【face-to-face / interview】HELLOWEEN

To celebrate the brand new release of German power metal band HELLOWEEN, singer Andi Deris granted us an interview in Concorde Lafayette hotel. Titled “7 Sinners”, this thirteenth studio-album will be out on October, 3st. A video clip for “Are You Metal ?” was released a few days ago. Its visuals draw from the Saw movie franchise and play on clichés of the metal genre. The whole album is up on Myspace.

Helloween

The new album « 7 Sinners » is set for a release in October. It’s one of the fastest and darkest albums of the band so far. How did you come-up with the idea of getting heavier sounds ?
Andi : There was no real conscious about ideas for the new album. I think the real guilty circumstances were the previous albums like The « Unarmed ». It was an acoustic kind of classical arranged album with no distorted guitars nor amplifiers. And at the end of the production, we felt like drug addicts who need back their drugs. I think it came quite naturally to do a heavier album after this acoustic one. We ran back to our studio, cranking-up and we finally enjoyed metal again. This is where we started in the first place, it was for that shit not for acoustic albums, you know. Everyboby collected ideas that were faster, harder and a bit crazier. I have to admit that an acoustic album like « the Unarmed » was something healthy for the band though. But, this new album is another one of the heavy ones. We wanted it to be as heavy and fast and brutal as possible. After, the sugar-coated stuff we did last time, as fun as it was, we had to bring out the distorted guitars again. The last album completely opened up new fields of experience that are also beneficial for a heavy metal album.

The title of the album obviously alludes to the seven deadly sins. Why do you talk about « sinners » and not « sins » ? Does each member of the band epitomizes a sin in particular ?
Andi : After the acoustic album, we wanted something magical and mystical again, something like the old HELLOWEEN. And since we knew that we wanted to cause quite a stir with the album., we had to come up with something adequate. Along came Weiki with his computer which had a sevenfolded star on the screen. We thought that was really cool. It looks evil but in fact it isn’t. I kinda included it in my demo files for iTunes, then I showed them. All of us are key-keepers, since we have seven keys, it closes the circle so to speak. Plus, there is a mythology behind it combined with a sevenfolded star that the devil would have sent out seven sinners onto the world, onto the earth in order to do evil in his name. There would only be the sevenfolded star to beat and fight them. So I think it’s a very nice myth and all the more so since it is spread all over the globe which is fascinating because it must be 3 or 4 thousand years old, it’s probably older than the old testament of the Bible. Still, you find it not only in Christianity, you can find it in every religion, it’s very interesting. History has always denied the connection bewteen the continents. I, personally, think it is very wrong.

But why this title for this album exactly ?
Andi : Well, Weiki made me listen to his first demos and he played it on his iPhone. iPhones have these little nice screen images and when you listen to songs, there is always the artwork appearing on this little screen. Weiki thought that it was very boring just to have the iTunes artwork, it looks like shit, so he downloaded something he liked on the Internet. The first thing he did like was the sevenfolded star, he did not know why. He thought that was a nice image, he downloaded it into his iTunes at work. And there you go. I started to think of what it could represent. To me, it’s like Star Wars, it’s a force, the positive one. There is nothing more. We googled it and we found out it was connected to the seven sinners. It’s the weapon against the seven sinners. After an acoustic album, we needed definitely something that shows the people without any question that this is a metal album. I may not have expressed myself clearly.

You wanted a good combination that goes straight to the point.
Andi : There you go ! Yeah exactly. It’s metal you know. I love it. I’m a metal fan. As a metal fan, I think the other metal fans are going to love it too. There’s a stupid idea from Sasha who said « we’re five people, we’re five sinners so we take the pumpkin and we take the keeper. And there you go, we are seven sinners. Let’s go for it » (laughs).

Which sin do you identify yourself with and why ?
Andi : Lust (laughs). I drink too much, I smoke too much. That is probably everybody’s main sin. Lust in every way, not only sexually : cigarettes, alcohol, eating and so forth. But, I don’t really look at lust as being a sin. Lust, for me, is enjoying life. However, if you enjoy life to the point of hurting yourself or someone else then it becomes a sin. I don’t see myself as a big sinner. I don’t hurt anybody. As long as I have my 3 glasses of whiskey, my cigarettes and sometimes wild sex in bed, everything is fine. Lust is what makes us as human-beings. If you over-do it then it becomes a sin.

I see. What inspires your lyrics ?
Andi : Life and wold tours. There is always a lot of stories when you are on tour. When you travel around the world, there are so many things that are completely away from our thinking and education. Me being educated in probably the most boring European way, the world has a lot of surprises which I don’t explicitly write about but there are here (shows the back of his head). When it comes to writing new songs, you realize that they are still here so when you have your guitar in hand while resting in your living room at home, those stories affect you. They even become important in your life to the point that you need to bring them down on paper.

How do you usually write ? How do you start writing a new song ?
Andi : It depends. Sometimes I just type a headline sentence, like : “the smile of the sun was stolen, someone has taken away the heart of the day”. I had this written down, there was no melody yet. It was pretty much like a rime game. I like the story behind it, I like what it says : the smile of the sun can be whatever you want it to be. It could be you because I love you, I love you, I love you (smiles) and somebody takes you away. Then the smile of the sun, my smile of the sun, you, has been taken away and no longer can it exist. It could be my guitar. Don’t take away my guitar (laughs) ! Everybody has a ‘smile of the sun’. As for “Where The Sinners Go”, I had the riff first (sings), I loved it and I started writing the lyrics six or seven months after the riff was written. Sometimes I yell like a maniac on my answering machine when there’s nothing to record. When I’m walking down the street and suddenly I have an idea, I call myself and yell on my answering machine (laughs). Everybody would think that I’m crazy and out of my mind (starts screaming) and everybody would be like “aww ohh”. So you know, I don’t have any routine in the process of writing, everything is possible. Every song has its own story. Yet it is true, there are some formulas which always make you work faster but there are no formulas for ideas or for what comes first.

Is there any moment where you have no inspiration ?
Andi : Yes absolutely.

What do you do to get throught it ?
Andi : Nothing.

Nothing, really ?
Andi : I just relax and drink more whiskey. If it lasts one or two days, it’s fine. The lack of inspiration only becomes a problem when it lasts a week or longer. This is when I start to worry, schedule-wise. It may sound stupid but sometimes I just need to buy a ticket, fly to Thailand or to The Seychelles, just me and my guitar, and suddenly it works. Sometimes you just need different surroundings, another break, another kick. Home is great but it can paralyze you. When you’re out of the cage, ouf of your shell, it becomes easier. When you fly back home, then you’re in the process and it works again.

The song “Long live the King” is a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, right ?
Andi : And JUDAS PRIEST, yes. This song was meant for a solo project. All the drums were recorded. Then this drummer and the wife of my guitarist fucked together so I had to trash all the drums parts away. I had to start all over again from zero. I wrote this song at the time when Ronnie had cancer and I thought “it is now or never”, I had to write a song for him. Personally I would feel honored to have a song that deals with me positively. For some reasons, everything was delayed so he won’t ever get the chance to know about it. He’s dead now. But I wanted to have a tribute for him that lasts forever. I didn’t want to do it earlier because of all the fucking vultures doing it for the money. So yeah, this is my little thank you for my two heroes, DIO and JUDAS PRIEST. Next time, I will definitely write a song for KISS. This is something I’ve always wanted to do.

Do you think the guys from JUDAS PRIEST are going to listen to the song ?
Andi : Yes definitely ! We played a lot of festivals together so I think they will be interested in listening to this song and I wish they’ll have a great smile upon their faces while they do. There is a little riff in it that reminds me of “Breaking the Law”. Nevertheless, I think it’s much more important for those who love HELLOWEEN to listen to this song than DIO or JUDAS PRIEST because it’s interesting for them, the fans, to know where we come from.

What about “You Stupid Mankind” ?
Andi : This is my favorite song ! The title says a lot (laughs). The idea was born from the circumstances of how we treat ourselves and how we treat the world. Mankind, as being an animal, is probably the only one who shits and pisses on its ownness. For me and Sasha, who wrote the song, it makes mankind the most stupid animal on this planet. There’s no other one who would do that which is very sad. And it’s my favorite song because it’s fresh and new. I love experimentation. This songs is like a new combination of traditional Helloween and new metal stuff that nobody has ever heard from us before. There are a lot of effects with the guitars spread here and there that keep you out of breath.

The band has seen it all and lived through over two decades including 13 studio-albums, countless headliner tours around the globe, million records sold and line-up changes. What keeps you guys and other long-career-bands motivated to continue making music and touring together ?
Andi : (Long silence) I think the balance between work and fun. As long as it’s more fun than work, it keeps you going. The day it becomes less fun and more work, we’ll stop. When you look at the history of the band, we have always tried to break out. As soons as it becomes too much routine or boring we always do something surprising and completely stupid (laughs), out of the genre which is defenitely on purpose because rather than sticking to the same old equation and sink deeper and deeper, we prefer it to be a self-filling process. You have to realize it’s now or never, you have to push you out of the math before it’s too late. So rather than doing something completely irreversible, let the people shit on you and cry like babies “aww we don’t understand what have you done here and there”. Fuck it ! It was fun for us so eat it ! We don’t force you to buy an album. We have to have fun here ! What do you prefer ? A metal band who’s actually lying onto your faces and lying to itself shiting on its own music to satisfy you ? Well that’s not us. That it is the American way. We’re not business men. We started out as kids who wanted to achieve their dreams. We’re still here and it’s because we’re still having fun. If you want to have fun, you have to change things here and then. Never listen to others, just do what you like. If the people follow, from time to time love what you do, it’s amazing ! Fortunately, we have enough albums that are considered as being classics, but in between you can find stupid shits. If they bitch about an album, they are so pleased when you come up with something great afterwards that this is always a big success. It’s kind of a Rock N Roll formula. Do what you feel like you wanna do, it cannot be wrong if it’s for yourself.

Nothing else matters ?
Andi : Yeah, definitely. Before it gets boring, I wanna do another stupid shit that nobody expects, probably a death metal punk album, so that people can bitch again (laughs).

What’s the main goal of Helloween ? What do you want peo­ple to take away from lis­ten­ing to your music ?
Andi : Energy. A positive energy. The feeling of standing up and really go for it like “yeah I can do it !” or “if you go on my way, I am going to fucking slap your face”. Unfortunately there are not many bands out there that impulse you this positive energy. It’s so much easier to write and sing about the bad and sorrow, suicide and evil things. It can be fun and genuine once in a while because life is that way too but not for an entire album. I really want the people to straighten when they listen to my words and music. I wanna have a positive energy and influence on people.

What do you think has been the biggest challenge or greatest achievement of the band so far ?
Andi : The comeback of the year 94 because the whole world was bitching ! At the time, people were saying that the band was dead, that we were doing a horrible tour with only a few fans in the crowd. When I joined the band, people thought I was crazy because my band was pretty successful. I tried to make them understand that I cannot be happy in a band, even if it is successful, that doesn’t like my songs anymore. Nobody seemed to understand that success doesn’t make me happy. When I made the guys from HELLOWEEN listen to these same songs, they simply loved them. I saw it in their eyes and eyes can’t lie. I know I cannot actually fill my fridge with that but that’s another story. I want to have a positive impact on people, that’s the most important thing to me. HELLOWEEN accepted my words, my music, my feelings, the expression of myself. What else would I want ? I don’t want anything else so fuck them ! 94 really was a turning point in my life.

You will be touring with STRATOVARIOUS in November. Who decided to team up with them ?
Andi : I have no idea. There were some suggestions on the table, STRATOVARIOUS and HELLOWEEN seemed to be a perfect package, a good team up. I don’t know the guys, some say they are difficult, some say they are cool. Their music is nice but considering the fact that we have to tour with them for a year, I do hope they are nice. Otherwise, it will be… not so nice (laughs). Anyway, it’s cool to have fresh blood around you because they have other stories to tell and talk. I will tell them my old stories that my boys are tired of listening to (laughs).

Is there any band you want to tour with ?
Andi : KISS ! It’s nearly impossible for the second top league like us to tour with the first rock stars league like them because they look for supporting acts that are willing to pay. We are too big to support them and not enough for the economic. As a fan, I think it’s sad.

Thanks Andi for this interview.
Andi : Thank you, that was fun. See you all at the show.

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