Doro Pesch on How a Song Becomes an Anthem: “It Has to Come Straight from the Heart and Soul”

To metalheads, the name Doro Pesch needs no introduction. You would be hard-pressed to find a metal musician so passionate and dedicated towards her craft, as Doro is. Her latest album Forever Warriors, Forever United was released in August 2018 via Nuclear Blast, and she has just landed in the United States with her band, to embark on a co-headline tour with Metal Church. Doro recently spoke to Metal Assault about touring in the States, set lists, anthems, future plans and more. Enjoy the chat below, and catch Doro on tour!

Doro, it’s good to have you again on Metal Assault. Always good to talk to you! So, you’re coming back to the US this April-May. Usually you play as the only touring act, with local support acts, but this you have a co-headliner Metal Church. That must be exciting for you.

Yes, absolutely! I love the guys in Metal Church, we’re great friends, and I’m very excited! I love package touring. Doing our own tour is cool, but together with somebody is awesome. I think the last time we did a tour like this was with Ronnie James Dio in 2000, and since then we’ve done a lot of our own tours. But I think this will be great for the metalheads. People who like the old-school classic metal, this will be something for them to see. We are just getting prepared to play all the heavier songs, and of course all the highlights.

In recent years I’ve noticed that you’re touring the US more than you used to. Do you think that your fanbase or audience here in the US has actually got better in the last few years?

Yeah, you are very right, Andrew! Metal is doing so well in the US. I was just there a few weeks ago for the NAMM show, I hung out with Lita Ford at the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame ceremony, and it was just so great to see her, and all the other people, like Dave Ellefson who got an award that night. My first big tour in ’88 was Megadeth. It felt so good catching up. You know, I love touring the States, and yeah, I think the metal scene is really alive and well! It’s much better than it was in the ’90s. In the grunge era it was very difficult for us to keep it going and to tour the States, but in the last 10 years or so, it’s been fantastic.

That’s awesome to hear, Doro. So, on this tour, what can people expect from your set?

We’ll be playing a 75-minute set, and we’ll switch the headlining spot, so that will be cool. We’ll be sharing the road crew as well, so there’s already a great vibe to start with. We want to play all the classics like “I Rule the Ruins”, “All We Are”, “Burning The Witches” … and “Für Immer” might be the only ballad in that set. And then off the new album Forever Warriors, Forever United, we’ll definitely play “All For Metal”. The song has really done great so far at all the shows we’ve played in Europe. And then may be some other songs like “Bastardos”, a fast one from the new album, and may be “Blood Sweat and Rock ‘N Roll”, something to make the audience feel good and give them lots of energy. We want everyone to have a great night and feel really empowered, put the pedal to the metal! We won’t be able to play a lot of ballads because we want to keep this one hard and fast, plus our time will be limited, but all in all I think it will be a true metal show! We have Tommy Bolan with us and he’s my old guitar player from the Triumph and Agony record, and that will be wild. Of course, we will have an encore of whatever people to hear. So, it will be all killers, no fillers. I’m super excited!

Sounds like it! And like you said, you put out a new record a few months ago, and you’ve been releasing albums regularly. Every time you tour, you have limited time to play. So it must be getting harder for you to select the songs for the set list?

Yes, yes! Right now it’s 20 records, and oh God, sometimes it’s really hard to choose and pick. But of course we have to include all the hits, highlights and fan favorites. I love anthems but I love all my songs for different reasons. And in every city we want to play little bit of a different set list, for people who come to more than one show, so they will always see something unexpected, and nobody can think that it’s always the same set list. And we’re also always working on adding some special visual effects to the show. We had some nice special effects on our last European tour here and we try to get that over to the US so that there’s visually something nice happening. Sometimes it’s not allowed to use pyrotechnics in the clubs, so we will be thinking of something else. But it will be show for the diehard rockers!

You mentioned that you love playing the anthems, and you have quite a few of them over the years. How does any song become an anthem? I don’t think you can write a song with that in mind? I imagine that would be difficult.

That’s right! For me, I always feel that when something is coming straight from the heart and soul, when you don’t think about it and you don’t sit down about what or how you want to write a new song, that’s when it pops out, and you feel this thing has power, it has magic. While playing it live, certain songs have more magic than others, and for some songs people sing along to the melodies. To give you an example, we played a show in St. Paul, Minnesota, and we played the show “Für Immer”. There’s a middle section where there’s only strings, but suddenly the fans started to sing this great epic melody, and I thought, wow, it blew my mind. So after the show, luckily I met these guys who were diehard metalheads with their denim vests on. I asked them if this happened by accident or if they made it up. They said they made it up before they came to the show and they really wanted to give me a gift. I thought that was so metal. A song like “Für Immer”, I always played it in every single concert, but at this show, the fans made up something special during a specific part, and now I want fans to do that every time, specially in the US! So, you can really tell that a song is an anthem when everybody sings along, and makes up their own melodies to sing even during the instrumental parts. But it has to develop naturally. You can’t force it. The newer song “All For Metal” was quite different from”Für Immer” in that sense. I was at Wacken and I was a guest singer for the band Amon Amarth, who I did a duet with on their last record. They asked me and of course Wacken is my favorite, so I agreed to do it. I did the song, and after the show I had some time to kill because it wasn’t a full show for me. It was then that I ran into Jeff Waters and played him “All For Metal” and asked if he would sing on it with me. He was singing on it, and I thought it was just awesome.  In the next room, there was Warrel Dane. My first tour in the US was with Megadeth and Sanctuary and we had become great friends over the years, so Warrel ended up singing on “All For Metal” as well. So suddenly, everybody was so happy singing on it and to me it felt like it had to be a big anthem like “All We Are”, with many people, a big choir. I went up to Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth, then Mille Petrozza of Kreator, and Chuck Billy of Testament. So sometimes, yeah you can tell in the beginning that a song is going to be an anthem, and sometimes it just develops on its own.

So, after this tour, what other plans do you have for the remainder of this year?

Yeah, so like I said, I met Lita Ford in Anaheim and talked to her, and there may be an idea that we want to do something together, may be a little tour, or may be some music together. It’s something we’re going to do after the tour and I’m very excited. We’ve been longtime friends, since we did the photo session for Rip Magazine in the ’80s. I can imagine that this might be something really, really special. And then I have another movie in the making. I’m doing all the summer festivals. And then continuing with more gigs, more touring all over the world. We’re definitely coming back to the States because there’s so many cities and states we’re not hitting now, so we want to do that towards the end of the year. We also want to record Triumph and Agony live, couple of gigs here and there, because Tommy Bolan is with me. And of course, there’s a couple of demos of new songs in the works, so we’ll do another new record eventually. So, that’s the plan!

Sounds like you’re going to be very busy, Doro!

Yeah absolutely. I just want to keep doing things that my fans would like. It’s always the first thing on my mind when I wake up and the last thing when I go to bed.

– interview by Andrew Bansal

Doro + Metal Church remaining US tour dates:
4.18 – House Of Blues @ The Parish – Anaheim, CA
4.19 – Whisky A Go Go – West Hollywood, CA
4.20 – Club Red – Tempe, AZ
5.02 – Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
5.03 – Route 20 – Racine, WI
5.04 – Machine Shop – Flint, MI
5.05 – Arcada Theater – St Charles, IL
5.07 – Highline Ballroom – New York, NY
5.08 – Reverb – Reading, PA
5.09 – The Chance – Poughkeepsie, NY
5.10 – Asbury Lanes – Asbury Park, NJ
5.11 – The Vault @ Greasy Luck – New Bedford, MA

Doro links: website | facebook | twitter | instagram