The Curse of the King
CoC chats with King Diamond
by: Adrian Bromley
Talking to King Diamond was quite a thrill for me. Not only has King Diamond and his bands (via his solo career and with Mercyful Fate) help shape the sound of metal music during the 1980's and into the 1990's, but also brought a threatrical and storytelling twist (concept albums) to metal music -- a trait few bands have successfully accomplished. King Diamond's tales of evil, death and the occult has fascinated us for almost two decades and it seems fitting that as we head into the year 2000 his latest release _Voodoo_ is probably his best work to date. Sure it might be hard to top such classics as _Abigail_ (1987), _Them_ (1988) or _Fatal Portrait_ (1986), but _Voodoo_ lays claim to some of the best musical arrangement in years and is a truly eerie and quite scary story. The story, set in 1932 Louisiana, revolves around David Lafayette and his pregnant wife Sarah, along with grandpa, moving into a house north of Baton Rouge. They soon discover they are in the heart of Voodooville with cults, exorcists and spells everywhere they turn. King Diamond has presented us with a tale that'll tear at your inner psyche and bring out your biggest fears. This is priceless King Diamond storytelling. So, the phone call comes in from King Diamond at 5:30pm on Friday the 13th and the chat begins. For once, someone has talked more than I have during an interview. I can hardly keep up with King Diamond as he talks about his tales and the creation process of his music. It was an interesting chat, please read on:

CoC: Being in Dallas, Texas (having recorded at the Nomad Studios), have you ever done any kind of research or study into the 'Day of the Dead' culture that is a very integral part of the Mexican culture? I lived there (in Mexico City) for ten years and found it quite fascinating, but scary at the same time. Seeing that you live in Texas and are right there near Mexico, and part of a community with a lot of Mexican people, have you ever opted to explore that idea for a record?

King Diamond: I have only been to Mexico City once for a Mercyful Fate show and it was basically in and out for me. Some of the guys in the band stayed behind a couple of days and saw the pyramids. I would love to do that if we ever get there again. As for that theme to come into an album idea, you never know. I guess it depends on how it strikes me when I started reading about it and getting ideas going...

CoC: ... there are a lot of things going on within that culture, and many people don't really understand what is going on in that phenomenon under the surface. It is a very spiritual thing for the people to take part in. It's quite fascinating, but, as I said before, scary as well.

KD: I know what you mean. The whole idea of the 'Day of the Dead' is fascinating, but, as I mentioned, I have not really done much study into it.

CoC: Let's talk about _Voodoo_. In terms of song writing, opposed to what you had done with last year's _The Graveyard_ and other past efforts, what was the approach to this record? Obviously, the story line is different as is the setting, but what is it about this time period and part of the United States that fascinated you to write _Voodoo_?

KD: I have always had a fascination with voodoo, but I never really knew much about it. Voodoo, to me, had always been about pins in dolls, zombies and people acting all crazy and stuff. I never really knew about it. I hadn't really known much. So this all happened last year when our bass player was doing some work at a university nearby and I asked him to grab me some books on voodoo from the library. Reading up on voodoo really surprised me on how deep it was. It was truly amazing to read and learn about the spiritual side of voodoo and its unwritten laws. Learning about curses and all that other fascinating stuff. I was like 'Wow!,' I thought to myself that this would really make a good story and that was pretty much it. That is where the basis of the album started. From that reading I took into account a fact that turns out to be a problem for those in the story. The fact that people who believe in voodoo believe that you have to feed the dead. In many voodoo cemeteries, you will find food and wine by the tombstones. They really believe that if you don't feed the dead they are gonna come after you. That is also a part of the unwritten law that if you own a piece of land with a voodoo burial ground on it you should exclude the burial segment from the sale so that people can still come to it and respect the dead. And those facts became part of the story. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to bring to the story. I started out with the idea for this record by drawing a map of the area and then started creating people in the story, giving them life. From there, the story of _Voodoo_ pretty much took off by itself. As I went along writing the story, I had to create more people to go along with it. And I didn't even have an ending to the story, it just all fell into place for me.

CoC: A lot of people have always mentioned that the work of King Diamond is not just elaborate in the storytelling, but equally in the music. How do you scope out what sounds and/or vocal arrangements you will use for a certain song or concept record?

KD: It is just like a big puzzle. One thing that King Diamond always makes an emphasis in using is a lot of mood and emotion throughout the record. Of course, the music sometimes seems to have a role in what a song will be about with the mood it radiates. I had written the music for _Voodoo_ before the ideas were to be added to it. It had that kind of feel to it. It has real tribal, voodoo-like feel to the music and that also helps bring out other different ideas when song writing. Like I said, the music of King Diamond is full of different ideas and emotions, but in the end it all comes together as one big puzzle. I have the music ideas flowing and then I write the story. When I do write the story, I constantly have the music on my mind. When the story is written, I then divide it up in many different chapters as needed and then I will find what chapters will suit what music. I try to team them up to the best of my ability. It takes time to do this, but it helps make the story an interesting one to hear as well as follow.

CoC: Now I know you did some research on voodoo with books; did you by chance go to Louisiana to do some in-person research for the LP?

KD: I had been there before. I mean, I have never attended a voodoo ritual, but I would love to. I didn't really have to go there and research. I had been there before with tours and I remember the whole atmosphere and the crickets chirping in the night. I remember the hot, damp summer feeling that radiated from there.

CoC: So I guess from having been there before and experiencing the feel of the territory, you knew what you wanted to express with this LP and the story?

KD: You get a better feel for the atmosphere if you have been there before. I mean, you can get that feeling from a book as well, but it just ain't the same. It is not like I packed up and went down there to do research when I started writing this album. I didn't do that. I just had a good background and feel to what Louisiana was all about.

CoC: You have written some very memorable records with great story lines. Very elaborate and descriptive tales of evil and the occult. This seems to be very easy for you. Is it? Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you get past that writer's block?

KD: It rarely happens when I am writing the story or lyrics; it happens quite a bit when I am writing the music for an album. I can sit down and work on the music for a song and just get to a point where I am not in the mood any more. At that point I just stop and try to start back another day working on the material. It happens, though. I don't just sit down and say, 'Okay, I am going to write all the music for the record now.' No. If I am in the mood, I will sit down and write with my guitar or keyboard. I'm just jamming and if ideas come from that jam session then I will try to put them into arrangements. It might just be an intro and a verse and no more. But that is where it all starts at that time. I also have gotten to know by now that if it all seems to be going nowhere to just stop and go watch some TV or something. I'll come back to it later on. But sometimes I will work three days back to back and that will happen 'cause I am in the mood and right frame of mind to create.

CoC: How long does the process take for King Diamond to get the ideas in your head and into a finished product? What is the time frame?

KD: It varies so much from album to album. Sometimes I record or write down stuff that won't be used at all, or just put away till the end of a recording session. I have a box of tapes with all of these ideas in my basement with all these choruses or verses. They are on those tapes put away because I really didn't feel the need to continue on and pursue something at that point in time. Sometimes I will take those tapes out and just give them a listen to what is on there and I get a real feeling of excitement when I play back that stuff and hear the ideas I created. It's great to dabble into unfinished material sometimes. Actually, I think three guitar riffs from _The Graveyard_ are from this stack of demo tapes I have, material that dates back to 1987. I picked up the tape and wondered what was on it and it was me just playing guitar in my apartment in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was one guitar. I listened carefully and I heard the intro to "Abigail", another riff and then part of the song "Welcome Home" on one tape. I was ecstatic. I wondered how I had never used this riff in the middle. I just started jamming and a lot of new stuff appeared around that one riff. I don't know what it turned into, but it became part of my newer material. It is really hard to say how long it takes to do a record, 'cause there is research involved and you need to be in a mood too. Ideas need to be floating around before you can start on a piece. This has so much to do with an inner mood. _Abigail_, for instance, was almost all written in one night. I wrote 90% of that record in one night. I woke up during a thunderstorm and I had so many ideas. I started to write it all down. I decided I should go back and lie down but I couldn't do so. Ideas just kept popping up out of my brain. I wanted to go back to sleep... but I couldn't. I needed to get all of that out onto paper. And you know what? That has never happened since then.

CoC: There is a lot of use of the macabre, the occult and evil spread throughout the material of King Diamond -- does stuff you create scare you?

KD: Mostly when we are recording the music, I am totally into the mood for creating the music and bringing out emotions in what we are working on. Later on, when I do play back my material, it doesn't affect me much. I know what I need to do certain arrangements and creating the mood. When I play back _Abigail_ today I don't think about the actual feel of the record, because I was part of the actual creation of the record. I get much more into looking at a photo album of the band and the career we have done. I start remembering all of the places I have been and how I felt then at a certain period of time. I remember about the making of the records and all the stuff that was a part of my life then at that time period. I can remember so many things. Stuff like who I would hang out with, what bars I went to, what car I drove. All these things pop up and affect me when I look at photos. I don't get any feelings generally from albums. It's just the way it is. I wish I wasn't a part of this band so I could put on a record and experience it for myself, without having had a hand in on the making of the record. I will never experience that. You know what it is like? It is like when we play shows, I have no idea what it looks like. Even if people record the show with a video camera, it never gives the true recollection of standing at the show and watching it. It is just a weird thing for me to deal with...

CoC: ... unless of course you have an outer body experience, right?

KD: Yeah... <laughs>... I guess that would be the only way to experience it.

CoC: Maybe that could be a theme idea for the next King Diamond record?

KD: <laughs again> Maybe so... maybe I should get out my guitar right now and start jamming.

CoC: You have been living in the United States for over six years now; how has that change in environment (from native Denmark to Texas) affected your ways as a person or a musician?

KD: I have always been able to easily adapt to other cultures and customs. Living in Los Angeles was not really my cup of tea 'cause everything was too strange to what I was used to in Denmark. Texas is very laid-back and the attitude of the people is very similar to what I was used to back home.

CoC: Are you a celebrity in Texas? Do people pick you out at the mall or something?

KD: It happens to me, but I see it as no problem.

CoC: How do you feel about censorship in today's music?

KD: I usually just hear about what is going on, 'cause we as a band never really experienced it much. I think it all comes to the fact that parents have no real idea of what their kids are all about. I think they don't spend time talking to their kids or asking them why they listen to bands like Marilyn Manson or King Diamond. Why not learn about the music they listen to and find out there is just nothing wrong or dangerous with it? I think parents are too busy making the big bucks and buying a new car to care about their kids. They don't care about their kids. They feel that they have to make all of their decisions for kids in respect to what they should listen to and/or like. 'Hello!...' this is a different generation, people. The world is far different compared to when those parents grew up. All of the values are different. This is a whole new ball game. I think parents should find out what kids are into and what they like and why, instead of forbidding them from listening to all of this stuff. Give them more credit than what you provide them with already, folks.

CoC: A lot of people who I have talked to about _Voodoo_ have said this is one of your best works in ten years. How do you feel about that assumption? Do you agree?

KD: I understand 100% what people are saying about _Voodoo_. I don't think it is a matter of whether an album is really good or bad, I mean, we always put our best effort into every LP. I know what they mean, though. I have come to the same conclusion that is being talked about _Voodoo_. People are talking about the attitude of the album. This is the same attitude that was part of King Diamond from the 80's. This is the same quality of stuff that _Abigail_ had, an aggressive approach with stronger arrangements, far different from what was found on _The Graveyard_ or _Spider's Lullabye_. The arrangements and guitar solos and the vocal arrangements are much more elaborate and stronger than past efforts.

CoC: And why do you think that is?

KD: A lot has to do with us getting a new drummer. John (Luke Hebert), who is from Louisiana, filled in for Darrin Anthony when he left the band. Darrin had been involved in a bad car accident and wasn't able to drum for us. We found John and when we started rehearsing for the European tour last Spring. He just played the songs exactly like they are on the record, which is something Darrin wasn't able to do. And hearing that sound of old material played so well brought back many memories. I heard that song that was written in 1987 sound exactly like we were back in that time frame, but played in 1997. It was incredible. A great feeling came over me. And all the old stuff we played brought out the same feeling in me over and over. Suddenly everything became genuine again.

CoC: I guess the whole feeling inspired you to bring that sound and feeling back into the King Diamond record?

KD: Yeah. And being on tour and playing those numbers live once again was bringing back all of that again. Bringing back memories of touring Europe in the back of a van. Coming off that recent tour and just going into the writing, it seems so natural to get back to that era of King Diamond. I didn't even question the writing at the time, it just flowed out with the attitude of old Diamond. The fact that we also changed studios this time around also played a part in bringing back emotion to the King Diamond material. We changed studios from the Dallas Sound Lab Studios, which was like a small studio in a huge complex, to Nomad Recording Studios, which is one studio. You are there alone with no one to bother you. It has a very intimate feel to it. It has this real metal quality to the studio. It was kind of like walking into the same kind of studio as _Fatal Portrait_ and _Abigail_. They were done in some smaller studios in Denmark. Even Andy [La Rocque, guitar] said so the first time he stepped in there. When Andy set foot in the studio, he was like, 'God, man this reminds me so much of Denmark.' When you record in a space that has that kind of atmosphere, it just brings out something in you that might not come out most of the time. It's not like you tried any harder, it just may have been a different level of concentration subconsciously. All of what comes out of you comes from deep within you. The inspiration flows from your surroundings and it does come out in the work. All of those points I made before have a lot to do with this album being a lot more King Diamond than there has been in sometime. I haven't done anything different with the past few albums. I am just sensing these feelings that I should have. I recognize this feeling of what my music should be like in a very big way. This is exactly the direction I want to take my music. It feels great. It's like, 'Oh yeah! I'm home again...'

CoC: Was _Voodoo_ always the working title for this record or was there another name being thrown around?

KD: There was another one. The very first thing I tried to write about was the plague. But every time I got into writing the material, I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. The record idea I had was a difficult one to do and would have to have been approached a different way than this time around. I wouldn't exclude the idea of starting up again and doing a album called The Plague, but who knows?

CoC: You said you break down the story into chapters before adding the music to it and putting it into the final product. How much of the story you had written changed during recording?

KD: Nothing really was taken away from the story. I would say more was added than taken out while recording the LP.

CoC: On the topic of song writing and making LPs, you do double-duty in both your own band as well as Mercyful Fate. How do you juggle both bands?

KD: I see an extreme difference between the two very clearly. For me, as the songwriter and being involved in everything, I see such a clear line. They act as two different entities for me. I have been very fortunate to work with both bands, both styles and I enjoy the ability to do so. It takes a lot of work but by God it is very rewarding.

CoC: Last question. How would you describe _Voodoo_ to longtime fans of King Diamond, as well as to new fans who may want to pick this up? How would you describe the record?

KD: Before I answer, I want to add this. For the first time I mastered both the King Diamond and Mercyful Fate LPs and that allowed me to know about the procedure that goes into mastering the LP and I noticed they really like to compress the shit out of the music. This record is a very clean one, with very little compression. It sounds good, better than past King Diamond records. Now... to get to your question: what do I think about the record? Well, the _Voodoo_ record is a lot scarier of a story than _The Graveyard_ and _Spider's Lullabye_. I think it is the scariest of all the stories I have been a part of writing. At the same time, the packaging you are going to get with this record is very elaborate. You will see a map of the area where this takes place as well as drawings of the characters on tarot cards. For the first time you will know exactly what these people look like when you hear their names called on the record. I am very satisfied with the way the packaging has turned out. Also, the music has a lot more vocals and solos. There is pretty much a lot more of everything with _Voodoo_ and that is a first for any King Diamond record in a long time. And the most important thing: this record is genuinely done.

CoC: It's just as people say, 'If you are happy doing something it shows,' and obviously you are happy making the music and telling the story of _Voodoo_. Am I right?

KD: That is so true, Adrian. We really, really love what we do and I know it shows with our records.

Note: Roadrunner Record has recently issued a 'REMASTERED' series of both Kind Diamond and Mercyful Fate albums. They are digitally remastered gold discs, with new photos, liner notes, full lyrics and bonus tracks. Here are the LPs being reissued:

KING DIAMOND (available now)

: _Fatal Portrait_ - features the tracks "No Presents For Christmas" and "The Lake" : _Abigail_ - features rough mixes of "A Mansion In Darkness", "The Family Ghost" and "The Posession" : _Conspiracy_ - features "At the Graves" (alternative mix) and a live version of "Cremation" : _The Eye_ - Remastered only : _Them_ - features a rehearsal versions of "The Invisible Ghosts" and "Bye, Bye Missy" : _Live In Concert '87_ - Remastered only

MERCYFUL FATE (available in the summer of 1998)

: _The Beginning_ - features the track "Black Funeral" : _Melissa_ - Remastered only : _Don't Break The Oath_ - features the demo of "Death Kiss"

(article submitted 10/3/1998)


CHATS
8/12/2000 A Ristic King Diamond: The House That King Built
ALBUMS
7/3/2002 A Wee 9 King Diamond - Abigail pt II: The Revenge
8/12/2001 A Wee 6 King Diamond - Decade of Horror
8/12/1996 G Filicetti 8 King Diamond - The Graveyard
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