Recently, I had the absolute honor to get to chat with Doro Pesch, one of the most inspirational women to me. She was one of the first very successful metal frontwomen and continually spreads the love and the metal wherever she goes. Doro had her breakthrough when her band Warlock took off in the '80s, being able to tour with metal legends such as Judas Priest, Dio, and Motorhead. Since then, she’s throttled full speed ahead with her solo band and never stopped her passion-music. We spoke about her upcoming tour, as well as her latest album (which is a double album), Forever Warriors, Forever United. Doro also spoke of her love of the city of Cleveland as she was re-living memories from her past shows throughout the '80s here. I managed to see her one other time and she DELIVERED so make sure you check her out May 6th at the Winchester in Lakewood, Ohio. She promised me “all killers and no fillers”!!
Robyn: The album! I’m excited! I love how it’s a double album. Was that your intent when you were writing it, to make it a double album?
Doro: Actually in the beginning we just started out, and then suddenly I saw I had like 40 songs, and I called the record company and I said “Man I would love to do a double album, because I think are so many really great songs who deserve to be on an album, and not just 10 or 12 songs. And then they said “Why in this day and age when everybody starts streaming one song, and I went, “Yeah! But I know the die-hards they like the big packages, they would like something MORE” and then you know I got the phone call that said “Yeah! Let’s do it!” and then I could put on all the songs I really loved and putting on the cover version of Motorhead’s "Lost in the Ozone" because I got to dedicate it to Lemmy and one more cover version of David Coverdale of "Don’t Break My Heart Again". We just never put on cover versions, just the normal album of 10 or 12 songs usually. Usually you stick with your own material! But in this case I had time and space to put on everything that I really really wanted so yeah!
R: I love that! I love that! I love how, I mean, I know for us in Cleveland, we love the substance of the albums we love the quality we like the quantity AND the quality, and that’s just amazing I just have to say we’re/we’ve been talking about it, it’s super awesome!
D: Oh! That’s super! I’m so happy to hear that and that sounds great! And why not?! After so many years I thought “Man I never did a double album…!” and now is the time! Who knows how long there will be any CD’s you know, or finding any of the record stores.
In Scandinavia there are no more record stores at all, it’s all like Spotify and I’m all “I want the package and ahhh”. Spotify like, “okay...” Yeah…It’s a different time!
R: I’m passionate about that too! Because I like to try to collect it on all the formats, like if it’s available on cassette I’ll get it, if it’s available on vinyl and CD….
D: YES!! Yes yes. Sometimes I purchase picture discs, but I never would play it or it just hangs on the wall. I’m verrrrry old school. And then we have our own label Rare Diamonds Records to put out some special things for the die-hard fans like picture vinyl or colored vinyl, something special, or cassettes; it was the reason behind it (the record label).
R: I love how you are really listening to us fans! So with a huge album, with the different styles that you have on there, it’s different yet cohesive. How important was it to you to have the variety in the double album. Was it after it was going to be longer than you thought it would be?
D: Actually, every song I can say just comes out of, deep out of the heart and soul and when I write it usually just flows out, like it’s all pure it’s all honest and I love the whole spectrum from super heavy, hardcore, fast to super super dark and fanciful, mystical and all the anthems I love too and I love all the things. It’s not that I prefer the heavy stuff to the other stuff I love all of it, it’s the whole spectrum of you know of human, metal, and feelings, it always depends on the mood sometimes I love to listen to hard and fast and sometimes I love to listen to dark romantic things!
R: I’m the same way, I love that! I don’t like putting myself in a box I just prefer to like I love Phantom of the Opera (the musical) which is very classical compared to the heavy metal, but you know like even listening to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden is different. Sometimes I want more complicated and sometimes I want more rhythmic.
D: Yes! Exactly, exactly! Sometimes when I go home and my heart goes to listen to something fluid/flowing, something to relax, and then sometimes I love to put on a Metallica record, especially when I drive my car!! And to me heavy metal was always freedom, to do whatever you feel and to let it out or let it empower you, fast or slow.
R: As long as it’s good!
D: Yes! As long as it’s good!
R: You’re obviously such a huge inspiration to so many female metalheads, like myself, how seriously do you take that role, and since learning that, has your perspective on that changed, or did anything for you change since realizing you’re such a metal pioneer for us and really taking the charge by, “Here I am, I’m the lead singer of this band. What’s UP”
D: Oh, thank you so much for all these kind words! I always try to give it my all, to give it my best, and I feel like I can honestly say every year I’ve spent behind every word or every song or every show I always try to make the most out of that situation. Sometimes you know you play a club and the PA doesn’t work, or you know, you always have to overcome little obstacles and then maybe make up for it and then keep the people with really great power and energy no matter what. And I would say I always tried to stay really pure in my heart, I never did anything that’d wouldn’t expect or where I would say “Oh I don’t like this anymore” if I do something I always like it. Every single song! You know people say “Don’t you get tired of it?” “No no I love it!” I’m so happy when I see it on the setlist and when I know it makes people happy. So I always decided even if it’s a little “ugh”. I always wanted to make people happy and give them something good, and good energy. Something that is meaningful. Even something when you have a tough time, you have something you can turn to and say I know the band or the music is still there. I will not give up. I will go on because you get inspired by songs or something. And especially with women I think it’s so important that you know that you feel “Yeah, this woman did something, and I want to do it as well” sometimes feeling that’s a good one! It doesn’t even have to be a woman, my role models were are men because there weren’t so many women, but there were always some people which I thought “Yeah man, if they can do it, I can do it, and you know whatever inspires you gives you good energy, I think that’s important I always try to take it light, I always take stuff seriously, even when people say “Oh this or this” or how about you do a song like that! A story or sometimes it’s a very sad story, then I always try take it in and think about it and maybe make a song out of it, to do something positive, whatever it is. And if people like it or find that something that you can swing out of, or power or a feeling, some positive energy I think that’s good. And sometimes people call me up and say “I’m having a really hard time, can you pray for me?” and I say “Oh absolutely” And then I always feel like man “sometimes a little prayer can work wonders too”. So when people tell me something, I take it seriously. I’m not so much of a party girl which sometimes might be good because in my band everyone has fun and drinks, and fun, and “Oh I was thinking of something, oh whatever!” So I take stuff seriously, and I want to do good. I don’t know if I can inspire people but people find something what they like and what they can use to do something or to get a little hope or inspiration. That’s what I’d like and what I want to do. Even in music I always take every note, I take it seriously. And sometimes the engineers or the musicians go “Oh no, Doro, it’s good enough it’s good enough!” and then when I hear that “good enough” “No it isn’t not good enough!” It’s not magic, it’s not good enough that doesn’t work for me. And so sometimes the people go “Oh no, it takes 10 more hours we thought we are done, we are done for the day, and those that are not good enough we have to redo something or remake some songs, so sometimes when people work with me they have to be really patient. And usually it’s good when somebody is exactly the same vibe that somebody cares so much cares for the album and the right word and but sometimes people just say “Oh just go do it” and ”no no not just do it. You gotta connect with something that comes so freely and it’s cool and out of fashion and something great can happen, but it’s not the rule usually you have to work hard. The beginning of an idea is something easy and fast, but then to really put it down on paper to make it nice, oooo that takes sometimes a long time.
R: Most People don’t think about that. They just think, someone’s talented, yeah, but it’s not just always the first thing that, you know…; it’s like people writing a book. Everything that everyone ever reads in a book has never been the first draft or anything like that.
D: Yeah, yeah and I’m always big into nuisances, and people always say “nobody will hear that” but I hear it!!! I hear it! Okay, I can admit I don’t hear it, but I see it. And then it gives people something that is meaningful and whatever that is, I always try.
R: You’re such a workaholic obviously, you’re so passionate, is there some daily ritual or anything that you follow or practice to stay on top of your game all the time? Even those days where it might be hard for you to do what you love?
D: Yeah, actually earlier I have the real ritual. I love books, I love martial arts, when we’re on tour so much that I’m not doing training but when I have a little bit of time I have two things there I did there for a little while. One is called Wing Chun. It’s a Chinese martial arts class. It was thought up by a nun in China many many years ago, thousands of years ago, and it’s like a martial arts kind of thing that I did to focus your body and your mind to make sure it’s in good shape and good mind frame. And I always miss it when I don’t do it. I think go “Aw man I wish I would have trained the last couple of weeks” especially before a tour. because I always feel I’m more, yeah, I can think better, more stamina, I can take more pain –laughs- That’s what it’s all about ,the training, that’s okay too. You definitely have to stand your ground. It’s very interesting I love that stuff and I love all kinds of martial arts. So that’s part of what I do. But not on a regular basis on tour, I usually just try to survive. It’d be nice to catch some sleep on the tour bus it’s sometimes hard because there are like, 20 people screaming and yelling and loud music and you never get really deep sleep and you know that’s quite important. But yeah I try to get some sleep and then to be awake for the next gig! Doing what I love, talking to fans, before and after the shows and making sure they heard all the songs they wanted to hear so that for me is awesome. I’m such a people person. I love people!! I want to talk a little bit and sometimes we have to run and you know at the tour bus “Okay everybody, we’ll get signed what you want” They say to me” We want you to autograph your album, signature, your record. And then sometimes people say a hug! And I say “Oh it’s so nice” and then you know when I hug a person or few and the energy flows so good and it warms my heart and it warms the other person’s heart as well and sometimes is an unforgettable moment. I live for the little, well not little, that’s big for me, but for this moment, yeah yeah.
R: So really quick, I have to say I love how your makeup has evolved over time. And I want to know if you are trying to make a signature look or are you following what your heart is telling you that day or you know, is that important to you?
D: When I do a gig then I’ll always put a little bit more on like you know I’ve always loved the eyes like jet black! And the hair has to be white, like baby powder, put it all over! So the whole tour bus looked like it was always full of baby powder, and the hair was nice and flowing and to me that’s that my line, with long hair and always cool. And always black, tons of black on the eyes or like the smoky eyes look, I like that. And then I have some make up things, but it’s usually natural makeup. I like Bare Minerals. That’s the makeup I like so much. And I usually take vegan stuff so no animals get hurt for my beauty! In the beginning in the '80s I wasn’t thinking of that, but now I know and now I’m thinking about that. So I always try to find some great vegan stuff but usually out of those: the big powder on the hair and the face, and then black hair, black eyeliner, black eye shadow, that’s about it and that’s the most important thing. Everything else, when I do a TV show, I put a little more on like mascara, but on a show day, I’d rather not cuz when you’re sweating the mascara roll over your face and you have the Alice Cooper look, so I don’t wear any mascara, some foundation makeup and black all over your eyes! And it can’t be enough! Sometimes when I feel “Ah I’m tired!” or “I don’t feel so good” then I say more black!! And I feel ready to go and I get my little stage clothes stuff on. And I’m like- it’s like, I feel like I have my warrior paint yeah but black eyes are very important. I would never go on stage without the black stuff. Unless there was an accident…or sometimes when you go somewhere people forget bags, or it doesn’t show up when you fly country to country. But I always find something and even marker then you get autographs a lot easier!! –laughs- for liquid eyeliner I use that! So whatever makes it black that’s what I use!
R: I love that so much! The worse you feel the blacker it gets.
D: YES, YES! But then I feel good. I don’t know what it is, but the more black, the better I feel. But it did evolve. It might be because in the beginning I didn’t care so much, and nobody really had fan forums, there weren’t any selfies, so you just hopped on stage and did you thing, and now it became much more important to always look all right and stuff, so I think I put on much more makeup than I did in the '80s other than a big photo session. But then once in a big photo sessions there was a makeup artist and everything was taken care of, and I was so happy I wasn’t making it up and it was a huge deal, but I was more natural and now I think yeah the visual is a little more important since everyone has a cell phone and everybody has a camera so in the first photos it was all blurry people had some cuz it was a photo camera and you can’t see much. But now it’s different times and sometimes the pressure is on and you go “oh no” and sometimes they shoot the whole show, they make videos, they make photos from the first song to the last song and then after two hours you know you’re sweating and you’re totally exhausted, you don’t look any more fresh and then I think “Oh no, oh please not any more photos, I’m done, I’m exhausted. I would like to play some more encores but I can’t look good anymore. I can sing your favorite song but I can’t look good.”
R: So the imagery part is more important for you your personal later on, and I know you always had the wizard and the warlock theme and whatnot. How big was that, like it wasn’t as much in the forefront as Eddie is, but how important was that still in how much thought was and is still put into that?
D: Actually, I LOVE the warlock, and I think I would have always used it. But then we had some trouble with the name, and it took me 20 years to get rights to the name back and warlock is a male witch not a magician so when we couldn’t put the name "Warlock" on any more records, then yeah it was hard to put the magician on. But I loved it especially in the '80s I thought having a symbol like that was very important and I think next to Eddie and Iron Maiden I think the warlock was a killer symbol, the metal heads always liked to have patches on their jeans, vest, the denim vest, and patches with t-shirts it just looked cool. When I wore I thought you know “Cool” and you know, in the '80s it was maybe much more important than it is now, I always liked a great visual, I was a graphic artist before, I like when something looks great and it should represent the music and the cool vibe as well. But sometimes when I wanna feel we’re doing a metal record, then I always want to put the warlock somewhere, on the cover or the back, and I always use the same painter from the first record Triumph and Agony. We used this great artist his name is Jeffrey Gillespie, he said when all my album covers, when we use the painting, sometimes we did some records where we were going for a black and white shot, for example, like for “Classic Diamonds,” it was with an orchestra so I thought a painting wouldn’t fit, so we used the black and white photo. So I always feel it out, whatever the record feels like, the vibe in the beginning, you can tell it’s a more metal record it’s more a special or unique record. But I love the warlock, and I love that symbol, I love good visual stuff where you can identify with the warlock always had such so much magic and power, it was so metal in the '80s and it was like “YEAH” and now metal’s not anymore so strict to those kind of things to where anything goes, but sometimes I go “Yeah the warlock has to be back” when I wrote the Warlock song “The Night of the Warlock” I don’t know if you know that, it’s off the Celebrate album and I was thinking about the warlock could sing something, and then actually I wrote what he was saying at the beginning of the song, it’s the intro of the song, and then I thought, “Yeah I’ll sing it”. And then we tuned it down and it was HILARIOUS and I sounded like the little warlock it was so funny, everybody was on the floor laughing because it was so sinister and so dark, but then I thought maybe the warlock shouldn’t have a German accent so I asked Johnny Dee our drummer, if he can say it, and he’s the one who wound up on the record, and then we tuned it down and it becomes more majestic and spooky but sometimes it’s fun to play with the symbol. I thought that someone comes with the costume sometimes usually it’s our drummer and we’ll put him into costume, and then sometimes fan go “oh my gosh” and get really scared cuz it depends on where you stand and if you don’t expect anything and suddenly you see the warlock and you go “Ahhh!” And one time for my 25th anniversary I wanted to have a BIG warlock, and it was almost so big we almost didn’t get it into the venue, and it was a big, big venue for 12,000 people and it was really high, really big, and then somebody did the warlock and it was sinfully expensive, but I thought “Man I don’t care! I want to have it right for this one day one moment” and then we get this warlock, and it big, big! It was as big as a house and it was good and it was worth it, the couple of minutes it was on stage and just looking really mean like his eyebrows they were going together when you look really serious and mean. And after soon I wanted to do a step up and he said "If you want to have that look just for the second it’d be $7,000," and I said “Ugh, just the motion in his forehead like the eyebrows?” He said yes and I said, “Ahhh. Do it! Do it!” so there are a couple seconds where the guy is really mean, but it was worth it, it was worth it, it was actually on the 25th anniversary DVD, and it looked really menacing. And our festival promoters all said “Oh can you bring the warlock? Can you bring the warlock?” and it never did fit on any stage because it was too big.
R: It’s like a spinal tap moment!
D: Yeah yeah yeah yeah!! It sits now in Wacken that festival I love it they have it in a big tent and fans can go in and look at all kinds of things, this memorabilia like from Motorhead, Saxon, and Warlock and stuff. But I’m not sure about the mini warlock this tour, sometimes the drummer, we have sometimes different roadies, and some people are all “Oh, no I don’t want to have to do it! Ahhh!” And some big guys go “Not me” and I go “Okayyy” so we will see if we have somebody doing the warlock this tour, or if we play it, I don’t know yet.
R: That is so wonderful, and I don’t want to take any more of your time. It's at the half hour mark, but I want to say it was amazing to talk to you and to learn from you, and just get more insight into different things that I’ve kind of wondered about. Getting to chat with you is amazing!
D: Oh great Robyn I enjoyed this big time and I’m so happy when we see each other soon on tour!
DORO's latest 2CD studio album Forever Warriors, Forever United is now available via Nuclear Blast Records.
Doro Pesch will soon take to the stage in the following cities:
April 16 - Phoenix, AZ @ Club Red April 17 - San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick April 19 - Los Angeles, CA @ Rainbow Bar & Grill May 2 - Columbia, MD @ M3 Festival May 3 - Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance May 4 - Sellersville, PA @ Sellersville Theater May 6 - Cleveland, OH @ The Winchester May 7 - Chicago, IL @ Reggies