Women in Rock

Doro Pesch – Twenty Years Of Triumph And Agony!

Doro Pesch is a name that rings familiar for many metal fans, and has for the past twenty years. Doro began her recording career with the German heavy metal band Warlock, who released their first album, “Burning The Witches”, in 1984. Warlock went on to become quite well known in the metal scene, Doro becoming a household name among headbangers, and after Warlock disbanded in the late 80s, she became a solo artists, and her legacy continues to this day. Twenty years down the line and she is still rocking! She recently turned forty, but is not any worse for wear. She still looks great and her voice is as strong and powerful as ever. I had the pleasure of witnessing her performance at the Six Pack Weekend (presented by Brave Words And Bloody Knuckles magazine) in Cleveland, Ohio, in June of 2004, and she was truly amazing! Her voice still moves mountains! The day after her performance, she surprised everyone with an unplugged show at Coopertown, a Cleveland restaurant owned by Alice Cooper, which was totally unplanned. She and her boys just went there to check things out, and then decided, on the spur of the moment, “Let’s wake everyone up with ‘Burning The Witches’!” A great performance it was, Doro and her band also taking the opportunity to play many classics, including one called “Fall For Me Again”, which she had never performed live in the US before. Doro enjoyed very much playing the Six Pack festival, describing it as “Unforgettable“, and compared it to European festivals she has played at. The metal spirit that exists among European fans, she said, could be felt in Cleveland. Cleveland has one of the strongest fan bases for metal, and she said, “It’s good to see metalheads sticking together, no matter where”. Later this past summer, Doro also played at the legendary Wacken festival in Germany, reuniting with her old Warlock cronies. It was Wacken’s fifteenth anniversary so they decided to do something “different and special” for that. Doro also celebrated her twentieth anniversary as a recording artist in her home country, and when I asked her if she still thought she’s be doing what she was doing twenty years down the line, she replied, “No, I never thought I’d make another record after Warlock’s second album! It was so stressful and intense I never thought I could do it again!” But she did…and now it’s twenty years later and she’s still going strong! I asked her if she any favorite memories that stuck out in her mind during her career. Warlock’s first European tour, where they opened for Judas Priest, was one, which Doro described as “mind blowing”. Playing the Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock festival in England was another. This was a major event in the 80s, and it was an important stepping stone in Warlock’s career, as a European band always had to break through in England first, before the could make it in the States back then. This was a difficult thing to do, as the British press often had a negative attitude towards foreign bands, particularly newcomers. “Dealing with the British journalists was hard but we showed them we could kick ass!” Kick ass they did, because it wasn’t long after that Warlock set out to conquer America. Touring the states for the “Triumph And Agony” album was another thing Doro pointed out as a highlight, as also was working with Gene Simmons (who produced a couple of Doro’s solo albums), who Doro says is still “close to her heart”. Gene Simmons also wrote a song Doro recorded on her last album, “Legends Never Die”. This song was originally recorded by Wendy O. Williams, who tragically committed suicide a few years ago. Doro was also sad about this, as she got a lot of inspiration from Wendy, and she said she recorded this song as a way of keeping Wendy’s spirit alive.

Doro has just released a brand new, two disc DVD, entitled “Fur Immer”, which, in Doro’s own words, contains “Everything a true, die hard metal fan would like to see”. Included on “Fur Immer” are most of the video clips she did for Warlock and as a solo artist but unfortunately a few are missing because she was unable to obtain the rights to them. She was fearful, in fact, that she would not be able to get the right to the “All We Are” video (one of the most popular Warlock songs) but they were able to in the end. The DVD also contains many live performances and interviews from over the years, and a few surprises. On thing which was unfortunately excluded was Warlock’s performance on “ECT”, a British heavy metal show from the 80s. Seeing this performance was how I discovered Warlock, and Doro gave me the inside story about it. A number of mishaps occurred that day, including a collapsing stage and some pyro that went off unexpectedly. Sounds like something that would happen on “Spinal Tap!” Perhaps this performance could be included on the next Doro DVD?

Going further into her past Doro commented on an old interview she had done early in her career; “I said ‘Heavy metal is really growing in Dusseldorf’…that was all I could think of to say! In my mind it was just my little hometown! I never thought of going to another country or city! I never believed I would ever go to America or Russia or any other place. It was so funny!” I then asked her about the inside story of a couple of classic Warlock videos, “Fight For Rock” and “All We Are”. Beginning with “Fight For Rock”, this is mainly a live performance video, with one little quirk thrown in; at the beginning and the end, the band are portrayed as young kinds, no older than twelve! I asked Doro for the scoop behind this idea. The video was filmed in Vienna, Austria. When the kids showed up for their audition, they were all dressed up, nice and neat, in their school uniforms. This was NOT what Doro and the band wanted; they wanted the kids to have a more “rock and roll” look, so she and her bandmates set about giving the young ‘uns a makeover and “went to great lengths to get them dirty!” Some child labor laws must have been broken along the way, as they filmed late into the night! Dealing with the kids’ parents was also difficult at times, but everything worked out in the end. The video was successfully completed and everyone enjoyed themselves. Then there was the video for “All We Are”, Warlock’s most heavily played video. It was filmed in the LA river basin, the same place where “Terminator 2” was filmed. Doro said the set was “like a little city”, with the band, film crew, extras, and all those cars! It was a very expensive video at the time, and Doro was pleased with how it turned out, and also that it became such a popular video.

I also asked Doro about the artwork on her and Warlock’s album covers, especially the rather suggestive painting on the cover of “Triumph And Agony”. She described the artist who did it as “A little twisted” (it turns out his whole family is in an asylum!), and she was concerned that he over exaggerated her body a little in that picture. She asked him, “Did you have to do that?”, and his reply was “Yes!”, and she ended up liking it in the end. I mentioned how some feminist groups has objected to that cover, saying that it was sexist and demeaning to women. Doro scoffed at this, saying “There are things more demeaning than that…they search for problems in all the wrong places!” She also mentioned that the “All We Are” video was featured in a movie about Satanism, and how she also found this to be ridiculous. This led to a rather interesting discussion comparing the US and Europe in terms of sexuality. In Europe, she said, people are much more laid back there and sexually tolerant. When Americans visit Europe they are often surprised at how “loose” things are there. Photos of naked women in magazines and mixed saunas are commonplace. Doro then told me a story about her drummer Johnny Dee and his first experience with a mixed sauna. He was nervous at first but after a while he relaxed and enjoyed it. It was a very new experience for him.

Doro will be releasing a new album soon, to be titled “Classic Diamonds”. She has recorded with a symphony orchestra, and the album will contain some renditions of her classic songs, recorded in a classical environment, as well as some new numbers. Since she recorded with an orchestra (something many metal bands have done lately), we discussed the influence of classical music on heavy metal. We both agreed that both styles of music have a lot in common; “The intensity, the power, the grandness!” Doro also said, “A ballad sounds ten times better with an orchestra than on a little keyboard”. Joining her on this album will be Accept/UDO vocalist Udo Dirkenschnieder. They will sing a duet on one of the songs, as they have done once before on UDO’s last album, “Man And Machine”, where they dueted on the song “Dancing With An Angel”. “Classic Diamonds” is to be released on AFM records, whom she recently signed with. Although she is happy with them, she was sad to leave her previous label, SPV, as she had a great relationship with them. This led to a discussion on how it is becoming increasingly difficult for metal bands to make it because of lack of label support and people downloading music off the internet. I mentioned that in the 80s one could pick up a guitar and get a platinum record. That doesn’t happen today like it used to. Doro agreed, saying that on Warlock’s “Triumph And Agony” tour the label they were on at the time gave them enough financial support to last them for a year. That would never happen today. In fact, Doro took a great risk for her tour with Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen a few years back-she used her life insurance money to pay for it! The tour turned out to be a success, so it was money well spent, but it is an example of how metal bands (older ones in particular) do not get the financial support they used to from the business, and often on their own. Metal music, however, has gone through a bit of a resurgence in recent years, and this was another thing we discussed. Doro said the new millennium, in terms of metal at least, has more in common with the 80s, while most of the 90s was the complete opposite. Doro, like many metal musicians, had a difficult time in the 90s. Many of her albums were not released in the US during the 90s. Whenever she would present her new music to record companies, they would always ask one question; “Is it grunge?” This hindered her career in many ways, especially in the US. We discussed how grunge music (or rather the way the music industry marketed it) did a lot of damage to metal, but now it has come full circle. Metal bands from the 80s can still sell out arenas, while many bands that were big in the 90s (the ones that still exist, that is) have trouble getting a venue half full. In other words, flavors of the month come and go, but metal has stood the test of time and is still going strong! Doro agreed wholeheartedly!

I asked her about being a female metal performer in a male dominated music world. Her reply was, “When you love music it doesn’t matter what you are!” Words to live by, Doro! She named the singers of Nightwish, Arch Enemy, and Lacuna Coil as three more recent metal performers she admires, as well as many classics, like Wendy O., Lee Aaron, Lita Ford, and Rock Goddess.

Doro has great appreciation for her fans and enjoys hanging out with them. One part of her new DVD shows her visiting a fans house, whose pad is a Doro shrine! And Tony Cannella, who used to run Doro’s US fan club, helped her get her deal with SPV. Doro had this to say about her fans-“They are the best!” She was amazed to see fans coming from all over the word to see the Six Pack show. Doro loves Cleveland, as it is a town that has been very supportive of metal over the years. Going back into her past once again, she was on tour with Warlock in the 80s, and the Cleveland venue they were scheduled to play at was oversold, with rabid, pumped up headbangers crowding the venue and spilling out into the street, raising hell and getting rowdy. A riot was almost started, and order was just barely maintained. This could have turned into a very ugly situation, but luckily it didn’t.

As for Doro’s future, we have the new album to look forward to, and hopefully a tour to follow. Doro Pesch has had a very successful career over the past twenty years. She has been through some tough times, but remains a successful and well respected (not to mention extremely talented!) performer who is admired by many, and no doubt will be for years to come! She has stood the test of time and continues to make great music! “I was never faking anything”, was another thing she said. “Everything I did was a hundred percent heart and soul”. That shows in all her accomplishments. Not bad for someone who thought she’s never make it beyond her second album!

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