The King and I
CoC's resident motor mouth Adrian Bromley talks to metal music's motor mouth King Diamond
by: Adrian Bromley

Okay, King Diamond fans -- get ready to do your homework and some fact checking... Abigail is back in the spotlight. Yes, you heard me true, music fans: King Diamond has resurrected the story of Abigail in the much-anticipated new album _Abigail 2: The Revenge_ (out January 28th in Europe, January 29th in North America).

When King Diamond's master ghostly epic _Abigail_ was released in 1987, metal music fans were scared out of their minds, but at the same time fell in love with the ghastly tale of possession, murder and mayhem. To this day, King Diamond's album is still a classic amongst metal fans worldwide, a concept record that proves that storytelling is indeed a powerful thing.

As the call goes out to King Diamond, yours truly can only fathom how hard it must have been for King Diamond to go back in time and rediscover what magic he had brought to the original Abigail story and where he could take it from there.

But don't fret, my metal friends -- although _Abigail 2: The Revenge_ could have turned into a horribly assembled sequel spurned forth by money and record sales, King Diamond instead delivers a remarkable storyline that captivates the listener, as well as one of his most potent and chilling performances ever. Ooh, revenge has never been sweeter!

About doing the sequel to _Abigail_, he starts: "When we were on tour about three years ago, people were coming up to me and saying that it would be cool if I made another record like _Abigail_, and I was very against doing something like that, copying something that I had done before. I am always into finding room for progression with what I do with this band. I've never wanted to go back and re-do something. The great thing about how the first record left off was that there were a lot of things that you didn't know about the story, stuff that was never fully explained, and that has allowed me to go back and bring them into the spotlight. The setting is still the same and the two main characters are there -- that being Abigail and Jonathan --, so fans will know where they are and who is a part of the tale, just eighteen years later."

"We had to be very careful with this album. I mean the scenarios were coming into place and I know what had to be done, but the time had to be right. When we recorded _Abigail_ the band was phenomenal. Over the years, it just didn't seem like the right time and place, or even the right musicians to get things going. But now it does. Three years ago, when the ideas formed about possibly doing this, it wasn't the right band. Now it is. The change in the line-up [which includes guitarists Andy LaRocque and Mike Wead, bassist Hal Patino and drummer Matt Thompson -- Adrian] has had everything to do with going forth with this recording."

"It is an amazing feeling knowing that we have someone like Matt [Thompson] in the band", says King Diamond of the drummer. "I have never been so excited about a drummer before. He has such an amazing skill level as a drummer, and he is exactly what we needed. He added this really special kind of complexity to the music, but at the same time brought back an older feel to the music. It is amazing what he brings to the band. Whatever Andy [LaRocque] or I came up with musically, he could play and bring a special style to. Neither of us could believe what we were hearing with his playing and it was reminding us of the old days, but still new and fresh. I even tried a few new voices to go along with these fresh ideas, styles of voices I had never done before. It really got me excited about this album and what we were bringing to it. This music captures the mood of the old time of King Diamond, but just a bit more complex."

He continues about the line-up, "As well, getting Hal [Patino] back in the band was great. He played on the original _Abigail_ album. And Andy, he is so underrated as a guitar player. He is always doing stuff that impresses me and keeps me motivated in all of this. And lastly, getting Mike Wead to play alongside Andy? Wow! I couldn't have asked for anything better than that. Mike continues to blow my mind with his guitar work. It was great to have him join the band, and once he joined I knew we had a strong enough package to do _Abigail 2: The Revenge_. We all knew that now was the right time to do this. When the music was being recorded and I heard how it was going, it just gave me so much inspiration."

"There are so many different vocal styles going on with this record, and I really had to concentrate to pull it all off successfully. I think I can say this for myself and the rest of the band, that this is the best album that King Diamond has ever done and the one project that I have been the most proud of. This is my best performance ever!"

This was obviously a big task for King Diamond to undertake. Were there any doubts in King Diamond's mind going into the record that it couldn't be done, or once things started to roll did it just take off from there?

"This record started out like any other King Diamond record. I started working on the demos in my own small home studio, and just got together the guitar tracks with a drum machine and some keyboard work and brought the ideas to the band so they could see what I was trying to bring out of the music. The demos contain no vocals or solos, just the music. So from there we started to write, and when we write as a band it can go anywhere, as long as the music is good. There are never any doubts that it can be done, or we are making a mistake. I knew the guys were able to make this a great recording experience because they are all so talented. We all were so focused and it just shows with the recording. This is the best album and it just feels so right."

He adds, "The demos sounded pretty good, as demos would sound, but once we got into the studio and added vocals and more harmonies and beefed up the guitars, the music was just growing into something great. Again, as I have said already, this line-up made this record what it is."

And the secret to making a concept record? I mean, King Diamond is the, er, king of concept albums...

"There is a certain way of doing things once you put yourself to work on a concept record", says the singer. "I mean, I put myself through a meticulous process of assembling ideas. When you start off, you are usually thinking to yourself, "Man, how am I going to do all of this? Will it work?" Making a concept record just seems so vast and there is so much concentration involved in it. I remember being in Mercyful Fate and wanting to do a concept album, but it wasn't the right place or time to get into it. The music wasn't theatrical enough. I held onto the ideas, and when the first King Diamond album came out [1986's _Fatal Portrait_] we tied together five songs. It sounded cool -- not the best it could have been, but it was the start of something. When it came time to do _Abigail_ we just jumped right into it [a concept album]. It was a real challenge and very difficult, but the more hard work we put into it, the easier it all came together. When you go into a concept album, you pretty much have to know that all the songs have to work together. You can't omit the songs. Everything must be as one."

"When I start making concept albums, I always make sure I know where the story is headed. I like to know the direction. I try to bring the theatrical element into the music as I am writing the lyrics as well. Later on, as the record comes into shape, the foundation of the album is there. From there, I already have my mini-story on the go and I just push the creativity a little further to match up the story and the music. The sequence of the songs is assembled at a very early stage, and from there I go into each song and finish off the stories, breaking them down into chapters and making sure they are all congruent. The end result, to me, has to come across as if I wrote the whole thing at the same time, while deep down inside I know I didn't. <laughs> If you get the right story, the right music and the right flow of things, any concept record is possible."

The topic shifts to the making of the album.

"This record came together pretty much like every concept-like record I have done. We had the earlier music working as a foundation and then started to add guitars, and our new drummer Matt had a lot of ideas for this record. He went out of his way to create some over the top stuff and I loved all of it. I loved that shit! It really made me more excited about the way things were heading with _Abigail 2: The Revenge_. I was missing a lot of this older style of playing, a sense of really going out there with the music, and he brought it back, and that really pushed me to go further with my vocal styles too. Also in the studio, as expected, we have to work my voice around the guitar parts, everything from the simple riffs to Andy's killer guitar solos. About 70% of my vocal melodies that I had going in work, the rest I have to work around what the music has become. In the studio, I have to find the right voice to fit the music parts. When I was working on the demos, I just had a standard voice in mind, but with the music taking on such character, I needed to find the right voice to capture the emotion."

"Some songs in the studio, I have to sing them all normal straight through just to find out what works and what doesn't, or where I will do the falsetto voice", he explains. "Then I make points on the lyric sheets where the falsetto or growl voices go and just have a good idea of what I am to bring to the songs. This allows me to help shape the rest of the material, knowing where my emotions are intensified and how they change. Creating harmonies of all types is a lot of hard work, but it makes you really become part of the music. A lot of this is planned beforehand, but it never fully works out once you hit the studio."

As many of you will already know, King Diamond takes every inch of his music very seriously. From the lyrics to the harmonies and onto the atmosphere, he is a stickler when it comes to detail. Everything must just right.

"I'll tell you something, Adrian", notes King Diamond. "When you are doing something very theatrical like the music that I do, you need to be as accurate as possible to have it come across as credible. There is a part in the new record where you hear a little girl, so we brought a six-year-old into the studio to play the part. She has to scream for her mom. Is there anything more haunting than that? <King Diamond starts to say in a low voice "Mommy! Mommy!"> Oh, yeah! That is so creepy. Instead of hearing me do it in some voice, getting the genuine thing just makes it even creepier when you hear it on record."

I ask King Diamond about his career and the success that he has seen. What keeps him inspired and wanting to keep doing this?

"I am so excited that I can keep doing this and I am so blown away that our fan base is still so solid after all of theses years", he answers. "I couldn't wish for better fans. They are so devoted. Plus we are getting a newer, younger fan base and that excites me even moreso. It is great to be able to play all of our songs, from past and present, and see people just get so excited about them still."

"I also love to be on stage. That is still my one true love", King Diamond reveals. "I love to be on stage, it is the touring that I don't like at all. Apart from the hour and a half on stage each night, I am not into touring at all. It sucks. No food. Bad food. No sleep. I don't party at all, because I have to be really responsible about my voice and giving my 100% on stage the next night. People expect you to be the best you can be on stage, and that means no partying, and I am fine with that. But as I said already, being on stage makes up for all the shit I put myself through touring."

While on the topic of things he dislikes about his career, has King Diamond ever disliked any record(s) he has put out?

"I like all of my records. I just think out of all of them, I was the most pleased with how this new one turned out, the line-up and just the overall satisfaction of knowing that I was able to write a great story. I look back at all my records and I know I put the best work I could do into each and every album. I look at an album like _The Spider's Lullabye_ [1995] and the drummer [Darrin Anthony] never really was at the level that we should have had for that record. He wasn't bad, he just didn't really do much with the music. He was also on _The Graveyard_ [1996] and his work sounded good, but that was also a record with a different mood and production work. I'm sure I could find little things about each and every record, but not this new one."

One of my favourite King Diamond records is _Voodoo_ [1998]. I love it! I think that is a great record with a great storyline.

"Yeah, that was a great record", responds King Diamond. "I think we were really able to get a strong story to go along with some killer music."

Like all King Diamond records, they throw you into a scenario, but this one felt as if you were there. You could just feel the murkiness of the air.

"Exactly", he says. "If you are so into trying to reach a certain level of authenticity with the story, you need to really put a lot of hard work into detail and whatever else you bring to the album. You have to really become close to the characters and where they live and what they do to make it come across as the real thing. You have to go all out. I know exactly what you mean by murkiness 'cause I feel it and people always tell me the same thing about _Voodoo_. Now the hairs on my arm are standing up. <laughs> It just gets to show that all of this means so much to me that people get a lot out of what I do."

The great thing about the release of _Abigail 2: The Revenge_ is that now fans of King Diamond's work can be a part of a unique experience. You can now play both records back to back and just take in the wonderful world of old and new.

"I hope people will do that. I mean, they know the characters, it is just that this story has gone off into another direction of sorts. I think I was in the right frame of mind to leave this alone for a long time and only now, when everything was right, did I make the move and follow up _Abigail_ with a second part."

In closing, King Diamond says: "I put a lot of hard work into this record. It really drained me. After we had finished up the record, I didn't even want to listen to it for a few weeks. I knew about all the stuff that went into it and I just needed a breather before I was to give it a strong listen at home and see what I had created..."

So once you've had enough time away from the music, do you sit down in a huge reclining chair, put on the King Diamond makeup, grab a beer and blast the music?

Laughing, King Diamond blurts out: "Oh, man that is funny."

"You can hang up now if you like. I wouldn't blame you", I tell him regarding my comment.

"No, no, that is okay, Adrian", he says with a slight chuckle. "I have heard some funny questions over the years, one popular one being, "Do you put on makeup when you wake up in the morning?" <laughs> It never stops, but neither do I."

(article submitted 14/1/2002)

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