Helloween talk to eGigs

we talk to Markus Grosskopf and Sascha Gerstner on Thursday 11 February 2016

Before their only UK date on this European trek, eGigs manages to grab a few minutes back stage over a beer with bassist Markus Grosskopf and guitarist Sascha Gerstner from one of the most popular and well-respected melodic metal bands ever - Helloween.

How has the tour been so far for you two?

Markus Grosskopf: Actually we started the tour a couple of days ago and before that last year, we had loads and loads of festivals during the weekends.

'My God Given Right'is album number…

Sascha Gerstner: We don't know [laughs].

MG: Album number something something. Let's say 15.

How did the fans and critics respond to this last album?

SG: So far, so good, eh?

MG: Yeah, I think they like it. So far, we've played a couple of songs from that new album and it has [received] a nice reaction.

SG: They seem to appreciate it.

MG: They even sing along with it, you know, the chorus parts.

It's quite a varied album. How would you say it compares to other material Helloween have produced over the years?

MG: It's similar to the next one we're going to do [laughs]. No, I don't know how it compares. We're not writing songs with the idea that it's supposed to sound like anything we've done before. It turns out like this just like that. We can't really control it in a way.

In previous interviews, you said you wrote thirty songs and picked the best to form the album.

SG: Yeah, we are all writing songs in the band except for our drummer but in the end, we have to choose something that fits on the record and that fits together.

Don't you find it exhausting writing that many songs?

MG: Well, everybody writes so it's quite easy.

SG: Exactly, everybody writes so we have enough material. We're just sending the stuff over to each other using 21st century technology.

And your producer chooses the songs for the album?

SG: It's our manager. First of all, we have to like it of course, we have to like each other's songs. Then Charlie Bauerfeind our producer with our manager and together somehow it becomes the album.

Do you ever get sad if one of your songs doesn't get selected?

SG: We used to.

MG: It's terrible.

SG: That happens to everyone.

MG: We used to be sad. We used to get sad from time to time - you take some more songs off that guy - but at the end of the day, the rest of the songs are…the Japanese record company want to have a bonus track with their label and then the European ones are: "Oh, then I want to have a bonus track!" We've got one more track for them too. Then there's a third Internet platform that wants that song to promote that Internet kind of thing so there's like 16 songs you have to record to promote the album. Even if there's only 11 or 12 songs on the album, the rest are on something so that's quite a lot still. But at the end of the day, [they're] all Helloween songs.

SG: Most of the time, it's not about the quality of the songs; if you[don't] get some of the songs on the record, it's not because they're bad songs but because we want to have the songs fit together to make it a complete album. Of course, you have a couple of tracks that are really great tracks but they don't fit with the rest or the majority of the songs.

That makes sense. If there wasn't so much demand for these additional songs and B-sides, would you prefer to just focus on a core number of songs for the album?

MG: That's what we did actually. If we discuss how many songs that we need, they tell us 16 songs so we concentrate on those 16. We're not recording 30 to use only 16. We have 16 songs we need for all of what I just told you.

SG: We decide which songs fit together.

So you don't record them all?

SG: No, but that doesn't mean that the other songs are bad songs; it's just that they don't fit in that way. If we have three ballads, we can't put three ballads on a record.

What is the meaning behind the album art of 'My God Given Right'?

MG: The actual story of 'My God Given Right' – Andi [Deris, vocalist] wrote those lyrics and they said you should do what you want to do and that kind of way, you know. There's no concept behind the songs together.

How does that tie in with the album art?

MG: We just liked the design actually. We wanted to have something different to what we've had before so when the management came up with that idea, we just liked it.

SG: It always sounds a bit "Management had the idea." It's like we're a big family and they love rock and heavy music so they're very much into that and sometimes you, as an artist, have just your view of things. They're great at having a different view and having the fan approach to the music and to the album and to the artwork and everything. So they come up with ideas and if we like it, we take it.

So they give you a choice?

SG: Yeah.

MG: We have ideas but they come up with their ideas much quicker [laughs]!

SG: And it's really tough to tell your mate in the band that his idea sucks [laughs] so it's easier for the management to do it for us.

It would be interested to see what the other ideas were that got rejected! It was your 30th anniversary last year? Well, the band's.

SG: I've only just turned 30. I joined the band in 2003. I was so young and I needed the money [laughs]!

MG: And now he's older, he still needs the money [laughs]!

And Markus, you've been in the band a long time.

MG: I need money [laughs]!

What have been your personal highlights with the band?

MG: There'sa lot of highlights but there's also a lot of low lights! It's not just like doing this career for 30 years and it's always funny party laughing. There are situations you wouldn't really have thought of fixing. We were like: "What are we going to do?" and there was no money and there were debts. For years, we thought it was gonna kill us. So we'd write some new tracks to make a record to try and push ourselves out of the hole.

SG: It makes you stronger. I've been in the band for 13 years now and even in that period of time, you see some ups and downs to carry on together and stick together. That would be the main success.

I'm curious to know what these downs are now!

MG: As I said, we had financial-

SG: Business, the music business.

MG: We have financial business, spending [when we had] nothing, even less than nothing and we had to get out of this situation and all that. We had to sell some of the Helloween company royalties to some other company to get money in. That way, we were just surviving then we had a court thing going on with Noise Records before. We weren't allowed to play for [over] two and a half years under the name Helloween. The drummer died, he committed suicide, and all that kind of shit is just…

Yes, understandable. Would you say you're on a high or a low now?

MG: If you went through all this, there's nothing that you will be shocked by. Something can come up – not all the time but it can happen – and your reaction gets a little cooler every time but when it first hits, you've got to run a business being 22 years old. The 'Keeper' albums were going gold and platinum. You have to run a business and you're not going to be able to at that age. You can't really focus on what's wrong because you're not on that business side at all. It was fun though; we had fun going out drinking and making all that stuff. Imagine being pushed in America being 22 years old for a couple of months. On the very first day of America, there was a big manager from a big company trying to give you advice and you think "Wow, what could this advice be?" and he said: "If you're in America, use a rubber!" Being 22 years old, having three months ahead of you touring.

You joked earlier about the next album but are there any plans?

MG: We always have ideas and I put my ideas [on] my phone, sort them out at home but putting them together into songs? I don't know, we don't have a timetable to do that.

What are your future plans after this tour?

MG: Food [laughs].

SG: We'll be on a few dates after this tour, Japan and a few festivals probably.

Do you have any final words for the readers of eGigs?

MG: Yeah, wear a rubber [laughs]!

Thanks for the interview!

MG: Thank you.

Voice your opinion in the eGigs forums...
article by: Elena Francis

published: 11/02/2016 10:48


more about Helloween