By Carl Begai
Hard work is nothing new to vocalist Doro Pesch. She’s spent the last 25 years in fifth gear, first making a name for herself in the ‘80s with Warlock and then carving out a lucrative solo career over the last 20. She also remains completely dedicated to her fans, always mindful of the two schools of thought surrounding her career – Warlock metal and solo melodic metal – and thinking nothing of regularly putting on shows clocking in at well over two hours in order to keep those bases covered. In the case of her 25th anniversary celebration held in her home town of Düsseldorf back in December 2008, however, she pushed the envelope even further. Playing host to several thousand fans, Doro put on a show worthy of her reputation for giving 110% at all times, loading the festivities with an impressive stage set, a raucous setlist, and numerous guest performers to make a special night that much more awe-inspiring. An organizational nightmare to be sure, requiring weeks and months of planning, but it comes as no surprise to discover the diminutive singer was the one keeping things together and calling the shots.
“I think in the last weeks leading up to the show I worked 20 hours a day on it,” Doro reveals. “It was so hard core. And the day after the show I had to go to the hospital because I had a really bad eye infection. I don’t know if it was from all the pyro we used that night, but usually when I’ve finished with a record or a tour the body collapses and I need to recover. It wasn’t stress in a bad way, bu there’s so much stuff that has to be taken care of. I’m usually nervous before every show, but for this one I was especially nervous because it was so big. So many guests had to be looked after, there were so many people from all over the world and a lot of my friends, so I always had the feeling I had to take care of them. And sometimes it’s impossible to do everything.”
Regardless of the stress level behind-the-scenes, the night was a rousing success as far as Doro is concerned. Getting the chance to hit the stage with her old Warlock bandmates again was one of the many high points of the night for her, and the best part of the occasion for the early day diehards in the audience. Never mind that the band had bashed out three songs on stage together five years ago for Doro’s 20th anniversary; any opportunity to see Warlock play live is a welcome one.
“It was really exciting, but on the other hand totally strange going on stage with the Warlock guys again. The bassist (Frank Rittel) couldn’t make it because he’s given up music and it would have been a lot of stress for him to do it, so my regular bassist Nick Douglas performed with us, and that was great because we’ve been playing together for 19 years. It’s amazing how so much time has passed. I mean, Warlock drummer Michael (Eurich) was 15 years old when we started and now he’s a grown man; it’s weird (laughs). When I saw him playing up there at the show I felt like I was 17 again.”
With the legal wrangling settled – a tale far too long to be included here – and the Warlock name back in her possession, some long time fans are wondering if an album under the beloved moniker is in the cards. Particularly since Doro’s live set is always loaded with Warlock tunes, and she’s never downplayed the fact she owes her career to the buzz attached to the name so long ago.
“I still get that question all the time, but I never intended to have a solo career,” states Doro, a claim she has stood by for the last 20 years. “I was always a team player and I never wanted to do something alone. That’s why Nick (Douglas/bass), Joe (Taylor/guitars) and Johnny (Dee/drums) have been with me for over 15 years. Nick has actually been with me for 19 years. It was heartbreaking when we couldn’t perform under the Warlock name. But now I have the name back and I’m allowed to use it, which is good, but… I guess people find something in Warlock because that was a great time for metal. Metal was so big, it was like there was something in the air. It’s hard to compare with this day and age, and it’s hard to recreate the whole thing that was Warlock.”
“Also, we’ve been doing this for so long as the Doro band that I can’t see us doing that. I love to play all those old Warlock tunes, so I often feel that it’s one and the same. And there are a lot of people who only know me or know me better as Doro rather than the singer of Warlock. For some of them the Calling The Wild record was their first exposure to my music, and that was in 2000. For the fans that grew up with us maybe the Warlock stuff is more important, and for the newer fans it’s just a historic thing.”
Doro’s new album, Fear No Evil, is a tip of the hat to that Warlock metal glory without sacrificing the trademark melodic Doro sound of the last decade. In her opinion this is the Doro album that really does offer something to all of her fans, past and present.
“Every record I do is The One, if you know what I mean,” she says. “On this album I wanted to sum things up a little bit to celebrate 25 years, with some old school songs and some modern sounding stuff so that every song represents an era. I always go by gut feeling, and every record I do is like having a baby, so I can’t say that it’s ever easy because I try so hard to make sure everything is okay. I don’t think I’ve had a day off in the last 10 years (laughs). There’s no private life, it’s all about doing a record or touring, and in between that the promotional stuff. I would definitely love to do this until the day I die.”
“There are some guest players on the album as well,” she adds. “It just depends on the song. For the first time ever I had background singers (including Biff Byford, Angela Gossow, Sabina Classen and Floor Jansen) and because I wanted to have these big gang vocals, like on ‘Night Of The Warlock’. But when I do have people from outside the band come in they’re all friends, people I’ve known for years, like Tarja Turunen.”
Tarja guests on the track ‘Walking With The Angels’, a song that possesses a noteworthy element from the Warlock days. Doro explains:
“I actually wrote with that song Joey Balin, who worked with me on Triumph And Agony. We hooked up again last year in New York and I was thinking that maybe we still had it in us to write together again. I told him that I wanted to write some songs about having positive energy and a positive attitude, and we ended up with ‘Celebrate’ and ‘Walking With The Angels’. And with ‘Walking With The Angels’ I thought it would be cool to get someone who has a much more angelic voice than I do (laughs) to sing on it. I contacted Tarja and sent her the song, and she loved it. It came out even better than I envisioned it. Even though our voices are different there’s a perfect harmony on the song. That was the highlight for me making the new record.”
No matter how Doro tweaks her sound from album to album, the one constant is the postive vibe that runs through each one. No matter what she’s singing about the mood remains upbeat. Fear No Evil is no exception to this rule.
“It’s great that you picked up on that, and that’s something you only know if you’re an insider,” laughs Doro. “But definitely, you’re right. When I was about 24 I was in New York and I came to a point where I had to decide whether I wanted to take a more destructive path, which is a lot of fun but pretty short, or take a more positive approach and have a long musical life. I was hoping that the fans that like the negatives that they might have heard in Warlock would like the more postive side of things, and I think most of them did. Maybe some of them were disappointed, but I wanted to do something long term and it was more important for me to try and make people happy, even if it was just through a song. I think the negative side was maybe a bit cooler, but in the long run I think this was a better path to take. And I think positive stuff is very important in this day and age. I wanted Fear No Evil to be positive, but I wanted it to sound metal and I think I managed to do that.”
And therein lies the reason why, perhaps, we’ll never see another Warlock album. Doro’s motivations for making music are very different now compared to when she started out.
“When we did the Warlock stuff it was never meant in a bad way. Sometimes the lyrics were a bit out there, like ‘Sign Of Satan’ or ‘Time To Die’ (laughs), but back then I believed in that stuff. When I first met my manager, Alex Grob, who was with me for 17 years, I told him that I wanted to do music for a couple years because I’d be dead soon enough. He was shocked, and he asked me why I’d say something like that. I told him that the way I was living, in two or three years I’d be dead. Alex told me, ‘That’s a very stupid concept. I’m 57 and it’s possible to live a long life,’ but I said I wasn’t interested. I was in a complete different frame of mind, and he told me he wouldn’t manage me if I had that kind of attitude. I didn’t like what he was saying but I thought ‘Okay, I’m 27, maybe I want to live a little bit longer…’ (laughs). It’s almost 20 years later and I’m glad I took the positive route.”