Legendary NWOBHM group Diamond Head are back with a new self titled album, their first for eight years, and a début for new signer Rasmus Bom Andersen. Lead guitarist and sole original member Brian Tatler tooks the time to answer some questions for Swirls of Noise about the release:
First of all, after eight years how did you decide this was the right time for a new album?
I think it was our new singer Ras coming in fresh that gave the band a new energy and some new ideas. Once I had heard him sing live a few times I thought we should try and write some songs together just to see if we can. We discussed this in various dressing rooms and hotels on the 2014 European tour. Then in December 2014 I gave Ras two CDs with about forty five pieces of music on that I had been working on since 2007, Ras listened to them and picked out songs that he liked and that he could work on but we had a brief this time, we all said “It should sound like Diamond Head” It’s partly the way I write and the riffs and chords progressions I come up with that make it sound like Diamond Head, we actually rejected a few things that did not fit ‘the brief’. Once the songs sounded good in rehearsal I knew they would work live and on record. Some of the songs had a brilliant vibe in rehearsal, then it was just a question of recording them.
And why did you decide to go with a self titled album name?
I had not originally intended to call it Diamond Head. I had pinned a big sheet of paper onto the studio wall with “Name This Album” written across the top, we all wrote suggestions on it but nothing quite fit. A lot of the suggestions were stupid or pretentious. In the past one of the albums song titles has doubled up for the album title but in this case nothing felt right, plus several song titles kept changing as Ras tweaked his lyrics. Eddie suggested we call it Diamond Head and after thinking about it for a while I thought it was a great idea. I reasoned ‘hey The Beatles, Genesis and Metallica have all had self-titled albums that were not their début so why not?’ Then once I saw the artwork (which was originally a T shirt design) I thought it would be a great album title. It’s also a very strong statement of intent. Diamond Head are back!
How did you meet and end up working with new singer Rasmus Anderson for the last few years?
I found Ras through a friend of our bass player Eddie Moohan. We sent him a backing track to the Diamond Head song ‘To Heaven From Hell’ and asked him to sing on it. Ras sent it back to Karl and I and we both thought he was great. Ras made the vocal parts sound easy, he was not struggling to reach notes or hold long notes at all, he has a fantastic range. Next we had a rehearsal with him here in the Midlands (which I recorded) and after about 30 minutes I was sure he could do justice to the Diamond Head songs live. Ras moved to London from Denmark in 2005 to do a bachelor’s degree in Vocals and Vocal Performance. He is very knowledgeable about vocal technique and has studied every style from Jazz to rock.About halfway through the 2014 European tour we asked him to join Diamond Head, fortunately he said yes. Ras has never made an album before nor toured with a band at this level, he is learning fast.
How have you found the reaction from the fans to his appointment over your shows from the last few years?
Ras has been accepted by all the fans I have spoken to, most seem to think he fits in perfectly, even the diehard Diamond Head fans who have been following the band for 35 years! Many have asked me “where the hell did you find this guy from?” Ras studied the entire back catalogue of eighty two Diamond Head songs when he joined and felt it was important to learn everything properly.
Will this be a one off return to the studio, or do you have plans for a follow up to Diamond Head?
I have already discussed making another album with Ras, I still have a lot of music that you could be turned into full songs and have come up with about six new ideas since September last year. Ras has a bunch of new song ideas on his laptop that he says he listens to every now and again. I think it will happen, we will probably start working on them with the band in 2017. The success of this new album has given me the confidence to do more.
You’re responsible for Am I Evil, the main riff from which is one of the most iconic classic metal riffs there is, and you were famously described as having “more good riffs on one song than the first four Black Sabbath albums combined” Does this put more pressure on you when you’re writing songs to live up to this? And how does it feel to have written such a classic and well known metal song?
Every band needs a signature song to be identified with, and ‘Am I Evil?’ is ours. I wanted to write a song that was heavier than Black Sabbath’s ‘Symptom of the Universe’ that song has a humongous riff and I tried to out-heavy it. It also has the same flattened fifth chord (the Devil’s note). When I came up with that riff in my bedroom both Sean and Colin said that it was good and should be worked on. We deliberately arranged it so that the same riff relentlessly repeats for two-and-a-half minutes but with key changes and the beat moving around underneath it. The song evolved over a period of about a year as we kept adding to it, including the fast section which has a similar (but speeded up) rhythm to Sabbath’s ‘Children Of The Grave’ and the ending where we go back to the original verse riff. I don’t know why I thought of borrowing Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars, Bringer Of War’ theme as an intro, but I always liked it as a kid and just thought it would make a great start because it’s dramatic and it draws you in. Ours is a different rhythm though, similar to the middle eight of Deep Purple’s ‘Child In Time’. I must also give a nod to the intro to Rainbows 1979 song ‘Eyes of the World’.
It took a few years for Am I Evil? to become a bona-fide classic metal song. It always worked live but it has slowly gone around the world and been covered by many bands (Inc Metallica). It has taken on a life of its own, a lot of people still think it’s a Metallica song. It has also made the most money in terms of song-writers royalties.
The third album Canterbury was received badly when it came out, being a lot less heavy and in your face compared to the earlier works. looking back on it now is it an album you’re proud of regardless?
For a few years I didn’t want to listen to Canterbury, all I could hear was the effort that went into each little bit. I certainly didn’t hear it as a whole piece of music. I love some of the songs and the production is great but it came at a heavy price, not only did the album split the band but it also reduced Sean and I to quivering wrecks and cost a small fortune.
Sean and I were never comfortable repeating ourselves. We were always looking for something new, a way of taking Diamond Head someplace else. Maybe if we had become successful quickly like Iron Maiden then we may have recognized the value in our style of songwriting and sound. I think we were always looking for a big song. We had a big song in Am I Evil? but it’s taken years for it to become a true rock classic. I still like Canterbury but I can understand it when people say we overstretched ourselves, we tried to go too far too quickly I can see that now.
You’re headlining the Sophie Lancaster stage at Bloodstock in August, before going out on a headlining tour later in the year. How do you find playing to a British audience compared to abroad? And how long do you think you’ll go on touring for?
Really looking forward to playing Bloodstock again after 14 years! It’s a great festival and we are honoured to be asked back. Sometimes the audiences abroad are really crazy because that may have been waiting to see Diamond Head for years whereas we play the UK regularly so its not such an event. Recently we played Malta for the first time and the crowd was awesome. I don’t think many bands get over to Malta and they were starved of it. They asked me to ask more bands to go and play Malta! Diamond Head will continue to tour until health problems make it impossible. It will eventually have to stop.
Do you have an idea of what new songs might make it into the setlist?
So far we have played seven songs from the new album live, Bones, Shout At The Devil, Set My Soul On Fire, See You Rise, All The Reasons You Live, Our Time Is now and Speed. We keep getting asked for Diamonds and Wizard Sleeve so I guess we will try those two out pretty soon. My favourite to play is All The Reasons You Live, that song sounds amazing to me. We have to detune to dropped C# for that song. The album was recorded in E flat and we stay like that for live shows. I have been using this tuning since 1993’s Death & Progress album.
And lastly you’ve always given praise to bands such as Metallica and Megadeth who followed in your footsteps. Are there any up and coming younger bands you’re into?
I like Muse, Biffy Clyro, Ghost BC, Gojira, Avenged Sevenfold, Porcupine Tree and The Struts off the top of my head, of course some of these bands have been around a long time. I recently saw and enjoyed Cradle of Filth and Children of Bodom.
Diamond Head was released on April 22nd. Find Diamond Head on facebook here. Upcoming Tourdates:
30th BARNET – Barnet Rugby Club, UK