Doro Pesch / Metal, Survival, And Celebrating Women In Rock Music

Doro Pesch recently released the defiant and powerful album Conqueress – Forever Strong and Proud. MetalTalk recently spoke with The Metal Queen, and here is Part Three of the interview. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

Doro Pesch is celebrating her 40th anniversary of stage performances. She will release a four-track single, Total Eclipse of The Heart, on 1 March 2024 via her Rare Diamonds Productions. Highlights of this include her duet with Rob Halford, an exclusive new version of her song Warlocks and Witches and her new version of Metallica’s The Four Horsemen.

But over the years, it has not been plain sailing. For example, the landscape of Heavy Metal changed when grunge came along. “That was a tough time,” Doro told MetalTalk, “because everybody was hopping on that bandwagon. All the record companies were supporting grunge. It was very tough for a normal Metal band or hard rock band to survive. 

“But we survived. I did everything I could to just hang in there. Then, ten years later, I said, you know, they’re starting the first festivals again. We could tour again. But it took ten years before Metal would definitely come up again. 

“It was tough. But sometimes, you just have to do what you love. Sometimes, time is on your side; sometimes, it’s not. You just have to make the best out of every situation. And yes, we didn’t play any stadiums anymore, but it didn’t matter. We played some clubs.

“Actually, in 1993, we did a great live record and added gigs to the tour because it was going so well. In Europe, we could still do it, but the record companies didn’t release the records worldwide anymore. It was tough, man. Yeah, it was tough. Year after year, at first, I thought, yeah, maybe two or three years and then it will be good again. But, all in all, it took ten years, 1990 to 2000.”

At MetalTalk, we absolutely love Doro’s song, Celebrate. In the recording, Doro worked with a lot of female vocalists. Was it the female sound that she wanted for the song? Was it a celebration of women in rock music? 

“Yes. We did a couple of versions, and I thought all the ladies sounded so great,” Doro says. “In German, we have this word Frauenpower, which means woman power, and I love it. We did a couple of versions, one version with Biff from Saxon and then the full Metal female version. 

“I was showing the fans that the ladies and the girls can really rock out hard, and I thought it sounded great. The girls from Girlschool did a fantastic job. They sent me their tracks, and I thought, wow, man, it was awesome. A

“Back when I started, in the ’80s, there weren’t so many girls in Metal. I just remembered Lita Ford, Girlschool, Rock Goddess, and John Jett. That was about it. Now, there are tons of great, great ladies, and it’s a much better balance. I think they’re very, very talented. From each kind of Metal genre. From Death Metal to Traditional Metal to Symphonic Metal, I think, excellent, excellent ladies.”

Doro Pesch - The Underworld, Camden. March 2019.
Doro Pesch – The Underworld, Camden. March 2019.

At a concert, a very rare treat for a fan is when a surprise guest appears. I saw Doro Pesch come onstage and sing Denim And Leather with Saxon. How do these things come about? Do you meet in a bar by chance? Are they arranged in advance? Do you rehearse, or do you simply go on and hope for the best? 

“Every song, every collaboration, every gig can be different. For example, in the anniversary concert [Wacken Open Air and Mitsubishi Electric Halle in Düsseldorf], we wanted to rehearse one day beforehand with all the guests. With Mikkey Dee, who’s now with Scorpions but was Motörhead drummer, and Phil Campbell and all the other guests. 

“We wanted to rehearse, and we had a plan. But then it was raining so hard. Everybody was stuck in the mud and in traffic. The next day, the only person I rehearsed with was Joey Belladonna. All the other guys, we just improvised, but it all worked out great. I was standing on stage, announcing the guests, and I was just hoping they would be there. 

“But then, with Saxon, we were on tour together many times. So, we’d say, hey, let’s do this song together. And I was sometimes invited to their anniversaries, and sometimes Biff was at my anniversaries. So we usually do Denim And Leather. We kind of know it. 

“But we did a Judas Priest song as well. We did You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’. So sometimes it’s planned, sometimes not. Sometimes, you just hop on stage. There’s no rule to it, but you always hope it works and it makes the fans happy and usually it does.

“With Ronnie James Dio, he actually said, hey, come on stage. We would sing the encores together. I said, Ronnie, I don’t really know the lyrics. He said that doesn’t matter. Then he took me in his arm, and we were singing. The fans were singing along, and it was a big party for all. It didn’t even matter that the words weren’t totally accurate. It was just more fun.”

In the UK, we’ve got Download, which is the ultimate Metal festival, and there is Glastonbury, where anybody from Dolly Parton to Metallica are headlining. If Doro were to play both of those festivals in the same summer, would she change her set for different fans? 

“Yeah, we always change it every gig,” Doro smiles. “Back in the ’80s, we didn’t. But now, we always change, and I always play according to the vibe. When I feel fans want to hear more anthems, I play more anthems. When I feel they want to hear more old-school Metal songs, I play more old-school. So I always feel it out. It’s never the same. There are always two or three songs different.”

Doro, Orange Loop Rock Festival.
Doro, Orange Loop Rock Festival. Photo: Shannon Wilk/MetalTalk

The Metal Queen is very much a central part of her music, whether with Warlock or Doro. How would she feel if she was suddenly asked to join an already established band, like Scorpions or Def Leppard?

“Actually, that’s a funny story,” Doro laughs. “Way back when Vince Neil left Mötley Crüe, there were some magazines that were asking the readers which singer they would like to sing in Mötley Crüe. I was the first vote. They were all voting for me and some other great singers. But, seriously, I don’t know. Man, I would have to think about it hard because I like to do our own songs and my own thing. I’ve been doing it for 40 years, and I love it. And our band, we’re such a good team. I don’t want to mess with that. We are a good family. We’re definitely a great team.”

Doro Pesch has trained as a Thai boxer since 1996. Is there any chance we’ll wi see her in an action film alongside Jet La or Jackie Chan? “‘Oh, that would be great,” Doro says. “I actually haven’t done it for a while now. But I started with Thai boxing, then Kung Fu, Wing Chung and Eskrima. I would love to do it. I was in a movie once called On The Path Of The Warrior. I was a little warrior girl, and it was very cool. Yeah, I would love to do it again.”

Doro Pesch - 1980s
Doro Pesch in the ’80s

An illness when Doro was young made her dedicate herself to singing. It was a time when she learned to focus. “I’ve always loved music, ever since I was three years old,” Doro says. “I always wanted to be a singer. Then, when I was sick, I was in hospital for a whole year. I thought if I would ever make it out of there alive, I really wanted to do something with my life. Something to make people happy.

“Then I got out of the hospital, and two weeks later, I had my first band. So it gave me another kick, you know, to show the world I’m still here, I’m still alive. Because it was really touch and go, I wouldn’t make it. So I had all this energy and stuff. Then, of course, it had to be Metal. Because when you’re stuck in a situation for a year where you don’t know if you’ll survive, man, it has to be full power.”

So, what I learned was that after four decades in the world of Heavy Metal, Doro Pesch retains the same eagerness and hunger that would put some musicians half her age to shame.

Her single-minded focus on her music, her craft, and, yes, her fans makes it very clear that her commitment to Heavy Metal is absolute.

Doro Pesch – Conqueress – Extended is available to pre-order from here. Conqueress – Forever Strong and Proud is out now and available from here.

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