Over the years Helloween has come to be known as the quintessential power metal band. Things were different in the early days.
Helloween evolved from local metal bands Gentry, Iron Fist and Second Hell. When singer and band leader Peter Sielck - he of Iron Savior later - left and folded Iron Fist, Kai Hansen decided to join Michael Weikath in Powerfool. Instead, Weikath ended up leaving Powerfool and ended up forming Helloween with Hansen and Iron Fist/Gentry drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. It was the latter who chose the band's name. According to the rest of the band, Ingo liked the word 'hell.'
Fans world-wide first heard of the band via the infamous Death Metal sampler of Noise Records in 1984. Helloween's Oernst Of Life and Metal Invaders songs showcased a fast and furious speed metal band which did not shy away from its Iron Maiden influences. The sampler was soon followed by the Helloween EP which quickly established the band's credentials. Hansen's incredible vocals and guitar playing, Weikath's guitar and song writing talents, Grosskopf's heavy bass rattle and Schwichtenberg's powerhouse drumming soon won the fans over on both sides of the Atlantic. Wasting no time, the German pumpkin heads soon released the milestone speed metal opus Walls Of Jericho which established the Hamburg unit as top metal contenders. Hot on the heels of the classy full-length came the Judas EP featuring the title track and material from the previous LP.
Much to the surprise of the fans and the media who found Kai Hansen a very capable singer, Helloween soon drafted a little-known singer called Michael Kiske from Prophecy into the fold. Kai Hansen was to concentrate solely on his guitar henceforth. Kiske was a dead ringer for Queensryche's Geoff Tate and was an odd choice for a band already doing quite well. The resulting album would quash all naysayers though. The Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part 1 was not only the beginning of the band's respected concept, but also Helloween's ticket to the mainstream's conscience. The band would crack the charts in Germany and America and become a major metal draw. The band's sound on this album would establish the parameters for European power metal and be copied for years. Noise would give RCA the American distribution rights and declare Helloween its top-selling act and priority. Helloween would hit America with RCA's other hot metal act Grim Reaper, as well as Chrysalis' Armored Saint. To further promote the band and album, the label edited the 13-minute song Halloween to four and shot a video for it which was given airplay on MTV.
The follow-up album would fare even better - despite a dip in quality - and go on to sell a million units total. Helloween, it seemed, was unstoppable. The band appeared at Castle Donington and toured as openers for its idol Iron Maiden (including on Maiden’s Dance Of Death tour). In fact, Helloween was later picked up by Iron Maiden's management. The band's second Seven Keys would enter the UK Top 40. The Germans were invited to tour America by MTV and opened for Anthrax and Exodus. This line-ups live exploits was soon immortalized through the Live In The UK album. The band's pumpkin head logo was everywhere and album and merchandise sales hit an all-time high. Sick of the touring, attention and the Helloween circus, Kai Hansen would soon depart to form his own 'studio project' Gamma Ray. The band fought the setback by recruiting Roland Grapow and forging ahead. The two bands would have harsh words for one another.
Helloween would next sign to EMI. The band's first release for the label would be none other than Pink Bubbles Go Ape. The material matched the title and the album would become something of a fiasco after being rejected by fans and the media alike. Noise Records also sued the band supposedly for breaching its contract and a premature departure from the Berlin-based label. Noise would also issue a Helloween compilation. Rumours of Kiske's defection to Iron Maiden were all over the German press. Kiske would deny the possibility years later claiming Iron Maiden fans would not accept a German singer. The compilation album was followed by Chameleon. Equally uninspired, the album marked the exit point for founding drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg and Kiske. Uli Kusch (ironically formerly of Gamma Ray) and Pink Cream 69's frontman Andi Deris would join the band and Helloween would set out to recapture old glories. Sadly, Ingo Schwichtenberg would commit suicide in March of 1995 by jumping in front of a U-bahn, which is the German equivalent to the subway. The drummer had seemingly sunk to lows suffering from depression and drug addiction - something Helloween itself had sung about earlier.
Master Of The Rings was a welcome album seemingly more metallic in nature than the band's more recent output. The band supported Bruce Dickinson in Europe for The Time Of The Oath CD and soon released another live album. Better Than Raw saw very respectable sales and touring in Europe and Japan followed. Several of the members also worked in various side-projects.
Helloween would capitalize on its renewed popularity and sign to Nuclear Blast Records for The Dark Ride. The album was received favourably, but was seemingly the cause for a lot of friction between the band members and the management. Weikath, in particular, would swear never to lend his name to such a dark album again. The band's relationship with its management group would never fully recover and Helloween would depart from that roster the first chance it would get. Before that though, Grapow and Kusch would be fired from the act victims of musical and personal differences and a desire to spread their wings with other projects and styles. Drummer Mark Cross of Metalium would soon be drafted. He would not last, falling victim to a crippling virus, and the next album would be recorded by Motörhead's Mickey Dee. Helloween would also steal Freedom Call guitarist Sascha Gerstner to complete the band. Former Running Wild and UDO drummer Stefan Schwarzmann would become Helloween's drummer. The band's second album for Nuclear Blast - recorded at Andi Deris' studio in Spain - would be called Rabbit Don't Come Easy. A world tour would follow.
The band and Nuclear Blast parted ways in mid-2004 and the band would switch over to SPV. The group's new album Keeper Of The Seven Keys - The Legacy was appropriately issued on October 31st through Steamhammer. The band preceded the album with a single called Mrs. God. The band was also busy releasing Hellish Videos: The Complete Video Collection on DVD on August 16, 2005, through Sanctuary Visual Entertainment. This DVD, compiled and produced by vocalist Andi Deris, features all the promotional videos ever made by the band. Helloween cancelled its North American tour of late 2006 due to inadequate guarantees by the promoters. The band released a single, Light The Universe, on November 13th through SPV Records. The title cut was a duet, which also featured an appearance by Blackmore's Night singer Candice Night. Helloween’s twelfth studio album, Gambling With The Devil, was due in November of 2007 through SPV. Helloween and Gamma Ray were touring USA, Europe and more together in 2007 and October, 2008 (USA). This was dubbed Hellish Rock. Helloween would issue a compilation called Unarmed - Best Of 25th Anniversary in December (Japan) of 2009 and January (elsewhere) 2010 through SPV. Helloween’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s singer Michael Kiske joined bassist Dennis Ward and drummer Kosta Zafiriou of Pink Cream 69 in a band called Unisonic. While the incest is interesting, Kiske was not a metal fan and his participation in these groups gave one pause. Guitarist Mandy Meyer, of Asia, Gotthard and Krokus, is also in the line-up of Unisonic at this juncture. Helloween picked 7 Sinner as the title for its next album, which was belatedly due in December of 2010. The album was recorded at singer Andi Deris' Mi Sueno Studios in Tenerife, Spain. Helloween and Stratovarius were touring Europe together that autumn. In the meantime, both Hansen and Kiske would find themselves in Avantasia. Moreover, Hansen would work with Kiske’s Unisonic. Helloween picked Straight Out Of Hell as the title for its next album, which was due on January 18th, 2013. The album was again produced by Charlie Bauerfeind at Helloween singer Andi Deris' Mi Sueño Studio in Tenerife, Spain. Helloween and Gamma Ray conducted the Hellish Rock Tour Part II in 2013. Helloween singer Andi Deris had a new project in 2013 called Andi Deris & Bad Bankers. The man has recruited three musicians local to him to form a new band around an anti-corporate image.
In the spring of 2014 it was announced that ten years after departing the label Helloween had returned to Nuclear Blast. A new record was expected in 2015. Helloween would release its next album, My God-Given Right, on May 29th of 2015 through Nuclear Blast. The album was recorded at the band's MiSueno Studio on the Isle of Tenerife with producer Charlie Bauerfeind. Helloween announced that it would play several shows in Canada in February of 2016. Helloween issued a book on October 31st, 2015 entitled Hellbook, which the band described as a "Helloween bible." In the meantime, Masterplan and its former Helloween guitarist were recording a Helloween cover songs. The band was forced to cancel its Japanese tour on June 14th due 2016 to drummer Daniel "Dani" Löble being hospitalized with appendicitis. Helloween was re-joined by ‘80s’ members singer Michael Kiske and singer/guitarist Kai Hansen for a world tour in 2017 and 2018. Using the Pumpkins United monicker, the tour featured current singer Andi Deris and guitarist Sascha Gerstner performing songs from throughout the band’s catalogue. A single, also called Pumpkins United, preceded the tour. This song would only appear on the Japanese edition of the forthcoming record. In the meanwhile, commenting on the current bout of touring with former members Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske, alongside current singer Andi Deris and guitarist Sascha Gerstner, Helloween guitarist Michael Weikath reported that the old members would record at least one new track with the current band. They were a seven-piece. The first Pumpkins united show was in Monterrey, Mexico in 2017. All of this meant the end for Gamma Ray and Unisonic. Helloween - Starlight: The Noise Records Collection was a 2018 box set containing all of Helloween’s Noise recordings and previously issued, but rare, recordings. Judas Priest, Kreator, Helloween, Massacre, Arch Enemy, Revocation and others were confirmed for the Colombian edition of Knotfest on October 26th 2018. The festival would take place in Bogota the capital of Colombia. The reunited line-up of Helloween would release an album in the summer of 2021. The drums were recorded on Schwichtenberg’s old kit. The band would issue a single called Skyfall on April 2nd in the meantime. The band released a self-titled album through Nuclear Blast on June 18th. It landed at position 1 in the German charts. Helloween and Hammerfall announced a European tour for the spring of 2022. Its monicker was United Forces 2022.
HELLOWEEN - Same - NOISE
Heard only so far on Noise Records’ Death Metal sampler, where the north German band would steal the show, Helloween would be the band to propel German metal, Noise’s sales figures and most importantly the headbangers and rivet heads’ delights to new heights.
This mini LP represents Helloween at its rawest, but the quality and potential is really all too clear. Packed with what are basically a number of demo songs, the introduction to the pumpkin heads is innovative, speedy, chaotic and full of spine tingling screams courtesy of songwriter, singer and guitarist Kai Hansen. The band’s talent and youthful exuberance are immediately obvious on the opener Starlight. There is no turning back now. Helloween is on to something. The song establishes Helloween’s quintessentially speed metal ripping solos, screaming guitars interspersed with thrashing rhythms and breathless shouting. Topping these are socially relevant topics ensconced within the lyric sheet, which explains the occasional sinister vocal effects. Victim Of Fate (featuring the line “My mother’s a bitch my father’s a killer... victim of fate”) is the EP’s flagship song. “I don’t wanna go to hell” sings Hansen and if fans weren’t banging to this then there was something wrong - 1985 or 2085! The song slows down in its middle only to catch its breath very effectively before revving up again for the attack again. Listen for Kai’s whisper here, which can only be described as downright competent and simultaneously belligerent. The guitars are racing each other constantly, soloing, topping one another, and playing off each other in a game of musical one-upmanship, which is wonderful. Murderer kicks in with guitar one, guitar two, bass, then drums and it is off to the kill. Cry For Freedom begins with a slow and memorable acoustic bit with Hansen impressing the listeners with his ability to sing and create the right mood. Again, listen for those damn meaningful lyrics. The build up is haunting and indispensable. This one is about brash thrashing; never mind the chorus going “ooooo oooo ooo!”
Helloween and its inaugural EP sold very well and made the band an instant underground metal hit. Given the able vocals, solos to match Maiden, Priest, Agent Steel and the rest of them and music that is overall naive and brash in its unrestraint and lyrics that show a kind of forward thinking not necessarily always a virtue of the metal Helloween earned its sales, popularity and success. - Ali “The Metallian”
HELLOWEEN - WALLS OF JERICHO - NOISE
Helloween’s debut full-length album, Walls of Jericho, is above all a heavy and fun speed metal romp with some of the best dual guitars anywhere - played as fast as the band could muster. Guitar and dual solo fans could take the plunge with their eyes closed. Furthermore, the humanistic tendencies shown on the band’s 1985 EP really mature here and add a unique dimension to the LP - as do the guitars, the melodies, the pace and the incredible high screams of Kai Hansen! Oddly enough, the man would relinquish the vocals after this album. Even odder would be the success of the said scheme.
The album starts with an abridged and instrumental version of the nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down amidst a background of falling rubble and destruction. The first song is called Ride The Sky and what an uplifting super metal attack it is. The rhythm exemplifies the super fast speed metal that is tight (even compared to the band’s one-year old EP) and combined with the screams and anger exuded by Kai Hansen combine to become a potent force. Splendid are those impossibly high screams. Hansen is convincing when he commands “set me free.” Of note here are the lyrics, which read like the manifesto to a humanism-rich ideology. The guitars are another theme for the album as are the crashing cymbals landing everywhere. Reptile is next and takes a different approach. It is a sci-fi story about a mutant reptile. It is not a great song, but still listenable. What are the nuns doing here though? Guardians is another marvellous cut with more futuristic lyrics, a sharp guitar sound and galloping riffs. Phantoms has a great feeling that is represented by the soloing, incessant guitar picking, swirling riffs, speed metal-defining axe attacks and metallic lyrics. The song unnecessarily introduces keyboards to the mix, perhaps, as a hint of the deteriorated Helloween that will come a year or two down the line. Regardless, hear Kai actually get mad during the chorus as if affected by his own lyrics - those are some screams. Metal Invaders is another tribute to heavy metal (Heavy Metal Is The Law is obviously the other). The vocals take on an almost ethereal feel on the track. Of note are the catchy and thunderous bass and the rapid-fire singing on this headbanging anthem. Gorgar is probably the weakest song here given its silly backing chant of “Gorgar” by the rest of the band, among other issues. An amount of humour is probably a given here (wait for the sample at the song’s end) as the song is about a pinball machine! The band creates a fake live atmosphere on the anthem Heavy Metal Is The Law. This is punctuated by the catchy rhythm, which is designed to rouse audiences at shows. The bass is prominent and amazing, but there is relatively minimal music here with Helloween concentrating on the lyrics and the atmosphere. “If you don’t feel it you won’t understand.” How Many Tears is a track with over seven minutes of length. It ends the album in unqualified style and is arguably the band’s best work. The melodic voice, remarkably cognizant lyrics, which are probably based on experiences of youth living in the gloom of the Cold War (although still wholly relevant today), the slow and painful arrangement just before the instrumental mid-section are heavy as lead and powerful beyond belief. There is a musical massacre on parade here with the drums and guitars racing before a most beautiful and melodic lead section comes back to balance the extremes.
Walls Of Jericho is a once in a lifetime album. The speed and rhythm changes are incredibly fast and heavy, yet simultaneously suited for a sing-along and catchy. This album and line-up will never be matched and have allowed Walls Of Jericho to go down history as the blueprint for all speed metal. - Ali “The Metallian”
HELLOWEEN - RABBIT DON'T COME EASY - NUCLEAR BLAST
This writer has to come clean with a personal declaration. Having been a huge Helloween fan in 1985 to 1986, this writer never forgave the band for substituting singer Kai Hansen - whose voice propelled the band's first two releases to magical levels - with Michael Kiske who commercialized the sound of the German speed metallers to the point of contempt. Helloween, with Kiske as singer, of course went on to sell one million copies of their next release and never looked back.
The story is now seventeen years old and Helloween is fronted by Andi Deris, has retained its popularity and is releasing its second record for Nuclear Blast Records. It is a good album too. The band members, founding member Michael Weikath in particular, complained bitterly that 2000's The Dark Ride was a significantly gloomy affair prompted by label and management. The new album, hence, is billed as a return to the 'happy' Helloween fans know, love and want. That being said, those who would worry that this album will be wimpy as a result need not worry. In fact, the album, whose name refers to a magician's sleight of hand and ability to make it look easy, is a relatively fast album. In fact, Rabbit Don't (sic) Come Easy is sixty minutes of not what you would expect given the above-mentioned assertions.
The album kicks off with Just A Little Sign, a fast tune with good backing vocals. The tune is reminiscent of Freedom Call, which perhaps is not fair because that band itself is Helloween-inspired. The similarities are too many to ignore though and probably not surprising given how Freedom Call's Sascha Gerstner has recently decamped to Helloween. Just A Little Sign is written by Andi Deris and comes with a smooth production and a nice mood. Open Your Life is another good song with an intriguing chorus that is catchy to the extreme. The song alternates well between the soft and the heavy. The Tune is a little too happy for its own good and is quite abrupt. Never Be A Star has an Oriental influence and features a strong vocal performance representing articulate lyrics. This is another song with varying tempo. A small sample of a live audience has been worked into the song, which is something the band did with the song Heavy Metal Is The Law on the Walls Of Jericho album. Liar is predictably angry. The song will not win any prizes for its rudimentary arrangement though. The song gets faster as it progresses and delves into poised dual-leads. Sun 4 The World has more Oriental influences within, seems to have a message to convey, and given the effects on the vocals, heavy rhythm and the generally involved arrangement is more progressive in essence. The next song is the imperative Don't Stop Being Crazy. It is slower, but has a nice hook and vocal harmony. Do You Feel Good asks the wrong question seeing that it begins with synthesizers. It is a harder song though eventually, even if the drum sound disappoints in its sterility. This one has a big ending. Hell Was Made In Heaven is probably my favourite song here. It sports an invigorating and heavy main riff that rocks. The song has an instrumental interlude for its mid-section. The next song is the tenth on the album and could have been by Pink Floyd. Back Against The Wall is consequently an odd song. Furthermore, the drum sound is gated more than necessary. Listen To The Flies is yet another psychopathic title. The tune is mid-paced and has a chorus that goes, "listen to the flies, and die..." Helloween chooses to end the album with an American-sounding song. It also has a reggae beat in the middle. This is the most curious inclusion on the sixty-minute long album.
The god of grammar might not approve, but Rabbit Don't Come Easy is a good album that is sure to be lauded by fans and critics alike. - Ali "The Metallian"
HELLOWEEN - KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS - THE LEGACY - SPV
Right from the start this writer was going to have several problems with Keeper Of The Seven Keys - The Legacy. Written and billed as the sequel to the much vaunted and best selling Keeper Of The Seven Keys of the late '80s, the current double-CD revisits the story and music of the Michael Kiske-fronted albums. Now, and this goes against the grain, the Keeper albums were major disappointments at Metallian Towers. The band's innovative and powerful debut EP and Walls Of Jericho album had delivered such speed metal delight in these halls that changing the formula seemed like madness. Kiske sounded like a Geoff Tate clone, in contrast to his predecessor who exuded both ability and magnetism. What is more, one is bound to believe that commercialism is the ulterior motive when bands revisit their most popular albums and resurrect old glories. Strike two.
Scratch that. Keeper Of The Seven Keys - The Legacy is not only a good album with a fantastic cover art, but also way better than the spotty original Keepers. Get this: the German innovators deliver 77 minutes of some of the best metal they have put to disc since the Walls Of Jericho opus. The story continues here, the last two keys are found and so forth. More importantly, this album will put the fable of Michael Kiske to rest once and for all. The current line-up proves itself capable, ready and willing to deliver and outgun the many imitators after the band's crown.
Past the snippets that sample the original Keeper albums and even hint at the band's debut EP. The King For A 1000 Years immediately validates the band's concept and should convince cynics. Mrs. God, the album's single and a song released earlier, is also on disc one and, while commercial in nature, convinces with its up-tempo, catchy and energetic delivery. Hell, we can say it, the song is fun. Disc two is where the band deviates more from the original concept and sound and takes chances. It works. Occasion Avenue is one of the album's extra long songs, but manages to keep up the momentum and quality. The song has a touch of Rainbow and symphonic parts and is only spoilt by the cliche lyrics, "follow your hearts, follow your dreams..." Light The Universe ironically features Mrs. Ritchie Blackmore, Candice Night, who delivers a so-so vocal performance. The song is written to be gentle. Do You Know What You're Fighting For is a not so subtle jab at American imperial policy and is both upbeat and harder than average. Come Alive is a self-referencing rock song, while Get It Up (with its 1988-like soloing) and My Life For One More Day are wilder and faster. There certainly is no lack of a guitar playing on this album and that is a good thing. The album also features a video for the song Mrs. God complete with a surprise story line.
Not liking the two prequel albums and being wary of any band's motives when covering itself (hello Iron Maiden!) it is a surprise to me that this album works for me. Nevertheless, singer Andi Deris, guitarists Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf and new drummer Dani Loeble have me convinced and will do the same for you. Nuclear Blast will be probably kicking itself for losing the band to SPV right about October 31st which is the album's release date. - Ali "The Metallian"
HELLOWEEN - GAMBLING WITH THE DEVIL - SPV
There is plenty to like in the new Helloween album, but also plenty of which to be wary. Having had a liking for the German pumpkinheads since completely adoring the band’s debut EP and LP back in 1985 and 1986 respectively it is actually mentally difficult to assign a mere 'above average' rating to anything the band does. The band deserves respect for its tenacity, originality and persistence. Its contribution to the realms of heavy, power and speed metal cannot be denied. Nonetheless, when a personal favourite band disappoints and releases a so-so album the disenchantment is bound to be bigger than average. That is just the way of things.
Gambling With The Devil is inconsistent. The album is designed to be up-tempo, carefree and exude fun. This has translated into some lightweight songs and moments that are too cheerful. There are better and heavier songs on the album as well, but the overall feeling is dominated by the former atmosphere. At times the album sounds like Blind Guardian, while at others Freedom Call comes to mind. It is a case of the band’s followers meshing with its own past.
The album begins with an intro dubbed Crack The Riddle narrated by Saxon’s Biff Byford. The title refers to a puzzle embedded in the album’s booklet and the trilogy of songs, The Bells Of The Seven Hells, Falling To Pieces and I.M.E. Kill It is possibly the strongest song on this venture. Andi Deris’ pitch is so high that one is immediately reminded of Agent Steel’s John Cyriis. Yes, that high. The song is a fast one. The Saints is heavier and has a good riff or two. The vocals are back lower and the typical Helloween melodies rule the song with help from a strong guitar presence. As Long As I Fall is taped with synthesized vocals and has streaks of a commercial new wave sound. Paint A New World begins with a genuinely hard riff that is marred by the synthesizers. The galloping guitars sound like a laser fight. Final Fortune is lightweight fluff for sure. Blatantly poppy vocal melodies remind one of the worst possible things like Italian pop power metal. The guitars do help here though. The aforementioned The Bells Of The 7 Hells is grittier again and certainly could use a sharper snare drum sound as do the rest of the album. In general, the vocals and guitars dominate Gambling With The Devil with the drums and bass taking a backseat. The Bells... is packed with vocal layers and could be a sing-along hit! Fallen To Pieces is slower and begins with a fantasy and Celtic feeing. The tempos change and the song becomes an oddity that is not sure of itself. The synthesizers are plain too much. I.M.E. goes in strange directions, but listen for the screaming guitars. Can Do It is another entry into the annals of Pink Bubbles Go Ape. The laughable track could have been on the soundtrack to Grease or a Kim Wilde hit for anyone cares. The lyrics certainly sound like a ten-year old composed them. Dreambound is more lightweight material that is nevertheless bolstered by a soloing finale. This one has shades of Yngwie Malmsteen all over it. Just in time too. Gambling With The Devil needed more - much more - soloing seeing that these guys would have been up to the job. The twelfth and final song is called Heaven Tells No Lies (although the self-ordained spokespersons for it certainly do). The textured song is one of those, which could have landed on a Freedom Call album. The closer is a textured tune with some complexity.
Gambling With The Devil could have literal meanings here. The band has written sixteen songs which will trickle unto the scene sooner rather than later. The Charlie Bauerfeind production is as hit and miss as always and possibly responsible for some of the Blind Guardian one hears on this album. One can hear that this is the album Michael Weikath and company deliberately wanted to make, but album is less likely to end up being one of the band’s classics and more likely to land with the other circus-themed minor outings the band has done like Master Of The Rings or Rabbit Don’t Come Easy. - Ali “The Metallian”
HELLOWEEN – HELLOWEEN – NUCLEAR BLAST - 2CD LIMITED DIGIBOOK EDITION
Titled the same as the band's first EP, the reunion album is two-faced. While the production is excellent, it sounds a bit too polished. While the songs are mostly long, not enough happens to justify their length. Also, the funnier, shorter songs akin to the Keeper era like Future World or Rise And Fall are nowhere to be found on this album. The amazing single “Pumpkins United”, released before the start of the reunion tour a while ago, is only on the Japanese version and would have made the perfect opener! Furthermore, while the band brought Kai Hansen back, the vocal distribution between the three singers (with Michael Kiske also being back) is about 50% Andi Deris, 40% Kiske, and only 10% Hansen. This could either be because Hansen's voice is not up to the task anymore or that the other two bullied him into the background. By the way, internal bullying was the reason why Hansen and later Kiske left in the first place. They had other reasons, but the climate in Helloween was not always the most pleasant (similar to Slayer).
About the song material – honestly, it all sounds big, pompous, and technically superb, but after three consecutive listening sessions, it falls apart. Catchy choruses? No. Funny bridges? No. Elaborate guitar solos? Oh yes, too many in fact. Only Kai Hansen's Skyfall (the only song he wrote by himself) remains in one's long term memory. There is also no clear thematical concept in the song titles. Some examples: Fear Of The Fallen, Robot King, Down In The Dumps, Mass Pollution. On top of that, the lyrics in the booklet are in such an exaggerated fake-handwriting type of font that they are almost impossible to read. The two bonus tracks of this version are not worth the higher price. But the black slipcase with the golden Helloween logo is also not that much of an extra value over the regular CD. Based on the musical skill involved, it's still a good album. But among newer Helloween CDs, Master Of The Rings and The Dark Ride, both having only Deris as the vocalist, were much better and more fun to listen to. – Andreas Herzog
Helloween singer Andi Deris was scheduled to call in at first last Sunday morning. The call never came. The band's publicist promised us a rescheduled telephone call again from Deris in two weeks. What happened next? Checking the voice mail system only one week later, there was a message from guitarist Michael Weikath. "Hello, sorry for being late! Where are you? I'll try you again in a couple of hours!" Two hours later the phone rang and it was Weikath's voice wondering if an interview is in order! 'Rabbit Don't Come Easy' apparently!
Ali "The Metallian" spoke to Helloween guitarist Michael Weikath - the band is rounded off by Andi Deris, second guitarist Sascha Gurstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Stefan Schwarzmann - on the occasion of the release of the band's newest full-length album, Rabbit Don't Come Easy. - 04.05.2003
METALLIAN: Michael, it is good to have you on the line. Rabbit Don't Come Easy has been the subject of much speculation. Seeing that much of it is fuelled by the band, can you begin our chat by telling the readers about your intentions for the album?
WEIKATH: Thanks for the opportunity, Ali. Everything we have on the 'Rabbit' record now came along quite naturally. The songs Do You Feel Good and Nothing To Say particularly, because I already had them from 2000's The Dark Ride sessions. I wrote those two after we finished the Metal Jukebox covers album. Nothing To Say had not made it onto the recording list. Do You Feel Good had been recorded to a certain point, but was a very boring and disappointing recording so it was put on hold because there was something wrong with it. The drumming was not exactly the best one could expect out of (previous drummer) Uli Kusch. Then we had to go on with other material because everybody was very preoccupied with doing their own thing during The Dark Ride session. Now, eventually, you get to hear what I had in mind with Do You Feel Good!
This time everything came along in the most natural way you could imagine because we have two new band members. We had Marc Cross from Metalium on drums, but he eventually became ill with a virus. Then we had hoped that Dan Zimmermann of Gamma Ray would do it, but he couldn't decide. He took like half of the year for his decision, it did not look as if he would really join us. It all was very busy. Then there was Sascha. Having come from Freedom Call - he left them some time ago before he agreed to play with us his mindset was not that far from the kind of music we do. So this record was just very very natural for us. There was no big thing behind it, like sitting around going 'oh and how do we compose this and this must sound like this and that.' It was not planned. We may be Germans, but we have been doing this for twenty years and we don't need that approach. We never took that approach, right from the start, because the original Helloween output was like a very freaky band.
We didn't really care much. I mean we were actually the opposite of what one would have expected from a German band. I recall meeting Leatherwolf who were even more German than us! We met those guys and we noticed that they were older than we were, but they took bands like Accept or Scorpions as their idols and that's what they wanted to bring across. They did so in a very perfect way. We told each other, 'man, they are so German. They don't even know how much they are because they do everything so perfectly.' That's not our way and that was not how we did it. When you do something in a team manner and with a lot of friendship and fun involved, you don't care so much! You enjoy yourself doing the stuff and that is what Helloween is supposed to be like. The criteria for what you do is more or less clear after doing this for 20 years.
I don't understand the logic why one would have to twist and turn the whole Helloween thing around into something that sounds like The Dark Ride. To me it was entirely illogical.
METALLIAN: How does it make sense that it was Helloween that did The Dark Ride given what you just said?
WEIKATH: There were people who were pursuing that. It's like this, I mean I can only speak up and speak the truth and say what I want to say. It's another thing if somebody listens and wants to do something about it. So what I mean is that I didn't feel like I was being taken seriously when we are doing that album. That eventually lead to the firing of Uli Kusch and guitarist Roland Grapow a few months later because you don't do that to me too often. Actually I had been watching things and there had been reason to handle the situation likewise, maybe, three years earlier. I have given a few people many chances and they didn't take them. They didn't see what was going on. I was watching the situation for maybe three years and I thought that perhaps it is going to even out. I mean everyone has a bad period sometimes. I think that maybe it will even out and get better, but they didn't and so then there was a certain point where we had to call it quits on the situation.
METALLIAN: So why exactly were Uli and Roland fired? Did they want to pursue a different direction?
WEIKATH: That and they also had preoccupied themselves with so many side-projects - projects here and project there - and they were talking about the project they were about to do together and you have to bear in mind that shortly before The Dark Ride's production Uli was interested in firing Roland from the band!
This is something I don't understand. Then later on there is so much talk about a project or something and I begin to think that these are people who don't think things out properly. It is turmoil of opinions. I need something to grasp what is going on with and not just have mere chaos one week at a time.
I think about this and say if you want to do a band like Helloween then there has got to be a 'curtain.' I am chaotic enough. I come up with weird ideas myself and it's not a bad thing, but like that other issue this appeared to me like a kindergarten thing. That is, you can't possibly go this way and that way each and every week and then decide differently every other month! Then they also accuse me of being old-fashioned, not being a proper guitarist and all this stuff, you know? I don't need that! I have been to places before and I don't need new band members telling me something; it's pretty humiliating and there is only so much I can take over the years. If it ends with my being made the asshole of the gang, then there is a point where things don't go any further.
METALLIAN: Did the band members ever accuse you of not being a good guitarist?
WEIKATH: It was said at a certain point. You can read some of Roland's interviews, where he says that in a few of those, and you can read it you know! He says, 'well, I can surely tell my band-mate that I think he is playing some bad guitar.' Yeah, OK maybe it is the that case if you tell me so often then maybe, eventually, I become a bad guitarist! I don't need that.
METALLIAN: Did Roland and Uli form the side-project?
WEIKATH: No, they were about to do a band and at that point I said to them, 'maybe you can do your fucking project because I am gonna let you.' I couldn't decide that myself. It was also up to Markus because he has been watching the situation too; maybe a bit closer, but not as long as I. After some time we could only the same thing. It was his input as well. He said so too. He said, 'this is not a band anymore. This is not what Helloween is supposed to be. We have to do something about it.' He was pretty enraged as well.
METALLIAN: When most fans think of Helloween, they think of you and Markus who are the original members.
WEIKATH: Yeah, but it should be that you are thinking of more people than just the two of us because maybe all five of us could have created an image and a nice approach for you to like everyone in the band a lot more. It would have been good to have a higher profile for everyone. That would be a better thing. Think of Judas Priest. There you have a profile of all the people in the band. You may not want Dave Holland or you might like him better than the other drummer, but you certainly have a profile of those people in your head. Shouldn't that be the case with Helloween as well?
METALLIAN: At the very least, the band's age would warrant such a profile.
WEIKATH: Yeah, and so now we are trying to come up with something like that. Sascha and I intend to be a real good guitar team in the future. We want to come up with extraordinary stuff. You may have been thinking of Wieke, Michael Kiske, Kai Hansen and Markus before as people with a profile. And that is the way it is supposed to be. So if that doesn't happen there is something wrong.
METALLIAN: In our conversation so far, you have mentioned Roland and Uli quite a bit, but my impression was that The Dark Ride was a little, more than a little, influenced by the management and the record company rather than the previous members.
WEIKATH: That is true too. If you have all those influences from the outside which want to tell you that Helloween is ridiculous, that you are always so laughable, that you take things not seriously enough which is not necessarily put across like that just from the management if you are being told, 'oh you gotta be more serious. You know people don't take you seriously. You are an old metal band. You exist for almost 20 years. You gotta deliver a different impact' and then if at least two people in the band say the same thing then you have got a fucking problem.
METALLIAN: For someone on the outside it is difficult to understand how a manager or a record label, especially one that just signed the band for the very first time, could approach the band with the stuff you just mentioned.
WEIKATH: You meet somewhere and someone says something. You get a call from someone or some statement of some kind or some opinion is being delivered. If you don't have your own identity, you are not a real entertainer and you can not stand up for being funny or humourous if that's not exactly your way and you are feeling uncertain of yourself then something like this happens and then you will begin saying stuff like I am rather cool, I rather wear certain sunglasses and I won't get touched by anyone, etc. Then you will say stuff like I don't need to answer questions and I also don't need to be entertaining too much because entertaining comes hard to a few people. It is not like everyone is self-made or a born entertainer. I think those people should stay home or do something different. Can you imagine Kirk Hammett of Metallica being on stage and being a clown? No. He would not fucking do it because he is a more serious guy. He wants to be more laid back and cool and wear sunglasses. OK, let him be that way. Do not tell him to act funny. If you have a few real entertainers who want to have some fun outside and be that way then don't stop them from that either.
METALLIAN: Musicians must remain true to themselves.
WEIKATH: Exactly, and that is all. I mean, I feel bad if my humour or my personality is being censored. I get paranoid. Similarly, in each and every interview and with every word I say I wonder whether I am now being too ridiculous. I tell myself, 'don't make any mistakes, don't come across as pathetic.' But fucking what do I know? That is too fucking insecure.
METALLIAN: You know yourself.
WEIKATH: I know myself. I know what I can do. It's just like I am also being blocked from the promotional sector. I was not supposed to do this and that interview because it's like I may appear weird or what do I know! For example, I had been talking to a BMG rep. during the second American tour and she wanted to know what my ideas are for the running of things for Helloween. After the talk, I thought I told her everything, she goes to the tour manager and says don't let him do any interview he doesn't have the right attitude! Those are things that happen and you do get paranoid when you get to hear something like that.
METALLIAN: This is an extreme case, but management and label have to remember how they don't buy albums. The fans do.
WEIKATH: I know. You don't need to explain to me. I used to be so care-free, direct and happy. They turned me into some cynical kind of a human-being. It only takes a few people to piss you off so much. I actually like to joke around, do this and that. You are being put into an environment and then people would tell you that you are not the way we are used to it and that was what happened with me.
METALLIAN: Is there something wrong with being an outsider?
WEIKATH: No, no! This is why you are talking to me, because I am so fucking different. I am not like the others. I am also happy I was born in Germany, being a guitarist from Germany is a lot better because I used to say guitarists in America grow on trees and then eventually they fall down and do a solo record (laughs). That's the way it is so you know I could have been born in the States. Then I couldn't have guaranteed I could have come up with the same intensity as being from Germany.
METALLIAN: How is your relationship now with the label?
WEIKATH: Fine, because we are with Nuclear Blast Records and that is a different thing. We are not on Noise. We are on NB and those people do Manowar, Anthrax and other bands. They are from Southern Germany. They are real metal-heads and are opinionated headbangers that do a record company. Those people are cool and try to do their very best for us. Just recently I have always dreamt about how they paste posters on the walls in train stations in Germany now you see that big rabbit with the cylinder form from the back side of the cover artwork as a relatively large poster in all the main traffic conjunctions here. For example, at the central station here or they put it in subway stations and so you walk around the town and suddenly see that stupid rabbit and the Helloween logo. It is something I always dreamt about.
METALLIAN: So you have a good relationship with the label.
WEIKATH: Yeah, absolutely nothing is wrong.
METALLIAN: Do you have a good relationship with your management?
WEIKATH: No, but must you ask me that now?
METALLIAN: I have to ask questions I think the readers want answered.
WEIKATH: Well, we are on a casual level about things. They are trying their very best to help us in our career and we are trying our very best to fulfill the ideas they come across in order to help us with our career.
METALLIAN: Let me ask you this, before hearing the album upon receiving it I read the biography that came with the album. It said this is a happier Helloween. It alludes to how this is the real Helloween.
When listening to the album one doesn't necessarily hear a happier band. I felt it's faster; perhaps it's heavier.
WEIKATH: Yeah, but it is actually a lot happier because The Dark Ride's lyrics say many strange things. For example, the line 'would you take the bullet' is a very very crucial sentence from the record. It refers to how you have a friend, a pal and you can't even rely on him. I mean, what can you rely on in this world then? This was put across in a very very strange way. This is not something I want to teach my fans on my records. I am about more positive things and I want to deliver hope to everyone and not something like this. This is hopeless and I have a big problem with something like that. I mean if any other band, like maybe Metallica, if they want to go out and say to their fans 'kick everyone you want, like fuck them all over and just stand up and fight and kill everything you don't like' well that's their way, but it's not my way. I put it into different words. I say tear down the walls and do what you think is necessary, but this is more like by democratic means and by the most positive output possible. It's not talking about violence.
METALLIAN: So the album is happier because it's more positive. The description can be taken to mean the music is wimpier, while it actually is not.
WEIKATH: This is the problem because if you say happy and everything, then I would apply the next thinking as you did. No, it's not supposed to be wimpy. That is not part of the Helloween concept. We have done that too often and we have failed doing so.
METALLIAN: The Pink Bubbles Go Ape album.
WEIKATH: It was not exactly too wimpy. There were some wimpy tracks on there. There have been tracks that came out quite strongly, but Heavy Metal Hamsters for example is a wimpy number. I actually had planned it as a B-side and I didn't want to have it on the album later.
That was the first album where things were tried to be run without my input. I had a few tracks prepared. I thought we could work just like we did on The Keeper Of The Seven Keys records and that would have been a great outcome. The thing was we were there with producer Chris Tsangarides who doesn't run the thing the way Tommy Hansen does. This had been a bad manifestation of everything. Tsangarides was proposed to us by the management. There was nothing wrong with Tommy Hansen though. We could have done it with him and we went on doing things with him later on, but there were wimpy things on the Chameleon Record too. For instance, In the Night is just an utterly wimpy song. It can't be any wimpier than it is and even Your Turn on Pink Bubbles is just very wimpy - country music doesn't belong on Helloween records. There is a quotation from our old singer Michael Kiske from that time where he said 'if you don't like this well, I like country a lot and you can expect a lot more country from me in the future' and I thought 'oh my God.' This is another reason why Michael is not in the band anymore.
I don't want any wimpy stuff. To me even some stuff from The Dark Ride is wimpy because there is no interaction, there is no teamwork in it. It was done just by Roland with the aid of producer Roy Z. He came up with songs. He didn't even let me play any solos on certain tracks and that's wimpy.
METALLIAN: Do you realize how strange it is for an outsider to hear things like this?
WEIKATH: I don't want to bash him. This is us having come to this point and we have been using the term wimpy and I just have tell you what I consider wimpy. Wimpy stuff is not good. It's for housewives.
METALLIAN: I believe that Helloween fans would be happy to read about your current sentiment.
WEIKATH: Yeah. That's what I mean. I am responsible for a few wimpy tracks, but that's because of an overly positive attitude and sometime I am looking at things a little too positively. I am self-critical enough though. This is just proof when I tell you something like this.
METALLIAN: Much of our discussion so far contravenes the notion, but most fans' impression is that you are the leader of the band.
WEIKATH: No. that's the wrong approach. In the beginning it was Kai Hansen. He was then the leader (supposedly), but it was not true because we divided the duties and everything fifty-fifty.
Who is the fucking leader? I mean, Andi Deris was the leader of Helloween for the most part when he got into the band because he still had the fresh energy for trying. We are friends and we are trying to do things the elaborate way - as long as it runs fine. I don't know what happened! Maybe somebody became envious or maybe we were running things too well or maybe Andi was doing it too well. Nevertheless a lot of turmoil occurred and eventually you saw what happened with The Dark Ride. I mean Andi just tried to comply with that new concept. I think that's an advantage of his. As well, it can be a weakness because if you try to follow orders then that is not good. If you want to make things fine for your friends then that is a very good thing, but then if you are being you have to realize that you have been acting against yourself. This is pretty frustrating for a guy like Andi because he only wants to be honest and do things in the best way possible for everyone involved. I am more the kind of guy who has a plan and who rather goes against people's opinions if I am not so sure that's the right way. Then I think, hopefully, things turn out to be better. I apparently proved that with this 'Rabbit' album now.
METALLIAN: As things stand in the Helloween camp everyone is interacting.
WEIKATH: We don't need no fucking leader. I mean right now I have been appointed to be kind of the leader of Helloween at this point in time. I try to do it as well as I can. Then if it is time to hand it off to someone else then I am ready to do so. In Helloween you have to do it the right way. If you are doing it the fucking wrong way, well you are cancelled. Michael Kiske tried to be the leader and he just fucked it up. It is not good because no one wanted him to be the leader, but he wanted himself to be the leader and this lead to various problems.
METALLIAN: Let me ask you how big Helloween is in Germany.
WEIKATH: Not very big.
METALLIAN: Can you be more specific?
WEIKATH: No, I can't because I am not interested. Things have not been running according to what I expected and so I am not interested if things are on the ground level. I can tell you one thing, right now we have many fans all over the world. Actually we have a lot more fans than the time we were considered famous in Germany. It's like this, we have not been promoted properly for the longest time because we have an English management. They don't really cater to the German public and that's the down side of all this basically. Things have kinda went into the ground in Germany, but there is also another factor involved. There are bands playing in Germany for half-full or one-third full venues, but when we go out for concerts we play in full venues. That's the level we are at. Since Nuclear Blast took over doing the record company for Helloween we have had a lot more media coverage in Germany. Ever since I get many emails from Germany as well. To me it was particularly bad that we reintroduced ourselves with something like The Dark Ride in Germany because right now I have a lot of quarrel with new Helloween fans who don't like the other stuff we have done and are doing. They favour The Dark Ride.
It doesn't matter. The label is out there doing its best and we just are in the process of being recognized in Germany again. There has not been enough coverage for bands like Helloween in Germany. The day-to-day handling in the media didn't take place for the longest time - almost 15 years and that's not so good. There will be a change because there is nothing wrong with the band. There is no reason to hide with what we do, but there has been no coverage in between. Now Nuclear Blast is there and they are at it since about three years and things get better and better and better. We are like prophets in our own country, so big in other countries but not in Germany because something was been left out. I can tell you its lonely at the top! It's not so bad. We do our concerts and it's great. We have enough fans in Germany. Everyone is talking about fucking Rammstein. This band is interesting, but I don't consider them metal. They are just something of their own brand or breed. It has nothing to do with Helloween or power, heavy or melodic metal.
METALLIAN: That is of course obvious to metal fans. Are you making a comment about commercial magazines like Rock Hard in Germany?
WEIKATH: Rammstein is not metal. I mean they are being taken as a heavy rock act which is like new metal, crossover or something but that's like a different field of music. The Dark Ride has been made under the impact of a band like Rammstein. To me, that means you lose your identity. You don't live up to your aims, you give up, you give in to bands like that if you change the style so much and make something like The Dark Ride.
To me it was time to fire two members because they didn't believe in Helloween. They believed in Rammstein. Well, then they must go to them and play there, apply for a job.
Anyway, you are going nowhere if you are trying that way. We go to Brazil and we are in front of a camera and we are talking to at least six million People there and the interviewer asks is there anything else you want to say or are there any other interesting bands you like and the former members say Rammstein and go on for five more minutes. That was our fucking interview time!
METALLIAN: You felt the time was wasted.
WEIKATH: Right, and that's fucking wrong. I just note that and I eventually fire those people when I can.
METALLIAN: On a different note, what does the title of the album mean?
WEIKATH: It's derived from pulling a rabbit out of the hat. You can imagine if the magician reversed his trick to bring across people the same way as it appears for him to be an easy thing to do with rabbits. Then maybe the stupid rabbit doesn't want to come out of it and clings to the cylinder as you can see on the cover artwork. In that case the rabbit 'don't come easy.'
METALLIAN: So why did you chose it, are you alluding to how things difficult for you?
WEIKATH: We chose it because we had our drummer who caught a virus and the mononucleosis disease or the sleepy syndrome as it is called. It's actually a bitch of a virus and it's not to be taken too lightly. It's a bad thing he has to carry with him for the rest of his life. Right now he is at the point where he can drum with full energy for half an hour and that's it. After that he needs to go to bed because he feels weak and can't go on.
Then we are doing our rehearsals in Hamburg, we have a good time and we want to come up with a great record and then there is heavy rain and our rehearsal room gets flooded. We have to leave to a different one. We had to save our equipment out of that room. Luckily enough Markus was around and he carried out all the stuff as far as he could and he dammed the door so the water wouldn't get in. This is the stuff that went wrong plus other little things. For example, you are going somewhere and you want to run out and catch your taxi and you get caught to the door knob with your jacket on and bang your head against the door. That was happening around that time. Coming up with this album wasn't as easy as it may appear when you listen to it.
METALLIAN: Why is the title grammatically wrong?
WEIKATH: The grammar? It's the way the Texans would say, like the Texan hunters would go 'we gonna hunt them fox.' If we had made it the right way it would have come across a bit phony. Actually, it's still phony because there are five wanna-be, know-it-all Germans who came up with a title like this! If that was a Texan metal band and they would have called it the same way would anybody have cared? No, not really.
METALLIAN: One would expect somebody in the American South to be all wrong, but one doesn't expect Helloween to be wrong.
METALLIAN: No, not at all, but as I told you we are not exactly those Germans we appear to be or something that also goes with what you said before. If someone's talking to me who only heard the records I just wanted to add that it is not so easy because people have different impacts. You hear me with my squeaky voice, the way I speak to you, I don't know why it happens but I commit mistakes I recently had an interview with a Russian girl and she was kind of disappointed with me because I didn't come across the way she dreamt. She listened to the record and thought that guy must be so cool, he must be such a man and I am not.
METALLIAN: You can only be yourself.
WEIKATH: I am just the fucking way I am and that is actually hard. Then you get some macho guy from the midlands and that guy goes (mimics a macho voice) 'what's up dude, wanna hang out with me for some beer?' and I am gonna go 'nah, I don't care much about beer.' Then he will say 'what kind of dude is that? I am disappointed.' He feels ripped off by my whole image. What can you do?
METALLIAN: I would like to ask you about a couple of songs. Never Be a Star, has an oriental melody.
WEIKATH: Yeah, because Sascha felt like buying a electric sitar and wanted to put in some new aspects, new stuff one rarely hears into the songs. He just wanted to play that and he thought that it would be a good mood by adding this instrument there even though our producer Charlie Bauerfeind wasn't quite sure about it. It's not really that oriental of a stuff. It's more of a melody for itself which more or less is more Scottish or Irish in style. Then you use the sitar because somehow it fits. I mean it's stupid to take a bagpipe or something, that would stretch things a bit too much. He got that electric sitar and finally wanted to put that stuff wherever he could until finally Charlie said, 'OK, that's it you can play it here on Never Be A Star and that's it no more of this sitar on any of the other tracks.
'Relax Sascha,' he said. Sascha took that ugly guitar and wanted to put the sitar on almost everything which isn't a good idea. Things shouldn't be overdone and it only speaks for Charlie as a producer that he said so.
METALLIAN: The song also has a fake audience track which reminded me of the song Heavy Metal Is The Law. Why did you put that live clip on there?
WEIKATH: Just so! We also thought of putting that onto Hell Was Made In Heaven where that Scorpions kind of thing is going on, but Charlie said we already have it on Never Be A Star.
METALLIAN: Hell Was Made In Heaven is one of my favourite tracks here. It has a very heavy riff. It also has that instrumental section in the middle.
WEIKATH: That song is more Megadeth or Metallica or Judas Priest where it all just goes E all the time. The song is mostly Markus' riffs.
METALLIAN: It starts with a very heavy riff.
WEIKATH: Which is very much in a Metallica fashion like Ride The Lightning, Creeping Death or something.
METALLIAN: Why does the album end with Nothing To Say, a song that sounds different from the other tracks? You told me earlier that it's an older song.
WEIKATH: Maybe its because it has the nice melody or something. At some point I asked Charlie would this be a good final track or not? Charlie proposed it would be the best one and he kept it there. I don't know because I am pretty sure it wouldn't have found a good position right in the middle of the record. It fit with the stupid frogs towards the end and everything! Those frogs got recorded in front of Andi's studio because there was like a basement excavated for a new building and at that time we had some rain and those stupid frogs would accumulate there every night and go like (makes the sound of frogs) so they had to be on the record as well!
METALLIAN: You have actual frogs on the 'rabbit' album.
WEIKATH: Those are actual frogs, yes, and the last bit you can hear that screeching thing that's Andi's toilet door down there in the studio.
METALLIAN: There is a reggae beat in the middle of all this too.
WEIKATH: Yeah, and that's because in 1978 I was around 15, 16 years-old and at that time there was a real famous song of Joe Walsh called Life's Been Good To Me So Far. A year earlier we had David Bowie with Sound And Vision and so that's kind of like in between those two guys and Led Zeppelin, you know that song?
METALLIAN: I can't remember the name of the song, but Judas Priest had a song on British Steel with a reggae beat.
WEIKATH: The Rage, also starts out with a reggae thing.
METALLIAN: I was wondering if that song was also the reason you used the reggae beat.
WEIKATH: I am coming from somewhere else. I am not a kid of the '80s. I am a kid of the '60s and '70s and so this doesn't relate much to me even though to me Judas Priest is the last hippie band. There has been no hippie band ever since, maybe you take the Flower Kings or something but no that is different. So Judas Priest, to me, is the last band that combined freaky, cult, hippie stuff with Heavy Metal. I think that was the strength of Judas Priest. They shouldn't forget about it. This is one aspect I want to have and to appear more clearly and more strongly in our future music. That is what people need.
METALLIAN: Would you agree with my opinion that Judas Priest has crossed the boring mark?
WEIKATH: Yes, but we don't need to talk about it. I don't want to hear the last two records. They are no-nos! I don't need them. They have been committing the same mistake we did with The Dark Ride; yet they continue to do it and I just hope that when Rob comes back they are going to find the roots and to go for something really extraordinary because even Painkiller is too cold for my tastes. It was not what Judas Priest could possibly deliver. Even Defenders Of The Faith was too much heavy metal and not enough hard rock. To me, a perfect synthesis of these styles of music has been Judas Priest and that's what they have to do again. They can not miss out on it. I am a fan of that and I just try to bring it across. Now there is no more Queen, there is no more Super Tramp, there is no more Faith No More and someone's got to do it. If Judas Priest doesn't do it then we have to do it and I think we are not the only one who should do so - also Judas Priest and other bands should.
METALLIAN: Let me ask you about the song Liar. Is it about anyone in particular? It is an angry song.
WEIKATH: In a way, it is not so angry because the lyrics would talk about a spy in the economic field. She is supposed to kill the boss of a company and then she finds out that this guy is actually a cute guy and very lovable and she would refrain from killing him.
I had to ask Andi, but that's what it is. It's about business spying, business relations and counter-productive stuff because one large company wants to kill the boss of another large company. She is stepping in as a murderer but in the end she doesn't kill the boss because he is such a nice guy and she falls in love with him.
METALLIAN: I made a mental note to ask you this question later. You were talking about side-projects and how you want a concentration on Helloween.
WEIKATH: No, everyone can do side-projects, but then there must be enough power left for what Helloween is, a priority.
METALLIAN: The question pertains to the many other projects the current members are undertaking.
WEIKATH: It is not a problem because it works. I mean Andi is one of the most influential guys in everything we have done ever since he joined the band. He is always there to provide his input and everything so he can't be blamed for anything. Markus has the occasional drop-out or blackout during a recording where he goes 'I can't remember everything you know.' He is not getting younger and it is normal, a deterioration as a human being. He misses out on words just as I do after twenty years of being in a band, but then if a member ceases to function inside the band, even though he is at the height of his power, because he is wasting his time on other things then that is not good.
I have been the strongest pursuer of making several projects contractually possible because I thought then people who are not happy inside Helloween, with what we have to do, have means to express themselves in a different way. Uli, for instance, did the Catch The Rainbow project, and why not, but if later on you turn around and thank me for all this by slagging me and by calling me a shit head then that's not correct. I expect a different manner of thankfulness! Maybe people don't see it like that, but I see it like that. We are in Helloween so you have to deal with the people who are there, namely Andi, Markus and I as we pursue a certain thing we want to do. If you don't like Helloween, then why are you in Helloween? Go somewhere else!
METALLIAN: I believe you are the only person, and you can correct me, that doesn't maintain a solo project.
WEIKATH: I don't have the time. I have to watch what is going on. Since three years ago we had to ask Uli and Roland to go, there has been things I have been watching closely which is affecting me in a way that I can't be so positive about everything else. So I do not have spare energy to come up with projects. It consumes me a lot to deliver the tracks I do with Helloween. It doesn't come to me that easily so I spend a lot of time thinking and I arrange my songs during my breakfast when I have my breakfast bread and my boiled egg!
I think about the songs in order to optimize them. So I don't have the energy to do this and a side-project and why should I, right now? Helloween calls for many interviews. I mean this year I have already done 360 interviews. I mean what am I supposed to do in my spare time other than chill out? I am not a music fetishist in the manner of other people and I want to do things one-hundred percent if possible. If I try to do some solo projects that would end up being a lot of shit in comparison to what I do with Helloween. Or if I do those stuff Helloween would turn out to be some shitty half-baked project.
METALLIAN: Many fans wish musicians would concentrate on their own bands anyway.
WEIKATH: Yeah, and then eventually you would sell more records and you wouldn't need to do solo things. That's what the idea behind everything is, but then people can't relate to what you think is logical.
METALLIAN: Here is a funny question that was meant for Andi. Is he originally German given his last name?
WEIKATH: He is actually originally French. You can't take the matter of the name that simply though. There is a variety of German names which you wouldn't guess are German. There are so many weird and odd names. They could be anything. If you translate it out of Latin then you would laugh.
METALLIAN: Let's shift the discussion again. Where does Canada sit in your plans for the future.
WEIKATH: We are going to do a few shows after the American tour there. There is going to be at least three shows the way I see it in Canada. There is Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and those should be the dates we play up there because we have done them all successfully in the past. We know there are many many fans there. One could even go to Quebec City and do something there because I know there are many fans there as well. We are going to start in September. We are going to do South America, Mexico and the USA and then come to Canada.
METALLIAN: Is this confirmed?
WEIKATH: It is confirmed.
METALLIAN: Who are you playing with? Are you headlining?
WEIKATH: We don't know yet, but there has been an idea tossed around of taking Edguy with us. I talked to Toby Sammet the singer for Edguy about it and he said it's actually possible around that time. He would feel honoured to do it and they probably have the time. So let us see what is going to happen with that.
METALLIAN: Edguy, of course, has already played in Canada.
WEIKATH: Yes, and they helped us a great deal. They proved to us that it is possible to do it. Our management said 'oh Edguy played hmm maybe Helloween can play there' and I said 'yes that's what I told you before.'
METALLIAN: Michael, thank you for giving the interview. Tell me about the future.
WEIKATH: We are planning extraordinary things in the way of being a guitar team. Helloween will have compositions of a different kind!
Helloween's Rabbit Don't Come Easy is in the stores by the time you read this. Check all the usual outlets for availability.