November 20, 2014 Interview – King Diamond
One of Heavy Metal’s most defining figures since its inception has been Denmark’s King Diamond. Known for his unmistakable vocal range, highlighted by extraordinary falsetto, as well as captivating theatrical stage persona, King Diamond has released seven studio records as a part of Mercyful Fate, along with twelve solo offerings. Staring the uncertainty of life and death directly in the face back in 2010, his new lease on life has elevated his consciousness, and thus making him more inspired than ever before. Recently completing a full blown tour across North America, King Diamond has a treasure chest of ideas brewing for the future. Recently we sat down with the Metal icon for a deeper look at his years in music, his startling life-altering experience, performing, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have had quite an amazing career in Heavy Metal from your beginnings with Brainstorm to Mercyful Fate to go off as King Diamond. To many you are a pioneer in Metal music and highly regarded as an influence. Tell us a little bit about the ride you have been on for the last four decades?
King Diamond – When you think back, a lot of things has changed and the business has changed many times as well. We have been fortunate not to get caught up in any of the trends. We have been lucky to have that trust from the record labels that we have been allowed to play straight from the heart. We have never been this way or that way, or get a certain guy to come in produce to get you a certain sound that is in at the moment. I always had that feel if someone wants to come in and change us as a band, then sign someone else. We have been lucky to be with both Roadrunner and Metal Blade to have artistic freedom; that has been throughout our career. These days, when it is time to do an album we do not have people breathing down our necks and try and figure out what to change. We deliver an album and that is it. That is a great feeling to have, and have had the whole time. It almost feels like we were the driver and always kept moving on the highway. Some jumped on, speeding by, doing really well for a couple of years, then they would run into a traffic jam. We have been able to be active the whole time and not afflicted by whatever was coming and pushing Heavy Metal a certain way. We just kept doing our stuff and were not really affected about things.
I also think we could be called our own; no one really sounds like we do. We have a very unique way of presenting stuff. We stick to what we do; it is like having a canvas as a painter, you are painting and painting, and we are still not done. There are still spots on the canvas that have not been filled out yet. There are still things we can do within our style that we have not done yet. The music has pretty much gone full circle now. That is where big things have happened in the last couple of years where we have gotten into playing big festivals in Europe; we played Wacken in Germany in August. I thought there would be 80,000 but we actually played in front of 92,000 people. It was totally the best time possible and we did our ninety minute set with our full production.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that sounds like an amazing experience. Now you brought that full production to the North American tour which recently concluded?
King Diamond – Yes, we brought the production to the tour in North America. The same exact production was jammed into the theaters; we made sure that we could fit it. It was the full show and nothing was cut down. It felt great for us to be able to bring it to the USA. There were lights of course in all the theaters we went into, but we had our own stuff with us. The production had two stories told with stairs leading up to the second story. It was a really big thing and it needed to be lit up in the right way to get all the 3D feel into it. We upgraded our lights so we can do so many special effects with it. The cremation trick was an old trick we used to do back in the Conspiracy days through 1989 and 1990. It is a magic trick where someone gets burned in a coffin, turns into a skeleton, and the person themselves are gone. It was born from a magician back then who created the trick. He actually performed in our video for “Sleepless Nights,” you can see the magician in the video portraying a priest. It is a very cool trick and we brought it down from the attic, dusted it off, cleaned it up, and are doing it again. There was a lot to watch, the production itself looked amazing. The band also sounds better than ever; it has never been this tight. We have new equipment and I have new microphones which sound so natural and good.
My own voice is better than ever; I never had such a great voice as I do now. I had a triple bypass four years ago in December. Since then I stopped smoking, I work out in the exact right way they say is the best for the heart, my diet has completely changed, and it has paid off big time. No cigarettes has really brought my voice to the point where I do not even dare dream what it would have been like many years ago had I not smoked. Now it is better than it has ever been in my career. This is a time where you sing such as I do, you probably should be begging the band to detune a little so I can keep up, because that is the natural, normal thing which happens to a voice. Thankfully I do not have that problem and I am super fortunate.
CrypticRock.com – It was truly an amazing tour for sure. Now you mentioned about the major surgery you had. Recovery can often be very grueling. Through the whole process of healing, what was the key to keeping a positive and forward-thinking outlook?
King Diamond – You have to want to be here. There are some things you face too, of course, before it happens. Right when you are faced with “you need this and you could die, no doubt it,” you are making hand-written wills the night before at the hospital. When you are rolled in and about to go under, you practically say goodbye to your wife because you do not know if it the last time you will see her. You really need to prepare for these things. Then you try to be as strong as you can to be able to pull through. When I came to after the operation, I saw distorted things in black in white; things were strange. I tried to pull out the breathing tube because I felt like I was being choked to death. My wife saw it and called for help, the doctors came in leaning over me like a Horror movie and took my arms and legs and strapped me down. That was one of the worse feelings that I can remember. If they had been able to hear me they would have heard me beg for them to kill me. I really felt so bad, I felt, “Just kill me, do it now;” it was too much for me. At that point they put me under.
Then there was the whole recuperation. I do not like pain killers and I do not take them. I came home after ten days but you still have open wounds. My wife learned to clean them at the hospital. Then there was all kinds of ups and downs trying to get well. Even after you get out you think things are ok, I am through that part, but you are still not sure. I still do not take tomorrow for granted. I do not take for granted that I wake up, the thing one usually does. Not anymore, not for me, I have been there and stared that thing in the face now. There are a lot of things you do different. I appreciate certain things much more. I feel like I pay a lot more attention to things around me. It is like having a house with twenty windows now instead of ten windows.
After taking walks after the surgery, seeing people in cars going to work, I feel like I just as well not been here seeing any of this stuff. Then came the first three months where I doubted sometimes I was here, maybe I was stuck somewhere in between. I had to have reassurance that my wife could see me and feel that I was here. Many times I simply had to ask her, “Can you feel when I touch your shoulder?” It sounds strange but is very real when you are in it. You have to really want it and then you have to push through it. You need to learn to breathe again. I did not know for how long if I was ever going to sing again, but that was not important, that was not the issue. The issue was, can I become strong enough to lift a cup again. I could not drive a car, I could not do anything, I had no coordination across my front. I had a braided metal rod that held my rib cage together so it could grow together again, but it still sits in there under the skin. Those things you cannot see, you cannot even see it, my scar is very tiny. Things are very different and I was lucky to have doctors that were really good.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very surreal story and it is also very inspiring. It is also amazing you are singing again.
King Diamond – Yes, I went through a long period where I had to actually learn to walk and breathe again. They collapse your lungs. For me, I sing with a different technique now for my breathing. When the show is over, after a ninety minute set up and down the stairs, I am not as tired as I used to be in the old days. I am in better shape now, I eat healthy and work out; it is a different ballgame now. Sometimes you can actually feel a lot younger than your years might be when you have this kind of situation, if it goes well. They say if it was not so dangerous everyone should have it and fix the plumbing, it certainly opens up a lot. It is a little too dangerous to do as maintenance (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Unbelievable. That is absolutely wonderful that you are doing so well. The last studio album you released with King Diamond was Give Me Your Soul…Please in 2007. What is it like for you to get back into writing and recording after the long hiatus to get back into the saddle as they would say?
King Diamond – It is even more interesting now. It will be extremely exciting to get started now that we are back from the US Tour. I am going to start learning the Pro Tools system, because I have not run it myself. I have seen others run it, but I have not run it. I need to now get my hands-on feel with that stuff. All the gear is installed and ready to go. Now I just need to get back to really learning it. During the learning process, a lot of things come up of course; testing vocals, settings with this and that. Eventually you are there and you have a lot of material by the time you are testing stuff. Then you will be in a situation where now it is the real deal. Then I will put everything together and start working as I normally do to get the story together. Then start writing the riffs and everything that needs to be written. It will be much better this time around, simply because it is right here. I can go in anytime I have inspiration. If I have a hoarse voice, I do not have to go and sing. I can spend time on getting everything perfect, there is no clock ticking. I think the record will be the best we have ever done, because we have all the tools for it. Then my voice is better than has ever been before, the band is tighter, and it can only get better. I do not think we did anything bad in the past, but I feel like we have so much more to give here on a new level.
CrypticRock.com – That is very exciting to hear and fans will be really excited to hear new King Diamond material.
King Diamond – Yes, and it will be a little while longer because we do not want to put a time frame on it. We want it to be done right. We do not need to have anything out to go and play shows. We want to record more stuff, we have a new deal which is for three more albums. We have the studio now and working in that direction, but it is going to be right of course. There is not going to be any low fencing, this is going to be the real thing. When it is coming, I cannot tell you. I do not want to say, it will be out when it is done. We are going to start working on it now that we are back from the US tour. We are going to build up to where we have the guitar sound that Andy and I will work on together. Then start getting the process going. I have a lot of ideas and have a lot of things in my little box of notes. Any ideas I have I write down on a notepad and put it in the box.
The same thing with The Puppet Master (2003) story. It could have been done earlier, but Abigail II: The Revenge (2002) was more important at that point. I had already had all the ingredients for The Puppet Master story at that time. It was all conceived when we were in Budapest with Mercyful Fate and Metallica touring in 1999. We had a day off and it was there walking in the narrow streets of Budapest where I came across a national puppet theater, a real theater. I went back to the hotel that night and spent all night writing down all kinds of things. I still have the notepad with the Hungarian hotels name on it from when I wrote everything down. Those were all the notes for different things, but it did not feel right at the time, so it was just left there. Then next time around I suddenly just got the feel for it.
CrypticRock.com – That is a really cool story behind how that material came about. My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock.com is a Rock/Metal and Horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of Horror films, and if so, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
King Diamond – I like the more psychological Horror stories. The Shining (1980) is one of my absolute favorites. There is a lot of good stuff, The Others (2001) was a very good psychological film too. The Shining was something absolutely unique for me.
CrypticRock.com – The Shining is absolutely a classic film. Stanley Kubrick in fact directed it and interestingly enough it is said Stephen King does not particularly like Kubrick’s imaging of his novel The Shining.
King Diamond – Yes, but then again, you can sometimes have one vision since you wrote it, then someone else takes it in a direction that is more accessible for that platform. Some stories are great movies, some are not such great movies. For instance for us, I think some day some big shot would see the potential in some of our stories. Conspiracy (1989) would be one exceptional Horror story with all the twists, crime, plus the occult. Then The Puppet Master would really make something special. They shoot a lot of movies in Budapest. Abigail (1987) could probably work too. It would be great to see, but not at a B-movie, it would have to be something really solid. It would have the right people.