Helloween: Happy again!
Helloween have been consistent in releasing high-quality albums in the last years, and also the new one “Straight out of Hell” is no exception. A good reason to have a short talk with singer Andi Deris, who calls with one day delay because of a cancelled flight into his new homeland Teneriffa.
Your new album “Straight out of Hell” was released recently and started at position no 4 in the German charts. Are you satisfied?
Yes, of course! It would be barefaced to say that 3 positions better would also be possible. It is really great for such a non-mainstream music like Heavy Metal.
What are the main differences to your last album “7 Sinners” in your opinion?
The only difference might be the song selection. When all tracks were written, we felt that there were some tracks with the typical “happy, happy Helloween” touch. Markus (Großkopf, bass) then suggested the album title. It was a tongue-in-cheek hint to the apocalypse 2012. His idea was that only a few would survive it and those would come directly from hell. Markus talked about it when he was drunk and we all had a good laugh and thought that it was a cool idea. So we decided that if we all will survive December 2012, our new album really has to have a happier mood. I think that something like this must be possible in 2013. In the last years it was very difficult to publish typical happy-Helloween stuff, because everybody was more into dark and doomy sounds. We also had to adapt our music a little bit to that. But now it should be time to be happy again!
You mentioned that already before the release. But I have to say that it is difficult for me to find this happiness. There are of course some happy songs, but the majority sounds similar to the quite brutal “7 Sinners”.
That is right, but in comparison to “7 Sinners” we have a lot of tongue-in-cheek songs and I think that you can feel it. So you can find sweet melodies even in the brutal tracks. Those melodies are what people think about when they are talking about “happy, happy Helloween”. We also had realy cool hooklines on “7 Sinners”, but they were not so sweet. Many people think that it sounds much happier this time. Personaly, I would not say that “Straight out of Hell” is a typical happy album.
If you take a closer look at the cover, you can see that the pumpkin is nowadays wearing a gas mask. Why does pumpkinhead need it?
We were thinking about the apocalypse and developed some thoughts about what would happen when it will take place. We thought about a new ice age or a vulcano eruption. Again it was Markus, who said that if the world will die, only a few would survive and those would then need a gas mask. That was the idea for the cover.
There is an extraordinary song on the album, which was written by you: it is the frst song, the longest one, it has an extraordinary structure and it is the first single. I am talking about `Nabataea` which is quite a strange choince for a single, isn`t it?
I think that there are no more typical Metal singles nowadays. The purpose of a single is to give an impression of the whole album, and I think that `Nabataea` is a perfect choice for that. Even when I shortened it from 7 minutes to 5:40, it still made sense. The length was no argument at all, because those DJs who always say that a single should not be longer than 3:40 would never play a Helloween single at all anyway. So it is only for Metal radios.
Could you tell us the story behind the song?
Nabataea was a myth for millenia, just like Atlantis. At the beginning of the 20th century, a German archaeologist found it in the Jordan desert. He had a friend from there who told him that he found something interesting, but did not know what it could be. The travelled though the desert, a huge white sand desert. In the middle of the desert was a red rock with only one passage into it. The passage was 1,30m wide and went through the canyons. At the end it became wider and finally it ended in front of a huge cathedral carved into the stone. When the German archaeologist saw this, he knew that he had found Nabataea. So the myth became truth.
3000 years ago, this Reich already had a democracy. They had no slaves, no military and were very rich because of their commercial empire. The capital was placed strategically, and it was kept a secret to other tribes and nations. Its position in the middle of the desert was only in a 30 km distance to some very important trade routes. So people of Nabataea could simply follow these routes and then just leave it to arrive at home.
Another great song, also written by you, is `Wanna be God`, which is also a bit different from the typical Helloween stuff. This song sounds much like Queen, especially due to its drum tracks. What was the idea when you wrote it?
Had the idea to write a song for Freddie Mercury since he passed, because he was one of the greatest of all times. He was an idol to me, just like Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford. But when you are playing a band like Helloween, it is not so easy to find a corresponding song. I made a mistake in the studio: I wanted to hear the drums solo, but then I also activated the vocal tracks. I thought that it sounded great without the guitars. Next I changed the structure to make it a little bit more like `We will rock you`. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus and a final guitar passage and the `Helloween goes Queen´ song is finished. The guys liked it as well. Some will like it, some will hate it, but it is only 2 minutes long, so I don`t care!
There is also a ballad on the album. I can`t remember when you wrote the last ballad? Why?
The last one should have been `Forever and One` from “Time of the Oath”. That is really long ago. But why? Sascha (Gerstner, guitars) wrote it and everybody loved it. We thought that a sad ballad would also fit to the positive mood of the album, so we took it, haha! I think that it is always nice for the girls.
There were albums in your history, like “The Dark Ride” and “7 Sinners”, which not every of your fans loved, because they are not featuring the typical Helloween sound. How far is it possible to try something new without disappointing some of your fans?
That is of course impossible and we know it. Therefore we are focused on the future. We acquired a lot of new, young fans since “The Dark Ride”. It shows us that surviving in music business is only possible if you attract those. It became already obvious when the guys released “Pink Bubbles go Ape” and “Chameleon”. There were not enough old fans left to let the band survive. So it is no question for us, whether we want to please the old or new fans. No matter what you do, there are always people who don`t like it. We have to look into the future and not stay in the 80s. Instead, we combine the 80s with new stuff and that is our way. There are a lot of examples for bands who are still in the 80s and who have to live from their legacy. Fortunately we have Sascha, who is quite young, and also my 21 year old son shows me a lot of new stuff. I already discovered a lot of new bands this way. If you combine this with your roots, it should work.
If you take a closer look at your credits, you can see that almost everyone of you writes songs. But it seems there are no typical roles: someone writing the music, someone writing the lyrics. It seems as everybody writes and completes the songs on his own. Is it right?
That is not quite the case. Everybody tries to make a demo, as good as possible. Maybe the one or the other part is missing, but we try to do our best. If I record guitars, for example, they are allways only demo guitars and they are never as detailed and good as if one of our guitarists recorded them. If Markus writes a song, for example, he can always just record demo vocals. I have to fix them later on, also as the guys have to fix my guitars and drums. The idea of a song is of course the most important part, but you need a whole band to complete it. The songwriter tells the others what he expects on the other instruments and the other know then, whether the song will work or not. Luckily we have 4 songwriters in our band, so we can vote on the songs and put only the best on the final album. Maybe we write one or two more tracks to make the album listenable. After all, the credit gets the one who had the idea for the song.
You will go on tour with Gamma Ray shortly. What can we expect from this tour, especially concerning the setlist?
The setlists of both bands have been changed completly. This does not mean that we will not play our hits, otherwise we would actually be hanged on the light rack, haha! Both Gamma Ray and us will have a lot of new tracks in the setlist. We will play at least 5 tracks from the new album, maybe 6. And all the others were more or less changed. There will be a track from almost every album.
Some time ago, Danko Jones wrote an article in a German Metal magazine about the “New Vocalist Syndrom”. It means, if Metal bands change their original vocalist, the next vocalist will always be “the new one” for the fans…
Haha, how sweet!!
…It is actually a constellation you had with Helloween. Did you make similar experiences?
Even the real big ones, like Ron Woods of the Rolling Stones, had the same problems. But I can understand the fans. I will always be the new singer for fans from the first days, but I know that even Micahel Kiske (former Helloween vocalist) had similar problems in his days. This is something you can not put off, but it is not bad. Sammy Hagar for example was for me always the new vocalist of Van Halen, even he became much better than David Lee Roth later. Actually I grew up with the first 3 Van Halen albums and I connect a lot of memories with them, like getting shitfaced for the first time and also my first sexual experiences. Therefore, they will always be my favourite albums.
How far do you still notice what´s happening in the German Metal scene?
I still get some news from Germnay because I still have some friends over there. Our management and our rehearsel room are in Karlsruhe, Germany, as well . I know some interesting newcomers, but I don`t know if they will have an international breakthrough. One band is called Stereodrama, for example. They do not play Heavy Metal, but great Rock music. They really blew me away and they are really professional. There is also a very interesting Metal band from Spain called Esclavitude, which means slavery. But it is actually very difficult for bands from the Balearan Islands, because no label wants to pay for the inevitable flights.
Please tell me your current top 5 albums!
I am listening a lot to Brahms and the new Deftones album, which is really great. I also like to listen to Dredg and Five finger Deathpunch. It does actually not fit to Helloween, but I like this anti-social American stuff, haha! And I am listening a lot to my Best of Kiss, when I am jogging.
Do you have a final statement for the fans?
Please tell your readers a big Thank You! for the great chart position. It really rocks and we needed almost one entire day to sober up again. When received the message on the Heavy Metal Cruise, and drinks were for free there, haha! We had of course a big party! Great!
Thank you for the interview!