King Diamond Talks Health Issues, Touring + New Album Plans
King Diamond was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. The legendary vocalist is back onstage after suffering heart issues a few years back. After undergoing triple-bypass surgery, he's back to rocking crowds around the world. King Diamond spoke with Jackie about his health, the return to touring and what's in store in terms of starting on a new album. Check out the chat below.
I’m so honored to say, once again on the show with us this evening, King Diamond. How are you?
Doing very good. How are you?
Doing great. So happy to have you back. First, how are you feeling?
Feeling very good. Definitely up to the tour starting in a month or so. Finally, another U.S. tour for us.
Obviously health issues have precluded extensive touring. What has been the biggest challenge about going back on the road and what did you miss the most about touring?
Of course it’s such a rush to be in the States. You can’t get that anywhere else. We’ve done quite a few festivals some two years ago back in 2012. This year we had committed to play Wacken Open Air, which is the biggest festival in Europe from what I hear. There was 92,000 when we played and headlined the Black Stage on Friday night. That was mind-blowing. It was absolutely amazing. That same production that comes to L.A. and the whole U.S. tour. So there’s no changes there. It’s the full show.
Who is entertained more by the King Diamond stage show -- the audience, because it’s cool to see, or yourself, because it’s so much fun to do?
It’s a challenge to do a lot of the things we do onstage at the same time as I have to sing. There’s a lot of stuff going on there that you have to be aware of. It’s not just get up and sing for me. But the whole play with the audience and with the other characters and actors onstage, of course it’s a lot of stuff going on. We’re bringing some old tricks back. The good old cremation coffin is back. That’s definitely something cool to see.
We upgraded our whole production this summer before Wacken. All the lights we bring with us are for around our production to make it really appear like 3D as it is, is now being changed into being very light and that just adds a whole new dimension to what we’re doing. We have a lot of lights with us, too, even though there is of course lights in all the theaters we’re playing. We have a lot of extra stuff. New designed crosses that do certain stuff, the symbol has actually been revised, as well, and can now also move. There’s a lot of things that have changed. We have various different backdrops that will make everything look very, very different throughout the set. It’s something you’ll never forget, I’ll guarantee that.
Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, the band, have had such an enormous impact on heavy metal. Who are you most surprised to learn was a King Diamond fan?
That's a lot of people. People from all different calls. Military, police, bankers, people that repair sprinklers. Car garage guys. It's everywhere. And of course other musicians. People from all walks of life that you might find as a King Diamond fan. You don't look a certain way, you don't have to say certain things. It can be anyone.
Most people wouldn't associate your music and imagery with Dallas. What first drew you to Texas? What's kept you living there?
It was from the first King Diamond tour that we did when we went through Texas. We played downtown San Antonio and there was Ed, one of my best friends over here who was a police officer at that time, a five time Vietnam veteran and he was helping the promoter at the time in San Antonio with the show there and we got some days off and there was a very big radio personality you might know, Joe Anthony, who's not with us anymore in San Antonio, he did a lot for Rush and Judas Priest, and us too. He was really having his finger on the pulse with metal back then.
So he worked with that guy. He made us the ring I wear onstage, it's something that I was given by Joe Anthony, which is a genuine old Mexican witch doctor ring. So a lot of people are knowing, it's a big whip but that police officer was one of my friends and it was in 1986 when we played there. He was a part of the whole set up and we got some extra time there and I really got to like Texas and the way people are here. They very much live up to that Southern hospitality. It was just a matter of between Dallas and San Antonio for me. San Antonio and Houston, it's a bit more humid down there. We have a little less of that up here in Dallas and then my ex-wife from way back then was from Dallas. So it made sense when the move was made from Denmark to the U.S. to actually go to Dallas. I tried to live in L.A. for a year and a half in 1988 to 1989 when we recorded 'Conspiracy' at Rumbo Recorders, it was called.
What did you think of living in L.A.?
There was a lot of good opportunities to get some great business partners. It was there the coffin trick came about. A famous magician at the time, he had also made the space shuttle disappear. I remember seeing that trick. He was the one that had to come up with the trick called Cremation that we bought from him. He actually appears in the old video for 'Sleepless Nights,' when you see the coffin in there actually for a short moment, and now it's back. We're still using it. There was a lot of good stuff to learn and get good connections in Los Angeles. The overall stuff was very far from how I grew up in Denmark, same with New York for instance. Texas is more laid back like Denmark is. So it was easier to adjust to that than to Los Angeles or New York for me.
It's been a few years since King Diamond & Mercyful Fate released an album. Is the heavy tour schedule this year leading up to you going back to the studio and recording new music?
Absolutely. We signed a new deal with Metal Blade for another three albums. We have done a lot of stuff lately with that in mind. We have invested a lot of the new recording budgets for the next couple of albums into making the guitarists studio in Sweden better. We got new equipment in, I got a new vocal studio here in my house. It was finished a few days before I went over to Europe here recently and managed to rehearse in it, which was great. It's pro-tools, new speakers, vocal booth from Portland, Oregon -- VocalBooth.com. I got it in with the floating floor, the whole thing.
The speakers are also handbuilt in the U.S. in Portland, Oregon, by Bearfoot. It was actually a King Diamond fan that was part of putting mine together. So I got a small pair, which is still twelve hundred and somewhat between the amps in them in my studio room and then some big ones in my living room. I didn't know music would sound like that. They are for mixing and mastering, handmade in the U.S.A. I didn't think they could sound like that. I'm still blown away by it. We use those speakers and all the other gear that we got recently in another projects, which is not new material but a first chance to use some of it.
Metal Blade got the chance through getting some of licenses from Roadrunner, well Roadrunner is under Warner. So they got some licenses from them to actually release some vinyl of the old Roadrunner stuff but also to do a best of. That's something that's coming out, a genuine best of that is spanning the entire King Diamond career. One disc that is only Roadrunner material and one disc that is only Metal Blade but released through Metal Blade, the whole thing. It sounds amazing.
We went back before all the remastering that was done on our stuff and got back to the original stuff and could tweak that. You hear things if you joined later on, you could only buy certain versions of the albums these days. They don't all sound like the way I'd like them to sound. And now we got the chance to actually select the songs ourselves, me and Andy. We worked on them hardcore with this new gear to get them as optimal as possible. They sound very close to how they originally sound. You can hear things you cannot hear on the versions you can buy today. So a very unique experience. For instance, we'll come home and you will hear bottom end added to it that you never heard before that was really missing. Without changing the characteristics of the overall sounds. Even the latest King Diamond album, 'Give Me Your Soul … Please' sounds better.
There's a lot of interesting and very you can say back to the original version stuff on there that we worked very hard on and I think those who give it a shot will really appreciate hearing versions of the songs that way. What I can say for myself personally, I am no matter what going to have Andy run the full albums with those settings, because I want to hear the full albums like that. They sound like they should. That's the first thing we did with the budgets.
For the future, now I need to learn the whole pro-tools system. It's not going to be a problem. I've worked with it before, but this is to really learn it and to do the vocals myself at home. I will never have to go into a studio with a hoarse voice. I'll be able to sit and write music and go test what it's like to sing right away. If I work on a verse and a chorus, for instance, I go into to vocal booth and test what it's like singing to it. I might experience right there that the chorus does not fit very well for the voice. I'll go out, work again, do maybe three more versions of the chorus and move it around a little in key, go back in and check again. Oh, wow! Version number two, that's the way it should be. That way I can optimize everything. Make sure that all riffs that we do and the songs we write, that they are perfect to sing to. Why should I sing to stuff that in the past sometimes, you had to compromise? You've already written stuff and you find out when you stand in the studio singing full blast that certain keys are not the best for your voice.
Even though I can go and do a lot with the voice, there are still keys that are not the best. Now I will never have a horse voice. I will be able to experiment for as long as I want. I can do forty voice choirs like Queen if I want to, there are no limits anymore. That's going to be an awesome thing. So if we don't do the best album ever next time, then we've failed. it might be a lot of pressure to put on one's self but I'm sure of it. It'll be amazing to work this way. So, that's part of the big picture of what we're going to do on a new album. That's a lot of things involved. Once we start and do the next album I think we'll be more productive in the future as well. Having all the tools at our fingertips suddenly.
What are your other creative pursuits aside from music?
Well we'd love to have some of the stories out in book form. I see it as a movie, but that's not really my expertise but it would be great to see. I once, when I was in the middle of making the move from Europe to the U.S. I started trying to put 'Them' and 'Conspiracy' into a novel. I got into three chapters in and those who've seen that little bit said I really need to finish it but time is an issue. There's a lot of work to do. We're involved in everything ourselves so there's a lot of work. But there's of course other things too that'll be interesting to do.
The fall tour kicks off in October. So excited to see you guys here in the States playing live. I really appreciate you being on the show. Is there anything else you can tell us about what's going on beyond this U.S. tour?
It'll be to learn the studio and start writing new material after that. That's what it's about. The tour is first priority. We have a great support act with us too. I can't say who it is yet but it'll be official pretty soon. It's going to be a great package, you will not want to miss this. It will be an experience for life, I guarantee that part. For L.A., Halloween, is going to be nuts, really nuts. What can I say? It's the biggest show and production we've ever had. The band sounds better, tighter than ever before. My voice is better than it ever was.
That's another thing you can say, certainly some good that came out of suddenly having to come down and having a triple bypass. These days, when the show is over, I'm not tired like I used to be after a show. Even though we have two floors in production, it's up and down the stairs. When we're done, we got back to the hotel and say well, that was that. It's a good thing that has come out of a bad thing for me. Now we just take advantage of it as much as we can and try to enjoy it while it lasts. You never know what tomorrow brings. That I have learned, I don't take tomorrow for granted anymore. Otherwise, enjoy it as much as we can.
I appreciate you being on the show. Huge fan, honored. Thank you so very much.
You're so welcome, always.
Thanks to King Diamond for the interview. Look for the King Diamond tour coming to the States at these locations. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.