Interview with Doro Pesch
Hi Doro, It’s a real honor to get to speak to you. You are an inspiration, not just for female musicians, but for any person who is doing what they love on their own terms.
Thank You Anya. I just always followed my heart. I thought you can’t go wrong when you do what you feel. It was sometimes not easy, but always great and I’m so grateful for over 30 years now, it’s been amazing. With many, many ups and downs, too.
When you look back on your career, what do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
For me, personally, it was always working with heroes of mine, all of my favorite bands, and my favorite musicians. That always meant so much to me because I would have never expected that we would ever play together or be on tour together or be in the same studio together and I think they were definitely all the highlights for me. For example, I was growing up being a big Kiss fan and then I had the great chance to work with Gene Simmons for almost a whole year in the studio and it was awesome. It was in 1990 and it was amazing. He was so kind and very caring, very supportive and I thought, “Wow.” It was mind-blowing. Then there were the great duets with Lemmy, for example. That was like, “Wow.” It was so amazing. I always loved Lemmy. We were on tour together and then we did actually three songs together. It was my first ever duet in 2000 on our album. It was called Calling the Wild and we did two songs. One was called “Alone Again” which Lemmy wrote and he played for me on the acoustic guitar in a hotel room and man, I got tears in my eyes. It was so soulful.
I just got goosebumps when you mentioned that he played a guitar for you. That must have been amazing.
Yeah. He played wonderful guitar and I never knew that and it was great. It was very, very soulful. That was unforgettable. We did two songs on that album, “Alone Again,” and then the Motorhead classic, “Love Me Forever.” Every time I was going to sing my part, Lemmy said, “Come here,” and then he gave me a big kiss on my forehead and a big hug and he said, “Okay, now do good,” and then I was singing and I thought, “Wow, that’s the coolest thing.” Always the little kiss on my forehead and I thought, “It’s so cool.” I must say with people I loved or admired to tour, Ronny James Dio, for example, it was many great touring experiences and I think these things were definitely the highlights in all these 30 years of doing great stuff with great people. It was totally unexpected.
Going on tour and collaborating with your favorite musicians that is definitely something special.
You know when I had my first band, I would never have thought that we could support a band like Judas Priest or Ronnie James Dio. Judas Priest was my very first big tour in 86 in Europe. Priest was my favorite band it was just a dream come true. The next year in 87, it was with Ronnie James Dio and then from thereon it was always like, “Wow”. It was always an honor to tour with great people and working with them in studios. All our heroes. Yeah, by far, that is the most magical experience.
Your last record was released four years ago and from that time, you have been playing shows worldwide. In preparation for the new album Strong and Proud lots of events that have taken place. This is a celebration of your hard work all compiled into what is expected to be an onslaught of your music. There were live clips of Lordi, Sabaton, Udo, Blind Guardian, Saxon, and more. How difficult was it to have so many guests to appear on these shows? How did it come about and was it easy to get everyone to agree to do this?
From touring so much, usually you know all the people and I’m great friends with Udo Dirkshneider and Biff of Saxon and we’ve toured with Motorhead so much so when Phil Campbell came up on stage in Wacken, it was like, “Wow, that was great”. That was totally unexpected, totally spontaneous and in Wacken I met Lordi for the first time and then I asked them if they wanted to come to do something on the 30 anniversary and when I was playing in Wacken, he was in a big costume and Lordi said, “Oh my God, I don’t know if I can wait ten hours.” He actually says that on the documentary. It’s pretty cute. It’s like a two-and-a-half-hour documentary on the DVD and then he explained that he couldn’t wait for ten hours because the whole costume, you can’t eat. If you have to go to the bathroom, you can’t just keep it on for ten hours and he said, “Damn, shit. I wish I would have stayed.”
We got in contact again and I said, “Hey, how about you come to Dusseldorf to the two shows because that was how everything started for us and he said, “Oh, I would love to.” We did two nights actually and one song with orchestra and the other night, the full metal show. Sometimes it was totally spontaneous and sometimes we planned it out. Usually we all know each other and we all friends and the whole metal scene I think, it is family.
It was actually ever so nice. I must say, I loved it so much. It was so easy to get all the great people and everybody got along. I think everybody had a great time. Everybody got drunk after the show and ended up in the same hotel room. We were really having fun and it was so cool. Putting on the whole show, like the stage. We worked on it for a whole year. The stage actually got built for a whole year and then to plan everything out and then to put on a concert, I did it by myself in collaboration with the backing people, but it was so many things to think of like all the security, stand outs.
There were tons of stuff and then I thought, “Next time, let’s have a promoter to worry about all these technical things,” but we did it and it took a long time, but in the end everything worked. Everything worked. There were no fuck ups whatsoever and I thought, “That’s awesome.” Nobody got sick and everything technically worked good. All the cameras worked so it all got put on film and just the cutting and doing the sound and fixing some stuff that took a long time, but it was all there. Just fiddling around with the details and stuff, but it was all good. The whole year we celebrate the 30 anniversary and there were many, many magical moments all over the world.
I went to your show in October 2014 here in NYC. I remember I didn’t know what to expect because I never saw you live before, though I always wanted to. I was overwhelmed by how many people were there in such a small space, and the guest musicians you had that night. Everyone seemed so happy to be there. You could have played all night if you wanted to.
It was awesome. The only thing is that we wanted to film the whole show and then we didn’t get permission to do it because we didn’t talk to the club before. I totally didn’t even think of it so all the guests are in the documentary and stuff and photos and some shots, but the whole show we couldn’t use. I was heartbroken about it and I thought, “Shit.” In New York City, they sometimes have strict laws.
Yeah, depending on the venues.
I wasn’t aware of it. It was our fault that we didn’t know about it, but yeah, then when we had all the cameras up and suddenly it’s, “No, no. You guys can’t film here.” We had to pay a fine and I thought, “Oh fuck.” Next time I know and next time we will make sure that everything is prepared beforehand, but there are always so many things to take care of and sometimes you don’t even know where it’s coming from. I still remember that show was so great and all the guests. That was cool.
You mentioned Lemmy earlier on. I’m sure you get this question a lot. Can you take us back to December when the news broke out about Lemmy’s passing? Where were you and what were you doing when it happened?
I was in New York and then it was a friend of mine and a friend of Lemmy, a lady. She called me and she said, “Doro, I have to talk to you”. I felt right away it was something wrong. I felt it in her voice and she was always very close to Lemmy and she said, “Doro, Lemmy is not feeling good at all”. I said, “Really”. We were on tour together many times and sometimes there were some problems, but one day later everything was always okay. He went to the doctor or to the hospital. It was always in between one or two days, it was okay. We always worried, but somehow, you knew it would be okay and that day, I remember I felt, I was immediately, totally … Tears were running down my cheek. I couldn’t even help it. I thought, “Oh man”. I knew it was serious. I knew it was serious and then I prayed and I thought, “Man, I hope everything will be okay”.
The next day I got another phone call and a text message that Lemmy died. I had a strange feeling the whole night, but I never thought that it would come to that. We all thought that Lemmy is totally indestructible and would live forever. I always had that feeling and I know all the fans, they felt like that so I was in total shock. Then I thought, “Wow, I would love to go to the funeral if that’s possible”. I flew back to Germany and then I flew from Germany to LA and I met Nikki D on the way and then we talked a little bit and he said, “Man, I don’t even know what to say. I’m so in shock”. We talked a little bit and then I was there at the funeral. I couldn’t say anything. It was too sad. Many people broke down in tears.
It was so intense and on the other hand, everybody was there to give it up for Lemmy and I saw people I didn’t see in a long time and it was filled with laughter, the whole place and I think Ozzy Osborne was there and Gene Simmons and Metallica and Slash and Dee Snider. Everybody was there. It was great that everybody came, but it was sad. I’m so sad. I always wrote text messages. I love that. I always got a text message back from Lemmy and when there was something, like happy birthday or whatever, or congratulations to a number one album and he was always so sweet and we were really great friends. On his birthday, I sent him a text message. I told him I hope it will be a great birthday and all this good stuff and I didn’t get a text back and I thought, “Wow, I hope everything is okay”. I started to worry. Not that I wanted to have a text back, but I just felt I hope everything is okay.
I saw Lemmy the last time, it was actually in November. We just started the UK tour and we were rehearsing in Germany and he played in my former home town in Dusseldorf and we were rehearsing there and then I told my band, I said, “Somehow I want to go and say hi to Lemmy”. They all said, “Wow, we are not even done with our set. We didn’t rehearse like we should have”. We were not ready to go and then I said, “I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go and see Lemmy and see the Motorhead show”. Then I just left and everybody said, “Man, Doro, you’ll see Lemmy in …”, I think January there were some other shows planned in the UK and I said, “Yeah, I know, but I have that feeling I want to go today”. Then the guys in my band said, “Okay then, just go. We’ll do it on our own”. Some more rehearsal. I said, “Yeah, I will be back soon, so wait for me”.
I went to see the Motorhead show and I talked to Lemmy after the show and the show was excellent. He looked very thin, but he was great and he talked so much to the audience. He talked more than usually. Everybody had a great time. I went to see him in his dressing room and then I saw, “Wow, he looked really, really thin”. Then I said, “Hey Lemmy, congratulations to sold out German tour. It’s awesome”. He said, “No Doro. Not only Germany. Sold out in the whole Europe. All the places have sold out”. I said, “Wow, that’s so awesome and congratulations”. He said, “Yeah, and you know what, now I’m too old to enjoy it.” That brought tears to my eyes. For the first time, I thought, “That sounded so sad”, because usually Lemmy was always enjoying touring and he was always playing. He always had his machines playing and having a good time and then I thought, “Wow”.
I can hear it in your voice. You’re still thinking about it. I regret not going to see Motorhead when they played in Long Island. I said to myself, “It was too far. He’ll be back. Everything will be okay”. That’s one of my biggest regrets not to get to see him for the last time. He lived his life his way, and he was never sorry. He did it his way and that’s very inspirational.
To the very last day.
He gave it his all and I think, yeah, he was really, really happy. Always happy when the shows went great and the fans were like, “Yeah”. On one hand, it’s super sad. On the other hand, I think he had such a fulfilled life and he never took shit from anybody and he always said whatever he wanted. That was great. I was so happy that I got a chance to talk to him, tour with him or be in the studio together. He was always very soulful. It was always deep and we always had great, great deep conversations. He had a heart of gold. I knew him, I think from the first time I met him, I think it was in 1984 so for a long time. I couldn’t even speak English, but we worked great right away. Had some cigarettes and whiskey cola and just hanging out together. I really feel between Lemmy leaving and Dio leaving, I think I definitely lost two of my most important heroes and mentors and friends.
I think anyone can say whether they play hard rock or metal, that Lemmy inspired everybody.
Totally. His attitude. He was such a free spirit. Yeah. You’re absolutely right. I think everybody admired him and everybody got inspired and motivated by him. To just live your life like you should. Like you feel like it’s right for you. I wrote a little song for Lemmy. It’s called “Living Life to the Fullest” and I’m going to put it on the new album whenever this will come out. Probably next year.
Live your life to the fullest because he did.
Not to sound morbid, but 2016 has been a year where we lost so many people. Lemmy is no longer with us. David Bowie, Prince…
We have to keep up the good spirit and keep up the good metal spirit. Somehow I feel they’re still with us, in. I sometimes even, in my head, it’s in my mind, but I always have some little conversations with Lemmy and sometimes I feel, I think we have to try harder together and stay more positive. I think the whole world is in pretty shape so I think it’s most important to do what we love and to do it for the people that we love. Do it for the metalheads. You never know when time is up.
Exactly… You’re one of the top vocalists within the metal community, next to Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson, there’s you and deservingly so. What new singers do you like currently that you believe will carry the banner into the future? What is the Metal Goddesses opinion on this?
Man, there are great, great singers out there, male and female and I think everybody has their own unique style. It’s very hard to say who. At the moment, we worked in the studio together on the new Amon Amarth album and there’s a song on it. It’s called “A Dream That Cannot Be” and I sang duet with this great Viking singer, Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth and I think he reminded me a little bit of a young James Hetfield. Johann reminds me of a singer which had so much to give, had a magical aura which meant something to the fans. I saw him perform live a couple of times. The first time actually in Wacken and there was a spirit there and all the fans were loving him and I think there was a quality which I thought, “Wow, man. Wow, he’s one of a kind”.
There are some great, great women out there. I think Alissa from Arch Enemy is great. I love Angela Gassow too. I think the singer, of Hailstorm. I think she has a great voice. And of course Floor Jansen.
Oh yeah, Floor is amazing after forever and Nightwish.
And I still love Tarja. I got to see when Tarja was still in Nightwish and Alone too, I think she’s very unique. I think everybody has their own unique thing and that’s great. I think that’s different from the 80’s. In the 80’s, women weren’t viewed as so powerful and unique and they weren’t as respected as they are now. I remember in the early 80’s, everybody was happy when naked girls were dancing around the bands in the MTV videos. It looked sexy. It looked good, but it didn’t look dignified and I think now all the women, there is no doubt about it. There is no question about it and I think it’s all very dignified. I think that’s really cool and everybody is doing their own thing. Whoever, we’ll do it for a long time. I know how hard it is and I know there are many sacrifices you have to do so whatever, we’ll do it and happy to do it. That’s the most important to not let other people or whatever change you or put you in a different category…. Make you more commercial or make you look different. That was definitely 80’s style.
I remember in the 80’s everybody said, “You’ll have to polish your sound and you have to be more radio friendly and it has to be more commercial and it has to sell more records”. There was so much pressure and I think now, everybody can do what they feel. There’s more freedom. You can do many more things. There’s all the social media and I think that’s pretty cool. That’s an advantage to the 80’s, 90’s.
Would you say that there’s more unity in the music community than there was back in the 80’s and 90’s?
Yes. I definitely feel that because in the 80’s and 90’s, I think there was much more competition or feeling of competition. I remember sometimes when we would go on tour, the headliner wouldn’t give the support band the same night or volume or the same PA. It was clearly that was the headliner. The support band wouldn’t get so much stuff. Actually I never experienced it. I always had great bands who were always treating us really good, but I heard it from many other bands. It was common. Then when metal wasn’t so big anymore; in the 90’s when grunge took over and then when metal was coming back, I felt there was big time unity with all the musicians. All the metal bands and it didn’t matter anymore what kind of style. Everybody was more tolerant. Before it was like, when you did traditional metal and maybe the death metal people or black metal people, they wouldn’t accept you, but now everything goes.
In the DVD portion of Strong and Proud, you’re revealing a more personal side into your world and on the Nuclear Blast webpage, there’s a mention of something called Behind the Curtain Inside the Heart of Doro. You’re a very private person so I have to ask; how did it feel doing that and can we expect more in the future?
Actually it was nice to have somebody with us all the time. It was nice to let the fans know what’s really going on before the stage or after the show and in the tour bus or in the dressing room. It’s pretty personal. Everybody has their story. The whole band members. Everybody has a different personality, but we all click and many views are a little bit different and the road crew … All kinds of people are talking. Other artists are talking about it. It gives you great insight how it really is and when people always say, they want to hang out backstage, that’s definitely, what you see the It’s almost a movie. It’s two and a half hours long and it’s like, yeah, you’re definitely inside the universe of our little team.
I don’t have a private life. The private life is just when we are on tour with bands in the tour bus, in the dressing room. I never had kids, I never got married so what you see is exactly what you get. That’s the private side. There’s nothing more to it. I think that life was really interesting. Even first hand, everything, the whole collection. Some new aspects and it’s very well done by the guy who did it. He did the last five DVD’s with us and it was cool. I think that’s one of the highlights of the DVD. It’s long. The whole DVD is eight hours long. Between all the music stuff, yeah, some personal things. You can see how everybody is nervous before heading to stage, for example, in Wacken. I still had so much stage fright.
You still have stage fright even after all these years?
Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. I’m always so nauseous. I feel I throw up and then when you go on stage. When you see the fans, when you sing the first line. Everything is gone. Everything is cool and it’s great, but before, oh God, it’s a nightmare.
What do you do to calm the nerves?
We always give each other a group hug. Everybody gets a big hug. All of our band members, we always try to be there for each other and the guys know that I’m always nervous and sometimes they just come up to me and give me a hug and say, “Hey Doro, you did it for 30 years and you’ll be all right”. Just say something nice and then when I hear the fans outside, sometimes the dressing rooms, they are close to the stage and when I hear the excitement or when they call for the band and I think, “Yeah, yeah man, I’m ready. I’m ready”. Before the Wacken show, that’s actually in the documentary too. We talk about it. It was one of the most intense moments. It’s like doing bungee jumping or jumping out of the airplane. It’s like, “Oh hahahaha”. You don’t want to do it but then when you’re doing it, it’s all right.
So you don’t let the nervousness to get to you?
Yeah, exactly. You just have to do it. You just have to deliver and then there’s no more time and no more space for bullshitting around. You just have to do it and usually it all works great. It’s sometimes too much for a little human being and you go out in front of whatever. In Wacken it’s always like 80,000 – 90,000 people and then you know they are always expecting great things, magic. There’s always some magic. From doing it for so long, I know we can always do it. We can always do it. We did it before, but it’s … The body just freaks out. It’s such a natural thing. You have to go into a different mind frame. That’s the reason why I’m a fan of martial arts and I’m doing martial arts. I fell in love with it. It’s called Eskrima. It’s Philippines martial arts and I have a great coach and great trainer and I always feel after every hour of training, I feel I’m ready.
It’s good for the body, mind and soul. It makes you feel strong. I have to keep up with it and you always have to train. When you do it once and then for another month, nothing. It doesn’t work. It’s like going to the gym. One time going to the gym can’t cut it for you.
At what age were you, if you don’t mind me asking, you said to yourself, “Okay, music I like very much. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life?” How old were you?
The first desire, I remember doing music or trying to be a singer was actually when I was very, very little. I think I was three years old. I was three years old and I heard one song and it wasn’t metal. Back then there was no metal. I heard one song by Little Richard and it was called” Lucille.” I loved that song. That got me hooked and from that day on, I remember I always wanted to be a singer. When I was fifteen, I had my first band. It was called Snakebite and then I had a couple of other bands. It was Beast and Attack and then Warlock. With Warlock we said, “Wow, there was some magic going on”, and I guess, right time, right place, just the beginning when metal was growing bigger and bigger and bigger and we did some first shows in some little tiny clubs with Metallica. I remember that well. I think it was a couple of their first shows in Europe and Asia and we just had our first record out. It was Burning the Witches.
I thought, “Wow, I would love to do it for the rest of my life if I can”. Then this wish, this desire was always growing and growing, but the first time when I said it was, yeah, I think was three years old. Everybody thought probably I’m crazy. When you love something you have to follow it.
And from such a young age this love and passion stays with you.
Yeah, yeah. It took me a long time to figure it out how to have a band, but when I was fifteen, everything somehow fell into place and we didn’t even know that we were heavy metal. My first band, we had no idea. Then we went to some concerts and we thought, “Wow man, that band, they are sounding something like what we are doing or what we are trying to do”. Then later on we said, “Okay, we are part of the metal scene”. The first metal scene and everything came out. In Germany, I think the first metal scenes, they were handwritten with photocopies. Later on in Germany, big metal scene but in the beginning it was very small and we actually toured in different countries like England and Belgium and the Netherlands. In Germany, the scene was so small, but then a little bit later it became huge.
That’s the reason why we signed to a Belgium metal label. It was called Mausoleum. That was when we put out the first record, Burning the Witches. Actually, we just liked the logo. They had two drops of blood on the “M’s”. We thought, “Wow, that looks metal. That must be a great record label”. That’s the reason why we signed our deal. Totally metal. (laughs)
It seems that whenever I check your website and your Facebook page, you’re always touring. What are the plans after the release of Strong and Proud? Will there be new music in the future or are you going to take a rest from the tour?
Actually a new record is in the making so whenever we have a little bit of time, whenever we are off the road, then we’re going back to the studio, still recording and then non-stop touring to December. We’re doing all the summer festivals here in Europe right now and then we’re doing a Ukraine tour which I think it’s important that the fans still know that we still care. I know there’s a lot of problems.
I am originally from the Ukraine. It’s great you’re touring that part of the world despite all that’s going on in that part of the world.
That’s really cool. Yeah, we’re going there. We’re doing a long tour there actually soon. In September and then end of September, we’re doing America again. We play some festivals in Chicago, a festival in New Jersey, the Rocking Carnival Festival and then eight – nine gigs in the Fall.
Then on September 20th, you’ll be at the Chance Theater in Up State. See you there!
That would be awesome. We played there last time with Y & T. It was a great gig and a great venue.
Have you ever thought about doing a tour where you would do a Warlock album like Triumph And Agony in its entirety?
We’ve thought about it but then I thought, “Oh God, all the other great songs”. I think I couldn’t just do one album. Maybe we can do five records in one night. Or four records. I think it’s a great idea and it’s just we haven’t done it yet because when you work on a new record or on the way to your fifth record, it’s always so close to your heart and I would say, “Oh no, I want to definitely play Raise Your Fist or Revenge and many other great songs. I think each record had some magical songs on it so sometimes I would say maybe we play one record and then we play a best of, of everything so just doing one record, I think that wouldn’t be enough. Maybe doing more than that and then doing all the highlights of the old school metal things or the old school whatever. The best anthems. The best metal songs or best ballads.
I think it should be more than just one album, but I think it’s a great idea. Eventually maybe we will do it.
Can I ask you, where did you come from the Ukraine? Which city?
I’m originally from Donetsk Ukraine. It’s not too far from Kharkov where you will be performing in September. My family immigrated to NY when I was eight years old, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992.
That’s so cool have you gone back at all?
I haven’t been back, but I think when I travel to Europe, since I don’t have much in Ukraine, I’ll probably end up going to Norway or Germany first. I have relatives in Nuremberg.
I think you might love it and yeah, go to a great festival. There are so many great festivals.
That’s on my list for sure, whenever I get a chance to travel to Europe.
Wacken is the best, but there are other great ones, too. The Bang Your Head Festival also. Almost every festival is great. I would love you to come to Germany. It’s definitely metal country. It’s pretty cool. I think it’s much better than its reputation.
My relatives invite me every year but it’s not always easy to get the time off from work. I would need at least two weeks to explore the country.
Thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed having the chance to talk with you. Thank you for all that you have done for the metal community. For living your life, giving us all of your talent with all of your heart. I will say this again. You’re an inspiration to all for having a passion and seeing it through no matter the sacrifice and the obstacles.
Thank you for these kind words. That’s very moving. I’m just here to make the fans happy and whatever it takes, that’s what I want to do. That’s what I live for. When I was 23, one day I woke up and I thought I totally want to dedicate my life to the metalheads, to the fans and to the music and ever since, it just felt right and I never regretted anything and it’s always a big honor to play for the fans and to play for people and when you feel that there’s a connection. That’s so great. When you get good feedback, it’s like, “Wow”. It’s so much motivation. I want to thank all the fans for all their love and support in all these great years and it is because of the fans that we can still do it and that I’m still so happy to do that. It’s great. Every day is a big honor.
Speaking of your fans, do you have any parting words for them?
Yes. I want to tell all the metalheads, guys and girls, I love you guys forever and I always will try my best and give you all my metal power and my heart and soul and my spirit and do the best I can and whatever it takes until the day I die, I promise. We will never do a goodbye tour so as long as the fans want to see it, I will do it. Living life to the fullest and keeping the flag up for metal. All positive energy. I love the fans and I want to thank them for support and love. It’s a dream come true and I wish everybody the best and to stay happy and healthy and stay metal so see you in the near future at the next festival or wherever.
Thank you so much, Doro. All the best to you for Strong and Proud and for the upcoming tour. Safe travels.
Thank you Anya. It was a great interview and great talking to you!