Interview For Where The Rain Grows Site (03/04/00)
By Tony Webster
You told me that you have written some new songs for Helloween awhile back and I remember you were in such a great mood after writing them that you had to tell me. So how have they turned out so far? Have they turned out great? And what do they sound like?
Oh, they so far have turned out great! The first one is more or less like a mid-tempo song... like the tempo of the song "The Chance", it's a song that is not too fast or not too slow, like a totally rocking commerciallike song which would make a good heavy metal single. The next song I wrote is the fastest song I have ever written, it's like 180 beats per minute which is 20 faster than Eagle Fly Free and this is pretty unique for me and its very melodic and has some cool Helloweenish melodies to it. I am still writing the third song for Helloween which is a very typical type of song that I write in the vein of "Mr. Ego" or "Time Of The Oath", or "Kaleidoscope". It's not a copy of these songs that I already have written and it has a little bit of a Led Zeppelin influence in it, and this song is very heavy and is more aggressive sounding and not as melodic. I really like this song a lot so far as well... it sort has a Black Sabbath feeling.
So you guys signed to Nuclear Blast in Europe?
Yes, well everyone seems to be on Nuclear Blast now! I just saw that Stratovarius is signed to Nuclear Blast and released an album. So a lot of the good bands seem to be on that label!
So what kind of deal do you guys have in the USA?
I am not sure but I think we already have had a worldwide deal still in the USA.
You guys had a meeting Tuesday to check out everyone's song ideas in the band, how did that go?
Well, this went great! I was really suprised at how good everyone's songs are so far, especially from Uli's side. Uli again has come up with some awesome songs again! Even Markus has two songs which we picked up so far and one is a little bit Ozzy sounding, sort of dark and aggressive and the other is a bit faster. So far it's been fantastic and this album I imagine will be even a bit different than "Better Than Raw".
So how many songs total did everyone come up with?
We have about 25 different songs. We have about 15 complete songs and about 10 extra rough ideas. Maybe we can use these ideas and put them into the songs we already have come up with. These are the first songs and of these 25 ideas we will take about 15 for the album session.
So do you guys have an album concept, or any songtitles?
We are already talking about this a lot in the rehearsing room, more than playing guitar. I think it's not going to be a concept album this time, because Andi said "Let's call it this and that!" and Weiki said "No! No concept, please!". Well we are a little bit tired of this concept shit. You never know though, we are still in the creating process.
So are these songs more varied or different than say, from the last album, "Better Than Raw"?
We have one ballad from Markus, but we are not sure if we are going to take it yet. I mean I always have been a fan of ballads, I always like to have one or two for Helloween. One is good for Helloween, I think. Andi and I both wrote great songs on our solo albums so nobody really cares about ballads that much. Maybe I am wrong because I told him that people who like ballads never shout and complain to us to write more for Helloween. I think this album is much stronger from the heavy metal side than the last one. Not so many pop like songs. I mean, I didn't hear anything that sounded like "I Can" on this record which is a very poppy song for me. Or even the ballad direction Andi took on that album isn't around really either. So we have some faster and more aggressive songs. We are trying some new directions that some bands are famous for... We always like a variety of influences in our music which is how it has been with all of our albums.
So what is going on with your solo career? Are you going to keep doing it and will it be the same lineup as on the last album?
At the moment I am totally into Helloween, honestly. Everything I just wrote is for Helloween only for now, and at the moment I am into Helloween and I like to write fast aggressive songs for Helloween. And I haven't had really any fast songs since "Someone's Crying" and "Still We Go", and, well, this was a really long time ago.
Well its not that long ago man!
Well, I still want to show people that I can write some fast songs and that I actually like to do this, because I do! Now... what was the question? [Laughs] Yeah, about my solo albums. I definitely want to keep the band I had for "Kaleidoscope" because I was really happy with the results and it was such a relaxing work for me. Everything I wrote on the road on the last Helloween tour I collected here and there I came back and collected a bit here and there then arranged it. Then everyone came into my studio and we made the album, it was easy and I enjoyed it. Now it's totally different with Helloween, its more like creating something that takes longer to create but is still fun. So I enjoyed making the last solo album and when Helloween is finished sometime next year with touring I will make another album. Oh! And another thing... I received an e-mail this morning from Anders Johansson, the drummer of Hammerfall. He likes my solo record and he e-mailed me saying that he loves everyone on the album and that
the sound is great, and so on. He likes the songs and for me this is nice when musicians write me and give me compliments. Last time I tried to talk to him when I met him at a festival he sort of ignored me since he did not know me too well. I was like "Hey, your brother played on my record!" and he's like "Oh, ok..." and that was it. Now though he wrote me and so we're on a different level with each other now. Also I talked to Michael Wagener, the guy who mixed my solo album, lives in Nashville, Tennesee and he have the CD Kaleidoscope to some big time radio DJ in that city and he loved it, but you know it isn't released in America and yet this guy is playing my record!
That's country music town, Nashville!
Yeah! But there are some nice ballads on there and I do not know what he is playing but he's asking for more CDs from me. I don't know who the guy is but Michael Wagener's girlfriend told my wife about this, that it's some important guy there... Hmm, Mutt Lange?
I think he has Shania Twain to worry about.
[Laughs] Right, I know I am still into this solo band. Michael Terrana is really happy being in Rage. I think he's touring right now in Russia. I look forward to making another solo album after the next Helloween tour.
So what about your touring plans for Helloween? Do you have a tour setup yet?
Well that's a funny thing because we were talking about doing festivals this summer but we are going to record the album a little bit later, so in April we are starting in Tenerife to record the next album but the plan was suppossed to be in October, then January, then March and now in April and by the time we finish the record then all the festivals will be over. There was a Swedish festival that was just cancelled because we have to make our new album when it happens. We were going to play it but now since we have to have the record out by September, we want to do some press before we release it and go on tour to promote the album. It would be really great if we could do something like Wacken and use this as a form of promotion with us playing live and for now that is the plan. Then in August or September or October we are going to do a big tour but we do not have any bands listed to play with us at this time nor is anything confirmed for any cities and such but we do want to have our tour start then if
all goes well.
What kind of equipment do you use? A fan wanted to know.
My setup is the same as it was basically in the last ten years but sometimes I try out something new out in the market to get a better sound. I always have my 51 Marshall from 1972 to 1973 then they made a reissue of it and its called 1987 and it's a great copy. Some of them are better than the old ones and I use them in my studio now. I also like very much the 260W Marshall cabinet which is hard to find here in Germany and I like it very much. Before I normally use 300W and my Mesa Boggie 1x12 cabinet. It's got some sort of sub bass coming from the back of the speaker which gives me a lower end because the old Marshall's dont have much bass in them so I need these. I forgot the english word to describe this cabinet, though. My guitars are Fender Strats and that changed a lot over the years because I always thought the older guitars were the best. I have a 56 Strat which I still have but this is bluesy sounding which isn't good for hard rock or metal. I have a 62 Strat still which is very Steve Ray Vaughan
sounding and not good for Helloween. Then I changed in the 70's and I bought a guitar, three weeks ago actually, which was really really cheap and it's my best guitar now, I paid 600 dollars. It's a 72 fender which is the same color and neck as the Ritchie Blackmore guitar and it's not scalloped like I usually have. It sounds great and the wood is very important. It doesn't matter how it looks or whatever. The beginning of the 70's you can find the best strats for my taste. From 68 to 74 these Fenders were great!
So how did "Better Than Raw" do? I heard in Japan sales dropped off for a lot of metal bands.
Well, I don't want to talk much about Japan because I really don't know what is going on over there and I have lost some faith in Japan. We have a lot of great fans there but our market dropped. I have faith in our fans, just not the country itself and the market there. Everywhere else "Better Than Raw" did not sell much more than "Time Of The Oath" but in every magazine everywhere we were getting great reviews because it was a powerful strong album and nobody could really say anything bad. This next record we are going to do now is going to be a little bit better because there will be more development in the music instead of reproducing the "Keeper 2" for the next 20 years which some people say we should do.
Kind of like, changing but still sounding like a Helloween album?
Yes, when we go on tour, for example, fans tell us they like this sound, and that sound, and stuff like that and, well, fans like the typical Helloween sound and if you do not do this type of sound they will hate you. Other bands are doing the Helloween sound and are really successful, so why not keep it? But we will keep this sound because we want to, and do not misunderstand me here either. We do not want to rehash our old material or anything, there will always be some songs on our albums that will be in another direction as well as we like to try something new on our albums, which is why our albums are varied in terms of songs and styles and to keep our music fresh which we have managed to do. This time I wanted to write typical Helloween songs which are very melodic, fast and have a good groove.
So, what have you been listening to lately? I remember we used to talk a lot about the new Rage album called "Ghosts" and how much we both liked it...
Yes! In fact, going into the rehearsal room for the first time, a few days back, I heard the album playing! Markus and Uli were listening to Rage's "Ghosts" album before we were going to rehearse. Of course also I love this album. I am a little bit behind in the scene at the moment. I still like the "Black Album" by Metallica and while sitting on the beach during a holiday break with my wife we were listening to this record and, man, I still think this is a great album! The other one is by Pantera... "Vulgar Display Of Power". This is an amazing album as well. I saw Pantera playing at a festival one time and I was backstage watching them play and I was amazed at how great they sounded live, they were better than the record! The band is too wild for me, but the sound is great. This sound is totally different than what I like to write, but it's still inspiring and this is what I like. When you are always listening to all of the stuff that is the same type of music that you write say like Helloween stuff, or
Malmsteen stuff, or Stratovarius stuff... you end up writing almost the same thing and sometimes you may accidentially copy them in places. So that's why I like to be influenced by all sorts of different types of music. It could be a classical music album or an album from the 70's, it doesn't matter because music is powerful!
Now, back to your solo stuff, how was the reaction different for "Kaleidoscope" than the "Four Seasons Of Life"?
I would say that there was a 90% improvement in the reaction to this one than the first one. For "Four Seasons Of Life", like, only 50% of the people loved the music, my vocals and everything. The other 50% absolutely hated the album. After a while I realized the same thing. Michael Wagener was asking for this first album and I am always hesitant to give one out. My wife tells me it is not that bad of an album but I am not behind this album 100% anymore. "Kaleidoscope" was great and, like I said before, 90% of the people like it. Sometimes, though, some die hard people in the internet from magazines or radio stations do not like this music anyway. So they listen to fifteen seconds of each song then give the album a bad review because they either don't like this type of music, or me or whatever then say that the album sucks and it's cheap, etc. That's what I heard from some guys in Sweden and Denmark and they gave me like 2 out of 5. On the other side many people have been giving great reviews and people
are still to this day saying how great of an album "Kaleidoscope" is which is far more than I expected and this is great. I was nearly 100% sure that this album was good and that it had a lot of feeling and if you like feeling in music as a listener then you can't go wrong with my last solo album!
Now the song "Four Seasons Of Life" was written with your wife lyricwise? Also... what was this song about?
Oh! It was myself and my wife writing the lyrics. I think it's about the first step in the direction of thinking about my life. It's because my brother died a long time ago, like in 1991, and so I wrote the song "I Don't Wanna Cry No More" on the "Chameleon" album. I needed to think a little bit more about this so when I wrote the song "Four Seasons Of Life", or the music rather, I got the idea that this song could be about my life or a similiar theme. We have four seasons with our life you know? I am 40 already so I am probably changing from the second season to the third one now and may have already changed. I tried make an analogy between the nature of four seasons and compare it to animal life or human life. Like, when you age you develop and so on and it was easy to compare my life to this song and the four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter). I didn't read anything about it, I just did my own thinking about it. So, when the fourth season is done, there must be another one which we do not have in
nature but there is one after life.
On your next solo album, will Tammy your dog be a guest musician?
[Laughs] Well, maybe she will help mix the record!
I heard you played on Mike Vescera's last solo project.
Yeah, I played a few guitar parts and solos on the album along with a lot of other great guitarists. The album is going to be released in Europe soon along with a re-release of his album called "Windows" which is a good one as well. He does well here and people respect him but it's different for me in Helloween because people expect all this stuff from me. "Windows" isn't much of a metal album but still great and fans love him still!
I am interested to know what the reaction was to "Metal Jukebox". I haven't heard much reaction to it either negative or positive.
Yeah, it's weird, I haven't either. It's kind of like a single that doesn't get popular but everyone wants to have it anyway. Nobody ever talks about it though.
Why did you guys decide to switch record labels?
Hmm, because the old record label, which was Castle Communications. They normally release old albums from the 70's and do not really have many new bands. We were never too satisfied with promotion for our records. They didn't do a bad job but we always thought it could have been better. You sort of get jelous when you see bands on Nuclear Blast giving 100% to their bands and even Noise did a great job with Gamma Ray. Our contract was for four records and we fulfilled it. So we were totally open since "Metal Jukebox" was our fourth record on that label. So there were no court fights or anything. So we decided to change to a label which is totally behind metal and that would be behind Helloween and Nuclear Blast is that label and they want to push us and promote us big time!
In the past, Helloween's line-up has not been stable, but ever since "Master Of The Rings" it has been very stable. Why is this?
I think we are five totally different strong characters. It's not like in the old days where it was just like two or three people writing songs and the other two hoping that we are going to do a good record. Everybody is working and fighting to get the best songs on the record, regardless who writes them. It's odd because I am very different from Weiki as a guitar player and songwriter while Andi is right in between us. This whole combination of all of the members in creating the Helloween sound is done with all five of us. Back in the days with Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske for me, the best records were "Keeper 1" and "Keeper 2" and when one guy was gone something happened and we did a good record called "Pink Bubbles Go Ape", as you know, but the feeling on this production was so bad and we managed to write a good record at least for what it was. There was always fighting, always blah, blah, blah... And it was no fun back then.
Well, according to the Helloween Songpoll, everyone likes your songs the best on "Pink Bubbles".
Yes, I know, and this is great. I am happy about it and that shows me that a long time ago I was always quiet because I was a new guy and I always hoped the band and the fans would like my songs and, from the songpoll, people still like my songs from that album. Anyway we have a really strong line-up now and I hope it doesn't happen that someone gets kicked out or gets sick, and this would suck because at the moment the line-up in this band is great, we get along better than ever and we make great music together.
Now you recently created some guitar riffs for a televison commercial, how did that go?
Well, they took this idea and I had to recreate the sound of a Metallica song. They came to me and said "We hear you are a good guitar player! Can you make some music or some guitar parts for a commercial?". So I said "Sure, why not?". They gave me the song and told me to do something similiar because we do not want to pay Metallica for their music and they liked what I made. It was like a fifteen seconds guitar part, really. It will come out here in April for a magazine called "Money". It is a business magazine under the company that puts out a magazine called "Focus Magazine". They have their own TV station as well and started like five years ago. So the commercial I played some music for is for a new magazine called "Money" here in Germany that comes out in April. There are going to be lots of big advertisements for it. This is the first time that I did something like this and it's funny that they took this right away!
So, for my last question, what do you want to say to the fans about the next album?
I would say that this album will be well worth the wait for the fans. I mean we have not started rehearsing this week and will soon, we have just been collecting each other's song ideas, but the quality of these songs is very good and some of the best I ever heard. So, if we have about 15 to 25 quality songs and ideas, then picking 10 or 12 for the next album will make this next Helloween album will be fucking powerful! The concept with getting a new production team is great because we are going to get a better sound on the record so this album will sure sound great! It will be Helloween but it will be different as well!