Songwriter Interviews

Andy LaRocque of King Diamond

by Greg Prato

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It's undoubtedly difficult to battle for the spotlight when you're sharing the stage with a performer like King Diamond - who has been one of the more over-the-top theatrical metallists for decades. But when you possess the fleet-fingered six-string talents of Andy LaRocque, you certainly contribute majorly to the musical side of things.

Ever since the release of 1986's Fatal Portrait, LaRocque has been by King's side when it comes to the latter's solo work. And in 2014, a compilation was assembled, Dreams of Horror, which features the crème de la crème of King's twelve studio solo albums (spanning the years 1986 through 2007). When LaRocque spoke with Songfacts, he discussed the aforementioned collection, as well as what it's like to write songs with the make-up sporting singer, the pros and cons of concept albums, and memories of key King tracks.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): How did the idea come up to do a compilation at this point?

Andy LaRocque: I really can't remember who came up with the idea first, but I think it might be a thing between us and the record label. Because we really didn't do anything for a long time - when it comes to a studio album. So the remastered songs on the compilation album would be a good thing in the meantime, to keep everything alive, and to get people to hear the better-sounding songs on the album. We did a lot of work to make everything a little more "even" and to not make any song be totally different from each other.

Songfacts: I read that certain songs were "enhanced." What does that mean exactly?

Andy: The old albums were mastered in different places, so we were just checking levels. Some of them had a little more treble than other albums, so we evened it out, to make it a little more smoother the whole way through.

Songfacts: Which songs benefitted the most from going back and working on them?

Andy: I would say some of the albums that were recorded in the '90s, like The Spider's Lullabye, maybe The Graveyard, and stuff like that.

Songfacts: How does the songwriting work primarily in the band?

Andy: Primarily, it's just me and King who writes the songs. Actually, the major part of the songs are written by King. Out of ten or twelve songs, I write maybe four or five songs, and then of course, he writes all the lyrics. He's the major part of the songwriting, definitely. And what we do is usually King has an idea about the story, then we slowly put everything together music-wise. Then he's trying to get the songs in the right order to fit the story he's got in his head. So it's a big jigsaw kind of thing with the songs and the lyrics to make it fit the way it does.

Songfacts: So there haven't been any songs that you contributed lyrics to?

Andy: No. I never really had anything to do with the lyrics. But I'm sure that's the way King wants it!

Songfacts: Which is your favorite King Diamond album and why?

Andy: I would say Abigail, because we captured a very good spirit on that album, and also the "melodics" and the whole feel of the recording session and the album was just unique. It was the second album of King Diamond, where all the members of the band just had a good time, and at that time, we got to know each other in a really good way.

And the songs, combined with the atmosphere of the studio and the writing process and everything around, we'd been on a few tours right before we went into the studio and we knew that a few tours were coming up, so it was a very hectic time. But everything just turned out amazing, and we kind of felt that when we recorded the album.

Songfacts: Is it easier or more difficult writing songs for a concept album, compared to an album that doesn't follow a set storyline?

Andy: When you write a concept album, everything has to fit in - especially the moods and the atmosphere of the song has to be in a certain way to make it fit. It's nothing that I really think about when I write the songs. But I still think about the theatrical way to put in some really cool parts in the song, so that's more theatrical than I would be if I weren't writing songs for a concept album, definitely. So I would say the whole process is a little bit different.

Songfacts: Have you ever written a song on an instrument other than guitar?

Andy: Nope. The guitar is my main instrument. I don't think I ever tried. Well, I play a little keyboard, but not to the point that I can practice on the keyboard.

Songfacts: Who were your guitar influences?

Andy: Randy Rhoads was a very big influence during the '80s, and also Michael Schenker, and to a certain point, also Ronni Le Tekrø from TNT - the Norwegian band. And for a few albums, I also thought that Steve Vai was great, too.

Songfacts: Let's discuss the inspiration behind several tunes, starting with "Sleepless Nights."

Andy: That was written when we lived in Los Angeles. To a certain point, that was inspired by "Air Dance" by Black Sabbath. If you listen to the song, I don't think you can really tell, but the feel of some parts of "Air Dance" inspired that. That was written back in I think 1988, and recorded and released in '89.

The album that "Air Dance" comes from is one of the more forgotten albums from Black Sabbath's first go-round with Ozzy Osbourne, 1978's Never Say Die! While the record was considered a commercial failure at the time (it only reached #69 on the Billboard 200 Chart) and admittedly doesn't measure up to any of the albums during their 1970-1975 winning streak, there is indeed some worthwhile material on it, such as the aforementioned "Air Dance," as well as the title track and "Hard Road." The album failed to strengthen an already fragile Sabbath line-up however: Ozzy was shown the door in 1979. Go ahead and compare the Sabbath and King tracks via these two videos:

"Sleepless Nights"
"Air Dance"
Songfacts: What about "A Mansion in Darkness"?

Andy: That's one of the songs that I remember really strong. That was in the summertime, 1986. There is a very big holiday called Midsummer, in Sweden, and all my friends were going to a certain place, having a holiday, up north in Sweden. I just decided, "No. I don't want to go there. I just want to stay home and play guitar." And during that weekend, I composed that song.

Songfacts: "Never Ending Hill"?

Andy: It's an uptempo song, which I remember pretty well - I composed it when I moved from Gothenburg to the city where I'm located now. The feel of the song is a little different from some of the other songs on that album [2007's Give Me Your Soul... Please]. But then again, when you're writing riffs and you send them away to King, you don't really know how it's going to turn out in the end. So you just kind of shoot riffs floating around, and put it down with some drums.

Songfacts: Which instrumental piece is your favorite that you've written?

Andy: A few of them were really my favorite, like "Something Weird." I put a lot of emotion into writing the instrumental songs, for sure. I'm sure you can hear that too, because it usually captures a really special atmosphere, which is also different to the heavy metal part of King Diamond.

Songfacts: King Diamond's albums have always had a very "cinematic" quality to them. Was there ever talk of making a movie based on one of the albums?

Andy: Oh yeah. We've been in touch with a lot of people, asking us if we're interested. But it seems that we're still looking for someone serious enough to make it happen. Every year, we get in touch with people, "Oh man, it would be so fucking cool to do this! Would you be interested in doing that?" But it seems like it's not serious enough to actually happen.

June 12, 2015.
Photos 1 and 3 by Natalia Stupnikova, 2 by Hakon Grav.

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Comments: 7

  • Jason Ruiz from Cincinnati OhioThough a movie would be awesome, King's lyrics are very much like a book. It leaves so much for your imagination to work with, and that could change the imagery at any time. I've been a fan since I was 8, at 36 years old now I'm still amazed!!
  • Justin Bell from OregonPuppet master continued album... Please!
  • Paul from IllinoisI always appreciated King for being a real Satanist unlike all the fakes in metal
  • Billy from New YorkCast your stones but The Graveyard is my favorite King Diamond album. But it is only one of many kd/mf albums that deserve to be remastered. If you love your music at high volume you know what I am talking about.
  • Jeremiah from Boston MaHis style and leads are unlike any guitar player. He is a legend and inspired myself and many other guitarists in the 90's and beyond. I love this guy, have seen him live so many times and he never misses a note. He is by far one of the best guitarist of our time.
  • Greg from Santa MariaWhy didn't you ask about the new King Diamond album that was initially projected to be out this year!!!!!??????????
  • Jay from Cincinnati"Them" and conspiracy would be a f--king awesome movie
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