The Diamond Head main man on new albums, new singers. And rebirths.
For the band who’s last album was called “What’s In Your Head?” then maybe this one is more about what’s in a name. It’s a thought MVM has been considering ever since taking delivery of the simply titled “Diamond Head” – the seventh album from the legendary metal band of the same name.
It has been, after all, seven years since their last record, and for a while back there, it looked like Diamond Head might not exist at all. Singers left, their main man had, by his own admission, no real interest in making a new record and then, suddenly, here was this 11 tracker that is just emerging with the title that says it all.
Put it to Brian Tatler, the man who has steered the band through close on 40 years, that it feels like a statement to call the record that and agrees: “I felt it important to almost tell people we were back after all this time, and that we were very much a band,” he says over the telephone. It wasn’t supposed to be the name, either: “We began the process of naming it, and we had about 200. Some were clichés and it didn’t feel right with any one of them, in the end it was Eddie [Moohan] our bass player, who I think said it could be called Diamond Head and it just felt right as we were almost beginning again”. It would MV respectfully suggests, be odd to have given it the eponymous moniker if that wasn’t the case, a thought that Tatler will not agree with: “Why do you think it’s odd?” Shoots back the affable and pleasant six-stringer. “The Beatles did it, Genesis did and of course, Metallica did it, with the album everyone knows as The Black Album.”
There it was…. the M word. Rather like the old joke in Fawlty Towers, of “I mentioned the war once but I think I got away with it,” MV had resolved not to mention Metallica to Brian. The reasons for this are two-fold: firstly, the questions of “what’s it like being Lars Ulrich’s favourite band?” must bore him to tears, and secondly, well, to be honest, there’s more interesting things to discuss.
One of these is the new album itself, a belting rollicking thing that does sound exactly like a reinvigorated rock band should, but another is more pertinent first: Like, why would a man with so much talent not want to make another record? He’s pretty frank about the reasons: “Labels just weren’t interested in it,” he says. “And with one thing and another, there just seemed to be no appetite for it, I certainly didn’t think we’d make another.”
It’s not like Tatler fell out of love with music or anything dramatic of that nature. “Absolutely not,” he says forcefully. “I practice my guitar every day and I have a Pro-Tools rig in my house. In addition, I was demoing some ideas with a friend of mine Dave Nicholls, who is Slipknot’s live sound guy. He lives local to me [Tatler is speaking to MV from his home in the West Midlands, where the band had always been rooted] and I was gathering the best together.
Then there’s the small matter of the singer. Nick Tart had done the job for over a decade, but for the last six of those he’d lived in Brisbane with his family, a situation that Tatler says now, had a detrimental effect on the band: “It was difficult,” he reflects, “Nick living there, the money to keep flying him back, the hassle of getting visas and stuff – I mean we are working band, we get paid for out gigs, it was getting to be a situation that couldn’t continue. We weren’t all able to get in the same room and jam like a band should.”
Tart’s last show was a hometown one as it happened, in Birmingham on 4th October 2013 – one which MV attended. However it wasn’t planned as a farewell, “We didn’t know it then,” affirms Brian, “it was only when we sat down to regroup that we decided to do so with a new singer.”
The man they choose was a young Danish singer, who lives in London, Rasmus Bom Andersen. He’s been singing in the band since their tour in the Autumn of 2014, but the new record marks his first studio work, and it is abundantly clear that the experienced guitarist is more than happy with the choice he made.
Andersen was one of a number of names in the frame when the time came to make the switch, and came through the Diamond Head bass player, Eddie Moohan as Tatler explains: “A friend of Eddie’s from down in London knew Rasmus, and she suggested him, and it worked out great.
Indeed, so successful were those original shows that Tatler began to wonder if the thoughts of not making a new Head record might have been a little premature. He gave Andersen some ideas, and was impressed by what came back: “Ras has a different way of writing to Nick, he’s very concerned with social aspects, and about the world we live in, that comes through in the new stuff.”
Tatler has his own theories as to why that should be, one, he thinks is down to the age of the new man: “Ras is in his early 30’s, so he’s much younger than us, ” he laughs. “But with that comes the fact that he brings a real young man’s perspective to things, it’s good for us. It freshens things up.” Another factor, according to the man who you sense is very much the band leader, is that his new vocalist was probably not a Diamond Head fan before joining: “I’ve not asked him, actually, but I don’t think he was too familiar with us. He’s in other bands down in London, and I think he thought it was just another way to get his name out there and join a Birmingham band. Then of course he can look at our website and see what we are about, and see we’ve got a bit of history about us.”
There’s that word again. History. And Diamond Head are one of the most lauded bands to emerge from the NWOBHM scene that spawned some of the greatest bands of all time. It’s a weight of legacy that Tatler is of course aware of, as he admits: “Look, of course I know what people expect from us, and I do think Diamond Head has our own distinct sound, but I just give everything I’ve got to the songs, to the music, and hopefully that’s enough. It’s only really afterwards that you start to think about how it fits in.”
If that’s the history then there’s a future too. And according to Brian, it’s a future that will include another new record, as the band that wasn’t going to go back into the studio at all, is already thinking about the next collection of stuff. “Definitely, we’ve talked about it. From those ideas I was putting together with Dave, there’s over 50, so yes I think we’ll be recording yet more new material.
You sense that Brian Tatler is comfortable with everything in 2016, not least of which is his guitar playing as one of the final things he says rather neatly builds upon – and in doing so he brings up the bands most famous song: “I can’t write “I Am Evil” again,” he admits. “I don’t know where my head was in 1979 when I did, and although it would be nice to write another song with that much impact. I think my playing has changed and that I’ve learnt so much in those 40 years, and I think I’ve got better.”
The new album proves that point better than any words. Diamond Head – and the man who has been their heartbeat in that time – have both got their mojo back. If the name of the album signifies a rebirth then the music on it demands a continuation of the rejuvenation.
Diamond Head is out now