King Diamond is the name of the band of the colourful former Mercyful Fate singer of the same name. Formed in 1985 upon the rancorous demise of the latter band, King Diamond (Kim Bendix Petersen) took guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen with him and formed a new band. The group issued an industry-only demo followed by an EP called No Presents For Christmas, which also marked the start of the group’s cooperation with Roadrunner Records again, which had the artists under contract. Also part of the team from the start (or day two in actuality) and the only other mainstay since was Swedish guitarist Andy LaRocque formerly of NWOBHM’s EF Band.
The band’s debut appeared in February of 1986 and was an immediate success. The band’s unique blend of high-pitched vocals, virtuoso metal guitars and theatrical presentation and lyrics was a welcome addition to the scene and quickly embraced. Part of the line-up was also former Geisha drummer Mikkey Dee who would go on to play for Motörhead. The two bands had in fact earlier toured Europe together. Many consider the band’s next album a definitive statement. It would in fact chart on both sides of the Atlantic and introduce the band to a wider audience via a video for the song, The Family Ghost. Them followed and was another success. King Diamond had in the meanwhile relocated to Los Angeles. It was a story best exemplified by the video for Welcome Home. Conspiracy featured the engineering of noted producer Chris Tsangarides and would again chart. The Eye appeared in 1990 and featured a new line-up including drummer Snowy Shaw. Despite the introduction of Shaw the album would be recorded with a drum machine. The album was a first sign of relative weakness for the band and would be fairly criticized. The sales were not equal to the album’s predecessors. The band would depart from Roadrunner Records, but not before conceding an older and inferior recording to fulfil contractual obligations. Guitarist and bassist Blakk and Patino would be let go amidst rumours of drug abuse. The band would enter a period of lull here given the return of Mercyful Fate. Andy LaRocque would join Death and play on the Individual thought Patterns album during this period. Mercyful Fate would open for King Diamond later in the decade necessitating the appearance of King on the stage twice in one night!
The band would return several years later, albeit on new labels. The group would be signed to Metal Blade in America and, given the relative inexperience of that label in Europe, Massacre Records in Europe. The latter had catapulted Pretty Maids into the European charts, which had given King Diamond hope for the company. Drummer Darrin Anthony would depart in 1997, after two years of service, following a serious accident. 2000’s The Year Of God was a concept story narrating the King’s version of the life and times of Christ. The ‘Abigail’ story would be re-visited in 2002. King Diamond would guest on the Probot album of David Grohl of Nirvana and Usurper’s Necronemesis. Gimme Your Soul... Please, a new album for 2007, would be released in June 26th through Metal Blade Records and Massacre Records. The planned King Diamond, Kreator, Cellador and Leaves' Eyes tour of America in April of 2008 was cancelled in 2007 due to King Diamond’s ailing herniated disc of the spine. The vocalist was not expected to be fully recovered in time for the touring.
The band would shift work from Dallas, Texas to Andy LaRocque’s Los Angered Studio in Sweden for later works. LaRocque would also form a band called X-World/5 with members of Hammerfall and Pagan’s Mind in 2006. King Diamond received a Grammy Nomination in 2008 for Best Metal Performance for the track Never Ending Hill off the band’s latest album, Give Me Your Soul… Please... Reissued King Diamond albums The Spider's Lullabye and The Graveyard were both re-mastered by King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque and were released on October 13th of 2009 by Metal Blade. Each album included bonus material that purchasers were able to obtain digitally. Apparently, the bonus material was of too low a quality to appear on disc! Massacre Records announced a March 26th, 2010 release date for At The Graves, the long-announced three-disc DVD package from King Diamond.
King Diamond underwent triple bypass surgery of the heart after being transported to the hospital on November 29th of 2010. He was well and recuperating thereafter. The band was on indefinite hiatus as a result.
Former Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin, King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque, ex-Hammerfall bassist Magnus Rosén and Venom drummer Danny Needham formed an unnamed project in 2011. The band was writing material at LaRocque's Sonic Train Studios in Varberg, Sweden. Four musicians from King Diamond's 1990 album, The Eye, namely guitarists Andy La Rocque and Pete Blakk, bassist Hal Patino and drummer Snowy Shaw, were featured on Get It On, a single from Patino's son, 20-year-old Maryann Cotton (born Jackie Patino). Fourteen months after undergoing open-heart bypass surgery King Diamond announced two shows in Europe for the summer of 2012. These were June 09 at the Sweden Rock Festival in Sölvesborg and June 15th at Hellfest in Clisson, France. King Diamond was on stage earlier commemorating Metallica’s birthday party. After a seven-year hiatus and the signing of a new deal with Metal Blade Records King Diamond was again touring Europe in 2013. An album was expected in 2013. Professor Mats Eriksson of Sweden named several fossils after his favourite rock stars. One called Kingnites Diamondi, named after King Diamond, was part of a Danish exhibition in the summer of 2013 called Heavy Metal And Punk Fossils. King Diamond was on hand at the official unveiling. King Diamond, which was scheduled to perform at Loud Park festival in Japan on Sunday October 20th, 2013 was forced to pull out after its equipment did not arrive in Japan on time. Band blamed promoter and shipping company, as well as associated costs. Promoter had assigned responsibility to the band. King Diamond announced it would tour North America in the autumn of 2014. The tour would end at the Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas. Two Canadian shows were scheduled for October. A new album was in the works for 2015. Following the departure/firing of Hal Patino in July 2014 King Diamond recruited Swedish bassist Pontus Egberg (The Poodles, Lion's Share and Zan Clan) for the group’s next concerts. The new band played its debut live show in Stockholm in July. Patino and Diamond had been accusing one another of lying and whether the bassist departed or left after disagreements over the man’s salary. King Diamond announced Finnish band Jess And The Ancient Ones as the opening act for its North American tour that autumn. King Diamond would be back on tour performing the 1987 album Abigail in the USA in its entirety. The tour would begin on October 29th and run through December 5th with Exodus as the opening act.
King Diamond remains a special band and singer in the metal scene for his voice and vision. The man has been an adherent of the Church Of Satan and been controversially in rows with bands like Manowar, Kiss and Deicide. King Diamond would film a concert video while on tour that autumn for a DVD. Director Denise Korycki (Cannibal Corpse and Killswitch Engage) was filming multiple shows from Abigail In Concert 2015 tour. King Diamond late 2015 shows in the USA were cancelled as the band’s vocalist King Diamond was “suffering from a severe case of acute laryngitis."
KING DIAMOND - THE PUPPET MASTER - METAL BLADE
Every King Diamond album is an event and The Puppet Master is not an exception. The band, now King Diamond on vocals, Andy La Rocque and Mike Wead on guitar, Hal Patino on bass and drummer Matt Thompson, has done an outstanding job of delivering a good album that should go a long way in countering recent murmur regarding the King's perceived staleness.
The Puppet Master is a horrific story about a puppet show in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, whose conception is both eerie and surreal. The story reads well and King Diamond has done a masterful job of fitting the story and music together, with neither becoming tedious. The story is a genuinely interesting read and the conclusion hardly a hackneyed happy ending.
The vocals on this album are, on average, on a lower pitch than one is accustomed from King Diamond. As peculiarly, King Diamond has employed a female backing vocalist to realize specific parts of the story. No need to stop reading though, the female vocals are used sparingly. The music itself is more down-to-earth than most of the band's previous work. Evidently, King wanted more focus on the story and less intricacy in the musical opera. Oddly enough, it works. Although a few more solos would have been welcome. After all, in Andy La Rocque and Mike Wead the band now features two of metal's preeminent soloists. A great solo can be had on the song Emerencia though. The lead work on Blue Eyes, in contrast, is disappointing and outright rocky, which is never a good thing. Another curiosity is the sound and riff two minutes into Christmas which is reminiscent of Annihilator's Alice In Hell. Having said that, nothing beats hearing King Diamond sing "it's Christmas agaaaaain"!
The Puppet Master is a great heavy metal album, a great concept and another great release from a talented puppeteer and a gifted band. - Ali "The Metallian"
Early afternoon on a warm summer day, I dial a 214-area number on the hour. The phone rings twice before a voice answers, “hello?” Not knowing what to say I hesitate. How am I supposed to address the man at the other end? “Is this King?” Ali “The Metallian” interviews KING DIAMOND. - 1995
King Diamond, and long-time guitarist Andy LaRocque, have recruited Americans Chris Estes on bass, drummer Darren Anthony and second axe-man Herb Simonsen (what, another Dane?) and released The Spider’s Lullabye, which to this here writer is one fucKING great DIAMOND! Bring enthused by the music and knowing that the illustrious front-man is always a great interviewee, read on for more details about the band, the album and future tour and recording plans.
A question that has been bugging many fans and me for the last two years is the announcement that King Diamond will be keeping both his solo band and Mercyful Fate alive and active. How, I ask, can the singer justify being in two bands concurrently and in which does he truly believe? “I believe in both bands,” argues King Diamond. “I like both bands’ styles; there is a distinction between them. But now I can fulfil my dream of playing with both bands. Sixty percent of Mercyful Fate’s music is written by Hank Sherman and Michael Denner. In King Diamond, I do seventy percent and Andy LaRocque does the rest. So there are different songwriters in the bands. Additionally, when you go into the studio there are two different sets of musicians. Mercyful Fate is more old-fashioned, while King Diamond is more modern. There are different moods in the two bands, I already have a lot of music for the next King Diamond, which will be entitled The Graveyard. It’s a full concept and more theatrical.”
Which will be another successful album as, to my surprise, King Diamond has always out-sold Mercyful Fate. And being no disappointment is the current album. “Spider’s Lullabye is kinda like Fatal Portrait,” comments King. “It’s not a full concept, but the last four songs are a mini horror story. Some of the songs are older and some are brand new. The riff of one of the songs is actually taken from an old tape I found at home on which I was playing guitar a long time ago.
“Vocally, I use several vocal tracks. It differs from song to song. There is always one lead track, and in places, to create the harmonies, there are four to six backing tracks. At the end of To The Morgue, for example, there are eight vocal tracks: four high and four low. There are no tricks on the vocals anywhere on the album. All we have are reverb and echoes. I sing out of tune at the beginning of the title track on purpose; it’s done to get a special feeling. This song, by the way, features no bass guitars!”
The lyrics, written by King Diamond, are always another interesting area to explore. So, I ask the lyricist to elaborate on a few. Dreams reminded me of Sleepless Nights for instance. “Yes, but it’s a different approach this time. Sleepless Nights had a specific purpose in a concept. This time I am depicting a guy sitting in a living room before going to bed. He sees all his dreams on the couch around him. He gets up to go to bed and they follow. They can’t wait for him to go to bed so they can get into his mind and mess with his mind. I beg them to stop giving me the nightmares.
Poltergeist features keyboard notes akin to The Eye Of The Witch. “No, it’s only the first couple of notes. You don’t hear all the notes anyway because the guitar covers them. The song describes a poltergeist who is slowly but surely taking over. He doesn’t like guests who visit the owner and gets his way.
“Six Feet Under is a nice little story. It’s about a greedy family who are after an early inheritance. Being buried alive in a coffin made of glass is horrible; you can see the people who are doing it to you and they see you suffer. Listen to the chorus of that song and you will feel you are in a coffin. There are three different reverbs on the vocals all mixed together. When I sing the chorus, the vocals are very dry and it gives me the feeling that I am there. I hope there will be a follow-up to this song.”
Another topic I wanted to get into is the proliferation of 'tribute' albums. Seeing that every band and their uncles is tributed to these days it seems the one band noticeably missing from the list is none other than King’s Mercyful Fate. King has his own theories why that is.
“It is probably possible to find musicians to play the songs, but could they capture the feeling? Everything we do is from deep inside. It’s not a thing I think of, but now that you mention it, it is true. No one has covered Mercyful Fate. The only thing I can think of is Mindstorm, the band of the new King Diamond members! They did a cover of Welcome Home. They did it very well.”
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 15.
Anyone who has ever spoken to King Diamond will tell you the same thing. The man might have been in business for 25 years, but he has lost none of his enthusiasm, zeal or penchant to speak about his band. That is a great thing for an interviewer because one does not need to coax answers out of the singer. He gives without prompting. On the other hand, even six questions might be one too many given a 30-minute slot to talk to the legendary frontman. What to do? Press on and find out as much about the latest news surrounding King Diamond and the story behind the new album, Deadly Lullabyes Live, with as few niceties as possible. - 09.10.2004
METALLIAN: King, it is a genuine pleasure to speak with you again.
KING DIAMOND: Thank you! How are you doing, Ali?
METALLIAN: Let us get right to the questions because we have little time. If you will take me back a couple of years King Diamond and Metal Blade had a disagreement and all live activity was halted as a result. Can you take up the story from that point seeing how the current topic is a live album.
KING DIAMOND: When Abigail II came out we were ready to tour as we had done for every album. We had done that since the beginning. We had tour support and all of a sudden we were told "sorry guys, there is not going to be any tour support available this year."
We were asking for a reason why and were told that downloading was the reason for the funds not being there. Metal Blade and every other record company on this planet was losing between twenty and thirty percent of its sales to downloading. That made Metal Blade say they can't give us the money that is usually available when we go on tour. We were wondering what we were going to do then. Did we have to wait another year and record another album? That was not acceptable. That would not work. Then we started working with our lawyers in order to figure out what comes next. We had to renegotiate our contract (with Metal Blade). When you talk about renegotiating contracts it's usually not for the better. It's usually for the worse. You will usually get a slightly lower budget. At that time it seemed we won't have the budget to go into studio and record a quality product. If that was the case I was not going to record a half-assed record. We would have to stop. That is totally... never going to happen. I like to do the best that I can do or I am not going to do it at all. We didn't know what to do at that time. There was no way we could record the same way we had always done with a smaller budget. Then we started talking and wondered if there was another way to do things. We are still here today because we came up with a different way. Guitarist Andy La Rocque has a studio in Gothenburg, Sweden called Los Angered and he has done many top-quality albums there. He has top-quality equipment there. What we decided to try with the following album Puppet Master was to bring all the best equipment to my house in Texas and turn my living room into a studio and that's what we did. We recorded all the rhythm guitars, harmony guitars, keyboards and bass guitar here in my house. Then we went and spent time in the studio that we normally go to and recorded the drums and the vocals. Then we went back to my house and mixed the album. Many good things came out of it actually.
You will say that it must cost a lot of money to freight the gear from Sweden to USA, absolutely yeah. When you compare the cost of being in the studio for two months where you pay by the hour and being in the studio for three weeks that is a big difference in money. That big difference in money was not used up on the freight here and back. Even if we had less money available to record overall we found the arrangement works. The Puppet Master turned out to be a better product. We found a lot of positives about it. We were not sitting in the studio with our backs against the wall when the clock was ticking. sometimes it takes up to two hours to find the right reverb for just five words just to make the feel exactly right. You have to find the feel you are exactly after. The time is ticking and money is flying out of the window and that is time we are sitting there looking for the right things. It doesn't cost us anything in the new situation, except our own time, which meant we could explore all the ideas to the max. We could get the best out of it that we could. We also found that mixing here in my living room with the carpet and furniture is good because it's just like the homes of those who will listen to the music later. You can't buy the speakers here in any store. They are only available in professional outlets so we knew exactly what the fans would hear. None of the fans will listen to our album in a studio control room. These control rooms are very different sounding than a living room. I have found that out. I knew that beforehand and we had tried to work it out, but those rooms are designed in a certain way that makes the frequencies bounce in the right way, but no one else is going to hear it like that. You feel satisfied in the studio and you go home and the next morning before you go back into the studio you listen to the tape and get these surprises that make you wonder either why there is so much treble or where the bottom-end went. I write these things down and go back into the studio and tell them to address these things. It becomes difficult. You have to sit in the control room and guess what it will sound like in a living room. That is why it was so cool to experience the new way of recording because you know that whatever you do people are going to hear the same thing. It now seems like we can turn out an even higher quality product. The Puppet Master was the best sounding album we ever did. We learnt a lot there. We also mixed the live album here in my house.
METALLIAN: Did you negotiate with another label at that point?
KING DIAMOND: Well, it turned out that Metal Blade were willing to do quite a bit. It was also a matter of not just getting a recording budget that was acceptable to us. We got less of a recording budget, but some of that money was actually put into the tour fund of the contract so we never again have to experience a situation where we have finished recording an album and someone would come and say there is no tour fund. It's in the contract now. That made a big difference. That was very important to us. The same change was made to our European contract with Massacre Records. We also have a guaranteed tour fund with them.
Metal Blade had the worldwide rights to King Diamond for Abigail II, but that is not the case now, of course. Massacre gave us an excellent offer for Europe. They regretted bitterly having not kept up the bidding for the Abigail II album. There are so many factors involved in these contracts. It's not just that a label has a band or not. Reputation is also a factor. For Massacre having King Diamond on the label means that in Portugal, for instance, they can get a better distributor. They might be able to get a better distributor because they have King Diamond. The distributor there might say that because Massacre has King Diamond we will take the label and its other band on. That helps Massacre sell more albums of other bands through the better distributor. These things mean quite a bit to these record labels. It is important who they can say they have on their roster. They really felt the difference when we weren't there for that album. They told us. They really regretted it. We wanted to go back too. We had no problem with Massacre. Metal Blade had offered us a better deal, you know. Otherwise, the difference is not that big between the two labels. I couldn't tell you a bad thing about Massacre Records. The new live album has just been released in Europe as a standard double-disc, digipak double-disc and triple vinyl album. They are really thorough and go all-out with that stuff. We are in a very good situation now. We are very happy now. I wish the downloading stuff would go away though. It makes it difficult to survive. I have to say things are going well anyway.
METALLIAN: What is the rationale behind releasing a live album now? Live albums made more sense in the '70s and '80s because video technology was limited and if a fan didn't live close to a band's touring itinerary then a live album was the only way to experience the show. With the advent of technology videos are universally available and releasing an audio-only CD is not as smart anymore.
KING DIAMOND: Many bands still release live albums that are not accompanied by video. We would love to do a video part, so would Metal Blade and Massacre, but not of the US tour we did. It is because of the costs again. It can be done a little bit better and a little bit cheaper in Europe. Both labels want to be in it together. There are negotiations for a new DVD to be filmed during the next European tour. That's been the plan all the time. Given the price differences it can be the difference between shooting with eight cameras instead of six cameras. you get a better post-production, editing and so on. The company Massacre works with has its own in-house editing suite which makes things cheaper.
It makes all the sense in the world for us to have a live album out though. We have never had, what I call, a real live album. We never had a live album where we had control over mixing the levels of vocals, guitars, bass, drums and the audience too. That makes this record very special. You hear a lot of the audience even when the band plays. On live albums they turn the audience down and turn it back up towards the end of the song. Here you hear the album all the way through. It makes sense because at our gigs the fans sing along and respond to so many things happening on stage and you will hear these responses on the live album. Every time you hear the audience I know exactly what happened on stage because I was there. Those fans will also know because they've seen the show. That makes it very authentic. The music cuts through too very well and you hear the audience as if you were. It has turned out to be the second best thing to being there. You never get the feeling at home of being in front of a PA system, of course not, but it's as close to being there as possible.
The album is not meant as a 'best of' live thing either because there are songs that are not there, like Abigail and stuff like that, but that was not the point. That is the kind of thing you do when the career is about finished, you know. That's what I feel anyway. We documented King Diamond on tour in the US in 2003.
There are other DVDs that we are working on - two retro DVDs. One is for Mercyful Fate and the other is for King Diamond. They will feature old materiels from the early days. I call them official bootlegs. It is not a bootleg that has ever been out on the bootleg market though. No one has ever seen this stuff. There is some very good picture quality and the sound is acceptable for all instruments. These are things like Mercyful live in Copenhagen in 1982 which is even before Michael Denner was in the band. There is some very rare footage there, plus behind the scenes stuff. So in the next couple of months beside writing material for the next studio album I will be going through that stuff. I have 35 DVDs of material, but the majority is stuff people have seen and those I am not interested in. I don't want to release anything people have seen even on the bootlegs - even though not many people have seen them.
METALLIAN: When do you expect the DVDs will be released?
KING DIAMOND: Wow, that I can't say anything about. I have to go through these things. I have seen excerpts from these things, but I have now selected the ones I want to see fully to make sure the quality is good all the way through. I will first go through the Mercyful Fate material and then go through the King Diamond stuff. Then later in the year I will have Brian Slagel of Metal Blade come here, as he has a couple of times, and we will decide what has quality and would be interesting for the fans to watch. Is something too boring and what should go and what should stay. Then we will pick material for an interesting ritual DVD that shows a lot of the early stuff.
METALLIAN: Going back to the current release, the sound is excellent for a live album. Are there any overdubs on the album...
KING DIAMOND: No, the album is from different shows and if you really listen in detail you will hear that the sound is different from show to show. We couldn't get them to sound identical the whole way through. If you listen to the album from beginning to end it sounds like it's one concert, which is what we wanted, but the album is from a variety of different shows. So we used all the best takes for each song and then put in the right sequence. There is only one change. We edited the spaces between the encores because they were too long. We would leave the stage and come back after three minutes which is just too long for a CD. If you listen to different songs from the two discs you can hear that the guitars are a little too trebly here and there. Like I told you the first live album was off cassette tapes and so we could not mix them. Here we had the audience exactly where we wanted it. Listening to this material I realized things I had not realized before like if you listen to the solos, Andy has more of a tendency to do this than Mike, when a fast solo is finished Andy often has a long feedback note hanging there. It keeps hanging for a while. Mike does not do that so often. When I heard that I thought it to be so wild because now I know where I am on stage at that time because it is the same from night to night. Now I understand why on certain passages I am over at Mike's side for instance. I don't count beats because they always play the same solos. I never count. I listen to where they are on the solo and I come in on the verse when it's time. At the end of a solo if I am standing close to Andy I drift over to Mike. I guarantee you that every time. I now know why. Andy has that tendency to finish his solo with that hanging note until he finds the right spot to jump back into the rhythm. If I stand on his side I can't hear what to sing to! If I just have a note hanging there is no riff to sing to, there is no key really. There might be a key, but there is no riff to sing to and I need a riff to sing. That's why I automatically drift to Mike. I never thought of it before.
METALLIAN: So there are no overdubs whatsoever?
KING DIAMOND: No.
METALLIAN: Why is the album called Deadly Lullabyes and does it allude to The Spider's Lullabye album?
KING DIAMOND: No no no, there is no reference to Spider. It is called Deadly Lullabyes because of the cover shot. That is a live shot from our live intro and we were going through different pictures and picked that one. I am standing over the coffin and have taken the doll out of the coffin. You can see the blue light coming from below me. The cover shot came first. It's from Funeral. It looks like I am singing a lullaby to this infant.
METALLIAN: Is Merycful Fate on indefinite hiatus?
KING DIAMOND: Well, I can't give you an answer. I can tell you that Mercy has a contract for a studio album with Metal Blade for America and with Massacre for Europe. When that will happen I simply don't know. King Diamond has been so busy. Things are going so well for us. King Diamond always sold more and always got better contracts. To be quite honest, there must be a break in the workload of King Diamond to allow Mercyful Fate to do an album. Mercy does not have the budget. Mercy does not have Andy La Rocque in the band and we use Andy's equipment with King Diamond. Mercyful Fate would have to hire Andy to do an album if we wanted to do it the same way. That means that Mercyful Fate has higher expenses to do an album with less budget.
If there was only Mercyful Fate, I would not be doing music now. There is no chance. Mercyful Fate has become... you can say if I participate in a Mercy album I will not make a cent. So it would be for fun and to kill time. King Diamond is band we can live off of. So, of course, King Diamond is the first priority. I love doing what I do, but that's the hardcore truth of it. At the same time it's actually been nice not to flip back and forth between the two and actually stay with one. Things are falling into place and you can hear the results on The Puppet Master. That album has so many new things. King is more theatrical, but in a very positive way. That has a lot to do with us doing King Diamond without flipping back to Mercyful Fate. For me it's not a negative thing. It is nice to concentrate on one. At the same time King Diamond is more fulfilling because it's a bigger challenge. Every time the King Diamond stories work it is a big satisfaction. It is also more fun to be on stage with King Diamond than with Mercyful Fate. That's just a fact because King Diamond is so theatrical and there is so much to do. That doesn't mean I don't like Mercyful. I always have and I always will, but King Diamond was started by me and is my baby, you know?
King Diamond's new album is a live double-CD called Deadly Lullabyes and was released on September 21st.