Sad," especially on 'Deadly Lullabyes," I just sat back and I couldn't stop listening to it. How does that feel actually doing the duet then?
KD: It's like bringing a new instrument into it that you never used before, and then some.
Because it gives me better ammunition for doing the stories with the different characters, if you can actually put a character in there with a female voice. It's not a thing that comes in, and is like "oh, it's too evil" That's never gonna be. But, to have that female voice available for wherever, it suits the story so you can really enhance the theatrics that's going on. It was a cool experience, and I think it worked very well on 'Give Me Your Soul...' as well. But used quite differently. Because she's doing a bit more in the intro on this one here. So more pops up here and there throughout the album, but she's involved in the intro and the last song a bit more than maybe on any song.
DW: When they had me review the album, I was just waiting and waiting, I'm like "oh please, let her be there!" I got the album and I put it in, and I heard her, and I was like "oh, thank you King!"
KD: On 'The Puppet Master' sometimes we would sing at the same time in harmony with each other. But, on the new one we never sing at the same time. On 'Give Me Your Soul.' There were some fans who didn't quite understand or was like "well, maybe King's voice isn't as good anymore he has Livia sing all of the backing (vocals)" What are you talking about? No, no, no, dead wrong. The best way that I can say what's what is wherever you can see marks in lyrics the booklet, that's Livia. Whenever there's no marks, it's all me, all of the voices.
DW: You always had great dynamic choices with your music, and she was just that little extra additive. When we heard her we were just like blown away. Such a great discovery you got with her.
KD: It's also been very well recieved, which was the cool thing too. Because I felt like it might add something and make everything a little more theatrical. Add that new little twists here and there. Yes, I really think it works.
DW: We're really glad you're still making music and we really hope you heal up real good and hope to see you soon.
KD: It just puts you on hold. Totally puts you on hold. With this kind of stuff you really have to feel good phyisically. This is the only thing (back injury) ever, knock on wood, that I ever had. I've never been to a hospital, and suddenly this thing came out of the blue. It's like "what the fuck happened here?!" So, it surprises you big time. I did have a tiny knee injury from playing soccer. But, it would only sometimes bother me a little. Nothing that could stop me from doing anything. Then you don't pay attention, and that's one thing that's very common that people don't pay too much attention to their bodies, as long as there's nothing wrong. Then suddenly because you might not have treated your body with enough thought. You blow out a knee, or a shoulder gets infected, or who knows what can happen. So many things can happen. I remember one of my friends blowing out a knee for no reason. And it's like "well, what have you done in the past?" "Well, I used to do this.." See that's it, you weren't careful enough when you should have been in the past. I dunno if that's the case with me, honestly I don't know.
DW: The Melissa skull, did someone actually return that to you after all these years?
KD: No, no, no
DW: Because I read on a website...
KD: The internet...I wouldn't trust anything. I try as much as I can to say to our fans and so on, "if you hear things or rumors, or read something on the internet, you probably shouldn't believe it unless it's on our official fan club." Because they will contact me if there's these stupid rumors out there. I remember it, it was there on 'Blabbermouth' and ohter places.
DW: One of the things I try to stress that with what we do now, is make sure that everything is accurate as much as we can. I hate that, I go to like 10 websites and I don't get what I want.
KD: I tried going into the wikipedia and look up King Diamond. (laughs) I mean seriously! You find out that anyone can write in something and just put it up as if it's an encyclopedia, and it's dead wrong. Half of it. You sit there and look, and it's like "oh my god, people read things, and as soon as something is written and in 2 minutes people will take it for granted that oh it must be true." On the internet most of the time it's not true what you hear, these rumors and this and that and this and that. Find out by asking the source itself instead of those people who just put things up without checking the facts.
DW: Because I read this wild story about this guy who drove to your house and returned the skull of Melissa and everything. I'm like "Well, I never heard about this, that's random."
KD: Well, I got calls from also the record labels going "hey is that true?" Well, "I haven't heard about it but, where did you see that?" "Well, it was on Blabbermouth and somewhere else." I'm like "don't trust everything you read on the internet." God if you knew how many times I've died...
KD: I had Andy call me once...we were in the studio with Mercyful, it might have been the '9' album. Yeah, it was. I had just gotten a Corvette. Then someone had stressed on the internet that I had died on my way to the studio in a car crash. Andy called me (and said, )"is it really you?" It's like "what the Hell are you talking about? Yes." Well, he had a very trustworthy source, a journalist in Sweden, that he had seen something on the internet. *sigh*
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