King Diamond’s appearance on this past summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival became the talk of the summer as metalheads were eager to catch his elaborate show on a larger stage. This follows his 2014 North American tour, which also marked his return to the touring scene following his time off due to various health issues that plagued him for a few years.
This marks King Diamond’s first appearance on a US touring festival that took the band across the country. While the band has played various European summer festivals, they have found subtle differences with the US ones. They had just completed the first night in San Diego, CA and are about to perform at Devore, CA on the second night of the tour.
“Exactly it’s a quite different thing actually in the USA, I must say. It’s great. It’s just different in all ways I guess,” said guitarist Andy LaRocque.
“Last night was really good. San Diego – first opening night was really good,” said guitarist Mike Wead.
“We had a good time. Even the places are a little different from Europe. It’s a different atmosphere. Everything looks different of course. Different organization – it’s great,” added LaRocque.
They spoke about the big differences between the Euro festivals versus the ones in the US.
“No rattlesnakes in Europe!,” said LaRocque.
“The weather is different. It’s hotter here. Like Andy said, the organization behind it is a bit different. It’s still a festival and if you’ve done a few or a lot of them, you’ll feel familiar with the system pretty quick. It takes a couple of days and then you’ll understand how everything works,” said Wead.
“The big difference with this festival is that it’s the same bands tour around the US, compared to festivals in Europe where there are different lineups on every festival. I don’t think there are touring festivals in Europe,” added LaRocque.
“We used to have Sonicsphere but I think they went belly up. So we don’t have it,” concluded Wead.
Having an hour long set time during the tour, LaRocque explained how they picked what made up their set list. While fans each have their favorites, the band managed to select the core tunes that highlighted the main points in their history.
“We try to make a good blend of theatrical stuff that fits on the stage and also what the audience wants, and the different time eras too. So I think what we have now is a good mix of that, which I think works really well. The first show was last night and I think everything was in a really good flow. [It was] very intense. We covered up everything. It’s really hard to fit in everything in one hour of course but this works.”
They took part on a line that featured Slayer, Hellyeah and Devil Wears Prada on the main stage, and a side stage consisting of Whitechapel, Feed Her To The Sharks, Thy Art Is Murder, Jungle Rot, Sworn In and many others. While much of their audience traditionally older, they have found a growing number of younger fans showing interest in their music and live set. LaRocque shared his theories behind this.
“Well you could speculate it. There’s been a lot of hyping on the internet, of course, since he got with his health. I don’t know really to be honest why it happened. There were still a lot of things going on in the background, even though we were not playing. Since we came back, we are now able to play bigger places and reach out to a bigger audience. It seems like our fan base is bigger than ever. One of the reasons is we never have been into having internet sites like Facebook, which we created during that period of his illness. That made it grow also.”
While King Diamond took his extensive time off of the road, the rest of his band kept busy with other things. Aside from the band, each member have their own respective projects they work on to keep busy in the meantime.
“I have a studio and produce bands. I’ve had the studio for over 20 years. I’ve been doing that in theory itself, when we’re not doing anything with Diamond – not touring, not recording an album. I’ve also had different projects with different musicians,” said LaRocque.
“Same with me – studio stuff, loads of session work as a guitar player, and doing records with other bands,” said Wead.
“I only joined the band [in 2014]. I’ve been doing totally different stuff. I’ve been playing with different bands for as long as I can remember, but last summer I hooked up with these guys and it’s been a sweet ride ever since,” added bassist Pontus Egberg, who happens to be the newest member of the band. He joined the band in 2014.
During the downtime, LaRocque admitted that he did come up with rough ideas for new songs but was mainly waiting for King Diamond to recover physically before proceeding.
“We really didn’t do anything with Diamond at all. We just talked often – me, King, the guys in the band and management. I actually honestly wrote a few songs in the meantime. It’s still waiting there to go back there to listen, see if any of it could be used for the next album. I’ve got four, five or six songs. It’s nothing focused or serious, but it might be useful.”
“We’re just waiting for King to come back and took it from there. As soon as he was good enough health wise, we started to do festivals. It started out in Europe and it turned out great. We only did two festivals the first summer back in 2012. It turned out really good. Everyone was like ‘wow! Cool that you guys are back.’ The next summer we did some more festivals, and that was last summer. Then we got the chance to do this. We also did a US tour in October and November (2014). So this is the first festival tour here in the US for us. I’m happy we could do it. As long as he’s fine with everything, with his health and stuff, we will continue.”
In terms of a timeline towards their long awaited new record, LaRocque clarified where the band stood on this.
“We have a few song ideas but nothing worked out yet. We were supposed to start working on new material this summer, but then this festival came in between, which we are very happy for. Once we get a break, we’re going to start working on it. It will probably be early 2016 that we start working on the new material. That’s the plan.”
Approaching the songwriting process, they had spoken about some of the changes including have various options on where to record. Despite this, the writing process stayed somewhat similar to past records.
“It’s mostly King and me who writes the stuff. So what he does is sitting down with now his computer. He used to have this old tape machine type of thing to record. He programs the drum machine and then he sends it to me. I listen to it and we bounce things back and forth. That’s what we usually do.”
“But for the next album, we’re probably gonna record the drums in a studio in Dallas since the drummer Matt [Thompson] is from Dallas, and King lives there. That’s the most convenient thing to find a studio there to track the drums and come over to track the guitars as well so King could attend the process. Maybe the bass too – I don’t know. We’ll see. Pontus has got his own home recording studio too so he could record that.”
“I usually record my leads by myself anyways. Andy is the same. He’s more focused. I don’t mind doing it in the privacy of my own studio,” said Wead.
“Now, King has his own studio so he could do his vocals there. Then we decided him coming over to Sonic Train Studios, which is the name of my studio in Varberg. We’re going to mix and master the album right there,” added LaRocque.
He gave a preview of their forthcoming album: “I mean it’s going to be the King Diamond stuff…that’s for sure. But when it comes to lyrics and stuff, I don’t really know what he has in mind yet. He told us he has some ideas but nothing I want to talk about right now.”
In terms of King Diamond’s health, LaRocque had praises on this subject for him. “He’s better than ever, I would say. He has to take care of himself but when it comes to his physical things, it’s like wow…he’s doing so much better. Eating healthier and all of that stuff….quit smoking, difference in performance.”
What about King’s love of coffee? He claimed in past interviews that coffee and cigarettes, which he has since quit smoking, were the secret to his voice. “Not that much any more. He’s like…cleaned up!,” LaRocque said with a laugh.
“I don’t know if that’s a good secret or not. I think now he realized that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.”