Diamond Head

Diamond Head is a legendary heavy metal band and with their new album “The Coffin Train” they proved that they still have it no matter what. Grande Rock had a very interesting chat with the vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen about the new alum, the production values, the songwriting and all things considering music, among other things. Read more below…
Diamond Head band pic
Hi Rasmus, I’m glad to have you on Grande Rock. Congrats on your new album “The Coffin Train” – it has been chosen as the “Best Album of the month” on Grande Rock!
 
R: Thank you very much GR. It’s very much appreciated and we have been overwhelmed with the positive reception of “The Coffin Train”.
 
 
It’s been 3 years since your previous album. Hence, why did it take you so long to come up with a new release? What happened in the meantime?
 
R: Well with the release of “Diamond Head” in 2016 we had to focus on touring and see where we could go and what the album was going to do for the band. We started writing the next album in 2017 and began recording in between our touring schedule. So between our touring schedule and finding the right label and working with them on the promotion period it just took the time it took.
 
 
What are the differences and the similarities among the new album and your previous album?
 
R: Good question. I think the main difference is that this album is more confident. The 2016 album was a testing ground to see if we could write as a band and if fans would accept me as the singer. We weren’t at all sure how that album would be received, but thankfully it went down really well and that gave us more confidence to do another one. Now with that positive reaction we actually had pressure on to do an even better one. Knowing that our method of writing the “Diamond Head” album worked we kept to the same process of writing and stuck to what we call “The Brief” or blueprint of what we believe is the core of what makes Diamond Head great.
 
 
Well, this is your second album with the band. Obviously you passed the test of touring with flying colors, but were there any differences in doing this album than the last, were you equally involved in both – ie were you there from early on in the creation of the s/t one?
 
R: I was more involved with this record from start to finish than the 2016 record. Brian and the guys very trustingly decided that I should produce and mix this album. Brian felt I had an ear or gut for what was right for DH on this record. The initial writing also started with Brian coming down to my studio in London and we would start going through his many riffs, come up with new ones and put the main arrangements together before hitting rehearsals with the band. I wanted to approach this album even more like DH did back in the day when Sean and Bri would get together. It was a very respectful and rewarding writing process between us. So, as Brian has said in the press release “I left the heart of this album up to Ras”. So from riffs to lyrics, production and mixing I was very involved with this record compared to the last.
 
 
Since you’re involved in writing lyrics as well, where do you draw inspiration from? – What about the vocal lines/melodies?
 
R: The others don’t write lyrics so that’s all on me. Makes it easier as well as they can be personal and easier to work through vocal phrasing and melodies. I draw inspiration from what I see around me or ideas or dreams that I have. I think it’s important to write something that matters and avoid all them metal clichés that some bands do. It’s hard to be original, but there is no excuse for not trying. Melodies are always tricky. You try to find something that is catchy and not boring. I tend to look for notes that aren’t present in the chords or harmony. You know to add more colours and interesting notes.
 
 
What does the album title “The Coffin Train” declare?
 
R: The album title came from the title track “The Coffin Train”. It is a powerful image for one and also invokes a lot of ideas. The song itself speaks of the state of the world and the imminent self-destruction and unsustainable way that humans are living. People turn a blind eye as they are too scared to realize the realities of their existence and the consequences that are looming. If we can’t change our ways then we will be riding “The Coffin Train” of our own demise.
 
 
Give us a hint about each track…
 
R: “Belly of the Beast”: Inspired by a street in Vancouver with some of the heaviest dug use I’ve ever seen and a complete loss of will to live. It’s about not judging people as everyone has their own battles that we know nothing about.
 
“The Messenger”: The idea was to create a story about Death. His character and purpose.
 
“The Coffin Train”: As mentioned above…
 
“Shades of Black”: This was a way for me to mourn my favourite artist Chris Cornell. He was a huge influence on myself and it was heart breaking when he passed away.
 
“The Sleeper (Prelude)”: This was actually made up of left over lyrics from the main “Sleeper” track. It’s a call to arms and speaks of the young rising up against the old leaders who seek only their own gain.
 
“The Sleeper”: It’s about one of my favourite sci-fi movies “Dune”. I love that movie and the concepts within it. It’s about destiny, waking conscience and expanding understanding of life and the universe.
 
“Death by Design”: It’s a call to live fast and die hard on your terms instead of following the hamster wheel checklist of normal life. It’s a Diamond Head “Highway to Hell” kind of song.
 
“Serrated Love”: It’s about the female power and feminism. A story about a female deity floating through space with all our spirits protected within her love.
 
“The Phoenix”:
 
“Until We Burn”: No matter what the future holds for a band the songs will last forever if people keep singing them.
 
 
Out of all the songs you’ve done, with DH, which one’s your favorite, so far?
 
R: I think “The Coffin Train” is the one. It has all the various elements of what we believe is Diamond Head. It took a lot of effort to arrange and produce to make it the dynamic monster that it is.
 
 
How much has your background in production aided you within the band?
 
R: I think that my analytical skills have meant a lot in determining what is Diamond Head is at its core. Production is really a lot of jobs, but the most crucial one, I think, is the artistic direction. Anyone can push buttons and move faders in that creative respect, but the hardest part is the writing direction and preproduction. A song is only as good as the song is on its own. What you do in the studio with all the tech available is another story and also important, but the core of it has to be right first. I think that, paired with our approach, has been one of the defining parts of the quality of this record.
 
 
The band has signed with Silver Lining Music; was there wider interest by other labels and what prompted you to sign with them? Do you feel more confident now that you’re on a big music label?
 
R: We did have other deals in the wings. Some fell to pieces and others weren’t right. It is really nice to be with a label that not only cares, but loves your music and also wants to really work with you. It is so important to have that kind of relationship and Silver Lining are absolutely fantastic!
 
 
What is the feedback you’ve received from audiences and how do you feel you compare to the previous vocalists of the band?
 
R: Well it’s never easy coming in as a new singer and frontman. You can usually replace most people in the band and not many will be too bothered, but when it’s the singer it’s a whole other deal. I try not to compare myself to Nick or Sean. I just tried to stay true to the Diamond Head catalogue and respect the history best I could and do the songs justice. It’s what the fans would appreciate. I’ve pretty much only received positive responses across the board but you can never satisfy everyone. As long as the majority is positive I can live with that.
 
 
When you’re not the original vocalist for a band – there’s always criticism, no matter how good you might be and the purists that won’t accept you, (ie even in Iron Maiden there’s a tiny minority that like Paul Dianno best), how do you cope with that?
 
R: I can understand why there are purists people about the music and the singers. Fans have this romantic idea of original line ups getting together in their early days and the fans buy into that and sort of become part of the band in spirit. It’s sort of a romantic hold on what they remember from their past and music is their time machine that brings them back to that period. I can understand this completely, but I think it’s a shame if people can’t move on and still enjoy the music now, but that is their choice. I just always try to respect the songs and sing them as close to how they were written and now also bring new stuff to the scene and keep the band fresh and alive. Also if you really think about what bands out there have had lineup changes including the big ones I think a lot of people would be surprised.
 
Growing up who were your favorite singers-musicians / inspirations.
 
R: Freddie Mercury was the one who got me going on my path with music, but Chris Cornell is and will always be the number one vocalist in the world for me.
 
 
Prior to joining Diamond Head, how aware you were of the band (ie knew some songs, was actively following, not at all)?
 
R: Not at all. I didn’t even catch the “Garage Inc.” stuff from Metallica. I think maybe this was a good thing as I came in completely fresh to learn the songs, history and the legacy of Diamond Head.
 
 
Being Danish and with the whole Brexit thing looming on the horizon and nothing being particularly clear, other than it’s likely that people already living in the UK that are not UK subjects might be allowed to continue to do so – are you at all worried about the whole thing?
 
R: That whole stupid cluster**ck is the single most insane mistake in the history of the UK. Not just an issue for immigrants based here in the UK, but also for the entire creative industry, the economy, infrastructure and so much more. It is a constant worry and could have immense destructive implications for artist in the UK trying to tour in the EU. I talk to a lot of musicians I meet about as they are all worried on both sides of the border. My fear was that when we tour in November I wouldn’t be allowed back into the country. Luckily I’ve been in the UK for 14 years or so and managed to get accepted in the current settlement scheme. This only helps me getting in and out of the country, but if everything falls to pieces it could mean the death or crippling effect on current music artists and their careers.
 
 
You played in Crete – but Diamond Head has not played in Athens or Salonica in quite some time – any plans to include them in a forthcoming tour, speaking of which – are there solid plans for that?
 
R: Well there are loads of plans in the works, but I can’t say anything about the parts that are not announced yet. We loved playing in Crete and would love to come back. It really just comes down to logistics and timing. Anyone interested in having us back just get in touch and we will do whatever we can to make it happen if possible.
 
 
You did seem to tour quite heavily behind the S/T one. How do the fans view this new version of Diamond Head?
 
R: In general it’s extremely positive. I think 99% of the fans are very happy with this lineup and the energy it has now. There will always be the purists who won’t accept it, but they don’t come to the shows anyways. There will be a lot of touring happening now and we can’t wait to play more of the new album to the fans.
 
 
Which are your expectations from “The Coffin Train” and what do you wish to achieve with Diamond Head over the next years?
 
R: We can only hope that it keeps getting accepted around the world and that it opens doors for bigger shows and new opportunities. Climbing the ladder so to speak. I hope that we can tour new areas where the band hasn’t been for a while. It would be a dream to tour in Japan so I’m crossing my fingers for that. I’m not sure if the band would be up for doing more records, but I definitely want to do another one soon and keep the creative juices flowing and the fires burning. For me it’s just full speed ahead and let’s keep the train running!
 
 
Looking at a guy like Brian who’s been doing this for some 40 years (with the obvious pauses, whenever the band wasn’t too active) could you see yourself doing this for a comparable length of time?
 
R: Music is life to me so I definitely want to do it until the day I drop dead on stage. The business is tough and will always try to knock you down so as long as my spirit is full and things are moving forward in a positive way I definitely wouldn’t stop.
 
 
Do you think a younger audience is “discovering” the band still? Or is it just mostly old fans and people who’ve heard the band through the Metallica connection?
 
R: We are definitely seeing younger fans in the audience. Whether it’s the dads bringing their kids in for an education or they have come across the band another way it’s just great to see them there.
 
 
Time for our “Weird Questions”!!! If you could “erase” one thing from modern music, what would it be?
 
R: The MacDonalds reality talent shows like X-Factor. They have been part of what’s destroying the industry. A conveyor belt of copy acts with no artistic soul whatsoever that has created a sense of anyone can be an artist when in fact it’s a sad, sad, sad popularity competition. Also the music is excruciatingly bad!
 
 
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
 
R: “A Night at the Opera” by Queen simply because of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It is the most single incredible song ever written. I could mention other records for their entirety, but that song is simply beyond everything in my opinion.
 
 
Which are the best 3 Heavy Metal albums of all time according to you?
 
R: Tough to say as I’m actually more of a Rock and Grunge enthusiast and it’s tough to call them the greatest without respecting history as well. But if I should chose 3 then 2 options. One with respect for history and one that I’m currently digging. Option 1: Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”, Diamond Head – “Lightning To The Nations”, Metallica – “The Black Album”. Option 2: Jinjer – “King of Everything”, Avenged Sevenfold – “Hail to the King”, Protest The Hero – “Fortress”.
 
 
Fill in the phrase… “Heavy Metal music wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
 
R: Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Brian Tatler of Diamond Head!
 
 
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in metal history?
 
R: Tough tough question. It’s all up to taste here I guess. In metal music I think Rody Walker is absolutely incredible in his versatile voice. Of the females I absolutely love Lizzie Hale, but I’m torn between her and Tatiana Shmaylyuk (Jinjer).
 
 
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
 
R: Probably do Queen’s greatest hits. That might be cheating as it’s a compilation, but it would be a good way to introduce a positive part of humans.
 
 
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
 
R: Definitely the past. 60s or 70s. Was a different aspect of life and not so many distractions like there are now. Things were simpler back then and music was a movement.
 
 
What’s the best soundtrack for the end of the world?
 
R: “Bohemian Rhapsody”…
 
 
That’s all for now Rasmus! Say anything you feel like saying before the end. Thank you very much for talking to Grande Rock. Take care dude!
 
R: Hope people are digging “The Coffin Train” Keep an eye out for our touring schedule and come be part of Diamond Head and their history. Support live music, your local artists and please buy hard copy music from the artists you value.


PS: Special thx to Rockavlon!