ARTICLE : From "Metal Shock (Italy)" N.213, April 1-15, 1996 INTERVIEW : By Alessandro Ariatti TRANSLATION AND POSTING : By Alessandro Cherubin (email@example.com) TITLE: " THE TIME IS NOW ! Pumpkins are back, pumpkins are back! And 'Time Of The Oath', a classic Keeper-tradition album, is the best way to represent themselves again to the defenders of the true, pure metal! Recalling a disappeared friend, Michael Weikath is telling us about an exciting future!" Happy happy Helloween, Helloween, Helloween... Happy happy Helloween, ooh ooh ooh! Hey, what are you waiting for? Sing with me, bite your wurstel and sauerkraut sandwich and sprinkle it all with a big tankard of beer, because Helloween are back again, harder and faster than ever! "Time Of The Oath", their last fabolous album, has awaked many sleeping enthusiasms, bringing us back to the second half of the 80's, when Michael Weikath & Co. enchanted all of us, making three masterpieces like "Walls Of Jericho", "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1" and "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2". By the way, after making the instable Michael Kiske leave, consequently the demential "Chamaleon",the most famous 'pumpkins' of the metal world gave us some encouraging reprise signals with the good "Master Of The Rings". That album was the one in wich we could see the positive entry of the former Pink Cream 69 frontman, Andi Deris, and the former Gamma Ray drummer, Uli Kush, but is only with "The Time Of The Oath" that Helloween could take again and definitively the throne of the champions of the German Power Metal. You know how much I am enthusiast about "The Time Of The Oath" (Metal Shock Top Album on the N.210), you could read again my review about it, but also listen to Michael Weikath, historical founder of the band from Hamburg, to understand the total band faith in the album quality. ALESSANDRO ARIATTI: Michael, in my review, I defined "The Time Of The Oath" as the most complete Helloween carrier album. Do you Agree? MICHAEL WEIKATH: Absolutely, and I wanna tell you more: it was since "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2" that I wasn't so proud about an Helloween new release. "The Time Of The Oath" is the album I dreamed to do for years and years, and I can assure all the band knows that we've done something very important with this album. The mutual understanding with Andi and Uli is furtherly grown, if compared to "Master Of The Rings", because that album was a really fast one: both for the songwriting and for the recording. We spent in fact few weeks to write and record it, instead of "The Time Of The Oath", for which we had much more time to develope songs and make arrangements; when we entered the studio, the songs were ready since months before. Of course, something was modified, but the songs structure was already really clear and defined. AA: "If I Knew" is the song that impressed me most. It is a 70's-feeling ballad, and the beautiful Hammond solo is something in a Deep Purple style. How did this song born? MW: It is a long story, Alessandro; you must know that some yars ago, during the "Chamaleon" period, inside Helloween there was nothing else than quarrels, in a particular way between me, Ingo and Michael Kiske. I reached the point that I was so stressed and exasperated of that situation, even if I knew to be in the right, that I started to doubt about the band's future. Personally, I was prepared to the worst, so I started to work on a solo album, hardly inspired by the Deep Purple sound, and on which I tought I had to work with some Hamubrg musicians. When things for Helloween were going well again, I remembered "If I Knew", a very good song for Andi's voice, so I decided to include it in "The Time Of The Oath". You are right when you say that "If I Knew" is something very 70's style, because that song had born whit this intention. AA: With "Master Of The Rings", Helloween came back to their right success. Did you expected this, after the "Chamaleon" 'flop'? MW: It was surely a credibility matter: the credibility we had lost with "Chamaleon" and we were determined to reconquer in any way. With "Master Of The Rings", we decided to come back to the classical Helloween-sound, and I think we reached it; by the way I had listen recently to it, and the differences between that album and "The Time Of The Oath" are very huge. In fact, "Master Of The Rings" is a more commercial and easy-listening album, with a particular humor that seems to be like some Alice Cooper stuff. Anyway, it was an healty return to our favourite sound. Also the "Master Of The Rings'" lyrics are more relaxed and less 'important' than the lyrics of the last album. AA: Let's try to summarize, now: after "Chamaleon", Michael Kiske leaves the band, and Helloween came back to their melodic power metal. So, he was the 'rotten apple' of the group. MW: You say that he left the band, but I can assure he was fired! In fact Kiske was working on some new songs that had to be on the next album after "Chamaleon", but nobody in the band liked that stuff! Maybe they could be good to obtain success in the English Charts, but they were not good for our intention to come back to the power metal: it wasn't hard rock, it wasn't heavy metal, it was only a disaster. By the way, Michael Kiske was very offended when we refused to do a record with that kind of songs. We don't hear about Kiske since a long time, even because after his leaving, he started to have some unlikeable interwiews about the band and myself in particular. In fact Kiske gives me all the fault of what happened, but this is a big lie, because was Roland Grapow himself that told me it was not in his intentions to record another album with Kiske. So, I wasn't the only to have problems with Michael Kiske. AA: Kai Hansen told me he left Helloween because you were jealous of him, because he was the main songwriter. What do you have to say about it? MW: Jealous? Me? Jealous of what!? The first thing is that Kai didn't wrote so many songs in that period, and it is sufficient to check the credits of the songs of "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1 & 2" to be sure of it. Number two, I don't understand what Hansen means with 'jealous'. I think instead that it was a matter of respect for each other's role and also gratitude to other Helloween members. The ours, was a fifty-fifty relation, but many members of the group were not conviced about the songs Kai was writing after "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1", so, instead of a jealousy for me, I think it was rage and frustration, because things were not going on the right way. During that times, someone wasn't behaving in a correct way inside Helloween, and I am sure that Kai, inside himself, is perfectly convinced that person was not me. His behaviour was something like "Hey man, you still complain about youself because you are jealous!". It's a very childish way of thinking, isn't it? AA: Let's talk again about Kai Hansen: what do you think about Gamma Ray? MW: Surely my favourite album is "Sigh No More", but the last one is also not very bad; their problem is the too much 'short temper' [*] that fills their songs. They are like an heavy hetal machine, and I can assure you, for me it's very hard to listen to a whole Gamma Ray CD, because it's like if I give myself a coffe overdose! I could compare the feeling of a Gamma Ray album to the feeling of the only "Coverdale/Page" work : they are different kinds of music, but they both are 'short temper' [*] and filled of an exasperating tension. [* Hey Chris, I can't explain better something like "nervousness" or "irritability". Come on! - A.C. ] AA: Helloween are one of the few bands that were able to create a very original and personal sound: what do you think about german and north european bands who try to follow your steps? MW: Substantially, they are bands that kept our sound structure, but they are not able to create evergreen melodies. All these bands, I mean Angra, Blind Guardian and so on, follow our songs' concept, by the way they don't understand what's hidden behind, the feeling of the songs: in practice they copy what they don't understand. I've got much more respect for the bands that chose to stand on a stage or to go in a studio while working on some really personal stuff, it's a more honest thing. When we started, we were very impressed by Iron Maiden, but our influences didn't stop with them, because we also liked very much many other groups like Beatles, Deep Purple, UFO, Uriah Heep, and their ability to build that evergreen melodies. Me, Andi, Markus, Rolad and Uli try not to miss that target everytime, instead of many copying bands that leave the feeling, lose the right melody. I suppose this happens because they don't have our huge sight. AA: Can you give me a preview about the new live shows to promote "The Time Of The Oath"? MW: At this moment, I can say very a little, because we are very busy with promotion with radios and magazines; in fact we are planning to go to USA and then in Asia, so we hadn't enough time to think about the structure of our next tour. I am also not able to tell you what songs of the new album we will play during the concerts, anyway I can assure we are going to record a double live album during our dates in Italy and Spain. At the same time, we will do a live-video, and all this double operation will happen probably about the end of this year. AA: Tell me something about Andi's vocal chords problems, after the "Master Of The Ring" asiatic tour. Someone said his carrier was compromised... MW: Oh my God, what a bad period! It was an asiatic virus that hit all of us, and gave us hot fever and hard convulsions. It was surely a shitty situation. Andi got the virus in the middle of the tour, but he brutally disregarded it, keeping singing anyway without any pause, and this fact complicated his health state. The journey back from Japan was really a cross! As he got home, Andi spoke with the best specialists, and started to cure himself with antibiotics, which were totally unuseful against that kind of virus; we went straight on like this for three months, while Andi's voice wasn't improving in any way, on the contrary he was't able to speak anymore! He moved his mouth, and not any sound could be heard! So the doctors told him to do a total relax, with no trying to speak at all, so Andi started to write on some little pieces of paper to be understood! Later the situation returned to the normality, but it was a very bad period! AA: The first time I saw you playing live was during 1987, after "Keeper Of The seven Keys Part 1" came out. You played as supporters for Ronnie James Dio. What do you remember about that days? MW: It was a great tour, with some really 'crazy' dates, when we enjoyed ourselves very much, and if I don't remember wrong, we palyed very well. You must know that Dio was constantly angry behind the scenes, he was probably jealous of the succes we had almost everywere; he was so jealous that he often forced us to play live without a good soundcheck for our instruments. One day, before the italian concerts, his drumset truck had an accident, that hardly damaged his rhithm session instruments, so he asked us to lend him our drumset. Our instrument was a very expensive one, so we decided not to lend but to hire it to Ronnie. Probably we wouldn't do that if he have had a correct behaviour with us, but we tought it was right to make him pay for his arrogance! AA: You came back to Italy the next year with the Monster Of Rock, with Iron Maiden, Kiss, Anthrax. Is it true that Iron Maiden offered Michael Kiske to take Bruce Dickinson's place in their band? MW: Absolutely no! The only thing that happened was Steve Harris that said he appreciated Kiske's voice, but this doesn't mean Harris was planning to put Michael into Iron Maiden. If Steve Harris had serious intention about Kiske, he could have contacted him when Michael left Helloween, isn't it? I think people overrate Michael Kiske's importance, even if he is a good singer, he doesn't have Bruce Dickinson's power in his voice. Michael's voice is classical and clean, but at the same time is able to express is best only on the higher range; his voice is more opera than rock. To do an example, if Harris needed someone to sing very well "The Number Of The Beast", he had better to take Andi instead of Michael. Kiske is definitively a limited singer, he is able to express himself only on a range, instead of Dickinson who was technically better, because he was able to give to his voice many different connotations. The exchange wouldn't surely be good for the Maiden. AA: By the way, I don't think Blaze Baley is the perfect choice, if you look at the bad results of "The X Factor"... MW: Uhm, maybe you are right, anyway I think that "The X Factor" could have been a better album, only if it could have had a decent production. I can't understand why the Maiden separed from their historical producer, Martin Birch; in fact the sound of the last album is like the sound of a demo-tape, it's a pity! I am very disappointed about the album quality, I expected a work of another sort... ****************************************************************************** [ The interview ends as above, but there is a separed block in which ] [ Micheal Weikath speaks about his friend INGO. Here what he said. ] TITLE: IN MEMORY OF INGO. Michael Weikath was widely blamed for firing Ingo Schwichtenberg from the band. But now it's time to restore the thruth. MW: A few days before Ingo got suicide, we met him and we told him that he couldn't be part of the band anymore, because was obvious for all of us that he was suffering schizophrenia. He was just came out from a theraphy against drugs and alchool, by the way, we were not sure Ingo had focused his situation. In fact in the past he had already promised not to fall again in that trap, but everytime facts were different from his promises. Ingo was arrived to a point in which he was responsable of many crazy actions, but the problem was that he didn't know how many damages he was doing. How we could give him the stress of a new album and a new tour? The reality was that, after "Chamaleon", it was clear he wouldn't be back to play drums. When we decided to make him go, just after the album release, I had a six hour phone conversation with him, in which I explained Ingo why we did that hard decision. The only one that wanted to mantain Ingo as Helloween's drummer was Michael Kiske, and I think his behaviour was particulary stupid, because he didn't look at the reality of the facts. One day Michael came to me and said "Hey Weiki, one day you promise Ingo to come back in the band, then you change your idea" . It was an absolutely nonsense thing because I clarely told Ingo that we didn't want him as a drummer anymore, if he didn't clean up heimself from drugs. Then, for "Master Of The Rings", we decided to separate also from Michael Kiske, and then many poisons and polemics followed; but the thing that hurted me most in this sad situation, was to be accused by people that didn't ever care about Ingo. We tried to help him in all the ways, doing anything we could, and Ingo known this fact. His girlfriend confessed me Ingo told her, few days before his suicide, that he wasn't angry at all with us. This confirms that some people must think more and better before speaking about things that doesn't know and that they didn't live on their skin.