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DIAMOND HEAD – Canterbury Tales
Steve Hammonds
Metal Forces, Issue 2 (1983)

Diamond Head (l-r): Sean Harris, Brian Tatler, Merv Goldsworthy and Robbie France

A lot has been said about Diamond Head’s past; small gigs to festivals, independent LPs to a record contract with MCA. Their first major label LP, Borrowed Time, was released last year to critical acclaim. But in my opinion it was poor, when compared to previous efforts. Still, it managed to put them on the map rock-wise. At the Donington Monsters Of Rock bash this year, I managed to have a chat to guitarist Brian Tatler.

I first asked him if they were changing their direction music-wise, as their latest single seemed to show a marked change? “A bit more classy (who says they weren’t?) and original.”

Did you regard yourselves as forerunners of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal? “One of the first, I suppose. But we didn’t pick up the same sort of publicity that Def Leppard and then Iron Maiden did, and we were out at exactly the same time. In fact, before most of them, but we didn’t quite get the exposure. They all got deals two years before us and now we’re around two albums behind most of them.”

You recorded an LP off your own backs in 1980, that must be a bit of a collectors item now? “Yes, the White LP (commonly known as Lightning To The Nations).”

Will you every put it out again? “No, never. Well, there were only 2,000 copies with a white label on them and only 1,000 with writing on them (autographs etc.). If we become famous, it’ll be the rarest LP of all time.”

Did you think it would sell that well when you put it out? “No, we thought we’d sell about 2,000, but we sold out in a few days, so we did some more.”

Did you hold out for your record deal or just rush into it like other bands seem to? “Yes, at the beginning we were only offered single deals.”

Like ‘Sweet And Innocent’ on Media Records? “That was just a Wolverhampton-based label, who promised us they would make us big (new wonder boy Robin ‘Boy’ George produced it). Not one of the majors wanted to commit themselves to a big album deal, so we went to MCA who offered us what we wanted.”

I heard you had gone to A&M? “No, a couple there wanted to sign us, a couple didn’t.”

What did you think of your first MCA LP (Borrowed Time), I thought the production was a bit weak? “If you think the production on that was weak, then the new one’s weaker.”

The producer seemed to ruin the song ‘Borrowed Time’ with all the harmony vocals? “Well, the class came over. It’s not all thunderous AC/DC-type riffs, it’s more soft and subtle. On the new LP, there’s tons of different moods and a lot of emotion. There’s no ‘I’m pissed off’ attitude, more like ‘this sounds magnificent’.”

Why did you change the title of the LP from Knight Of The Swords to Canterbury? “Because we thought ‘Canterbury’ was a better song.”

You haven’t put any older pre-Borrowed Time songs on the new LP? “‘To The Devil His Due’ is two years old and we’ve been doing ‘Knight Of The Swords’ live for 18 months. Anyway, we thought heavy metal was fantastic then, now we don’t… we’ve changed since then. I think bands who keep churning out the same stuff must have a lot of willpower.”

What’s the story behind the departure of Colin Kimberley (bass) and Duncan Scott (drums)? “Col just didn’t want to do it anymore, he thought it was too much like hard work. There’s a lot of pressure on bands and some people just don’t want that pressure. I don’t like it at a gig like Donington, but it’s all part of being in a band. You can’t wimp out, and he wimped out a bit in a way on the LP.”

And Duncan? “We were spending such a lot of time on recording. After a fortnight, we’d got six drum tracks down, so we thought why the hell should we bother? You wouldn’t know the hassles we’ve been through to get the LP to the state it is now, and now it’s still not as we wanted it.”

What is it like? “It’s really adventurous, we’ve not just banged down a few songs like we did for the frst LP. I mean, we’d been doing those songs on the road for a couple of years. This LP, all but two of the songs – ‘Knight Of The Swords’ and ‘To The Devil His Due’ – had been written just before recording.

What about ‘Makin’ Music’? You’d done that live before. “It’s totally different. The whole verse is different and a different bass line, it’s a totally different song.”

With the two new members (bassist Merv Goldsworthy and drummer Robbie France), do you think you’ve gone into a new phase? “Yeah, we never used to worry about the image. We’d just model ourselves on our favourite bands, but now we’re projecting ourselves.”

How did you get your new drummer? “We auditioned over 110 drummers and he just blew everyone else away, he comes from an Australian band called Big Red.”

With the addition of keyboards have you become more orientated that way? “They will set the mood more. They, of course, won’t be as upfront as with Magnum, Grand Prix and bands like that.”

Was it your idea to have interviews on the B-sides of singles as you’ve done twice now? “We always said we’d do an unreleased track on the B-side, but we haven’t been able to do it this time. The interview wasn’t the band’s idea.”

Whose was it? “No comment!”

What happened to the Flying V, so long your trademark? “I think the Les Paul’s better, the V’s more of a metal guitar. At one stage it was just me and Michael Schenker with them, and now the guy in Saxon’s got one and all the European metal bands like Accept have them. Anyway, the Les Paul’s got a better sound.”

Finally, what plans have you to tour? “We’re doing a UK tour in October, as well as Europe.”

What about America? “We’re signed to MCA America, so we will be going, though I don’t know when?”

Do you think there’s more of a market for Diamond Head over there? “Only in terms of its size… much more records to be sold.”

Well, that’s what it’s all about. Canterbury is a good LP, even though it does take a few listens to get used to it. I look forward with anticipation for their next move.

Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 2 (1983)

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