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Interview with Mercyful Fate

  • Interview by: admin
  • Date: April 20, 2010

Mercyful Fate has been one of the most influential bands ever and I thank Headbangers.in for allowing me to interview them. Bands from Metallica to Death have cited them as their primary influences and it was an honour to speak to them. While I could not get a chance to speak to my musical idol King Diamond, I spoke to some of the greatest musicians and some of the most humble men ever in the history of metal. Thanks to folks on the Demonstealer forums and CWW for their questions too.

MICHAEL DENNER
Hank Shermann and Michael Denner are considered to be one of the most prolific guitar duos in heavy metal. Whereas Hank is considered one of the world’s best riffers, Denner happens to be his melodic counterpart. I caught up with Denner and asked him about music, his current projects, his record store and his new love- quizzing. And the man was kind enough to take time off and answer a few questions.

Q.1 WELL THE WHOLE OF THE METAL COMMUNITY IS WONDERING WHEN THE NEXT MERCYFUL FATE ALBUM IS COMING OUT. CAN YOU TELL ME WHEN IT WILL BE?

There are no plans at the moment for a new album,but we are all 5 in a stand by situation, the idea lives,so let’s see and hope.

Q.2 YOU RECENTLY PLAYED ON THE NEW RIPE ALBUM. TELL US ABOUT IT.

My long time friend Bob Thunder is the bass player in Ripe and came up with the idea to let me guest on one of the tracks, it didn’t take me a spilt second to say yes. Some cool people and a great metal band, the result was perfect,their style fitted mine: melodic Germal style old school metal.

Q.3 YOU’VE PLAYED WITH BOTH KING DIAMOND AND MERCYFUL FATE. WHICH STYLE OF MUSIC DO YOU PREFER. BETWEEN ANDY AND HANK, WHO WOULD YOU CALL A BIGGER GENIUS?

I prefer Mercyful Fate, but loved the Two albums i did with King Diamond, what a great band we had then, Hank is the Riff master above all other Riff masters, he is one of my closest friends and our teamwork is telepatic, on the other hand,Andy is a wizard on the guitar,always been kind and helpful to me, a true Gentleman, so i have the deepest respect for both.

Q.4 ANY UPDATES ON KING’S HEALTH(King has been recovering from a herniated disc problem). ARE YOU STILL IN TOUCH WITH ALL THE MEMBERS OF MF.

Yes I talk to at least one of the other four every week. In fact everyone but King live only a few miles from where I live. I believe that Kings health is going the right direction ,but Kings health is for King to answer, I wish the very best for my old friend and room mate.

Q.5 THE SHERMANN/DENNER DUO CAME BACK FOR THE BAND FORCE OF EVIL AND RELEASED 2 KICKASS ALBUMS. WILL FORCE OF EVIL EVER COME BACK AND RECORD A NEW ALBUM?

I doubt it,but pray for we do one more, these two albums rank very high among the over 20  albums i been part of during the years. This band was a pleasure to work with.

Q.6 MERCYFUL FATE HAS NOT MADE ANY NEW MUSIC IN OVER A DECADE WHILE KING DIAMOND STILL MAKES MUSIC. DO YOU THINK KING IS FOCUSSING MORE ON THAT BAND?

Yes i do, and it’s quite obvious,he has a free hand to do exatly what he wants and has Andy to support him with ideas and great tunes. As compared to Mercyful fate, where we all want to be part of every move made.

Q.7 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MIKE WEAD…YOUR REPLACEMENT IN MERCYFUL FATE?

Mike is a Wizzard like Andy, a decent and nice person and a guy I consider as my friend. He has a great feel and imagination in his playing, and was the perfect choice as my replacement.

Q.8 YOU HAVE YOUR OWN RECORD SHOP. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT IT.

Right after making Abigail in the late 80’s I bought my first record shop. I changed the adresses a few times but they were always here in Copenhagen. It’s still going strong, even better than ever, my speciality is Vinyl Albums, and especially stuff from  1967-1976 Hard and Heavy, but also Progressive and Psychedelic.

Q.9 YOU’RE ALSO KNOWN TO HAVE A DEEP INTEREST IN QUIZZING. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

Since I was a kid  it’s been a hobby for me. Radio and TV quizzes, Jeopardy,Who Want’s to be a Millionaire .etc etc. Twelve years ago ,I won some big prizes in a music quiz here in denmark, I did that twice and the arranger told me that i was not allowed to enter the quiz again as a player,instead they asked me to  help them with the next. I did that and continued by my self as a quizhost, Now i have the biggest music quiz in Denmark, Sold Out every month for  the rest of the year, great fun it is 🙂

Q.10 WHO ARE SOME OF THE METAL BANDS THESE DAYS THAT YOU LIKE LISTENING TO? ANY INDIAN BAND YOU ARE AWARE OF?

Most of the time i listen to old school bands from the 70’s, but also newer bands like: Nevermore,Kamelot,Dream Evil, etc.
I like melodic power metal with clear vocals and some good guitar solo’s, It is not very often I get a chance to listen to indian music though. If any it’s traditional music like Shankar and stuff like that. Very interesting though,different scales and tones, a  great challenge to transform this to rock guitar, I’ve done this on a few of the solos during the years.

Q.11 HERE’S YOUR CHANCE TO TALK TO ALL THE MICHAEL DENNER FANS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE.

Thank you all for your loyalty during the many years, I’m happy to say that I’m still very much in the game. And ready for much more Metal.
Best wishes from Michael Denner(Guitarist,Quizmaster,Record Dealer)

TIMI ‘GRABBER’ HANSEN
I am often asked who my biggest inspirations on bass are. While most people are aware of names such as Steve Harris and John Entwistle, not many men have heard of this man with an eyepatch who used to run like a crazed madman on stage and mix the aggression of Steve Harris with grooves reminiscent of John Paul Jones. Timi Hansen is still as passionate about music as he was all those years back, and quite a big patron of football as well.

Q.1 SO THE QUESTION EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT THESE DAYS. IS MERCYFUL FATE GOING TO REUNITE?

I haven’t heard anything about M.F. to reunite and I doubt it. For myself I can say that I don’t have enough time to start practicing again.

Q.2 HERE’S A QUESTION MANY WANT TO KNOW. WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE EYEPATCH YOU USED TO PUT ON BACK IN THE DAY.

The eyepatch started as fun at a gig in Gothenburg, Sweden. I cut off the sleeves on my t-shirt and put one of then around my head and covered one eye and pretended to be a pirate. The rest of the guys thought it looked cool and I ended up going on stage that night wearing it. And after that it kind of became my image with the pirate look.

Q.3 TELL US HOW YOU CAME TO JOIN MERCYFUL FATE. WHAT WERE THE EARLY SHOWS LIKE?

Back in 1980 I was in a band called Danger Zone with Michael Denner and a couple of old friends. We wen’t into the studio to make a demo tape and at that time King’s and Hank’s band had disbanded and we asked them if they would help us out in the studio. They did and then Mercyful Fate was founded.

Q.4 WHO WERE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATIONS ON BASS WHEN YOU STARTED OUT. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO KNOW THAT YOU’VE INSPIRED MANY BASS PLAYERS OUT THERE.

I have always been inspired by the late Gary Thain from Uriah Heep back in the 70-80s. Also a bass player like Geezer Butler has inspired me. But my main influence has surely been Steve Harris from Iron Maiden. I feel VERY proud to hear that I’ve been an inspiration to young bass players. I’ve never called myself anything special, just a bass player.

Q.5 I DON’T KNOW WHY I GOT THIS REQUEST, BUT THIS DUDE ON THE KING DIAMOND FORUMS ASKED ME TO ASK YOU WHAT YOUR FAVOURITE ALE IS. 😀

My favorite ale is the Danish beer Tuborg.

Q.6 WHAT ARE YOUR RELIGIOUS VIEWS. DID YOU SHARE KING’S VIEWS ON SATANISM?

I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God or Satan. I thought it was pretty exiting to hear about Satanism from King and I must give King due credit – he knew what he was talking about. And not in an Evil way.King is one of the nicest people ever.

Q.7 METALLICA HAS CONSTANTLY BEING PAYING TRIBUTE TO MERCYFUL FATE MOST RECENTLY AT OZZFEST WITH KING HIMSELF. I’M CURIOUS TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THEIR TRIBUTE AND ALSO THE COVER THEY’VE DONE FOR THEIR GARAGE INC. ALBUM

I’ve always loved Metallica, and it makes me really proud that the do this Mercyful Fate medley live. The one they did with King back in August 2008 was supposed to be with Hank, Denner and me. We just recorded Evil for Metallicas “Guitar Hero” and they wanted us to fly out to U.S. to do it with them the day after. But it was impossible as Denner had his son with him and I had my daughter with me. We couldn’t just fly out. So it ended up being just King.

Q.8 THERE’S NOT BEEN TOO MANY MUSICAL PROJECTS YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED WITH UNLIKE THE OTHER MEMBERS SINCE YOU QUIT MF. WHY IS THIS SO? WHAT ARE YOU UP TO THESE DAYS?

I was left alone with my 16 months old son back I 1988 when I quit. I had to. My son has always been important to me. So when his mother left me and wanted me to take care of Mickey (my son) I had no doubt in my mind. And since then I have had a daughter (Emilie) as well. She follows in my footsteps though. She plays bass and is very proud of her dad having been who I was. These days I’m the kit manager for my local football clubs 1st team and happy with this. These guys are always talking about their kit manager being an old rock star and we have a lot of fun about it.

Q.9 ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY INDIAN ARTISTS/BANDS? ANY PLANS TO COME TO INDIA IF MF DOES REUNITE?

I had never heard about Indian heavy metal until I met you on Facebook. I don’t have any plans of travelling in the near future, but I would sure like to go and see India once in my lifetime.

Q.10 ANY MESSAGE FOR YOUR FANS AROUND THE WORLD?

I would like to say a BIG thank you to all fans of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond outthere.If only you knew how much you have meant for us. Without all you guys we wouldn’t have been anything.And thanks to you Riju, for bringing to my attention that people still listen to M.F. and K.D. Have a lot of metal fun out there.

SNOWY SHAW
Well, while a lot of MF members have taken a backseat musically…here’s one man who’s been at the top of his game over the years. He’s been in bands like Therion, XXX, Dream Evil, Illwill, Notre Dame, Momento Mori and many many others.. The interview is just as fun and funny as the man is in real life.

Q.1 HEY SNOWY. GIVE US AN UPDATE OF WHAT’S GOING ON WITH YOU THESE DAYS.

Hey there,
Well, musically a little of this and that.. Therion are at the final stages of mixing the new album and then we’ll start touring Mexico in June and will basically continue for the bulk of the year for starters.

I have quite a few albums in the pipeline just waiting to be released right now.
Opera Diabolicus and SNOWY SHAW AND THE CNK just to mention just a few.

And then I have some great breaking news, but at this point I’m forbidden to reveal anything about it. But those who live will see,..

Q.2 CONGRATS ON XXX’S ALBUM GOING GOLD. WHEN ARE YOU GOING ON THE ROAD? ANY CHANCE OF COMING DOWN TO INDIA?

Thanx a lot man.

Man, I’d totally love that.. never played India so far in my life.
I’m on my ass in Shitville right now, and I know this is on a little more personal note but I’m afraid any touring for XXX simply isn’t doable right now because the guitarist Xhris is currently going through a long and drawn out detox program.

Q.3 THIS INTERVIEW IS PRIMARILY MF ORIENTED. SO TELL US HOW DID YOU GET ON BOARD THE MF BANDWAGON FOR THE ALBUM ‘TIME’.

Well, it began years before that, maybe in 1991 when King Diamond the band was shopping for a new deal for the Spider’s Lullaby album after having ended the relation with RoadRunner after The Eye.
Suddenly after many hectic years of constant touring the band found themselves in a very drawn inactive period. One day King called and asked if I wanted to join a possible reunion of Mercyful Fate as the only non original member, since they loved my playing and had been with KD for about 3 years at the point and we got along great, which I understood was never quite the case with Kim Ruzz.
As a big fan of MF since my early teens I told King, Sure as hell man, it would be a real honour.

Then nothing happened and I didn’t think more about it until I got another phonecall in Spring ’93 and was informed that MF were already in the middle of recording the In the Shadows album in Dallas, Texas. Out of convenience and logistics they had decided to go with a Danish drummer instead but apparantly things hadn’t worked out so well with that guy playing-wise, so I was hired in the middle of the process but due to all the delay with the drum recording they were running late and were on a very tight schedule and Hank was already doing the last rhythm guitars when I got aboard , so for me to re-record the drums simply weren’t an option at that point, unfortunately I must say in retrospect, I wish I’d be more persistant and had insisted on it. Without boasting I’m a superfast learner and they could just have had me flown over and I’d nail it unheard of in 4-5 days tops. So that’s why another drummer’s on the actual recording while I appear with my picture and did the videos and all the following tours and festival shows for In the Shadows.

Q.4 WHAT’S YOUR OPINION OF MERCYFUL FATE’S BEST KNOWN DRUMMER KIM RUZZ. AND MIKKEY DEE, THE GUY YOU REPLACED IN KING DIAMOND.

I loved Mercyful Fate and thought Kim Ruzz played well, but Mikkey Dee is on an entirely different level, he’s just phenomenal, plain and simple.

Q.5 WHAT ARE YOUR FONDEST MOMENTS OF PLAYING WITH MERCYFUL FATE? ANY INSTANCES THAT YOU REMEMBER FROM THE STUDIO/TOUR?

A funny thing that I vividly remember is from a few shows into the US reunion tour ’93 and I had insisted on having my old best friend Sharlee brought in to replace Timi, and then one night it suddenly dawned on us.. but let’s just back up a bit here first.

When Sharlee and I were about 14 years old and had just discovered Mercyful Fate and the song Black Funeral from some Metal Massacre compilation and used to play it in our rehearsal room in the suburbs of Gothenburg, little did we know what the future had in store for us, we could never have imagined that some 10 years later we both would be playing that very same song on stage with the rest of the original Mercyful Fate somewhere in upstate New York on a big ass North American sold out headline tour.

That, I tell you,.. exceeded our wildest dreams..hahaha! Who could have thought ,.

Q.6 YOU’VE PLAYED WITH SOME OF THE BEST MUSICIANS FROM ACROSS THE WORLD. ARE THERE ANY MUSICIANS LEFT THAT YOU STILL WANNA PLAY WITH?

Whenever I get this question, and it happen quite often actually, I usually say  I’d love to play with AC/DC,. any postion, any instrument – take a pick. Choice of instrument is below the point, I just wanna groove and headbang away to some of the best rock songs ever written in the history of rock music.

Yeah, it’s true that I’ve had the fortune to have been playing with some of the best musicians in the world.  I wanna create great music, but I don’t really think in terms of great musicians as in advanced instrumentalists, technical geniuses or virtouses, that kind of sport competition mentality is pretty damn gay if you ask me. where everything is measured in speed and technique, if your songs require that, fine, but if you don’t have the songs to back it up I couldn’t give a rats ass about those things.

I once turned down an offer to play with Yngwie Malmsteen in the mid 90s and told the messenger to tell Yngwie Thanks but No thanks, and that I preferred a guitarhero like Ace Frehley. Although i’m fully aware that Yngwie as a guitarist probably has more skills in his left pinky toe than Ace does in his whole body, but I love Ace and his signature style.
I admit it was a pretty damn immature and stupid thing of me to say to Yngwie and as a matter of fact I am very impressed and have loads of admiration for Yngwie because of his strong personality, drive and conviction, but I’m not a big fan of his music and I had just quit Memento Mori and was sick of hearing those oriental harmonies, egyptian fascination, and in need of a change. Read: Illwill

But yeah, there are tons of musicians and artists that I do admire and would love to someday collaborate with in one way or the other. On the top of my head I just namedrop Dave Grohl, Rob Zombie, Nicke Andersson, Mr Doctor, Marilyn Manson, Miss Li, Wednesday 13, Blackie Lawless…and as a matter of fact, Mr King Diamond himself.. I’d love co-write with him and produce an album, under the conditions that he’d be open minded enough to let his guard down and step out of the comfort zone and we’d go in as equals with mutual respect and with only one common goal,  to make something really fantastic together.

Q.7 YOU ARE KNOWN FOR PLAYING GUITAR AND BASS APART FROM OF COURSE BEING A DRUM GOD. ON TOP OF THAT YOU’RE A CRAZY VOCALIST TOO. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING THE MOST?

Hahahaha! crazy vocalist, is that a compliment?
Well, I like to do it all, and I enjoy doing it all, variation is the key.

I love playing but probably my biggest passion in life is to be creative and write music,  and as I would soon discover writing on drums left a lot to ask for and was hardly the ultimate choice of instrument.
So on the side of my drumming I started playing a little more guitar and bass and was soon able to come up with my own songs that I’d show the other guys how to play. Before that I would be sitting stuck behind the drums trying to sound the riffs and ideas with my mouth to my airhead music friends, and that could be a real pain in the ass I tell ya..

The singing came many years later and out of nessecity when the frustration of never being able to find the right singer became too overbearing.
I sometimes regret that I didn’t start singing earlier on in life and even wish I would have picked vocals instead of drums when I was a kid. Hate to say it but with today’s technology there’s no real need for a drummer, especially not in the studio where most bands have everything sound replaced, triggered and post-edited into sterile perfection where you can’t tell the drummers apart. Drummers may very well be an endangered species facing extinction.
You will never be able to replace a singing voice. It’s not like they have American Idol for drummers.

Q.8  I’VE READ IN INTERVIEWS THAT YOU WERE A FAN OF KING’S SINGING WHEN YOU JOINED MERCYFUL FATE. WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SATANIC IMAGE THAT MERCYFUL FATE HAD BACK THEN? WOULD YOU BE OPEN TO JOINING MERCYFUL FATE IF THEY DO REUNITE?

Yeah, it totally blew my mind when I first heard Black Funeral and King’s vocals in 1983 or something. Although I loved the blunt straightforward satanic imagery and  when I bought Melissa and just loved the whole evil and eerie atmosphere surrounding it and yet with a hardcore underground touch but I must admit the song Satan’s Fall almost scared the shit out of me,.. it  just sounded too evil and bizarre, but of course I couldn’t resist listening to it over and over just because of that fact.
It’s not of this world and back then I have never heard anything like it,. no one had I guess, it was revolutionary.
It’s one of my absolute all time favorite MF songs.

As for King’s style of singing, there may have been others who could have done it, but nontheless it’d take a lot of balls and conviction and King went ahead and did and in a really great fucking way too, I have a tremendous respect for that. King is unique and had a vision and created something groundbreaking and fantastic. Love it to death.

regarding a reunion, you should never say never, and that’s all I can say.

Q.9 NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW BUT YOU ALSO PLAYED MEPHISTO IN KAMELOT’S LIVE DVD. TELL US HOW THAT CAME ABOUT?

I don’t really remember how that happened actually. I think Shagrath who played the part in the video was out touring with Dimmu Borgir or something, when Kamelot would be filming their DVD in Oslo. Dream Evil and Kamelot had done some touring together, so I knew them a little and they somehow figured I’d be perfect for the role. May have something to do with Notre Dame too, or perhaps that my friend Patric Ullaeus of Revolver Film Company who was filming the DVD.
A combination of all those factors would be my guess

Q.10 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON METAL AROUND THE GLOBE. WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE NEW ARTISTS?

I pay little attention to it and whatever others may do or don’t. But to me it seems to be alive and kicking more than ever, regardless of the fact that downloading threatens to wipe out all the record labels and record stores as we know it. Times are changing, change is healthy, join the ride, adapt or die

Let me just say and state for the sake of it, that I’m into good music and that doesn’t nessecarily mean just Metal acts, and I’m a really lousy consumer on top of that. I consider myself one who makes music rather than buying it. But every once in a while I just happen to stumble over something that appeals to me and that I really like by sheer coincidense more or less, I certainly don’t go out searching for the newest most brutal metal bands or anything like that.

In all honesty I haven’t really bothered to keep myself updated with new bands for about 25 years due to lack of interest or indifference based on great disappointment back in the mid to late 80s when the industry and “metal” was blooming and consequently flooded by shit and golddiggers.
Music isn’t milk with a best before date attached to it, so you can always find fantastic music from the past that might be old in a way but still is completely new to you. If you can only get over the sound quality barrier there is a fortune to be found.

But like I said,  every once in a while there’s a band that creates something that catches my attention and appeals to me somehow, but quite often it’s just one particular song .

A few of the newer ones within the rock/metal genre that spring to mind is Wednesday 13, My Chemical Romance, Muse, The CNK,  Diablo Swing Orchestra

I was totally blown away when I saw a show with Gojira,.. great fucking musicians and so incredibly original and fresh. My gothenburg fellows Mustash is a great band too, and an incredible live act due to the charismatic eccentric leader/frontman.

Apart from my old heroes I mostly listens to Green Day, Dimmu Borgir, Miss Li, Rammstein and Abba these days.

Q.11 ANY FINAL WORDS FOR FANS OF YOUR MANY BANDS?

Dear friends, fans, foes and followers – You’ve ain’t seen nothing yet,.. stay tuned – stay true, or to qoute the great King Stay Metal!

Headbangers India thanks Riju Dasgupta for this amazing interview.