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Diamond Head: From the bedroom

When legendary NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) was celebrated with a 25 year anniversary gig in London, one of the movement spearheads, recently reunited, headlined the show: Diamond Head. (This show is captured as live album "It´s Electric" and their first ever official DVD 2006). Despite their long history - since 1976 - and their important influence on various Metal bands, most people might only know them via Metallica covering their songs in their early career, e.g. "Am I Evil". After the release of the new album "What´s In Your Head?" in 2007 and the re-release of their back catalogue, Diamond Head also hit the road again, playing at many European summer festivals. STALKER asked band mastermind Brian Tatler about some details.

What was the first band you were in before Diamond Head?
Diamond Head was my first band; I formed it at school with drummer Duncan Scott both aged 16, and recruited my friends.

When and how did Diamond Head form?
I had been trying to form a band for a while but it didn´t really click until Sean Harris joined in June 1976. Before that we lacked a singer, Duncan and I practiced in my bedroom and we auditioned several school chums before we found Sean.

The band has had many troubles. Could you say something about recording your first single and album?
The first single and album were done at a 24 track studio in Worcester called the old Smythy, it was all very new to us, even getting used to a click track was hard, but we were happy with the results I especially liked the way I could double track the rhythm guitar parts to make a much bigger sound, all the songs had been played live many times and it helped because we were tight when we came to record them.

How did you get that unique guitar sound, on the tracks like "Am I Evil" ? and "The Prince"?
I used my flying V and Marshall 50 watt amp, I had a Morley Power/Wah/Boost pedal that I used for more gain, and on “Am I Evil?” I had the Wah on set to a mean tone. A cutting throaty sound.

You had hired a former member of Procol Harum to join the group. How did this come about? Were you a fan of Procol Harum?
Which former member of Procul Harum did we hire? I like “Whiter Shade of Pale”, it’s a classic.

Who are some of the bands you have toured with over the years?
Diamond Head have been luck enough to support some incredible bands over the years including AC/DC, Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Slade and Iron Maiden.

Who are some of the bands who have influenced you?
Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC, UFO, Judas Priest and Free are the main influences.

I hear keyboards on the track "The Prince". Were keyboards important to the sound of Diamond Head?
No, there was a keyboard in the studio and we thought it would be good to use it here and there but none of us could play so the engineer offered to play it, we were just experimenting with a new sound.

Can you tell us about the tracks that were released as singles?
“Shoot out the Lights” was 1st; it was chosen because it was short and had an instant sing-a-long chorus, the same goes for “Sweet & Innocent” there is always someone telling you that "you could have a hit with this or that song" but we never did. We wrote “Waited too Long” and “Call Me” to be "hits" we tried to put ourselves in the hit single frame of mind, bands like Rainbow, Thin Lizzy and AC/DC were occasionally on Top of the pops with their hit single and I guess we thought it was possible for a rock band to have a hit with the right song!

Did the band have an interest in magic or the occult?
No, not at all. My brother had a ouija board but it scared him and he ended up burning it.

Were any special effects used to enhance the live performances?
No, just a bit of delay on the vocal and lead guitar.

Why did you decide to record an acoustic version of "Lightning to the Nations"?
When Sean & I reconvened in 2000 we started trying acoustic versions of the DH songs for a possible Unplugged type gig. Then we did about 10 acoustic gigs and recorded the Acoustic First Cuts EP (2002) sold at gigs and mail order only this contained “Lightning”, “Run”, “Heat of the Night” and “Ishmael”. It was just the 4 best songs from the set.

Finally, you´ve recently guested on "Sin Sessions" with Al Atkins of Judas Priest fame (see the STALKER interview). How did you meet Al?
Al phoned me out of the blue and asked if I would play a solo on his album, so I went over to the studio in Wolverhampton and met him there, I did my stuff and everyone seemed pleased with the result. I think it was 2005. (And later that year Diamond Head reunited, the ed.)

Author: John Wisniewski, transl. K. Weber, photos: Diamond Head
Date: 2008-08-04

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