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DIAMOND HEAD (2019)


Type:
INTERVIEW
Genre:
THRASH
When Diamond Head legends first lend themselves to a question-and-answer test, it gives a lot of humility, candor and generosity...
PHILX - 24.05.2019
Hard to believe but it was the first promotional day carried out by Diamond Head, a somewhat cursed heavy metal legend who inspired the biggest names in the metal scene in its broadest sense. 



What is the question you have been asked too often?


Brian Tatler: I would probably say where the name of the band comes from.... Even today, we still had it, but I would say that none of them really bother me, I'm ready to answer everything!





Our first real question is why you are still dealing with such a career and discography today. Don't you fear the blank page?

Brian: Good question.... It gets more complicated with age, when you're in a certain comfort, it's harder to get out. But I still like to create. I find it fascinating to be able to assemble songs from scratch, and THE song you dream of writing can happen at any time! I'm very proud of what I see when I look in the mirror, but this feeling of imagining that maybe there's this perfect song still to come is incredible.





But isn't it frustrating, after all these years of career and mythical titles, to be limited only to a finite and limited number of notes, chords and scales? You've been through a lot over the years!

Brian: I know exactly what you mean. It is indeed quite frustrating to be limited with the same constraints of 12 notes, etc. but in the end, we all have the same tools to create. If people still manage to propose something new with this finite amount of notes, rhythms, words, to perpetually reinvent the wheel, it's already incredible in itself when you think about it! Look at the millions of songs composed in rock and metal alone... When I compose, I still have to ask myself the question "Haven't I already used this riff? Or maybe someone else did something similar? "Maybe I thought I was innovating when someone had had the idea before. It happens, but I like the creative process. If this album took about 2 years to develop from start to finish, creativity represents only a tiny part of the global process.

Karl Wilcox: As I often say, it's 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. You have all these tools and most of the time, it's all about arrangement.


We also talk about frustration because with such a career, the fans who come to applaud you on stage often wait for the classics, so we can imagine that you think "why bother, we have enough titles to satisfy everyone?" You could shoot on a best of basis.... 

Karl: I've talked about it a lot with Brian. We would have plenty to hold on to for 2h30 just with the classics, without becoming boring in addition....

Brian: Besides, we've already toured without having anything new. That's what we do in festivals, we stick to the classics, with 1 or 2 songs from the last one. And it's not that frustrating because we compose for ourselves. I like the process of creating art, if it doesn't please everyone, too bad, but the goal that inspired me to bring it out from the depths of my being has been achieved. 

Karl: This is also the case with many bands where fans are very enthusiastic about the classics and much less about the new songs. All of them, even. And these songs that few people know are risky enough because everyone is getting excited about what they can sing with the band.

Brian: I also like to replace some classics with newer ones, to constantly change the setlist before it is too expected and boring to play. 





We have the feeling that Rasmus Bom Andersen is the ideal singer for Diamond Head and that he has his place for a while. Was Nick's departure after only 10 years a big challenge and did you feel cursed with all these line up changes?


Brian: No, really, it happens to all bands.


We can imagine, yes, but this bitter feeling of saying "we've been here since the beginning, and we've seen a certain number of members, we're involved in a project, why can't they?"

Brian: It's quite difficult at our level. We don't make a fortune, we don't have a huge crew, we just have a management team with us, but everything else is done by us, so I can understand that people don't want to keep doing the dirty work. Nick moved to Brisbane in 2008 which made travel and registration very expensive and complicated. We met in 2013 and decided that our singer should live in England!

Karl: Eddie had already told us about "Ras". He had helped us out on a festival in Germany, everything went well and when we saw that Nick couldn't tour anymore, Ras replaced him and we made him official!


Already since the penultimate eponymous album, the title of this one is not chosen at random, as a message you want to convey on the presence of the band in the landscape. It seems that this album is very important for the band, a kind of new beginning. Newly signed with a major label, do you see it as a new chapter?

Brian: Yes, totally. I've wanted to make an album for a long time since "What's in your Head", but there was the story with NIck, so all we could do was tour in festivals, try to keep the band together. With Ras, we wanted to see if we could write, it wasn't just a matter of playing live, but of seeing what it would be like, and it worked! It became quite obvious that we were capable of it, without knowing if it would be unanimously accepted, we can only hope. This idea of a new album came naturally. 


This album was very successful, but didn't you think it came very late and didn't have the success it deserved? Like Anvil, a cult but cursed in terms of numbers?

Brian: Coherence is part of a group's career. Diamond Head stopped twice, and the two albums made with Nick were released on Cargo Records, which doesn't have much money.

Karl: To think that we would have wasted our time would be the angle that sees the glass half empty. If you saw it half full, you'd think you'd still be here, probably making the best album in a very, very long time. We can't worry about where we might be. Our only concern is to do our songs justice when we play them on stage. It's been a long time since we've signed with a major label, with a management that knows what to do with us. To put it in cliché, I'd say the stars are lining up again. We can't do any more for the moment, the album is out! We know we're the best band in the world, I wouldn't want to be the one playing right after us!





Speaking of stars lining up, of a certain renewal, do you feel like newcomers? 

Karl: Yes, I think it has something to do with Ras and Ash (Dean Ashton, editor's note), our new bass player. These guys are 20 years younger than us, they master social networks and take their place in our lives. They can connect with people we couldn't reach, Brian and I. They bring the group's image to life.

Brian: A lot of people didn't know Ras before he joined the group. We have somehow "exposed" him to the world, we give him a chance to be heard. He's been in the music business for a while now and this latest album is decisive, he's been very involved. We want people to see the talent he has, and its importance so that the group can become one. 


This latest album, "The Coffin Train", is very dynamic and balanced, between fast songs and mid-tempo. Songs like 'Belly of the Beast' or 'Death by Design' are extremely powerful. This heavy metal, at the limit of speed is a trademark you want to keep, as if to show young shoots that Diamond Head is the base since the beginning of the 80's?

Brian: One of the bases probably is, with Judas Priest and Motörhead. I've always liked fast songs and I quickly realized that they worked very well live. I love'It's Electric' or those kind of fast songs that galvanize you like a "Go out and party" on a Friday night. I couldn't make nits anymore. 


However, this album includes more melodic, almost melancholic songs like'The Coffin Train','The Phoenix', or'Until we Burn' in which we find a very 70's groove like Uriah Heep, UFO or Led Zeppelin.

Brian: I'm a huge Led Zeppelin fan. We all are. The melody is essential, I loved the way Black Sabbath had to bring a great riff, and an incredible "top line". It's something I've tried to keep as well. It's a whole, Ras has the heavy task of finding these top lines and when he finds them, it works like a charm.


We even have an epic aspect in this very varied album with the title "The Sleeper". Very, very heavy songs like 'The Messenger' could also remind us of Sabbath, and overflowing with emotion with'Serrated Love'. Why did you seek so much dynamics, almost to avoid linearity, as many groups do?

Brian: We always have. Diamond Head is not just a speed band, and you can see it with 'Ishmael' on "Canterbury",'In The Heat of the Night' on "Borrowed Time". We've always tried to mix different styles. Indeed, Metallica's covers were mainly fast songs, perhaps distorting people's perception of our music. But it's something I'm very attached to, starting with only one voice, mixing shadow and light, going up and down, not just a big blow in the mouth. 


So we have these epic songs, a little progressive with'Serrated Love' or'The Sleeper' again. Progressive often rhymes with pure technique, as speed is in speed, do you want to boost the image of prog as Deep Purple or Uriah Heep did? 

Brian: Diamond Head is not a prog band, but has had some influences. I've always liked prog. Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush... it's a hard genre to play when you're a teenager, I couldn't play like Steve Hackett. But over time, I improved and managed to develop my music more. The prog is not far in Diamond Head.... I listen to a lot of bands from the 70s. 





Musically, we love the work of the guitars with these remarkable solos and riffs. The instrumental parts are very successful, in the pure spirit of the 70s and 80s. Were you looking to reproduce a duet with Andy?

Brian: Yes, it does make sense. We are very different in our approaches and fortunately because if he played like me, there would be no interest. I often let him sail, explore. Sometimes I think he goes too far, he's a big Guthrie Govan fan and I think it's too far from Diamond Head, so I play the role of quality manager by telling him "watch out, man, we're getting too far away, come back!" (laughs). I hope that the fans will realize his talent as a guitarist and we ask each other a lot, to look for the best of ourselves, to show what we have learned. "The Phoenix" is a song he wrote, he plays all the solos, and I tried to be as generous as possible to leave him solos (laughs).


What do you expect from this album ?

Karl: As this is our first album on such a label in a long time, with a team dedicated to management, the first concert after the release of the album will be at the Hellfest (Friday 16h45 under the Temple, Editor's note), the dice will be thrown, we will see it to the public. Of course we want it to work, to sell, to be successful. Surrounded as we are, we can afford to hope. We're lucky to be in front of you today, talking about our album coming out, it's something we've never done before.

Brian: I've been in the band for 40 years, I've never done a promotion day like this before! That's great! That's great! The album before this one had been very well received, it had been a great surprise, hopefully this one does even better, we worked a lot on it.


This weekend, you're going back to shoot two clips...

Brian: Yes, we're going to shoot 'Shades of Black' and'The Messenger'. That'll be five in all. 

Karl: And you see, that's also new for us, we've never done so much! We try new things, we're always hungry, and you can see it on stage. Honestly, I wouldn't want to go after us. We're not pretending. Either you love it or you're going to learn to love it (laughs).





We started with the question that we asked you too often, on the contrary, what is the one you would have liked to answer?

Karl: I don't know, we said everything we wanted!

Brian: Maybe my favorite song from the album that would probably be 'The Coffin Train', with a lot of dynamics and a great construction. It gives the impression of pushing the climax further, it's not easy to do. In the end, you're almost out of breath.


Thanks to you, I'll see you at the Hellfest!

Brian: Great, we'll be looking for you to point the finger at you, I'm good at that!


Thanks to Noise for her contribution....


More informations on http://www.diamond-head.net/
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