King Diamond (King Diamond & Mercyful Fate) Interviewed

** The following five questions with the legendary King Diamond were part of a series of interviews I set up for the XXX: Three Decades of Roadrunner Records [click HERE for more info] boxset, for which I wrote the liner notes. Former Roadrunner Records Senior VP A&R Monte Conner facilitated the initial exchange with King via email, but King wouldn’t interview over email. Not a single word. I ended up calling him while he was in Copenhagen between tours and the following is the output of the exchange. Minus one question exclusively set aside for the XXX: Three Decades of Roadrunner Records boxset.
What was it like when you first signed to Roadrunner?
King Diamond: It was all raw. It was about paying your dues [back then]. Big time. I mean, going to Holland [to play the Aardschok festival] in a van and people would say, “Oh, man. You have money for a Mercedes van?!” We’d say, “Oh, no. It wasn’t like that. It had a Mercedes emblem on the front but there wasn’t much Mercedes left in it.” The seats were barely there, but it drove. The wheels were at angles that is hard to believe. We loaded all our gear in there. I remember, we’d fight to drive. It would take 17-18 hours to drive from Copenhagen to Holland. We’d fight to drive. Why? It was the only seat in the van where you could relax. People were sitting with Marshall Amps on their laps. It was crazy. But we made it, man. Some members of certain bands never get that experience. Of paying your dues. It’s like, “Shut up! You have it good!” Those were the times of paying your dues. When we did the mini LP [Mercyful Fate] for RaveOn, I had planned all the backing vocals. A choir. The engineer was like, “No, you don’t have the time. You can have one backing vocal.” I was like, “What?! I can’t do anything with that!” He just said, “Well, you don’t the time. Don’t use them.” I mean, Hank has a solo on “A Corpse Without Soul.” He had two takes and the engineer said, “You know what? We don’t have all day.” He was just about to do his third take. So, that was it. His third take went on the album. We had to move on. Talk about pressure. We were allowed eight days for Melissa. We were like, “Oh man! This is gonna be awesome!” We had 12 days for Don’t Break the Oath. That’s the early days.

What are you up to now?
King Diamond: We did two shows last year after my heart incident, my triple bypass and learning to breathe again. It was a tough road. I changed my lifestyle. I stopped smoking. I eat healthy. I exercise lots. It’s very different now. I discovered I had a voice. My voice sounds better. I’ve never had this kind of voice before. So, for singing it’s almost easier to do the old stuff now. I’m not out of breath after the shows. We signed a new three-album deal. It’s the best deal we’ve had so far, which is amazing in these times. We have new lawyers working for us. A new booking agent. The fan club is completely refurbished. It’s totally set up with Facebook and everything. There’s a Youtube channel. We’re so much better at reaching out to the fans now. I call fans from my Skype channel, you know? To have a chat. We usually do three chats in one hour. Then, repeat it. The chats are recorded for the fan club, so everyone can hear what was going on. Plus, everything is now coordinated by us and the fan club. News goes straight to Facebook. It seems like our music is coming full circle now, too. We’re working on a new album, so we can have product out next year. We might do Wacken next year. Then, a U.S. tour. Definitely. With an expanded production. It looks amazing. We might bring the old cremation coffin on stage again. We’ll be playing a ton of old-school songs. Only 35 percent new stuff. So, we’re just plowing ahead.

Did coming out of your medical condition give you a new sense of what you do or how you create?
King Diamond: It doesn’t change anything at all. On the contrary, I’m not out of breath after shows. My life philosophy is still the same, but I’ll say this: I’m much more alert now. I’m awake, if you know what I mean. I know what’s going on around me. It’s like I was living in a house with 20 windows for all these years. Now, I have 40 windows. I see much more. I don’t take tomorrow for granted. Not anymore. I don’t take any of this for granted. In a way, I got a second chance. My wife’s a nutritionist, so she knows what’s best for the heart or not. I exercise according to what’s best for the heart. I do power walks. I do a mile and a half five days a week, and that’s exactly what they [the doctors] prescribe. My blood figures are through the roof good. They [the doctors] didn’t understand it, really. I’m dead serious about how I treat my body now. All that stuff has changed. I had to learn to breathe again. Imagine after an operation where they collapse your lungs. I can’t tell you how much each breath hurt. I never experienced anything like it. There was so much food for thought. I remember, about three months after the operation, I asked my wife, “Touch my shoulder.” I had to have confirmation that I was here, you know? I could just have been not here. I had my doubts. It definitely opened some doors. I don’t have religious beliefs now—I’ve never had that.

What’s it like be a non-smoker now?
King Diamond: Oh, man. The sensation of taste and smell are so enhanced now. When I take walks, I can smell the bushes, the flowers, the squirrels. I sound like such a geek. [Laughs] Obviously, there’s so much beauty right in front of us. But we’re too busy to see and smell it. It just passes us by. It’s amazing what’s there for the taking. For instance, when I walk the back alley near where I live, the neighbors have their sprinklers going. The smell is so strong it reminds me of when I would vacation with my parents in Norway. The wood smell of their fence is the same smell as the spray they’d use to preserve the Viking ships. It’s amazing what gets stirred up from just smell.

You’ve known Monte Conner [former Senior VP A&R, Roadrunner] for a long time now, right?
King Diamond: He’s been such a huge part of my life. Since the early days. He was there when the U.S. office opened. He’s became a solid friend. It’s always been a perfect relationship. High mutual respect. Always. It still exists today.

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