In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came to the U.S. Historically abbreviated as the NWOBHM, the movement included Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Def Leppard. Each band would achieve global success while Angel Witch, Girlschool and many others though influential, never achieved the same level. Metallica’s Lars Ulrich has said that they were a combination of the two heads, Motorhead and Diamond Head.
Diamond Head is a band that Metallica has always referenced as a major early influence covering songs like Am I Evil, The Prince and Helpless among others. They played them live so often it caused an almost universal misconception that they were Metallica originals.
Last year’s self-titled record represents the vintage sound that came from the new wave and influenced countless musicians.
The Diamond Head record has a clear vintage sound but the title wasn’t meant to say ‘This Is Diamond Head modern day.’
Original guitarist Brian Tatler explains, “Initially we tried to think of a title. We had a big list of names and nothing seemed quite right. None of the titles seemed to fit the overall sentiment and lyrics. So I said why not name it Diamonds or Diamond Head. Then I thought; that’s a really good idea, of course you could take it as a statement. It’s our first album in eight years. People picked up on that but that wasn’t the original intention.”
The classic sound wasn’t planned but helped overall in the end. “It was done in a fairly small inexpensive studio. It may have all just helped in its favor. We did it ourselves, produced and released it through our own label. It’s done really well. The press has been amazing for this album and I didn’t expect that. It kind of all worked out and I had no idea it was going to be this well received. It’s gotta lot of good reviews.”
The song Shout at the Devil did not have Motley inspiration. “Our singer Ras (Rasmus Bom Andersen) doesn’t listen to Motley and honestly had never heard that song. He suggested this song Shout at the Devil. [We] said there’s a song by Motley Crue called Shout at the Devil. It’s got nothing to do with Motley Crue. It’s just a good title. Maybe next time I’ll just gently nudge him and say, ‘that title’s been done.’”
The closing song Silence is very epic leaning toward Zeppelin territory, “There’s a hint of Zeppelin in there. I’m a big fan. Since ’75, I can’t help coming up with the Zeppelin orchestra part in there. And why not, they’re great. Ras likes to sing with melody, that’s [his] favorite track on the album, mine’s Bones.”
Live shows have gone well, “We’ve done three and tonight (May 20) we’re in this festival with Armored Saint called Legions of Metal, in Chicago. Last night was a very appreciative audience. They’re a bit overwhelmed I think, [saying] thank you so much for coming to our town.”
The crowds are a mix of old school and younger fans, “There’s a bit of a range. The guys that have been long time fans bring copies of Borrowed Time and Canterbury for me to sign. Then there’s younger guys that only learned of Diamond Head through Metallica. We take credit for a song like The Prince and they’re like oh, it’s written by Diamond Head, not Metallica, I better check this out.”
It’s become a bit of a running joke, “A little bit. I have heard people say, ya know how come you’re doing the Metallica song? No, no this is a Diamond Head song. Obviously they’re a hundred times more famous. It’s an easy mistake to make. I even made it years ago. There was a track called This Flight Tonight by Nazareth. It was written by Joni Mitchel, and I didn’t know that. Years later I read the credits and in tiny letters it said Joni Mitchel. I went oh, that’s interesting. I think people make that mistake.”
Metallica’s always shown them respect, “They’ve name dropped Diamond Head hundreds of times. We’ve managed to support them over the years a few times. They invited us out to the 30th anniversary show in San Francisco. They have been very respectful of their influences.”
On Metallica’s early days, “I wasn’t there at the start. The first thing I heard was Lars had sent a demo of a garage cassette. Then they sent the Creeping Death EP with Am I Evil on the B-side. It’s been an incredible journey. Back in ’84 I didn’t know anyone that would have predicted triumph at that point.”
On being considered a legendary part of the NWOBHM, “We’re one of those bands roughly the same size. In 1979, we’d been going for three years and we’re all around the same age, 19-20. I remember going to see Def Leppard in 1979 and Iron Maiden. It was really nice to see a young band on stage, around my age and inspired. There’s a kind of survivor’s attitude with the new wave bands.” Many bands of that period disappeared going to day jobs, staying local. Tatler doesn’t think there will be another movement like it.
Diamond Head will end when Tatler says enough, “Well, I’m afraid, when I call it a day, that’ll be it. I’m the last of the original guys and I don’t think it would be right to continue the band without me.”
They never got much exposure on MTV, “We didn’t really. We only made a couple of singles [with] videos and MTV may have played them once or twice but I don’t think we had the heavy rotation. We never had a hit record. We never had the big single or what Def Leppard managed to do.”
On the icons he’s met, “I met Jimmy Page. He’s one of my all-time hero’s, so that was really special. I met him back stage at a gig. I managed to get a quick selfie. That was great. I got to meet Robert Plant as well because I’m a huge Zeppelin fan. We’ve met AC/DC when we supported them. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of my heroes like Black Sabbath. Ritchie Blackmore is another one. Maybe someday I’ll bump into [him].”
A second edition of his biography Am I Evil is coming out. “Yes there is, I finally got it up to date and writing a few new chapters right now. When I get back I’ll finish it and get the photos in this year. There will be a reprint. We only did 500 [originally] and sold [out]. People have asked ‘where can I get a hold of it.’ It’s a must have.”
A band documentary has been discussed, “It’s been suggested. A documentary at least, a movie would cost a lot of money. Maybe sometime this year, we’ll do it. It’s an interesting story, there’s a lot of material there.”
The live show set list will be new songs, classics and surprises. “We’ll probably do ones from Borrowed Time and Death and Progress. We’ll play something we haven’t done in a while called We Won’t Be Back. It’s nice to have some fresh songs in the set to make it interesting. You look and see, oh, that’s coming up, get your brain working on that one. The new songs sound good, mixed in with the classics.”
With the exception of playing Seek and Destroy with them at the Fillmore, they’ve never turned the tables and played a Metallica song.
New music is coming, “We started writing in January. We’ve done five months of writing on and off, we’re hoping to record the drums in August if possible then the rest would go down later in the year. The new album would probably come out in 2018.”
On playing with bands of their era, “We’ve played gigs with Saxon, Maiden, Girlschool and Angel Witch. We’ve never played with Def Leppard so that would be nice.”
Tatler talks about Venom’s place in the new wave, “When you read a book about the new wave they’re always in there. They were one of the biggest of that style and one of the most influential.” Their first record was slightly after the first wave. “It got labeled black metal [and] all those other genre’s came on [their] back.”
On Diamond Head’s history, “The band has split up twice. I didn’t really knock it on the head, it was circumstances. The money would run out or it became too difficult to work with Sean or something would make it stop. I’ve always loved this band. I formed it at 16, it was my first band and I’ve always tried to protect the name. It’s a good feeling. Everyone still enjoys playing the songs, they still sound good after 35 years.”
“Come and check out Diamond Head on the website or Facebook. We’re doing The Psycho Festival in August. If you haven’t heard the new album, please listen. You might like it.”