Doro – Strong and ProudSunday, 29th October 2023
It’s always a pleasure to get the chance to engage with a lot of the early heroes of heavy metal that are setting the bar high with their work even as they approach 40 years in the business. That’s the case now with Doro Pesch, as she unleashes a fantastic new studio record for Conqueress – Forever Strong and Proud. Consisting of a great variety of anthems, rockers, ballads, and special covers (including duets with Judas Priest’s Rob Halford and The Broilers’ Sammy Amara), there’s no denying the woman’s ability to shine, her golden voice embodies the essence and vitality of metal through and through.
We reached out to the always engaging Doro via Zoom, as she could hardly contain her excitement in filling us in about the new record, singles/videos, special memories surrounding the recording/ songwriting process, tour/festival memories, and what’s left on her bucket list to attain beyond more records and tours.
Dead Rhetoric: Conqueress- Forever Strong and Proud is the latest Doro studio record. How do you feel about the songwriting and performances for this album – and the special guests you were able to collaborate with including Rob Halford for “Living After Midnight” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Sammy Amara for “Bond Unending”?
Doro Pesch: Oh man, I tell you I’m really excited about the album! I think all twenty songs are really killer. It’s a dream come true to record something with Rob Halford. It was my very first tour in Europe with Warlock, 1986. I was a big Judas Priest fan, and that album British Steel was my favorite Judas Priest album. It came about last year; we met in France when we played Hellfest. We were hanging out backstage talking, and I told him I was working on a new album, I had my 40th anniversary coming up. We both looked at each other, smiled, and I asked, ‘are you thinking what I’m thinking?’. Yes, let’s do something together. He asked me what I would like to do. I said I’d like to do “Living After Midnight”, it’s such a feel-good song, I sing it sometimes with some other bands on tour, the support bands we would meet last song on the set with this song or “Breaking the Law”. We did a “Breaking the Law” duet already, it was with Udo Dirkschneider on my album Classic Diamonds, he thought it would be awesome.
He had a wish as well – I said what is it? There was a song he always wanted to do with me for many, many years. He said, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. I said, wow, that’s totally unusual. It was the last song we recorded, mixed, and I will go into a studio and shoot the video to be released as a single when the album comes out. It was a dream come true. All my heroes – Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio, Lemmy, David Coverdale. It’s awesome. And Sammy Amara – the band is called Broilers; they are a big band in Germany. They pull like 20,000 people at concerts – they invited me to their Christmas show last Christmas. I said yes, I would love to be a guest on their show. We started rehearsing and we hit it off right away. We did two shows, including one in Dusseldorf where I was born. The shows went great, let’s do something together. We met at his place in his studio, we wrote that song together “Born Unending”. It came out as a single and a video a few weeks ago.
Dead Rhetoric: I really enjoyed that song and duet. It sounds a bit different than most of your normal material – a little more mainstream and dance-oriented in spots…
Pesch: Yeah, the way the sound comes out, it’s special and a surprise. The Broilers, they have a different background. I’m more metal, they have more like a punk rock background. When we both came together, the song developed. I wanted to have a song about friendship, that’s super important to me. It’s either about friendship or fighting the good fight. Let’s write a song about friendship. Right from the start it had a positive feel, nothing sad. It should be an uplifting song, let people feel good. Like an anthem for deep friendship which will last forever.
Dead Rhetoric: You included fifteen songs on the main edition, but five more bonus tracks for the special edition. How difficult of a process was it to see what would make the main record – as the bonus material includes a Metallica cover with “The Four Horsemen”?
Pesch: Yes. I tell you it was really difficult because I love all the songs. When I did the sequence in the end, theoretically everything works out, but when you are in the mastering studio, certain songs don’t go as well together. It’s terrible, I went to master this many times. Because we have two cover songs on the main album with “Living After Midnight” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, maybe a third cover would be better on the limited edition. It’s in honor for Metallica and Kill ‘Em All, they were my first gig in the early 80’s – I still remember Cliff Burton, he was such a sweetheart, a relaxed guy. I wanted to tell people that I honor them. To me it’s not the limited-edition songs, it’s one record. The quality, the bonus songs have the same quality as the normal album.
At first, I wanted to do a double album. The record company said no – ten songs are enough. No, no, not for me. The last time I did a double album for Forever Warriors, Forever United. It’s my 40th anniversary coming up, I want to give the people all I’ve got. We even had more songs, it was sad that I had to pick and choose because I can’t have five anthems, five ballads, or too many fast songs – you always have to try and have a good balance. I wanted the album to start heavy and hard, then be more soulful, special tracks.
Dead Rhetoric: The video for “Time for Justice” is quite visually appealing – almost taking on a cinematic, “Mad Max”-style. What are your memories surrounding this video shoot – and do you enjoy the art of making videos still this deep into your career?
Pesch: Yes, I love it. It’s always an adventure. We have three more videos in the making. We filmed already “Children of the Dawn”, by the same people that are called Wasteland Warriors. They are wild people, they build their own motorcycles, cars, outfits. They have a Mad Max style, I love all the movies, especially the last one with Charlize Theron. I always wanted to do something like this for years – when we did the single “Time for Justice” I called them up, and they said yes. We did the video in an old factory, it felt great. “Lean Mean Rock Machine” will be a comic-style video. It’s so funny, the artist is in Hungary, and he needs more time so it will come out after the record is out. When people see a video, they think five minutes later, how cool – there is always so much work in every song and every video.
We have five or six singles, and it is a little bit different. Usually we do one single, maybe two videos. Now, the record company in this day and age said do four or five singles/videos before the album comes out. Okay, but I love it. When you have good people like the guy who did “Time for Justice” and “Children of the Dawn” as well, it’s so enjoyable. I think I’m in good hands there.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me about the lyrical content and musical inspiration for songs like “Fire in the Sky”, the ballad “Fels in der Brandung”, as well as “Heavenly Creatures”?
Pesch: Let’s start with “Heavenly Creatures”. I love animals, that’s the only thing I miss. I grew up with dogs and horses, but when you are always on the road so much, you can’t have animals. I try to do something where I feel connected with people who save animals. It’s a song for the animals, I want to do something with this song for charity – I will find a way to give that song to an organization who takes care of animals. “Fire in the Sky” I wrote with our guitarist Bill Hudson. A fun kick ass song – he did a little instrumental demo and immediately I had the lyrics done. We were ready to do a festival in Sweden, I listened to it in a hotel, and I wrote all the lyrics out, we recorded it. “Fels in der Brandung”, it’s in German and in English. It means ‘you’re my rock’. My rock in dark times. I think everybody needs a rock, especially in these chaotic times. I never saw things so heavy, so hard – the whole world feels like you need something to hold onto. I want to get the fans to feel good, strong, lift them up, give them good energy. My mom said to me when I was in the car driving. I was on the phone, my mom was sitting next to me, and every day you have to find a solution, deal with something. There was a lot to talk about, we found a solution, I hung up the phone, and my mom said to me, ‘oh man, you are really fels in der brandung’. I said mom, that’s the next song – I went into the studio, and the title is so nice.
I have a guy I’ve been working with in the studio for years and years, his name is Andreas Bruhn, ex-guitar player of Sisters of Mercy. We met in 1996, and ever since we are a really great team. We recorded songs in Miami, in Hamburg, in New York, and the last song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was done at Andy Sneap’s place in Birmingham. I have another studio, the Rock City studio in Dusseldorf, and it took three years to record all over the world.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the live festival/touring scene currently, especially coming out of the global pandemic we had the past couple of years? Do you believe people have more appreciation for shows that they may have taken for granted previously?
Pesch: Yes, absolutely, what you just said. Everyone is so much more appreciative and happier. Things are kind of going back to normal, and I hope it will stay that way. The winter time may be tougher times. All the festivals that we did this summer, the atmosphere was so fantastic. We are planning more festivals for next year – I am curious which songs off the new album the fans will like that we will add to the setlists. We have to play a mix of the old school songs, the highlights, and some of the new songs – the fans should pick and choose what they like the most.
We are celebrating an anniversary show in my former hometown of Dusseldorf, it’s already sold out. It’s pretty good, people are coming to concerts again and festivals. I think it’s pretty good. Some clubs really suffered during the pandemic. Some friends of mine had to quit their bands and take on normal jobs to survive. Times were not good; it was really tough. We try to keep it going – we did drive in shows, it was great. It was ten times more work, people would sit in their cars far away, but they had so much fun. Everybody would meet in the back of their trucks, having beers, partying. We were able to keep the entertainment going. It was definitely better than sitting on the couch, watching tv. People would look forward to another gig, we were able to keep the band and road crew morale alive. Sometimes I think it’s good when you have to work harder, you appreciate things more when things get a little easier again. We were so ready when the normal festivals started back up. We were well-rehearsed.
Even when we were recording during the lockdown it would be a challenge, but we would always find a way to record. Even if it was only two people, me with the producer or my engineer. One would sit in the other room, I would sit in the room where we were recording, and it worked. As long as I could make music, I felt good. I know some people were really hurting, especially when you have a family. It was tough to survive – my family are the fans worldwide. I’m not married, I don’t have any kids, so I didn’t have to take care of anybody else but myself and the band. Now we are all good, the record is done, I’m excited – more singles, more videos to work on.
Dead Rhetoric: What has heavy metal meant to you personally as a genre? And what continues to elevate your creativity after being in the business for so many years?
Pesch: It’s every year, I appreciate it more. I love people, and I always want to make people happy. When I see that I can give people good energy, I’m giving them more and I have more motivation for the next twenty records. The songs, the ideas, they just come out. It’s not that I have to sit down and try hard. Usually, they are coming out before I fall asleep or when I just wake up – I’m in the best mindset. Every day I am clear, I have the best ideas. The chorus, the melodies, and the lyrics all come out at the same time. And then I have to make sure I record them in my cell phone and take it from there. Usually I go to Andreas, send things to him, and we work on the songs more. I always have been motivated.
I have so many great people I’ve met. Bands I’ve toured with. My first big tour was in 1986. I was a big fan of Kiss, Gene Simmons produced one of our records in 1989-90. That was awesome. I got to tour with Ronnie James Dio, one of my favorite singers. The first gigs we did with Metallica, we did some gigs with the Scorpions. My first big American tour was with Megadeth. Unforgettable, so I feel totally inspired. Sometimes when I see a picture – when we do Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, we do a throwback Thursday. I get so many memories back – that’s why we did “The Four Horsemen” from Metallica. I remember the good old times. The inspiration is never ending. I’m planning to make many more records, as long as people want to see me and hear me, I want to do this until the day I die.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any specific things left on a bucket list that you would like to accomplish, either as a musician or in your personal life, that you want to accomplish over the next say three to five years?
Pesch: I would like to do more records, and some great duets. I would like to sing a duet with David Coverdale, he is one of my favorite singers and it was my very first rock concert in 1980, he was so awesome. Or James Hetfield would be awesome. There are many more wishes on the bucket list. I’m so grateful and so blessed that I have worked with a lot of people. It’s always super special to me. My best friends were Lemmy and Dio. We went on tour many times. I am blessed I could have all these great opportunities. I’ve done some great duets with ladies like Tarja and Floor Jansen, we did one with her former band After Forever. Her former guitar player in After Forever has been in my band for the last thirteen years, Bas Maas. But I’m looking forward to also doing a tour and many more gigs… by the way, what city are you located in?
Dead Rhetoric: I live in CT, in the southwestern part of the state. I had the good fortune years back to see you open for Dio on the Magica tour at the Worcester Palladium in Worcester, MA…
Pesch: Yes, that was so cool. That was a great tour, one of my favorite touring experiences because everyone said, well, metal isn’t big anymore, don’t do that tour. I cashed one of my life insurances in to do the tour, because touring is expensive, the flights, the hotels, the bus, the gas- I’m so glad we did that. Unforgettable. I heard from some journalists that Ronnie was planning to have me do a duet together, he was planning the next two Magica albums. I don’t know if it’s true, but that would have been great. Maybe in the next lifetime.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the current lineup that tours with you – and the relationships that you’ve been able to build with these musicians over the years?
Pesch: It’s awesome. A few weeks ago, we played the ProgPower festival in Atlanta, Georgia and Nick was on board again, my bass player he’s been with us for over thirty years. It’s great, nobody ever left the band – we just added on more people. We have another great bass player Stefan Herkenhoff; he wrote two songs with me on the new album “Children of the Dawn” and “I Will Prevail”. We were on tour in England with Michael Schenker, and you had to have a vaccination certificate otherwise you wouldn’t get a work permit. Same thing in Brazil when we played the Monsters of Rock festival in Sao Paulo, the same thing. Nick said he doesn’t want to do it, so we got Stefan. Our Italian guitar player Luca Princiotta, he’s still with us but not on every tour because he has his own studio, production things, and he started a family. We have Bill Hudson in the band, he’s awesome. We have many people, and Stefan is the only one who has a real job. He’s a first responder, with the ambulance when there is an accident. Sometimes he has to do his job, and we have to get someone else really quick. Saving lives is more important than rocking out, you know? It’s a very responsible job, he’s a responsible guy. We always find a way with great people.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s in store for touring, festival action over the rest of 2023 into 2024 for Doro?
Pesch: We will play North America; we are just looking at the booking. Our first festival will be in Texas, Hell’s Heroes. It will be awesome in March of next year. Many festivals worldwide, a tour, and we are just working on it as we speak.