Hi Doro, the last time we spoke was for you 2012 release ‘Raise Your Fist’, so how successful was this album for you?
That album has been really great for us as a band as we were able to tour for this one like forever and the song ‘Raise Your Fist’ was after ‘All We Are’ probably the best anthem in the set list. But also ‘Revenge’, the song I wrote together with Bas Maas, proved to be a true winner during our live set and the fact that we’ve been able to tour so extensively for this album proved that metal was again in good shape.
Between ‘Raise Your Fist’ and this new one ‘Forever Warriors, Forever United’, a couple of other releases were brought to market, starting with ‘Powerful Passionate Favorites’ in 2014, the EP ‘Love’s Gone To Hell’ in 2016, the DVD package ‘Strong And Proud’ and even a German compilation album 2017. How come you keep so busy and what was the idea behind those releases?
I’ve always been highly motivated by our fans, which for me is still the most important part in my world. In the back of my mind I’m always thinking what would be great stuff for our fans and that’s what really keeps me going, also with releasing new material. They are the reason that I can still do this, so I would like to give them something in return for their support. The German compilation album for instance wasn’t really planned, but I did a version of ‘Fur Immer’ in a TV show which sparked the idea of doing an album with all our German songs on it. Of course we had a lot of those songs already, but to make it more interesting for the fans we did a couple of new ones and a German version of ‘Hero’ called ‘Helden’. I did this one on my own label Rare Diamonds productions, which gives me more freedom to do things that can’t be done via a regular record company, like re-releasing some of our older products that can’t be found in the stores anymore. The compilation album ‘Fur Immer’ was the first release on our own label but more will follow in the future. I’m still very happy with Nuclear Blast but this gives me the opportunity to do something special for the die-hard fans. ‘Strong And Proud’ was of course all about the special show we did in celebration of our 30th anniversary as a band and, although that took about two and a half years to get to market, it was very successful in many countries. With the release of ‘Powerful Passionate Favorites’ and the many tours we did in the last couple of years, plus the two and a half years it took us to make this new double album, we’ve been extremely busy as a band.
Why did it take so long before to release the ‘Strong And Proud’ DVD package?
First of all we went on tour directly after the event and when you’re touring you can’t really focus on a production like this. When we came back from the tour we worked very hard on this DVD, but you have to acquire all the rights for the other artists which took more time than we expected. We did the Wacken show during that period as well and the one and a half hour long backstage movie took us more than a year to complete. With the mixing and mastering process all in all it took us two and a half years to release it, but according to the fans it was well worth the wait.
When did you get the trigger to start writing for this new album?
We had some songs floating around already, but I wasn’t really ready yet to do a new album at that time. The real trigger for the start of ‘Forever Warriors, Forever United’ was a real sad event, when my good friend Lemmy passed away. I was very shocked by this and on my way to the funeral in the plane the melody and lyrics for the song ‘Living Life To The Fullest’ just came out and I immediately knew that this had to be a song for Lemmy to honor him, just like I did on ‘Raise Your First’ with the ‘Hero’ song for Ronnie James Dio. After doing this song I felt the urgency to start writing a new album, because the death of Lemmy showed that you never know what will happen in life. So we really started writing lots of new songs and all of a sudden I had about thirty-five to forty songs and it proved to be very difficult to cut it down to say twelve songs for a new album with maybe two additional tracks as bonus. So I called the record company and asked them if I could do a double album as I had all these great songs written. In this day it’s very rare to release a double album as the market isn’t the same anymore as in the eighties and nineties, but luckily they were inclined to go for it which made me extremely happy.
‘Forever Warriors’ features the heavier song material, while the more emotional songs are to be found on ‘Forever United’. Was this an intentional thing or did it just come out this way?
I always go by gut feeling and instinct and this division of songs just felt right. You think about a certain running order for the songs, but it just has to feel right. Therefore it took five mastering cycles before we actually decided which song was going to be placed on which disc. The people from Nuclear Blast wanted to have two single candidates on each disc and as a result of that we moved ‘Lift Me Up’ to the second disc as it was originally on the first.
For the first single you’ve chosen for ‘All For Metal’, on which also people like Mille (Kreator), Chuck Billy (Testament), Joakim Broden (Sabaton) and the (late) Warrel Dane have contributed. Why did you choose for this track as the first single and how did you get all these people involved?
Actually I was in Wacken and Summer Breeze festivals last year doing this one song with Amon Amarth being ‘A Dream That Can Not Be’ for their DVD production. I really loved that collaboration and as we were not performing there ourselves I had lots of time to talk to other artists there. The first one that I asked for the choir of ‘All For Metal’ was actually Jeff Waters from Annihilator. Later on Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth) and Warrel Dane followed and the demo version of the song really sounded like we were having a party. Then I just thought that it would be great to have some more of my friends contributing to this song and luckily they all were very willing to participate. With so many people contributing and the anthem-like feel of the tune it became quite obvious for us that this had to be the first single of the album.
The second single ‘If I Can’t Have You, No One Will’ features another guest being Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth. Why again a heavy track as the second single and how did you get the idea of including Johan for this one?
As a matter of fact, Nuclear Blast changed this and now our second single is ‘Lift Me Up’, which is a more melodic song. For this one we just did a lyric video and now ‘If I Can’t Have You, No One Will’ will become the third single. I was doing a couple of shows playing the entire ‘Triumph And Agony’ album and because Tommy Bolan played about eighty percent of the guitar parts on there I decided to give him a call to ask him if he could join us for a couple of performances. Being the nice guy he is, he did these shows with us and just before he left we decided to jam a little bit. During that jam session, Tommy and me came up with the song ‘If I Can’t Have You, No One Will’ and in the back of my mind I had this idea that Johan Hegg might be a great duet partner for this song. So I did sent the demo to Johan, who wrote the lyrics and did an awesome vocal contribution which came out even better than I expected.
Next to the already mentioned guests also Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio) contributed to the album, so how did you get him involved?
I was always a big fan of Doug’s guitar playing when he was in Dio and Whitesnake and we met a couple of times on festivals. When we did a show in Las Vegas, Doug was there and we asked him if he was willing to do a song with us and he joined us on stage for the Priest classic ‘Breaking The Law’. After the gig I thanked him for his contribution and asked him if he would consider doing a solo on our new album. He said that I should send him a song of which I thought would fit him and when we were in the song writing process we sensed that ‘Heartbroken’ might be a perfect song for Doug. So I sent it to him to check it out and he really like it and played the solo on it.
You’ve also included a Motörhead cover with ‘Lost In The Ozone’ from the ‘Bastards’ album. Why this particular tracks as it isn’t really one of the band’s best known songs?
That was exactly the reason why as I didn’t want to cover a song that everybody knows already. Of course I truly love ‘Ace Of Spades’ or ‘Killed By Death’, but I wanted to do something really soulful and show people the beautiful lyrics that Lemmy wrote. I think he was one of the greatest lyricists in this world and ‘Lost In The Ozone’ was such a great example of that. Next to that I really love the song and the melody, so therefore ‘Lost In The Ozone’ was the right choice for a Motorhead cover for me.
Then there’s the Whitesnake cover ‘Don’t Break My Heart again’. Why did you decide to include a Whitesnake cover in the first place and why this particular song?
The first concert that I attended was a Whitesnake show in the early eighties and David Coverdale was and still is such an awesome singer. My first band was called Snakebite as I was very much inspired by what Whitesnake were doing at that time. I just love this particular tune ‘Don’t Break My Heart Again’, so for me it was an obvious choice.
There’s a lot of variety on the album and in the song ‘Backstage To Heaven’ I even hear a saxophone, so how did that come about?
In Germany there’s a very famous guy called Helge Schneider, who’s actually a great jazz musician and comedian. When we were playing a festival in Mannheim he was there and after the show I approached him and we started talking about music. When he left he jokingly said: “if you ever need me, just call me”, so I told him that we had a song with a saxophone solo on there and asked him if he was willing to play that one on our album. So he came to our studio and the first take was already the right one.
It’s kind of a tradition to include a German song on your albums and this time you’ve come up with ‘Freunde Furs Leben’, so was this meant to keep the tradition going?
When it happens, it just happens and we’re not truly intending to have a German song on every album. This time it just came out and it’s a little bit similar to ‘Fur Immer’ as it also talks about deep friendship that will never end, which is something that I truly believe in.
Besides nineteen regular songs, also six bonus tracks (‘Be Strong’, ‘Black Ballad’, ‘Bring My Hero Back Home Again’ on ‘Forever Warriors’ and ‘Caruso’, ‘Tra Como E Coriovallum’ and ‘Metal Is My Alcohol’ on ‘Forever United’) will be featured. Why did you include so many bonus songs and could you tell me a bit more about these songs?
When I found out that we could do a double album, the idea came up to include some special songs on there as well which I normally might not put on a regular album. So therefore we’ve decided to include a fun punk song like ‘Metal Is My Alcohol’, an instrumental tune and a song that will be used for a movie soundtrack. Last year I toured in Italy and the fans asked if I could do an Italian song as I sung in so many other languages already. As they were right and I would love to do an Italian song, coincidently a version of ‘Caruso’ by Luciano Pavarotti was played in a restaurant that we regularly visit. I knew that the Italian fans would love this one, so we decided to include it as a bonus on the album.
You will present the new album for the first time on the Wacken Open Air festival on August 3rd. As this is your 35-th anniversary as a live-artist, will you also use this show to capture that anniversary for a possible DVD-release later on?
The show will definitely be recorded, but I don’t know yet whether it will be released as a DVD. If it all comes out great, I’m pretty sure that we want to release this show for our fans as kind of an anniversary release. It will certainly not be as big as the ‘Strong And Proud’ release, but we could do a one-DVD package as we have great guest musicians coming up on stage with us like Johan Hegg, Tommy Bolan and Andy Scott (The Sweet).
What are your further plans after the release of the album? There’s already a German tour announced in November and some European dates in March of next year (not in the Netherlands yet!), but what more can we expect on the touring front?
We will definitely play in the Netherlands as well, but not all shows are confirmed yet. We will visit a lot of other places as well, but that’s still in the planning stage. It’s all getting worked on as we speak! As always we will tour extensively and I would like to let the fans decide which songs they want to hear.
You’ve been doing this for thirty-five years already, but how long can you keep this going? How do you stay in shape for the rigorous touring life?
It’s easy when I see the fans responding so positively to our music, that’s all the motivation and inspiration that I need. Next to that, when I have some time I like to practice martial arts to stay in shape to bring out the best of me during our live shows.
As you’re already such an established artists, you’ve probably achieved everything that you wanted to achieve in your career or do you still have certain dreams that you want to make come true?
Actually I never think in terms of that and I tend to take things more on a day-to-day basis Just like in the song ‘Living Life To The Fullest’ I want to keep doing this as long as I can and as long as the fans want me to keep on doing this.
Okay Doro, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
I just want to say thank you to everybody who have been supporting us for so many years and who are still supporting us now. I love the fans more than anything in this world, I always have and always will and I hope to see every one of your readers showing up during one of our live shows. Stay metal and stay healthy!