Interview For Metalhead Magazine (August 1996)
Translated By Daniel And Chris
Metalhead: Some international mags say that heavy metal is in a declining state, and that's why it is fusing with other styles of music. What do you think?
Roland Grapow: A long time ago, the only thing people could find were heavy metal albums and this excess made by the labels produced many bands that were copies of other copies. That's why we now have fusion bands. But what we're doing is really heavy metal.
Metalhead: You did a different cover for "Chameleon"...
Markus Grosskopf: By that time, we were trying a new thing... We had always played heavy metal and everybody got the idea to say "There must be something more to it". It was a difficult album 'cause we had some serious personal problems at that time. Sometimes I listen to it and think it is a good album by another band.
Roland Grapow: We mixed some styles in "Chameleon". We wanted to change the musical direction and try some new material. That was the main reason. There wasn't any pressure from the label or from the outside. Nobody at the label heard the demos, and we had 100% control in our hands.
Metalhead: But you don't play the songs from "Chameleon"...
Markus Grosskopf: No, and I don't know how well it sold.
Metalhead: After the new singer and drummer joining, the success came back. Did you expect it?
Roland Grapow: We didn't expect it. But we knew that if we made something like "Chameleon" again it would be our end. The two new members bring some new influences. We practiced for two weeks and the results were great. It was like the same feeling as it was in the beginning.
Markus Grosskopf: Everything was very fast and we really lost that in "Chameleon". Something was happening again.
Roland Grapow: Everyone knew what to do. The change was like a magic moment.
Metalhead: Uli, tell me about your influences.
Uli Kusch: I started out as a Kiss fan. Some friends of mine listened to Judas Priest and Accept. As a professional, I began in a speed metal band, and then I joined Gamma Ray. That is more or less what we are doing today in Helloween. I kinda mixed both styles.
Markus Grosskopf: So you needed to practice in Gamma Ray to play in Helloween [Laughs]?
Metalhead: When did the "Time Of The Oath" tour begin?
Roland Grapow: At the end of April . We were in Europe for six weeks with Skunkwors and Skin. Spain looks like Brazil. And we participated in many Festivals after that. In Brazil, we got one week for vacation. Now we're going to Japan for three weeks.
Metalhead: Why are bands like Helloween so popular in Japan?
Uli Kusch: I think it's because we play in a classical style like Beethoven and Mozart. Maybe it's because we still use classical themes in our songs.
Roland Grapow: In Japan, they care very much about the instrumentation. In Europe, if you do a solo for more than two minutes, everyone loses interest in it. In Japan, they still like this.
Metalhead: How is it feel to change singers three times in your career?
Markus Grosskopf: We've passed through some hard times with labels, for example. But life goes on and you cannot do a step forward and two backward. I think it was something positive for us. We learned many things. Today we are all together happy and we will not have to pass through those kinds of things again.
Metalhead: Do you still like the whole work of Helloween? I mean, do you sill like the old stuff?
Markus Grosskopf: Sometimes I laugh when I listen to the first albums. For example, the way we were dressed at that time. It's funny to remember the past. Today, we are more concentrated from the "Keepers" to what came after. And also the song, "How Many Tears." Now we have a new line-up and we want to show off the new things.
Metalhead: How did Kai Hansen leave the band?
Markus Grosskopf: He decided it. We sat down and talked about it in the studio. He said that he would do the tour and then leave. He didn't want to travel so much. We couldn't do anything.
Metalhead: Did you think about breaking up the band after Michael Kiske left?
Roland Grapow: After the "Chameleon" tour in Japan, we decided in the hotel that we had serious problems, and if we didn't change, that I was going to leave the band. I was sad and tired of that situation. That's why we changed. The tour was not a success, and neither was the album. At the same time, arguments and problems began with the singer and the drummer, and everything was going bad. We decided to start over completely: a new contract, a new drummer, and a new singer.
Markus Grosskopf: That was a time when nobody understood each other. There was too much arguing. Someone wanted it this way, the other wanted that way. We didn't have anything to lose. The three of us sat down and decided to begin again.
Metalhead: And how about Brazil?
Uli Kusch: We didn't know how it would be. We expected it would be like Spain: people with lots of enthusiasm.
Roland Grapow: I was surprised with the fans. In Europe, people told us we had many fans in South America. But we didn't believe it would be this many...
Uli Kusch: Our fan club in Germany does not work well, so we don't receive many letters. Whoever wants to write us a letter should send it to Sanctuary Music instead.
Metalhead: You told me you were writing a song about Brazil...?
Markus Grosskopf: It's not only about Brazil, but about the bad situation in all parts of the world. On one side, rich people, on the other side, poor. It's something that happens everywhere: children selling their bodies, using drugs, and being murdered.
Metalhead: What actually happened with Ingo Schwichtenberg?
Markus Grosskopf: He had a serious problem with drugs, like cocaine. It was like he had two people in his mind: the good and the evil. He told me the evil was always talking to him. It was very strong in him, he was very depressed. We decided to give him professional help, 'cause we could not help him. It was too serious. And he ended up killing himself.