Michael “MettleAngel” Francisco of Sonic Perspectives recently conducted an interview with guitarist Brian Tatler of NWOBHM legends DIAMOND HEAD. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On “Belly Of The Beast”, the opening track from the band’s forthcoming “The Coffin Train” studio album:
Brian: “It’s a great opening track. When we wrote that, we thought that this will probably be the lead track on the album. We haven’t had a chance to play it live, but I’m absolutely sure it will be good live because of the tempo. It’s kind of a bit reminiscent of some of the older DIAMOND HEAD like ‘Helpless’ and ‘The Prince’. It has that kind of energy from the early days.”
On whether British hard rock/heavy metal is the proper description of DIAMOND HEAD‘s sound:
Brian: “I think that’s the main influence on DIAMOND HEAD. The band formed in ’76, so I grew up listening to all the classic ’70s bands, a lot of British bands like [LED] ZEPPELIN, [DEEP] PURPLE and [BLACK] SABBATH, obviously, those bands, UFO. So, that is in my DNA, that style of writing and all the songs always start with a guitar riff, then we build from there. I’d say there’s a few more mood changes on this new album compared to the last one. But it’s still very guitar riff-oriented; there’s lots of solos. I think sonically, it’s a better-sounding album than the last one. We loved the last album, but we knew we could take it further and we decided to let Ras [Rasmus Bon Andersen, vocals] become the producer because he was hungry to produce the album, and also we wanted to get a better sound, so we went to a different studio this time, the more live feel to get a bigger drum sound.”
On what Andersen brings to the band as a vocalist:
Brian: “I think he’s a fantastic singer; I was lucky to find him. I was lucky to find him. He’s a world-class vocalist and such a talented guy. He’s a bit like a chameleon. He can fit into whatever is required. He’s got such a powerful voice that he can easily sing the old songs, but he can also add a lot of energy to the new songs.”
On how DIAMOND HEAD developed their early, aggressive sound, which was a direct influence on many thrash bands, especially MEGADETH and METALLICA:
Brian: “At the time, I hadn’t heard RAVEN or SAXON. ‘Am I Evil’ was written in 1979. My references would have been MOTÖRHEAD [and] JUDAS PRIEST with ‘Exciter’ and ‘Sinner’. Then punk rock had happened big in the U.K. in 1979. I was listening to things like THE DAMNED and a lot of the punk bands played very fast and I liked the simple riffs and powerful, fast drumming. I was kind of borrowing from the classic ’70s bands, but also having some of the energy from the punk rock scene that I used to listen to on the radio, there was this awesome DJ called John Peel, who’s no longer with us, who used to play punk rock on Radio 1. I would listen to it and tape it and I got into punk. It was a bit of a cross between the two for me when it came to DIAMOND HEAD. I maybe borrowed from both styles, punk and classic rock. For me, I didn’t want to be in a punk band, but I wanted to play fast songs live. We were playing to audiences who didn’t know any of our music, so we soon realized that if you play fast songs, it goes down better and you can win them over quicker than if you try and play some long, slow song that you think is great, but nobody knows it and can’t headbang or move to it. We quickly developed the set of fast songs and that’s what we became known for.”
On the writing process for “The Coffin Train”:
Brian: “Most of the songs start in the same way. I normally come up with a guitar riff, then I make a demo here at home. I’ve got a Pro Tools rig. I make a demo and I spend ages to try to get it to flow and make it sound like one complete piece of music. When I’ve got enough material, I will give all of that to Ras, then we will work out which songs are the most suitable for DIAMOND HEAD and the ones he can sing on, the ones he likes the best. We’ll dismiss quite a lot of stuff and just work on a dozen tracks, maybe, and then this time, I would go down to Ras‘s home studio in London and he plays guitar as well, so we’d sit and work on the songs. Sometimes he’d say, ‘This song is great, but it doesn’t have a chorus.’ We’d try and re-write the song or chorus or add to it. I did that for about six months. I went up and down to London and we worked on the songs at his place, made new demos, then, that was all before we even went to rehearsal with the band. We went over the material again to try and get it to work as a live band and add to it and adjust tempos and perfect the tracks, really, until they’re ready to go into the studio.”
“The Coffin Train” was released May 24 via Silver Lining Music. The album was recorded at Vigo Studios in Walsall, Circle Studios in Birmingham and Raw Sound Studio in London, and is the second DIAMOND HEAD album to feature Andersen, who joined the band in 2014.