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Brian Tatler - Guitars for Diamond Head

Date: 5/16/19
Interviewed By: Jack Mangan


METAL ASYLUM: Hey everyone, this is a really amazing interview. I'm talking to a living legend. I don't often get starstruck, but we're talking today to Brian Tatler.

BRIAN: Starstruck?

MA: Absolutely.

BRIAN: No need to be starstruck. I'm a normal guy, I just happen to be able to play the guitar. (laughs)

MA: Pretty well, though. If you haven't figured it out already, we're talking to one of the masterminds behind Metallica's favorite band: Diamond Head.

BRIAN: (laughs)

MA: The past couple of years have been really good for Diamond Head. This is an exciting time for you. Congratulations on “The Coffin Train.” It's fantastic.

BRIAN: Yes, thank you, thank you. I'm really pleased with the new album. It's been been a big buildup. We've got professional management now. We've got this new label, Silver Lining, who are really good. And we've Ras, who's been in the band 5 years now, a fantastic singer, and has produced this new album and mixed it. . . so he's put so much effort of time and of himself into the album. He sounds great. I thought the last album was really good, but I think this one's even better, and I just can't wait for everyone to hear it.

MA: This album seems a little bit more. . . serious, I guess? Do you agree with that?

BRIAN: Yes! It is! It's a bit darker. Ras, you know, he's Danish. He's very much into "Save the Planet" and he's got a few agendas that he likes to sing about. Lyrically he's into his topics, not just "my baby and the highway and a bottle of whiskey" (laughs). The title alone "The Coffin Train" and some of the other titles are quite dark. But I think it's right for the time. It's powerful. You know, when we tour and we get to do festivals, and we see so many powerful bands and heavy bands, and it does rub off a little bit. You want to compete, you want to make an album that sounds modern, that sounds powerful. None of us want to lose what's great about Diamond Head, what we've been doing for 40 years, but a Diamond Head for the 21st century sort of makes sense. With a new singer, and the modern technology that you can do, the technology that's available. We've made our own album for the past probably 10 years each time we've made an album. You can do it yourself, it's much cheaper, and you can get a better-sounding album than you probably could in the ‘80. Especially on the budget that's available. It is a good time. It's all lining up for Diamond Head, at the moment.

MA: Having been around for, as you say, 40 years, have you felt like you've seen a lot of changes in the Heavy Metal field and even the music industry?

BRIAN: Yeah. Absolutely. It's moved on incredibly from when I first got into it, when I was probably 12 or 13. You know, my favorite bands would all be the classic ‘70s bands like Sabbath, Zeppelin, Purple. And then it's evolved and evolved, and now it's thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Metal bands, and all the subgenres, all the magazines, the internet, the festivals - - there's so many Metal festivals now. And you know, back when I started, none of that existed hardly. I've seen so many changes. It's one thing to try and keep up, but you just do your best. That's the best that I can say.

MA: If we can go all the way back to the beginning. Can you talk about what they now call the New Wave of British Heavy Metal - - even before it was called that - - before even Iron Maiden shot up. . .? Can you tell us about the scene when you guys were just kids, playing clubs?

BRIAN: Yeah, well we just started as beginners. It's the only band I was ever in. Same with the other guys. We just formed the band in my bedroom when I was 16. And all we were interested in was trying to write songs and maybe play a few gigs. We'd play local gigs. It built and built.

Then, come 1979, when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal thing happened in Sounds, the magazine, then I suddenly thought, "Oh, we're the perfect age for this. We're 19." The other bands seem to be all the same age. They're all dotted around the country, unaware of each other, and I just thought, "We have perfect timing for this. We can maybe get a deal, get a record out." And so we just thought it was a really really great opportunity. Of course, you've got no idea that it's still going to be popular in 40 years, and that you could still have a career in 40 years. I always thought you'd either be a big band; you'd become massive, or you'd disappear off the face of the earth. I didn't realize there's a kind of middle ground where you could have a career without selling millions of records and you could make a living. And that became, you know, just as important as becoming a household name, shall we say.

So, it was a fantastic time. I would go watch these other bands when they came through the Midlands, through Birmingham, I'd go watch Maiden,Leppard, Saxon, Samson, Girl, Girlschool, you name it. So we were just checking out the competition, really. Stand there with our arms folded. (laughs) See if they're any better than us, see what we can learn from them. . . or steal from them (laughs). It was a great time, in formative years.

In the teenage years, that's when you develop your taste, isn't it? Rock seems to stay with people, don't they? Rock fans are very loyal. I know I'm one of those Rock fans who just, you know, is just a fan, wanting to do something similar, learned to play the guitar, and here we are talking 40 years later. (laughs)

MA: Are you still in touch any of the guys, especially Sean Harris (singer) from the old days?

BRIAN: I'm not in touch with Sean, but I'm in touch with Colin and Duncan, the drummer and bass player. We go out for curries every now and again, so we've got a really good relationship that's lasted. . . I mean, I was friends with all 3 guys before Diamond Head. We played together, you know. We played on our bikes, and in the garden, and climbed trees, and do stupid things. So, they were just friends of mine. I've got an older brother who's 6 years older than me; he learned to play the guitar and formed a band, and I think that probably influenced me. I thought, "I could do this. I could play the guitar and be in a band." It sounded like fun. So I wanted to form a band and I just roped in my school friends, really. And we auditioned some singers and ended up with Sean, who wa great. But Sean and I have gone our separate way. Ultimately, he became very difficult to work with, and we went our separate ways.

MA: Well, it does happen with friendships and bands.

BRIAN: It happens. It's difficult. (pauses) It can be difficult (laughs).

MA: So it's impossible to talk to you or anyone in Diamond Head and not touch on the legacy of "Am I Evil?" Do you feel like that's a big part of your legacy? And how has that experience with that song and the fans changed over the years?

BRIAN: Yeah, it is a big part of the Diamond Head legacy. It's still our biggest song. It's the one Metallica covered first; they covered it in '84, and it's been making money since, maybe 1990. So, it's an income for me. And not only that, it's become a kind of Rock classic. I don't think we had any idea when we wrote it that it would have such longevity. I mean, I just thought it was a good riff (laughs). I mean it's simple as that when it starts, you don't always know you've written something that will stand the test of time. You keep writing. You very often think song B will be the one, and it's not. You know, the audience decide. And when we started playing it live, the audience soon picked up on that one, and it became one that people would call for at gigs. But yeah, it's a big song, and it's still in the Diamond Head set. It's never left the Diamond Head set, really. We still play it live, and it still goes down really really well, so, it's great. It's great.

MA: Well it really is one of the greatest Metal Songs of all time. It's a great achievement.

BRIAN: Thank you.

But it's not the only great thing you've ever done, and that's the perfect way to kinda come back to the present. Because, as I said, the new album is really fantastic.

BRIAN: Thank you.

MA: I love the title track, along with a few other songs.

BRIAN: Yeah, "The Coffin Train" is my favorite track, the title track. I really think that's got a lot of the Diamond Head trademarks, the light and shade dynamics. Big riffs, big chorus, big solo. I really like that track. It's one of the best things I've done.

MA: How do modern audiences react to it?

BRIAN: We haven't played any of the new songs live yet, so we're looking forward to that. We've rehearsed them, and we've got a bit of an idea of what sort of set we're going to do and what new songs we're going to put in the set. But yeah, a lot of the modern crowds pick up on the classics, really. It's a good band anyway, so even if you get a young audience into the gig, they appreciate that it's a good band, you know, a good singer, good players. They can appreciate that there's some talent (laughs). I like to think so anyway. Even if they didn't know the material.

MA: Do you have tour plans for 2019 into 2020?

BRIAN: Yeah, we've got festival dates at the moment, coming up. We've got some big festivals coming up in Europe, Wacken, Hellfest, Hard Rock Hell. But nothing in the U.S. yet. I'm sure something will come in. It will go into 2020, you know, the promotion and touring for this album. It's all kind being worked on now, but I'm sure we'll end up in America at some point.
We came over a couple of times with the last album, so we're bound to do it again.

MA: How was your last tour? How was the reception you were getting?

BRIAN: Yeah, it's good. It's always good. Sometimes we've ended up in some out of the way places, because of the scheduling and the routing, so you end up in Grand Rapids or Poughkeepsie or some weird places I've never been before. We did 15 dates in Canada in 2017, and I'd never been to a lot of the places before. I'd never even heard of some of the towns we went to. But, we do like to get out there. It's always good to hit new territory. There are still countries I've never been to. We've never been to Australia and New Zealand and China. . . South America. Still lots of places we may get to one day. It's a big world. (laughs)

MA: And it's amazing how influential - - and I don't mean this in any backhanded way - - but it's amazing that you didn't hit the heights of Metallica, per say, but you still influenced everyone and are beloved by basically everyone in the Metal world.

BRIAN: Yeah, we just didn't sell the records, did we? In the huge numbers that the big bands did. We just didn't have the right label and the right management, and didn't get over the the US. We never toured the US in the 80s and 90s. so we missed some huge opportunities for one reason or another, but if we'd have got out and started selling records, things would have probably turned out differently, but anyway, we're here now, we're still going (laughs) we're still rocking.

MA: And speaking as a fan, we're glad you're still here, and that it still sounds as great as ever.

BRIAN: Great. Great. Thank you. It means a lot to hear, when you put all the time and effort in and people like it, it makes it seem worthwhile.

MA: People are talking about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal renaissance. Do you feel like that's in effect now?

BRIAN: A little bit. Yeah, I've noticed some of the older bands come back out of the woodwork, reform and make another album, or do some festivals. I've definitely spotted that there are more bands around than there have been 5 years ago. And I think, why not? It was a great time for Rock music. And it was very influential. As you know, DH influence Metallica, thousands of bands have been influenced by Metallica, and thousands of bands have been influenced by Iron Maiden. So, it's left such a legacy. It was so relevant, and it moved Metal forward from the classic 70s bands into the 80s and then into the 90s. Without the New Wave, you know, I don't know if Metal would sound like it does or be as big as it is. It was a vital movement.

Can you tell us a little bit about your autobiography?

BRIAN: I wrote it in 2008 when our last singer, Nick, emigrated to Brisbane, and I thought, “Oh, that’s probably going to be the end of Diamond Head, because our singer’s disappeared to the other side of the world. So I started writing my autobiography, and I thought I’m at least going to get all these stories down in print, so when people keep coming up to me at gigs and saying “What happened with DH here?” “What happened with Sean?” “What happened with Canterbury?” blah, blah, blah. And I thought if I write it all down while I can still remember all the details, then I can just say, “Well read the book!” (laughs) Then I haven’t got to explain it all to you.” (laughs) So it took me about 18 months to write, and it came out in 2009. I did 500 copies limited edition and they all sold. So I did a re-version, an expanded version, and I wrote two more chapters, bringing it up to date more with Ras, and that came out in 2017. I did another 500 copies and I’ve sold probably 350 so far, so there’s still a few left. If you go on the website, you can order it through diamondheadofficial.com.
People have said they liked it. I mean, I’m no great author or anything, but I’ve managed to try and keep it light. There’s a bit of fun in there, a bit of humor, not getting too bogged down in details. So it seems to be well-liked so far. No one’s said it was a load of rubbish (laughs).

I’d certainly hope not. No one saying “what do you know about Metal history?”

BRIAN: (laughs) Yeah, that’s right, can you do better then? (laughs)

MA: I appreciate you taking to time to talk to us today. You’ve had a great career, and it’s still going.

BRIAN: It’s still going. I had no idea that I’d still be doing this in my 50s.

MA: Can you close us off with what you see in the future for Diamond Head?

BRIAN: Yeah, the album is out (soon). I’m looking forward to getting the feedback from the fans to see what they think. The tour will start, it’s mainly Europe at the moment, but we will get over to the States at some point. And we’ll just promote the album into 2020 and see what happens. I always say if good offers come in, we’ll do them. The band won’t stop until there’s no demand, really, and that hasn’t happened yet, so I imagine we’ll just go until one of us. . . falls by the wayside, shall we say? (laughs)

Well of course, you guys need to get to Hawaii, because there’s a place in Hawaii called - -

BRIAN: Diamond Head Volcano! Yeah. I know people who’ve been and I’ve seen photos. When I thought of the name Diamond Head, I didn’t know about that volcano, it was a complete surprise to be. But I’d love to do that. It would be great to play at Diamond Head. Wouldn’t it be awesome? I’ve never been to Hawaii, so it’d be great...

MA: I have a picture of myself flipping the Metal horns in front of the Diamond Head sign, so there you go.

BRIAN: (laughs) Brilliant! Maybe I’ll get to do that myself one day.

Well Brian Stalter, best of luck with Diamond Head. Thanks for a great career.

BRIAN: Thank you, Jack. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Official website: Official page: https://www.diamondheadofficial.com/


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