Making it to three decades for any band is a rarity, but when you’ve had to overcome near-death experiences, small-town bullying and worse of all, the grunge boom, 30 years is most definitely something to celebrate. Louise Brown talks to the queen of survival about how there’s 30 more years in her yet
When did you first discover your passion for music?
Doro: “I was three-years-old. The first real experience that totally got me hooked was Little Richard’s ‘Lucille’. That song was so high energy. When I listened to it I thought, ‘I want to do that, I want to sing’. Later I had some contact with some older boys. They had posters of Alice Cooper, Sweet, Slade, T-Rex. I was always singing along to their hard rock records and they thought it was very funny. I was screaming my heart out, I could really yell. They were shocked, they said, ‘Wow, how can a little girl make that noise?’. I was fascinated with all the guys with long hair, like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and the glam rock. And then there was Suzi Quatro, the first girl I heard, I loved her. Metal didn’t exist and when I was 15 then I started my first band. We still didn’t know that it was heavy metal but we just did what we liked and it was really loud, hard, aggressive. By then the metal scene was huge already, not in Germany, but first it was in the Benelux countries, they had a much bigger scene and that is why we signed to a Belgian label, because in Germany there weren’t any labels back then. And we thought the logo was so cool. The logo of Mausoleum had two drops of blood so that was the reason we wanted to sign with that record company. It looked metal; that was all it took.”
How did you discover all the heavy metal sounds coming in from the UK and Benelux. Were there record stores you would hang out in?
“Yeah, I was hanging out from when they opened to when they would close. I always made friends with the guys who worked there and I was spending all my money on records. I remember in school some of the guys wanted to go out with me but said ‘You have to cut that shit out, you’re just spending all your money on records, buy some good jeans’. All the people in my school were listening to different types of music and I remember if you were listening to hard rock, people looked at your weird. Disco was getting really huge and I couldn’t relate. When my taste developed I was pretty much by myself, for the longest time I was the outlaw, so I was always in my favourite record store and music became much more important to me than anything else.”
How did you form your first band?
“All the other kids had some other hobbies and I loved sport too, I must say, but music was always first. After I finished school I wanted to be a graphic artist and I was working on that but suddenly I felt I’m not doing well and then after a couple of months I found out I had tuberculosis and I stayed in hospital for a whole year. I thought ‘Wow, if I ever survive this I want to do something that makes me happy, I want to do music’. Two weeks after I got out of that hospital I had my first band.”
Getting ill at such an important time in your teenage life must have been really hard…
“Yes, I was isolated and when you’re a teenager you wanna look good too and I had so much medication that I lost my hair, and for a heavy metaller hair is important. It was a tough time and that hospital where I was, I must say I never thought in Germany that things like that would exist but it was like one of worst, horror places. It was totally cruel, like a jail and the people were very brutal. I thought I would fucking die. I was too weak to even get up, and I remember the nurse putting my dinner on the table and I had no energy to even crawl out of bed. I don’t know if it was the medication or they give you something to make you lethargic but one time I heard my mum calling me, and I thought it was a dream because she wasn’t allowed to visit me. My mum came to the hospital to get me and said she would really fight for her little kid. I saw all the doctors trying to put my mum in her place and I remember with my naked feet, I was running, people tried to stop me. We escaped and they said they would call the police but my mum just got me and we drove to another hospital. Thank god I survived because in the first hospital I would have died. It was like a nightmare. Maybe that was the reason, when I came out, that my musical taste became even more extreme. No more pop music, it had to be aggressive.
“This is the reason why everything else is cake. When you really face the situation between life and death, it makes you stronger. I think I can take a lot in my life. Even when it gets hard, it’s not the end. You just have to see that you’ve survived.”
You were lucky to have such supportive parents…
“Yes, that’s right. My dad died many years ago but I still feel so close to him. When I got out of the hospital, I guess my parents were so happy that I found something that made me happy so I kind of had some freebies. They just said don’t smoke so many cigarettes, that’s not a good idea, of course, when you have lung tuberculosis. My parents were concerned about me turning to drugs and alcohol, but I told them I have no desire and I was always driving the tour bus, so I always stayed clean and straight. I think that is one of the big reasons why I never lost it, because drugs and alcohol, many of my friends were doing it too much. Sometimes it didn’t turn out so good.”
Wait, you were driving the tour bus? That’s pretty cool!
“Yes, I never looked like a tom-boy, but I think I had tom-boy hobbies. My dad was a truck driver so when I was a kid I was with him and dad was always proud when I was driving the truck. He was working in a steel factory, it was a very male dominated environment, women weren’t even allowed in the factories. Sometimes we would wait for my dad, he would say he’d be two hours, but three, five, ten hours would pass and we’d still be waiting. I think it’s good to learn what it’s like to work hard, to get up at six in the morning. I look at some of our band members, and they never had a job, they’d always just been a musician, sleeping until two in the afternoon and then having a beer, rehearsing an hour and then going back to sleep or partying and they always had a hard time on tour and when we had to be on time. Now I’m glad that I learned it that way.”
What was it like in Dusseldorf when you first formed Warlock? Were you accepted right away?
“I guess for every metalhead or metal band in the beginning, I didn’t feel accepted by normal people. Everyone gave you the looks, they always said, ‘Do you have to wear the bullet belt?’. To be a metal fan or metal musician, you have to get used that not everybody will like you and in the first band it was always difficult to get a rehearsal room. We had one but the normal people, they all got together and formed a coalition against the metal bands and every day when we wanted to go home or I wanted to walk to my car we had to go together, it was a weird time. The people would always throw garbage on our heads, they threw water or piss. It got pretty intense, so many people were against the bands and the metalheads. On the other hand it was great for us, when you’re a metalhead you’re having a strong bond, you were rebellious. On one hand you were hated but on the other, I thought, ‘Fuck you all, I don’t even want to be part of your normal world’.”
The idea of family, especially within the heavy metal community, has always been one of your main themes, could this be why?
“Totally, there was a deep friendship. Later on there were many more bands coming to rehearse in the factory, which still exists. I think now there is something like 600 bands in that factory. Back then, when we started, there was two or three, then ten or 20. But we all got along great. We went to the Rhine River with a generator and we had our Marshall stacks and the police came eventually. We told them we were just having a little concert and they said ‘Okay, just finish your set’ and they were standing there and even headbanging a little bit, it was cool. Back in the day there were no rules, and it was nice to live in freedom. It was a great feeling, to be a witness of the heavy metal scene developing.
“But, I remember when we were first rehearsing, the other bands all said ‘It’s always the fucking Kindergarten band, why do they get the most fans? Why do they get the prettiest chicks’? – because there were always girls hanging around our rehearsal rooms making friends with our guitar player and drummer – we were the youngest band and they called us the Kindergarten band. Some bands said ‘Oh they play like shit, they’re too young’, they didn’t support us too much and then when we got the record deal all hell broke loose. They said ‘The fucking Kindergarten band, now they’ve got a fucking deal too?’. Some bands were just older guys, probably studied all their life and took it so seriously. They’re probably still shaking their head about it. But it was straight from the heart, with a lot of energy, and it was the metal spirit; not thinking about intellectually, just going for it, and that’s what the metal fans loved.”
What do you remember of those early days of Warlock?
“We found the name in an old mystical book, it meant male witch or magician and back then in heavy metal the symbols were a lot of fantasy stuff and magic and demons and of course listening to Dio, the whole fantasy world was important. We had a manager and he said ‘That name sucks’ and then we searched for a different name and for a couple of months we had all these different names but we missed the name Warlock.
“Then when we did the ‘Burning The Witches’ album I remember we had tons of songs, about 60 songs and 10 or 20 which were really fantastic, and maybe 20 songs which were mediocre and maybe 10 songs which really sucked, so when we got together and said we wanted to do a record there was one guy we had to really convince because the bass player said ‘No’. We had to beg on our knees. So, we said we should all pick our favourite songs, everybody had their vote, and this one guy said he only wanted to have the shittiest songs on the record. We all got into a big fight, we told him he’s an arsehole, and he said ‘Yes, and I’m proud of it’. So, another guy took sides with him so the ‘Burning The Witches’ record was actually done of the best songs and of the worst songs.”
Which ones were bad? The whole album is killer!
“Oh god, I don’t remember. I think the best songs were definitely ‘Burning The Witches’, ‘Signs Of Satan’, ‘Homicide Rocker’. I think the not so good songs, oh god, what’s on there? ‘Holding Me’ is a song that’s only okay. Another one which wasn’t finished, oh god, I don’t even have the record anymore. Songs like ‘After The Bomb’, I think they’re okay. Now looking back I love the whole record, it had great memories. Actually when it came back somebody had mixed it and it was so awful. I started freaking out and I thought we were going to split up. The band wanted to split up before the first record had even come out and then actually we met somebody, a sound engineer and he said ‘Maybe I could save your record’. We had no money but because I had a little job I said ‘Well I’ll pay for it’ and so we met our producers, Henry Staroste and Rainer Assmann. They were remixing the record and it came out much better. And then the band got back together but even right from the start, when things got tough people would always quit the band, almost every day.
“Later on, we did the ‘Hellbound’ album and that was actually the first major deal. That was a big step and we had long discussions about if it was the right thing to do as it’s no longer underground. We signed with Polygram and then did ‘True As Steel’, which got us our first time at the Monsters Of Rock Festival in Castle Donington, which was one of my greatest memories of my life, something like 100,000 people going nuts and headbanging like crazy. Then three weeks later we hopped on tour with Judas Priest and then the next tour was actually with Ronnie James Dio.”
1986 was a pretty watershed year for Warlock. Tours with Priest, Dio and WASP and having the honour of being the first female vocalist to perform at Monsters Of Rock, how did that feel?
“I never thought about myself as being a female musician. You had no time to think of that when you go on stage and see the audience. I had no idea that it was such a big festival. My knees were shaking, then when I saw the fans I could feel there was such a good vibe. 1986 was fantastic and being part of a big festival, with all the greatest bands; there was Motörhead, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Bon Jovi. It was like, ‘Wow’, suddenly we were on the same stage as all our heroes. It was so unbelievable and mind-blowing and then I met Lemmy backstage and he said ‘Are you not going to see Ozzy Osbourne?’ I said ‘No, I’m not allowed. They sent me away because I don’t have the right pass’. Then he went up to somebody, I don’t know who and Lemmy just said ‘Give me your pass’, he took my arm and we we went arm in arm to see Ozzy Osbourne.”
Was that the first time you met Lemmy, someone you’ve worked with many times over the years?
“No, the first time was in ’83 or ’84. I was supposed to do this showcase in London and I was the only one as the record company said that only the singer goes. I had some time to kill and I went to a pub, it was my first pub experience. And I walked in and I saw Lemmy and he looked at me and he had this wide smile on his face. He said ‘Are you Doro? Let’s have a drink and a cigarette’. I had a whiskey cola, I wouldn’t want to say no. Later on Lemmy said ‘Hey, don’t you have anything to do?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I have to play a showcase, I have to introduce myself to the English journalists and the record company’ and he said ‘I think you’re pretty late’. I was so drunk. I walked up on stage and I couldn’t remember the lyrics, I just sat on the drum riser, just headbanging a little bit. Everyone was shocked. They said ‘What did you do?’ I said ‘I met Lemmy’ and everybody started laughing and said that was a good excuse, so we got our record deal.
“That was the early ’80s. It was a life and death decision, if the record would come out in England, and everybody forgave me because it was Lemmy. If I didn’t have that excuse I think I probably wouldn’t have made a record. It was always very important to play in England because in England the record company could decide if you got a worldwide deal. God forbid if I’d come home to Dusseldorf and told my band I fucked up.”
The crowds in England, especially at something like Donington were known to be quite the harsh critics, did you ever get any abuse from the crowd?
“I don’t remember anything like that. I just saw 100,000 people, their heads were banging. Some people were throwing mud, that was the thing to do, and ouch, it was hurting like hell. The mud was dry and almost like stones. Lemmy said ‘Wow, I was very impressed with your show’ and I said ‘Really? How come?’ and he said ‘You’re still standing’ [laughs]. So he didn’t comment on the show, or the songs, he just said ‘Yeah, man, you didn’t walk off the stage, that impressed me’.
“I must say, even when they were throwing stuff, it was in the spirit of having fun, and I remember, in some cities, when the punk mentality was mixed in the metal scene, people were spitting. I remember that very much from the WASP tour. After the show I was a little surprised but someone said ‘No, man, they fucking love you, can’t you see that, they were spitting’. I always felt a very loving, supporting spirit. I loved to stagedive and sometimes I got hurt and I was going back on stage with half my hair pulled off because were ripping out my hair to have a little souvenir and then my lips were bleeding but I was so happy and those were the best shows. We were sweaty, bloody but happy. Honestly, in the last 30 years, nothing bad ever happened. I always got treated good. Especially by my colleagues, as you can imagine, being on tour with Dio, Judas Priest, WASP, Scorpions, everybody was very respectful. Never any feeling where I felt second best, or degraded at all.”
What was meeting your heroes like, for example Rob Halford, Dio or Blackie Lawless?
“Oh, we went to start the England tour and I got so sick, and the clubs were much smaller with one dressing room for the band and the support band had to go somewhere else. I was sat on the stairs and I met Blacky Lawless and he said ‘Man, you look like you’re dying’. He said ‘Come with me’ and he told his band members to give me the dressing room and he told me to lay down on the couch and got me some magic potions, some fruit juice, he told me to rest up and sleep and then told me he’d wake me up when it was time to play. When I met Ronnie he said ‘If there is ever a problem on tour, please don’t go to the tour manager, just come directly to me’. It was too good to be true. I learned a lot and I thought that if I ever have a support band I will treat them like gold because I was treated like gold.”
You’re always so positive but in 1987 there were some dark times in Warlock, can you talk about that?
“Actually, it was in 1986 or ’87 I did this little promotional tour in New York and I fell in love so I stayed, and then everything fell into place. I recorded one of my favourite records to this day, the ‘Triumph And Agony’ album and you could feel it was very powerful, there was a great spirit and great artwork. Cozy Powell played drums and it was a fantastic atmosphere. We were in an expensive studio, and I don’t know if it was luck or if someone pushed for it but anyhow we got on heavy rotation on MTV so it was the biggest record. Then everybody said the next record has to be even better and has to sell more so the pressure was on. It was a lot of stress and we were working on the record and then suddenly, after we put out the first advertisements for the posters, I got a notice from a lawyer that we were having a lawsuit because someone else owned the name. It was our merchandiser at the time and he was the manager too. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. We went to court, I was young and I didn’t know how to behave and I was screaming so they took me out of the court room. I was yelling ‘He’s a thief, he has nothing to do with the name’ and I had to wait outside, and the end of the story is that we lost the name. I couldn’t believe it. We didn’t have any money to fight because we already had a very expensive lawyer. The manager took all the money, that was another thing. So we decided to call the next album Doro and then one year later do a record and call ourselves Warlock again but it never got to that. That guy escaped to Turkey, he was gone and the name was gone and everything was thrown into pieces. It was pretty mad and then I did another record with one of my favourite people, I was a big KISS fan, and we did a record with Gene Simmons, so that gave me a major lift again and then I said ‘Okay, fuck this guy with the name, we’ll do it anyhow’. It was like a dream coming true, Gene was such a great guy. I never got over that, even to this day.
“Then a year later I realised the wind was changing. I was listening to the rock station and it was the beginning of the grunge era. I recorded another album in Nashville, the ‘True At Heart’ album and I remember going to deliver it to the record label. I was so excited and they said ‘Does it sound like grunge?’ I said ‘No’. They said ‘Well, we can’t release it’. So that was the first time you could really feel the consequences, that the rock and metal bands weren’t getting a worldwide release anymore. I was hoping that time would go away quick, but it took nine years and I made many, many records that I thought were great, like the ‘Angels Never Die’ record that I made with Jack Ponti in New Jersey, and then we did the ‘Machine II Machine’ record, which was very experimental. Then I did the ‘Love Me In Black’ record, which I think is a little masterpiece, it’s so classy, it doesn’t sound like die-hard metal but I was so happy that I could do it. Then ‘Calling The Wild’ and I felt metal was coming back and there was a song on that album, which is now on the latest bonus CD, of all my favourite cover songs, and that song was ‘Egypt’ by Dio. He told me he loved that version. I heard many times on the radio, when the journalist would say to him to chose a song by another band that he would choose that song.”
You’re a true survivor, Doro. You made it to three decades, through all the ups and downs and are still performing and writing albums. Do you think you’ll ever stop?
“I hope that I can do 30 more years. I would love to do this until the day I die. I’m about to turn 50 in June. I have no problem with it. It’s all cool with me. Actually it’s funny, when I think about it, like I said, they called us the fucking Kindergarten band, I still feel like that. I do feel like I just started. I hope there will be many more records and many more tours.”
Originally printed in Iron Fist #10
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