Songwriter Interviews

Doro

by Greg Prato

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Germany has offered the world quite a few heavy metal exports over the years - the best known being the Scorpions, Accept, and Doro. Born in Düsseldorf, Doro (born Doro Pesch) first came to the attention of metalheads worldwide as the frontwoman for Warlock, which issued four full-lengths during the 1980s - their last album together being 1987's Triumph and Agony.

Since 1989, Doro has been a solo artist, touring the world and issuing recordings on a regular basis. Her twelfth studio effort overall, Raise Your Fist, was issued in 2012.

Doro spoke with Songfacts shortly before launching a springtime European tour in 2015, and was up for discussing songwriting, her favorite collaborations, the stories behind several tunes, and her continued dedication to heavy metal.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): How would you say you write your best songs?

Doro: I write the best songs when they are coming deep out of the soul, deep out of the heart, and when they're totally coming out spontaneous, when I don't feel I'm writing a new record or I want to do songwriting. When they come out natural, and when I have a deep meaning behind it - usually when I go to sleep, almost in my sleep, I have the best ideas.

It's when the mind and the soul relaxes that you can go deeper than you would normally go. Before I fall asleep I have the best melodies and the best song ideas. Then I have to make sure that I record them, because sometimes I do it early in the morning. So I always have to act on it when I feel there is something coming out. And usually, when my heart is pumping, I get all excited, and then I sense there is a magic around it. If I don't get the heart pumping like crazy, if I don't sense the magic, then it's a good song but it might not be "the one."

Songfacts: Who have been some of your favorite collaborators over the years?

Doro: Definitely the guy I wrote Triumph and Agony with, Joey Balin. He wrote with me "All We Are," "I Rule the Ruins," "Touch of Evil," "Für Immer" - those are the songs that I always play in our setlist. Somehow, they carry magic. And then there is one other guy, he is the ex-guitar player of Sisters of Mercy, his name is Andreas Bruhn - I love him. And there is a person I wrote many, many years with, his name is Gary Scruggs - he's living in Nashville. And I think Gary is the most soulful, spiritual, deep person. I went to Nashville for 16 years to write songs with Gary. He's the son of the fiddle player, Earl Scruggs - he was a very famous person in the country scene. He's a bass player and a great songwriter. I would say these are my top three. But Gary Scruggs, man, he's mind-blowing. When I came to Nashville for the first time in 1991, I met him and we clicked. He's especially great with lyrics and he has a depth which is unbelievable. With Andreas Bruhn and Joey Balin, we usually record stuff. Andreas is an engineer, as well.

And I'm so proud of an engineer I always record with. His name is Mike Goldberg, and he just won the Grammy for Best Blues Album for Johnny Winter's album [Step Back], and I worked with him in the studio for the last 20 years. When I have sensitive song ideas, for example, the last song for the Raise Your Fist record is called "Hero" - it's to honor Ronnie James Dio - I went to Mike Goldberg and said, "I have this idea, let's check it out." He's very good at getting a newborn idea off the ground. It's very important, too, when you have a "baby," if some people laugh about it, "Oh, this is a stupid idea," then it's guaranteed that the idea will not have a long life. It's very important that you go to people that are very sensitive, intuitive, and take stuff serious - even when it's totally crazy or totally out there or totally unexpected. Those four people are very important to me. Amongst many others, I must say. I've worked with so many great, amazing people. Jack Ponti is another person I want to mention, who has amazing songwriting skills, amazing guitar player and producer. I worked with him in Toms River for a couple of records. It was amazing, too.

Another collaborator that Doro was linked to early in her solo career was Kiss' Gene Simmons, who co-produced her 1990 album, Doro. Not only did Mr. Simmons receive the production credit, but he also contributed in the songwriting department, as evidenced by the tunes "Only You" (a composition originally recorded by Kiss for their 1981 release, The Elder), "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "Mirage," and "Rock On." And there is another Kiss connection to the album: Kiss' modern-day guitarist, Tommy Thayer, earned a co-production credit and co-penned the aforementioned "Rock On."
Songfacts: What was the inspiration behind the song "Raise Your Fist in the Air"?

Doro: "Raise Your Fist in the Air" I wrote with Andreas Bruhn. I wanted to write a rock/metal anthem which has a really good, positive message: We should all stand together and not take all the bullshit. Fight the good fight. In concert, it's almost like "All We Are" - it's so much fun to sing along, and usually I ask the people to show me their fists, and 10,000 fists come up in the air. It's such a treat. It feels like there's a lot of feeling of "we are all in it together." I think it still sounds really "metal," and it has a good, positive message. I love that song. It's my favorite song to play live off the last record.

Songfacts: And what about "Für Immer"?

Doro: "Für Immer" I wrote with Joey Balin. We had the whole Triumph and Agony album written, and we were totally happy and I was totally satisfied. I thought, "I got all the songs. I got the fast songs, the headbangers, the ballads." And then I said, "Joey, how about we write one more song?" And then I set out to write the most brutal, aggressive, fucked up song, and then out came "Für Immer," the most sensitive, meaningful ballad, which I sang many, many times in cathedrals, churches, weddings - biker weddings, metal weddings.

Many people use it for a wedding ceremony or a funeral or for their best friend. I like that the song means so much to the fans, and it means so much to me, too. I actually have a tattoo on my right arm, and it says "The one who loves the fans, Für Immer." "Für Immer" is the German meaning for "forever." It means a lot to me, and I still play it every single night in concert.

Songfacts: What do you recall about "Bad Blood"?

Doro: "Bad Blood" I wrote with Jack Ponti in Toms River, New Jersey. We wanted to write a metal anthem that sounds more modern. I think it has a great hook, a great chorus. Jack played guitar on it and sang on it, and we did a killer video in New York with one of his best friends, Vinny Giordano. Back then, I think it was one of the most played videos on Headbangers Ball on MTV, and it got the prize for the "Best Anti-Racist Song." I thought that was very positive. That meant very much to me.

Working with Jack was an unbelievable experience. In the studio and songwriting with him is high energy. He's super intelligent, super smart, super funny. I think I had the best time in my life when we made the Angels Never Die record.

Songfacts: And also, what about "All We Are"?

Doro: Another song I wrote with Joey Balin. I wanted to write an anthem. I'm a big anthem lover. We did a couple of anthems like "True as Steel" and "Burning the Witches," and I wanted to write a positive song where everybody joins in.

It's a song which I've played the most in concert, I think five times one time, because people only wanted to hear "All We Are." We came on stage, and after two songs, people were already chanting, "ALL WE ARE! ALL WE ARE!" After five songs, I thought, "OK, let's do 'All We Are.'" Usually, it's the last song in the set. We played it, and then after ten songs, they chanted "ALL WE ARE!" again, and we played it a second time, and then we played it at the end, and we played two encores. It definitely carries magic. It was on heavy rotation on MTV. We recorded and wrote it in New York, but it was my first time in LA - we filmed the video in the LA river basin, where Terminator 2 was filmed. It was a great video. I miss the times where there were great videos and MTV playing videos and Headbangers Ball. I think that's what made the song really big and worldwide. I think that's the most liked song of the fans.

Songfacts: I came across a memorable quote you said in an interview a few years back: "I have no kids or a husband, I'm married to the band, crew and the fans, that is my family." Do you still feel that way?

Doro: Yes, it's still absolutely true. I'm totally dedicated to heavy metal and to the metal fans and to my band. I still love it. Every day, I appreciate it even more and more, and the love grows. It's unbelievable, astronomical.

I think for the rest of my life, that quote will be true. It has more depth now than it probably had a couple of years ago. I really feel that way and I'm happy to belong to the metal family. It's the best way to live. I love metal, I love the metalheads - they mean the world to me and always will. It's just getting stronger and stronger, that bond.

April 8, 2015.
For more Doro, visit doromusic.de.
Photos: Frank Dursthoff - Sugapix, Stig Pallesen.

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Comments: 1

  • Danielle from NjDoro is the kindest most humbling person you'll ever meet. She is totally dedicated to her fans. If you ever get a chance to see her live, do it. You won't be disappointed.
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