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NO DIAMOND HEAD, NO METALLICA. NO METALLICA, NO MORE DIAMOND HEAD


« No Diamond Head, No Metallica. No Metallica, No more Diamond Head » is the conclusion admitted by Brian Tatler as being the link between Diamond Head and Metallica. Lars Ulrich has, on numerous occasions, mentionedthe British five-piece as the band without which Metallica wouldn’t exist today. However, Diamond Head never really met universal success. Do you honestly know more songs than « Am I Evil? » or « Helpless »? And who never thought those were Metallica songs? In any case, Brian Tatler is grateful towards them and repeats that many times: « Metallica has given us a leg up to reform. »

But the story of Diamond Head isn’t only interesting because of the glory that has reflected on them from Metallica. Their story is interesting because, as Tatler is himself moved by stories of bands that have struggled, Diamond Head has never been all in first class. And a huge majority of musicians will relate to that story that we’re going to talk about here.

Interview.


« When you’re only selling small quantities, like Diamond Head do now, then there is less pressure to repeat yourself. »

Radio Metal: Your latest album What’s In Your Head was released in 2007. How far along is the next album?

Brian Tatler (guitar): We’ve only got bits and ideas, instrumental mainly. Not much vocals and things like that. So there’s no mad rush to do a new album. I mean, we did one in 2005, one in 2007, and they both sold pretty much the same. We sort of know where our market is now, so we didn’t really make a rush to do a new one, really, we sort of thought “let’s just play it by ear”. Had we known these big gigs were coming up, we may have done something, but it’s a bit late now (laughs).

You stated that whether you release a classic album or an experimental one makes no difference because you never sell millions of records. Do you think that being successful diminishes a band’s artistic freedom?

Yes, probably. You feel more pressure to continue the success, and you don’t want lose the fanbase you’ve already gained by being radical, by trying something new. I mean, bands that do try new things, I think, are very brave, and I respect that. I think if I was in the same boat, I’d be a little bit weary of chucking and changing. I mean, I’ve experienced it a little bit with Diamond Head when we did the Canterbury album. A lot of the fans said “where are the heavy songs?” “why have you changed”, “why have you done acoustic songs”, and things like that. We didn’t realize that you’re supposed to stick to a formula and that you’re not meant to experiment.

Does this mean that you feel more motivated nowadays to experiment because you have less at stake?

Yes, that’s right. When you’ve got a lot of people relying on the quality of a previous hit album, then there is more pressure for it to do at least what the last one did. But when you’re only selling small quantities, like Diamond Head do now, then there is less pressure to repeat yourself. And I don’t like repeating myself. So we just play whatever comes, really, and if we like it, we go with it. I don’t particularly think of what is a Diamond Head song. Very often I try to start with the kind of riff, or mood and atmosphere that I feel is Diamond Head anyway.

You wrote your autobiography entitled Am I Evil? What is it like to think to oneself “I am just going to write my life story and thousands of people will want to read it”?

(Laughs) I just thought I ought to try and get the ideas and the memories that I’ve gathered over the years down into a book form, before I forget everything, you know, as I get older. You do forget a lot of things, don’t you? It’s hard to remember what you were doing when you were twenty and stuff like that. So I’ve read a lot of rock books, and some are great and very enjoyable, and those are the ones that probably inspired me to try and do the same. I just thought “if I could try and do one, I’d like it to be a little humorous and not boring and dry”. So I tried to get as many of the good funny stories in there. And it also seems that there are a lot of myths and tales about Diamond Head that I wanted to put straight, you know, I wanted to confirm the ones that were true and kind of clear up anything that has been exaggerated or misquoted, you know.

What rock books inspired you for yours?

Well, I read a book called “This Is Pop”, by… I can’t remember the guy’s name (note : Ed Jones), but he was in a band called The Tansads. That was a really good read, because they’re an unsuccessful band, but it was just a fascinating story about how his band tried to make it, and didn’t. And I sort of related to that. You know, you don’t have to be “oh well, we sold 50 million records, we toured the States and the album went platinum.” You don’t have to have that kind of book. You can have a down to earth sort of honest, tough, you know, life on the road kind of thing, when everything isn’t first class. You’re travelling in the transit van, and you’re playing little club gigs to a hundred people. I feel that a lot of people would still be able to relate to that, and maybe it would point out to some of the dreamers that it’s not all glitz and glamour, being in a rock band.

« You can have a down to earth sort of honest, tough, you know, life on the road kind of thing, when everything isn’t first class. You’re travelling in the transit van, and you’re playing little club gigs to a hundred people. I feel that a lot of people would still be able to relate to that, and maybe it would point out to some of the dreamers that it’s not all glitz and glamour, being in a rock band. »

Would you have done it even if Diamond Head had not been successful?

Well, I don’t know, it just seemed to come around at the right time. I think I probably had a bit more spare time on the hands, so I just thought there’d probably be quite a few Diamond Head fans who’d like to read it. So I only did a run of 500 copies, you know, it’s a hard-back, and we sold those on the Diamond Head website. So I never presumed it would get published and become a bestseller or anything. It’s just really a fan thing. You know, whenever you buy an album and there’s a little bit of information inside, liner notes, or sleeve notes, I always read those, and I’m always wanting more. I like to read about bands. I’m fascinated by certain bands, so I suppose if you’re a Diamond Head fan then this is perfect. You get to read hundreds of pages about a band you really like, and find out all those little things that you’ve always wanted to know.

Do you have to be successful in order write an interesting tale of your life?

Not really, I don’t think you do. I think you could be nobody, and if you write it well I think it can be entertaining. I’m just reading a book at the moment by a guy called Deke Leonard, and it’s called Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics and it’s about a band called Man. I was never a fan of Man, I’ve never saw them or heard a record by them, but it’s such a good book, and so well written that it’s still entertaining, and of course I can relate to a lot of the stories, because I’ve been there and done that myself. You know, because there are thousands and thousands of bands and even more musicians who probably like reading books like this, and can probably relate to where I am at. Also, I’ve written it, and I’m in the band, I’m the author, and it’s not about John Lennon, for example, by some token author who’s just trying to sell books and get a name for himself. It’s actually by the guy who created the music and stuff, the guy that was in the band. I find that more interesting than just a glossary and an overview of the band’s career.

Did the writing of your book help you look back upon some of your life’s events with hindsight?

Yes, it did. It was interesting to piece it together and put it down in print for other people to examine. There were a few areas that were difficult to re-live, quite depressing. You know, some of the times where the band had broken up or there’ve been some arguments, or problems in the studios and things like that. I had to almost get my head back to where I was, and what I was thinking and how frustrating it was at the time. So those moments were not really nice to write, but it’s important chronologically, you’ve got to get it all in there. You’ve got to expose it and keep going, and I’ve spent 18 months typing away on the computer and putting it into shape. I’m pleased that I’ve done it, I’m glad that it’s out there and people can learn a bit more about myself and the band.

Do you think that the writing helped you more than just thinking about some events of your life?

Yeah, it’s good to write it down, everybody can see it then. If you just think about it, it doesn’t mean anything does it? It’s just in the air, in the aether. You can do interviews like this and people always ask me about certain moments in Diamond Head’s career, and some of those stories, because I’ve told them so many times, they’re the ones that have stuck with me so firmly in my memory. And hundreds of gigs where nothing particular happened, just inconsequential gigs, have just almost been erased from my memory. I could look at the date and see the venue on a piece of paper and not remember anything about it.

You stated to Bravewords that when you started your band you had no idea that it would last so long and you had not planned it. Do you think that by thinking this way, there are more chances of making it?

Yeah, probably. I mean, I didn’t presume it was going to last very long. I remember, when we did our first album in 1980, thinking it had taken four years to get from forming the band to making our first album, and I started to think “how long will it be before we make our fourth album?” And things like that. It seems like a long way off when you’re twenty, you can’t think of life years and years in advance, it’s all like, what are you doing tomorrow? So I don’t know, I guess it’s just been a good therapy for me to get it all down in paper. Who knew the band would get a second wind thanks to Metallica, and would keep the band alive almost, keep it in the press, you know, keep money coming in, keep the band kind of relevant.

« And come 1985, that’s what happened with Diamond Head, we were dropped by our record label, and we’d run out of money, people disappeared to join other bands and things, and that was it, we were pretty much done and dusted in 1985, and I think without Metallica coming along and covering our songs, and giving us a leg up to reform […] It’s just made the Diamond Head legacy seem much more cool and credible and important, because we’ve influenced the major metal band in the world. »

Yeah, look at where you are today: you have the huge privilege to be talking to me (laughs). So Metallica helped you to talk to Radio Metal, that’s good!

(Laughs) Of course! This wouldn’t have happened years ago. Well, you could put it like that!

You also claimed that you neglected the business elements of your musical career a bit too much. If you could go back, would you change the way you managed your career?

Yes, I would. Obviously, with hindsight, it would’ve been better if we would’ve had more professional management. I always think our management was a little bit amateur and kind of learning as they went along. I mean, we were learning as we went along. We were really young, and you need guidance I think, when you’re twenty… nineteen, twenty, twenty-one… and you put your trust in someone older you presume knows what they’re doing, and knows how to get you from A to B, and you really want to be able to concentrate on your job, which is doing the music, writing songs, doing the shows, doing the interviews, all that kind of stuff. And you hope that the manager will do his job, behind the scenes, which is making sure you’re getting the gigs, you’re getting the money coming in and everything is running smoothly. And if that doesn’t happen, then the band can soon run aground. And come 1985, that’s what happened with Diamond Head, we were dropped by our record label, and we’d run out of money, people disappeared to join other bands and things, and that was it, we were pretty much done and dusted in 1985, and I think without Metallica coming along and covering our songs, and giving us a leg up to reform and things, we may have just faded away like a hundred of other New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands. We may have got the odd little mention here and there, but I think without Metallica’s help, we would not have survived to this day.

When artists are asked « If you could go back, what would you change ? » most of them answer “Nothing”. Is this not a little hypocritical?

Well, you can’t go back, can you? It is what it is. As I’ve said, I suppose our management is the first thing I would change, but it would’ve just been nice to have been more educated about the business, and how it works, and who you’ve got to talk to and how you’ve got to behave. I think we were a little bit kept up in our own little world of just writing songs and concentrating on the next gig. If we were given a contract to sign, we just wouldn’t even understand what it said. We’d look at the first couple of pages and think it was all gubblediduke and just sign it and hope it would be all right. Whereas now, you’d actually read it, and you’d actually employ a lawyer to read it for you and make sure it was okay. But back in 1980, you didn’t. You just “… I don’t understand it” and you know, sign it anyway. Stupid! We weren’t the only band to do that. There are hundreds of stories of people getting ripped off in the music industry. It’s all about young bands who don’t know what they do, and don’t know what they’re signing.

How did you react when you found out that the Big Four had chosen one of your songs to perform all together on stage?

Oh fantastic! That was amazing! You know, I saw the video on YouTube and I was amazed, because out of all the heavy metal songs you could pick in the world, what a great choice to pick Am I Evil? (laughs) Great for me anyway! I was really flattered.

You will be coming to Amnéville in France this summer and it’s the first time in 30 years [Note : Interview conducted on may, 12th, 2011]. Why has been so long?

We were last here in 83, so it’s about 28 years, isn’t it? So it’s nearly 30 years… I don’t know, I just think as a fact the band stopped, didn’t it? In 1985, then we weren’t going very long when we reformed in 1990, we didn’t even touch Europe, we just played the UK. Then the band split again, and since then we’ve done odd gigs across Europe, we even toured with Megadeth, but they didn’t go to France, they went to Spain and Germany and even Luxembourg, but we didn’t actually go to France. I don’t know why we’ve never been; I think it’s really down to promoters wanting to get the band over. If they’re prepared to put the money up and pay for things, we’d be happy to play. It’s down to the promoter usually.

Come on, just admit it, you don’t like France!

(laughs) Far from it, it’s lovely! I like it! I’ve been to Biarritz, I’ve been to Paris. We’ve played Paris, but I’ve been to Paris as a visitor, I’ve done the Eiffel tower and things like that, but I’ve also been to the south of France, and it’s absolutely great. I’m looking forward to coming over in July.

Since it’s been a long time, you’ll have to learn some words in French.

I don’t know anything, I know “Bonjour” and things like that, the obvious stuff (laughs). School boy French!

Do you want me to teach you some words in French?

Go on then! How do you say “good afternoon”?

“Bonsoir!” But you have to tell on stage that you know this word thanks to me! (laughs)

(laughs) Okay, will do!

People often say that without Diamond Head, Metallica would never have existed. However, the members of Metallica and notably Lars are constantly complimenting your band and using their success to promote you. Could it be said that without Metallica, Diamond Head might not be as well-known?

Yes, absolutely. Since they’ve started covering songs in 1984. And of course, if Metallica hadn’t had made it big, it wouldn’t have made any difference, but the fact that Diamond Head had been covered by such a huge and important band has just reflected the glory onto Diamond Head hasn’t it? It’s just made the Diamond Head legacy seem much more cool and credible and important, because we’ve influenced the major metal band in the world.

So without Diamond Head, no Metallica, and without Metallica, no Diamond Head.

Well there wouldn’t be a Diamond Head now. Obviously, Diamond Head were going before Metallica, but yes, I think we would’ve faded away in the late 80s without Metallica. If they hadn’t have done covers – because a lot of bands don’t do covers, do they? They just do their own material, but Metallica decided to do covers for B-sides and things and that has just been fantastic for bands like Diamond Head, and Budgie, and Motörhead, and Merciful Fate, or whoever they’ve chosen to cover.

Don’t you get tired when people talk about Am I Evil and confuse it with a Metallica song?

I don’t mind, because I get the royalties (laughs)! I think we’ve all done that, we’ve all listened to an artist and thought “that’s a good song” and then later realized they didn’t write it, they just did a good version of it.

Have you ever had to tell people « no, Am I Evil is by me! » and they didn’t believe you?

Yes! I’ve had that happen. I said “it’s a Diamond Head song” and people answered “no, it’s Metallica!” You have to tell them to look at the small print on the record where it says “written by Tatler, Harris in 1980”.

Interview conducted on may, 12th, 2011 by phoner
Transcription: Stan

Diamond Head website: www.diamond-head.net



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