King Diamond: ... about god and the world

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean


King Diamond is - without any doubt - one of the most constant musicians in the metal business. After the very demanding "Voodoo"-album the King strikes back with "House of God", an album in the tradition of "Conspiracy" and "The eye". Markus gave King a phone call 4 days before his US-tour in the beginning of July 2000.

You are preparing for the US tour at the moment ...

Yes. I'll leave on Friday. We'll play about 32 shows, 2 of them in Canada and the rest in the US and south america.

Are there plans for a european tour ?

Yes of course. At the moment two booking agents are working on it. At first we will be in Scandinavia, Estonia, St. Petersburg and so on ... and then it will be Germany, Spain, Greece

Great ! Here in Germany we are really starving to see you back on stage.

It will be very good to come back with a new production ... a brandnew production for "House of God". It's a killer !

Can you tell us how the setlist will look like ?

It's a very interesting setlist this time. We're playing five tracks of the new album and also the intro, two of the Voodoo album, then we are completely jumping over "Spider's Lullabye" and "The Graveyard" so that we can make more space for old songs because we have seen a lot of new faces in the last couple of years. We'll play songs that even Andy and I haven't played since 10 years, for example "No presents for christmas", "Dressed in white" which has a lot of high vocals in it, "Black horsemen" and one song we never played live before from "The eye" which is the song "Burn". Then of course we'll come home with "The invisible guest", "Sleepless nights", "Abigail", "The candle", "Eye of the witch" ... so you see it's a whole bunch of old stuff.

What about the show ?

Of course we'll have grandma, the wheelchair and we're bringing the coffin on stage for the "Cremation"-scene. Of course the place has to be big enough 'cause otherwise it's too dangerous ... but we'll definitely have it with us.

It's great to hear that you've seen lots of new faces in the audience during your latest tours.

Yeah, very much of them. That's why we assembled the setlist for our current tour like I described it before.

You know, I learned to know the music of KING DIAMOND in 1986 ... back in a time, where there were metal shows in german radio stations. One station, HR3, did a special on "Abigail" and that's how I ran into your music. It's a pity that no more "big" shows are broadcasting metal music.

Yeah that's a bad thing. You know, the stations have to follow the trend. No matter what is popular ... they do it and they won't do the other formats. Radio is one of the best things to introduce your music to new fans but at the moment you have to rely on the word of mouth among the people.

In Germany the metal scene comes back again ... there are lots of examples, i.e. Iron Maiden entering the german album charts right into the top 10.

Wow ! That's great !

We have a real silly chart show in german television and the funny thing was, that Iron Maiden played there right after a soul/r'n'b girl-group. You should have seen the eyes of the young crowd saying "What's that on stage ?" :-)

:-) I can imagine that ... that's good, though.

Let's talk about your new album "House of god". It was kind of a spooky surprise for me because I received your album some days after I was on vacation in France. I did not know what "House of god" was about before I left for France. The strange thing is ... the first station of my trip to France was Rennes-Le-Chateau.

You were there ?????

Yepp. I have read the book "The tomb of god", which deals about the secret geometry inside the church, the parchments, medieval paintings and all other things related to the Rennes-Le-Chateau mystery and so I decided to go there and have a look at it. Have you been there ?

No, I have not. [...] So you've been there ... that is so cool ! What's it like ?

The landscape around this church is beautiful and threatening. I drove through a mighty ravine which was frightening high and narrow, then I drove 15 minutes through a completely wide landscape without a sign of civilization and then .. only a small sign pointing up the hill to Rennes-Le-Chateau. It's a really spooky and haunting landscape. Somehow I felt like this is an ideal place for hiding something very important.

How right you are ! The story of course is mine, you know, but the intro of "House of god" is about the mystery of Rennes-Le-Chateau. I found out about this village in a travel magazine. It was mentioning a small place in southern France which is very intriguing and strange. And it was just like "Wow" hearing of a church that has "This place is terrible" enscribed above the door ...

...and a black devil carrying the holy water ...

Yes this really is strange ! All that was a good inspiration for where to put the story. You know, you can actually see this place. Of course the story has a different approach and as you get to the songs "Catacomb" and "This place is terrible" the other things get evident when the leading character is confronted by an entity that claims to be "the highest god". In the story of "House of god" I changed the church a bit. There are two pulpits that are decorated differently, the black devil is near the altar instead of being near the entrance, there are mirrors with crosses in ... and so on.

Compared to other King Diamond stories the story on "House of god" has not much key events. I even go that far to say, that - let's say - the first seven tracks are meaningless for the conflict which takes place at the end of the album.

Yes, absolutely. It's like a book: you want to get to somewhere later on ... but you have to get through other situations first. For me there were many other things that I used as inspiration for it. I used to have a wolf for real, you know,... a 100% wolf. I got it as it was a little puppy when it was only 8 months old. Some day the wolf needed a bigger place to roam on and so I had to give it away. But man, I loved this wolf and it was such a sad day to say goodbye to it and that's what the feelings described in the love-story of "House of god". And this wolf's name was Angel ... so I gave it to the girl. The wolf was very beautiful ... black and silvery white and so I made it transform into a girl in the story and gave her the name "Angel".
And then there is the curse on the girl ... to look after the church. Why is she looking after the church ... she even does not know what it is she's looking after. So is the guy when he takes the curse onto himself. The "Black devil" in my story is showing hate ... this figure is showing hate towards the main character because it knows that this guy is dangerous ... he is there, he want's to find out, he doesn't get satisfied by the way things are. That's why the black devil thinks he's dangerous. As the main character gets desparate enough, he destroys parts of the interior of the church, smashing mirrors and then the altar moves and there is the hole in the floor leading down to the catacomb. And that was exactly the danger that the black devil knew earlier on.

As you already said, the main character want's to know everything. He is not satisfied by what he sees - the corpse of Jesus and an entity that claims to be the highest god - ... in my opinion this conflict leads him to a tragic end.

Well it actually depends on how you look at it ... on what you want from this god. The main characters say "Well maybe you are showing yourself to me whatever you are but if you are the highest god, why don't you show yourself to everybody on earth to the same time so that we all know, that there is only one god in which we all can believe in. Then we don't have to kill each other because of religious differences." Cause that's what's happening over and over again ... man this is crazy. People are killing theirselves because of their different believes, and that's crazy because no single person on this earth can prove to all the others that he or she is believing in the right god. You can't prove that ! You can't prove on the other hand that there are no gods either. So why do we kill for the god that we've created in our mind ? It's as crazy like this: I could say there is a big yellow flower in my yard and tell other people, that this flower speaks to me. People would say, that I'm crazy. Am I really crazy ? I could say: "You say that your god speaks to you. I cannot see me god, you cannot see yours, but I'm sorry that my god just has told me that I have to kill you !" That's insane ...

So the main message is: to be a bit more open minded ...

Yes. I respect that people have different gods and religions they believe in. That's fine. But always remember that you can't prove your believe for anyone else. Just relax a little bit with your religion. I don't care what the name of the god is ... if there is one. Of course it would be so cool, if one god shows itself to all of us and says: "Feel me now. I'll show you the meaning of life and what death consists of." But that might never happen. So the main character is asking: "What is life and death all about ?"

So here you have two possibilities: either you think about these things all along your life or you realize that there might never be an anwser and so you try to accept it and live your live the best you can. And that's what the creature, that claims to be the highest god says to the main character: "Live your live the best you can and leave the rest to us".

You know, I can spend the next 20 years thinking about "I wonder what death is." ... I will not know ... and I know that I will not know ! So I'm saying to myself: I'm not gonna waste my time thinking about being scared over this and that. I'll take all that energy and use it on doing more of the things that make me feel good in this life. This will make me feel much better and it'll be easier to get along with me. If more people think that way than we won't have such religious differences. So the creature says "Live you life the best you can and leave the rest to us."

Could be a recommendation, could be a command ...

Good question. How dare this creature say that to the guy ? Well ... it's keeping him there ... inside the church ... with a curse. It leaves him no choice. It says: "You have to be here and serve me ... me ... a thing that won't tell you who or what I am." The main character replies: "No way ! I don't want to live in a way which other people tell me. I'll show you what I can do. I can think for myself ! I want to have the questions answered ... you won't tell me ... instead you are keeping me here ... that's not life ! You won't even tell me why I am here in this place and why I am supposed to look after it. So I will choose death over you, 'cause that way I'll find out sooner what this is all about." Then he takes a rope, goes up, jumps off and hangs himself. In this story he finds the answer and his own peace of mind ... whatever it might be.

Under normal circumstances that's not a wise decision.

Of course ... I wouldn't do that because I'm not in that situation. I can walk outside the door and do things. He can't. He is locked in this place until he dies and he is damned to do things that aren't explained to him.

Again you are asking questions instead of saying "Do this, do that, this is right, that is wrong."

You have to respect that human beings are individuals. We are all different from each other and so we can't think the same way about things. If you want to be respected as an individual with your own thoughts you have to respect others, too. Take some of my other concept albums ... they all show how humans treat each other: "Fatal Portrait" is about jealousy, "Abigail" is about children that are called "bastard childs" only because they are born outside a marriage, "Them" and "Conspiracy" are all about greed.

As I finished reading the book "The tomb of god" I realized that the entire christian religion could have been built upon a lie. But this was not frightening me. The real frightening thing is that man simply accepts his/her own religion without even thinking about it.

Yeah. People don't question the things you believe in.

In school you learn to treat other religions in historical aspects but not your own. Wouldn't it be good for all of us if we learn to have a bit more historical view on our religion ? People will discover several doubtful things then which will make them think.

Yeah ... and then have an open mind and understand that not everybody is the same. We don't like the same colours or gods ... every life is different and has its' different experiences and that's what makes every single person special. You can't say, that for example all people who believe in the islam are stupid .. why don't they believe in the right god. The strange thing is: even christians fight each others, too.

Roman catholics and protestants ...

You're absolutely right. They somehow believe in the same god in the end, but they do it in different ways ... and even that seems to be enough to kill each other.

Isn't it the same with political systems ? Lots of western germans said to the eastern germans: "Why were you so stupid to live in a socialistic system for such a long time. Socialism is crap. Western capitalism with free markets .. this is how it works !" Who tells us that capitalism is the best thing in the world ? The cizizens of the Germand Democratic Republic knew nothing other than their socialistic system ... like christian educated people know nothing other than their own religion. We all believe in the things that were told us during our entire life.

That's exactly why I think that there are different gods. From the beginning certain areas made up their own goods. Some people believe in a tree, some in the sun, others in animals. People have different needs in their life. If they live in the fields, they believe in things related to that. Some of them have made up their minds a long time ago which was told from generation to generation. It's like you said ... it has to do with different areas of the world where people had no contact with others. If such cultures collide, they won't accept each other. Take the american indians and the spanish conquestadors for example. This is what we are talking about on "Voodoo". The couple does not understand what someone else believes in ... so they try to get rid of the voodoo meetings instead of trying to understand it. But they are not dangerous. Just leave them alone !

I have read an interview with a chairmain of an USA-based christian missionary organization. He said "Take a company like Coca Cola. They spend lots of money and efforts to make advertisement and promotion campaigns. Over all the years, the rubbed out nearly all other brands and now they are the number one soft drink in the world. Noone can prevent us from doing the same with christianity."

Yeah ... you see the big money and the power ... you get into greed. That's on of those basic instincts that we humans have and I don't think that we ever get rid of it. Some people want other people's land and they will take it with the excuse that an old book said this land was theirs in the beginning. That happens a lot, you know ... you excuse your bad actions with something old that noone knows where it came from.

Let's talk a bit about the great cover artwork.

Lots of the things we talked about are to be found in the artwork. You see a god which is a devil ... this god rises again but people have shut its' eyes because they don't want one real god cause that doesn't suit their needs. And their needs is: to have differences as excuses for doing bad things.

Was there a special reason for choosing Thomas Holm's artwork for "House of god" ? We haven't seen a Holm-cover on a King Diamond album since "The Eye".

We had another cover showing a black book with a cross on it ... which was a special hardcover version of the necronomicon, which a germa fan has given to me some years ago. But for some people it looked like a bible. Now back to Thomas. As you know, Thomas did the cover for the Mercyful Fate album "9". While we were in the studio Thomas showed a draft of the cover (which is now the one) to Hank with the words "Maybe you can use it for another Fate-Album". We decided to use it for the "House of god" because it somehow has the story inside.

Speaking of the necronomicon. In the 80ies we had a big media campaign against metal in Germany which was triggered by a totally incompetent TV broadcast dealing with the influences of metal on youth and society. At that time I have read an essay of a german nun about satanism in heavy metal and she declared King Diamond along with bands like Kiss, WASP and Twisted Sister as satanic bands. I think she even mentioned Van Halen.

This exactly shows how much they know. They are sitting in a convent ... what do they know about luxury, about life, about people.

Isn't it dangerous how media defines satanism ? The public impression is totally different from its' original meaning.

Unfortunately ! People don't have an open mind. Someone else tells them something and they go "Aha, ok .. that's what it's like." They think that other people know everything. First of all it depends on how you look at satanism. It's not a religion. For me it's life philosophy. The book "the satanic bible" says: take from ten different religions if you want ... whatever makes you feel good. But just remember that you can't force others to believe in the same things as you. People have such a wrong idea about it. Sometimes even Christianity forgets that it was their god who created satan. Why would a god create an angel like Lucifer ? Normally a god you would say .. oops, that was a mistake, snipping with the fingers to let this creature disappear. Instead he created hell to throw Lucifer in there. This is often forgotten.

Compared to the complex and technical "Voodoo"-album "House of god" seems more smooth. On "Voodoo" the guitar playing of Andy is simply spectacular ... because you really here the complexity. "House of god" sounds more catchy.

It's funny that so many people mention that the songs appear to be a little bit more simple ... but they're not !

Yes, but in this concern "House of god" is a true King Diamond album. It sounds very fluent but if you listen to the guitar playing carefully, you feel the complexity.

This album was much more difficult for Andy to record because of the complexity. The complexity is different in every song. "Follow the wolf" has some strange fucking timing on the drums. "Help" is totally different. It mainly has some kind of simple AC/DC drum beat, but the surrounding guitar arrangements are damn difficult. The guitars, the bass, the vocals ... "Help" has several melodies in different keys, tempos and timings. You have 4 different melodies goin' on. It's almost like a classic orchestra where the flutes a melody, violin another one, chello again another ...

.. but all togther forming a mighty unity.

Yeah ! When you combine it all it sounds like "Oh wow, yeah !" ... you feel it as one. A song like "Help" is extremely difficult to play because you have to isolate yourself from what the others play because you need the concentration on what you are playing yourself. It appears like a simple song when you listen to it, but when you're a musician and try to play it ... good luck. But nethertheless it's a sign for good complexity if so many people think that the songs are a bit more simple. Good complexity does not disturb the song.

Reminds me of the bleedin' Dream Theater discussion we have over here in Germany. Somehow it's an stupid discussion as you won't find any answer because some people like it, others don't. In my opinion technical megalomania destroys the soul of music ... for me a track on a CD and a song are two different things.

That's the point. When Andy and I write it comes straight from the heart. We don't think of uptempo, downtempo or whatever. We do not force ourselves to be more creative. "House of god" is a very complex album, but for the hearer there is no "Oh, the song is broken again. What's going on now ?". The songs are fluent ... somehow it's quite simple: let's call it complexity which feels natural.

Thanx very much for this interesting interview. Best wishes for your US tour, have a great time ... and see you live in Germany !

Oh yes, we'll be there ! The best of luck to all of you, too.

For more information on the secret of Rennes-Le-Chateau please read our Sarlat 2000 festival report

© 07/2000 Markus Weis
DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean