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Helloween

Arrogant, vervelend, een moeilijk mens, hooghartig … zomaar wat clichés die bij me naar boven kwamen toen bekend werd dat mijn interview over de nieuwe Helloween cd met gitarist Michael Weikath plaats zou hebben. De man heeft nou eenmaal een beroerde reputatie op dit gebied. Maar niets van dit alles. Als ik hem half september in het Amsterdamse American Hotel ontmoet, is de begroeting vriendelijk en ook tijdens het gesprek blijkt Michael totaal niet aan het cliché beeld over hem te voldoen. Gedreven gaat hij in op 'Gambling With The Devil', maar kan toch ook niet laten het verleden van de band niet onbenoemd laten…

Door: Patrick | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

band imageHi Michael, how are you doing?
Well, I had a good day. I am a bit tired though as doing all these interviews is intensive but after today I fly home. That is: today I go in the direction of Barcelona where I have to stay for a night and than I fly home (to Tenerife).

So the end of the promo tour is approaching …
Yeah. And although it was nice to do, it is always nice to go home as well.

It sure is. Let us, with your permission focus on the new album: 'Gambling With The Devil'. What are your own personal feelings about the result?
I am very content with it. When all the songs were ready I listened to it and really liked it. I feel that the new album also sounds really confident. You can easily hear that in the songs. Originally there were supposed to be two more songs on it; one by Sascha and one by me but somehow they did not fit the album, so we decided not to use them. They will appear as bonus tracks or as B-sides somehow … Besides that; the tracks had their length, which might have made the album too long. I mean: cd's which last too long do not remain interesting. Aerosmith's albums 'Pump' or 'Get A Grip' always lasted too long for me, even though I am a huge Aerosmith fan. And as we already have made long records we wanted to have a more compact record this time. Just like 'The Keeper 1', this was only thirty seven minutes as well.

Did you have a specific goal when you started to write material for 'Gambling With The Devil'? Can you tell me something more about the writing process? Who is responsible for each of the songs?
Oh, I can not comment on which song was written by who for at this point of time credits have not been put on it. But he who knows Helloween well, should be able to hear which song has been written by whom, although it might be hard with certain songs as well. For example 'Kill It; it can be a song by Sascha, by Andi or it might even be a song written by two or three of the members of Helloween. Ha-ha!

On your website Andi is quoted as: “The Legacy' really inspired us. We were rearing to go," Andi Deris describes the extremely positive atmosphere among the band members, adding: "It's been years since I had so much fun composing." Was that the same for you?
To me it was different. I said quite early in the process that I needed more time to write songs and did not feel to make a new record so soon, but the guys than said: “Well, when you start writing and until we will be into production it will take five or six months.” But to me that still felt as too little time. I wanted a year or maybe even a year and a half to take the time to write songs. But because we have a bit of a momentum right now we decided to write anyhow. Something I can understand, but I felt a bit of a pressure. I have worked on five tracks which I was able to finish at somewhere around the end of the production. I think it has to do with me using different structures in a song than for example Andi does. His are less complex and I would like to state that the way he writes one can write a track faster. And that is quite fine; nothing wrong with it! It is the way he works and the result is good. But when I write something use and try millions of structures and tones so I need way more time to write a song. So when I write a commercial attractive song to me it does not mean I will use an easier riff and need less time to do so. I am one who likes to compare riffs to each other during the writing process to see if an other one fits better. So I keep trying till I am satisfied. I do not want to hear a track after a couple of years and get the feeling 'O dear, I should have done something different there.” And therefore I need a little more time. It is the same with 'Master Of The Rings'. At the end of the intro ('Irritation') I real am annoyed with the way it ends … there should have been included some timpani's. I simply have forgotten them. I had not much time then as well so I am sure that when I would have had a little more time I would have used them.

And that is why you, this time around, said that you wanted more time.
Exactly! I do not want to happen such a thing again. Think of 'A Tale That Was Not Right'. It once hold 'On A Warm Summer Day', which we later used as bridge in 'Dr. Stein'. During the production we decided that the bridge was not necessary and than we threw out that bridge of 'A Tale That Was Not Right'. So you need to time to think about things, but when you do not have the time things like this will not be noticed.

But even with a little pressure you still feel satisfied about Gambling With The Devil' …
Yes, we have songs are which are more than okay and there are no things from which I now say that we should have changed it a little, although: some of the solo's might have been a bit different, especially when it comes to pace. The pace is different from what I had in mind. The things I wanted were too fast for the titles; it did just not match the song properly so I had to change certain things. And when I would have had more time I think I might have come up with better solutions. But hey … I am not bothered by it.

Does constantly and continuously looking back at your songs also not throw up the risk that it might take way too long and that perfectionism is getting in the way of, for example, spontaneity?
True! Things took way too long with 'Pink Bubbles Go Ape' (1991). I had expected to sit with Tommy (Hansen, producer) there or at least with someone like Tommy and than, from out all of the fragments I had, we could have made some great titles. We, for example, already had 'Windmill' during 'Pink Bubbles' and it was also recorded but the end result was not good enough. And I am sure that when we would have done it with Tommy then it would have been on 'Pink Bubbles' as well. We were there with Chris Tsangarides than which quite clearly made it a different situation. Not I did not want 'Windmill' to be different; some things could have been changed in that one as well. I would have liked it more orchestrated as 'The Long And Winding Road' (The Beatles) but Kiske did not want to hear anything from that. And, I know I am getting into repeat, with 'Chameleon' we did not have that much time any more as we already had used a lot and had spent way too much money already. And although I would have liked to change some things, 'Windmill' is still a good track. And yeah … at that point I did not have an Apple Logic so I could not orchestrate it the way I liked it. Ha-ha!

There is such a thing as perfectionism in you that makes you want to make the utmost out of things and does not make you settle for less?
Indeed. And that is why I wanted some more time for 'Gambling With The Devil' as well. But again: I am satisfied with the end result. But who knows what I will be saying when we speak other within a couple of years. Ha-ha!

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You recorded the album at Tenerife, where both you and Andi live ...
… and at Sascha's Studio where we recorded a couple of things.

Did being in Tenerife give the possibility to be back home at certain points during the recording? Does that give some relaxation in between?
When we are at Tenerife I still have to take a cab for half an hour to the studio and for half an hour home, which costs money, obviously. And when we are in Germany at Sascha's studio all I have to do is walk down the street to an apartment where I stay. All I have to do is pick up my guitar and walk to the place. All it costs is a plane ticket and that is it. So you could not say it is more relaxing to stay in Tenerife. If I would have had my drivers license I might take the car to the studio, but I will not say that that will make me more relaxed. I might be stressed from the drive.

The album will also be released as a limited-edition digipak in a slipcase with a bonus disc, including two unreleased songs, a video and lots of enhanced material. Why releasing al these material on a limited edition instead of a regular one?
The extra cd contains the video for 'As Long As I Fall' and two bonus tracks indeed. And you simply do not get that on one cd. 68 minutes is the limit if you do not want to touch the quality of the music. You can make a cd longer, but it will cost you on bit rate. That is also why 'The Legacy' was on two cd's. You can use a cd which holds more music in the same quality but that one does not play on all of the cd players out there, so that is no option as well. It will be different when Blue Ray will be continued as there is way more space on it.

The album will hold a special action with and the booklet will include a scratch card puzzle, giving fans a chance to win a lucrative prize: a concert ticket for a show during the band's upcoming tour of South America, including flight and accommodation. What a brilliant thing to come up with!
A magical number will appear on the scratch card where you can find the next riddle. And when you have solved that one and you send it in through e-mail you can win a trip. When you are in Europe you could go to Japan to a Helloween concert or to South America for one. And when someone from South America would like to see us in Germany he can do so as well. Not that I can recommend that, but hey … that is his choice. Ha-ha!

You would recommend South America?
Absolutely; have a look at our live DVD and you get the point. The people there really enjoy a show and that is what you see on there. The same goes for Sofia. Here, take a look at my arms … if even get goose bumps now when I only think about it. It is hard for certain people to realise we are huge in the world and at this DVD everybody can see. And since the DVD the last people who were complaining about us have become silent. Before there always have been people complaining, but somehow it has become more silent around us. People told us we were old fashioned and had gone over the top. And than you go to a metropolis like Sao Paulo and just see what happens. And the same goes for Tokyo und Osaka, two of the most modern cities of the world. When we are this old fashioned how comes that enormous modern cities like there do enjoy use this much and come out to our shows so massively? Maybe because the people there are not hat negative or do not nag so much?

Does the negativity perhaps also has to do with people still comparing new material to the milestones 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part I & II' and people, even after twenty years, still feel the need to compare Andi with Michael Kiske. Does this bother you or do you just accept it as a fact of life?
I am glad that Kiske has gone for he has always sung the same. It is the same as when I listen to Queensrÿche; it is fantastic, but unfortunately Tate always sings the songs the same. And I prefer to have a singer in the band who can sing different things. Not everyone is like Steve Perry (Journey). Kiske really could sing, but he was not half as alternate like Steve Perry. Andi has, for most of the years, tried to avoid his Pink Cream technique because he felt it sounded too similar with Kiske which made him interchangeable. But he could have easily done it the way he is doing now from the beginning. He is doing a great job and is singing quite versatile. He even has some similarities with Kiske; I know a couple of people who really thought Kiske had sung a couple of lines on 'Gamble With The Devil', as Andi's voice really has some resemblances at certain points. But as Andi can sing way more … I mean: Kiske never wanted to scream anything so we always had the same thing on vocals and with Andi that is different and better to me; it gives you, as a song writer, way more possibilities.

The support bands for the upcoming tour will be Gamma Ray and Axxis…
Yes, we could include Gamma Ray this time around because of management and because things seem to fit quite well. They have a new record coming out almost at the same time as we do. So things come together quite nicely this time. And to be honest: I would not have been too supportive of the idea before. Kai Hansen has been walking with this idea for quite a while, but they had a different idea of the concept. For example; they wanted to change the headliner every other day. First we, second them and so on. And I wondered why we would do so: we sell so much more records as they. And they way we do it now is good. The fans can see both bands now, in which Gamma Ray has become 'special guest' status.

With the presence of Kai Hansen on this tour, people visiting the shows more or less will be expecting him to join you on stage for one or more songs. Is this hope in vain or is it possible this will happen? Is it a part of the deal him coming out with Helloween?
That certainly will happen. After the concert we will be playing some things. But he is not coming on during the Helloween concert. We first play a full set and then afterwards we will be playing some things together.

Thank you for your time, kindness and openness. Do enjoy the rest of the day, have a safe trip home and hopefully see you in Tilburg early next year!
Thank you Patrick; see you around!

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