Diamond Head never exactly became the household name many in the NWOBHM scene achieved, despite influencing thrash legends Metallica and touring with metal royalty Iron Maiden. But in this, their 40th anniversary year, could things be looking up?
Spurred on by the energy of new singer Rasmus Bom Andersen and the release of their self-titled album Diamond Head, the band is currently touring the UK, Europe and USA as well as releasing their new music video for single 'All The Reasons You Live.'
Ahead of their date at Krakatoa in Aberdeen on Friday 7th October, Stef McKillop caught up with Rasmus in between gigs to talk about the pressures of joining a legendary band, the new album and some extremely passionate fans.
Hi Rasmus, so you’re fairly new on the scene, can you tell me how you first got into music?
It started when I was 18, I wasn’t really interested in music other than listening to bands. I was more into sport at the time. Then something changed when I was on a road trip with my parents to France, they put on Queen Greatest Hits and something just erupted from me.
I sang along with all the tunes the whole way down to France and back. I thought, “this is pretty cool, I would like to do this.” So I started studying music in high school without having read a note before and I taught myself how to play guitar. I have one of those extremely focused minds, when I set my mind to something I just do it.
Had you come across 'Diamond Head' before you joined the band?
No, I wasn’t aware of Diamond Head. They kind of slipped past my radar. I did grow up listening to some of the Metallica stuff from the Black album, but skipped Garage Inc completely. I remember someone put it in my hand but I wasn’t interested in hearing cover versions so I hadn’t even heard 'Am I Evil' until I was in the band. I don’t necessarily think that was a bad thing.
Brian [Tatler] has said many times that I came in with a “fresh set of ears” to the band, and because of my production background I was able to listen to all the of back catalogue to get a really good feel for what their best parts were.
What are some of the pressures of joining such a well-established band?
Well you’re stepping into some really big shoes; there is a legacy that started before I was even born. I felt I really had to do my homework, to really listen to the music. Also the fans have to accept you, which can be hit and miss sometimes. I want to do the songs their justice so I have to sing the songs exactly as they were without copying Sean’s sound because he was a different type of singer than I am.
Some fans say “great, this is fantastic” and luckily the majority have been very accepting and loved it so far. Some fans are not as accepting. There was a girl who snuck backstage at one of the festivals and straight up slapped me in the face saying I ruined Diamond Head for her.
There is a certain romantic relationship with that dream of the old days watching Diamond Head, standing in the crowd. Some of these things I just have to deal with, but I met a lot of hard-core fans and they have been ecstatic. There’s loads of pressure but I work well under pressure.
You have been called “the missing piece” of the band, what do you think you’ve brought to the table?
I came in completely fresh and full of energy singing the gigs but the only way to make your mark on a band is to make music together otherwise you are just a cover singer. Brian initially was not up for making a new album because the last two were made in a creatively strenuous manner.
The key thing that may have convinced him was that if this band were to make a record, it had to be done as a band, in a room writing together, the old school way. The band needs it and I think Brian needs it for his creative process. After that we all agreed that it should sound like the old records. Brian gave me around 45 various instrumental pieces and riffs that I then put my producer hat on and said “this is Diamond Head, this is not.”
In the end we unconsciously came up with what we called “The Brief” which is a checklist for what the album needed to sound like Diamond Head. It really helped us to nail down what was and wasn’t going to make it to the album.
So what was in “The Brief”?
Well that’s a complicated question as there are so many facets to what makes Diamond Head great. You’ve got driving drums, driving riffs and fantastic melody. Melodically the lyrics had to be written a certain way and lyrically had to contain big metaphors and descriptive elements.
It has to hark back to the early days of sex, drugs and rock and roll, to touch base with the older, loyal fans as well as new. If you listen hard you’ll find that a lot of the songs link back to other songs off other albums in the rest of the back catalogue, both musically and lyrically.
Do you feel using “The Brief” may help gain the commercial success that’s eluded Diamond Head in the past?
Commercial success is very subjective these days; people have different ideas of what commercial success looks like now. We just wanted to make a good record that sounded like Diamond Head whether it was commercial or not. There was one song, 'Diamonds', which we felt could be a little too commercial that, funnily enough, a lot of people said they liked.
Some people hate it, but others really like it. It was slightly on the edge of not being in “The Brief” but at the same time it really serves a purpose. The other day we used it as an encore and people fucking loved it. We were, like, “shit really? Great!”
My favourite song off the album is the new single 'All the reasons you live', what has been the fan favourite song off the new album?
We have asked people what their favourite song was and a lot of people referred to either 'Bones' or 'All the reasons you live' but everyone has had a different favourite song, it’s kind of weird but it’s also great.
All the reviews have been contradicting each other saying it is “great” or that it is “different” from what Diamond Head used to do. One even said we sounded “prog” but there is nothing progressive about this album at all! But because all the reviewers are contradicting each other so much, it means the albums reach is so extremely wide that we’ve really hit it on the head.
So what’s next for Diamond Head?
First we have the tour in UK and US and we’re in talks regarding the next album because this one was received so well. We need to keep pushing on to try and climb the ladder and the best way to do that is to write another album.
We will probably start writing in 2017, but I don’t know when we will get to the studio but we have “The Brief,” we know who we are and what we do. We hope that the wide audience scope with this album release in US, UK and Japan will open up other doors.
Diamond Head play Krakatoa in Aberdeen on Friday 7th October - secure tickets via the box below.