The roster of musicians employed by vocalist Doro Pesch amounts to more than a few turnovers. Several guitarists, drummers and keyboardists have come and gone but since 1990, bassist Nick Douglas remains the four-string mainstay for the “Queen of Heavy Metal.”
Perhaps it is Douglas’ beginnings as a local musician that keeps the artist active between commitments with Doro. The bassist has toured and recorded with other metal heavyweights including Blaze Bayley and Chris Caffery. Douglas’ solo albums are worth repeated listening as well, including the musician’s latest effort, Regenerations, comprised of 11 contemporary rock tracks released in 2017. Regenerations came out just before Douglas entered the studio to record Doro’s recent Nuclear Blast releases, the 25-song double album Forever Warriors/Forever United.
While Douglas has toured the world for the past 30 years, the struggles that the musician endured and the risks taken helped establish a solid career as a full-time touring and recording musician.
Musicinterviewmagazine.com spoke to Nick Douglas after returning from Oct. 2019’s music MegaCruise and shortly before Doro’s European Fall tour. The Pennsylvania-based artist discusses a veteran career, writing methods and how leaps of faith as a young musician continue to pay off.
Nick Douglas: I grew up in South New Jersey, right at the Philly-end of New Jersey. And so the South Jersey and Philadelphia hard rock scene in the mid-1980s was booming, just as I suppose a lot of other areas in the country were. It was just a great time for bands coming up and getting signed. I played in a band called Deadly Blessing. We were like a progressive metal and thrash band and got caught up in that as well. We sold really well, locally. We played some pretty filled rooms and everything was going great. Then we caught the eye of a small label from Van Nuys, California. We signed for one record and did one EP and one album over the course of two years, which did really well overseas. I remember we were getting a lot of fan mail from Belgium and Germany.
How old were you as this was happening?
I was about 18 or 19 when I joined the band, so we were all pretty young, in our early 20s or late teens at the time. We were just loving it. We were just soaking it all in and loving the energy and the excitement of it. And we got around pretty well and did a small tour of the northeast U.S. I was in the band about three years and then as the songwriting and the sound of the band started changing and getting heavier, it was cool but I kind of felt like it was a little bit narrowing for me.
Why did you feel that way?
Because I grew up on 1970s rock and was a little more into the melody than the other guys were. But there were no hard feelings and we just kind of parted ways. And so shortly afterward, I moved to New York City to start over and see what the city had in store.
So you just picked up and left for New York? That sounds like a gutsy move.
It wasn’t that far and I had no fear. Or not enough fear to hold me back, if that makes any sense. I had about $53 in my pocket at the time. And I figured, yeah that’s enough. I’ll go to New York now. Fortunately I had friends who helped me out, staying in Queens. I spent about three years there. I was sort of crossing my fingers and hoping things would work out. And it did. I got a job at a music instrument store and that helped support me and slowly establish myself as a musician. I had some really great friends who helped me along and encouraged me. I auditioned for a few bands in and out and that’s also where I auditioned for Doro.
How did you know Doro was auditioning bassists?
The manager of the store was a guy named Steve who was a very good guitar player. He was friends with Doro’s keyboard player at the time. She [Doro Pesch] needed guitar, bass and drums and Steve auditioned for guitar. Steve suggested I audition for the bass spot and really encouraged me and allowed me to take time off to audition with him at SIR Studios in Manhattan. There were a lot of players in the halls rehearsing.
I remember liking the Triumph and Agony album by Warlock, the band Pesch had previously fronted, around summer of 1990 and the “Unholy Love” single came out around then. I thought the track was a catchy song that was well-produced. I saw the video on Headbanger’s Ball. And it was literally about one or two weeks later when I had heard about the audition through Steve.
And you eventually received an offer to play in one of the biggest rock groups in Europe at the time.
I was so enamored with what was happening. I had the physical energy and I was just excited all the time about it. All I knew is that I didn’t want to let Doro down. She’s the artist and I’m a musician for her and more than anything I just wanted and still want to make sure she’s happy, at least in my part in the band. I want to make sure it’s all sounding well and strong. So I would practice a lot, in the hotel room and on the bus and whenever I could, including backstage, just to provide the maximum that I could for her. She’s a very passionate person and I think her radar picks up passion in other people. I see that when I observe her meeting other people. You can see what she likes about a person and what intrigues her.
It’s usually their passion and their ability to use their emotion or their energy in a good way. Doro’s a very good-spirited person and such a great role model. She’s been a great teacher through all these years. And all I know is that, like I said, I wanted to just be the best I could for her. And if she picked up on that, well, great.
I don’t think there was any consideration of it at all. And it’s interesting because Doro was one of the first hard rock female singers out there. She really paved the way for a lot of women thereafter. But I never thought of it and I don’t think anyone the band ever thought of as unusual or different. She’s such a strong-willed and very hardworking person. You see it onstage. It validates who Doro is and how she does things and why she’s still able to do it. And whether the artist is male or female is of no regard. It goes without saying that to this day she’s still out there playing lots of shows a year and making records. It’s great and we, all of us guys in the band, of course benefit from that because we can continue to play as well.
Your second solo album, Regenerations, was released in 2017 on Metalville Records. This came more than 15 years after your first solo outing. What inspired the release?
I was looking for a different creative output, something to try to nurture on my free time. And that just sort of bubbled up into a solo album. I would spend a lot of time writing and rewriting lyrics. That was another thing outside of Doro that I could sort of occupy myself with. That kind of gear shift was refreshing. I would go back out on tour with Doro and then come home and I would work on something. I’d go off in my mind and my imagination to write these kinds of songs which I felt were not something particularly coinciding with what Doro would do. It’s a different world, but they sort of inspired each other.
I start with enough of a workable lyric or vocal melody idea and then the music comes very quickly and maybe just being a musician or something, it just tends to unfold very quickly. I could think of the arrangement in my head and I know I’ll write it out recorded here in my studio. Finishing the lyrics and finishing the idea is what takes the most time. I’ll spend six months writing lyrics and at times it’s sort of like a house of cards. But it’s worth it. I could cut to the chase to get the feeling right because it’s going to be out there and represent something I feel or express, so I want it to be the best it can be.
Do you tour on your solo music?
Not really. I’m sort of stubborn in that way, I guess, because I want everything to line up well. I should try maybe to open up and relax that stubbornness a little and try and let it play out a little bit more because I do miss it. I have done it a few times and people had fun.
What if a group of local musicians crossed your path, like in the 2007 film Once and you could embark on a small tour?
If they got the music and were really happy with it and if they could be so sympathetic as to not get paid so much, because there probably wouldn’t be much financing to begin with, then I think that would be fantastic.
You’re a left-handed bass player. By default, do you look to Paul McCartney for inspiration?
It’s funny. Sometimes people ask about being left handed. I first heard the Beatles when I was very young and it was their cover of “Long Tall Sally” and Paul sang it. And if you ever heard that song, he’s just screaming it and I thought, wow, who is that? I wanted to do that because of his voice. And there’s so much energy in his voice for an opening. So, I sort of gravitated toward it because I was curious and wanted to find out more about the band. Later, I saw Paul was a left-handed bass player.
Did anyone ever try to convince you to play with your right hand?
Nobody said anything. I just picked it up and started hammering away at the strings and I thought it felt right. And by the time someone asked if I ever try playing righty, I felt it was already too late because I’d gotten really comfortable with the left hand position. So I just went with it. It wasn’t easy at first, because at that time left-handed instruments were few and far between.
What was your first bass guitar?
My first proper one was a Fender Jazz bass that I had to order through the music store. It was for lefties, which is why it had to be ordered and it took about nine months to arrive. I was just so excited, I just could not wait. I saved up all my money working construction when I was about 17 years old. I would dream about it. I actually had a bass before then that was right-handed, but it was really cheap and the neck was broken. I also learned how to build and rebuild and modify instruments because I had to. I grew up kind of poor and I didn’t have much money, so I found ways to improvise and make things work. I was used to doing that. Not only was I excited about it but it was like a whole new world in regard to how it played and how it felt compared from what I was used to. I think about a year or two after that I auditioned for Deadly Blessing.
You recently performed with Doro on the MegaCruise, which was not your first time playing on a floating venue. What do you like about those performances?
It reminds me of growing up in the 1980s, which were obviously pre-internet and all that. I miss that old way of broadcasting yourself or promoting yourself. We used to make plans ahead of time to meet someone to go see your show. It’s the same thing on the cruise because the internet is expensive, so people don’t have it. So it ends up being like you see someone in the restaurant or the buffet and say this band is playing tonight. Let’s go see it. I’ll meet you there. I just thought that was kind of cool; it was just like we have to talk face-to-face. We got to make this happen. So when we do these cruises, I just shut off the phone and it becomes all word of mouth from that point.
One of the big takeaways from your career is that word of mouth and interpersonal friendships and connections are important. They certainly played a big role in getting you to the Doro audition. Would you say that form of networking is something current, local artists should keep in mind?
There was a different speed of communication back then. You didn’t have such instant notifications. I knew someone who knew someone. That’s how it was and even though the internet and the way our communication is so steadfast and so immediate today, I still think word of mouth and who you know is really what gets you places and gets you into new things. Most importantly, it gets you noticed. It’s all about getting face-to-face. Get out there.
Look for Nick Douglas touring with Doro in 2020.
For more about Nick Douglas please visit:
Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.
Editor’s Note: typographical error corrected from 007 to 2007.