Denmark’s own Mercyful Fate became one of the most influential bands considering the whole metal scene back in the day. Their early releases are masterpieces, classics, the best works in the realm of metal. In this special feature former drummer Jan Musen, aka Jan Lindblad tells about the very early period of this legendary band, that put Denmark on the map of the heavy metal.
Jan, Mercyful Fate was originally formed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1981, following the dissolution of the band Brats, which included guitarists Hank Shermann (Rene Krolmark, Hank de Wank) and Michael Denner. Do you still remember, what kind of musical style did they opt? How did they sound like?
I became involved in Brats in March 1981, when they needed a new drummer and bassist. Yenz and Monroe wanted to leave Brats because they did not think about the way Brats were on their way, which was more heavy after King Diamond became part of that. At that time Michael Denner was not a part of it.
They existed about four years and released two demos, on the latter one appeared King Diamond (Kim Bendix Petersen, previously he was in Brainstorm and Black Rose). Was Brats a well known, established outfit in Denmark?
I really didn’t know much about Brats before I join them. I had here some rumour about King and his Black Rose because they make some great shows.
After Michael Denner left Brats, he established Danger Zone along with bassist Timi „Grabber” Hansen, King Diamond, Hank Shermann and drummer „Old” Nick Smith. Were you perhaps familiar with this outfit? How about their demos?
I have heard about Danger Zone from Hank. They asked Hank and King to help with some demos, but I’ve only heard some demos from a cassette tape.
At which point did you join ’em? How did you get in the picture exactly?
I saw an advertisement in one big Danish newspaper, which sounded the following: „Known Danish heavy band with album release and jobs in among others London seeks drummer. Switch, contact. King Diamond on tel.” I contacted King and was invited to an interview with him in his apartment in Hvidovre. On the meeting was also Hank and Carsten Volsing who were already a part of the band.
What can you tell us about your musical background?
At that time I played in various cover bands (Styx, Journey) in Denmark.
Was Jan Musen your nickname/stagename at this point?
The nickname Jan Musen was a stagename King came up with.
The first demo of Mercyful Fate was recorded in 1981 but the band may have been known at the time as Back to Hell, is it correct?
When some problems occurred about rights to the name Brats, Mercyful Fate occurred. As the songs were recorded during and were presented in a rock program on Denmark’s radio the following day.
You were a friend of Hank and you filled in on drums for the departed Lars Monroe of Brats fame. Does it mean that you were a session musician? Were you asked to play on that tape or were you meant to be as a full time member?
After the meeting, a trial audition was agreed and then I became part of Brats. Brats (King, Hank, Carsten, Monroe & Yenz) some days after playing an already booked job in the middle of March 28, 1981. I was asked if I didn’t want to join so that I could hear the numbers before I had to step in.
Second guitarist/bassist, who performed on the first demo was Carsten Falkenlind Volsing, wasn’t it? What kind of musical past did he have?
Carsten replaced Denner in Brats. He was an excellent guitarist and also mastered bass and drums.
The tape was recorded in late March on 1981 at The Rocktape Studios in Copenhagen Denmark. What do you recall of the recording sessions? How did it go?
On April 1, 1981 we (King, Hank, Carsten and I) went in the studio to make some demos among others You Asked for It. At this time I had not managed to practice them, but only heard the numbers on a cassette tape.
What can you tell us about the end result in terms of songs, sound, production etc. as a whole?
The result of the demo showed enough that we were under time pressure and did not have much money to do with it. We paid for it ourselves and as I recall we only had 4-5 hours.
Would you say that King and Hank were experienced musicians? Did they clear know what they wanted to achieve Mercyful Fate with?
King and Hank were/are probably the most dedicated musicians I have ever met. Fantastic talents and a fantastic charisma they knew very early which way they wanted and did not compromise on anything.
How would you characterize the band’s music at this point? Did it differ a lot compared to Brats and Danger Zone?
MF and Danger Zone were close to each other, and were more heavy metal than Brats.
Was the demo spread around to attract any labels interests, trying to make a name for the band or was it done only for yourselves?
No, it wasn’t spread around to get label interest, but more a matter of finding the right composition.
How about the Danish metal scene of the early 80’s as a whole? Can you speak us detailed about it?
The heavy scene at that time in Denmark was virtually non-existent and audience left the concert little by little to King’s great frustration who stated. It’s a petty you don’t know anything about heavy metal.
In your opinion, was Mercyful Fate the first Danish heavy metal band that opened the doors for other oufits such as Pretty Maids, Evil, Artillery, Maltese Falcon etc. later on?
Mercyful Fate, with that line up, got really good time in their careers, thereby opening up the Danish heavy scene.
What have you done after the first Mercyful Fate demo was released? Did you perhaps involve in any other bands or did you get out of the heavy metal/hard rock scene?
I went along and ended up also making sound for the concert. The setlist included among others Some Day, Death Kiss, Combat Zone and You Asked for It. Denner and Timi also had a band that King and Hank decided to help and they were then merged with Ole Fausing on drums. I was later contacted by Hank who asked if I was interested in joining, but I didn’t take it seriously if I had regret, yes to the extent and Kim Ruzz came along. Carsten who also is a fantastic musician and I formed a project together, but we couldn’t really figure out which way to go. I then played in a couple of different Danish bands before I stopped as an active musician.
What do you think about Mercyful Fate’s career? Did they have a large and important effect on the scene?
Mercyful Fate has had a tremendous influence on both the Danish and international heavy scene, it can certainly not have any doubts.
Jan, thank you for your asnwers! Any closing words for our readers?
I am still honored that even after being a line in their career, I am still being asked for my time in and around Mercyful Fate.