Doro Pesch burst onto the metal scene during its prime in the early ‘80s as the front woman of Warlock. Armed with an amazing voice and dazzling good looks, Doro took the testosterone heavy musical genre by storm. Sixteen albums and 30 years later, she continues to deliver some of the best metal tracks in the business and plans to continue – there is no rest for the wicked. Her latest album, “Raise Your Fist,” covers the full spectrum of her talents including ballads, old school metal, head bangers, and stadium anthems. Clocking in at just over 52 minutes, it includes guest spots by Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, a blazing guitar solo by Gus G of Ozzy Osbourne fame, and an amazing song dedicated to her good friend Ronnie James Dio. Steve Johnson of Icon vs Icon recently sat down with Doro to discuss her influences, her evolution as a musician, her tribute to Dio, and, of course, all things concerning “Raise Your Fist.”
First off, I want to give our readers a little background on you. How did music first come into your life?
At a very early age. I fell in love with music when I was 4 years old. The first song I really went crazy for was “Lucille” by Little Richard. There was no stopping it. I wanted to become a singer and form a band. It took many, many more years and when I was 16 I had my first band. It was called Snakebite. Then I had many more bands. In 1982 we formed Warlock. With Warlock we actually had really big success. We had our first record in 1983 called “Burning the Witches.” We did more records, then I went to America in 1986 for a little promotion tour. I fell in love with New York! It was the first city I stayed in! I wanted to stay! There we recorded one of our best records, it was called “Triumph and Agony.” It came out in 1987. We played tons off of this record. One of the songs is called ‘“All We Are,” which was put on MTV in heavy rotation. That song did so much good for us. We did another record and then we had some legal problems where we changed our manager. The old manager wanted to keep the name. We had a couple of lawsuits and it got pretty ugly. We loved the name Warlock, but we couldn’t perform anymore under the name Warlock. It was very disappointing to us. The record company said, “Hey. How about you call it DORO and when everything gets solved you can call it Warlock again.” We said, “OK. Let’s do that.” So, we did many records under the name DORO. It took 20 years to get the name Warlock back. I have it back now, but we continue under the name DORO. Now record number 16 just came out. It’s called “Raise Your Fist.” For 30 years I’ve been doing hard rock and metal and loving it. I’ve totally dedicated my life to the music.
Who would you cite as your greatest musical influences?
My first rock concert was Whitesnake and David Coverdale. It was 1980 and oh … I was blown away! My second concert was Judas Priest and Accept. My third concert was Ronnie James Dio. I was so inspired by them. Then there were the bands of the new wave of British heavy metal like Saxon, Motorhead, Raven and WASP. I love them all. I would say every single band had a tremendous influence. I was a big KISS fan. I was in the KISS Army when I was 13 years old. Later on, I had the great chance to meet the guys in KISS and to work with Gene Simmons. He produced one of our records, which was a dream come true. All of these great musicians and bands left a big impression. Once you listen to them, it influences you in a way that you want to do really good and that you want to do something that makes people happy or captures people’s heart and soul. I loved Ronnie James Dio’s records. We had the great chance to tour with him in 1987, which was awesome! We got to tour with Judas Priest in 1986. There was a time when I quit my job. I wasn’t only a musician. I was a graphic artist. Ever since then, every day I am doing music. It’s great! The best part of it is that the people you admire come watch you and eventually you meet them, or you get to tour together, or play together. It’s the reason Lemmy is on this album. I love Lemmy! He’s one of my best friends. We did the song “It Still Hurts” together. I met him in the early ‘80s in a club and he said, “You want to have a cigarette and a little bit of whiskey and cola?” Then we became friends. Ever since then our friendship is growing. Now we talk all the time. He’s so funny and has such a great sense of humor. In the beginning of the ‘80s, I had no idea that it would last that long and now it’s been 30 years.
How do you think you evolved as a musician since starting out?
I always try to get better and better and try to improve. It’s basically still the same. The foundation is still the same. I follow my heart. I follow my gut instinct. I belt it out. I sing my heart out with lots of soul, passion and energy.Then I try to make things nice lyric and arrangement wise. I always try to make the fans happy or feel something. I try to make it mean something to them. Sometimes people come up and say, “Man! That song helped me so much to get over something really sad.” If someone was grieving or dying of something music can sometimes help in so many ways. To give you energy and hope in all kinds of ways. If it’s a great rock song, it takes away all of the burdens and stress of everyday life. It’s a good tool. I love it all from anthems, to hardcore, to speed metal, everything, the whole spectrum.
Being in the music industry as long as you have, are there still any surprises?
Actually, every day is a new adventure! Everyday is a new challenge. It never became a routine. Everyday is a new day and you want to give your best, small or big. If it is a small crowd, it’s a great challenge to make a couple of hundred people think you are great, or make them stage-dive, bang their heads or go crowd surfing. The same thing goes for big festivals like Wacken, which is a big metal festival in Germany. All of the metal heads go there once a year. It’s a big thing. It’s a great show. It’s something unforgettable. I’m so happy. Everyday is something new. I always try to do better than the last year, or the last tour, or the last show. I like to keep it fresh and exciting. The people never have the feeling that they are seeing the same show or tour. It’s always something new and outrageous. I guess I try to create magic.
You mentioned your new album “Raise Your Fist.” How would you describe the album to people who haven’t heard it?
It covers a wide spectrum from great traditional old school metal songs, songs like “Revenge” or “Take No Prisoner,” to head bangers, to really great anthems that empower you and make you feel really great, like “Raise Your Fist in the Air” or “Rock Till Death.” There’s stage and anthem material for people that remember “All We Are.” There are ballads. They are very heartfelt, very sensitive and very soulful. One of my favorites is the duet with Lemmy from Motorhead, “It Still Hurts.” He sings so soulful, it always gives me goosebumps. It’s so good and so deep. It’s all there from hardcore to super sensitive emotional ballads. It covers the whole spectrum. That’s the reason I always have to put so many songs on a record. I couldn’t do just nine or 10. It’s always like 14 or 15 songs.
Could you tell us a little about the writing process for the album?
The record took about two and a half years. It was recorded and written all over the world, from New York, to L.A., to Hamburg, Germany. I started out with a song that meant so much to me and I know so many millions of fans feel the same. That song was “Hero,” which was about Ronnie James Dio. When he passed away I was so shocked. It was so painful. For a couple of weeks I was talking to many fans and many people, and nobody could believe it. That was coming out of total sadness and desperation. I was in the dark in my apartment falling asleep and suddenly I had a melody and lyric in my mind. You were a hero, our only hero. I thought, “That’s for Ronnie.” I got up and I wrote it. The next day I called Joey Balin. I said, “Hey Joey. I have this song and I want to get it right. Can you help me with the verses?” He said, “Sure.” Ronnie and Joey knew each other because we were on tour together. In 1987, on my first tour with Ronnie James Dio, Joey Balin came with us on the tour. So, the next day we finished it. Then we went into the studio in New Jersey. Then I finished it in Germany. That’s the first song for this record. It was the most important song for me to get on the record so I could give thanks, and honor, and respect to Ronnie James Dio. We all loved him so much and we still do. He was the most kind and talented person. His voice and songs are unforgettable. They influenced a generation. So, the song “Hero” was important. Then I started to write all of the other songs. There is another special guest on the record, Gus G, the guitar player of Firewind and Ozzy Osbourne. He plays a killer solo. There’s some songs on it like “Freiheit (Human Rights).” That’s a song I wanted to dedicate to a human rights organization called Terre Des Femmes, which is an organization within Terre Des Hommes. It’s an organization that supports young women and young girls in countries where there are problems and a lot of things to work on. I was always free to say and sing whatever I wanted. I love America and I grew up in Germany. In touring, I saw men and women who didn’t live to the level we have experienced. So, that song is for Terre Des Femmes. There are also a lot of metal tunes. One of the big power ballads is called “Free My Heart.” It’s for a movie. I’m filming a movie in Switzerland called “Anuk – The Path of the Warrior 2.” The first movie I ever did was the first part in 2007. I wrote the title track and some more songs for the movie. I’m doing that again now. “Free My Heart” is one of those songs. I will write some more songs for this movie, which will probably be out in late 2013 or 2014. You have the Lemmy song “It Still Hurts.” “Hero” for Ronnie. “Raise Your Fist in the Air” is the first single. Live, it is going over so well. All of the songs live are wow … it’s better than anything when the fans sing along and you can feel everyones energy. It’s something to die for!
You mentioned you wrote and recorded this album in several different places and countries. Was that the biggest challenge to making the album?
This record represents my 30th anniversary. For the 30th anniversary I wanted to make sure that I included stuff I loved to do in the past and what the fans loved in the past. I also wanted to have some new and exciting things. The goal was to put out an album where you go, “Yeah. That’s the 30th anniversary.” It has great anthems like we would expect in Warlock times. It has some really cool and serious statements. That was actually the biggest challenge. I love to work all over the world. You get the best part of each place and studio. It’s very inspiring. I love working in Scandinavia. Scandinavia feels like England was in the early ‘80s. There was the British wave of new heavy metal. Tons of great metal bands came out of the U.K. Now it’s Scandinavia. That’s the big metal scene with great energy and great studios. There are many great bands. Scandinavia is a very inspiring place right now. I love working all over. It’s cool.
Are there any bands out there right now that excite you and do you think rock ‘n’ roll lost any of its flair from the past?
Actually I think today is great for metal. There’s lots of variety and lots of great bands. It’s almost as great and big as it was in the ‘80s. The ‘90s were very difficult for all of the metal heads and for all of the metal bands. Grunge hit it big and made is very difficult to survive. In 1999 to 2000 metal came back and nobody will ever let it go so easily again. It’s a great time. Sometimes it’s good when something goes up and down, up and down. You learn to appreciate it much more. Times are great now. There are many great new bands out there. There are tons of bands I love in Scandinavia. For example, Sabaton. We actually play together on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise in a couple of days. I think they are a really hot band. Children of Bodom, Arch Enemy. I love Angela. She’s from Germany and the guys are from Scandinavia. I love another band from Germany, they’re pretty new. They are called Saltatio Mortis. I did one song with them on their last album. I love all of my great metal bands from the ‘80s. I love Motorhead, WASP, Metallica, Megadeth. Everybody! I still love them and many more, which would probably take too long to mention them all. I’m a big Rammstein fan. I think Rammstein rocks! Their shows are like, “Wow!” They remind me of when I saw my first KISS show. I was like, “That’s the best and the biggest!” No one has blown my mind like Rammstein. When I saw them the first time many years ago I thought, “Wow!” It was so spectacular and bigger than life.
Speaking of live shows, you are going on tour after the cruise. What can people expect from your live show?
It will be 150% energy, bigger than life, full of spirit and power. We’ll play the classics from the Warlock days, like a best of each record. We’ll also play a lot of the new record like “Raise Your Fist in the Air” and “Revenge.” There will be some surprises. Some songs that fans have never heard live. We’re sure they will really like it. The encores will be all of the songs they want to hear. As long as there is not a strict curfew, we will play as long as fans want. Like songs they especially want to hear, which are not in the set list. Each stop will be a different experience. We want to make the fans happy. We will play the whole spectrum from the early ‘80s to the new record. I will always play according to the crowd too. If I feel they want to hear more hard stuff, then we’ll play harder stuff. If I feel they want to hear a little more old school, we’ll play more old school. If fans are more into the newer stuff, we’ll play more new songs. I’ll feel it out when the band is playing and look out into the crowd. If they are into head banging, we’ll put in some more head bangers. If people seem like they want to sing along to anthems, we’ll put in more anthems. Every night is slightly different. If people want to travel along, they can be sure that they’ll never see the same show or the same setlist. There will be lots of emotion and lots of power. I want to make the fans happy.
I’m sure you’ve had your share of experiences and stories from the road. Have you ever thought of doing an autobiography?
I have so much fun doing records and touring. I want to do one or two records a year. So, I’m not ready yet. I want to do more. More concerts and records. I always feel like I could do it when I want to take a little break from touring. Playing live and seeing the people sweat is what is most exciting to me. Eventually I may want to write a book, but not now.
Do you have advice for someone who wants to get involved in the music industry?
Follow your heart, follow your instincts, follow your gut. Do what you feel is right. Surround yourself with people who will support you and believe in you. If nobody believes in you, just believe in yourself. Do what you feel, always keep at it, never, ever give up. Do whatever makes you happy. Before you sign a contract get some legal advice, get some good advice. Lawyers know their job. That will leave you free to do your music and do what you like. It’s good to get some expert to check out the contracts. You don’t want to sign something where you sign your life away. We did that! [laughs]
Do have any last words for your fans out there?
I want to say thank you so much to all of the fans for all of their love and support. I hope I can see everybody at the shows. I will give it my all and I’m so excited to tour the U.S. I would be so happy if everyone came out to check out the show. I am so grateful to have such a great fan base in the states. It’s awesome! I really appreciate it and I wish everybody the best. Keep on rocking and keep metal alive! I will if you will too!
I appreciate your time DORO. Thank you for talking to me today and we wish you all the best!
Thank you so much Steve!
For all the latest news and tour information for DORO, visit the official site at www.doromusic.de.