Interview by Tony CannellaDoro Pesch is a true rock warrior. For over 30-years she has navigated the often bumpy terrain that is the music business. As the world of hard rock and metal came in and out (and in again) of vogue she has never wavered and never stopped battling for what she believed, and perhaps more importantly she has remained one of the most grounded, down-to-earth, approachable and nicest people in the music business. As she prepares for a North American jaunt Doro was kind enough to take a break from her busy schedule and talk about the past, present and future. I want to thank Doro for taking the time to talk on such short notice. Let’s start by talking about your upcoming U.S. shows. What can you tell us about it and what can the fans expect?
I’m super excited to come back to the U.S. again and Canada! We will be performing a highlight set and actually we will let the fans choose our set-list. We have a poll on our web site so the fans can decide which songs they want to hear. It’s entirely up to the fans. The highlights, I would say like “All We Are”, “Burning the Witches”, “Raise Your Fist” will of course be played, but maybe some rare songs or songs we haven’t played in a long time will maybe pop up in the wish list, so I’m excited about that. We want to celebrate the 30th anniversary at the last gig of the tour in New York City and we want to film it for a DVD and it will be a big, big celebration of the 30th anniversary. We actually started in Wacken last year and we had a big show with many great guests. It was awesome, in front of 100,000 people, and then we did two shows in my hometown Dusseldorf, Germany, one show was with an orchestra and many guests and the second show was a full metal show – it was like 3 ½ hours long. Now we want to play the last party, celebration in New York City on the 20th of October at the Grammercy Theater. I love to play that place; I think it always has a good atmosphere. We have great guests there as well, I can announce a couple of them are confirmed: Jeff Waters from Annihilator will come, we knew each other for quite awhile and then we played together at the 70,000 tons of metal cruise and we did a couple of jam sessions together. Chris Caffrey from Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra is coming, he will play, I think, “Metal Tango” and “Fur Immer”. Bobby Blitz from Overkill is coming and I’m sure he will sing with us on “All We Are” and I think one song that we did before, it might be “Always Live to Win”, but I’ll leave it up to Bobby. I’m so excited that he’s coming. I think he is one of the great performers, I love Overkill and I love his energy. And he was there to celebrate our 25th anniversary in Germany – he flew all the way over to do that – and I’m so happy that he’s coming to the New York City show. And then we have Jean Beauvoir. He’s a great friend of ours, a great guy, he’s super fun and a great musician and we probably will do “Burn It Up”. People know Jean Beauvoir from the Plasmatics with Wendy O. Williams and he has his band Crown of Thorns – and we actually did a duet together on his album a few years ago. These four guests are confirmed and there are more people in the making. This is just in New York City. The other shows we will do on our own. Maybe here and there guests will pop up but there is nothing confirmed yet. We will play the set list of what the fans want to hear and all the highlights. There’s a skeleton of a set-list, like, “Burning the Witches”, “All We Are”, “I Rule the Ruins” but the rest is up to the fans.Yeah, I’m sure that there are songs that are mandatory to perform like “Burning the Witches” or “All We Are” but it will be interesting to see what songs the fans choose. You might end up playing songs that you haven’t performed in the States very often, like “Bad Blood”, for instance.
Yeah, totally. I’m really excited to see what the fans want to hear live. There are some songs on records that we never put in the set list. I’m really curious. And of course I want to do the best tour possible. I’m so happy that we are playing for the American fans again. It is important to be filming part of the DVD in my hometown New York City because it’s such a big part of my life. When I came to the States in 86/87, to me that was definitely a dream come true, I think we did the best records in the States. It started I think with the “Triumph & Agony” album. I think that was a major step. The early records like “Burning the Witches”, “Hellbound”, “True As Steel” – I think they really are good records, I still love them, but I think with “Triumph & Agony”, we had a much bigger impact and much bigger support. I still love to play every song off that record. And we had great people involved in making this record, so it means a lot to me. And all of the other records which we recorded in the States like for example the “Angels Never Die” album or “Machine II Machine”. It might be interesting if the fans will pick songs off these records which weren’t officially released in the States – I know the die-hard fans have the imports. So yeah, I’m very excited. The whole band is.Speaking of your band, you’ve had a steady line-up for a few years now. Tell us about your current line-up and the impact they’ve had over the years.
Man, I think we have a better team than ever before because of all the years we’ve experienced from touring constantly for the last ten years. Everybody knows what the other person feels and we click. I think the band is really killer. It’s still the same line-up from the last tour. The first guy of course I want to mention is Nick Douglas, our great bass player – he’s been in the band 24 years. He joined actually in August 1990. We did an audition in New York at S.I.R. There were, I think 120 bass players playing at this audition and Nick was the first one who came in and I saw him and he played his bass and I knew he was the one, and then I told my manager at the time that I had made my decision already, and he said “what? There are 119 bass players waiting to play”, and I said, “Yeah, I know, but he’s the guy for the band”, and my manager advised me to listen to the other guys. Then everybody came in and played 5 or 7 songs, it was a long audition and then after 50 people, I thought that Nick was still the one, then after 100 people I still thought that, then I listened to all 120 people and I made my decision, it was Nick. The second one who has been in our band for a long time is Johnny Dee formerly of Britny Fox. When he came into our band, I flew over from Europe to Philadelphia to play with him and talk to him and after the first hand shake, that was it and he didn’t even have to play. We played actually a couple of songs in the rehearsal room, he was great and prepared. He’s been with the band now for 21 years. The guitar player from Italy, Luca Princiotta, he’s been with us now for 7 or 8 years, he’s a great guy too. The other guitar player is Bas Maas – he used to play in After Forever – and he’s now been with us for I think 6 years. We have a new guy in the band which I’m really happy he’s there, he was actually best friends with Nick and his name is Harrison Young (keyboards) and Harry is now with us for 3 years and he brought so much good spirit to the band. He’s high energy, is always very, very positive which I love. I think at the moment, there is a chemistry and magic with the band. I’ve felt it for quite awhile now, it’s been awesome and I think it’s getting better and better. We just came from playing some European festivals and every festival was awesome. We’re totally ready to tour the States now and Canada. We’ve added on two shows, First it was nine shows in October and now it’s eleven, and then the second leg of the tour will be in March. I’m so excited, I love playing the U.S. Tony, you know me, I love America and the fans.Tell us a little about how you first got into metal and share with us some highlights of this 30 plus year journey.
When I started out metal almost saved my life. I think you know that I was in the hospital for a whole year and I thought I would die. Because I felt really scared and not good for a whole year, I thought if I ever get out of this I want to use all my strength and power and energy to make other people happy to give them energy and hope and use it in a positive way. Heavy Metal was the way to go. When I started my first band I didn’t even know that it was heavy metal. Then a couple of years later there were the first fanzines and then magazines, then I got into some great bands that inspired me a lot like Ronnie James Dio, Judas Priest, Accept, of course Maiden, Metallica, Venom, Raven, Tygers of Pan Tang, W.A.S.P., KISS and Motorhead. We put our first record out in 1983 and then a little bit later we could play the world. In 1986 we played the Monsters of Rock festival in England at Castle Donington and that gave us the biggest chance and the everybody said, ‘okay, let’s give this band a chance’, and that meant I could come to America and I did the first three day promotion tour in America, then I wanted to stay and I did. Then we did the “Triumph & Agony” album and we played our first big U.S. tour with Megadeth. In Europe we toured with Judas Priest in ’86 – it was a dream come true to tour with my favorite band and then in ’87 we toured with my favorite singer Ronnie James Dio. I still sometimes think about when I was 15, I thought my life would be over and then a couple of years later I was on festivals and the biggest world tours with our favorite bands. So I must say metal and the whole metal community definitely saved my life in some ways.I’ve seen you live many times and I have to say that the shows always have a great energetic and fun atmosphere. I think the fans leave knowing that they’ve seen a great show.
I hope so. That’s what I’m always striving for. Even in front of 10 or 50 or 100,000 people, it doesn’t matter, we always try to give the best show possible. When you feel that you’ve touched someone’s soul, that’s great and I could never do it without the fans, that’s the reason why it’s so hard to make an album in the studio. To me, the fans are part of the band. They are the most important band member for me. I definitely need the fans to feel complete and to give it my all.You played some of the summer festivals in Europe. How did they go?
They went great! We played all over Europe, Sweden, and Czech Republic, many in Germany. I actually heard that the Wacken Open-Air festival in Germany is already sold out for next year. The summer festivals are doing extremely well; they are all packed or sold out with tons of people which is wonderful to see, there is something for everybody. For example the Graspop festival has a lot of variety. We played between Steel Panther and Slayer. It all works. All metal genres all together it works. There are tons of summer festivals in Europe. It’s like an ongoing tour. It’s unbelievable.You are also involved with the Wacken Foundation which is geared towards helping young bands. This is a very cool thing. Tell us a little about that.
Tomorrow I’m going to Wacken actually. We always get together and we support young bands worldwide. The only request is that it is metal, so no pop music or nothing else, it needs to be metal. Young bands from all over the world can get support from the Wacken foundation and I think it is a great thing. You need support. I remember when we first started, you definitely need people who believe in you and who support you. People from all over the world can check it out on the internet (http://www.wacken-foundation.com). Every band is different. Sometimes they need money for making a demo, finishing a mix, doing a record, doing a tour or a video, so there are all kinds of things. After a concert on every tour, I’m always staying up a couple of hours after we finish and I work on that. I listen to new bands and try to help. I’m actually the only musician. There are six or seven people there and we get all of the new music and we get in touch with the bands. There is a couple of producers there, a lawyer, a publisher and I’m the only musician, so you can imagine I always support the fellow musicians.You are also hosting the Metal Hammer awards shortly.
It’s in Berlin in two days.What was it like to a win two Golden Gods award last year?
It was so awesome, totally unexpected but it made me so happy. The first one I won in London, England for the legend category and the second time I won it in Berlin.
So it sounds like you have a busy schedule coming up before the U.S. dates.
Yeah but the U.S. and Canada tour is the top priority. I’m doing some more interviews and promotion and doing whatever it takes. We’re getting the DVD team together for the New York City show and inviting all the guests. We definitely want to make sure that it will be an awesome tour. Then of course we are writing some new songs and juggling with some new ideas. I have a couple of things I want to prepare and I want to go into the studio and do some demos. We’re working on the DVD already. The stuff we recorded already is ready for mixing. I’m going to Berlin actually as well to see the first footage so that it will come out probably next year.If it’s anything like your last DVD’s the fans are in for a treat.
I think the last DVDs came out really nice. It took a couple of years to make them but I think it was so worth it. We want to do a live record as well. It will be a whole package I would say, 2-discs, DVD and one live record. Taking the best-of-the-best, like all the highlights. There is actually so much footage, we cannot even put it all on DVD – we have hundreds of hours of footage, I think – the record company already told me you have to choose and decide.You are also coming out with a special edition of “Raise Your Fist”. What is going to be on that?
Yes! It’s two CDs. It’s the “Raise Your Fist” record, which was released a year ago and there is a bonus CD, it’s called “Powerful Passionate Favorites”. It has some of our favorite songs from our favorite artists on it to give thanks for 30 years of inspiration. For example one of my favorite songs by Ronnie James Dio, “Egypt” will be on it, “Only You” a brand-new version of the KISS song, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin, which was actually the first time that I heard hard rock, when I was like 8 or 9 years old. Back then when I grew up, heavy metal didn’t exist but hard rock did and Led Zeppelin was one of my favorite bands and Robert Plant was one of my favorite singers. “Nutbush City Limits” is on there, it’s a cool version, I think. Tina Turner is the first woman who blew my mind when I was very young and I fell in love with music. There is a beautiful version of “Nothing Else Matters” on there, and then there is a new mix of the duet I did with Lemmy, “It Still Hurts” by Jacob Hansen. There is one brand-new song on it, it’s called, “Warfare”. That’s the title track of an upcoming movie. I did one movie a couple of years ago, it was called “Anuk – The Path of the Warrior” and now we shot two more parts on it and “Warfare” will be the title track of the 3rd part which will maybe come out next year, the middle of next year, I think. And then there is one demo on it, It’s called “New York City Blues”. I did it myself in my living room, and I think it is a very heartfelt, totally pure demo and the purest form of a song. I can imagine that some die-hard fans might find that interesting because it’s not watered down by production, no studio, no mixing and no fiddling around. I always loved that song. It’s a very sad song, It talks about feeling totally lonely and desperate, especially in New York City, I felt that way many, many nights, but I love to listen to it, especially when I feel alone it eases the pain and I hope the die-hard fans might feel the same. The record will come out October 14th.You mentioned that you are working on new material. Can you tell us what we can expect the music sound like and when might it be released?
Man, it’s so early to say. But I would say it goes in the same direction maybe like the “Raise Your Fist” record. I think that it got great feedback from the fans, I felt so happy and satisfied with it. The songs were great live, songs like, “Raise Your Fist” or “Revenge”, and the ballads are really emotional. I think it will be the same direction, but sometimes you start somewhere and then you totally wind up somewhere else. Every time we do a record, I always try to do the absolute best record I can. Every record is always a great adventure and I’m usually recording all over the world. Sometimes I go back to people I used to work with, for example on the “Raise Your Fist” album I did many things with my friend in Hamburg Andreas Bruehn and I wrote with Joey Balin again – I worked with him in the 80s – we did the “Triumph & Agony” and “Force Majeure” records together, we did a couple of songs together on “Raise Your Fist”. I think I will probably call them guys up again and see if we still have the same magic going. I definitely want to have some exciting duets or guest musicians. I love to work with other musicians and bands. I must say the last duet with Lemmy; it meant so much to me. I love Lemmy so much. It was actually the last song we did on the last record – “It Still Hurts” – and we did it one day after I was on That Metal Show with Eddie Trunk. We recorded it in L.A. and then I walked over to the studio and Lemmy sang the parts, it was awesome.How does it feel when other artists ask you to be on their albums?
It’s a big honor! Usually the best part of it is that you become great friends after working together. I have done many collaborations and duets on other people’s records, and then I was invited to play on their show or at their anniversary show. At Wacken for example, with Udo Dirkschneider, I did his anniversary show and then we sang “Dancing With An Angel” together, and the fans were so happy to hear that song live. I was asked by Chris Boltendahl of Grave Digger to sing the song “Queen of Scots (The Ballad of Mary)”, I could totally identify with it and we did it at their big anniversary at Wacken, as well. Then of course you have a great connection and you ask people to join you for your anniversary show.You’ve also been joined on stage by artists and bands, for example at Wacken and the two big 30th anniversary shows in Düsseldorf last May. That’s a pretty cool thing.
On the two 30th anniversary shows we did in Dusseldorf, Udo Dirkschneider was there, Marc Storace was there from Krokus, Sabina Classen from Holy Moses was there – we did “East Meets West” together, Hansi Kursch from Blind Guardian was there, the Scandinavian band Lordi was there – we did “Bad Blood” and “Hard Rock Hellelujah” with an orchestra; it was so awesome. The whole combination it worked, it was so great. On “All We Are” everybody sang together Blaze Bayley, he came and we did “Fear of the Dark” together, because Blaze and me toured the world many, many times together. I saw him actually with Iron Maiden, when I first met all of the Maiden guys. Blaze and me were always friends and I asked him if he would come and play this great song with the orchestra again. At Wacken before that, Sabaton came on stage and Biff from Saxon was there – at Wacken and my Dusseldorf show – we did “Denim and Leather” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”. It was all so great fun, so I hope that we will have the same great atmosphere in New York City. With the guests I have mentioned already, I think it will be awesome.Metal music always seems like it’s been a tight knit community, where bands are always willing to jam and help each other out. Do you feel that way?
To me it’s great to be part of the metal family, part of the metal community, it’s my life, and there is nothing more important to me than the fans and the music. All the great bands I must say, I feel very grateful to have the chance to even hang out with somebody, meet everybody, and go on tour together. We’ve done a lot of cruises, like 70,000 tons of metal, we did the Monsters of Rock cruise this year which was awesome and then we did the Full Metal Cruise. Especially on the ship, we always have some great jam sessions with other musicians. I saw the guys from Metal Church and we all did something together, and I sang “Breaking the Law” with Mille from Kreator and it was so cool, and of course we did Motorhead songs. We had so much fun.You’ve been doing this for 30 years. Do you ever get a chance to look back and reflect on your career?
When we do an interview and we talk about it when journalists ask interesting questions or questions about the beginning. I love talking to journalists who are very into it, who are very interested. When I feel that somebody just wants to hear a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, that’s okay but when somebody is digging in deep, like we do this interview and I can talk about it and sometimes you get different thoughts and different memories, and then it’s great when you know the other person gets it or remembers certain things, when you say you remember our tour with Megadeth, that’s great and you have so much more to talk about, to think about, that’s actually when I can reflect and I’m really happy to have all these great memories, touring, festival experiences, when I remember meeting all these great people – That’s awesome. To me, that’s the greatest thing, talking about the music, talking about the bands and the musicians and talking about the songs. I’ve dedicated my life to the fans and music, so you can imagine to me, there’s nothing more joyful than talking about it.I have one final question Doro. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. As always it was a pleasure to talk to you again and do this interview.
Thank you so much for having me. It was so short notice and thank you for all the support. Thanks to all the fans out there who supported me for so many great years. I’m so happy and grateful for all the support.Do you have any final thoughts to close out this interview?
I want to tell all the metal heads and all the fans, I love you deeply, always and forever. I would love to play some American festivals next year, I hope we will do that, we’re working on it already. I can’t wait to play the America and Canada gigs, and then in March we will continue (with America and Canada) and I hope we all see each other on tour. If we are not playing now in a city near you, than check out the dates in March, but I hope everyone will come to the New York City show, that’s something I would love and then everybody can be on a DVD and rock your hearts out and headbang like crazy. I want to say thank you to everybody for these great years, so many years now, 30 years, I still feel like I’m 25, I feel like I just started, and I have the feeling we have many, many more years.
Photos by Jochen Rolfes & Stig Pallensen