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Fighting the Good Fight of Metal With Doro Pesch

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Saturday, November 16, 2002 @ 9:51 AM

Jeff Kerby Chats with the Quee

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Doro Pesch has always been perceived by many as a kind of novelty within the metal community--mostly because of her appearance and sexuality. Her talent and body of work always seem to be considered secondary to the fact that she’s a woman. In no musical genre is the scrutiny of female singers more evident than in metal where the male sex drive is not only mentioned, it’s celebrated in every way, so for her to be taken seriously in this context is without a doubt problematic. When the vocalist in question isn’t just any female but one who happens to be a blonde, mystical character who has doubtlessly been the motivation for hundreds of penile flogging sessions taking place in various bathrooms throughout the world, getting people to actually listen to her music is no small task.

Despite the difficulties that have existed for Doro throughout her lengthy career, she has still managed to endure and create music which has been received with varying levels of fanfare since the early eighties. This is important to note because it’s obvious that any singer can stay with a band when the group’s touring on a glamorous bill and playing to packed arenas, but it takes someone extremely committed to stay with their musical convictions this long even when the support has sometimes been minimal. Throughout the course of talking to Doro it becomes evident that her involvement in music has had a tangible impact on her relationships and personal life. Anyone who has followed her career from its inception with Warlock and on into the present day has to realize that Doro, maybe as much as any other female lead singer, exemplifies the belief that respect in metal shouldn’t be contingent on whether or not you want to fuck the lead singer---after all, commitment is commitment regardless of the sex.

KNAC.COM: With the new album entitled Fight, it seems appropriate to ask you whether or not you think it’s even possible for a person to have a career in metal if they’re not pretty tough and willing to stand up for what they believe musically?

DORO: I think it would be real hard. I must say there has always been such a big fight for everything. You have to be one hundred percent behind it and dedicated to it to make this a career.

KNAC.COM: I noticed that on the new one you do “Legends Never Die” written by Gene Simmons and performed by Wendy O’ Williams. What was it about her attitude that you most identify with?

DORO: I think she was so sweet, and it was like so, so no limits, and she made such a kick-ass show. It blew my mind. I think the attitude she had reminded me of Linda Hamilton on the Terminator. She just didn’t care what anybody thought. She just did it, and it was beautiful.

KNAC.COM: Would you say that she more than anyone else is an influence on your music and the way you approach being a vocalist?

DORO: Yeah, she was a big influence, and there were some other great women like Janice Joplin—I loved her. I thought Lee Aaron was another woman who was very unique in her own way.

KNAC.COM: Did it ever bother you when people were wanting to compare you to Lita Ford primarily because you both were blonde and played metal?

DORO: No, it’s never bothered me because we were great friends. It was kinda fun getting to see stories people made up in the magazines. My guitar player now, Joe Taylor, he’s been with me now for ten years, and he came from Lita Ford’s band. She was always so cool to me. It never bothered me, and the people know that sometimes the magazines blow things a little out of proportion.

KNAC.COM: You’ve never played anything with her either, have you?

DORO: Never, and it would actually be a good idea. One time her manager called me and wanted to put together a tour with all female bands, and it was a great idea, but it never got worked out.

KNAC.COM: On your previous disc you sang with Lemmy from Motorhead and on this one you sing a duet with Peter Steele entitled “Descent.” What was the biggest difference between the two of them in the studio?

DORO: I have the utmost respect for both of them. With Lemmy, I was there in LA for a couple of weeks, and we did the song and spent every day together just talking and drinking and smoking. It was great, and their people were great in the studio. With Pete, I played him the song and he sent it to his studio, and then I redid a couple of my vocals to make it really smooth. I just got to know him a little bit, and he was very nice.

KNAC.COM: Everyone knows about female groupies wanting to meet male rock stars, but how is it for a female rock star? Do you have a lot of guys doing weird things to try to get closer to you and meet you?

DORO: Honestly, it’s more about friendship. People come up and are like, ‘can I give you a hug?’ There has never been anything sexual though—never in all these years.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that maybe you intimidate some guys?

DORO: I don’t know. I never would ask them, so I really don’t know. We’ll get into really good conversations, and it’s always about the music. People say they can relate to my songs—that means a lot to me.

KNAC.COM: Don’t you think that’s strange? It seems that any time an attractive female makes music that gets noticed, the attention almost invariably becomes more about the looks and less about the songs?

DORO: Yeah usually, but I think that when people pick up my music they understand that I only care about the music. It’s what I do every day--the looks are less important because they will probably go away.

KNAC.COM: Would you say that your involvement in metal goes beyond what you play, and it has more or less become your life?

DORO: In the last twenty years I think that there wasn’t one day where I didn’t work on music. I never took a vacation ever in my life. Actually I never really took a weekend off. Every day it’s music. Every day it’s like a big fight. I never had the feeling of wanting to give up even when times were really tough.

KNAC.COM: Metal didn’t go into quite as bad of a slump in Europe, did it?

DORO: Yeah, in America we immediately lost our deal. In Germany it was still good, we could always tour and always play the big venues. In Europe, some countries were very supportive and in some countries we couldn’t play anymore. I think the fans were always there, but the industry didn’t support it.

KNAC.COM: Did you always make enough to where you didn’t have to get another job?

DORO: Yes, I’m so lucky and thankful for that. Sometimes it was bad and sometimes it was good, but I could always just go to the studio and record and write songs. Sometimes it was really tough, and I had to use money left and right to keep on doing it. Sometimes it’s good because it gets you close to reality.

KNAC.COM: What do you think it was about your upbringing that would make you be interested in this type of male-dominated music?

DORO: I don’t know--I always loved it so much. I always wanted to become a singer since I was three years old. When I first started my band the term “heavy metal” didn’t exist. Then, a few years later, people said, I guess you’re a metal band. I was always attracted to heavier stuff and the totally tense straight in your face stuff. The most aggressive songs I liked—whatever had real energy. Then all these great bands came out of England like Judas Priest. I was also a big Kiss fan, and I liked Motorhead too. We got the big chance to tour with our idols Judas Priest in 86’ when I quit my job and just wanted to try music as a career. I loved it so much. The more I did music, the more I loved it.

KNAC.COM: But you also like to bring it down and make your music melodic as well. Do you like the contrast between the two?

DORO: Yes, yes. I like the whole spectrum. I love the intense feel in every way. I love it super, super dark and aggressive and super sensitive and deep. Anything that is filled with emotion.

KNAC.COM: Do you think you would have the opportunity for this contrast if you were playing other forms of music?

DORO: No, pop music is so superficial. For the most part it definitely misses the heart and soul. I think metal was always so honest and straight forward and it wasn’t so commercial. Of course some bands want a commercial lifestyle. I think that when you’re a headbanger, you just love heavy metal and live heavy metal. Most pop people don’t.

KNAC.COM: You’d almost have to be married to your music at that point, wouldn’t you?

DORO: Yeah, yeah. Relationships haven’t exactly worked out yet.

KNAC.COM: What makes it so hard to cultivate a relationship when you you’re a committed musician?

DORO: Yes, well usually I’m on tour and on the road a lot, and when you come home after a year on the road you can definitely not expect the person to be there waiting for you. I think for every musician it’s kind of hard. Everybody knew I loved the music so much and knew that I would not give it up. I don’t have any kids and have never been married.

KNAC.COM: Well, you’d have to find a guy who was secure enough to handle the long periods that you’re on the road and who believed the relationship was important enough to wait for---

DORO: Yes, yes, but that’s so hard to find.

KNAC.COM: You also did a version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” for the Zepplin Tribute album. Why did you choose that particular song? Was it hard to take on a selection that is so legendary and performed by one of the most famous vocalists ever in Robert Plant?

DORO: Your right. It was different, but I just loved it so much that I wanted to try it. When the band played it, it sounded really good, and I could really identify with it.

KNAC.COM: That’s another tune that starts off slow and then speeds up with the contrast being significant.

DORO: Yeah, it came out really nice, it worked. At first we picked “Whole Lotta Love” before I decided to do that one. It almost seems as though he made up the lyrics as he sang it. It was so much improvisation, and I listened to the song a million times, and when we did it I had to listen to it very closely, and you can really hear how the song is developing. Maybe he had the lyric wrote down before but changed it as he was singing it. I think we pulled it off though and did a good job. I hope people will like it, but it wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t easy.

KNAC.COM: I’ve heard it said that the new album sounds as if it could have been recorded in the 80’s because its got that raw, traditional metal sound. Do you think that the best period in heavy metal occurred during that decade before many inferior bands just tried to latch onto what was popular at the time?

DORO: Yes, because it wasn’t polished and stuff. It was really basic and raw and really honest and straight. I think there was something to be said for that. A lot of people figured out that you can make some big bucks if you wore makeup and acted a certain way. I was a big Motley Crue fan, and I loved Kiss too, but I had a feeling that the record company would put people in clothes that didn’t fit them—

KNAC.COM: Trying to make another Motley Crue?

DORO: Exactly, I think they were just out of things that were truly dirty and heavy—even the sound was affected. The record company even came to us one time and told us that we had to go for more commercial lyrics---then I had to change the lyrics and actually we got the person, and he changed the lyrics for me and I sang this one song. I just couldn’t take it, but I had to do it because the record company said either you do it or else you’ll lose your deal. Then we had to dress up like clowns—I have to say I hated it so much and I really learned my lesson. I never, ever want to do it again. During the time of our first American release we lost total artistic control. The manager, producer and everyone took over, and we had nothing to say anymore. After that, I went to America for some time, and after like three days, I kinda thought I wanted to start anew. That was when we did the Agony record. That was my favorite one. It is also a big favorite with the fans. It was kind of like a new beginning.

KNAC.COM: Did you find that yourself having to refuse certain ideas that came from the label because they didn’t represent what you wanted to project as a band?

DORO: Yeah, when you’re really young it’s hard to step up because the other people have the power. You just try hard to not lose your ideas.

KNAC.COM: You probably wanted the music to be marketed above the any other factors…

DORO: To compromise a little is ok, but it started to seem like we weren’t a band anymore. When we started, we were fourteen years old—we were really young. We didn’t know so much and we signed our life away many times without knowing what was on our contract. People told us that it was in our best interest, and I had no idea that this wasn’t so. We would sign the deal anyway and ended up paying for it big time. I guess everyone goes through that though. That’s how we lost our name to our manager.

KNAC.COM: That’s one of the major obstacles to a Warlock reunion, isn’t it?

DORO: Yeah, and it would be big, but we have millions of dollars of debt attached to that name, so it would be difficult to do, but not impossible.

KNAC.COM: Earlier, you discussed working with Lemmy, and Pete Steel on various projects, how important is it to you to have the respect of the people in the community who see you as a “musician” and not just as a “female musician”? How important is it to you to have their respect?

DORO: It’s nice to see that somebody respects what you do. It definitely feels good. I always try to do my best, and there will be many people who love it, and there will be many other people who don’t understand it or who don’t like it. That’s totally ok, but if there are a couple of people out there who like it and respect it, then that’s great. It’s great when you can go out and meet people. I can remember the first time we toured with Judas Priest—we were so blown away—we were like always watching the band and going to rehearsals day and night, day and night. Then one time the phone call came, and the guy said, “do you want to open for Judas Priest?” They were the biggest thing back then, and I couldn’t believe it. This was the first tour we did, and we got treated so well. I think I learned from the best. I always want to treat my support bands with the utmost respect because we were treated so well. That time was like a dream for me.

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