Riding on Britain’s new wave of heavy metal in the 1980s, Stourbridge’s Diamond Head became one of the major players to influence the thrash metal movement on American soil. Though the band didn’t quite make it as big as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Saxon, their popularity increased with much homage payed by Metallica. In many of interviews with James, Lars and Dave Mustaine, Diamond Head is mentioned as a major influence, and underrated. I had the opportunity to have an exchange with founding guitarist, Brian Tatler. We discussed topics that ranged from his band’s newest offering in the form this years LP Diamond Head, his gear and songwriting, playing on a cruise ship, and more.
Diamond Head turns 40 this year correct?
Yes, I formed Diamond Head in 1976 with my school friend Duncan Scott. We had our minimal gear set up in my bedroom. Duncan played a home-made drum kit and I played through my brother Dave’s amp plugged into a 3” speaker rescued from a rubbish bin. We had three bass players leave for UNI before I persuaded my old mate Colin Kimberley to learn the instrument and join us.
When did you first start planning the follow-up to What’s In Your Head?
Since 2007 I kept writing new material for an album project but it didn’t happen, and I am glad we did not try to do another album over the internet.
We asked Ras to join Diamond Head whilst on tour in 2014. After that we had a conversation backstage about writing some new songs together. I thought we should at least try. Ras was pretty insistent that we should write the songs as a band just like Diamond Head did at the beginning of our career. There’s no substitute for writing together in the same room. We spark each other off and create something far bigger than we could have done individually.
Ras has given the band a kick up the arse, I was not that confident with the material I had, but Ras saw something in it. I gave him 2 CDs with 45 pieces of music, and Ras picked the ones he liked and the ones that sounded the most like Diamond Head. Ras has come in fresh, he has been able to take an overview and pick out what was great about Diamond Head, almost like a producer would.
How did you first come into contact with Ras, and what made you realize he was the one to fill Nick’s shoes?
I found Ras through a friend of our bass player Eddie Moohan. We sent him a backing track to the Diamond Head song ‘To Heaven From Hell’ and asked him to sing on it. Ras sent it back to Karl and I and we both thought he was great. Ras made it sound easy, he was not struggling to reach notes at all. Next we had a rehearsal with him (which I recorded) and after about 30 minutes I was sure he could do the Diamond Head songs justice live. We have had many long rehearsals and 16 gigs with Ras and I have not heard him struggle or lose his voice once. Ras has a fantastic vocal range. Once we had got to know him we asked him to join Diamond Head about half way though our European tour in 2014, he fortunately said yes.
What’s your usual ritual for sitting down and writing new songs, or just coming up with new riffs?
I practice every day and occasionally I come up with a new riff or maybe a few parts that work together all at the same time. The first thing I do is tape them onto a cassette recorder (I know, how old school can you get), then after a while I will review my tapes and pick out the best stuff. Then I will record a demo onto my ProTools LE rig with a drum machine and maybe two guitars and bass and try and get the arrangement as good as it can be for now. The next stage would be take it into the rehearsal room.
I saw your preview video for the new album. What convinced you that Bones was the right track to use to tease the album, besides it being the opening track?
That song has a vibe to it, we all like it and it’s very exciting. I think it was the obvious choice for the albums opening track even before we recorded it. Bones had a good vibe about it when we were working on it in the rehearsal room. We were literally jumping up and down to it. The video for Bones was filmed and edited by Ras.
How was it performing at 70,000 Tons of Metal? What festivals are you most looking forward to this year?
The 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise was excellent. I had never been on a cruise before and was not sure what to expect. We played twice to good crowds and I got to watch about 10 of the 60 bands that were on board. I would definitely do it again if we ever get offered it.
This year we have Bloodstock in Derby to look forward to, plus Sweden Rock, and Hard Rock Hell – Ibiza. There are some smaller festivals as well that I have not done before in Germany and Spain.
Are you seeing more and more audience members from younger generations?
It’s always great to see a new generation of fans at a Diamond Head show. Kids have more energy and get crazy. It helps make our performance more exciting if we can feed off each other, I love when it’s almost out of control.
Are you still using a Gibson Les Paul? How about the Flying V?
I mainly use my 1979 Gibson Les Paul standard. That guitar was used the most on this new album and it does most of the gigs. It’s a very reliable great sounding guitar and is comfortable to play. It’s permanently tuned to E flat and has Elixir strings 10-46.
My flying V is safe under my bed. I do try and use it at the Diamond Head gigs but it’s not my main guitar anymore and I don’t take it abroad unless we are taking all our backline on a ferry.
I remember watching the documentary Iron Maiden and The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in which you intimated just how much Led Zeppelin influenced you. Was Sucking My Love influenced by Whole Lotta Love?
Possibly a bit, it was not on our minds as we wrote that song though. There is maybe a bit of Robert Plant type sexual moaning in the middle, Sean was good at that! I think the riff is a little bit like Rock Bottom (UFO) and Judas Priests Victim of Changes was an important song to us, that song had a similar E to A change and a middle eight breakdown with lead guitar and vocal ad libs.
Now fast forward; Which of Metallica’s original songs reminds you of your own band the most?
I would say Seek And Destroy and Four Horsemen both from Kill ‘Em All have Diamond Head influences in them. The odd riff and way of getting from one part to another.
Do you still keep in touch with Sean Harris?
Not really, we have gone our separate ways. Sean has not been in Diamond Head since 2003, as far as I know he just keeps on writing songs in his home studio. He wrote a world cup song in 2014 called ‘All The Way’ that is on YouTube.
Are there any other bands from NWOBHM that you’d love to play with again? Like, say if there was another anniversary concert for NWOBHM.
I always liked Saxon, they had some great songs and are a good live band. A festival with all the surviving NWOBHM bands would be good. I presume Maiden and Leppard would not stoop so low but the rest of us could have a ball. Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang, Angel Witch, Girlschool, Witchfynde, Vardis, Raven, Salem etc…
Finally, what is your desert island album?
My favorite album is Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti so I guess I would take that. So many great songs like Kashmir, In the Light, Custard Pie, The Rover, In My Time of Dying, Houses of the Holy, Trampled Underfoot, Ten Years Gone, The Wanton Song, Sick Again etc… Their best album IMO.
Diamond Head Tour Dates:
May 7th, MOSTA – Razzet L-Ahmer, Malta
May 12th, IBIZA – HRH Road Trip, Spain
May 27th, MADRID – Get Mad Festival, Spain
June 5th, ALVESTA – Muskelrock på Tyrolen, Sweden
June 6th, COPENHAGEN – PH Cafeen, Denmark
June 8th, SOLVESBORG – Sweden Rock Festival, Sweden
June 18th, DAUN – Der Detze Rockt, Germany
July,30th, BARNET – Barnet Rugby Club, UK
August 12th, BLOODSTOCK, Catton Hall, UK
August 18th, BILSTON – The Robin 2, UK
August 27th, LES ESCUELAS Jaén, Andalusia – Skulls of Metal Fest, Spain
September 1st, SOUTHAMPTON – The Brook, UK
September 2nd, NUNEATON – The Crew/Queens Hall,UK
September 3rd, MILTON KEYNES – The Crauford Arms, UK
September 10th, RAISMES – Festival, France
September 17th, PUCHERSREUTH – Stormcrusher Festival, Germany
September 22nd, DUBLIN – Fibber McGee’s, Ireland
September 23rd, BELFAST – Voodoo, UK
September 24th, LIMERICK – Dolans, Ireland
September 29th, NORWICH – The Waterfront, UK
October 4th, YORK – Fibbers, UK
October 5th, GLASGOW – Academy, UK
October 6th, EDINBURGH – La Belle Angèle, UK
October 7th, ABERDEEN – Moorings Bar, UK
October 8th, SHEFFIELD – Academy, UK
October 9th, LONDON – Islington Academy, UK