Heart of Steel: Interviews

Helloween's Andi Deris

Interview By EvilG
Transcription by Waspman

I'd like to start with the new album, it has a great title, RABBIT DON'T COME EASY. I was wondering, who came up with the title, and what was the meaning behind it?

First of all we looked for a stupid crazy title to show the people that this is definitely a positive album, that was the plan. It was an accident because; maybe you know what happened with the drummer, Mark Cross?

Yeah, he got sick and couldn't do the album.

Exactly. When this took place there was an old English saying about pulling rabbits out of a hat, which means doing something very easy. Markus was actually picking up that old saying and said "Well, this rabbit did not come out!" (laughs) Then when he translated it to Spanish he was crying with laughter because it comes out as "Pussy Doesn't Come Easy". (laughter)

So you know that was the title, RABBIT DON'T COME EASY, it doesn't mean anything but it is a sign of more craziness, positive shit.



The sound and the lyrics on the new album are more in the vein of BETTER THAN RAW than the previous album, THE DARK RIDE. I know that the Nuclear Blast website had something along the lines of "Helloween are showing more of their fun-loving side on the new album." Was this a deliberate move by the band after a more serious lyrical album?

As a matter of fact it was quite clear that even before THE DARK RIDE that we would like to have an experimental album and then go back to happy happy Helloween. It was clear from the beginning. But with Roland and Uli, they wanted to go on with THE DARK RIDE music. I mean, the decision was made before then that THE DARK RIDE would be what it was, and then we'd go back to where we belong. Because the chemistry went downhill, maybe that is a reason why you should never do a dark album! (laughs)



Looking back at THE DARK Ride, do you have any regrets about trying an album like that?

Not at all! I think for the time given, it was the right thing to do. The management was pushing hard for a serious dark album, because they really thought it was the right thing to do, and the band agreed. They said, "If you are all so confident about it, then try it". I have to admit that Weiki was the only one that was against it.



When you sit down to write music, do you make a conscious effort to make the songs sound a certain way, or is the outcome influenced by what you're feeling when you write a particular song?

It's always a matter of a mixture between the two. I don't know. For me, I love playing guitar and sitting down and just doodling around is probably my biggest hobby and that's where ideas come from. I pick out the bits and pieces that I like the most. There's no plan behind it really. I strongly believe that music is not done in the brain but in the heart and stomach. Its coming or it's not.



As far as drummers go, Mark played on two tracks, Stefan played on the B-sides, and Mikkey Dee played on the rest of the album. How much influence did Mikkey have on his parts or were his parts already laid out for him when he came to the studio?

Mikkey, he had 99% of his stuff laid out from the beginning, but we'd never stop a guy like Mikkey Dee if he comes up with his own ideas. We were totally open because he's got fabulous ideas. From the first song on, which was "Just a Little Sign", he showed so much fun in his playing that he came up with too many good ideas! You definitely try to keep them all in the song, as long as they don't destroy everything. Speaking for Mikkey, this guy has ideas all over the place. You could just record an album of his drumming, you don't need guitars! (laughter)


So why did you pick, or how did you hook up with Mikkey? Besides the fact that he is a god on the drums.

It was a matter of politics. We strongly believed that Mark would recover and play on at least half of the album. We had to find someone who was politically correct. Mikkey is a long-time friend of the band anyway. Motörhead and Helloween have met each other occasionally at shows and festivals. It was clear that Mikkey would be understood. Nobody would come up with the idea that the Motörhead drummer was now changing to Helloween. Second of all, for Mark, it would be a no competition guy because it's Mikkey Dee. There's no question. He's untouchable. Nobody would come up and compare Mark to Mikkey. Its two worlds. For Mark it would have been easy to go on with Helloween without being compared to Mikkey Dee because nobody would come up with the idea that Mikkey should join Helloween. That was the main concern. Third of all, we all knew that Mikkey comes from a band called King Diamond before Motörhead, which is very speedy here and there so we were all confident that he could do the job. Mikkey wasn't! (laughs) I remember him sitting behind the drums for the first song, "Just a Little Sign", 150 beats per minute and he was complaining, "I don't know if I can do it, ah shit!" (laughs) Then he started to play and in the middle of the song he stopped, threw away the drumsticks and yelled, "I can still do it!!!" (laughs) The whole album went like this; he was just fascinated with himself! (laughter)


Another new member of Helloween is guitarist Sascha. I was wondering, how did you hook up with him? Were you friends from before?

No, not at all. Charlie, our producer, he recorded two albums with Freedom Call where Sascha was guitarist. When it came to the guitarist question he felt that this guy would be up to it. So we invited him to come out to the island to hack out for two weeks and watch him play guitar. Everything fit perfectly so we knew he was right.



For a new member to a band, Sascha has quite a bit of input in terms of songwriting credits. Was anybody concerned that he would change the Helloween sound? Or did you hear his ideas and have your concerns quickly laid to rest?

No, this was figured out quickly in the two weeks that he was here. We sat down and played guitar and tried to compose together at the beginning. I was trying to figure out that what this guy was about. From the first day it was clear that this guy was more than competitive. He never made a mistake or anything. He was a Helloween fan and grew up with it, that kind of guitar thing anyway. He's only 26 years old.

So he's the young guy in the band.

He's the baby! (laughs)

Do you hear much of a difference in what type of music he listens to or brings to the band compared to you guys?

No, not really. The only thing is that he grew up with all of the roots bands, metal roots. Which is astonishing because he's only 26. I think he has to be educated by my son what the new stuff is! (laughs) My son is 11 now and he taught him what a Linkin Park is. (laughs)

He listens to Linkin Park?

My son does, yeah. I have to listen to them too! I can't avoid it! (laughs)


I don't know. Some of it is really good. I always have to take away the rapping. As soon as I do, it's astonishingly great music. (laughter)



You were credited with I believe 4 songs on the new album, "Just a Little Sign", "Don't Stop Being Crazy", "Never be a Star", and "Back Against the Wall". When you're writing a song, do you write a lot on your guitar first? Do you ever come up with a vocal melody and then try to work that into a guitar part?

Yes, on "Don't Stop Being Crazy" and "Back Against the Wall". "Crazy" was actually a song that I wanted to dedicate to my little lady here, because she is crazy! (laughs) That's why I love her. "Back Against the Wall" came from that line that I like "Back against the wall, dare I to move I've got to fall". It could be out of the cliché, which it is, but out of that cliché one could write about something not cliché. You could describe a lot of situations in your life with the phrase "back against the wall".

What were you describing?

The situation I've very often witnessed where, whatever I do, it always appears wrong. In friendships, in school, even in the band, you have situations where whatever you do makes things worse. It's not the right time to say or do anything. That's what I felt like.



The song "Just a Little Sign" is a great opener, and a funny song as well with some humorous lines. The line that I was listening to today was something about "something's growing in my pants" or something. (laughs)

(laughs) Isn't that the situation though! At least the male part anyway. You go out and you just want to have a beer and listen to some rock music or something, and it turns out totally different. It's about that lady, and speaking for myself and millions of guys out that, not having the guts to go and speak with her. I've been in that exact situation myself. (laughs)

You also did the single for "Just a Little Sign" which included a cover of the classic Queen song, "Sheer Heart Attack". What was the reason for recording that particular song?

Nothing in particular. It was just one song that I mentioned and we wrote it down and why not? It's something of a little tradition. This should be the song for us. We like doing that and giving the guys out there something extra, and maybe even a song they don't know. Speaking of "Sheer Heart Attack", I really think that a lot of the new bands would not even know that this song was done by Queen.

You also did a second song…

That song we actually did because of Stefan, or drummer.

How did you hook up with Stefan anyway?

Because of "Fast as a Shark". Actually we all felt very stupid when Weiki said he would like to record that song, suddenly everybody was mentally building a bridge to Stefan and we looked at each other like, "Why didn't we ask him? Why didn't we get him from beginning on?" Markus gave him a call and asked him if he'd like to record with us, and Stefan said yes. He was in Hamburg anyway and that's where Mark was recording his drums. Mark wasn't getting any better so he gave us a call here on the island and said, "You should definitely get to know that guy because he's the right guy if you ask me."



So related to lineup questions, I don't know a lot of what happened with Roland and Uli who went on to Masterplan. I don't expect you to get into it too much, but if you can just give me a general overview of what happened, and what went down.

It was mainly the chemistry, it didn't work out anymore. Before THE DARK RIDE it was clear that it would be an experimental album and then back to being Happy Helloween. That's what we are famous for. For Roland and Uli this was not so clear. After THE DARK RIDE, they strongly believed it would be great to go on like that, but the rest of the band didn't agree, so the whole chemistry went down to hell. I don't know who has the guilt, partly us, partly them, two sides of the coin as they say. I wouldn't say it's their responsibility, but it's very clear that at the end of the day you have to change something if the chemistry isn't there. If you feel bad when you see people, it's probably the right thing to do to change things.


Do you remain on any good terms or stay in contact with those guys?

Occasionally we have contact, but I wouldn't say that this is a positive contact.



Onto a couple of questions related to touring, I was wondering if the band is ever planning to come back to North America?

Yes, we hope to! (laughs) For the second time in my being here in the band I have the pleasure to play the U.S. and North America for at least six shows!

And when will that be?

That should be around the beginning of October.

O.K.! I haven't read any official announcement yet.

There aren't any official announcements yet, but I'm very confident that we'll get to play at least those six dates. We'll be playing South American at the beginning of September and we'll work our way through Middle America and we've got at least 6 cities in North America and two shows in Canada.



Did the people at the ProgPower festival contact you guys to play there? I know that they are pretty famous for getting European bands to come and play who don't normally get to tour over here.

No, this is actually all in faith on promoters. They are actually offering enough money that we won't have to pay to play. If we break even, we'll play, but if we have to pay, then we won't. Then again, to be totally honest with you, I wouldn't know why I should lie...North America wasn't very important for us. It was definitely not the country that kept us alive.

For sure. There are a lot of bands like that.

Yeah, I mean it's tough to survive. If you go and tour and only make a little money here and a little money there, at the end of the day you can't survive. Everybody should know that we are not millionaires. We are living good lives, but we are still not millionaires.



So where is the biggest market for Helloween's music? Is it Germany?

No. It's definitely hard-won in Germany, or you could say everything in Europe except for the U.K.! (laughs) The U.K. has never liked us, don't ask me why. Well, maybe I know why, we're fuckin' Krauts! (laughs) Definitely Asia and South America is doing great, but as we all know the pirating thing hurts. You actually play three sold out nights in Sao Paulo in front of 12,000 people, but you'd only sell about 27 albums. (laughs)

How come they all can't buy an album, right?

That's OK actually. You're getting your thank-you from the fans by being able to play, so you make your money there.



Are you planning on doing another solo album anytime soon?

Well, not under Andi. I definitely would like to look into a future project with Mikkey, 'cause that guy is an energy guy. I'd love to have him on my pop-rock, hard rock ideas. I think he'd be great because if you've got a guy like him on a hard rock idea, you end up with a great picture. I definitely would like him to play on it, but not a solo album.

Have any plans been laid down for that?

I think Mikkey flies in at the end of June and we'll definitely nail down some tracks. We'll just take it as a fun thing to do.

Will your other solo albums get re-released anytime in the near future?

I really don't know. You mean in U.S.?


I don't think so. That's too specific. Obviously it would have been released in North America when Helloween was more successful there. You can bet that the record companies would have released it then. So far it's only been released where Helloween or Pink Cream 69, my former band, have had success going on. I think that's pretty much the same that I would do if I were in a record company - wait for the success! (laughs)



If you don't mind my asking, how did you make the jump from Pink Cream 69 to Helloween?

Michael Weikath, I knew him 8 years before I joined the band. I was hanging out with him in Hamburg when Pink Cream 69 was recording there, which was about half of the year anyway. I hung out with him almost everyday. His girlfriend and my girlfriend were friends; we had a really great time. Then suddenly in my band it wasn't amiable anymore, everything went down to hell and Weiki had problems with Michael, his former singer. He had asked me already actually, before the PINK BUBBLES GO APE album, but I said no because I wanted to stick to my former band. Then, after the CHAMELEON album he asked me again, and this time I said yes. It was very simple; changing to Helloween gave me at least one good friend in the band, where I didn't have any left in my former one. Maybe I'm the biggest asshole around, I don't know! (laughs) So far, I have to say with Weiki it still works.

You don't have any contact with the other members of Pink Cream 69 anymore?

Oh yeah. Time heals all wounds (laughs).



A lot of people, when asked about Helloween, always refer back to the two KEEPER albums as the great Helloween albums. Do you ever feel like you are still living in the shadow of the former band, or singer, Michael Kiske?

Yeah, whenever I have to sing those songs! (laughs) No, not really. I mean, you always have to see that we had a great comeback with the MASTER OF THE RINGS album. When I came into the band I brought in 5 - 600,000 Pink Cream fans from all over the world. Suddenly Helloween sold more albums than the KEEPER albums ever did. You've got to keep that in mind. For me it was, how shall I say, it was never a question of standing in the shadow of the former singer. For me it was more of a question of how to keep the band going. To keep the metal torch burning and to make Helloween sound like it should because it didn't sound like it anymore. Nobody bought CHAMELEON, nobody liked CHAMELEON, and Helloween, everybody said, was dead. There was no shadow anymore because the band had gone to hell anyway. I had to try to get this band up again which Weiki and I kind of achieved. Suddenly when we went to the studio for four or five weeks, the KEEPER albums and the Pink Cream 69 albums went into the trough again. It was unbelievable. A lot of people waited for the MASTER OF THE RINGS album.


I think you've definitely proven yourself, obviously, with Helloween, I was just wondering what your personal feelings on that were.

I have to tell you that there wasn't even the time for that. As a matter of fact, the job was to bring this band up again, with Weiki. I did not even ask whether I was the right singer or not. These were questions that everybody asked me later on. I told them that I didn't even have time to think about it.



So on to your studio in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, can you tell me a bit about the studio, what kind of facility it is? Do other bands record there? What goes on there I guess.

Well, it is an all digital studio, two Pro Tools systems. You could say it is a replica of Abbey Road in London. We used the same architects.

Did you help design it?

Yes, you had to. I was very important because it's not a big studio, it's about 140 square meters including kitchen and everything, so it's not big. You have to take care and make sure that everything is OK. You knew that when you finished the studio that you don't have much probability to change it. If the rooms don't sound as good as they should, you can't change it. I have to say, that they did a fabulous job!

Bands? Well, we have Rob Halford who did the mix for RESURRECTION here.

HammerFall has been there too I believe.

HammerFall, yes. We did Axel Rudi Pell, Rawhead Rex, a new band, very good band. We have Rage coming next week. We have something going on here.



What is your job at the studio? Are you just the owner or do you work in the studio with the bands?

Well now that Charlie won't come to the island, we don't have very much work here. I just rent the studio for a shitload of money even though there's not much room! (laughs) I am the owner of the studio and I have to take care that everything runs well technically. There's tons of little things in studios that you have to come up with all the client needs. When we had HammerFall we had to come up with a world digital receiver because the guys were into the World Soccer Championships. We received Swedish television, which is great! I enjoy it! I like the Dutch television too. Little things like that, you have to be there. If the producer had to do it, it would probably kill him.



How did the studio end up in Tenerife rather than say, Germany? (laughs)

Well first of all we had a strong urge to get out of Germany because the infamy was going to hell. Walking down the street and getting recognized, you enjoy it for the first few years, but after a while you don't enjoy it anymore because you would like to have your anonymity back. We looked around in the world, New Zealand, Hawaii, and then we came to know the Canary Islands. It gave us the reach to be within every major European city in five hours, as well as North America. It was the right place to be. I didn't plan to make a studio; it was more out of calculations. I talked myself into it for a solo record. You take the money to studio blah blah blah, and the money is gone. If you take the money and buy your own studio, then it is still there year after year. I was used to producing other bands in Germany, so why not produce myself? Then again I was also testing the Pro Tools and digital in Europe. I said OK, I'll buy a big system and produce myself.

Do you now live in Tenerife or how much time do you spend there?


You only visit Germany on tour now?

I haven't been in Germany in two years now! Oh, that's a lie. I was there three weeks ago in the office for a few days, but that doesn't count! (laughs)

What part of Tenerife are you on? Are you in the main city?

I'm in the middle of the main city. There are two metropoles, one is Santa Cruz, which is the real metropolis in the government of Four Island. Really beautiful.



You mentioned about being recognized on the streets in Germany, do you have that problem in Tenerife? Or I guess it's not a big scene for metal there?

Only in Santa Cruz. I wouldn't describe it as a problem really, just time consuming. (laughs) Some people are just "Hey how are you? Good to see you" and that's it but some you spend 10 minutes with autographs, especially in Germany. You see the same people all the time.

And they sell them on Ebay every time! (laughs)

That's true! No lies, that's true. Spaniards are a bit more…more aware of your privacy you could say.



Has Helloween ever played in Tenerife other than the studio?

No, no. We would never do that.

Any reason why you wouldn't want to?

Weiki is living 20 minutes away and we actually enjoy living here and not being recognized.

Sure, I can understand that. So have you ever here of a band in the '80s called Halloween?

Not musically, but I know the name.

I've always wondered if they've been confused for the real Helloween! (laughs)

I don't know. I would say that if I was in a band called Halloween with an "a", I would probably learned that there was a band from Germany spelling it with an "e"! (laughs) I would definitely look for another name.

I remember seeing their video on TV in the 80s and it was about the same time that the video for "I Want Out" was playing, it was a little confusing. (laughs)

Sounds like! I don't know, are they still around?

I don't know, if they are I haven't heard anything about them  (laughs).

Oh well. I never listened to them; I couldn't even say if they are good or bad.



That's all the questions I had for you, is there anything else you'd like to add?

I'm really looking forward to playing in North America, the States and Canada, where we've got two major dates.

I assume that you're referring to Montreal and Toronto?

I would think so yeah.

The bigger cities....

I honestly am proud of that. I've never played Canada, not even with Pink Cream 69. A typical German loves Canada because he knows it from TV! (laughs) If you ask them, every German will say "Canada! Nature! Big Seas! Wow! Grizzlies!" (laughter)

You won't see them in the city though.

I'm sure you won't. Then again you guys have a beautiful country, you should always be aware of that. In Germany you don't anymore.

The wilderness is entirely populated by humans now.

Yes, like the evil mushroom, spreading and you can't stop him! (laughs)



Do you have any idea what bands will be coming with you when you play over here?

No freaking idea! (laughs) I couldn't tell you.

What about for the rest of the tour? Do you know who will be with you?

We've had some talks but definitely nothing is confirmed yet. I don't know, it was already very hard when we had Bruce Dickinson. I don't think that would work out for him, a support program. Or Rob Halford.

He's doing the big tour now, The Metal Gods.

There's no room for speculation. For Canada, for me it's a closed book. I don't know what to expect there. The rest of the world is an open book. We can tell who would be good for support, but for the American continent, it could be difficult to come up with a support band. Every support band could be as successful as we are! (laughs) I'll have to wait. Weiki says, "You will see! Canada, we have a lot of great friends there", but I don't know. The last time they played over here was 12 years ago, with the exception being New York for one show 5 years ago. I could not tell you that the support band will be the same on both continents. Maybe they will be as successful as we are in your country, you never know.

Meaning maybe you'll have to be the support band! (laughs)

(laughs) You never know!

Would you mind doing something like that?

There's nothing shameful being a support band.



I have one other question, your HIGH LIVE album recently came out on DVD, I was wondering, are there any plans for you guys to record a new concert and put it out on DVD?

Well, with two new band members I think that should definitely be something that we look into. As a matter of fact, I'm preparing some technical solutions which will make it affordable to record the world tour.

The whole tour?!?

Or maybe wherever the best shows are. You're looking forward to the best ones. It's unbelievable what they charge for that equipment though. I do think that we'll be able to record as much of the tour as possible.

Would you be able to record as much video, or are you mainly referring to audio?

Audio is always the most important thing because video you can always edit later on, that's not the big problem. Audio, for me, is more of a problem to have a proper recording. If we do a light recording and then go into the studio and overdub the whole shit, then you really only need to record one show. I know that nobody would do that here. For HIGH LIVE, there were a lot of people who compared it to other live albums done 80 or 90% done in the studio. I'm quite aware that HIGH LIVE is not as good as the studio albums. It's still a matter of identity of the band without that overdub shit. We want to give the fans a great live album which is 100% live. Then you get into the question of whether to use playback or play live on TV. I tell bands that they'd rather take a playback. You cannot sound as good as all these suckers who need playback. You lose, big time. You know what I mean? It is a very unfair thing.

Some people probably compare what they see on video to the studio album, and if it sounded like it they'd be upset. A critical listener like myself, you can tell if the band is live or not. I'd prefer to hear it with mistakes and off-key and all that because you know it's the real band.

Are you speaking for a majority?

Me? Probably not. I'm not a typical listener maybe.

See, there we go again. It's a tricky thing. At the end of the day they compare you with full playback bands without realizing that these guys weren't playing live.

Do you think something like that is as much of an issue for a metal band? I don't know of any metal bands that would be involved in that type of thing rather than say a pop or dance band!?

Well we sometimes have to play Top of the Pops you know? Then you're actually asking yourself, "Do you play live again? Are you willing to be compared to the band before you or after you? Are you prepared to be named not as good because you played live and they didn't"? It's a hard thing and I don't like the idea.

Here in Canada we don't have any shows like Top of the Pops. We have a music station similar to MTV called MuchMusic where they sometimes bring in bands to play live on a show called Intimate and Interactive where they have a studio audience that can ask questions in between songs and things like that. The bands on there do play live, but we don't get Top of the Pops here.

In Europe every country has Top of the Pops.

Luckily we don't have it! (laughs)

It's not bad, I have to say. Occasionally some great bands will pop up, Bowie or whatever.

Do they give opportunity for heavier bands?

They have to! If we hit the charts, then they have to let us play! (laughs) Actually, it looks like in about two or three weeks we'll be playing Top of the Pops for "Just a Little Sign". You get a metal band on Top of the Pops. I think it's funny! (laughs)


I guess the main thing is that the music is being heard, whether it's live or from the CD. You're at least on TV and being seen by a lot more people.

We can show a lot of people who think that Helloween don't exist anymore that we do exist. Never forget that this band has been around for 18 years! There are quite a lot of people who are in a time consuming job or whatever and can't find out that they're old favorite bands are still around? How would you find out without TV? Radio? Not really with our music.

I haven't listened to the radio in years! (laughs) I don't turn it on ever.

European radio is…improbable for metal. They might take a request from someone who had heart problems or something but that's it (laughs). We have some channels that have a rock album or whatever, but they have to play what they think is appropriate for their programming; it doesn't fit into their corporate identity. Even Linkin Park! They have a #1 album here in Germany, and I've never heard them on the radio!



OK, well I think I've kept you long enough, so thank you for your time, and hopefully we'll talk again soon!

Thanks to you!

Band Website: www.helloween.org

Picture credits:
Thanks to Nuclear Blast for all the promo pictures.