Latest Release: 25 Years of Metal… and Still Going Strong (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)
By the time Doro Pesch was 23, she had already made four albums with her band Warlock and was on the verge of worldwide reknown as the queen of metal. So it may come as a surprise to learn that it took another 23 years before she was able to make her first tour of Japan, which she did earlier this year accompanied by Jaded Heart and Aussie lads LORD.
“I heard from some people that back in the 80s, some people who were in charge, they were so traditional and it was a problem that I was a woman!” she tells me, on the phone from Dusseldorf where she has been preparing for the launch of her new double DVD. “And I thought, ‘Really? A woman who screams and does things better? Well, that couldn’t be it!’ But now, it was no problem at all. The fans were great and there were tons of girls in the audience, and they greeted us with open arms. It was really great, like I’d always heard from so many bands that Japanese fans do so many wonderful things. So now I’m sitting at home in my living room looking at all the little jars and things… it’s really awesome.”
For the woman who has been an inspiration for a generation of women in metal and rock, Doro admits that being judged on her gender was painful.
“It hurt like hell! I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I guess one person can make or break you, you know. But I guess in the 80s it was a little bit more traditional. Actually I talked to some of the Japanese fans and they said that twenty years ago it was a little bit different! But we’ve made up for that now, and we played as long as we could.”
Plans for Doro’s first and only Australian tour in 2003 were similarly fraught with problems when the show she was originally booked for, a one-off festival in Melbourne, was canned by the promoter a few weeks out from the date. It was only the eleventh-hour intervention of Melbourne metal figure Steve Ravic that got the band here for a bunch of intimate, high-energy shows.
“Steve Ravic was the guy who got us there,” Doro recalls. “He said, ‘I know the festival’s been cancelled but I would love to have you guys out.’ And he got all his friends and everyone together and we did all these little gigs! So thanks to him I was able to go to Australia. Sometimes all it takes is one person with a big heart and a deep understanding.”
Twenty five years on the world’s metal circuit is bound to include bumps in the road like those mentioned above, but Doro’s 25th anniversary was all about celebrating her time making music and entertaining the masses. Her latest DVD release, 25 Years in Rock… and Still Going Strong, is an enormous concert performance, filmed in her home town on December 13, 2008 and featuring an array of guest appearances including the “classic” Warlock line-up and, most significantly of all, Scorpions Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker. The entire package sprawls across two discs and chimes in just shy of seven hours with documentary pieces and assorted other concert clips added on.
“The DVD has everything,” Doro says, “except for three songs that had some technical mistakes that were not fixable because they were on all ten microphones. When I love something, when I feel good about something, I can let the fans hear it or see it. When I don’t feel good about something then I think, well if I don’t like it, nobody will like it. I try to go totally by feel. On this new DVD, it’s seven hours long. But everything from the 25th anniversary concert is on there except for like three songs, so it’s nearly three hours and there’s a documentary on there which talks about the concert and has all the great guests and everybody has such stories to tell. And the 2500th show is on there, and the highlights of all the great shows we did last year like Wacken and the Festival of Female Voices.”
Preparing for her 25th anniversary show was a time for reflection for Doro. Putting the line-up for the event together gave her the opportunity to show her appreciation to those artists who had helped her career and given her such great memories.
“The first time that [Warlock] played this huge festival in England at Castle Donington, it was the legendary Monsters of Rock festival and it was in ’86 and it was my first time there and I saw the Scorpions live and I thought ‘Wow!'” she says, with the inimitable enthusiasm she seems to inject into every waking moment. She talks rapidly, almost breathlessly, as if the words are bursting forth before she’s even had time to think them.
“So I called Rudolph on the phone,” she continues, “I actually called him up and said it was my 25th anniversary and he said ‘Already?’ and I said ‘Yes, would it be possible for you guys to come and celebrate?’. And he checked the tour schedule and called me back and said, ‘Doro, we are coming!’ It was such an honour. I was a little girl when I first saw those guys, and we have played together a couple of times and we always saw each other over the years at different events. It was super. It definitely brought back good memories.”
It wasn’t just original members of Scorpions who were invited. Other guests include Tarja Turunen, Jean Beauvoir, Axel Rudi Pell, Overkill’s Bobby Blitz and Warrel Dane from Nevermore, whom she first met when he was still a member of Sanctuary.
“My first big tour in America was with Megadeth and Sanctuary, and I asked Warrel Dane if he would come and sing an old Warlock song with us, and he actually had the longest trek, like 30 hours on so many planes from Seattle… it was a joy to see it all. It was great to see all the guests and musicians, everyone gave it their all. Even at the after show party with all the fans, it just meant so much. And I was 80% there when it was being put together because it was my most concern to make sure everyone looked good. I was in the cutting room making sure that I gave it all back to them in the best shape and form.”
Doro is immensely appreciative of those who support her. Not only did she ensure that their guest spots got the right treatment on 25 Years in Rock…, she also made the point of making herself available to them if they needed someone for a project in the future.
“And I said to everyone, ‘If you ever need me for anything, I’ll be there,’ but they were all just happy to be there to celebrate with me,” she says. “But if somebody would ask me to do something… for example, Chris Boldenthal from Grave Digger, he was there and sang with me on “When East Meets West” and he has just had his 30 year anniversary and celebrated in at Wacken. And then we sang together this one song, “The Queen of Scots”. It’s a beautiful song and it came over so nice.”
It’s clear that the respect she was paid by Meine and Schenker means the most to her, however. Scorpions are far and away the biggest German rock act of all time and one of the most successful bands ever, and were already on the way to becoming so long before Pesch was even dreaming about singing in a heavy metal band. The band’s longevity and massive success meant that their paths would cross often, but her anniversary show was the first time they had performed on stage together.
“It was awesome,” Doro says, and even though she sounds excited all the time, you can tell that this really means a lot. “I actually went to see them last week, Edguy and the Scorpions. I gave the Scorpions a Lifetime Achievement Award and I had to say something before and… Ohhh, I was nervous as hell! We became really good friends over the years, and now it’s their farewell tour and I can’t believe it! But I hope it will go for a long long time and I would really love to be able to do a couple of gigs together. But it was great that they were able to come. It was such an honour. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I heard about the Scorpions. They were already playing huge stadiums, and I didn’t know that I wanted to start a band. Then ten years later I had my first band… I grew up with the Scorpions, and they were always somehow in my life, even when I was a little girl.”
While as a frontwoman for metal bands she was preceded by the likes of Hellion’s Ann Boleyn and Wendy O Williams, there’s little doubt that Doro Pesch is generally considered the queen of metal singers, and long ago became an inspiration herself.
“Ja, sometimes some singers or some bands, they say that,” she says. “And sometimes some girls say to me that when they saw me they want to start a band or pick up a guitar. When I hear that, it’s such a good feeling that you can be somebody’s positive energy or inspiration. That’s so awesome. And when I hear that, I’m just like… well you know when I am at home, I’m just like pretty normal, so when people say, Man you changed my life, I’ve just made my first record and now we are on our first tour together’, that’s so awesome.”
Doro Pesch seems less comfortable talking about herself than she does talking with great gusto and deep respect about those from whom she learned the trade. As the only significant female performer in the otherwise male-dominated heavy metal and hard rock tour circuit of the mid-80s, she was afforded a unique rite of passage which has ultimately served her well.
“I definitely had the greatest learning experience when I was on tour with so many great bands in the 80s. My first big tour was with Judas Priest, and they were my heroes! And my second big tour was with Ronnie James Dio in 87 and then it was the Monsters of Rock festival with all those great bands: Motörhead, the Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leppard, and I think in England it was with Motörhead and Bon Jovi and another band… in Germany it was a little bit of a different line up, but I had the greatest opportunity to learn from the best! And I always got treated so good.”
Somewhat unsurpisingly, her kindest words are for Dio.
“I became very very good friends with Ronnie James Dio. We toured together many many times and the last time was in 2000 in America and there we became really really great friends and I love him so much, and I miss him terribly,” she says, her voice almost breaking.
A moment later, she is perky again. “But I have had such great mentors in my life. Gene Simmons too, when he recorded the record [1990’s Doro] with us, it was a dream. I was such a fan, and everyday I went to the studio and my knees were shaking. So when someone says that I inspired them to write a song, I know how it feels.”
Doro was able to pay Dio the ultimate respect when she recorded a version of “Egypt (Chains Are On)” for the tribute album Holy Dio that was put together by Rock Hardand Century Media in 1999. The man was so impressed with her take on the song that he even promoted it himself, as Doro explains.
“Somebody from Rock Hard magazine here in Germany called me up and said, ‘Hey Doro I know you are a big Dio fan,’ and they were looking for a band for this Dio tribute and asked me if I would like to participate,” she says. “And I was just like, ‘Ohhh! This would be awesome! Such a great honour. I would love it!’ “Egypt” was always my favouite song, so it was going to be “Egypt” or “The Last in Line”. And then we did it, and Ronnie said he loved my version! I went to the release party for the Magica album in 99 or 2000 in New York and I congratulated him for the album. And he said, ‘That’s very nice. Doro, by the way, thank you, I wanted to tell you that the version of “Egypt” is awesome. I really love it.’ That made me so happy, that Ronnie loved it so much. Sometimes I heard that when he was doing a radio show… when we were touring together, it was like three months, and he was doing a radio show the radio DJ would ask him what songs to play and sometimes he would say, ‘How about “Egypt” from the tribute album. The band is probably listening… it goes out to the Doro band, and I really love it’. And we would be sitting around the radio in our tour bus with tears in our eyes because it was so overwhelming.”
The list of people Doro’s worked with over the years is lengthy and come from all over the rock sphere: Slash, Peter Steele, Tommy Thayer of Kiss, Lemmy, Eric Singer, Bob Kulick, Chris Caffery and Al Pitrelli from Savatage, Marc Storace from Krokus,Destruction’s Schmier and Russ Ballard are among those who have appeared on her albums. Her most recent CD release, Fear No Evil, includes contributions from Biff Byford of Saxon and Tarja Turunen and an amazing all-female choir featuring Liv Kristine, Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow, Sabina Classen from Holy Moses, Floor Jansen and Girlschool — a formidable array of metal chicks if ever there was one. Even so, she still hasn’t exhausted her wish-list of people she would like to perform with.
“We have the Motörhead tour in two weeks and it’s the first time we have toured together. We have played festivals together before and [Lemmy and I] did two duets together on the Calling the Wild album and working together was great. But this is our first tour and I’m really excited. I’ve sung with all these great people, like [Accept’s] Udo Dirkschneider who was a big inspiration, and Tarja on the last album… but I would love to have been able to do something with Ronnie. Rob Halford and David Coverdale would be great.”
Considering most of her solo recordings feature some kind of guest appearance, there’s every chance she’ll get to work with those guys at some point in the future. After rocking the world for 27 years already, she isn’t about to give the game away just yet.
“Let’s see what the next album brings! I am definitely planning on doing another twenty years.”