If you don’t know the story by now, you should.
Go here if you don’t. Go on. We’ll stay here and wait for you to catch up ….
If you do, then you’ll know that the heroes of the story have been bruised and bloodied by the vagaries of the music business and seen others–rightly or wrongly–ride their legacy to greater heights of fame and fortune. You’ll also know that they’ve had their fair share of personnel changes, most notably the controversial replacement of their original lead singer, Sean Harris, first for Nick Tart and now for new boy Rasmus Bom Andersen. But the seasoned road warriors that comprise Diamond Head are still going strong into their fourth decade, and with the upcoming release of their seventh studio album, Diamond Head, they show no sign of stopping.
Though much of the credit for this must go to original guitarist Brian Tatler for keeping his vision and riff-making prowess intact, the current core of the band, guitarist Andy “Abbz” Abberly and twenty-year veterans, bassist Eddie Moohan and drummer Karl Wilcox, should also be saluted for keeping the spirit of DH and NWOBHM alive.
Especially Karl, whose behind-the-scenes contributions to the band often go unnoticed. At different times, this larger-than-life Black Country lad with a heart of gold assumes the role of the band’s manager, agent, merchandiser, road manager, driver and general factotum.
On the eve of release of the band’s new album, Karl spoke with The Guv’nor about the many hats he wears, including his diverse musical and entrepreneurial extracurricular activities.
The Guv’nor: Brian has said that Ras, DH’s new singer, was a major impetus behind the album being recorded. What did he bring to the table, and how did that convince Brian and the rest of the band that this was the right time to go back into the studio?
Karl Wilcox: The “want” to do another album has been on the cards for some time, but with band members being in far reaching locales and with life in general, time just got away and before you know it, seven years have flown by. When Ras was asked to join, it was known to him that the desire to record was there. It just needed a push to get everyone on the same page.
The Guv’nor: The last album, What’s In Your Head, was recorded in 2007 when you had band members on 3 different continents, which forced you all to record your parts separately. This time around, you recorded the album in the same studio at the same time. How did that change the way the album came together and the way it sounded?
KW: With Nick no longer involved, and 80% of the band living in the UK, it was a lot easier to create and record on the fly. I can honestly say this, as we’ve been together for over twenty years, we know each other’s playing abilities so well that there was no need for lengthy rehearsals. The songs just came together very organically. “Keep it simple” was the motto. I literally laid down my drum tracks in less than a week–no lengthy retakes, no cut and paste. What you are listening to is quite simply a jam session that got recorded. Sometimes you can just overthink and over perfect. We all just did what we thought the songs needed and no overkill.
The Guv’nor: Talk a little about the songs on the album. Brian has said that “This new album has an echo of the early albums but I always try to push our music forward somewhere new if possible.” In what ways will the album satisfy old fans? And what new territory do you feel you have entered into?
KW: There is a sound that is typically Diamond Head–why re-invent the wheel? Brian has a very distinct style, and he knew he wanted retro. There also was a brief that was strictly adhered to. The “new” comes from Ras’s singing. Whilst sounding Seanesque, he has his own style. As he is a generation or so younger than us, he brings a more “now” modern vocal range.
The Guv’nor: The music business has changed dramatically since the release of What’s In Your Head. Has that changed anything about the way the band is going about releasing, distributing or promoting Diamond Head?
KW: Yes it has. However believe it or not there is more interest now in bands from the era of NMOBHM than there ever was. We have just signed a record deal, so instead of us going the do-it-yourself route, this time we actually have backing and support.
The Guv’nor: You have very different background from a lot of metal drummers, having studied jazz with Kim Plainfield at the Drummer’s Collective in NYC. What does that bring to your drumming in Diamond Head?
KW: My style is: let the song do the talking. There’s no need for a massive kit and a 1,000 cymbals (although I do have 6!). Yes, I do a little stage theatrics–my infamous water-fountain trick–but that’s basically it. I have fun with it. Today’s metal sound is powerful loud and fast, but after a few songs it becomes somewhat repetitious. It’s a great sound when it’s well played, don’t get me wrong, articulate and for the masses, but I personally prefer a groove. This is what I strive for, and I hope my style is noticed. There’s enough rock on the front line. I supply the roll.
The Guv’nor: You’ve also worked in more of a business/managerial capacity for the band for many years. How easy, or how hard, is it to juggle those two roles? Thinking about the ways the business has changed, how have you and the band adapted?
KW: That is true, I have, and at times it can be quite complex. But I enjoy both roles–I like to be hands on. It’s a learning process also; it’s the other side of being a musician. It’s not called ‘The Music Business” for nothing. I really stress this to all my students.
The Guv’nor: Tell us more about the Too Close for Missiles side project you’ve been involved with.
KW: TC4M is a pet project. Dodge and I co-wrote all the songs for the album. He also hails from the Midlands. It is musically nothing like Diamond Head and the NWOBHM sound. I can get to be as creatively out there as I want, so I can let all of my jazz-funk craziness loose. I am really proud of this creation. It’s good for the soul to play different styles. I wore many hats: I was the drummer, the bass player, the rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist, engineer, producer and mixer. Additional production help came from Sheena and Mark at M2 studios in the UK.
The Guv’nor: What’s next for Karl and DH? What can we expect in the coming year or two?
KW: On a personal note, I’ve just put the finishing touches on an instructional DVD with Kim Plainfield and my business partner, Roman (Snakejam), who was in charge of editing. I have also partnered with Hasan Johnson who is connected in the Hip Hop/Rap, TV and movie world. He has been mentored by some of the biggest names in the business, and we are creating a digital online business I am very excited about. Hopefully, for Diamond Head more touring. Another tour of the US and Canada is in the works and maybe we can go to some never-before-ventured countries. There has also been talk of a follow-up album to Diamond Head, possibly in 2017, and a follow-up for Missiles. I will strive to keep growing as a player and human being. There’s always something to learn, even if it’s how not to do something!