Dennis from Planetmosh talked to Brian Tatler, founder member of Diamond Head following their headlining set in Northwich.
Hello Brian. That was a great set to end the NWOBHM night.
Yeah. It was great. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Rasmus said onstage that this is the strongest the band has ever been. Would you agree with that?
We all get on really well. We can rely on each other. Everybody is pulling in the right direction. Its a strong line up.
So how did you find Rasmus?
Our bass player has a friend who had some vocal coaching with Ras and suggested we try him out, so I sent Ras a backing track for ‘To Heaven From Hell’, he sang on that, sent it back and I thought it was really great. His voice was very strong and he was able to hold long notes. Good range, made it sound easy. So the next thing was to get him up to the Midlands, have a rehearsal and go through half a dozen or so of the old songs and he was great. We had tried a couple of people, he was not the only guy on the list but I thought he was the best. We had a European tour coming up including a couple of festivals so we offered it to Ras and during the tour we all talked. We all got on well, Ras is a nice guy so we offered him the gig and he gratefully accepted.
I read somewhere that the tour gave you the inspiration to record a new studio album.
Once Ras was in the band we spoke about new songs and writing so I thought we’ve got to give it a try. I had an idea for a new song that I was playing and I can remember we were in Norway with an afternoon to kill as we were waiting for a flight. So we went over this song and said we should definitely try and write it so I said I’ve got quite a lot of material that I’ve been compiling at home as demos. So I gave Ras 2 CD’s with about 45 pieces of music as I don’t write lyrics and he was able to get into it, told me what he liked so we had a talk and agreed that it had to sound like Diamond Head. It gave us a sort of goal and style to aim for rather than just blindly experiment.
That is a point I made in my review of the album is that it sounds like one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
Yes, its a fairly modern sound because now we can record on modern equipment, pro tools, digital recording etc. Also we have more modern amps now. We used Diesel and Blackstar. There are a lot of techniques that you could not use years ago but the songs still sound old school. I’ve still got cassettes with riffs and things at home. I find it a very quick way of working this way, then I’ll review them and pick out the best bits. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid.
Is there a reason why the new album is self titled?
Not really, other than I thought it was the best title. We did have a list. I put a piece of paper on the studio wall and told the band to suggest a title. They would write some pretentious rubbish on it and nothing really fitted. I must have had about 100 titles. I had an idea what I wanted but nothing seemed right and very often in the past we used a song title such as ‘Borrowed Time’.
‘Lightning To The Nations’, ‘Canterbury’ ?.
Exactly, so I looked at all the song titles but I liked none of them so Eddie suggested Diamond Head and I thought why not? Been done before. Genesis, The Beatles White album, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Montrose etc. I said to everybody that if we cannot come up with a better title then it will be called Diamond Head. So once the artwork was finished that was it. A done deal.
A good way to start a new era of Diamond Head then.
It is a new start with Ras on board. The Rasmus era. He’s the new cat on the block. (Brian laughs as Rasmus meows at the back of the dressing room).
It maybe an obvious question but when you wrote ‘Am I Evil?’, did you think it would be such an important song?
No, definitely not. You do your best with each song. They are like your little babies and hope they do well. Some songs are better than others and some never get recorded. They just get left on tapes. ‘Am I Evil’ just grew and grew in popularity live. The fans liked it and it took on a life of its own. Of course there is the Metallica version but other people have covered it to. Its just out there all over the World. Compilation albums, live versions, DVD’s. Its easily our best song. Its become our classic anthem. Our ‘Smoke On The Water’.
The very first time I heard it I thought it was like a heavier ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
I’ve never heard that said before and that is a very nice thing for you to say. Its got dynamics and I’m mad for dynamics. They are really hard to do and I think Zeppelin were the masters of dynamics with songs like ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ and I always try and put dynamics into songs. I was probably better at it years ago as you have much more confidence when you are a kid of about 19-20. You think you are going to live forever and rule the World so you just do whatever you fancy but now I’m more self conscious and worry what people may say. So its hard to write a 7 minute song as I don’t want it to be boring and out stay its welcome. ‘Am I Evil’ rises and falls. It has 4 different time changes and moves around in the key. The rhythms move, it takes you on a journey.
Was it written over a period of time?
Yeah, it took over a year. It started with the main riff and the verse, then we added the fast section. I can remember adding the intro which was kind of like ‘Mars, The Bringer Of War’. Then the guitar solo evolved in the studio. The outro was added where you go into the intro riff. There were some great ideas. A lot of thought went into it.
A long work in progress then.
At least a year but the end result was well worth it.
One thing caught me out tonight was when you came back onstage, your drummer played the intro to ‘Stargazer’.
He does it for fun and has only just started doing it at the last half dozen or so gigs rather than just go straight into ‘Helpless’ and of course it featured the late great Cozy Powell.
Sadly missed. I saw him play with Whitesnake a few times in the early 80’s.
I saw Rainbow a few times with Cozy on drums on the Rainbow Rising tour.
Are you going to the Ritchie Blackmore gig at Birmingham in June?
No I’m not. I’ve got something else on but I’m a big fan of his. I love Ritchie Blackmore.
I never thought he would play an electric gig again since forming Blackmore’s Night.
Nor me. He has done 10 albums with Blackmore’s Night. I didn’t even know it was that many.
He is a one off though. I don’t think anyone else sounds like him.
He is a genius. ‘Highway Star’. One of the reasons I started playing guitar was Ritchie Blackmore. I wanted to play like him so I started getting more serious about my playing.
Did you used to play a strat in the early days?
Yes I bought a strat but I just could not get his sound. The strat sounds quite thin. David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, all strat players but there are not many that can get the power out of it like Ritchie. Maybe you can now because of modern technology that is available but not back then when all you had was an old Marshall amp.
His fingers looked as though they were hardly touching his guitar neck. Like they were dancing over it.
He was a very special player and influenced many over the years.
You have been playing for a long time. Any Spinal Tap moments apart from hiring Rasmus? (laughs from Rasmus).
I see you have a Bon Scott logo on your jacket. We supported AC/DC many years ago and Bon invited us back to his flat in London after the gig for a party. Us meeting AC/DC?It would have been great. Hobnobbing with the stars. So we set off with his address and of course there was no sat nav in those days so we just ended up driving round but could not find it so we ended up going back home to Stourbridge, disappointed to say the least.
You have a gig in Wellington tomorrow, what are the plans for the rest of 2016?
This is part of a 27 date tour that runs until the end of October. We are doing Bloodstock in August.
I’m going to that festival. I see you are headlining the Sophie Lancaster stage.
I think that is the Friday. We have many festival appearances including Sweden, Germany and France.
Bloodstock is a great festival. Its the real deal.
It is great. We’ve done it before but its been a long time.
Right. Thank you for your time, its very much appreciated and for a fantastic gig.