CHANNELLING THE SPIRIT OF LITTLE RICHARD IN THE NAME OF METAL
AN INTERVIEW WITH DORO
Doro Pesch is an iconic Heavy Metal legend, unwavering and remaining as true as steel in her chosen profession for many years. She has refused to be forced and commercialized, changed and modified, and she recently celebrated 30 years Strong and Proud with a special CD/DVD package. I had the privilege to chat to a lady whose posters adorned my wall as a young Heavy Metal fan back when I was growing up in the ‘80s.
I began by asking Doro to review her long and illustrious musical career. Was there anything that she would have done differently or did she feel that life is a learning curve and everything happens for a reason? Laughing, she replied, “follow your heart but if you sign a contract, let a lawyer look over the contract. When I was young and I had my first band we were a little bit naive. We signed all our contracts and many times we signed our lives away. To give you peace of mind, just have an expert look at this stuff.”
As Doro has had quite an extensive musical career I asked her if she could recall that first time when she actually realized that she had a talent for singing. “I actually always wanted to become a singer since I was three years old and back then there was no Metal but high-energy bands and singers. The first time that I fell in love with music was when I was listening to Little Richard and “Lucille” When I was 15. I had my first band and then several other bands until we formed Warlock. I just knew then that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. It was great to be there at the start of a growing movement. Music was my drug from a very young age.”
I put to Doro that it must have been very difficult to break into a genre of music that was male-dominated in those days. On reflection she replied, “it’s very hard because I always enjoy being a woman in music. I have always been treated with respect and very supported by all the other bands that took us on the road: Judas Priest, Motörhead or Dio. I never felt that being a woman created any problems. It was always a much more difficult fight to fight for my music; to do what you love, keeping the record deal. If I would have been a different singer I would have done exactly the same. Everybody knew that I was addicted to the music so it was never a problem. I was never at a disadvantage, it was just the way that it was. I felt it in my heart. Today it is much nicer that there are so many more women involved as singers and musicians compared to the ‘80s when I started. There was just a handful of great bands like Girlschool and Rock Goddess. Lita Ford and Joan Jett, there were not so many. Today there is a better balance.”
Picking up where earlier Doro had hinted at some professional exploitation, I asked if labels had tried to market or misrepresent her during her career.
Doro replied, “many times people were always coming in and trying to make the band more commercial to market the music better. We always had a big struggle to preserve our own identity. We replied that it was the song that we wanted to record, that was how we wanted to look. . . I was never interested in having a radio hit or a commercial sound. There were many discussions with all kinds of different professions – agencies, record companies, and management. Of course, we were always interested in selling many records and lots of tickets. In the end people can tell if you are doing things for the right reasons and that it comes straight from the heart. I did one record that was actually our first Warlock record; the record company suggested that we needed a big-name producer. We couldn’t hide it because the other option was to have no more record label releases. We didn’t like that idea but thought that we would try it. The record came back and we didn’t like it at all. It was a huge struggle; we went on tour with Judas Priest – my first big tour. We had a new record out but would not play any songs from it. Management said that we had to promote the new record. We told them that we preferred our older stuff. We tried to stay true and fight for our music. We learnt our lesson from that record and I said from then that I would never do anything that I was not 100% totally happy with. Looking back at it now, it is a great record but just a little too polished. It is hard sometimes to walk that line. One time we were all in a room with the publishing company and we were told, ‘you can now sign the contract.’ It was a huge contract; about 150 pages. They closed the door and locked us in. It was like a mafia scene. We didn’t sign and after 10 hours they let us go. In the beginning there was all kinds of things going on – it was an adventure. We always survived.”
The latest release is like a career retrospective. Looking back, I asked Doro how she views her own musical legacy. What does she feel when she looks back on that? Is it something she feels proud of, or perhaps sees the mistakes and errors in her career path as it developed? “It was definitely a dream come true; I always wanted to do music. I would never have expected that it would last that long. Maybe six or seven years maximum. It’s now over 30 years so I am happy and very grateful. I know that we have a great worldwide fan base. I don’t know if you actually heard but the new DVD also went to number 3 in the U.K. charts, number 2 in Germany and Number 1 in Finland. I am over the moon. I just want to thank the fans from all over the world.”
Like many young teen male Metal fans I had a poster of Doro on my wall. She is generally recognized as a heartthrob and yet my research had failed to turn up any love interest for the lady. I actually read that at one point Doro had made a conscious decision to choose her professional career over any relationship, saying, “I am married to the band, crew and the fans.” I understood from Doro that she was now happy professionally. . . Did she, however, feel that her life could have been any better had she also found personal happiness? Doro paused in due consideration before responding to my question. “No, Mark, it wasn’t a difficult personal choice. One day I woke up I think it was in New York working on a new record and I made that conscious decision that I wanted to dedicate my life to the music and to the fans. I am pleased with that. I never regretted it – I was always happy. I am happy for every festival, every concert. It’s a big challenge and every day is different. Every day is filled with so much energy and love. I have tons of friends all over the world, even if we don’t necessarily speak the same language.”
Maybe also finding romance could have made that even more fulfilling, though, I put to Doro. “The bond that I have with fans is sacred,” she repled. I never had the desire to start a family or to get married. It was always music with no drama. I was in love many times but faced with giving up music it was ‘no, no.’ Being involved in the music industry and having achieved fame I put it to Doro that fame came at a price. There is a loss of personal privacy .Does she feel that it is a price worth paying? Doro reflected, “I think that it is different in the Metal field compared with the Pop scene, for example. When I go to Rock or Metal bars people usually say something nice. When I go shopping people always have a big smile on their faces and say, ‘I really love your music.’ I guess when you are a big Pop star it may be a bit different. Metal people are all really cool people, so it’s not as insane. I never say that I am too tired for a photo. I do think that if I did that the fans would totally understand. Sometimes when I am on tour non-stop I meet fans after the show, but have to say it cant be for three hours or more. Everybody is always very understanding and respectful.”
Doro’s positivity and strong sense of enjoyment in her career was apparent throughout our discussion. I just mused if it had always been this way or did she actually have any regrets retrospectively looking back through the years. She replied, “not really. When it was difficult for Metal as the Grunge era came along it was a tough time. We had to hang in there and make the best out of it. It makes us stronger surviving through the difficult times; it makes you appreciate things much more. Metal is now coming back and it feels as big as it did in the ‘80s. I do remember one time that was a disaster when we lost the name Warlock. Our old manager took the name. We went to court and the judge was out of his mind. I had always thought that the German justice system was OK. We had to think of another name so we used Doro. I never wanted to do a solo career; I just wanted to do music, whatever it takes. For me at the time it was a total disaster. People suggested calling us Doro, as they said people would be able to remember and connect. I was hoping to solve it within a year but it took 20 years to get the name back. Certain things happen and you just have to deal with it and make the best of it.”
Heavy Metal has lost some true legends, including several that Doro knew personally – Ronnie Dio and Lemmy from Motörhead. I asked her if that made her more aware of her own mortality. Doro paused before replying, “yes, sometimes I think about it, especially when we lost Lemmy. That was really tough. When Ronnie died I was in shock for two weeks – it was hardcore. These people are so admired. I mean, like many he seemed indestructible – it totally broke my heart. Many others, like Jimmy Bain from the Dio band, what a great bass player. We had many great tours with them. We have to make the most out of every day because you just never know. What makes me sad is that when all my favourite bands are doing their goodbye tours. That makes me so sad. As long as you are alive and people love you and love the music and it’s physically possible to tour, I always try my best to never let the fans down and I will never try to do a goodbye tour. I will always try to give 150%.”
Doro’s recent worldwide chart success with her latest DVD has proven that that day is a long way off. As long as people love the music and she is passionate and positive about what she does, I am sure she will have many years of success ahead of you.
In conclusion I asked her who she would like to sit down with and interview. After the regular long pause she replied, “it would probably be Little Richard, who was the reason that I first fell in love with music. I felt so empowered and energized by it and it was the singer that blew my mind.