© Andy LaRocque
month Steel Mill features a guest who needs no introduction: guitarist
Andy LaRocque! The man of course has been playing guitar with King Diamond
since the very beginning nearly 25 years ago, but besides this has made
a long career in producing several other metal bands and runs his own
studio in Sweden. Steel Mill staff was more than happy to discuss with
Andy, subjects touched on King Diamond’s past and future, production
side of things plus working with Death and Falconer among other interests.
Ville: Hello Andy, when you started out playing guitar,
who were your biggest influences?
My first influences (mid-seventies) were bands like Status Quo, Slade,
Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, T-Rex, Uriah Heep, Priest, Thin Lizzy etc.
All the good melodic stuff from the 70’s!! A few years later I
listened to everything from UFO to Ozzy with Randy Rhoads.
Guitarwise I would say that Michael Schenker and Randy
Rhoads are the guitarists that I always end up having as my two favourite
players through the years..
How many bands did you play with before joining the
King Diamond band? One of them was called Swedish Beauty right?
Actually it was called Swedish Erotica, with the former singer of Norwegian
Band TNT. Also played for a short time in a band called EF Band + other
local Gothenburg bands.
Back in 1985 how did you originally hook up with King?
Me and Mikkey Dee (Motörhead) played together
for a while in what was later going to be called Swedish Erotica. Mikkey
then joined a band from Copenhagen, Denmark and after playing with them
for a while and hanging out with local musicians, he met the guys from
Mercyful Fate which in
early 1985 broke up to be reformed as King Diamond.
Mikkey was the asked to join, and when it didn’t work out with
the guitarist the had at the time they started to record “Fatal
Portrait.” In June 1985 Mikkey called me up and said that they
wanted me to come down for an audition. The day after I went down to
the studio in Copenhagen with a guitar and my Marshall 50 watt head,
met the guys, listened to a track from “Fatal Portrait”
called “Dressed In White” for a few times, played along,
they recorded it and told me I was in!!
On early King Diamond releases, especially
on “Conspiracy,” and tracks like “Sleepless Nights”
I picked up some definite Priest-influences. Do you agree and on those
early records, how much of those guitar sounds and solos came from you?
Oh really? Well, Priest has always been an influence, but I would
say that at the time before we recorded “Conspiracy” I listened
a lot to Ozzy, Black Sabbath and Steve Vai. The clean
guitar part of sleepless nights is definitely inspired by Tony
Iommi´s playing on the album “Never Say Die...”
We always used a pretty straight and simple way to record the guitars,
so what you hear on the album is pretty much what came out of the speaker
cabinet. Except that during the 80’s there supposed to be some
reverbs to make it sound big and then, same as now me and the other
guitarist share the solos 50/50.
When Mercyful Fate reunited in early 1990’s did
you ever think that would spell the end of King Diamond band, or was
it clear from the beginning both groups would continue to co-exist?
The strange thing is that I didn’t hear it straight from King
himself at first, I just heard rumours about the MF reunion and it actually
crossed my mind that maybe there was an end to the era of King Diamond.
At that time we were still looking for a record deal, things went really
slow and it took almost 4 years from the release of “The Eye”
until we started to record “The Spiders Lullaby,” and it
gave me some time to work with Death, and also write some songs for
the band Illwill, that featured Sharlee D´Angelo
and Snowy Shaw – even though the album wasn’t
released until 1998. But the KD fans screamed for more from the band,
albums and concerts, so after that period we got pretty active again.
“The Graveyard,” “Voodoo,” “House Of God,”
“Abigail 2” etc were released with not too long time in
© Håkon Grav
Can you describe your creative relationship with King?
When composing a new album does he come up with the concept first and
then you write music around that or the other way around?
It usually starts with the music even though King might have a vague
idea of a story, but making the music first and when he has a more detailed
version of the story he puts the songs in sequence to get the right
expression, to make the music support the story, and the lyrics to enhance
the modes of the music.
There have been a lot of players in the band throughout
the last 20 years. You are the only remaining member (besides King himself
of course) from the line-up which recorded “Fatal Portrait.”
What is the secret of yours and King’s longevity?
We complement each other very good in everything from writing songs
to mixing the album, and we’ve always been able to find good solutions
without fighting to much (laughs). I also think we have the same opinion
when it comes to: “what direction should we take the music?”
- and we usually get along well on and off stage....
What’s going on with the King Diamond band right
now? You had a couple of tours booked after the release of “Gimme
Your Soul... Please” but had to cancel it?
Due to King’s back problems we had to postpone two tours - sorry
to say but I hope King will get better soon so we can start working
on some new songs. We just released a promo video of the song “Give
Me Your Soul” and at this point we’re just planning for
A lot of fans have requested a King Diamond DVD, which
would definitely be a stunning musical and visual experience. Do you
see a project like that surfacing in the near future?
Probably not a dedicated live DVD in the near future but we have lots
of really cool material laying around, old stuff, backstage material,
concert clips etc. which I think the fans would love, we hope to release
that in the near future.
You did a sequel to classic “Abigail” story
few years ago, how did this happen and would you consider doing sequels
to other legendary KD records such as “The Eye” or third
part of “Them” as well?
When we first talked about the second part of “Abigail,”
we discussed a lot of things to make it a worthy follow up, also the
possibility of having Michael Denner doing a guest
solo, and maybe Mikkey playing drums on one song. We even talked briefly
about having the producer of the first “Abigail”
Roberto Falcao to come in and give his touch on the
album, but sound wise we wanted a fresh updated sound compared to the
first “Abigail” album, and
I guess time and technical issues didn’t make the guest appearances
When it comes to make another sequel I wont say: never again, youll
If you had to choose, from all the King
Diamond albums which one is your favourite and why?
I think it’s “Abigail,” the songs and the whole
recording session was just surrounded with magical moments, great spirit
and a very creative atmosphere, I still remember it as one of the best
studio sessions I ever been involved in.
How do you view the evolution of the band, comparing
“Fatal Portrait” to the latest King Diamond album what would
you say is the biggest difference?
Well, we have become more professional in many ways since we recorded
“Fatal Portrait” 23 years ago! At that time we just had
the music which is the most important thing of course, but now I think
we see the whole picture in a different way than we did back then, in
everything from knowing how the first riff will turn out on the finished
album to getting along as a band on tour.
And as you mentioned earlier, many members have been in the band throughout
the years but it seems that we have found a very good line up in the
recent one, and we have good fun when we are together and everything
is a little bit more relaxed these days..(laughs)
Besides playing guitar with King, you have produced
several bands, what got you interested in the production side of things
This was back in the 80’s - the idea of presenting and documenting
something that sounded better than just record it onto my Walkman actually
started the big interest, and also the very creative and fun parts of
being in the studio also helped to build interest in studio work. But
I also remember the part that I thought was boring in the beginning
like checking tom sounds for hours and hours...and I couldn’t
for my life understand how anyone would want to become an engineer/producer
but I guess the long days and nights of sound checking, mic placing,
equipment talk, playing and mixing finally sunk into my head. I’ve
had great use from all I learned from all the guys we
have worked with...
© Andy LaRocque
In your opinion do you have a trademark sound that
comes through on every band’s recording or do you try to enhance
band’s own sound?
Yeah I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t have a “preset”
to use on every band, I definitely want to enhance the sound of the
band and take out the soul and spirit in every act. Then of course I
have my preferences when it comes to sounds, but I prefer to listen
to the band and work out the directions together with the artists.
You have your own studio called “Los Angered
Recordings.” How do strike a balance and find the time between
producing, running the studio and playing guitar with King?
It was called Los Angered Recording for about 13 years, then I relocated
to a smaller city (Varberg) south of Gothenburg and since last spring
the studio is called Sonic Train Studios.
When it comes to combine the things, it’s just a matter of good
planning. Usually we know at least 6 months in advance what’s
going to happen with Diamond so there’s usually no problems with
that. And after being producing bands for several months it’s
really great to go out on tour to meet the fans and have a great experience.
Just as good as going back into the studio after being on tour for three
You worked with Death on their classic “Individual
Through Patterns” album? How was the experience and how do you
remember the late, great Chuck Schuldiner?
Well people always ask me that question regarding Chuck, I thought
he was a great person to work with, very friendly, respectful and cool!
I thought we got along great during the recording of the album, which
was a really cool experience for me, everyone was really friendly at
the Morrissound too! The music was somewhat different to what I was
used to playing, but when Monte from Road Runner Records called me up
and asked me if I wanted to go to Florida to record with Death, I said
to myself: “sure! why not?” Just for the great experience!
So I had a great time with the music and the guys and I thought the
album turned out good too!
After that session Chuck called me up every new years eve just to say
hi and chat. I met him the last time on a King Diamond show in Florida
-98 right after he had a surgery and you couldn’t even tell he
was that ill, he was in a great shape, it was really cool to see him.
One of my personal favourite albums you have also worked
on is Falconer’s folk metal influenced “Chapters From A
Vale Forlorn”. A band and an album that probably hasn’t
been given the recognition they deserve. What kind of memories do you
have working with that band?
Well I’m still working with them, we started record their latest
album right before x-mas and we are going to continue mixing it in May.
I don’t know when it will be released but they’re still
on Metal Blade Records.
I´ve been working with these guys for 10 years now and I just
love them! Very different style and great musicianship and the very
special vocal style makes it very interesting I think. One of the recent
memories I had with these guys was when we drank 80% Strong-Rum Airplanefuel!
How did we survive? That was right around x-mas and haven’t talked
to the guys much since then...(laughs)
King Diamond on tour... © Håkon Grav
What is your current guitar gear both on tour and in
Caparison Guitars all Stratstyle’s and my all-time favourite:
Gibson Flying V White 1978!! For amps I use Marshalls TSL 100 and I’m
going to try out a Preamp from Digitech (1101) for live purposes. 2
cabs with celestion vintage speakers and it’s the same I’ve
been using for over 20 Years! Also been working on a cooperation with
Randall as we speak. For studio stuff I use Engl, Digitech stuff, POD
Marshalls, Peavey, tons of pedals, wahs, whatever I think is right for
the situation. And always the vintage cabs!
What kind of advice would you could give to young guitar
players, what is the most important thing if you hope to become a successful
It’s never to give up! Even if it feels impossible sometimes,
if you wanna do it you CAN do it!!!
Finally, what are your goals for the future? Will there
ever be Andy LaRoque solo album for example?
I don’t know if I ever had the goal of making a pure Andy solo
album, I thought it would be kind of boring. If there weren’t
a band of some form then maybe, but you never know, let’s see
what the future holds....
Thanks a lot for your time!
Thanks, say hello to the Priest camp!
LaRocque on the web:
Diamond - The Puppet Master (2003)
Falconer - Chapters From A Vale Forlorn (2002)
Where from: Sweden
Style: heavy metal
|Discography (with King Diamond):
Fatal Portrait (1985), Abigail (1987), Them (1988), Conspiracy
(1989), The Eye (1990), Live 1987 (1991), The Spider’s Lullabye
(1995), The Graveyard (1996), Voodoo (1998), House Of God (2000),
Abigail II: The Revenge (2001), The Puppet Master (2003), Deadly
Lullabyes Live (2004), Give Me Your Soul...Please (2007)
|Trivia: Andy runs his own studio
in Varberg, Sweden. Called Sonic Train Records, bands who have worked
there include King Diamond, Falconer, In Flames and Witchery among
others. Besides two separate studio rooms, the facilities also contain
small kitchen, shower and an overnight possibility.
|Essential releases (top4):
Fatal Portrait (1985)
Essential metal classic, formed onto the ruins of Danish
horror legend Mercyful Fate, vocalist King Diamond kicked off things
in spectacular fashion with this debut album. Guitars by Andy LaRoque
and Michael Denner (also from MF) and powerhouse drumming of Mikkey
Dee ensure “Fatal Portrait” a place in metal history.
A metal concept album of course grew from 1970’s
progressive sounds and bands like Pink Floyd, The Who and Genesis.
However none of those groups delivered anything as twisted and graphic
as King Diamond. In the concept album stakes here we have one of
the very best. The story of infant baby girl, Abigail and devastating
curse that follows her backed up by sharp as steel heavy metal played
with fire and conviction. !
House Of God (2000)
Criminally underrated, yet the definite highlight of King’s
career on this side of the millennium. Menacing “The Trees
Have Eyes” sets the pace and the brilliantly evil title track
stands head and shoulders above most doom efforts of recent days.
The Puppet Master (2003)
One of King’s most sinister, sad and affecting stories
ever. The album’s atmosphere is tight, gripping and almost
mournful. Again visuals can be fully pictured by the listener.
|Essential Guest appereance:
Individual Thought Patterns (1993)
During a break from King Diamond and reunion of Mercyful
Fate, Andy produced and played guitar on this masterpiece by Florida’s
finest. In the age of grunge, this album is rightly considered a
progressive death metal classic and a huge influence on all current
black metal bands in both sound and style. It is also a testament
to the genius of late Chuck Schuldiner. The song “Overactive
Imagination” remains one of the defining moments of the genre.