2011. április 30., szombat

Mercyful Fate - fourth part

Then on April 30th, you began to work on the next release for the next 19 days, once again at Easy Sounds Studios, when did you start wrting the song for this second album, that became the excellent Don’t Break The Oath? Did the songcomposing something/somehow change compared to Melissa?
We wrote songs all along as we rehearsed after Melissa. There was no change to how we composed/arranged the songs. But the songs came pretty fast one after the other.
Were you more prepared then with the previous release?
Yes I think we were better prepared after having done it once before. We learned what not do and we knew how to improve our recording. It always helps with a little more experience. You learn things all the time.
On June 10th 1984, the band performed at the prestigious Heavy Sounds Festival in Poperinge, Belgium and beside Mercyful Fate, the bill also featured Motörhead, Twisted Sister, Metallica, Baron Rojo, Lita Ford, H-Bomb and Faithful Breath, what kind of memories do you have considering this festival?
Oh it was great. We had a lot of fun with especially Motörhead, Metallica and Twisted Sister. I remember sitting in the dressing room, when everything suddenly went black. I looked up and saw Dee Snider walking in the door to say hi to us. Man – he was big as a house and blocked the entire doorway. And of course we hung out with Metallica. When we went on stage it was early afternoon and the sun was burning down, so it was quite a sweaty performance.
Does it mean, that you did/hold a little break during the recording sessions? Did you perform some new tunes on this festival?
Was that in the middle of our recording? I can’t really remember, but you might be right. I think we played a couple of songs from the new album at the festival, but I’m not sure how many.
It was actually the first time the band played outside during the daylight, playing when the sun is shining doesn’t really fit to the songs which are quiet dark, so it loses too much of its atmosphere, but its a necessary evil as the band had to do it anyway, even though they preferred playing in the dark, how do you view it?
As I said above the sun was burning down on us when we went on stage, but we took it with good humor and made the most of it. We performed like we would have done anywhere else at night.
In May 1984, Mercyful Fate returned to Easy Sound Studios with producer Henrik Lund for the recording of their second full-length album, was it obvious for you working again Henrik with? Would you say, that you were on the same wavelength considering the work, the recording sessions?
We thought that Henrik did a great job on the first album, so it was natural to work with him again, and in my opinion it worked out quite satisfying. Don’t break the Oath is still one of my favorite albums with both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond.
How much did Henrik help for you? Did he suggest some ideas, riffs etc.?
He had of course some inputs to different things concerning the sound on the album, but the composition of the songs he never interfered with.
What about the recording sessions? Did you have a decent budget, more time to record the album?
Not really. But we didn’t need much time for recording as we rehearsed as much as we did. We knew the songs my heart and had everything worked out before we went into the studio.
Since Melissa became an influential masterpiece, a classic, were you under pressure considering the new album? Did the fans have a high expectation?
It rather think that we ourselves expected an even better 2nd album and I think we made it. I know Melissa has become a classic with many MF fans, but I still think Don’t break the Oath came out a little heavier.
It’s finally on August 10th 1984 that was released the album Don’t Break The Oath, which had to become another heavy metal classic album…Do you think, that the guitar playing is more technical, the bass and drum-work tighter and vocally and lyrically come close to the evil atmosphere King Diamond spews forth?
Yes as I mentioned above I think we were very well prepared for this album. And for my own part I had improved my bassplaying. I was far happier with my bass playing on Don’t break the Oath. And I also thing the guitars were better worked out.
The album is conceptually tight as a whole and tells a diabolical tale of Satanism, which for this era (the early 80s), was unheard of, how do you view this?
At the time when we recorded the album I found it very interesting to do a concept album, and I think King got a great horror story out of it.
The guitar solos are all unique in approach and technique and the rhythm playing is just as good as the solos, they have two very different styles yet they have a wonderful chemistry, correct?
Yes absolutely right. Michael and Hank worked so well together as guitarists, even though the are completely different in their style of playing. Michael Denner plays with a lot of feeling while Hank plays more aggressive. I’ve always compared them a little with the guitar pair in Judas Priest.
Is it correct, that many songs on the album previously appeared on some of the band’s earlier demos, sometimes under different titles, with different lyrics and arrangements? Did these songs change, develope a lot compared to their earlier, original versions? Did they become heavier?
Yes we played several of the songs earlier under different names. We worked on the songs as we rehearsed and improved some of the songs along the way. And yes I think we played the songs heavier along the way.
Some of them were actually written even before Melissa was done, such as Come To The Sabbath among others and this song, as well as The Oath were ready by the time the band did the Melissa album, but you preferred keeping it for the following album, right?
Yes thats right. We saved the songs because we thought that they didn’t really fit in on Melissa. And therefore we saved them for the 2nd album, so we could include them on the concept album.
Did sometimes the band end up in fights over whose songs were going on the album, because everybody wanted their own songs on the album?
No we actually agreed on the songs without any fights. We had the same kind of ideas about how the albums should be, and we always worked it out piecefully.
As for you, did you have a great hand in the songcomposing? Did you write your bassparts yourself?
I never wrote any of the songs, but I wrote my own bassparts. That was something I insisted on. Nobody interferes with my basslines. Of course we could talk about it if King for an example thought I did a little too much „running” on the bass when he had some singing parts. But we always worked it out without getting mad at each other.
Another song that was written for a while and ended on this album was A Dangerous Meeting, which was originally called Walking Back To Hell, and then retitled Death Kiss, wasn’t it?
Yes A Dangerous Meeting was originally called Walking Back to Hell and then Death Kiss before we rearranged it slightly and called it A Dangerous Meeting. It was mostly down to that King wasn’t happy with his lyrics and changed then a couple of times.
The song Welcome Princess Of Hell, was supposed to be Welcome Princes Of Hell, it was a title misprint, where the lyrics were correctly written in the original pressing but the title wasn’t…Is this the album that gained you real worldwide exposure? Were you on your peak at this point?
I think this album was the one that really opened op to worldwide exposure, but I wouldn’t say we were at our peak. Perhaps as Mercyful Fate, but personally I didn’t peak until the King Diamond days. By this I mean myself as a bassplayer.
Do you agree with, that, you are every bit as essential to the evolution of metal as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest?
I wouldn’t compare us to those two great bands. They are both more metal than we were. But you could say on the heavy part we were essential to the break through of Heavy Metal all over the world.
The cover of the record is one of the best one in the history of metal…
I agree with you. I think it’s become a classic and the one cover everyone combines to Mercyful Fate.
Soon after its U.S. release on Combat Records, the album became the first underground metal album to reach the Bubbling Under section of the prestigious Billboard magazine album chart; it came in at #202, just two slots of making the Top 200, was the band as „popular” in the U. S. as in Europe?
After the U.S. release we became very popular over there. I think we became even more popular in the U.S. than in Europa.
Shortly after the release of the album, the band fired co-manager John Kibble as you discovered that he recorded their gigs and sold the tapes falselly pretending these were real albums, which pissed off the band due to the lack of quality of these recordings, can you tell us more about it? Does it mean, that John caused a lot of harm for you?
That’s right we had to fire him after we discovered that he sold demo tapes and recordings, but I don’t think it harmed the band. I won’t go into details about the whole thing.
Is it correct the authorities found it and destroyed the whole lot, which represented around 5,000 to 10,000 copies? Didn’t you think about, although John earned a lot of money with the boots, this recordings spread more the band’s name in the underground?
I haven’t heard anything about police involved in this. It might have spread our name faster than it would have normally.
Mercyful Fate became self managed with the help of Ol Bang, a friend of the band who was involved with them since the very beginning, how did he end up becoming the manager?
It was natural as he was taking care of a lot of the things around the band to let us concentrate on playing.
In the following month of October, some American promotors were finally convinced to book the band for an American tour as you gained always more and more success over there, did you surprise about it? Did you have a big name in the U. S.? The initial plan was to do 15 shows in 3 weeks, but as the ticket sales far surpassed expectations, the tour was extended for 19 additional dates…Mercyful Fate headlined their own club tour, then opened for Motrhead on a trek through theatres, were these shows the preparations for the coming U. S. tour? Were they a kind of warm up gigs?
No the first tour in America in 1984 we arranged ourselves. Ole got ahold of different promoters and put a tour together, which a lot of people in the U.S. thought was a very risky thing to do, but it went well and at the end of this tour somebody must have seen our show, because we were signed to start all over on another tour with Motörhead and Canadian band Exciter. During these months we gained a big audience in the U.S. being the kind of band we were.
The band headed to the USA on October 18th, as their first show was scheduled two days later in Portland, Oregon, then on the October 26th, the band was performing in San Francisco, California, how did these shows go? How was playing in San Fransico, where the famous Bay Area scene was born and bands started popping up such as Exodus, Death Angel, Possessed etc. at this point?
The first show in Portland wasn’t great but ok. But the show in San Fransisco was great. We had Metallica on stage with us during the extra songs at the end of the show. That was a great feeling.
By the way, was it your first touring experience in the States?
Yes, we had never been to the States before.
The American Tour then ended on December 16th in Providence, Rhode Island, how about this show?
That was a small club and not many people showed up, but they still got the same show as had it been a full packed arena.
Further dates in Norfolk and Pittsburgh were canceled as local promoters were pressured by religious groups to ban the group from performing as Mercyful Fate’s reputation had actually preceded them, the band even landed on the front cover of the biggest news papers in America, USA Today and The Globe, stating in a headline Satanic rockers threaten our kids, what do you recall of it?
We all laughed about it. We couldn’t really take it seriously.
Do you agree with, that the American tour was completed with success? Did you feel good in the States? What kind of experiences did you gain during that U. S. tour?
I think we completed the U.S. tour with success. It was great to tour the States and it gave us a great experience, plus it matured the band regarding live performances.
Some frictions within the band began to arise regarding the musical direction the band had to take after that, what happened? Wouldn’t have been those problems unavoidable? Did the problems envenom the connection of the band members? Is it true, that a rift had sprouted between Hank and the other members, leading to the fabled reports of Hank wearing pink sweatsuits onstage while his bandmates still prowled the boards in black leather and spikes?
There were some differences in the opinion of what kind of music the band should do. Hank wanted to add a little funky stuff in songs for the next album, but both King, Denner and I said STRONGLY no way. And eventually it led to Hanks departure from the band. He did wear pink sweat pants on stage once or twice, but I think that was as much to provoke the rest of us, but we kept doing the same show.
Anyway, the band then came back home for a well-deserved Christmas break, but pretty short as you were booked to appear on the German Christmas Metal Meeting Tour, which lasted from December 26th through December 30th and the bill also comprised of Motörhead, Helix, Girlschool and Talon, was it a good gig by the way?
It was. We had gotten real close with Motörhead during the U.S. tour, so it was just like being with „ole friends” again. And it was a good oportunity to talk to Girlschool again.
In the beginning of 1985, the band was preparing material for their next album, did you have already some songs written or only rhythms, riffs, ideas?
At the time it was only ideas, though some riffs had been put together during our touring, but most of the material was written when we came home.
Do you something know about, that at the end of February, Hank stopped by King’s apartment to play him a tape of riffs and ideas he prepared for the upcoming album, King also had 5 tracks ready which were a direct continuation of the style displayed on the previous albums? Is the material Hank had was in a completely different direction as it was much softer and even funky in certain places?
Like i mentioned above Hank wanted to bring a funky touch to some of the songs, and King, Denner and I wouldn’t hear of it. Mercyful Fate was a heavy band, not a funky dance band.
Why did Hank want to change the band’s musical direction? Was he fed up of playing metal or…?
At the time being i think he was fed up and simply changed as a person.
How about you, Kim and Michael? What were your goals considering the band’s future career? Neither Hank and King wanted to compromise, and this situation left King with only one sensible choice; leaving Mercyful Fate and starting a band of his own, right? Is it true, that for the next month King kept his decision a secret from the rest of the band while laying out plans for a future on his own?
No. King, Denner and I had a good talk about it all and we decided to try and get an even better record deal than the one we already had, and the only way we could do that, was to close down the band Mercyful Fate. We agreed on that our fans would connect Kings name to Mercyful Fate, and that’s why we started King Diamond Band. That was King, Denner and I.
Would you say, that from this point did start forming the King Diamond Band, along with you, Michael Denner and drummer Mikkey Dee? How did he get in the picture exactly? Were you a four piece at this point?
You’ve got it all wrong. Let me tell you in a few words how it all happened. We knew Mikkey from a Danish band called Geisha, so we asked him if he would like to join our new line up. Fortunately he joined us immediately. We also got a hold of a friend of Mikkey's from Gothenburg (Floyd Konstantine) who came over and played with us for a while as we were waiting for a new contract to be drawn. By the time we were about ready to go into the studio to record the new material we agreed that Floyd wasn’t the right guitarist for our band. So Mikkey got hold of yet another friend from Gothenburg (Andy LaRoque), and he came down to Copenhagen, and we all clicked at once. So the new King Diamond band was born.
Even after its demise, Mercyful Fate was still causing controversy as in the summer of 1985, an organization, formed by American senator’s wives, called the P.M.R.C. (The Parents Music Resource Center) published the infamous Filthy Fifteen List, that was a list of the fifteen songs that the P.M.R.C. considered the most harmful for young people; among others, such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and W.A.S.P., but there was also Mercyful Fate on this list, regarding the song Into The Coven, were you aware of it?
Yes we heard about it, but again we could only laugh about it.
Now that the band was no more existing, Hank went on his side forming his new band called Fate, King, on his side, started on a new band simply called King Diamond, while drummer Kim Ruzz, decided to call it quits for the musical scene as he was not asked to follow King because Michael did not get along with him at all and they even had a fist fight on tour, right?
Yes Hank formed his own band and King, Denner and I continued as King Diamond Band with Mikkey Dee and Andy LaRoque. It was actually me that had not a fist fight with Kim Ruzz, but he wasn’t my favorite person. Let’s just leave it with that.
You recorded several singles and two records with the King Diamond Band, what were the differences and similarities between Mercyful Fate and KDB? Could you tell us more about both about Fatal Portrait and about Abigail?
Well the music was still heavy but with a little twist of classical music in some riffs. And as a band we developed a more theater like performance with different costumes that we thought fitted with our stage show.
Two compilations (The Beginning – 1987 and Return Of The Vampie – 1992) were released under the moniker of Mercyful Fate, did these releases keep the band’s name alive? Did the band leave its mark on the scene?
People still remembered Mercyful Fate as we toured around the States and Europe.
Would you say, that Mercyful Fate has (or would have) a place in the Hall Of Fame of Metal?
It would surely be a great honour, but I’m not sure we were big enough to have a place in Hall of Fame of Metal.
Once again you returned, as you played on Mercyful Fate’s comeback album In The Shadows, how did this reunion (comeback) come into being? How long did it take ’til King and Hank buried the hatchet?
It was Brian Slagel from the record label who wanted to reunite Mercyful Fate. So we just met and agreed that we would do this album. There weren’t really anything between King and Hank other than musical differences. We have all kept contact ever since the early days.
Why wasn’t Kim Ruzz interested in playing Mercyful Fate again?
Nobody had really talked to Kim at the time, so we found another drummer – Morten – who went into the studio with us.
Do you agree with, that everything from the early ’Fate days are here considering the In the Shadows album, such as excellent dual lead work, powerful bass, and King’s unique vocals? Is the main element that makes this album so great is the atmosphere?
I think we actually got the sound very a like a the early Fate stuff. I was quite satisfied with the album, and it was great to be together again.
How did the old, classic Return Of The Vampire make up on the record? Did you something change on the tune? Why wasn’t the song on the early Mercyful Fate classics released?
Return of the Vampire sounded just like I remembered us playing it live in the old days. As far as I remember we didn’t change anything on the song. The reason why it never made on the early albums were that we saved it for later. It didn’t really fit in the album material we wrote back then.
How did Lars Ulrich end up drumming on this tune?
Lars and the rest of Metallica have always loved the old heavy tunes from Mercyful Fate, and we knew they were on tour an had a week off in Mexico at the same time as we were in the studio in Dallas. So we called up Lars and asked him if he would like to make a guest appearence on the album and he had a quick word with Metallicas manager and called us back and confirmed. So we flew him in from Mexico together with his drum tech (my old brother in law). I had my son with me from Denmark to Dallas when we recorded, so he was very excited that he was gonna meet his uncle Flemming in America. And we had great fun while he was with us in the studio, and he actually loved playing the old Mercyful Fate classic Return of the Vampire.
Two years ago you released a two song single including Evil (2009 Version) and Curse of the Pharaohs (2009 Version) and these two songs were also be available as a limited edition 12-inch vinyl picture disk from both Metal Blade and Massacre Records, what can you tell us about this release?
Nothing really. I haven’t heard about this. I haven’t really been in contact with others than Denner and Hank for the last 5-6 years.
How about you these days? Are you still a metal fan?
I still love heavy/metal music, but these days I spend most of my spare time in the local football club FB, where I take care of our 1st teams kit and have everything ready for each training and match. We play in the 4th best league in Denmark.
What kind of stuffs do you listen to? Do you still follow what’s going on in the metal scene?
I listen to many different styles of music these days, but I still prefer heavy metal. This music can still make me drift away in my old memories og those great days. I don’t know a lot of the new young bands turning up. When I listen to metal it’s mostly the old stuff.
How would you sum up your career in Mercyful Fate? What were the greatest and the worst moments with the band? So the highlights and lowpoints?
I had some very good years with Mercyful Fate and the rest of the guys in the band. We got quite close from being so much together as we were. I think one of the greatest moments was being discovered more or less in the Dynamo Club in Eindhoven and coming back there again. One of the worst moments was the supposed tour with Manowar, who turned out to be the worst kind of fellow musicians. There was no need for them to be such big assholes to us as they were.
A Mercyful question: what your favourite Mercyful Fate songs and records? Are you proud of being the bassplayer of this legendary, influential band?
My favorite song must be A dangerous Meeting. I loved to play that song. And my favorite album is Don’t break the Oath.
Would you have ever thought that Mercyful Fate will be a great influence for a lot of metalheads and musicians?
No not really, as we were just a bunch of music loving guys who thought it was fun playing together. I’ve heard things from a lot of people after I quit the band(s) about how big influences we have been to other young musicians. I never really looked at us as being big influences, but since I’ve heard so many times from people all over the world I have started to believe that it is actually so, and that makes me VERY proud. To hear from so many people that you’ve actually meant something for them is the biggest achievement you can get in life.
Is the band’s name still big an it is in people’s minds?
Obviously. Whenever the name is mentioned when I’m with some people who doesn’t know I’ve been a part of that, they always go: what? Have you been in one of the greatese heavy bands ever?. That sometimes makes me think that Mercyful Fate has meant a lot and still does. Again that makes me VERY proud.
Timi, thanks a lot for the interview, share us your final thoughts…
Well it’s been a pleasure to share some of my thoughts about the whole world around Mercyful Fate. And it’s always great to be able to share some of my very best memories of my life. I think I had my best years with both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond band. I never regret having been a part of that and I never will. And to all the young promising musicians around: Keep up the good work, work hard and always believe that you could be tomorrows new stars. Stay heavy and all my best wishes for you all.

1 megjegyzés:

Bob McMahon írta...

I absolutely LOVED your interview with Timi Hansen! I've been a fan of KD since the early 90's, specifically because of Mikkey Dee, but just recently have found out about MF. Answered all of my questions about the early days. Great job, keep it up!
Bob McMahon
Ojai, CA