An Interview With : Karl Wilcox (Diamond Head)
4th October 2016, 12:41
Posted by Tristan
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As the old adage goes, expect the unexpected. That seems to be sentiment that Diamond Head are running with. Setting into the studio with their brand new vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen the band wanted to go in the typical British style, low kee, record an album and that perhaps be the end of it. What happened was something the band hadn’t quite envisioned. Leading to a headline appearance at Bloodstock and many other plans in the pipeline we were ablet to speak to the drum power house and allround lovely bloke Karl Wilcox about the surprise that has been Diamond Head’s brand new album.

 

I’m here with Karl from the legendary Diamond Head, how are you?

I’m fine thanks man! How are you?

Very good, very good! Are you excited?

Absolutely, I’m stoked! I mean this is the first time the band has played Bloodstock from 2001 – 2002 when it was at Derby Assembly Rooms. Blind Guardian were headlining and Gamma Ray were on the show as well. Of course for me it was one of those pinch me I’m dreaming moments because I had seen lots of bands at Derby Assembly rooms but never played there so wow! It was one of those moments and obviously to be invited back and to be headlining the Sophie Lancaster stage, its just fantastic! It really is, so so happy to be playing here.

Does the Sophie Lancaster stage have anything to with you with the connotations of what it is?

Well of course its a named stage its an honour to be playing it and there is a whole history behind it. To be asked to come and play that is a great honour and obviously you want to do that for everybody that has paid their money to come and see it and be part of that.

What has been happening up until now from the beginning of the year.

From the beginning of the year! Wow, ok, well from the beginning of the year we had finished the album it had been mixed and it had been mastered and we had just ordered our own 1,000 edition CDs and vinyl to all of a sudden the band signing a label deal! Which was something that we were not expecting. We just wanted to do a record and put it out on our own. I know it sounds so cliche’d and fans are going to say, well everyone says that but we are really and truly surprised at how well it has been received. For people to be talking about the self titled album in the same breath as Lightning of The Nations and Borrowed Time.

We didn’t set out like this is what we’re going to do, the only thing the band set out to do. We had a brief of the songs are the most important thing and we’re going to do what is right for the songs. Full credit to Raz, he helped steer the ship in a way that we stayed true to that form. It could be argued on either side of the coin that Diamond Head has made left turns and right turns and maybe should have done this and should have done that. Brian revisited some old stuff and the band stayed with the brief of what Diamond Head is but little did we know that it was going to be so well received. So well received!

Did you want to put it out on your own?

That was the plan! It was the first album since 2007, there had been the desire to do an album but logistically it just became to difficult to do with Nick living in Australia and when Nick decided to leave the band and we had Raz help us out on a UK tour, we offered Raz the gig! I sat down with Raz, with my iPod and showed him a playlist and said look we’ve got all these are riff ideas here and he was on the phone to Brian saying come on lets do a record, lets do a record! Brian said ok fine.

We won’t put any we’re going to do a great new record bla bla bla. It was just ok we’ll do a record and we will just see how it all trasnspires and how it all comes out. We just didn’t expect to all come out so well! If there is one thing that Diamond Head is its that it crafts songs really well. Its always been associtated with quality song writing and going in we knew that’s what we were going to be doing but we also had this brief of lets stick with what Diamond Head really is and thats what we did.

As I say, I mean we were really pleased when we got the album back ourselves but we just didn’t think that people would be chomping at the bit to be part of it and put it out worldwide. We just did not expect that at all. We were pretty much along the lines of this is going to be a cutting industry and this is going to be our own thing. We still have our own original 1,000 copies that we are selling at gigs and thats it. Thats limited edition because we won’t make that anymore. We have 500 vinyl and thats it because the rest is all going to be limited edition from the record label.

Was it quite a seamless transition with Raz?

Well yeah! Raz is such a great vocalist that he has a lot of different styles. He can sing like Shaun but at the same time can sing with a Metal growl but at the end of the day he’s Raz and that’s his style. At the same time that fits Diamond Head really, really well! So you know we can do songs that we weren’t able to do when Nick was in the band, that now we are able to do live for a band, for a musician you want to keep playing new songs and keep playing songs to the fans so they can come and hear some different songs instead of hearing the same songs every time they come to see the band. Raz is just a phenomenal singer, he really is, he’s a true member of the band. He has a lot of talent and he brings a lot of ideas to the table, which for us old geezers its great!

Do you think that it added a new dynamic to the record?

Absolutely. It added a dynamic, I wouldn’t say that we were lacking because that would be unfair on Nick but it added a dynamic that was truly Diamond Head if you can understand that. We did “All Will Be Revealed” and we did “Lost In Your Head”. Musically people could say that it isn’t really Diamond Head but it is Diamond Head, there are some great songs on there and we enjoyed playing and touring them. What Raz did was put something there that we didn’t know that we were missing. Sometimes you just don’t realise that, you’re so immersed in what you’re doing. Sometimes if somebody comes in looked at the band from the outside, they can be objective and subjective that enables you to think ok you know what you’re right!

What about writing and recording the album, was that a totally different process?

This one was actually done old school, everybody in a room. Because I live in the US, What’s In Your Head, they would send me files over and they would make the changes on the machine and then I would play the drums to a click track either in Pro Tools or Cubase and then I would send the drum files back over. If they didn’t send me a track that had already been arranged. I would just play to a guide guitar, guide vocal and guide bass with a click track, burn all the files and send all the files over.

This album wasn’t done like that, it was done in a room and when I was there Duncan the original drummer from Diamond Head sat in for me and when it was time to go into the studio I came over and helped put all the parts together drumming wise and we sat down and went over all the arrangements and we made sure that everybody knew what they were doing and where they were going. Then we went into the album and just did the drums in three days.

Quick!

Again it was nothing pretentious about it. We just thought lets just go in and do a record. We were on a very limited budget, as a musician you have a responsibility to go in and do what you need to do. I as a drummer should be able to go in with a click track and play the parts. Once I know what I’m playing and once the band has the arrangements they say, yeah we like that drum fill can we put a different kick drum pattern there… I’ll throw my input into it and then ok thats it we’ve got it, lets go in and record it now.

Two or three takes and thats it! I am old school because I’m old haha! Being inspired by your Bonham’s, your Ian Paisley’s your Phil Rudd’s you grow up with that and as a musician as a drummer thats my gig. You want to go in and make this as easy as possible for everybody. I think that everbody in the band did that. Everybody did their homework, when we went in we had these backing tracks and the majority of the songs, Raz didn’t even have the lyrics done! Sometimes he would sing the same verse three or four times. We actually didn’t know how the songs were going to go until he actually went in. He’s constantly tweaking and doing the best he possibly can. I didn’t even know what the lyrics were until I heard the mixes! That’s truth!

After Bloodstock, what are the plans?

After Bloodstock we do a hometown show at the Robin 2 on Wednesday, then we do a show in South Wales on the 20th of August, then we go to Spain for a festival. Then we start the UK tour which is Southampton, Nuneaton, Milton Keynes. Then we go to France for the Rasmus Festival, then we do Skullcrusher in Germany on the 17th then again we start the last run of the UK dates which is Doncaster on the 28th of September and Norwich on the 29th.

Then we’re off for a few days and then we have the eight or nine date run. Starting in York, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Sheffield and London. Then three weeks off, I go back to the United States on the 11th and then I meet everyone in San Francisco on November the 1st for five weeks in the US and this is the first time that the band is going to the US with actually something to promote. We’ve got the full weight of the label behind us, we’ve got PR, its just like chills and goosebumps. We’ve done the states a few times but we’ve done it because people have been like, you’ve gotta get Diamond Head over to America.

Well now we’ve got Diamond Head going over and we have PR people and we’ve got great reviews on the record. Brian has done an article for Guitar Player. We didn’t envision this! We just did not think this is where we would be now. It does sound like oh well but it really isn’t. We were thinking well we’ll get 1,000 copies and get it done and it will be what it is. Everybody around me is just so, so pleased for everybody in the band. Because a lot of work went into that new album and I think that you can tell. I think that the fact that we had a brief, we stuck to it the songs are the most important thing. Everybody orchestrated their parts to make the songs the highlight and as I say for the album to be in the same breath as Lightning For The Nations and Borrowed Time, its just an absolute treasure.

Diamond Head’s brad new album is out now!