Interview: King Diamond Talks Relationship With Late Church of Satan Founder, New Music, + Favorite Horror Movies

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Kim Petersen, who you would better know as King Diamond, is one of the most fascinating human beings in the world. For nearly half a century, King has been creating music that exudes chills and thrills, all while putting on some of the most exciting and theatrical stage performances the world has ever seen. Between his solo work and that of Mercyful Fate, King Diamond has proven himself to be a powerhouse of creativity.

Back this past June, King performed a brand new Mercyful Fate song, the band’s first new song in 23 years. He and Mercyful Fate have also been performing live again, recently taking part in a North American headlining tour. So while it has been some time since we have gotten new music from either King Diamond or Mercyful Fate, it looks like we can expect some material in the not-too-distant future!

We had the great privilege to chat with Kim recently, and we got to talk about a great variety of subjects. Among the topics we discussed, we asked him about his love for theatrical performances, the upcoming new King Diamond album, touring, and his relationship with the late Church of Satan founder Anton Lavey.

Please note, this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Pit: Whether we’re talking Mercyful Fate or King Diamond, what drives you as a lyricist? Were you always a writer before you even had the idea of getting into music? Are you someone who is constantly writing ideas, or like a natural researcher, where you just research things and eventually you stumble across something that’s like “Oh that would be a cool album”?

King Diamond: Oh pretty much a bit of everything that you mentioned. I do write on little square notepads all the time. Little ideas, they could just be rhymes coming up or whatever. [I have] little boxes full of them, so I can always go to that if I feel like starting something.

The Pit: It has been quite some time since we’ve gotten new music from either King Diamond or Mercyful Fate. We know that no dates have officially been announced yet regarding album releases, but with a new Mercyful Fate song and the band being out on tour, how’s it feel to have so much going on right now?

KD: Both bands are in the writing phase right now; we’re writing for new albums for both bands now, and even though Mercyful Fate is touring right now, it’s not Mercy that’s going to have an album out first. It was agreed before COVID started that King Diamond is going to have the next studio album out for sure; that’s the record label’s wishes and that’s all of our wishes. But it’s because of COVID. Everything Mercy was gonna do [prior to COVID] had been postponed; first one year, then the second year, and now finally the third year we are actually doing it. At this point, King Diamond was supposed to have toured right now. King Diamond’s [upcoming] album is The Institute, it’s one album out of two that will make up the whole story. The [stage] production is being planned and we are definitely going to try [something] elaborate, different than anything we’ve done before. Our lighting engineers, like, I can’t wait to start this process, because I have not done anything like this before; not for a metal band or a heavy band, it’s going to be very different. The band is going to be preparing for playing in different types of light than what they’re used to and it’s gonna be different. Total horror.

[…] So King Diamond’s album will come out first, but Mercyful Fate will have “The Jackal of Salzburg” out as a single – it’s nine minutes long. As soon as we are done with this tour, that’s when we will finalize the recording. I mean, a lot of stuff has been done; the lyrics are done, and now the drums have been recut. Actually, they were already cut before, but now they’ve been recut to have some other changes in that we wanted to better the song. There’s a second song that is just four minutes long and has drum cuts as well. […] Lots of writing going on for both acts, and yeah, now it’s busier than ever, that’s for sure.

The Pit: That’s awesome to hear. Given that Mercyful Fate is on the road, we wanted to take some time to learn more about your relationship with stage presentation. What inspired you to create such thrilling and theatrical shows? Did you grow up with a love for theater or did the horror genre inspire you? Also, what do you find to be special about theatrical performances (when it comes to live music)?

KD: It’s always been very important to me and it comes from before I was ever playing in a band or anything like that. It’s when I went to all these concerts [back in the day]. The first concert was Grand Funk Railroad in 1971 in Copenhagen. I was 15, I walked to the place for two hours and two hours back at night with one friend; it was just the two of us and it was safe at that time, but I saw all these bands. My second concert was in ‘72, it was the 1st of March ‘72, and it was Deep Purple. They were touring their Fireball album and they had recorded, but not released, Machine Head yet. They were playing “Space Truckin’” and “Smoke on the Water” before it was released. They played an amazing show, they played so well.

Then in 1974, Genesis with Peter Gabriel started a tour in the US and came to Europe and Denmark in the Spring of ‘75 […] and it was the way that Peter Gabriel [performed] with different outfits and all this stuff with Genesis. He had a fox’s head on and actually a long woman’s dress – it was something that’s from one of the covers, and other things that were happening and it was amazing. It absolutely blew my mind to see a show like that. It was before there was anything with flames and fire that most people have today. We don’t actually have fire [as part of our shows], but we’re approaching it more like the old days, you know?

When you see us play this time around, there’s a lot of smoke on stage and the lights are very specifically designed and I mean there’s a special feeling when you see us […] I have always felt that it was very important to give people something visually that they would never forget, you know? I mean, those [earlier] shows I will never forget; none of those bands I mentioned were just standing there playing – it was a performance unique to them.

The Pit: In the past, you have been open about your studies pertaining to Satanism and the occult. We were curious to learn if those studies have impacted your craft in any way. Have these studies guided you towards a greater depth in your art?

KD: I was actually living those philosophies before I ever read Lavey’s book, The Satanic Bible, which maybe should be called something else because it’s not a bible. It is really philosophy, you know? I had the huge honor of visiting the church [back in the day]; I spent the night there and Blanche Barton, Lavey’s wife at the time, was there. I [have] kept up a relationship with his daughter Carla; I have not had the opportunity to keep up a relationship with [Lavey’s other daughter] Zeena. I would have done that if I had the chance, absolutely. [I] hung out with her some times many years ago in the late ’80s.

But last Sunday, in San Francisco, we went out to have a nice dinner. I think it was actually the time when we went to one of Levay’s old favorite restaurants that he used to go to when he had a long night and was really working hard on various projects – he would go there in the middle of the night and eat dinner at this place. We went, me and my wife, and Carla Levay – it was good times.

I got the chance to share with Lavey what I felt about Satanism, and he gave me all the time I needed. I spoke for 20 minutes just to give him my [thoughts], and when I stopped, he took his Baphomet symbol off his jacket and pressed it in my hand. It was very telling what he felt; there were some other things that were said at that time too. But I have a handwritten letter from him that I always carry with me on tour; [there are some] very nice passages in that and there are some other explanations [regarding] the projects he was involved in, but you would not know when you see it. You might question “What does that mean?” I had a nice open phone line to him whenever I wanted or needed to talk to him. I didn’t do that often, but it was a very respectful relationship and meant a lot to both of us, I’m sure.

The Pit: Thank you for sharing that with us. On a different note, in speaking about the occult, we are curious to ask if you have a particular favorite horror movie.

KD: The Shining is one that sticks out. It sticks out because it has so many layers. There’s another that I asked another guy about the other day. The vampire movie with David Bowie and Susan Sarandon… what the hell was that called?

The Pit: You’re thinking of The Hunger.

KD: That one was also very creepy the way it ended. I mean, oh God, they’re lying there forever it seems. Like, you know, [in a] coffin alive, knowing that you can’t do anything about it

The Pit: Do you have a particular subgenre of horror you really like?

KD: I always welcome psychological horror. I’m not so much into the splatter stuff. I think it’s much creepier when [horror involves] these things that you don’t expect and you’re just get confronted with the other side, and you have to try and deal with it in some way.

We want to thank King Diamond for his time talking to us! For readers of The Pit, we have another awesome King Diamond article coming out really soon as well! Keep a look for when that is published in the near future.