The final quarter of 2018 saw Diamond Head undertake a European tour which turned out to be one hell of a trek. “It was indeed. Where shall we start?” laughs founder member and guitarist Brian Tatler. “It’s the longest European tour Diamond Head have ever done. It was a mammoth thirty-eight date tour which took in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, Spain… It started in London on 5 October and ended in Belfast on 24 November. I did three weeks in 1983 when we supported Black Sabbath but this was closer to about eight weeks in all. OK, so for some of the UK shows we could come back home so we were not completely away, but we were away from home for about four weeks solid, so a very long time for us.
“And,” he adds, adopting an older person’s voice, “it’s a bit punishing at my age! We became very tight as a band, we played thirteen nights on the trot which makes a band tight, but at fifty-eight it can be quite difficult.”
You can imagine that it can’t be easy on a vocalist, maintaining that level of performance.
“Very much so,” Brian agrees. “It’s hardest on the singer. If Ras [Diamond Head’s frontman, Rasmus Bom Andersen] was to get a cough or a cold and loses his voice we’re knackered really. It’s not so bad for a musician, if I get a cough or a cold I can still play the guitar – I might not enjoy the gig but I’d get through it. But if the singer has got no range all of a sudden you’re buggered,” he laughs. “I did ask him, ‘how can you do thirteen nights on the trot with not a lot of sleep in some cases and still be able to sing like that,’ and he just replied ‘my voice is not normal’!”
Given the band’s legacy it’s no real surprise that the set was slanted more towards the older material. “It has to be, because that’s what people want to hear, so we still do a lot of songs off ‘Lightning To The Nations’ and ‘Borrowed Time’. We’ve been doing three off ‘Diamond Head’, and we dropped in ‘Call Me’ because we haven’t done that for a while and that went down well, and we also put in ‘Sweet And Innocent’ which I’ve never been a huge fan of but the people like it – the people have spoken if you like! – so I put it in the set and to be fair it went down really well. So I had to kind of eat humble pie and say ‘OK, if people like it, let’s keep doing it’.
“When we set off on a tour, I do like to change the set: I like to have a different opener, a different encore, so the people who’ve seen us before don’t just think ‘oh, I know what comes next; I’ve seen them do this before’. We’ve been doing ‘Sucking My Love’ as an encore which is great; that works really well. And at one gig, I think in Poland, the promoter was a big fan of the album ‘Canterbury’ so we said ‘OK, we like a challenge! Let’s put in ‘Knight Of The Swords’ and ‘To The Devil His Due’. We had played ‘Knight Of The Swords’ on the first three or four dates anyway, and so we put them in the set and, of course, the promoter was really happy!”
As Brian mentioned earlier, the band’s self-titled 2016 album, the first to feature Ras, wasn’t neglected. “We did ‘Bones’, ‘Set My Soul On Fire’ and ‘Diamonds’ this time round. They’re all live favourites. We did ‘Shout At The Devil’ a few times, we didn’t get round to doing ‘All The Reasons’ this time, but we have done it live. We’ve also played ‘Speed’ and ‘See You Rise’ so we’ve done quite a few off that album. But those three in particular – ‘Bones’, ‘Set My Soul On Fire’ and ‘Diamonds’ – seem to work really well live and also fit in with the older material nicely so they don’t seem out of place.”
Of all the shows, the ones that stick in Brian’s mind are the three in Poland. “Diamond Head’s only ever played in Poland once before, in 2009 at a FAMA rock festival with Riverside headlining – a bit prog – and we were on immediately before them. So to go back was really great. We played Warsaw, Krakow and Poznan. There were a lot of women at the Polish gigs which is unusual for Diamond Head: our gigs are usually bloke-fests” – another laugh – “but there were some weeping girls at the front of the stage which was a bit weird, but in a good way. I was thinking ‘this is what it must be like for a pop group’! I suppose that not that many bands go to Poland, so when a band does go there they really make a big deal of it. It’s an event. It was quite a young crowd, they’d obviously never seen Diamond Head before, but they must have heard of the band and may of course know ‘Am I Evil?’ etc, and it’s great to meet that kind of enthusiasm and excitement. It does rub off on us as performers.”
And then, naturally, after the show there’s the signing session. “It was kind of my job to go out as soon as possible after we’d come offstage and sign things at the merch desk. And of course everyone wants to do selfies now, don’t they, and I was probably averaging about fifty selfies a night which is OK unless they’re drunk and can’t work the camera or have got it the wrong way round! And sometimes people would turn up with about twenty Diamond Head products from over the years, CDs, and singles and vinyl, mint condition copies of ‘Borrowed Time’ for me to sign. It’s funny, isn’t it? They’ve kept it pristine for thirty-five years, and then they give me a felt pen and ask me to scribble on it!”
Towards the end of the tour the band were back in the UK, and performed as support to The Dead Daisies at one show in Birmingham. “Our agent had booked that for us a while back. We finished in Spain on 18 November and then heard about the petrol riots in France. Originally the plan was to drive back through France to get back for The Dead Daisies gig so we figured it might be better to catch the ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth, and avoid France altogether. So we booked the ferry. The trip lasted thirty-three hours.” You can hear the boredom in his voice. “Thirty-three hours! And there was nothing to do on board at all. There was no cinema or entertainment or band or anything. There was just a bar, a restaurant and a tiny duty-free shop, so you either spent the journey in bed or having something to eat or drink. Anyway, somehow we passed thirty-three hours on this ferry and then landed in Portsmouth, drove back to The Midlands on Tuesday and then The Dead Daisies’ gig at the O2 Institute in Birmingham was on the Wednesday [21 November]. So that was fine. We were really worried about getting stuck and missing the gig because we were looking forwards to it. We met them backstage, and they were nice guys who took the time to say hello so that was all good.”
“I was a little bit disappointed with the crowd. I thought they were a bit lifeless. It could be that we’d been playing our own gigs, with people purely there to see Diamond Head and going crazy, and then suddenly we’re faced with six hundred blokes with their arms folded going ‘we don’t know any of these songs’,” he laughs. “I was expecting some kind of homecoming event, because it’s Birmingham, and in my naivety I thought that as we hadn’t played Birmingham for five years they’d be mad for it! But it was an AOR crowd, and they’d come to see The Dead Daisies. There were a few pockets of Diamond Head fans here and there, we could see their arms shoot up every so often, but on the whole it wasn’t our crowd. People were saying ‘they’re very good, they’re very good’ but I was thinking ‘what’s the matter with you lot! Is the PA on?’ We bloody worked hard that night. It was like being a new band all over again! We’d gone onstage, tried to impress these people who didn’t know us, didn’t know any of the songs, and it was a real reality check. I certainly wouldn’t want to do a six-month tour with The Dead Daisies!”
There was one other notable thing about the tour, and that’s the fact that early on their Agency went bust. “We used this company called EAM. We’d never used them before, but we went with them to try them out and give them a go because it would be great to have an agent in Europe again. But they went bankrupt. We carried on with the tour, and although we lost some money a lot of the places had only paid some of the advance so we could still pick up the balance or the full amount on the night. But it was a bit of a shaky start and a couple of the support bands lost out. One band didn’t even come out, a band called Tomorrow Is Lost; I suppose it was just too financially difficult for them.”
That’s Diamond Head, though, isn’t it? Nothing ever goes to plan. There’s always something…
“Do you think other bands have all these problems and we just don’t know about it?” questions the guitarist. “Or is it just bloody Diamond Head! I do feel that we’ve had some luck compared to others, Witchfinder General, for example; but even so it’s rarely ever simple and easy for us,” he laughs.
But you are still here…
“Yes, we are indeed,” he concedes.
Available to buy or stream though Dissonance are Diamond Head’s most recent self-titled release, as well as ‘Evil Live’, ‘Death And Progress’, ‘What’s In Your Head’ and ‘All Will Be Revealed’. Click on the links below