Interview For Rock Brigade Magazine (December 1999)
By Ricardo Franzin
Translated By Marcelo Hashimoto
Why did the band decide to record a covers album and, more than that, with covers so odd for a power metal band?
Well, Helloween is on the road for 15 years and we decided to record this album as a gift for our fans who were with us during all this time. We already released two live albums and thought that, besides those, we could release a covers album, as so many bands have been doing. But to make it on a little different way, we decided to choose bands that would be usually our favorites. My favorite band, for example, is Grand Funk [Railroad] e the other guys like Kiss, Rainbow and so on. So we decided to get old songs that we really like, but aren't so typical. That's why we ended up recording versions of ABBA and Beatles, because all of us really love their melodies and it's very interesting to get a pop song and turn it into metal. I think it's more cool doing this kind of covers than recording a Judas Priest one, for example. It would be kinda boring.
How did you choose the songs that would end up on the CD?
We made a reunion in Hamburg with our manager, last January I think, and decided to mix up all the suggestions made by all members. There was a lot of songs! We had already heard all the suggestions, and together we decided which ones we would like to do.
There's some suggestion of yours on the album?
"Locomotive Breath" was mine suggestion, although I also insisted a lot to include the ABBA song, even though it was Weiki's idea, to be honest. I wanted that a The Who song called "We Won't Get Fooled Again" was included on the album, but the others disagreed, they thought it was not a cool song for the CD. Besides, we decided not to choose a famous song of the bands we chose, their greatest hits, that's why we didn't get Scorpions' "Winds Of Change", and prefered "He's A Woman, She's A Man", for example.
But "Hocus Pocus" is, with no doubt, Focus' greatest hit.
That's true, but the problem is that Focus doesn't have so many cool songs. As far as I know, there's only two Focus songs which are really good. Even so, that's okay, because "Hocus Pocus" may be their greatest song, but the younger people doesn't know it.
Here in Brazil everybody knows this song.
Really? Well, in Germany the younger metal fans certainly don't know it. They were a great band on the 70's and until today I remember the first time I've heard "Hocus Pocus". I couldn't stop laughing, it's one of the funniest songs I've ever heard.
Was there any song, other than The Who's, that was close to be included on the CD and ended up forgotten?
Yes, we had a lot of other good suggestions. Like, for example... How's it called that famous english band from the 70's? It's not Genesis, it's another one... Yes! We wanted to do an Yes song, but it was a really long and very complicated song. I don't remember its name, but it had a lot of different parts, rhythm changes and very tiring parts. At the end of the day, we decided to cut it off. On the japanese version there's a version of Deep Purple's "Rat Bat Blue", that was an Weiki idea which I didn't agree so much about. Surely there's lot of better Purple songs.
Which Deep Purple song would you like to have recorded?
It would have been great if we recorded "No No No", of the "Fireball" album. It's not a famous song but I really like it. I would never suggest "Smoke On The Water", but maybe we could've tried "Woman From Tokyo", which is famous, but not that much. Another good song is "Space Trucking", from "Machine Head".
Will you play some of these songs live?
No, they were made specially for the album, we won't play them on shows. Plus, next time we are on tour will be after the release of our next album, and if it's hard to choose a setlist with this new album, it's even harder with covers in the middle. We always want to put at least one song from each album on the setlist, and that's not always possible, so it would be a waste of time if we put a cover in between. Specially when we come to Brazil as an opening band, it doesn't make sense playing covers. It's stupid!
But if you were the headliners, it would be cool to play one of the versions. Maybe "Mexican", that is excellent.
I don't know, but this probably won't happen. The most interesting, though, is the fact that each person has an different favorite song. It's really funny, everybody mentions a different track. You're the first to mention Babe Ruth. At least I know that someone liked it.
Besides "All My Loving", you recorded another Beatles song, "Something". Why did this song was not included on the album?
That's because one Beatles song on the album is enough. Besides, "Something" is a very light song, and we already had a David Bowie ballad, so, since we didn't want so many tracks with no heaviness on the album and there was another Beatles song in it, we decided to cut it off.
Most songs on "Metal Jukebox" are from the 70's, but there's one from the 90's; "From Out Of Nowhere", of Faith No More, a band that has nothing to do with Helloween. Isn't this song a little out of its place?
I really like Faith No More, specially that first era, on the begining of the 90's. The musical structures they used were very interesting and their sound was very original. Even so, it wasn't my suggestion, I believe it was Uli's. After some time doing the selection, we realized that we had too many light songs, and we needed at least two more metalish songs. That's when we chose Scorpions and Faith No More. But it's true that this song has nothing to do with the rest, it doesn't fit the album, although it's a good song.
Of all the songs on the CD, which one most influenced you as musician?
It's hard to say. I think "Hocus Pocus", which is a song I really enjoyed on the 70's, and, to be honest, also the ABBA's song. I really like ABBA's melodies. I mean, it's kinda stupid a metal guitarist saying he likes ABBA, but I have one of their "best of" and I really think they're a great band. I would even say that, considering the quality of their songs, they're the Beatles of the 70's. The two guys are great songwriters and I have a great respect for them, because they were absolutely inspiring for me.
Was there any song that you didn't like its original version, but it ended up on the album due to the other members?
For me, it's really boring have to listen to those "groovy" sounds, that disco feeling that the songs from the beginning of the 80's had, like "Faith Healer" does. I think this song was kinda boring on the CD. It's a song that takes more than two minutes to start being interesting. Besides, it's an outdated song, too old, and I didn't like it.
Who chose this song?
Actually, it was our manager, Harrie Smits.
The songs from this album are really different one from another. There's a prog touch on "Hocus Pocus", a more funky side on "From Out Of Nowhere", pop stuff like "All My Loving" and "Lay All Your Love On Me", and so on. Do you think that, even though, it's possible to recognize Helloween's touch on each one of them?
No. Actually, we only added some more "punch" on the ABBA and Beatles songs. For the others, we've made some changes, good ones, in my opinion, but few, we didn't change almost nothing on tracks like "Space Oddity" or "Faith Healer". Even because it would be absolutely stupid playing "Space Oddity" with double pedal and distorted guitars. I don't think that this would be a good idea, because on of our goals was to show people some old songs that we like, so they might be interested in learning more about this fertile period that the 70's were. Specially the younger should try to know it.
Helloween is already writing songs for the new album. What can you say about it for now?
Luckily, we had a reunion last week with our managers and we discussed some producers. Nothing is 100% yet, because we haven't decided who will produce the album. Either way, we'll start the recordings on the beginning of February. Yes, we are currently writing songs, but I don't have any idea of how many songs each guy wrote, or if they wrote anything at all. Everything is just starting. We are planning to release it on September 2000. And we'll go to Brazil to promote it, for sure. I hope headilining this time. We're tired of opening for Maiden.
Since we're talking about that, how do you feel about touring with a band like Iron Maiden, which I suppose being of your greatest influences?
Actually, to be honest, I'm not a really Maiden fan. I like them, of course, but just that. I really respect the band, specially now that Bruce is back. I didn't like that other guy [Blaze Bayley].
Nobody liked him.
Yes, but my opinion could have been better if he was more cool. But, he was a guy hard to deal with, he was never friendly with us. That's why I'm even more happy now with Bruce's return. But I like all of them, specially Nicko, Steve and Janick, three really cool guys. As band, though, I must admit that they didn't influenced me that much. I would say that the old Helloween suffered this influence a lot more, when Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen were still on the band. In my case, Judas Priest was much more important.
The last Maiden gigs with Blaze Bayley on vocals were exactly here on South America, with Helloween opening. Was it possible to feel something bad about the situation of the band, since he would leave it right after?
I already knew by that time that they would kick the singer out. So did other people, so, it's obvious that there were a lot of rumors on the backstage. Maybe even he knew it, I don't know. But obviously it's not a good thing playing on stage knowing that the guy who's singing will not be on the next album, or the next tour. It was very unconfortable and some stuff was kinda unfair, like people saying shit about him on his back. It was really unpleasant, after all, he did his job. Even though the result wasn't good, he gave his best. People didn't like it, but he tried the best as he could.