#ROADTOBOA Interview: Brian Tatler of Diamond Head

Bloodstock 2016 logoHere we go again… Last year we covered every band on the Hobgoblin New Blood and Jagermeister stages in the run-up to Bloodstock 2015. This year, we’re going one better and aim to have interviews from all the bands on those two stages as well as all of those on the SOPHIE stage prior to the event kicking off on August 11th. That’s almost 100 interviews to get online for you lucky people over the course of the next couple of weeks. I bloody love this job, but you lot owe me a beer at Catton Hall, right?

Thanks to all the bands who’ve taken the time to respond!

Diamond Head – SOPHIE stage headliners, Friday

We’re genuinely honoured to have had founder member and frontman Brian Tatler answer our questions…

A quick browse through the bands playing at Bloodstock and I think the only one formed before Diamond Head is Twisted Sister… and they’re calling it a day. Are you guys even remotely thinking of that after the success of this year’s album?

No, not yet, we are all having a great time playing songs from the new self-titled album on tour and basking in the glow of so much positive media attention this album has created. It’s receiving some of the best press of Diamond Head’s career. We are off to the United States again in November so that should be fun. We are also talking about writing another album in 2017. I began working on new song ideas last September 2015 just in case we needed more material. Of course the band will stop one day, but not just yet eh!

Obviously, you’ve had some line-up changes over the years with just only Brian left from the original 1976 line-up. Would the band continue if he decided to hang up his 6-string or would it just not be Diamond Head without a founder member?

I think without me it would not be Diamond Head, as long as I still want to do it we can continue. The band has survived a few line-up changes but as the one remaining original member it would feel like a rip off without me. I am quality control.

Newest to the fold is Rasmus. As I’m typing this I’m watching your show from Sweden Rock (thank you for making it available) and he’s superb! Where did you find him and what do you think he’s added to the band in the months he’s been with you?

I found Rasmus through a friend of our bass player Eddie, they both attended London University together where Ras was studying for a bachelor’s degree in vocals and performance. I sent him a backing track to the Diamond Head song “To Heaven From Hell” and asked him to sing on it. Ras sent it back and both (drummer) Karl and I were very impressed. Ras made it sound easy, he was not struggling to reach notes or hold long notes at all. Next we had a rehearsal with him up here in the Midlands (which I recorded) and after about 30 minutes I was sure he could easily do justice to the Diamond Head back catalogue live.

After the 2014 European tour we decided to start writing together and I gave him lots of music that I had been working on, Ras picked out ideas he liked but also songs that in his opinion sounded like Diamond Head. We followed this brief and Ras kept working on vocal ideas and lyrics. Ras has given us a fresh take on the classic Diamond Head style with some great new ideas, making the most of what is great about this band.

Is he managing to keep up with the seasoned rockers in Diamond Head while you’re out on the road?

Ras is 20 years younger than the rest of us so he can easily keep up with us. He is a fast learner and has contributed a lot to our social media side. I have warned him about not blowing yourself out when you are doing 10/11 nights on the trot, that kind of touring is new to him and we will have to see how he handles it. These days we cannot afford to drink too much when the next day you know you will be in a van travelling for 8 to 10 hours. We have to try and stay healthy.

As a band you’ve had a couple of breaks. What has made you keep on coming back?

I feel there is still a lot of love for Diamond Head, people still want to see the band live and buy any new records we put out, and as long as I still enjoy it I will keep doing it. I still practice every day and really enjoy playing good songs with a group of musicians. I enjoy writing songs too, it doesn’t get any easier but it can still be fun.

Over the years you’ve played hundreds of gigs. A tough question, but is there any one that is particularly memorable for some reason?

My favourite gig was when Diamond Head were asked to play the Friday night of the Reading Festival on 27th August 1982, appearing in the special guest slot just before headliners Budgie. The scheduled band Manowar had been forced to pull out due to visa complications (some wag suggested they could not get their swords through security). The gig was booked at such short notice that it was too late for us to be included on the posters or in the programme so not many people knew Diamond Head were on the bill. We rehearsed our 50 minute set solidly the entire week before, we knew there would be no sound check and wanted to be ultra-prepared.

The set-up at Reading utilised two stages so while the crowd was watching Randy California and his big frizzy afro, our gear was being set up. We went on stage to check our amps were all working and sounding OK and as I stood playing a few chords a woman wearing headphones came running over from the other stage shouting, “Do you mind, we’re recording a live album!” I stopped for a minute and then thought, ‘Fuck off! I’m about to play the biggest gig of my life! Why should I care about a bit of spillage on your mics?’

I was told later by some Diamond Head fans who didn’t want to see Manowar were on their way back to the camp site when they heard the intro tape to ‘Am I Evil?’ blasting out from the PA. Some said that they ran all the way back to force their way to the front of the stage. It was amazing to see and hear so many people reacting positively to Diamond Head. There were no monitors working on my side of the stage and the only way I could check I was still in time with Duncan was to glance round and follow his snare drum arm going up and down. This gig really took the band up to another level. The crowd was great, we had a major deal, it was an excellent performance, and everything seemed to be going so well. Reading 1982 was as good as it got for the classic line up. It was the peak of four or five years of hard work.

What sort of set can we expect at Bloodstock?

We have been playing some songs from the new album live and we will do a few at Bloodstock, probably “Shout At The Devil” and “Bones”. We have to do our classics so “Am I Evil?” and “The Prince” will be in there. I won’t say anymore though and let it be a surprise.

What advice would you give to a young band starting out today, thinking about recording their first EP or album?

I would make sure the songs are as complete as possible before you go into the studio. Have plenty of rehearsals and make sure everyone knows all their parts including solos and lyrics – all lyrics should be completed before you set foot in a studio. Take all your gear and borrow any good equipment you can, it’s nice to have a selection of amplifiers and guitars. Make sure you have changed strings and drum heads if possible. Don’t leave anything to chance as it all costs money. Everything will be recorded to a click so settle on tempos and make sure your drummer is good at recording to a click.

Listen to playback quietly, it’s easy to think it sounds great loud. It should sound great on tiny speakers quietly. Check mixes on equipment you are familiar with.

Of all the bands around today, if you could pick two to open for you on a tour who would you go for? A chance to name a couple of smaller groups we may not have heard of, if you want!

I see so many young metal bands it’s hard to remember their names. I like Evil Scarecrow and we have a band called Fire Red Empress opening for us in August, they’re good. I saw Skillet on TV the other day and thought they sounded good.

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