King Diamond - In his Majesty's Satanic Service

By Dr. Abner Mality

It's been quite a trip for Mr. Kim Peterson and his band of merry men. Kim is better known to the world as King Diamond, the corpse-faced and top-hatted maestro of elaborate horror metal. Either with his own band or with the seminal Mercyful Fate, he has earned his status as a legend through hard work and giving fans what they want. When trends like grunge and nu-metal loomed large in his rearview mirror, King just put his foot on the gas and kept forging ahead.

One of the King's most consistent collaborators has been guitarist Mike Wead. Mike has played in both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and has a long, distinguished resume that includes stints in Candlemass, Hexenhaus and Memento Mori.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Mike during K.D.'s stop in Chicago and the following is the result of my conversation with the laid back veteran.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Mike, you've been in this metal business quite a while now. Does going out on a tour like this still have the same excitement it did back in the day?

MIKE WEAD: When you're younger, you're more excited about everything, I guess. For the first few tours I did with those bands I was in a long time ago, like Candlemass, Hexenhaus and Memento Mori, I was young and it was so much more exciting to go different places and meet people. Not quite so much anymore, though it's still interesting. But it is still exciting to go out and play music. That part never gets old.

WC: On this tour, you've got a line-up of young and hungry bands opening for you. Does that keep you on your toes or is it something you don't even think about?

MW: It's always a good thing to have a good package tour because it will draw more attention, it's a cool thing for the fans when you hit the right combination.

WC: It seems the days of just one band going out on the road and drawing people are over. You almost have to do the package tour unless you're at the very top of the profession. Does it seem that way to you?

MW: I would say so, yes, especially here in the United States.

WC: I know King is the guiding light of the band, but what's the dynamic of how you contribute to the band?

MW: I would say mostly through my playing, my guitar style. I've been playing for such a long time that I've developed my own sound. It should be fairly easy to tell when I'm playing a lead and when Andy (La Roque, King's other guitarist) is playing. Everybody in the band has a unique signature that contributes. For example, Hal Patino's bass playing stands out. I don't really write any songs for King Diamond so my contribution mostly comes out in my playing style.

WC: Do you play on an instinctual level?

MW: Yes, I'd say so, but it also depends on what parts I'm playing. If you're playing a really complex lead and the backing music is complex as well, I have to really think about what I'm doing. But if it's a more ordinary rhythm part, it's easy, it's second nature.

WC: Do you prefer the more complex and progressive material?

MW: Sometimes, yeah, but overall I prefer the more melodic parts of a song. It's easier to play my own style during those parts.

WC: I know King comes up with all the lyrics and story concepts, but is there ever a point where the band gets to comment
on them, where they might get to say "I don't think this idea is so good , I think you should change something"?

MW: Everything is mostly done by the time we get to the actual recording. King lives in Dallas while I live in Stockholm, Sweden and Andy lives in Gothenburg. It's very hard to get the band members together to create stuff at the same time. We send each other CD's with our parts on them.

WC: Have you ever considered moving over here to the States?

MW: Well, I kind of like Sweden, so I think I'll stay over there.

WC: King's a strong believer in the supernatural. Do you share those beliefs and have you ever had a supernatural experience yourself?

MW: Well, no....well, maybe. I don't know,really! There's always weird stuff happening around us, like VCR's going on by themselves. I think everybody in the band has had their share of weird experiences.

WC: In an old interview, King said he'd be sitting at a table and it would rise six inches in the air...

MW: I haven't seen anything like that! (laughs) I remember one time when we were in Dallas recording one of the Mercyful Fate albums and I was in the lounge. It was somewhat like this, with couches, tables and VCRs. I was just reading a magazine and all of a sudden, the VCR starts playing for no reason. That was a very odd thing.

WC: Do you believe in an afterlife?

MW: No. No, not at all.

WC: Out of all the story concepts that King Diamond has created over the years, which one speaks to you the most? What's your favorite?

MW: I would say "Them". That's my favorite.

WC: And the reason?

MW: The story and the music work together excellently. I think that was a great album for us.

WC: How hard is it to come up with these elaborate stories all the time?

MW: Well, you'd actually have to ask King that, but I know he puts a lot of effort into coming up with them. Research and stuff like that...

WC: The last record "The Puppet Master" seems to be one of the stronger tales.

MW: I know that one is one of King's favorites. It's just as much a romance as a horror story.

WC: When you look at the metal scene today, do you think it is as strong as ever or is it just a shadow of past glories?

MW: I don't think it's as strong as it was in the 80's. It's up and down all the time. I think now with the new Judas Priest album coming out, some doors may open up for the more traditional metal scene.

WC: The scene is very diverse now but the popularity is spread out over a lot more bands. It's not concentrated in just a few like before.

MW: I think that has to do with all the labels popping up in the 90's everywhere. Small labels giving smaller bands a chance.

WC: Do you have any side projects outside of King Diamond?

MW: Well, I've been working for quite some time now on a project called Firegod. But it's really hard for me to find the time to do it because I also work as a producer and sound engineer back in Sweden. I have to work constantly to make a living so I don't have too much time to do anything. But we are slowly putting something together. We've been writing lots of stuff. I have over 60 tracks finished back home. We just have to get everything together and go in and record.

WC: How would you describe Firegod's music?

MW: Well, it's not that far away from King Diamond. It sounds a bit like my older stuff such as the Memento Mori albums. A bit more up-tempo. A more technical, progressive kind of metal. But it is still pretty standard and traditional at the same time.

WC: What was your impression of your older bands like Candlemass, Memento Mori and Hexenhaus?

MW: Some of that stuff was great...and some of it wasn't. I like some of those old records a lot. We had a good time doing them. I've worked with a lot of talented musicians through the years so I'm pretty happy about how they turned out. I've actually been talking to the other guitar player in Hexenhaus, Marco, about doing something again. Mostly just for fun. We have some songs we've been kicking around.

WC: So you'd say that out of all your older bands, Hexenhaus was the most satisfying?

MW: Yeah, when it comes to playing, Hexenhaus was the most progressive one. It was the most fun playing those songs.

WC: What kind of a stage show can we expect from King Diamond tonight?

MW: It's still based on the same stage show we had last time because this tour is really in support of our live album, "Deadly Lullabies". We've changed a few songs, picked up a few surprise songs that I know people will be really surprised to hear.

WC: Anything from Mercyful Fate?

MW: Well, I can't tell you that! (laughs) You'll have to watch the show!

WC: With so many albums under your belt, how hard is it to pick a setlist?

MW: It's hard, it's really hard. Because we always try to satisfy all the fans. But you can never do that. People will say "play this song from this record" and "why don't you play this one" . We have 15 records to choose from. To satisfy everyone, we'd have to play all the songs!

WC: What was the last CD you picked up just for your own enjoyment?

MW: The Porcupine Tree reissues. If you know Porcupine Tree, they are kind of Pink Floydish...

WC: Steven Wilson's in that band. He produces a lot of other stuff like Opeth...

MW: Yeah, yeah, I know Mike from Opeth.

WC: What was the last show or concert you went to just for your own enjoyment?

MW: I don't know, I don't remember. (laughs) Well, I went to see Saxon actually in Stockholm. A great show!

WC: They are awesome...

MW: A fucking great show, I was so surprised!

WC: Is there any Spinal Tap moment for King Diamond you want to share with us?

MW: I don't really have anything like that. (chuckles) As you can see, everything is so well organized at our shows!

WC: You mean to say that with all the elaborate stage props and gimmicks that King uses that nothing has ever malfunctioned?

MW: Yes. (grinning)

WC: Well, King must be communicating with the right spirits then! (laughter) Any last words for loyal King Diamond fans out there?

MW: Just a big thank you to the fans. King Diamond and Mercyful Fate fans are some of the most loyal in the world and they never let us down. It's hard to describe how fulfulling and important it is to have such support.

King Diamond's / Mercyful Fate's Websites