Interview For Where The Rain Grows Site (09/18/00)
By Tony Webster
You wrote the title track of of the new album "The Dark Ride"... What did you write this song about?
This song is about mankind. The situation we have now it is... Well, the concept of the record is a bit dark and serious and life itself is very serious, so I wanted to make a statement about life and to even have a positive message on it. I always like to have a positive side to the lyrics so nobody gets depressed or anything, because I'm not really a depressed guy but I like to think about life. Specially the beginning of this year and end of last year was big for me so... I had a lot of bad experiences so I wanted to put it into a song. It's a long song and has a long story, and it was perfect for this album, with the timing changes and different moods and positive messages on the ballad part of it at the end. It's like: mankind should all believe in something good. I don't want to say God, but its my own little story... Hmm, just like a politician... I didn't say anything really, did I [Laughs]?
What was the main difference for you working with Roy and Charlie as compared to Tommy Hansen?
Oh, the main difference is, like, working, man! With Tommy Hansen it was like he was there, but only working with other members of the band, and I didn't like this for the last three records and was producing the songs on my own and arranging everything on my own and I was always disappointed and I talked to other members that I wanted the same support for me from Tommy that they got. Tommy always told me that I was so good in producing and arranging my songs that he didn't need to help me and said to do what I wanted. I wanted someone to push me on the guitar side more and it's kind of stupid to pay someone a lot of money to not help you out really. I mean Tommy was a good guy and is great at arranging songs and on keyboards.
You did a guest spot on an album by a band called "Dr. Sin". How did that go?
Well, last year, while on my solo tour, a lot of young bands called me and wanted me to guest on their album, and I played on like eight or ten records and Dr. Sin was the latest part. I recorded the solo part about a year ago and the album just recently came out... They took a long time to release it. Mike Vescera is sort of like a member of the band since he sang on it. I sang on a project called "Imperio", from Argentina, and I sang one song and did a solo. I was suprised since I didn't want to sing anymore and the band wanted me to sing because they said they liked my vocals... Why they liked my vocals I don't know, but they did, so I sang a song on their last album and it was great. It was very laid back and relaxed without any pressure and sounded a lot better and different than on my solo album. It was a big suprise to me... I don't know what it is... I had a different tone on my voice.
How do you guys decide which songs make the album?
Well, we let someone else pick the songs for the new records. We wanted a lot of changes, for example on the production side, and Roy Z was a big influence. If I say anything about Roy is all positive. He is so creative and he helped me a lot on my guitar, and that was always a dream and what I always wanted to have and I never had this with the two previous producers in the band. This is the first time I had a guy sitting next to me, inspiring me a lot and I learned so many things about guitar sound. I have for the first time a great guitar sound. It's an experience I can bring home to my studio as well. So the band decided that the producer should decide what goes on the record since he was rearranging stuff we did for the record, etc. All of us were under no pressure and we all knew our own parts to each song. Everyone did their parts separately, and Andi was really coming into the studio when he began recording the vocals. It was a big suprise for Uli, who finished the drums early, then came back and
was shocked and suprised how good everything turned out. In the past everyone was always there controlling everything and saying they didn't like this or that even before hearing the end of the song. Then he said the record was so strong we had to decide what songs out of the 15 make the album because all of them we thought were great, so we let the management and record company decide what songs make the album and we agreed with their decision after reviewing it.
How is it being on Nuclear Blast as compared to old labels you were on?
They are much more into us and into metal and they are fans. They are really happy with the product so far... They are always calling us telling us how much they love the album, and they were a little concerned that we paid a lot of money but they love the album so much... They are more than happy with it. Markus, the boss of Nuclear Blast was calling us and telling us we are really good songwriters and that we're great. They will do a great job too because to them we are important than we would be on a big label, and they are a big label but they just do metal and no pop music... They aren't entirely focused on money because they are all metal fans too. They really like the band itself so it's like half band and half professional.
Do you have any touring plans for the album?
We will play some shows in Germany around December here and there and the tour will start in January worldwide, and we will probably be headlining.
I noticed Andi had a lot of songs on the album and did his songwriting differ a lot on this album than the past?
I would say it isn't that different really, however there was a difference as far as how the songs ended up. This was because of Roy Z pushing the overdubs of guitarwork... A mixture of the old Helloween direction and some modern direction with the downtuning of the guitars, so when you hear the Andi songs on this album maybe one or two are typical Andi songs you would hear in Pink Cream or his solo records, but the others are more old styled Helloweenish and more modern because the arrangements basically came from the rest of the band and Roy Z. That's very important.
You guys had one actual songwriter credited on each song... Did you guys all help out on each others' songs though?
Definitely! Andi is normally coming with basic ideas and the rest of the band arranges and adds things here and there, and this goes for all of the songs on the albums. You can hear the difference between what he writes on his solo records and on past Helloween albums with what he has written on "The Dark Ride". The guitarwork is more focused this time around too. We tried some new sounds and we needed the whole band to be involved with the arrangements. I was arranging little vocal parts on many of the songs, for example. On my songs... "Escalation 666" came very late and I wrote this the second week into the recording of the album. I arranged everything on "The Dark Ride" very late and was changing things around during the studio sessions, in adding a solo part here and there because I was always being inspired by Roy Z. He told me we needed a long song on this album sort of like the long songs on the Keeper albums, with many tempo changes and different solo parts and stuff like this, so I did it and
kept rearranging and adding things to this song. This song was a Roy Z inspired song but I did all the changes myself and wrote it myself. I had a setup in the house I lived in during the four months of recordings and arranged everything there.
Have you guys ever thought of releasing a home video say of backstage scenes, and interviews and music videos, etc.?
Hmm, we thought about it. I mean we wanted to do one about the recording process for the next album, but to have someone there for filming and paying the money, that is the problem. We thought about having someone to do this and I thought it would be great because we did the video on the island and we did everything on the island and we spent four months living there... But, now it's too late [Laughs]. It's always the money shit... I mean, having someone for four months is very expensive.
What was the video "If I Could Fly" about?
Well, the song is about the dream to fly, and this is what the main theme of the video is about as well. So we filmed a very nice beautiful looking eagle, and so Andi is the main guy in the story... After a while it's possible for him to fly. You see a story about Andi, who is trying to make his dream to fly happen, and at the end he does fly. It's funny... There is this metal eagle made by an artist on the island and this thing was really meant for a museum or something, so it was hanging from the ceiling and was on top of it and they used the whole movement on a blue screen, so it looks like Andi can fly like an eagle. So this is the main story.
Who came up with the cover idea of the album?
Honestly, this is more from the management from the side... They wanted something different and more dark, and not the typical pumpkin drawn cover. The artwork was more outset from the band this time around.
Will you guys release a compliation of b-sides?
Yeah, we thought about this. Only this time we recorded a song called "The Rain" and it was written by Uli, and it's a ballad more in the direction of Queensr˙che and it was so great that after we picked what songs we liked he kept it for a future project or maybe I will use it on my next solo record. It's so Queensr˙che sounding so I think this song has a special story. We thought about making a compliation many times... I mean, we have like 30 songs... Very interesting because most of them are from Markus and it would be great. However then people will tell us it's a money ripoff again and this is what sucks about making one of these. All the b-sides now are really strong man... I mean, you saw the reaction on the "Don't Spit On My Mind" message board to his b-side on the new single... Unbelieveable... And we have another two too: one from Weiki and one from Andi, and all these b-sides are amazing and if we release a compliation of b-side tracks it would be like making a good record. We needed to try and
have the right balance between having a very aggressive and heavy record and some nicey tunes like "If I Could Fly"... Markus' song is really too much because then we will have too many fast and aggressive songs. This album is the perfect mix between fast Helloween stylish songs and funny songs like "Mr. Torture", which reminds me of the theme "Dr. Stein" had... This was written by Uli and is my favorite song on the album.
Did you ever take guitar lessions?
Nah, but maybe I should [Laughs]! Specially after I met Roy Z! This guy, he is underrated man! I always thought he was just a guitar player. He showed me all these tricks on the studio... He's playing Malmsteenish style, he can play like Randy Rhoads, Zakk Wyldeish, or Carlos Santana, or grungy... And man, he's just so versatile on the guitar. He started in the studio when he was like 18 as an engineeer and a guitar player, and you can imagine he has a totally different experience. He always focused on recording 100% in tune, etc. He is awesome! I had some lessons during the "Master Of The Rings" for harmonics from a good spanish guitar player. Since I had this lesson, I had written as my first song after taking these lessions, "Still We Go", if you hear the guitars on it, they were the results of my lessons.
"Still We Go" is a popular song... Does that suprise you?
No, not really, I always wondered why nobody ever talked about this song... And then I saw on our homepage that people love it! It has a lot of votes in the songpoll. It proves me that I was right! I was so happy to see it be as popular as it is.
Were there any other songs on the Helloween Songpoll that suprised you with a lot of votes?
I would say on the "Pink Bubbles" record I have like three songs leading on the poll. I was suprised for the song "Someone's Crying" being popular... I always thought "The Chance" was always the strongest but this song shocked me! Then seeing the song "Mankind", which was really popular suprised me, and this is a heavy song, and the next heavy song like this was "Mr. Ego", and on "Chameleon" I didn't do anything like this, and then on "Time Of The Oath" and on both solo records I have something like this, and now I have "Escalation 666" which is even more heavier, and I was suprised to see "Mankind" so high on the poll. What's funny is that "Back On The Streets" wasn't popular at all.
You have a b-side for "Master Of The Rings" called "Grapowski's Malmsuite"... What inspired it?
At the time I was really into this classical guitar... I learned it during that year from instructional videos and stuff, and I have so many licks that were so Yngwie Malmsteen sounding and we needed another b-side, so I made this instrumental, which wasn't really meant to be serious, and I rehearsed it with Markus, Uli and a keyboard player, and during the same year I went to the Frankfurt music fair and played something like this in front of a bunch of people and they liked it. This happened during the "Master Of The Rings" recording sessions with all these different musicians in pop bands and stuff, which included a stupid drummer that couldn't play double bass, so we played this song and people loved it and I was being this showoff, and when I came back we rearranged it to be harder and faster, and we recorded it in five hours. So we needed a funny name for it since it sounded too much like Yngwie. So we thought of having a stupid Helloweenish kind of name like Grapowski and I hated these cheesy
classical names Yngwie used like "Suite blah blah blah" and stupid numbers like "101", so I named it "Grapowski's Malmsuite 1001 (In D-Doll)"... Which is a musical key that doesn't exist, and someone asked "Which key is this? D-Doll?", and I was like "This doesn't exist!". Doll is not existing, doll is like a girl or some shit [Laughs]!
For my last question... What do you have to say to the fans about the next album? What can they expect?
I would say, as far as I know, the press has loved the album and always compare it to the old records. I only know that Roy Z and the band did the perfect job so far, and we had so many strong songs we couldn't choose, and we couldn't even choose a running order of songs because everything turned out so great. We are just happy, so a lot of people will be suprised! A lot of people wrote on the "Don't Spit" board asking why the single is a ballad, etc. And well, the whole record isn't like this. Just open your mind and listen to all the songs and you will be pleasantly surprised!