HELLOWEEN – Guitarist Sascha Gerstner
INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Helloween is a German metal band founded in 1984 in Hamburg. The band is one of the pioneers of power metal and their albums KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS I & II and THE TIME OF THE OATH are considered masterpieces of the genre. Throughout the years, the band has gone through numerous changes, but the current line-up of vocalist Andi Deris, guitarists Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Daniel Löble has been stable since 2005. The band started their ongoing MY GOD-GIVEN RIGHT world tour in June 2015, and now the circus mad a stop in Finland in February.
During the years I’ve interviewed almost all current and former members of Helloween but for one reason or another I’ve always missed Sascha Gerstner. Fortunately, things now changed as I finally met with a good-humored Sascha at the hotel prior the show. Among many topics, we discussed about his long career with Helloween and…. many other things in general. Sascha turned out to be really genial and humorous person. I’m sure that some metal fans will find it surprising when they read about his musical influences and how his relationship was with Helloween and with the whole metal genre before joining the band. Read on!
Helloween is a German band founded in 1984 in Hamburg. The band is one of the pioneers of the power metal genre and their albums KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS I & II, MASTER OF THE RINGS and THE TIME OF THE OATH are considered masterpieces of the genre. The band has gone through numerous changes, but the current line-up, singer Andi Deris, guitarists Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, bass guitarist Markus Grosskopf, and drummer Daniel Löble has been stable since 2005. Helloween releases its 15th studio album titled MY GOD GIVEN RIGHT on 25th of May. Andi Deris visited Helsinki in April to promote the forthcoming album, and here’s what the man had to say about the album, its creation process, the future/past, and about life in general. Read on!
German band Helloween is one of the pioneering forces and most successful bands in the power metal world and its related subgenres. The band was originally formed in 1984 by Michael Weikath, bassist Markus Grosskopf, vocalist/guitarist Kai Hansen and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. Their early albums KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS I and KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS II, which featured vocalist Michael Kiske, are considered masterpieces of the genre. The band went through a large number of changes during the late 80’s / early 90’s. Hansen left in 1988, formed his own band Gamma Ray and was then replaced by Roland Grapow. Kiske and Schwichtenberg were out of picture in 1993 and they were then replaced by drummer Uli Kusch and current vocalist Andi Deris (ex-Pink Cream 69). The renewed lineup re-established the bands popularity and the album THE TIME OF OATH (1996) still remains as their best-selling album to date. Despite the continuous success, the band went through another set of changes starting in 2001. Today the band consists of Deris, Weikath, Grosskopf, guitarist Sascha Gerstner and drummer Dani Loble. This line-up has released altogether 4 studio albums and it seems that Helloween is now even more popular than the so-called “heydays” in the mid 80’s. Three sold out shows speaks for itself when the band arrived to Finland in late March as a part of massive “Hellish Rock II” tour which also featured Gamma Ray. In Helsinki we were fortunate to sit down with the bands guitarist/founding member Michael Weikath and discuss about various topics including the current tour, the latest opus STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL, Helloween’s 30’TH Anniversary and re-union rumors… Read on!
Helloween is a German power metal band founded in 1984 in Hamburg by Kai Hansen on vocals and guitar, Michael Weikath on guitar, Markus Grosskopf on bass and Ingo Schwichtenberg on drums. Helloween were one of the pioneering and also most important bands of the 80’s European heavy/speed/power metal scene. Their early albums HELLOWEEN and WALLS OF JERICHO fared comfortably but it wasn’t before band hired a new vocalist, the 18 year old Michael Kiske, and released albums KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS pt.I and KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS pt.II before the band hit the big time and found their worldwide success. Hansen left in 1988 and he was soon replaced by Roland Grapow. The following album PINK BUBBLES GO APE was somewhat disappointing both sales and musical wise and next they tried to break some new grounds with 1993’s CHAMELEON. Instead of taking a heavier approach, the band ventured into completely new territory. They were eschewing its signature double-guitar harmonies for synthesizers, horns, acoustic guitars, country music, grunge and everything in between. Some changes were needed and so Michael Kiske and then seriously troubled drummer Schwichtenberg were let go. In the late 1993 Helloween found itself from a very difficult situation. There was no singer, no drummer, and no record contract (EMI released the band from its agreement because of the disappointing sales numbers of PINK BUBBLES GO APE and CHAMELEON).
Helloween returned in 1994 with a renewed line up which included vocalist Andi Deris (Pink Cream 69) and drummer Uli Kusch. They also had a new record deal with Castle Communications and as a result MASTER OF THE RINGS was released later on that year. The new incarnation of the band proved to be very successful and the following albums TIME OF THE OATH, BETTER THAN RAW and THE DARK RIDE did all great both commercially and critically. But still, more changes followed when Grapow and Kusch were released from their duties in 2002. New guitarist Sascha Gerstner stepped and made his first Helloween album appearance on RABBIT DON’T COME EASY in 2003. After having several drummer candidates in the early 2000’s, it was Motörhead’s Mikkey Dee who played on the RABBIT album, the band finally found a permanent player when former Rawhead Rexx drummer Dani Loble joined in 2005. The current lineup has so far released three studio albums: KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS pt.III – THE LEGACY, GAMBLING WITH THE DEVIL, their latest opus SEVEN SINNERS, one live album KEEPER OF THE LEVEN KEYS – THE LEGACY WORLD TOUR 2005-2006 and the Anniversary album UNARMED – THE BEST OF 25’TH ANNIVERSARY. It seems that the band, despite all those changes and troubles in the past, is now enjoying this time of their lives and there’s no end in sight. Helloween started their latest world tour to support SEVEN SINNERS and in November and in the middle December 2010 they came to Finland to play two sold out shows. In Helsinki we had chance to sit down with Mr. Grosskopf and discuss the new tour, past changes, and various other topics… Read more!!
LIVE REVIEW AND PICTURES BY ARTO LEHTINEN AND MARKO SYRJALA
German power metal pioneers Helloween have been a regular visitor in Finland since 1987 when the band made its virgin visit in Hameenlinna’s legendary Giants of Rock festival with Dio among other acts. Since then band has faced many up and down hills in its career. The band has gone through many changes including a number of lineup changes and they have had problems with record companies but they have survived and, in fact, during the past few years Helloween’s success has increased tremendously. In 2008 Helloween played two gigs with their colleagues Gamma Ray on the HELLISH ROCK tour and venues were entirely packed. Obviously, due to the highly successful package tour, Helloween have now asked Finnish power metallers Stratovarius to take part in their tour. Doing this tour, without having the new album released, was quite an interesting choice from Stratovarius. However a package consisting of two leading power metal names on the bill turned out to be another great success and the two Finland shows were quickly sold out again.
Frontiers Records is pleased to announce the digital only release of the single track “Silence” from the much anticipated album featuring the collaboration between singers Amanda Somerville and Michael Kiske on August 20th 2010.
“Silence” was written by the Primal Fear team featuring bassist / producer Mat Sinner and guitarist Magnus Karlsson. The song explores a different, more atmospheric and melodic direction for the two writers. According to Kiske “The video shoot was a long day from 6 AM to midnight, but since everyone was so nice and easy going, it was a very pleasant experience. Especially Amanda and Sander Gommans are such fine people and made it an extraordinary journey. I do like the song ‘Silence’ a lot, nice drama and good melodies”.
The videoclip of “Silence” can be watched on youtube now:
“Silence” video, along with the other clip “If I Had A Wish” and a making of documentary will be available on bonus DVD which will come together with the full album to be released in Europe on September 24th and USA on October 12th 2010 on Frontiers Records.
One of the greatest voices in metal, Michael Kiske, is finally back in business. Best known as a former Helloween singer from the band’s golden era, the KEEPER OF THE KEYS, is now returning with his brand new band UNISONIC. Although it’s been seventeen years since Michael last performed onstage his name is still well known in today’s metal/rock world. Even though he has not performed Kiske has kept himself busy over the last 17 years. He has released four solo albums and been involved with several different projects including: Tobias Sammat’s Avantasia –albums, Revolution Reneissance with Timo Tolkki, Supared and recently he’s been working with the Place Vendome –project which in a way was in a key role for Michael’s decision to return. The Place Vendome line up also include current Unisonic members: bassist Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) and drummer Kosta Zafiriou (Pink Cream 69). The Unisonic line-up is completed with former Krokus and Asia guitarist Mandy Mayer. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael at the Swedenrock festival and here is what Michael had to say about his current activities, solo career, Helloween days, Iron Maiden and various other topics…. ENJOY !!
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND PICTURES BY PATRICK CLEMENT
After 17 years, former HELLOWEEN singer Michael Kiske has returned to the stage with UNISONIC – the band also featuring Dennis Ward (bass) and Kosta Zafiriou (drums) of Germany’s PINK CREAM 69 and Swiss guitarist Mandy Meyer (ASIA, GOTTHARD, KROKUS) – performing select dates throughout Europe and Russia.
Kiske checks in from the road:
“Having done my first live shows after almost 17 years I’d like to say that I was really thrilled about still having many friends out there after such a long time. Some people even came from Russia just for our freaking warm up shows, another guy came from Turkey! That’s unbelievable. I am deeply honoured and moved by this and don’t take any of it for granted. My voice was not half way where I want it to be in terms of condition for live situations, this always needs some time, especially after so many years, but on most songs I did well and the audience was great. It was very important for me to do this and to have new face to face contact with you people again after isolating myself for a long time. In Sweden it was extremely cool to see how welcome Unisonic was and how many autographs we had to give afterwards. And it was not only Keeper or Place Vendome CDs I had to sign; every second CD seemed to be one of my solo CDs. I didn’t expect that.
I have been quite harsh on the metal-scene over some time and was pretty pissed about it, because I can’t deal with certain things in it, and that might have made me be a bit unfair occasionally, but that wasn’t for very long. And meeting many of you fans now again has helped me to adjust even more now. I don’t hate all metal, I just hate morally wrong ideologies which are circulating within the metal-scene and I don’t accept any sort of art-slavery. But I still like rock music, yes, even some of my favourite metal-records of my youth, because most of them are simply great rock records. In many ways the music wasn’t really the problem. My problem was, is and will always be the satanic sickness that is so common in the scene. I have NO understanding for inhumanity and heartlessness glorifying people and fascistic mentalities. I believe in good-hearted humans, love and understanding, and that free and honest music is the only law for a healthy and true music-culture. What I have criticized about the metal-scene was and is very just, but to each its own of course. I will always speak my mind. My spiritual, moral and artistic convictions haven’t changed a bit, but I am a lot more relaxed now and if I went too far sometimes in the past, I am sorry, I don’t want to be unfair at all. Not all metal fans are ignorant or Satanists, I never really thought that anyway. I have actually met only cool, good-hearted and intelligent metal and rock-fans on this very short ‘tour’. Some even seem to understand my way of thinking, when we talked. They were much more open minded and friendly than I thought, and if that would be representative for the majority, I’d be very happy. I wanted to get these words out to you guys while all is still fresh.”
Jävlä Swedenrock, här kommer vi igen. The annual roadtrip to Swedenrock by the Finnish Metalâ€‘Rules.Com team is already the tenth time in a row. The 2010 lineâ€‘up presented a wide range of metal and hard rock. Therefore, over 70 bands offered nothing but an utter blast and a helluv an experience for the attendees to enjoy metal and rock. Swedenrock has been successful during the past ten years as the festival has always been sold out. This year wasn’t any exception as the fest was sold out despite the lousy economomic situation worldwide. As mentioned in the first sentence, this is the tenth time in a row when Sweden Rock has been featured on Metalâ€‘Rules.com, so it is quite logical for us to give a real inâ€‘depth article of several bands performing at Sweden Rock. The weather wasn’t ideal compared to previous years. It either rained or was windy with a little sunshine. But we were there for bands, not for having some beach party. We are not able to cover every bloody band, but hopefully you will have a pleasant reading experience… Enjoy or die !!!
The 10th of December 2007 Tullikamari, Tampere The 11th of December 2007 The Cable Factory, Helsinki FINLAND
Review and pictures by Arto Lehtinen and Marko SyrjÃ¤lÃ¤
Both Helloween and Gamma Ray are without any doubts the leading names of the Power Metal genre in Europe and even worldwide. Helloween can be easily labelled as forefathers of modern melodic power metal as it has evolved within three decades. The bandâ€™s classic opuses KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS Pt I and Pt II have left immortal marks on the history of Heavy Metal, having influenced several musicians to create melodic powerful hymns of their own. Kai Hansen was one of the originators in Helloween and behind the creation process of these two albums. But Hansenâ€™s own band, Gamma Ray, has as well conquered the heavy metal universe on their own mission. Thousands of metal fans arrived at the Cable Factory and Tullikamari shows in order to witness a special gig by these German metal veterans. Even though the event was historical in many ways, neither of the shows were completely sold out and that was little surprising.