King Diamond Details Horrific History Behind Castle Inspiration for New Music
King Diamond was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show, giving fans an update on both of his bands – Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. It's been a big year for the musician, with even bigger things to come as both bands are working toward new music and King offers Jackie some insight on the progress of both acts.
Within the chat, King Diamond talks about the castle that served as a muse for their new music and the contrast of how the beauty of the castle and the utter horrific history it beholds influenced what they've been working on of late. He also offers insight into The Institute, a forthcoming double album offering from King Diamond and how the recording relationship works with both of his bands.
The singer also goes into detail about the challenges there have been in returning Mercyful Fate to the road after all this time, teases a larger production coming and discusses the affection and respect he's earned in the industry. Check out the chat in full below.
Mercyful Fate have their first North American headlining tour in over two decades. We're all very excited. After a long period of inactivity, you guys are now going to be touring and recording an album. What had to be absolutely right in order for this band to resume?
I always said that if the stars align properly, then we would love to do it. But who knows if that's gonna happen and I think that the fact that we've got 5B management has helped a lot with getting things made possible, stuff that we could not do before because we never had management. We always did things ourselves and learned the hard way. So, it's been a tough journey, you can say, but now, new doors are opening and that's very much due to 5B and all the contacts they have. It's just different ways.
The companies in Denmark are no more and the companies for most things are over in the U.S. now and it's not just management but also business management. There's a lot of things we didn't have before you know, that now is up and running and then much more streamlined and it makes things easier in the end for us and gives us more time to do what we're supposed to do.
Mercyful Fate and King Diamond the band are both collaborative endeavors. How does each band satisfy different creative needs for you?
Well, Hank [Shermann] is a different type of songwriter than Andy [LaRoque] is and of course, I write a lot myself, especially for King Diamond. I do about two thirds of the music and all the lyrics and we're doing it a little bit more, like the old days where I don't break the oath where say I will probably write three or four songs, and we'll be doing the rest, whether it's five or six or whatever. So, he will do a little bit more music than I will do and I do still all the lyrics.
So, I was always the one that was swinging this big scalpel around, kind of whenever Hank came with some riffs and ideas for putting something together, I would often sit there and I wouldn't say I would steal some of his solo riffs, but it often happened that I was compelled to sing to them, the ones I was given for vocals, you know? And so, we would do these exchanges and kind of, 'Hey, can I sing over this instead because it's much better to sing over. Oh, sure. I'll fix another piece up.'"
It's still the same right now I will say. It's very much the old-fashioned way we're doing it now. 'The Jackal of Salzburg,' the new song, when I first heard it, it was I think it was 7 minutes and 24 seconds and now that it's finished, it's about eight minutes and 54 seconds. So, it's almost 9 minutes and it's from me listening to it and then Hank had a very nice response to it. I say try these and these and these things and he says okay, and then he went back to his studio and started working on all this stuff and then they came back and I said, 'Man, it sounds so musical right now.' It's moving this way and that way and man it comes back once before and suddenly it just was right.
So it's both of us that has had these things that they work very well together. We understand each other. It's very much the same with Andy, but it's just slightly different style that Andy has and that's good because that gives us a purpose to be looking down and also for being able to write songs. We have this very special songwriting relationship with me and Hank and also me and Andy and now here definitely been re-experiencing the way we used to do it in the old days because that's exactly how we turn out this new stuff.
Mercyful Fate, "The Jackal of Salzburg" Debuted Live in Hannover, Germany
Mercyful Fate have their first North American headlining tour happening in over two decades and the forthcoming King Diamond release The Institute will actually be two albums. How does staggering the release of two separate albums benefit the overall dynamic of the story?
It was necessary because the story has certain twists and coming at certain points where you can't fit it on one album, it's simply impossible. So, there was no other way to do it than that and I don't know how to say this, but we can't say commercialized or whatever. We do things maybe a little bit different sometimes than other bands do.
With Mercyful Fate, we're coming back with a new song for the first time in 23 years or whatever, at least that was just for the live concert. So, we chose to come with a single there'll be nine minutes. I know it doesn't sound like it but it makes a lot of sense. It just does and once you hear the whole story behind that song … we went and visited an actual castle in Salzburg. It was in the area of Salzburg and for two hours that we got the opportunity to go and visit this castle. It's where all these horrible things were happening. Probably the worst witch trials that happened they were there in Austria House in Salzburg, and we saw the actual castle and we saw the actual torture chamber. We saw the special room where they billed out the justice you can say injustice more likely. But it's a horrible story.
I know you asked something different before about the King Diamond album. But you should just hear this. It made it so special to actually see where all these things happened, this horror. In short, it was 137 I think people that got killed from 1675 to 1690 at this place and the surrounding villages, one in particular. That's where they did all the burnings, but they didn't burn in the castle, of course.
So, they would hang people there, chop hands or chop heads off. They put you on the wheel and tear you apart. We saw all these instruments and all this stuff where there have been people that have been speared on steaks and stuff, like absolutely gruesome stuff and knowing that it was real, but it was something.
There was 109 supposedly kids, children, which can't be more horrible, between the age of 10 and 14. So, this place is really full of horror. There are such bad vibes and still it's a very nice castle when you're inside of it and the placement of the valleys around in the mountains, it's so beautiful there and then all this horror happened. There's so many examples of stuff.
There was supposedly a Bishop there, because it was being made the center of justic for that area. There was a church and there was a Bishop that killed over 2000 women as witches and there was about 90 over that 15-year period and many over 100 years that all these witch trials were going on. But this is real stuff. This is reality what happened that we are describing.
I'm just trying to see it from the viewpoint of this 20-year-old man whose mom had been burned alive at the stake two years earlier and now the church had decided that torturing the mother before they killed her that they now thought the son was an accomplice and started hunting him. And then there was all these stories coming out for all these children. A lot of them would point out different people as I saw that person, it was not me. I was not there but I saw him in the woods there they were dancing and having all these feasts and that was that guy you're looking for, he was walking as a jackal. You could see his head and he was walking like a jackal but he was walking upright, and he was all crazy.
You would see some of these priests sit there and say, 'Yeah, you know an awful lot, don't you? Maybe we should ask you some questions and suddenly everybody was just pointing each other out and anybody could get burned for whatever. It ended up at some point and some of those that live there actually got accused of being werewolves because of some cows and stuff that was found dead in the surrounding area and again, the same thing, you could say, 'I saw the person come in, there was more on the floor, there was weird footprints in there, and whether they would just get you out of there as fast as they could, you know, I mean, they didn't need much of an excuse. If you didn't do the sign of the cross, that's what this guide of the of the castle told us, but if you didn't do the sign of the cross when you walk by a statue of Jesus or whatever, if you didn't do it, and there was someone saw them reported it, they would be taken into this justice chamber. And then someone in the next chamber would take them in and chop off the two fingers. It was just so brutal and raw the way that it worked.
One woman was literally accused and burned alive for having flown on a broomstick to the Sabbath. It's crazy. You hear these stories, but here they are, again, and this is all taken on full reality.
King Diamond on the show with us this week and you were talking about the story that went into this forthcoming King Diamond release, The Institute, and speaking about being at that castle. Tell us more about what that was like?
Being there was really something special and it gave me an inspiration. There was one passage in that new song that we've been playing live, even though he was not completely finished. I am not having a lyrical way to sing this one passage, I just made it up every night, just free-falling and it was kind of interesting.
I find that something good came out of it because it was a very good vocal song melody lines and there will be some of that stuff that I experienced there that will be put in that spot that didn't have any lyrics, so it all came together for us as a very intense, very horrifying experience.
Then there's COVID and everything, it has been a big challenge with bosses and trucks and hard to find drivers, hard to find people to work for you, it's tough to find people to build you a stage. All these things, the production and it has been and that's where also our management has come through quite a few times and then we had to call in favors and all this stuff, and we were able to do it and the same thing here with the U.S. tour, it came together extremely fast.
When we played Las Vegas, we knew about it, but things were not signed yet. We didn't know 100 percent. But suddenly everything was done, and we had never done a tour that was done in this short of time or progression. So when it was happening, and I was sitting in and learned that production was not finished yet. We were going to bring the full festival production from Europe, and we are. But when we played Las Vegas, the production was still not finished. We were still waiting for the company in Poland that has been building our government, this big old front to our big altar and the cross we have over it, they build some amazing things for us and they are building some arches that are now being built right now and they have been guaranteed to be done in time. So they will be flown over and then added to the show and so there will definitely be more there than was when we played the festivals in Europe and that will be the last thing to complete with this production. I think it's going to be absolutely insane. It's going to be perfect.
So it's been a long, very difficult ride to try and make everything work and then make the tour safe as can be really in these times. When you think about everything that has happened there, we of course we had to postpone all the European shows for two years actually. So, two times the whole thing was postponed, and there were plans in order for both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond back in 2019, and we finished the King Diamond U.S. tour. We know exactly what we want to do.
But then people started getting sick, me included. I also got it and that was before anyone knew what it was. I had just came from back from the tour and then I got real sick for over five weeks. So I think it was lucky that I had my triple bypass because part of the things they do. What ended up happening was I got more lung capacity actually and I think that helped me get through this but so there's so much that's happened with all of these things.
We were talking about The Institute and the story that went into the making of this record. I know that there were some challenges with regard to getting this record out. Tell us more about that.
There was a plan that King Diamond was going to have the album done and the studios that we were going to use to make it were not able to be done in time. There was such a lack of computer chips in the last couple of years and we felt that too. We've not been able to completely finish because of the studios. But it's all up now and running in full power and with both bands.
The plan was that King Diamond was going to have an album out first before Mercyful Fate. They have been telling us and the management that they certainly want to stick to the plan even though it's been delayed so long. So, King Diamond's album will come out before Mercyful Fate album and then they will each have their cycles, as it should be. I think there will be another single come out and there might be another single come out that won't be super, super long as we get close to a release, but we'll see.
King Diamond should have been touring now in the U.S. This tour that Mercyful Fate is doing, it should have been King Diamond. We have come up with a show production for King Diamond that I don't think anyone has ever seen anything like that on a stage. It's so awe inspiring. It has so many new things that I have never seen before. Andy, I asked him if it was possible for him and the band to be playing in almost darkness sometimes where would they be lit up, but there's a lot of stuff that goes into what we want to do the things we want to do onstage.
The Institute, it's about asylums from the 1920s and 30s, men and women. It's really started to experiment with human beings to learn more about them, and a lot of gruesome things happened and that's all I should say about that. I shouldn't get into the story but that's what it's about and there's going to be some experiments done you can see onstage as well that you will see will be something very different than you're used to seeing and it's going to be something that you have not seen before.
I guarantee you're going to freak out when you stand and look at it and say well 'What? Okay?!' Hopefully people will not want to go off and check it out, even if they were given permission to because hopefully it looks so nasty and disgusting and horrific. You know that the King Diamond side of things, it's going to be something amazing. The way it's set up our lighting engineer has told me also I've never done anything like this in my entire career. It's going to be extremely visual.
As for the front cover, I know who I would like to do it. I know exactly what it should look like. That's King Diamond, and the Mercyful Fate front cover is done, the back cover is done. They just doesn't have all the song titles on it because they are not ready yet.
So there's a lot of things have happened already. There's a call for the next single as well. There's a call for the next time it comes out, but I won't tell you the title right now. But there's also a call that's already done for that. So, we have done a lot and a lot of things ready to go in many different ways.
It's been a long time where it might have felt like we did absolutely nothing. But we have done a lot of things and the thing about shutting down companies in Denmark and opening companies in the U.S. is because we mostly have two companies. I think everyone will be very satisfied in the future because there will be a lot of stuff and we will be doing more than I think we have ever done if we get our way.
You're a longtime U.S. resident as well. What Americanism inadvertently seeps into the music through your familiarity with the culture?
Wow, I never think of it, because it's always straight from the heart. When I turn the lights off in the studio, and I look at the gargoyles, and I have a nice copy of the coat of arms of a dragger hanging on the wall. It's really fun because that that coat of arms actually looks very much like it could be King Diamond karate. There's a crown on top and there's something coming down around the shield. The shield has a bat with spread wings and then there's a capital D in the middle.
One of my friends didn't want to, but I said to check it out. That's actually a copy of this coat of arms and then he said, no, it's a King Diamond coat of arms. Obviously, don't you see that is the crown and the bath, it's all in there. So yeah, I have that in the house and it looks really nice. and it looks really nice in the studio.
I need to know when the lights go down. It looks the same as it always did. It's just a different room with a better sound than I've had before. There's not really anything that changes. You can say that the attitude that we have these days you can kind of hear it with also that we come with this nine-minute song you know, and but it feels right. It's absolutely 100 percent right, this story behind everything, this is exactly us you know. But it's so unique. It was always unique.
How Mercyful Fate approach things and the same goes for King Diamond slightly different but always straight what we feel inside. We don't make it too complicated thinking too much about things, we just do them and then we'll see what comes out of it. It's very much still that way we do things just like the old days, when I would do vocals in the early 80s. It was with the mindset that all vocals lead vocals that I do, whether they're in choirs or whatever, they be treated as lead vocals the way in the you might see a choir coming from right sides crossing the whole picture or to the left side where it's like whoa, I don't know that it's common.
There's been a while where I feel myself was kind of held a little back, not so much by me, but it was I felt like he was being held back and looked upon as lead vocal, where you had a little bit of backing vocal, and I don't like that. I like vocals that are only lead vocals so they all can be heard and seen. That's what it is now 1,000 percent you know and again that's something that I'm very happy about.
You are beloved throughout the metal community. Why is there such great affection for King Diamond the man?
When we are meeting a lot of other musicians and of course fans and that have had such great respect for us and shown it in amazing ways and we tried to do the same back. I mean, for instance, when we played the Copenhell, Metallica happened to be at the show, too. They have also played Copenhell. But they I think they had Copenhagen as their centre for going out. So, they were there seeing us when we played and that adds to things, they stood there on the side of the stage and watched. It was a James and Lars, and Rob were there and it was amazing.
I could see how much they liked it and then we talked of course before and after show, and then the next day Lars sent me an email that I will keep forever because it means so much to me. It really was nice. But he had just got back from Italy, where they had played and said, 'Hey, just wanted to say back in Copenhagen. I just wanted to let you know that yesterday was really special.' Man, he was so amazing and honestly, it was the best compliment I could have gotten from anyone you know. I mean, that really meant the world to me. So, that was nice to hear. We have heard a lot of good stuff, you know, which is making it all worthwhile, absolutely.
Thanks to King Diamond for the interview. You can stay up to date on all King Diamond happenings via his band's website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also stay up to date on Mercyful Fate via their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.