Diamond Head’s been back in action since 2002, but for a while it was unclear if the NWOBHM legends would actually release new material after 2007’s ‘What’s in Your Head?’. They had toured quite a bit in the years that followed, including multiple runs in the United States. But it would take almost ten years for a follow-up to emerge, and with it comes some changes. For this self-titled release singer Rasmus Bom Andersen has taken over the lead role, and it couldn’t be a better fit. With a soaring voice that is suited to faster NWOBHM tracks or slower rock songs, the group feels re-energized and ready to introduce newcomers and existing fans to an exciting new chapter in their lengthy career. I had the chance to ask guitarist Brian Tatler some questions about the new album and more.
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg) Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Your upcoming album is a self-titled effort. Did you choose to do so to use this chance to introduce long-time fans to the new lineup, and perhaps re-introduce the band to listeners after a long gap between releases?
Diamond Head (Brian Tatler): I pinned a big sheet of paper to the studio wall with “Name This Album” written across the top, we all wrote suggestions on it but nothing quite fit. A lot of the suggestions were stupid or pretentious. In the past one of the album’s song titles has doubled up for the album title but in this case nothing felt right. Eddie suggested we call it Diamond Head and after thinking about it for a while I thought it was a good idea. I thought hey The Beatles, Genesis and Metallica have all had self-titled albums that were not their debut so why not. It’s also a very strong statement of intent. Diamond Head are back!
TO: The new material was recorded at Vigo Studios in Walsall. With all of the different studios Diamond Head has used over the course of your career, what made Vigo the right choice this time around and what was the overall experience like?
Diamond Head: Cost was a big part of why we used Vigo. I was invited to take a look around and it’s quite a small studio but I thought for the price I was offered it would be fine. I thought the engineer Adam was great and there was a lot of great equipment at the studio that was free to be used. I would rather not use an expensive studio and rush it. At the price we were quoted we could take our time. Recording was a lot of fun and we were fairly well prepared although Ras did need a couple of months off to finish his lyrics and complete some other projects he had been working on.
TO: I’ve spent a lot of time with the new album and think it’s fantastic from beginning to end and really captures a little bit of everything Diamond Head has encompassed over the years. While I’m sure you’re proud of the effort as a whole, as there any particular songs that stand out to you more than the others?
Diamond Head: Thank you, I am really glad you like it. My two favorite songs are opener Bones and All The Reasons You Live. In the rehearsal room we hit on a few great ideas, I particularly remember when we were writing Bones, I had the verse and bridge parts and Eddie came up with a riff to compliment them. I immediately jumped on it and thought “That can be the chorus”, we were literally jumping up and down with excitement. All The Reasons You Live started life in 2008 when I was putting songs together with my friend Dave (shirt) Nicholls (Slipknot’s live sound engineer). I would go over to his house and record demos on his ProTools rig. Shirt always made them sound better than my home demos. I was very impressed with Ras’ guide vocals, I just thought they were brilliant, some of the best guide vocals I have ever heard.
TO: Your new singer Rasmus is a perfect fit for Diamond Head, and he seems to have clicked with you guys fairly quickly. You’ve talked about how you sent him a backing track for To Heaven From Hell and things went from there, but how did Rasmus find you? What was his familiarity with Diamond Head’s material prior to becoming a member of the group?
Diamond Head: I don’t think Ras was a fan, I think he had heard of Diamond Head but was unfamiliar with our material. He likes Metallica so he had (like a lot of people) heard of us through them. I guess when I asked him to audition he went on Spotify to see if he liked Diamond Head enough to want to join, turns out he did! I think he is a perfect fit.
TO: It sounds like the writing process was a bit difficult on the last few records, particularly with Nick Tart living so far away before his departure from the band. For the self-titled you all came together and wrote and recorded in the same room. Did this make the writing process much more fluid than it has in the past few years? How did these songs make it from the original riff ideas you had in your head to their finished versions?
Diamond Head: I usually do a home demo first, and once I have a basic structure I keep it for an album. I might keep these for years until the right moment. I gave Rasmus forty five pieces of music on two CDs and in January 2015 we went into a local rehearsal room to learn to play the demos and work on the arrangements and vocals. I don’t write lyrics so all my demos were just musical ideas. All the songs went through re-writes, ‘Silence’ was written in the rehearsal room. All I had was one riff for that, the rest we came up with on the spot.
TO: Were there any rough cuts of songs that didn’t make it onto the final album but might be revisited further down the road, either as potential bonus tracks or an entire new recording?
Diamond Head: Yes, we shelved three songs that we were working on for the new album, they will probably get re-visited at some point. Quite a few of these songs were things I had already done some work on at home or with my friend Dave (shirt) Nicholls at his home studio. It’s easier to re-write a song than start from scratch. The only song that was written from scratch in the rehearsal room was ‘Silence’.
TO: Diamond Head has covered a lot of musical ground over the past thirty-five years, and I think that continues to show in your ability to write material that recalls the best of the rock ‘n roll and heavy metal glory days without merely retreading the past. With this new record showing off that type of versatile songwriting, are there areas you feel you can get even more exploration and experimentation out of in the future?
Diamond Head: No, I think sticking to ‘The Brief’ was a good idea and I will try it again at some point. I’ll probably try and write the ultimate Diamond Head song, try and beat ‘Am I Evil?’ Diamond Head stretched ourselves too far on the ‘Canterbury’ album, someone should have reigned us in, mad ambition!
TO: Earlier interviews in promotion of this album mentioned the decision to go independent this time around. Since that time you’ve also signed with Dissonance Productions to release the new album, as well as re-issues of ‘All Will Be Revealed’ and What’s in Your Head?” What made you decide to go with Dissonance, did they show a similar independent spirit that was closer to what you were looking for?
Diamond Head: Dissonance Productions offered us a great deal that we were happy to accept. I really thought this album was to be a do-it-yourself job but I was wrong. Dissonance have been very active since they got involved, I am very pleased with the effort going into getting the album out to a wide audience. This feels like a step up from our last two albums.
TO: Is there going to be any type of bonus material included on the ‘All Will Be Revealed’ and ‘What’s in Your Head’ reissues, or was the goal with these to get them back into print?
Diamond Head: That was the goal, the only thing we have which could be considered a bonus track is This Is War, this was a song left over from the ‘All Will Be Revealed’ album, it was meant to be a bonus track for Japan but I don’t think it has been released. There is nothing left over from the ‘What’s In Your Head?’ album.
TO: So far most of your live appearances for this year are festivals. Do you have any plans for later in the year, perhaps a mini-tour of some kind? Is there any chance that you might make it back over to the U.S., as I bet all of your fans here would love the chance to see Rasmus tear it up on-stage?
Diamond Head: We hope to play the US and Canada again later in the year, Rasmus has never toured the US so he is very excited at the prospect. We have done three club tours since 2011, hopefully our following is growing over there.
TO: Within the heavy metal and rock worlds there has been a massive resurgence of vinyl, and even cassettes to an extent. How do you feel about the re-emergence of these formats? Do you have a preferred medium for listening to music?
Diamond Head: I like CDs, I was a vinyl collector but switched to CDs in 1990 and have never looked back. I still like vinyl though, there is something special about a gatefold sleeve. This is the first new Diamond Head vinyl since the 1993 album ‘Death & Progress’. It’s coming out on purple vinyl I believe. We did not want to do cassettes, that is one step too far. I have seen a few bands release cassettes but it’s not for us. I still have copies of ‘Borrowed Time’, ‘Canterbury’ and ‘Death and Progress’ on vinyl and cassette. I use Spotify to create playlists and to listen to new bands and albums by bands or artists that I like but have never owned their entire catalogue. I have been digging into Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Genesis, Megadeth, The Wildhearts, Cradle of Filth, Gojira etc…
TO: Both the high and low moments of your career have been well documented, particularly through your book. With all of the experiences you’ve had, is there any advice you’d give up and coming rock/heavy metal bands?
I always say write songs. The Diamond Head songs have stood the test of time for over 35 years, without them I would have nothing. One great song can change your life. Other than that, beware of signing things away just because you are desperate to do something. Try and get legal advice or take the advice of someone you can trust.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the new album or Diamond Head in general?
The new album seems to be what people want from Diamond Head, the reviews have been amazing. Our brief was to make an album that sounded like Diamond Head, so that was obviously a good call. We are lucky enough to have a sound and a style so why not go with the flow. We are all looking forward to playing a selection of these new songs live, it’s been a while since we had some new material and it freshens everything up and adds new challenges. I hope you guys like the new album. www.diamond-head.net
Diamond Head’s self-titled album is out now in Europe from Dissonance Productions, with a North American release set for June 3rd. If you want to hear the entire thing early, Noisey has it streaming right now.