A drummer for King Diamond since the beginning of millennium, Matt Thompson is one of the most revered players of the traditional heavy metal genre. Heather Williams talked to Matt on his job with King as well as his other projects.
When did you get your start playing drums? What did your first drum kit consist of?
1978. My first kit was a Slingerland 4 piece, it came with hi-hats, a ride cymbal, a crash cymbal and 2 roto-toms.
You’ve been drumming for King Diamond for 16 years. What’s kept you staying?
The love of playing metal drums for a metal legend.
What were you doing musically before joining King Diamond in 2000?
I was at the U. of N. TX for 4 years and had just graduated. At the time, I was playing with Shaolin Death Squad, Maylee Thomas and freelancing around.
What’s it been like drumming for King? I’m sure people are thinking “wild”.
It’s been a great ride, and I hope it keeps going.
How did you come about being a member of King Diamond’s band?
I was recommended by a mutual friend of mine and King’s, the owner of Nomad studios. Nomad had its own little scene at the time, many bands were in and out of there. I was doing a lot of playing for Michael Harris and working at the studio. King heard me on a recording and called me a couple years later.
Has King ever approached you about playing drums for Mercyful Fate, asked you to do any pieces for albums, or stand in on any Mercyful Fate shows?
No. No need, Bjarne T. Holm (Mercyful Fate’s drummer) is a great player.
Being the drummer for King Diamond, you’ve played some pretty big shows/festivals. What has been the biggest festival you’ve played? Was it a good or bad experience?
The biggest festival so far has been Wacken Open Air in Germany. We played for close to 100k people. It was an amazing experience. I’ve said it before, it was on my bucket list to just attend that festival let alone play the darned thing!
How has touring with King Diamond been? What in your opinion was the most interesting country visited while touring? Any bad touring experiences?
It’s been an amazing adventure. I’ve learned so much…mostly about myself. On tour, there is no hiding your bad side. I learned quickly that I have a bad side, everybody does. Hard to say which country was most interesting, there are interesting things to find everywhere! I’m not going to say there were any “bad” experiences. However, there were certainly plenty of things that were…”less great”. Sometimes it can be boring, or you have to have bad food…but these are so trivial. I’ve been a dishwasher, a painter…I’ve had all kinds of jobs and this is by far so much better that complaint about any of it seems really dumb.
What’s it like being behind the drum kit and playing in front of thousands of people?
It’s awesome, exciting and it’s my happy place. I never tire of it.
You played on three studio King Diamond albums: “Abigail II: The Revenge”, “The Puppet Master” and “Give Me Your Soul…Please”. I like the “The Puppet Master” best. It’s heavy and your drumming was awesome on it. Has there been any other discography for King Diamond you’ve appeared on? (eg. live albums)
Thanks! I am also on “Deadly Lullabyes Live”.
Have you been in any music videos for King Diamond?
Yes I am in “Give Me Your Soul…Please”.
I think everyone wants to know if there is a new album in the works for King Diamond?
That is the plan as far as I know.
You’re a member of another band called Shaolin Death Squad. How long have you been with this band? Is it something you do when not busy with King Diamond? Any albums or tours planned for this band?
I’ve been playing with Shaolin Death Squad since college, we are close friends. And yes, when King is not touring we play shows and work on music. We have 5 CD’s out, a couple are on vinyl. Last year we put out “As You Become Us”, it’s an EP. We played 3 shows during the break before Europe King Diamond- “Abigail” shows.
Why the costumes in Shaolin Death Squad and why did you pick the “Ninja”?
Long ago, Brian Lewis (Bat Castle, Xenos, Dr. Brainwarp) joined. We were thinking about a look, consolidating the image kind of thing. We weren’t that serious. We decided we would all wear black for a show (daring). Brian showed up in full Kabuki theatre costume, mask and everything. It looked amazing. He pretty much set the course for our live look. We had to choose characters. I dig the whole ninja thing so I just ran with it.
Have you ever had a hand in writing any lyrics for King Diamond or Shaolin Death Squad?
Certainly not with King, I mean that’s one of the things he is known for, right? I wrote some music for Shaolin in the past, the lyrics for “Last Stand” are mine, you can tell by how ridiculous they are.
You have been associated with the following bands: Legacy of Disorder, Aghora, Deuxmonkey (ex Anthrax Dan Spitz’s band), and Synkronizity. Are you still a member of any of these bands?
I was a member of Legacy, they are top blokes, good for ’em. I am still a member of Aghora, although we aren’t doing anything at the moment, we are busy with careers and daddy duty. I was never a member of Deuxmonkey, although Dan fired me as one. That was all very confusing stuff. Synkronizity was a project I did with Santiago Dobles and Tony Choy. Awesome music, some of the most challenging I’ve ever worked on. Not a member though for reasons.
Ronnie Dio once said when he writes songs he goes to “the dungeon”. How do you go about writing drum tracks for songs? Are there any particular conditions for you that make it easier to write music?
Well…it’s a little more complicated with drums. It’s always been in practice rooms that I’ve rented.
When doing big festivals and shows, do you use your own kit, or is one provided for you? How long does it take for you to set up your kit at shows?
I use my own kit. With King we have a professional drum tech so he sets it all up. With Shaolin, etc., there are a lot of variable. At the club level, there are often three or more bands on a bill in a place that has given zero forethought to gear logistics so it can take some time to get set up.
Please explain what “heel up” and “heel down” playing is. Which one are you?
“Heel up” is when your heel is not touching the pedal. “Heel down” is when it is. With King I’m 100% heel up. With Shaolin it’s like 98%. For me, heel down is for gigs that require softer dynamics, like restaurant gigs.
Are there any other drummers that have influenced you?
Yes. Too many to list.
What are your thoughts on drumming?
It’s awesome and any household that has kids and no drums should be investigated for other abuses.
Any social media sites fans can catch you on? Do you have a website?
Yes! I’m a real renaissance man:
You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, all that stuff. The links are on my webpage.
I know musicians that watch Laurel and Hardy, take martial arts, garden, and read – what do you do when not playing music? Any hobbies?
I love sci-fi, the outdoors, things that I can’t do because I live where I do like skiing, surfing and hiking. There is a hiking trail here but it charges $7 every time you want to just take a walk. It’s so criminal that it’s criminal.
Thank you for giving us your time. We wish you continued success in your drumming career!
Thank you, thanks for the interest and I’ll see you at the first window.
Interview by Heather Williams.
To find out more on Matt, King Diamond and upcoming tour dates go to:
King Diamond band photo: Soile Siirtola