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Doro Interview

Doro Interview
October 2014

It isn’t every day you get to interview a legend; so needless to say, when I was asked by the staff at Sonic Cathedral to have a one-on-one conversation with metal’s quintessential rock goddess Doro Pesch, it goes without saying that I was excited by the opportunity, but also very nervous as well. After all, Doro is the reason that places like Sonic Cathedral even exist. She’s the reason there is a femme-metal scene to speak of to begin with. Doro is the reason I’m here writing this right now. She’s a trailblazer; and just like the others of her kind, she only needs to be known by one name.


What does one say to someone who has rubbed elbows with the greats in the rock and metal scene? How do you approach a person of such iconic status without being a bit star-struck? What unique and interesting questions could you possibly ask somebody who has likely heard it all before? When my phone rang at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in mid-September, I was going to find all of this out for myself.

Just as one would suspect, Doro is a regular person like you or me. She puts her pants on one leg at a time, so to speak. The more I talked to her, the more I saw for myself how genuine she really is as a person. This is not someone who has let rock star ego inflate her head, or someone who has been jaded by the dark side of the music business. For someone who has seen it all, she speaks with the eagerness of a youthful upstart who has the world open to them. Doro is exuberant, she is passionate, she is totally honest and completely real. Her love for this music and for her loyal fanbase who has kept her going for the last 3 decades showed through the entire conversation; because no matter what topic we touched upon, it always came back to waving that metal flag and showing complete gratitude to the audience that elevated Doro to her well-deserved honor as metal’s one and only reigning queen.

C.:  You just announced a North American tour. How exciting!

Doro:  I’m so excited! We’re coming over in exactly one month; we just finished all the summer festivals. We actually have a poll where fans can request songs they want to hear, so we’re playing a setlist of fans’ requests. I’m sure all the classics and the highlights will be there!

C.:  Wow! So you’re letting fans request your setlist? That’s every fan’s dream!

Doro:  Yeah; actually, we want to do it in every city so that people can hear [the different songs]. The fans in New York might want to hear [for example] “Metal Tango”, or the fans in California might want to hear something different.

C.:  That’s another awesome aspect of it too, because so many fans travel to different shows throughout the tour, so it gives them more of an incentive to hit up more than one gig, because you never know what you’ll hear from one night to the next.

Doro:  Absolutely! You can count on a different setlist every day! There are 17 albums, so there’s a lot of songs to pick and choose from. I’m excited to hear what the fans will pick. Maybe there are some songs we’ve never played before, or maybe some we haven’t played in a long time.

C.:  It’s got to be exciting for you too, because this gives you an opportunity to play songs that you may not have necessarily had a chance to ever play live, or to bring back songs you’ve always meant to play again but just hadn’t gotten around to for whatever reason. So many fans wish that bands would do this, especially fans who travel to numerous shows; because even if you like the band, after about 7 or 8 shows of hearing the same setlist, it does get somewhat tedious!

Doro:  Yes, I’m a metal fan too; so when I go to concerts, I also want to hear the highlights and not just [stuff from] the new record, so I know exactly what that feels like. We are way prepared. We’ve got two special shows in my former hometown in Germany; we’re playing two nights: one with special guests and an orchestra, and the other with special guests that’s just a straight metal show. We play each night for about 3, 3 ½ hours, so there are tons of songs we already know well.

C.:  Have you worked with an orchestra before?

Doro:  Yeah, a couple of times. We wanted to celebrate the 25th anniversary, also in my hometown, 5 years ago. There were so many great guests there, and it was a big show…and then I thought, ‘how can I even top it? How can I reach that level, that quality of greatness?’ Because I had guests like Lemmy from Motorhead, and The Scorpions…and then I thought, maybe I’ll do two shows: one the full metal show, and the other with the orchestra. We made a live album and a DVD as well; it was really bombastic and it sounded great, it felt great…the songs came to life! To play a power ballad with, like, 20 string players…it was definitely powerful. So yeah, I thought maybe I could top that by doing two nights: the orchestra with, like, 50-60 people…it was so good! Then the next night, we had some other special guests…so it was two nights of wow! My body was so worn out, but the two shows were great. I already know we have so many songs we can play. The guys in the band are excited to play them too.

C.:  Are those shows going to be fan-requested too?

Doro:  Kind of. We have this die-hard fan who runs a page for other die-hard fans; he did this on his own, and then he presented me with the setlist without us knowing; so I thought, that’s cool! So yeah, it was the idea of the die-hard fans to do this; so I thought, let’s do this for the American tour too, because it’s such a great idea.

C.:  That is so cool that you have such interaction with your fans that when they present you with a dream setlist, that you’re totally on-board with it. You actually listen to your fans when they come to you with an ideal setlist to play; where other bands are just, “yeah, you and everyone else!”

Doro:  To me, [it’s about] the fans…that’s what I live for. I want to make people happy, that’s my mission in life; it’s not to do what we feel is great. Usually, the same songs the fans love, I love; so there’s never this feeling of, “oh, I don’t like that one”. I think we all have the same vibe. It’s a big honor for me to play in front of the people; to touch their hearts and get connected to them. It’s sacred. I love the fans, and that’s why I dedicated my life many years ago to the fans and to the music. And it gets stronger every day.

C.:  [Fan submitted question: Michèle; Helsinki, Finland]: You don’t look like you’ve aged a day in 30 years! What’s your secret?

Doro:  I would definitely say it’s the music and the fans! From doing this so much, it’s a great workout. Your body is always in perfect shape because of all the jumping around and the headbanging; going full-out, giving out so much energy, and getting back so much great energy! It makes me so happy; I almost feel like a beginner, like I just started. [Laughs] As for “beauty tips”, it’s just about eating healthy, I gave up smoking—I love to smoke, but I gave it up—[and] I don’t drink much. Just living healthy and doing what I love! So I think that music totally keeps me young. Sometimes, when I see pictures [of myself] in the ‘80s, I think to myself that I haven’t changed much! [Laughs] I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything [special]; I didn’t have plastic surgery or anything. I guess it’s just pure living, [having the] fire all the time. It’s great, it’s a lot of joy; but there’s a lot of struggle too. You have to keep it up on tour; it takes an everyday effort. But I love it.

C.:  You’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of your musical career, but really, this goes back a lot further; a sort of “This is Your Life” in music.

Doro:  I’ve always wanted to do this. Ever since I was 3 or 4 years old, I made up my mind: I wanted to have a band! Then when I was 15, I had my first band back in 1980. Then I had many other bands before I joined Warlock. Our first record came out in ’83 or ’84, so that’s the reason why I celebrate the 30th anniversary. But I started [doing this kind of music] back in ’81, and I knew…this was like, wow! To me, it was an eye-opening experience in music; one of the most beautiful things in life. I think I found my place in life that makes me happy. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do, or what people push me to do. I just always try to make music, and I think that pays off in the end when you do what you believe and what makes you happy.

C.:  That’s actually a great philosophy to have! Recently, I talked to Leather Leone [of Chastain], and we talked a lot about the music scene in the ‘80s, especially for females. You both came up at the same time with a handful of other women, and have been the trendsetters for everything that has happened within this scene; without you ladies there would be no femme-metal scene today. We were talking about the different experiences when it was harder for women to be accepted or get their foot in the door. What kind of things did you go through back then? Do you think it’s become easier or more difficult with the inclusion of so many female-fronted metal bands?

Doro:  I never thought of myself as just a girl or a woman; I was always a metalhead, and I love music, so I think everyone knew that about me. They knew I was totally serious about it. I think music is about that; it doesn’t matter where you’re from or if you’re a man or a woman. I honestly really felt supported and respected, and I had the great privilege to go on tour with so many great bands who were heroes of mine. My first big tour was with Judas Priest in ‘86; the guys were so great, and they treated me so good. My second big tour was with the legendary Ronnie James Dio, and he was always so nice; very caring, very supportive. We had a great friendship and toured many times together. I never felt like I was second-best because I was a woman. But speaking of Leather…coming up at the show in New York City on October 20th, many guests are coming; Bobby Blitz of Overkill, Jeff from Annihilator, and many more...I think Leather is going to come as well.

C.:  Yes, Leather says wherever someone wants her, she will be there!

Doro:  Right now we’re working it out with our promoters; but I think that my guests are usually 90% men, so to see two ladies up onstage together, that will be really good! Leather will come onstage and join me; we’ll figure out what song to do together…it will be great.

C.:  [Fan submitted question: Michèle; Helsinki, Finland/John; San Diego, CA]: How does the music business compare now as to when you first started out?

Doro:  It’s always a fight for any band, for any musician, I think; at all times. Maybe in the ‘80s it was a little bit different because the scene was so much bigger; the industry was so much bigger. There were many more record companies, bigger record sales; that’s not so anymore. So yeah, the struggle is now in different areas; but on the other hand, you can be free. You have so much freedom to do whatever you feel, and actually, I think that’s the best. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the record companies and A&R guys had a lot of input; which was great sometimes, but other times it was like, “you’ve got to be more commercial”, or “you have to change your look”, or “you have to cut your hair”. I remember one record—which I love—called Love me in Black; one person came up with this idea that because the record was called Love me in Black, that I should cut my hair and dye it black! I said, “no, I don’t want that!” They said, “you have to do it; you have to change your image”. It was a struggle, and then they said, “if you don’t do it, we won’t release the record”. I said, “I love the record, but I’m not cutting my hair!” There have always been some heavy discussions and struggle; to get a name was hard during the ‘80s. Then in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, there were expectations to have a “hit”; people wanted to see your record sell millions. Now it’s different. Now there’s much more freedom. No one has told me for a long time, “you have to do your record like this”, or “you have to have a hit record”. The last 10 years have been great. I recently went back to an independent label, and I have complete creative freedom. I love it. It’s great. Now I’m with Nuclear Blast, and they’re all metalheads within the company; they’re all telling me to go for what I believe in! It’s so awesome. I love that. I think back to when metal was not as strong in the ‘90s; when grunge took over…oh, God! That was another hard time; [the music industry was] trying to keep metal out of the music. Then about 10 years later—about 1999 or so—traditional metal started to make a comeback; I got my record deal back in the States, and went on tour with Ronnie James Dio in 2000. I said, “yes! Metal is definitely back!” Over the last 20 years, it’s grown bigger and bigger and bigger. So I think it’s hard for everybody, even the successful bands. They’re under pressure that the next record has to be more successful. So yeah, there’s always something.

C.:  [Fan-submitted question: John; San Diego, CA]: Recently, Gene Simmons made a comment that “rock is dead”. Do you agree with him, or are we just a cool niche?

Doro:  I want to tell all the fans, I think rock is going stronger than ever! I definitely have proof, because we were touring all over the world; especially at the big festivals, there are so many people! Being from Germany, one festival I always love—even though the audience is only about 10% German, but metalheads come from all over the world to celebrate—Wacken! I’m sure you’ve heard of Wacken, right?

C.:  Oh God, I’d love to get there someday!

Doro:  It’s so great! Metalheads come from all over the world: Argentina, Peru, Russia, America, Canada…it’s awesome. I tell you, two years in a row it’s sold out [for the following year] just one day after the festival finished. So the 2014 3-day festival finished on August 4th, and by August 5th, the 2015 festival was already completely sold out! So yeah, that’s my proof that rock and metal are alive and well. Everybody’s trying hard worldwide; they’re fantastic, beautiful festivals…like there were at least 81,000 people at the Graspop festival in Belgium; or Sweden Rock, or the Download festival in England…it’s fantastic. Worldwide, rock is definitely so alive! So many fans! It definitely reminds me of the ‘80s. In the States, it’s more radio [oriented]; in Europe, there are not that many rock stations. I think in Germany we have, like, 3 radio stations; and even then they play stuff like Bryan Adams, not so much our kind of music.

C.:  Actually, it’s not that different here in the States, for all the radio stations we have. I don’t think our festivals are as good as the ones over in Europe. We have the more mainstream stuff like Gigantour or Ozzfest, or smaller underground ones like ProgPower; but I look at the way you guys do festivals out there and Europe knows how to put bands together that belong with each other. Whereas in the States, our huge festivals are organized based on who is popular, so oftentimes you get a metal band on the same bill as, say, a pop artist or a hip-hop artist; music that normally doesn’t go together, or whose audiences normally don’t meet or have anything in common. So a lot of the time, fans look at the roster and think, why bother going to this when I have to sit through 20 bands I don’t give a shit about, just to see one or two bands play for 20 minutes apiece?

Doro:  Yeah, exactly! We try every year to play at the American festivals, but they’re so hard to get on. I would love to get on one of those festivals, so next year I will try again! I know that in America, it could be better; there could be more. For me to play in the States, it’s so rewarding. I’m happy when we play the smaller clubs; it doesn’t have to be a big festival like Wacken. Every person gives me so much; when I get good feedback from 500 people in a club, I’m just as happy as when it is from 101,000 people at Wacken.

C.:  I agree; as a fan, I prefer the smaller shows too. There’s more of an intimacy, more interaction between artist and audience. But honestly, if you want my opinion, you should make your own festival! So many people love and respect you, especially in the femme-metal scene because they see you as the “foremother” of where it all began. I think if you started your own festival and brought over a lot of these bands that have tried so hard to break through in the States or to get on some of these American festivals, I think it would do really well. So many metalheads would love to go to festivals like Wacken, but not all of us can make it there; so we’d love to have something similar that is closer to home.

Doro:  Wacken goes West! I think that’s a great idea! That’s a fantastic idea; I’d definitely have to talk people into it. So many people would love something like that, but it’s probably a lot of money. It always comes back to money, unfortunately. But yeah, my anniversary shows, I did them myself. It was a year and a half of work, but almost every day, there were so many things to think of; from security to guests…oh, it was hardcore! I organized the 25th anniversary, and now the 30th anniversary. It’s a lot of work, so I’d definitely need people to help me! But in the States, that would be a wonderful idea. Yeah, that’s an idea. Yeah.

C.:  I know that money is an issue to get it started, but I think that if you got it off the ground, a lot of people would go to it. I would!

Doro:  Yeah, I have to keep that idea in mind! We’re actually working on something right now called the “Queen of Metal” cruise. It’s a cruise ship in Europe, but maybe we should do one in the States too! I’m telling you, you just sparked a great idea; because whenever I couldn’t play these American festivals, I would always get so bummed out. I haven’t been on any festivals in the States in a long time, but to do one of my own? That’s a great idea! I’ll tell you, something great might come out of our phone call! But first we need to do a good tour!

C.:  You sound really pumped up for the tour here.

Doro:  Yeah, I’m all excited! The New York City show, I want to record it for a DVD. It’s the last show; we started at Wacken last year and recorded all over…Brazil, Spain, Germany…now I want to record the New York City show with all the guests, and put it all together. It will probably come out early next year. Or next year, our own festival? Yeah! Yes!!!

C.:  Your fans in New York will be happy to hear they’re going to be on a DVD.

Doro:  New York is the first American city I ever went to, in 1986. Afterwards I thought, I want to stay here! People said, “you’re crazy!” Then I called my family and friends in Germany and told them that I was staying [in New York], and they were like, “yeah, sure!” But I stayed, and we recorded what I believe was one of our best records [with Warlock], Triumph & Agony. Ever since, I’ve been a proud green card-holder!

C.:  You’ve been known to collaborate with other musicians in the metal scene, even a few from the femme-metal scene, such as Tarja. I got a lot of questions from fans wanting me to ask you what it was like to work with her.

Doro:  We met each other many years ago; I actually always liked Tarja. I think she’s a powerful woman and extremely talented. Outrageous voice, strong personality…We played many festivals together; I think I first met her at Wacken in ’06 or ’07. I thought then [at the time] that I would love to do something like a duet with another lady because I have done so many duets or collaborations with guys; like Lemmy, or Peter Steele of Type O Negative…so many great people. Then I thought, maybe it’s time to have another woman [vocalist]. I wrote a song called “Walking With the Angels”; I wrote it with my old friend Joey Balin, who worked with me on the Triumph & Agony album. While we were writing it, I thought I’d love to have an angelic voice…I think I want to call Tarja! I called her [and told her about the song], she said, “that’s so interesting, because I have a song I want you to sing on!” It was called “The Seer”. We swapped songs, went into the studio, sent each other the files, did the mixing, sent the files back…the first time we actually performed it live was at my 25th anniversary show. She came out to Germany, and we played both songs: “Walking With the Angels” and “The Seer”. Then we did it again in Belgium at the Metal Female Voices Festival. It’s a pretty cool festival with only female singers!

C.:  Yes, I’m familiar with MFVF; that’s another festival I’d love to attend someday.

Doro:  Yeah, we did that song again live there. It was like perfect harmony. I didn’t know [how it would work], we are metal of different genres, but tonally, it fit like a glove. I think it all depends on the song, and if you like somebody…Tarja was totally getting in tune with the song; I tried my best on “The Seer”…so I think it was beautiful, and we like each other a lot. Tarja’s a great friend of mine; I love her vibe, she has a high quality of singing and performing. I think she’s one of the premier female talents, so it was awesome to do.

C.:  If you ever get this “Doro-fest” thing going, bring Tarja with you, because she never tours the U.S. and some of her American fans have not seen her live since her Nightwish days!

Doro:  Actually, speaking of Nightwish…another collaboration I did with a female voice was with Floor Jansen, who now sings for Nightwish! My guitarist [Bas Maas] actually used to play in Floor’s old band, After Forever. He asked me if I wanted to do a collaboration [with Floor] for my album. But like I said earlier, it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a man or a woman, or where they come from…as long as the singing is good and you give it your all!

C.:  I know you said it doesn’t matter whether one is male or female, but I ask this to everyone I interview at Sonic Cathedral, so I definitely must ask you…because you are a female in an industry that is still so male-dominated, what words of wisdom or advice would you give to young women out there who look up to you, or who want to follow their dream of music?

Doro:  Everybody has their own dream, so I would say to follow your heart; follow your soul, do what you feel is right. Live it out, live it full-out; give it your all. Whatever you feel comfortable with, just stick with it and go for it. Do it 150% and always stay true to yourself! Be yourself. Do what you love. When you love it, you will find other people who love it as well. Maybe find good, supportive people…but if nobody believes in you, just believe in yourself and do it every day; keep at it. When you make mistakes, it teaches you how to be better, and it makes you stronger. You learn from each experience, good and bad. Then in the end, people will notice, and they will love you for it. They will love that you stayed strong. Never, ever give up; go for what you love!

C.:  Any final words for our readers or for your fans? This is your chance to say anything you want!

Doro:  I want to tell all the metalheads and all the fans out there…I love you with all my heart! I always have and I always will. I’m so happy and grateful that you guys are supporting us. I will always give it my all, and I am so happy to come on tour and see you guys. I hope everybody will come out; we’ll play all the highlights, all the songs you requested. I will go on forever, I will never give up; you can always count on that! I’m so grateful to all my fans. I’ve gone through everything with them, both good and bad. It’s been a dream. I love the fans more than anything else in this life. Keep metal alive! Check out our Facebook and our website; I hope you will request great songs!

C.:  Thank you so much, Doro; it has truly been an honor.

Doro:  It was great talking to you; thank you for supporting metal. I will keep you posted if that idea of ours ever happens! Hope to see you soon. Thank you for having me!


Special thanks to Liz at Earsplit.
For more information on Doro, visit her website.
To request songs for her special setlist, visit Doro’s Facebook page.