In the early eighties the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement dominated the world. A lot of bands found commercial success, people made money but when the beast was forced back into the underground, the whole picture finally came into focus. Not every pioneering group got paid but some would eventually get the acknowledgement they deserved. I’m talking about bands like Diamond Head.
Like many other eighties teens I first discovered thrash metal through Metallica. One of the first songs I can remember listening to was “Am I Evil?” and like a million other kids across America I thought this was a song written by Metallica. It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned this song and many other Metallica songs I loved were actually cover songs written by other groups, one of those groups was Diamond Head.
I eventually went out and bought a Diamond Head album to hear their version of those songs but my musical expectations were forever marred by Metallica and I quickly lost interest. I don’t think I’m the only one who felt this way. Metallica has been both a blessing and a curse to Diamond Head
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Diamond Head’s music. They are instrumental pioneers who had their music covered by another group too early in their career. Many of us would not have discovered thrash metal without Diamond Head or those influential songs, for that they will always be revered in my circle.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Brian Tatler about Metallica, Diamond Head’s legacy and living forever through music.
Here are some excerpts from that interview…
David Halbe: How do you feel about having Diamond Head’s history forever linked to Metallica?
Brian Tatler: Diamond Head are an important stepping stone in the history of heavy metal. I think it’s marvelous that Diamond Head has been cited as major influence of the biggest heavy metal band of all time. It can only be good. It has bought the band a lot of credibility, longevity and new fans worldwide.
Dave: You’ve stated publicly that making another record isn’t worth the effort, considering the band’s current market value. Are you considering any other opportunities within the music business aside from playing in Diamond Head?
Brian: It’s not about the effort but about the money we make from that effort. If I told you how much I would receive for a year’s work you would not believe me. Gone are the days when I worked for free. We all really enjoy playing live so that will continue as long as possible, also I occasionally play with other bands as a dep. I would love to be a record producer or studio engineer but I am not fast enough on Pro Tools and I don’t have a track record as a producer so could not demand a good fee.
Dave: How do you keep things fresh touring with an ‘expected’ live set list?
Brian: I try to change the set a little each time we tour. I bring in old numbers that we have not done live for years and swap things around. Recently we have added ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ to the set which was Diamond Head’s first single and has not been played live since about 1982.Also we can swap the songs around from our last album What’s In Your Head?
Dave: What can you tell us about the recent dates you played in the US?
Brian: It was a fantastic experience, something I have wanted to do for years, a travelling band doing our own version of Route 66. We flew to Seattle did around 6 dates on the West coast then drove right across America stopping off to play shows in places like Kansas City, Minneapolis, Wisconsin Rapids and Detroit, then doing several shows on the West coast finishing at BB Kings in New York.
Dave: How do you spend your time when you’re not on the road?
Brian: I teach guitar from home so that takes up a chunk of my week and like I said earlier I occasionally dep for other bands. Also there is a fair amount of Diamond Head admin to take care of especially with a tour coming up. T-Shirts have to be designed, patches, posters, artwork etc and keeping things going with the website.
Dave: Do you have any guest spots or collaborative efforts currently in the works?
Brian: Not on record, when Diamond Head are not touring I play with two local bands from time to time, which can be good fun. I still enjoy song writing and am always looking for opportunities to write, as long as it’s worthwhile.
Dave: When did you realize Diamond Head was a career?
Brian: In 1980, I became a full time car mechanic when I left school in 1976 and by 1980 Diamond Head was getting so busy that I had no more holidays left from work. We had a tour coming up so I decided to quit my job and go full time as a musician. It did not always work out financially and I spent a couple of years on the dole but I am glad I took the plunge. I don’t think I would be very happy now as a car mechanic thinking about what might have been! I have been very lucky that Metallica chose to cover four Diamond Head songs that I co-wrote because the publishing income from that has kept me going for many years.
Dave: When is a person too old to get up on a stage and play heavy metal?
Brian: I don’t know. I guess when you can no longer stand up. I am not the first generation of heavy metal musicians. If Black Sabbath & Judas Priest can still do it then so can I. I guess the audience would let you know by not turning up to the shows.
Dave: Are you satisfied with Diamond Head’s musical legacy?
Brian: Yes I am. I don’t listen to the old albums but I know it’s all of a certain quality. I think the song writing side of Diamond Head was always very important and very strong. It’s easy to pick a good set from the 70 songs that have been released and published.
Dave: What personal achievement within music are you most proud of?
Brian: I have always enjoyed getting a copy of a finished album or single in my hands. It gives me great pleasure to know that I have created something and it’s now out there for public consumption. I am very proud of Diamond Head, a band that I started in my bedroom in 1976, that it is still going strong and has toured many parts of the world, also watching Lars Ulrich go from a Diamond Head fan to the drummer in the biggest heavy metal band of all time.
Dave: Does an artist live forever in the music they leave behind?
Brian: Yes I guess so. As long as the music they have created is good enough to stay popular. There must be tens of thousands of bands who disappear without trace but the cream should rise to the surface. The Beatles and Led Zeppelin will live forever.