By David E. Gehlke
German metal queen Doro Pesch is many things to many people, but not least of all, she is unflinchingly positive. There is not a trace of bitterness in her voice about the 1989 collapse of WARLOCK, her influential breakout band, nor the subsequent rough patch that she and so many of her peers endured throughout the 1990s. The industry has not always been so kind to Doro and she occasionally made some questionable career choices, namely 1995's commercial rock-oriented "Machine II Machine", but Doro is able to put a positive spin on all of it, including the bold move to stage drive-in shows during the pandemic, which generated pointed comments from her fellow German metal musicians. To Doro, they were another reason to abide by her underlying principle of staying busy.
Doro is back with her first studio album in five years, "Conqueress — Forever Strong and Proud", just in time for her 40th anniversary as a recording artist. The effort features two guest spots from JUDAS PRIEST's Rob Halford, bringing the Metal God and Metal Queen face-to-face for the first time. Beyond that, "Conqueress" is another rock-solid slab of Teutonic metal that comfortably sticks with the hard-driving, anthem-laden and ballad-driven style she's employed since the early 2000s. After some pleasantries and a sneak preview of the "Conqueress" gatefold vinyl layout (we spoke over Zoom),Doro and BLABBERMOUTH.NET got down to business.
Blabbermouth: You've been doing a lot of collaborations of late. What do you get out of them?
Doro: "It's the most important thing for me. For each album, it's the icing on the cake. It's an honor to work with people I love and inspire me. On this album, I have two duets with Rob Halford. I can't believe it! It was my first tour in Europe in 1986. Before, WARLOCK did some touring in smaller clubs, but this was our first big tour. They were so nice to us. I always loved Rob. He was the biggest inspiration, along with [Ronnie James] Dio, Lemmy [Kilmister, MOTÖRHEAD] and David Coverdale [WHITESNAKE]. We did the 'Monsters Of Rock' festival in '86. Before I walked onstage, I didn't know it was such a big festival. But 80,000 people were there. It was like, 'Oh my god!' I walked toward the stage and I saw Lemmy. Lemmy said, 'Hey! Have a good show.' He asked, 'Are you nervous?' I was shaking, but then he took me in his arms and kissed me on my head. I ran onstage and still felt his wet kiss, but I felt like a million bucks. The show was great. Then people said, 'Let's give this little band a chance.' A couple of weeks later, we hopped on tour with PRIEST. Then, it was with W.A.S.P. Then we went over to the States and opened for MEGADETH. Rob and I have always been friends. We meet up a lot at festivals. Last year, we played Hellfest in France. We were hanging out backstage, talking. Then I told Rob that I'm celebrating my 40th anniversary next year and we're finishing the new album. We looked at each other and I said, 'Hey, Rob. Wouldn't it be time to do something?' He said, 'Absolutely! Let's do it.' My favorite album of theirs is 'British Steel'. I was born and raised with British heavy metal and that album especially. I said it would be an honor if he would do something with me. He asked, 'What song would you like to do?' I said, ''Living After Midnight' because it makes people feel good.' I sang it sometimes in the '80s when we were on tour with other bands and we wanted to meet onstage during the encore. This was before 'All We Are' [WARLOCK]. People asked, 'What kind of song should we do?' We said, 'Breaking The Law' or 'Living After Midnight'. I still have bootleg footage. It was hilarious. Rob said, 'Let's do it!' He said, 'I have a wish. I wanted to do a song with you for a long time.' I said, 'Really? With me?' He said, 'Yes. I would love to do [Bonnie Tyler's] 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart'.' So we have two duets on this album."
Blabbermouth: That's a popular song here in the States.
Doro: "Yeah! I'm a proud green card holder. I just came back from Atlanta — we played the ProgPower festival. I also went to Florida since I have a place. Now I'm back in Germany since we're playing Keep It True Rising! We're playing only old-school stuff, which is all the early WARLOCK albums."
Blabbermouth: I was going to ask you about that. Has it gotten more difficult to sing the WARLOCK material?
Doro: "It just pops out. [Laughs] I don't have to work hard. When I see fans, when I hop onstage, everything flows. I just go with it. I don't have a special technique; I don't warm up. When I was on tour with Ronnie James Dio, I asked him if he did something special. He said, 'Fuck that shit. I never warm up.' I thought, 'Okay. If Ronnie says that, I won't do it.' The voice is always there. I can sing 15 hours straight."
Blabbermouth: You've taken care of yourself, right? That plays a big part.
Doro: "I gave up smoking when I was a teenager. I smoked — I was a chain smoker, which is what you did when you were a teenager. It used to be cool, but it's not cool anymore! I didn't take care of myself or eat right. I never did drugs. My drug was always the music and the fans. I never did any substances. No drinking because I had to drive everyone home. [Laughs] It's still that way, but I love it when people have fun. I want to make sure everyone is safe and sound. I became vegan many years ago because of the animals. It is because of the animals. I was a vegetarian for many years. It's good for my health; I wasn't so sick anymore. I used to get sick as a dog on tour, usually in the winter. It's good for me, but I do it because of the animals. I love all kinds of animals. I think there's no difference between my favorite dogs and horses. Every animal is sacred. That's the reason why we have the song, 'Heavenly Creatures'."
Blabbermouth: Back to "Living After Midnight". You and Rob complement each other well. How did you map out who did what?
Doro: "We sang every line and then in the studio, we fiddled around on which lines sounded better. It worked out. 'Living After Midnight' was easy, and 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' was a little bit more of a challenge. It's such a grand song that Jim Steinman wrote. We worked more on that one. It was a total group effort. [PRIEST producer/guitarist] Andy Sneap worked on it. My guy, Andreas Bruhn, has been a partner of mine since 1996 and helped as well. He's the ex-guitar player of THE SISTERS OF MERCY. I gave my two cents. Rob said what he wanted to have or what would sound great. Then we mixed it all together. It was the last song on this album. I'm so happy. I still get goosebumps when I hear it."
Blabbermouth: You took some flak for having drive-thru shows during the pandemic. Did it bother you?
Doro: "Ah. It was much better than sitting on the couch and eating chips and watching TV! It was great to keep the band going, to keep the road crew going. Everyone had something to look forward to. Yes, it was totally different, but I thought it was great. It was ten times more work to get the crowd going because they were far away. They had so much fun. Sometimes, people rented a truck and hopped up on the back, having some beers and a big party. It was the best atmosphere. It was awesome. We did drive-thru and beach tent shows. I never felt I had to take a long break. I was always in good shape. We always had something to do and could keep the band and road crew alive. Everyone had to pay their bills and we could keep it going. Some of my friends and some other bands had to quit to get a normal job to support their families. I tell you, we loved it. We loved it. The fans loved it. There was not a negative aspect to it. The only thing was, yeah, you had to work ten times harder. Sometimes I didn't see the people. Then I said, 'Let me see you bang your heads!' Then people would shake their cars and you'd see the cars flying. It was wild. I loved it. I would do it again. Anything is better than doing nothing."
Blabbermouth: You did the new album across several studios. That doesn't sound logistically easy, does it?
Doro: "It's good, actually. When I was in Europe and there was a lockdown, I could fly to the States, where the rules were less strict. I could go into the studio in Miami and work. There was always continuous work. I'm still a proud green card holder. Eventually, I want to get my American citizenship. We did some stuff in Europe, including the festivals. My mom is in Germany and she's almost 90, so I have to take care of her. She did everything for me. My dad, too, he died in 2000. I miss him every day. But my mom sometimes really needs me. I have to juggle — daytime is mom and at night, I go into the studio. We would drive or fly to see if my mom was okay. In the '80s and '90s, I was so supported. I didn't have any voice at all. Now, times are different. I love her; she's really sweet. She's always inspiring me. There's one song on the new record. It's German/English, 'Fels In Der Brandung', which means 'you're my rock in dark times.' One time, I was in my car, talking on the phone and there's always something to work on — you have to find a solution for something. I remember I was in the car working on a problem and we found a solution. My mom called me right after and I told her. She said, 'fels in der brandung.' So, I said, 'Mom, that's the next song title.'"
Blabbermouth: You mentioned feeling responsible for driving everyone home after a show. Are you that way about everything related to your career? Are you hands-on?
Doro: "Actually, I put it in good hands and hope people do good stuff. No, I think I'm not a control freak. For example, when it comes to the songs, mixing or mastering, yeah, I love all these details and nuances. I tell you, [I care] only when it comes to music, the fans and shows. Everything else, I don't care. [Laughs] Normal life, I have no clue about. I let other people worry about it. I'm only here to make people happy and do great records and put on a great show. Everything else, I leave it up to the tour manager or whatever. Like booking flights — ugh! But I'm into visuals since I used to be a graphic artist, so I like good photos. I have great people around me, which makes it easy."
Blabbermouth: You've been doing this for 40 years. What's the biggest thing you've learned?
Doro: "I've learned many lessons, but I tell you, if you'd ask me if I'd do anything different, there's not much. I always tried to make the best out of every situation. Sometimes, time is on your side and it's not. You always have to give it your all. But I would say it's good never to take a break. When you take a break, it might be hard to get back into it. I never took a break in 40 years. We're celebrating the 40th anniversary of my first album, 'Burning The Witches' [WARLOCK], which was in '83 and '84, but I started in 1980 with SNAKEBITE, then WARLOCK in '82. I think I always followed my heart. That's the best way. I would think when we were young, we were a little naïve and thought everybody was our best friend and supportive. Then we found out that it's not how it works. There was a little bit of success. Then we signed some contracts which we didn't know what they meant. I would say maybe before we signed the contracts and signed our life away, get a good lawyer to check if everything is okay. In the beginning, we had no idea. We thought, 'Oh, this sounds good.'"