Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler Discusses New Album, Writing Process, Metallica and More
Diamond Head guitarist and founder Brian Tatler was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. Jackie and Brian discussed the new eponymous Diamond Head album, the writing process, the band's new singer Rasmus Bom Andersen, Metallica and more.
How ya doin?
I’m doing very well Jackie. Thanks for inviting me onto your show. How are you doing?
We're here to celebrate the recently released Diamond Head album, their first of new material in 8 years. It's a self titled album. Brian, for a long time you expressed little interest in making a new album. What changed your mind?
Okay, what changed my mind I think is Rasmus [Bom Andersen] joining the band. This new singer. So our last singer immigrated to Brisbane [Australia] in 2008. So it became very difficult to get together to write or record. We would pay to fly Nick [Tart, former singer] backwards and forwards for gigs, but it became so complicated and expensive.
In 2014 we had a band meeting where we decided to get a new singer or a singer that lived in the U.K., because it made a lot of sense financially, etc. And so we put the word out. And through our bass player, he knew someone who knew Rasmus. So we got him a tape and he came up to the Midlands to audition for us and we really liked him. I in particular liked him. I thought he’s got this voice, the sort of voice that I like. I must have a certain taste in singers and I thought he’d be perfect. At the time just singing the old material, because we had a tour coming up and we went out on tour, Rasmus would just sing the old Diamond Head hits, the classics.
And during the tour, we talked about writing a new album and I thought that we should at least try to see if we can. So that’s what happened. And I was able to give him a lot of music. I don’t do lyrics, I thought this is Rasmus’ field. I provide the music. So I gave him about 45 pieces or song ideas on two CDs for him to listen to and I let him pick out what he liked and what he thought was the most suitable really.
Brian, what is different about the way you go about writing songs now compared to the earlier Diamond Head albums?
There isn’t a lot of difference. Fondly enough. Even now technologies have moved on. So the recording process is now different. Now you use digital recording when once upon a time you used analog tape recording and that way was much more expensive. You could record an album much cheaper now. But it still starts the same. These songs normally begin life with a guitar riff. So if I come up with a guitar riff that I like, then I will very often record it. Even onto cassette. I’m that old school, that I still got cassettes with riffs on it that I’ve had for a while.
So I will collect all these riffs together and at some point try and turn them into songs and build on one particular riff that I really like and they just get worked up into these demos that are a basis for the songs. So I think I’ve always done that. That’s the way I started. I don’t know any other way of doing it really. Very occasionally you could start with a drum pattern if the drum pattern is particularly interesting or original. And you could kind of add a guitar part to that. But normally it would start with a guitar riff.
What are you liking about the way your singer, Rasmus Bom Andersen, interprets the classic Diamond Head songs?
I just like probably the sound of his voice, the tone of his voice. I probably really like certain singers and when I first heard Rasmus, I taped his audition and I taped the rehearsals and I listened carefully to what he does. And he just seems to suit... he’s got a very good range and he can hold notes with ease. He makes it sound easy really. He’s a trained singer and he did a B.A. in vocal and vocal performance. So he knows how to look after his voice. He knows all about warm up and warm downs and exercises. So he’s just got a really strong voice that he looks after and it doesn’t let him down. He’s not like a — he doesn’t smoke or do any of them kind of crazy habits that are not good for singers. [laughs]
Diamond Head are well known to have been a big formative influence on Metallica. Musically, what impresses you most about how they evolved from your example?
As soon as I heard Master of Puppets, I thought Metallica already kind of left behind the style that Diamond Head created. On their first album, Kill 'Em All, there's a few bits on things like "Four Horsemen" and "Seek and Destroy" and you can think, okay that's a little bit like Diamond Head here and there.
They obviously took a few influences here and there, but I think by the time they got to Master of Puppets with songs like "Battery," that's nothing like Diamond Head. I think they created their own sound and style by then. Moved forward into this style, the metal scene had taken somewhere no one else had been before.
The impact of New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement on the development of the genre is immeasurable. What do you recognize in hindsight that wasn't obvious at the height of that scene?
I don’t know. I suppose the speed, we took things further in a speed way. I always said that I really liked punk rock. I was 17 when punk exploded in the U.K., it was very aggressive and raw. Very fast and sort of left behind a lot of the maybe prog bands of the '70s. I picked up on that.
I used to listen to a radio show called John Peel in the U.K. and it was a big influence on me, it made me think you haven't got to spend 15 years in your bedroom learning to play the guitar to the standard of someone like Richie Blackmore [Deep Purple]. I thought, well, here you've got someone like Steve Jones [Sex Pistols] who is on television playing three chords. I though, I can do that! It gave me a big kick to kind of get out there and do it for ourselves.
So, I suppose in a way I think I must have combined, well not just me but the new wave British heavy metal bands, probably combined some of the influences of the great bands of the '70s and mixed it in with this DIY punk attitude where you make your own record, promote your own gig and kind of blend it until it's something new, really. It's almost a new — you've invented a new style.
Diamond Head recently announced a new North American tour, which kicks off Nov. 2. They'll be on tour all month long in November. Brian, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show with us tonight. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
You're welcome, Jackie. It was nice to speak with you. Thanks for the plug.
Thanks to Brian Tatler for the interview. Pick up Diamond Head's new album at iTunes and Amazon. Look for the NWOBHM veterans at festivals around the world this summer and see a list of upcoming dates on the Diamond Head Facebook page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.