Wild Thing: An Interview with
It looks like powerhouse singer Doro Pesch, whose ’80s metal band, Warlock, earned critical acclaim with 1987’s Triumph And Agony, has a foolproof formula for making a comeback: Make a star-studded album that includes Al Pitrelli, Bob Kulick, Die Krupps, Lemmy, and Slash. Surround yourself with snakes and exotic birds while appearing almost nude with a hint of body paint — tattoos notwithstanding — to accent one helluva curvaceous body.
Don’t giggle. It worked.
After releasing six albums in Europe that didn’t get released in the United States, Pesch’s lucky number is seven. Doro, a solo artist since 1989, is reintroducing herself to the revived metal scene with Calling The Wild and is one of the opening acts on one of the hottest tours this winter, Dio.
She’s also just finished filming the video for the album’s first single, a dark but excellent cover of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” inn. “It’s a wedding ceremony, and the guests look like zombies,” she explains in a soft-spoken German accent that doesn’t match her hard-edged on-stage persona. “I’m a bride in the last shot, and my bass player is the groom. We give each other a kiss at the end. And it was so weird because… for ten years, he’s been with me in the band. The first time we did a little kiss, it felt really weird,” she says, laughing nervously. “We both started laughing. Then the video guy said, ‘you’ve got to make it more convincing.'”
Maybe so. But those of us who’ve seen her in concert know that she doesn’t have that same problem on stage.
So like did you Slash swap snake stories?
No (laughs), we didn’t. I met Slash just that one day. And we went to some clubs. We exchanged stories, but nothing about the snakes. I totally forgot to ask him about that. When Slash played on the record then, I wasn’t sure what kind of album cover that I would like to do. And then I had the photo session. By the way, if it’s a cool [snake] with good character, then they’re really adorable. They’re really cool. It depends on the snake. Every animal has a different vibe or character. But I was lucky to have good snakes. I totally fell in love with them. The big one was so cool. When we were doing the photo session, her head was always right there where the photographer was standing, like she was an actress. It was un-fucking-believable! I couldn’t believe it. When he was getting ready to put the film in, she was doing something. But when he was ready to shoot, her head was right there. It was unbelievable.
I absolutely love your version of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” It’s better than his.
That’s really nice to hear (blushes in amazement) because it will probably be the first single. I tried to convince the record company that I would love to have “White Wedding” as the first single. And then they finally said, “Okay, if you really believe in it.” And I said, “Yes, I do.” And I’m not a big fan of cover versions, at all. But, in that case, I thought, “It just works.” I’m glad you like it.
You haven’t been in America for about eight years?
Ugh… about that, which is a shame, totally. It wasn’t by choice… And it was totally heartbreaking. But that was the end of the touring plans, too.
It was during a time of grunge. Did you ever feel compelled to change your style a little to get back your acceptance here?
You always have to stay true to yourself. And I love Nirvana and Soundgarden, but I never thought I would do a good grunge “thing.” It didn’t even come to my mind. I was never even flirting with that idea. On the last record, Love Me in Black, it was very modern with cool and unique sounds. Sometimes [change] is hard to get used to. It was completely different, like industrial modern sounds.
Did it turn out the way you wanted it to?
Yes… But I did the record five years ago. When I started Calling The Wild, I said I wanted to concentrate on sounding [more] natural. The last record, I was more concerned with the sound, but this time I was more [song-oriented]. Maybe I went a little bit overboard playing along with all the toys in my studio. But I always believe every record is a new adventure. And I always like to make every record completely different.
Did you ever think that metal wasn’t going to have a resurgence in the United States?
Yes. But then two years ago I said, “It’s starting again.” And I couldn’t believe it. In Europe, we could still go on tour, and the concerts were sold out. It never really went away. But in America — man! — that was unbelievable that it totally disappeared. I’m blown away that it’s coming back in such a strong way. I’m really happy for that. But I didn’t expect it at all.
I didn’t realize you were so young. Not that you look older, but you’ve been around so long. I was in high school when you were so hot.
I just turned 36 (laughs).
I know. I was so surprised! So when you started your first band, Snake Bite, how old were you?
I was 16.
What was that experience like, being so young?
I always loved music. When I first listened to music, I was three years old. And that was immediately my draw. I knew I loved it so much. I always wanted to become a singer. Then I got really sick. I had lung tuberculosis, and it was between life and death. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. Then I was I lying in the hospital, and I thought if I would ever get out, I would do something with my life that would make me happy. And then I thought, “if I ever get out there, I’d start my band.” I had this dream, and it helped me to recover. When I got out of the hospital, two weeks later, I had my first band. Then the music became so important to me. After one year, I thought I’d always want to do it. I met my destiny. It was probably meant to be. I felt such a peace when I started music, like everything was okay.
Was your life chaotic before you had music?
I won’t say that I was unhappy, but I was not at peace, at all. I didn’t feel that I had anything to live for… Then when I found music, my life totally changed. I’ve had a deep happiness feeling, like total satisfaction. That’s what always motivated me to go on when times weren’t so good.
What song means the most to you on the album?
There are a couple of songs. There’s this one song I like called “I Give My Blood (Dedication).” And I love it because it has such a positive, powerful message: It goes, “For peace and freedom, I’d give my blood to make it right. For peace and the real things, I dedicate my lazy life…” It sounds really like an aggressive song, but I think it has a very positive message. So I like that for the lyrical context the most. And I love “Love Me Forever” and “Alone Again” because we are singing together with Lemmy (from Mot•rhead). Recording the songs, we did in two weeks, it was like a total highlight for me. We got along so well. And the voices sound so good together. It was the last two weeks of making the album, but it was super special. And I like “Burn It Up” because I’ve sung it so many times at the festivals. It was originally written for the American football team in Germany [the Rheine Fire]. They asked me if I could write an anthem for them. I did it and out came “Burn It Up.”
How does working with Gene Simmons [on your album Doro] differ from working with Lemmy? They’re both legends…
Totally. They’re both great and totally unique people. With Gene, I had a chance to work with him eight months on the record. And I was a huge Kiss fan. He was great to work with. He was always making sure that everything would come out perfect. He was really working so hard to make something great. I really appreciate that he put so much energy, time and soul into it. It was a thrill. It’s hard to say, because they’re [both] completely different. Lemmy, I worked with him two weeks. But it was so intense. We had the greatest conversations. And Lemmy’s one of the greatest. It was different in the sense that Gene was the producer back then, too. With Lemmy, it was the two songs. Both were the total highlights of my life. But I couldn’t compare.
You were like the first woman to play at the Monsters of Rock in 1986 at Castle Donnington, and you talked about shaking in your boots because it was 120,000 people…
That’s true. Back then, I always had to throw up before every gig. And I was so sick when I went on stage. But then after one second, it was gone. And it was fucking great. It was one of the most intense moments in my life.
You don’t get nervous anymore, do you?
Yeah, still to this day. Every time I go on stage, it’s like bungee jumping. It’s like, “Oh, no! God, no!” But it goes away after the first line I sing. But I think it’s good to be nervous. You perform better. And it makes you feel alive.
Doro tours the Southeast with Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen throughout December. Catch them at the Masquerade in Atlanta on the 12th, the Orbit in Boynton Beach on the 14th, Jannus Landing in St. Petersburg on the 15th, and the House of Blues in Orlando on the 16th.