Doro, Queen of the metal people

Some artists don’t care. Others are at least grateful to their fans. Others still create a true relationship with them, communicate with them and even pay homage to them at times. Doro Pesch goes way beyond that.

“Without the fans, I’d be nothing”. Many artists have uttered those words at least once in their lives, but are they really sincere? Isn’t this beautiful phrase meant to make one appear nice, when one actually thinks that success is due to one’s hard work? That’s definitely not the case for Doro; the singer and her fans are one entity, one big family.

Doro is not the Metal Queen because she’s a better singer, a better frontwoman or because she’s been around longer than any other. There’s nothing in Doro Pesch’s life apart from the music she makes and the people she makes it for. It’s precisely this ability to federate people and this mutual devotion towards those who follow her that make her the Metal Queen.

We interviewed Doro on the occasion of the release of her new EP, Raise Your Fist In The Air, a testimony of her inevitable fighting spirit. She told us the stories and anecdotes behind those new songs – stories that, as you have probably guessed, concern you directly.

« The unity of music keeps us strong and makes us survive even the hardest times. I think it’s a good thing to sing, especially when times are tough. »

Radio Metal: First of all, how are you doing?

Doro Pesch : Oh, pretty good! I’m here in Paris and I’m so happy! The new record is coming out soon, so I’m very excited. Then we’re going on tour soon, we’re starting in November. Last week I came back from shooting a movie. We shot the second part of ‘Anuk – The Path of the Warrior’. I wrote some songs for this movie, and one song from the new album will be in the soundtrack. It’s called “Free My Heart”. Many things going on, but it’s all good and exciting!

Your new EP is called Raise Your Fist In The Air, which shows a spirit of protest. What are you fighting for or against, and what would you like your fans to fight for or against?

I must say, from touring all over the world in the last ten years, I think life is getting much harder. It’s getting much more difficult to stand your ground. I want to say raise your first in the air and fight for the good things: fight for freedom, fight for positive things. Music is always a universal language, somehow. The unity of music keeps us strong and makes us survive even the hardest times. I think it’s a good thing to sing, especially when times are tough. It gives a positive power.

Fighting is actually one of the main themes of your career. From what you just said, life is a battle for you?

I think so. It is for everybody, isn’t it? Everybody has a tough battle to fight. Where I come from, I could always say what I wanted, I was always free to do whatever I wanted. But I know from touring that, in some countries, it’s very hard to become what you want to become and to live out to your full potential. There’s a lot of oppression, a lot of injustice… It’s tough, I think it’s really tough.

Do you think women still have to fight to impose themselves in a very manly metal world, or is that a thing of the past?

I think it got much better, but honestly, I’ve always felt very supported by the men, by other musicians and other bands. There’s always been a good vibe. I’ve always felt respected, never degraded or second-best. I think music stands above things like where you’re from, or if you’re a man or a woman. But worldwide, it’s important to support other women. On this new album, I wrote a song for Terre des Femmes, an organization within Terre des Hommes. It’s a human-rights organization. I did two versions of the song: the German version is called “Freiheit (Human Rights)”, and the English version is “Sealed In Blood (Human Rights)”. In some countries, it’s very hard, and sometimes human rights don’t even exist. We should all stick together. My male fans have always been very supportive. For the last album, Fear No Evil, three years ago, I got in contact with Terre des Femmes, and we made T-shirts. All the money we made by selling the T-shirts went to this organization, to finance other projects. And the T-shirts were always bought by men! They said: “I gave it to my mom, or to my girlfriend, or to my sister”. That was so cute! I thought I had the best fans! Metalheads are the best! Because I’m a girl, I have to fight for that even more, because I know what it is to be a woman. I never had any bad experiences, but I feel for other women worldwide. Now with Internet and TV, you know so much more what’s going on. In the 80s, I didn’t have any idea it was so bad in other countries.

« I always thought French is the ultimate metal language. »

There is a French version of “Raise Your Fist In The Air” on the EP. Why did you choose to pay this homage to your French fans? What is so special about them?

I love the French fans, I always have. I did a couple of versions in French. My first song was called “Toujours Pour Gagner”, and on the last record, I translated “Herzblud”. It’s a German ballad I translated into Portuguese, Spanish and French, and it’s called “À Fond le Cœur”. I played “Raise Your First In The Air” last year on tour, and for the first time at the Wacken festival. I felt it could be a great song for the record. I played it a couple of times on tour, we played it in Moscow and in Lyons (France). Before I played it, I asked the promoter: “Can you give me a translation?” And he said: “It means ‘Lève ton poing vers le ciel’”. It sounded really cool, and I felt I had to do it! I turned to a good friend of mine, who has a radio station in Luxembourg. He’s a die-hard metal fan. He escaped from home when he was 13 to see his first metal concert, and it was us! So I knew he would understand the fighting spirit. He translated it and two girls helped me sing it. I love it so much; I love it even more than the English version!

You could have done it in other languages, to spread your message to the whole world, like you did on the previous album. Why did you choose to do it only in French?

I love to sing in French. I’m a big fan of the band Trust, it’s one of my favorite bands. I always thought French is the ultimate metal language, I love it so much. And there’s another reason: a little baby. His name is Herzblud Doro Rock – that’s his real name! Her mom is a fan, her name is Vanessa, she’s from Belgium. She only speaks French. She wrote me a letter once, and she said: “It would be our biggest wish to have one more song in French”. I did it for the last record, with “À Fond le Coeur”, and I told her: “That’s for you!” And she said: “I would love to have another baby, and if it’s a girl, then her name will be Doro”. I asked: “And if it’s a boy?” And she said: “Then it will be Herzblud”. Herzblud is now alive, and he’s the cutest thing! Then I thought I had to make another French song, because he will probably understand it eventually. I have a lot of French-speaking fans. There are lots of fans in France, Belgium, in the French part of Switzerland, of Canada… I love to sing in French. Somehow, it feels great to me.

You just said that for you, French is the ultimate metal language. When I hear a metal song in French, I always feel something’s wrong. For me, English is the ultimate metal language. German works great, too!

German is sometimes so hard to sing! The words are so long, it’s a very harsh language. I think there’s only one band who can pull off singing in German every time, and that’s Rammstein. They’re so great! But maybe it’s because of my love for Trust. I always listen to the French versions of their songs. I know they have English versions, but I only listen to the French versions. I guess it depends on the band or on the person. If they can pull it off right, then it sounds great. To me, French always sounded beautiful.

In German, there’s also Die Apokalyptischen Reiten and In Extremo…

There’s another one I like so much. They’re pretty new. I did a collaboration with them, I sang on a song called “Salomé”. The name of the band is Saltatio Mortis. They’re a bit like In Extremo. They’re very cool. They have a great front guy: he looks great, he sings great… For people who want to check it out, it’s a new band, but it’s really cool!

« [A mother] wrote me a letter once, and she said: ‘It would be our biggest wish to have one more song in French4. I did it for the last record, with ‘À Fond le Coeur’. »

Did you work with someone to learn how to pronounce the words or did you already know how to speak French?

I learned it a little bit in school. The guy who translated it, Martin, sang a bit on a tape. Andreas Bruhn, a guy I’ve worked with for many years – we did several songs on this album together – has a daughter. Her best friend is from France, and so is that girl’s sister. Both of these girls worked with me, and they told me: “Yeah, that sounds cool”, or: “No, you’ve got to do this again!” They were pretty tough, but I wanted them to be, because I wanted to make it nice. I wanted people to understand it. Those two girls helped me and it was great!

You appeared on the last Tankard album. Andreas Geremia, the singer of the band, told us in an interview that he was at one of your shows and you saw him from the stage and invited him to sing with you. That’s apparently how the story started. Can you tell us more about it?

I can tell you another detail about it! It was so funny. He came to a concert of mine, and we sang “All We Are” together. It’s usually the last song on the set-list before the encores. I saw this guy in the crowd and I thought I knew him. Then I realized it was Gerre from Tankard. I said: “Hey, Gerre, come up on stage, let’s sing ‘All We Are’ together!” So he came up on stage, and we had a great time. And then he whispered in my ear: “Doro, I’m too drunk, I can’t sing anymore!” So I said: “That’s OK, thanks for coming up anyway! Let’s talk after the show!” We met up in the dressing-room afterwards and Gerre said: “I have this song called ‘Metal Lady Boy’”. We talked about our experiences in Thailand. It’s a wild place, I love it. They have all these lady boys, they’re actually guys who look better than any woman can look!

That’s really annoying!

Yeah, I felt the same! Gerre said he’d written a song about it, and he asked if I would be interested in singing. I said yes. So I listened to the song, loved it, went into the studio right away and then sent it to Gerre. I haven’t heard the finished version yet, I will have to wait. He contacted me but I was always on the road, doing the movie, doing the record, mixing the record… When you have to finish a project, it’s crazy, your days last 24 hours. But I was already happy with the rough mix of the song, I thought it sounded really cool.

What did you feel when your song “We Are The Metalheads” was made the official “anthem” of the 20th anniversary of the Wacken festival in 2009?

Yeah, that was great! When the Wacken people asked me if I wanted to sing the anthem, I thought: “What an honor! Of course!” I loved the song, which was actually written by a metal fan. I’ve been doing it for many years now, to open the Wacken festival. It’s always great, because I get on stage, and I get to see when they open the doors and all the fans come running. That’s such a great sight! A couple of hours later, they open the festival for real. I always play with a band called Skyline, the first band of the guy who organizes Wacken, Thomas Jensen. He had a band back then, and he created the first metal festival together with another guy, Holger Hübner. It’s really a festival from fans and for fans. You can feel it, it’s great. The whole world always meets there, so many fans from wherever: Egypt, Australia, France, Italy… I must say I’m a big fan of festivals. Last year, we played at Hellfest here, and I thought it was awesome. I loved it, and I would love to play for the next couple of years again. That was a great experience. The fans were overwhelming, everybody was singing along. I think it was one of the best festivals we did last year.

« I sang in stadiums, sometimes before 16 or 17,000 people, all alone on the field! […] When you’re on stage, you’re with your band, the crew and everybody. When you’re all alone, by yourself, on a field, it’s very scary! »

The Metal Queen singing the metal anthem of the greatest metal gathering, that was fitting! By the way, does it bother you when people refer to you as “The Metal Queen”? Or does it bother you when people ask that question?!

You know, I never know what to say! I’m so happy and grateful to be part of the metal family, of the metal scene. I always give it my all. I’m a metal fan and a metalhead myself. I don’t feel any different. It feels like such a grandiose name. It’s like… Wow, it’s overwhelming! I don’t even know who came up with that! But it’s certainly nice when people have such positive things to say about you. I know it’s always meant in a really nice way. It always makes me feel very good. I always try my best, because to me, the fans are the most important thing. I get all my inspiration and motivation from the fanbase, so if they have something good to say about me, it feels like heaven. It’s great – but it’s too much! If someone says: “I love your concerts, I love your songs”, that’s enough!

At least they don’t call you the Metal Goddess, the way Rob Halford is the Metal God! You’re “only” the Metal Queen! It could be worse!

I guess it could be! (laughs)

You play the role of Meha in the upcoming second part of the Swiss film “Anuk – The Path of the Warrior”. Was it your first experience as an actress?

Yeah. The director, Luke Gasser, contacted me because he wanted me to write the soundtrack for the movie. He came to Switzerland and saw the show, and he said: “Would it be possible for you to play a part in the movie, too?” I said: “I never did it, but I can try!” I got the script, and it was great. Luke told me: “You can pick the role you want to play!” There’s one girl, her name is Meha, and she’s a warrior. He said: “I knew you’d pick her!” He’d already underlined it in his script! Now it’s the second part, and I’m Meha the warrior again. It was great, a movie is a lot of adventure. It’s definitely a big challenge, I must say it’s never easy. I have the utmost respect for so many actors. They always have to give it their all, too. Your balls are on the line, I guess! It’s not a walk in the park. I had to get up every day at five o’clock, and sometimes we worked until late at night. Does anybody sleep here?! Obviously not! But it was great to be a part of that. Luke is an independent filmmaker. There’s so much heart and soul involved from everybody. It’s not a big budget, but everybody tries their best. I always get inspiration and ideas for new songs from that. It inspires me. Anything you want to do properly, it always demands everything from you. It’s not like: “Let’s do something on the side”, it’s hard-core. But it’s how we like it! Going full force and whole-heartedly in everything you do.

You wrote the song “She’s Like Thunder” as a homage to professional boxer Regina Halmich. It looks like you’re interested in sports. Did you watch the Olympics?

Yes, I did! Between filming and touring and doing the summer festivals, I tried to watch it as much as I could. I must say sports always inspired me. Actually, I wanted to do something in sports when I was young. I love the competition, when people go to their full potential. My friend Regina Halmich was a boxing champion for thirteen years. She taught me many things about discipline, and how you have to get-up fast when you get knocked down. I think we inspired each other. I like writing sports anthems. I did one before for an American football team in Germany, called “Burn It Up”. There used to be an American football league, but not anymore, unfortunately. I sang in stadiums, sometimes before 16 or 17,000 people, all alone on the field! That’s quite an experience! When you’re on stage, you’re with your band, the crew and everybody. When you’re all alone, by yourself, on a field, it’s very scary! It all worked out, but I thought I would get a heart attack! Too much adrenaline!

« I must say sports always inspired me. Actually, I wanted to do something in sports when I was young. » (photo: Doro on Anuk movie set)

Do you practice sport yourself, or is being on stage enough for you to stay in shape?

Now that we’re on tour non-stop, I don’t have much time to do sports. But when metal wasn’t doing so well in the 90s, I started Thai boxing and I loved it. When we went on tour again, I gave it up. Being on the road every day is a great work-out. It’s definitely more than enough! I love sports, and Thai boxing was great. It’s a good work-out; it definitely makes you sweat and build up stamina. I didn’t do it to fight, it was just to get in good shape.

You mentioned earlier that you love festivals. It was actually announced recently that you would be taking part in the 2013 edition of the 70,000 Tons Of Metal festival. Are you looking forward to that?

Yeah! I’ve heard from so many fans and bands that it was unbelievable. I’m so excited about it! We start our American tour right after the cruise. Then I’m coming back to Europe and we’ll do some more stuff. Then we have another cruise, the Full Metal cruise, in May. It leaves from Hamburg and goes to London, Paris and Amsterdam. It will be eight days of metal and drinking and partying! I’m so looking forward to it. I think it’s cool that people come up with new ideas. As long as it brings the metal to the people, we’re all happy campers!

Interview conducted by Saff’ on Paris on September 2012
Questions : Saff’ & Metal’o Phil

Transcription: Saff’

Doro’s official website: www.doropesch.com

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