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19 February 2013|
Interview by Mónica Castedo-López
Helloween, the undisputable pioneers of power metal, released their new studio effort ‘Straight Out Of Hell’ in January. The album can be described as considerably more uplifting than its two predecessors and contains songs in the vein of their ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’ records, the most successful period of the German outfit’s career.
Singer Andi Deris, who has been in the band for the last two decades since replacing Michael Kiske, visited London in November for his son’s graduation ceremony, and also found himself with a busy press day ahead of him. Meeting in a noisy pub in Queensway – a very different surrounding to the island of Tenerife where he resides – in the early evening, the ex-Pink Cream 69 vocalist went over the allocated time slot to candidly converse about the new album and all things Helloween, including their forthcoming UK show in London, on 16th April, together with, strangely, Gamma Ray. A show not to be missed and an album to acquire at once!
Firstly, congratulations on the new release ‘Straight Out Of Hell’. It’s been two years since the previous album ‘7 Sinners’. What have you been doing in the interim?
As always, shortly after releasing an album, we spend at least 12 months on tour, this time it was 13 months. Then after the tour, directly into song writing again. Let’s say it’s a mixture of song writing and holidays because you decide when you do something. I actually went back home to grab my guitar because playing guitar is my hobby. During the tour I don’t have much of a chance to play guitar unfortunately. When I’m back home, it’s guaranteed that I have new ideas because I play guitar and automatically I have that riff or that idea. So I collect ideas and riffs and when it comes to the point that the management gives me a call, I already have ten or twelve ideas, which makes things much easier.
The opening track ‘Nabataea’ will be the first single and speaks of Nabataea, a historical place in the Middle East, where the first democracy existed.
I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan and if you remember the third movie, there is this big temple carved in the mountain. I learned that this is the temple of Nabataea in this metropolis called Petra. I was completely fascinated that 3,000 years ago they had democracy going, and one which never brought war to other lands, which I couldn’t believe as prosperous countries always normally bring war to other lands. But in this case, it seemed to work okay… so, it is possible to live in wealth without being an asshole!
OK, so what is the song ‘Asshole’ about?
Well, that was actually the night-liner discussion, when you discover that everyone knows the idiots that you thought only you knew, those vampires! Markus was actually the guy that started that story off. There’s this guy he sometimes meets, and every time he meets with that guy he feels weak, like this guy is bringing him down, like he’s sucking out his energy. The situation is that he can’t avoid this guy, so while he’s feeling weaker, this guy is getting stronger. And I know people like that, and told Markus I knew a guy that when I meet with him, I constantly feel bad, and everyone else was joining in. And the description was perfect… like a modern day vampire. Sascha picked the idea up, as he knows a lot of these people. We all know a lot of these people – they only feel good when they make you feel bad. We were having a great time on the night-liner on the way to Rome, lots of whisky and beer, a party going on, so maybe that’s why the song itself doesn’t sound so brutal; the rhythm makes it funny. If you just read the lyrics, it does sound brutal, but when you listen to the song you just have to smile. Sascha did a great job!
The press release states the album was quite quickly put together. Can you tell us about the writing and recording processes?
Yes, it’s pretty much the same old story, because during the tour everyone is collecting ideas, as being on tour can sometimes be very boring. Most of the time you’re waiting at airports or in hotels... you wait for that final two hours of show. So you need to do something. So whenever I have a guitar in the hotel room, or just a guitar in my hand, I’m just playing around - and with my iPhone and iPad these days, it’s so easy to quickly record the ideas. That’s where the main ideas come from.
So you take a guitar on tour with you all the time?
Most of the times I have a guitar, but it depends on the travel schedule, as we have to limit every kilogram possible. I remember, for example, we toured South America. In those days it was with the old keyboardist who brought three keyboards, and the guitarist brought all his racks. We paid like $170,000 on overweight expenses only, for six weeks! So each and every kilo is money. This time it is much easier, as everything got much smaller and you can put it into digital boxes. The amplifiers sound almost as good as the real stuff, the big stuff. Okay, there is a little bit of a quality difference but you can’t hear that in the concert hall. In the studio you could probably hear it, but in the concert hall, never! So, suddenly you end up with a much smaller charge for your overweight’s and we can now do twice as many shows as we were able to do in the early days when we had to pay a stupid amount of money for travel - and the promoters, you have to understand it is their business too. They need to live so we cannot rob their money by telling them we need “X” amount for our fee because the travel costs are so high. That’s what we had to do in the beginning. We couldn’t say we would play for $20,000 less, otherwise we would have ended up paying. But now with this set up, it’s a win-win situation and everyone is happy.
So, modern technology certainly has some advantages. The one disadvantage is that everyone now thinks they can make a record at home on their computer. Not a good idea.
‘Far From The Stars’ sounds very much like the old Helloween. Who wrote that song?
Markus. Markus is always the keeper of the old flame. He’s so easy going. He loves those little childrens’ melodies, the double bass… not too fast but still with speed. That’s Markus. It’s not primitive, but it’s… naïve, sometimes for a musician. A guitarist would say “that’s not very difficult to play” but it sounds great. Yeah, like AC/DC, and look where they are!
Do you feel the pressure from fans to play songs from ‘The Keeper Of The Seven Keys’ I and II live?
With the old fans… it’s always a fine line not to piss them off. But if you play too many songs from the ‘Seven Keys’ albums, you piss the new fans off, mainly the South Americans. Personally, I don’t care. As long as it is a song I like I’m happy to sing it. Put it this way, if I had to sing more than one or two songs from the ‘Walls of Jericho’ album it would not make me happy because that’s definitely not compatible with my style. ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’ has melody, and everything my heart beats for, so that’s not a problem.
To read the full double page interview with Andi, where he talks in detail about the new album, touring and the possibility of Helloween's 30th anniversary plans, you need Fireworks Issue 56!
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