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Sascha Gerstner is a common-sense man: “there are just too many heavy metal bands, everybody thinks he is a guitar player, everybody thinks he is a producer, everybody thinks he is a rock star.” That’s the truth and we needed someone to tell it. Not a shady -quote unquote- journalist like me, no, but a good guy who knows what he talks about. And, honestly,  Sascha Gerstner- Helloween’s current guitar player- one of the fathers of the genre who influenced so many  (maybe too?) bands, is the right man for the job!

Sascha is actually more than realistic whether it be about the profusion of heavy/ speed metal bands – which does more harm than good to this style of music- or the so-called open-mindedness of the heavy metalheads. Here comes a musician who presents a real out of step speech with what his fellow musicians usually say. This is the proof that it was a judicious choice to take Sascha as a successor to Roland Grapow in 2001, since Helloween is also an out of step band in the heavy/speed metal world.

By the way, in the following interview, Sascha is full of praise for the pumpkin’s current line up, according to him, Michael Weikath (guitar) and Andi Deris (singer) see it as “the most stable line-up they ever have”. Besides, he reminisces his early beginning with the band and the poor state in which he found it when he arrived.

A really interesting interview- thanks to its honesty-  which also reveals many details about the new album,  7 Sinners, and which comes back to the way Unarmed was welcomed, a project that grown to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the band and which saw the classics of the latter giving itself original re-interpretations to say the least.

“I don’t think that heavy metal fans are open-minded.

Radio Metal : Earlier, this year you have released Unarmed as a celebration of Helloween’s 25th anniversary. It is definitely an album that has to be taken with an open-mind. Consequently it ended up diving the fans’s opinion. Is it something you had expected?

Sascha Gerstner (guitar) : As a heavy metal musician I would say yes but on the other hand, we were hoping that people know that we tend to do experiments some times, that they are open minded enough to get the idea behind it. So it was not like saying “oh we are doing another studio record, that’s the way we want to make music”, that’s not the case. We were trying to explain that this is a kind of a project we wanted to do for a special thing, for the 25 years anniversary. We wanted to do something that no one else has done before and that’s what we did. I understand some people don’t get it, I totally understand. However, I didn’t understand since we were explaining what it was meant to be that they didn’t get it. We knew ourselves that we wanted to go back to the studio and doing another killer heavy metal studio album. We knew it and we hoped that the fans did know it as well but, they didn’t so. I think it is not a bad thing that it’s dividing the fans, I think it is a good thing actually.

Don’t you think that sometimes heavy metal fans call themselves open-minded just because they also listen to death metal? If one heavy metal band explores extra metal territories it gets usually and almost systematically, criticized.

I don’t think that heavy metal fans are open-minded. It doesn’t mean that they are dumb, that’s not what I’m saying. I think that heavy metal is a lifestyle and I understand if people are into this lifestyle very much, I totally understand that. The band Helloween doesn’t have only the typical heavy metal fans, we have some different people, coming from totally different kind of music. I don’t think heavy metal fans are open-minded but they don’t have to! If you are a heavy metal fan you are a heavy metal fan, you are not a pop fan. Personally as an artist, I am very open-minded. I always try to find things to give me an impact to express myself in a new way so I have a totally different thinking about that. But as a fan I understand totally if you don’t want to listen to pop music, if you want to live in a heavy metal lifestyle. That’s a good thing about heavy metal fans, that’s what I like about them, they keep together, they speak together. It is like a big family, and I would say it is the best feeling you have in a heavy metal concert or if you go to Wacken festival. You never see that anywhere else: it is amazing how fans speak together! So, I don’t think they have to be open-minded just to be open-minded.

The new album is coming out less than a year after the release of Unarmed. After the Unarmed experience, did the band somehow feel a kind of urge to go back to the big guitar sound and do metal records?

It doesn’t feel urged; it was more a natural thing. We were on stage in USA end up 2008 and since then we did not go on stage any more we went to the studio to record the anniversary album which was a great musical experience for us but it was also a lot of hard work, it was not metal fun at all! We didn’t have guitar amplifiers cranked to eleven playing metal riffs! So it came out naturally that we wanted to do a killer metal album next. It was not a kind of reaction to the Unarmed album. We could have done no Unarmed album and then would have done this record maybe as well. If you remember Gambling With The Devil, for example, it is a fast, hard and heavy metal album as well. That is what this line-up in Helloween does, that’s the music we do. The Unarmed album is just something we wanted to do, to do something different. We could have done a whole orchestra album but everybody does it, it is not a new thing! We could have done an acoustic album, with only acoustic guitars, but that’s not a new thing! We wanted to do something special, something nobody else would have done, that’s what we did.  In a studio album that’s the style we want to do with “Seven Sinners” or with “Gambling with the Devil”… that’s the kind of music we love, the kind of music we want to play, the kind of music we want to do in the future.

About the cover artwork of the new album when we see all these sharp and armful blades on the cover, is it a way to make a contrast with the name of the Unarmed album? To show that you are now armed again?

Yes, it was exactly to show that we are armed again. As I said before, some people didn’t get the idea of the Unarmed album, we realised we must make it clear, we have to get people a sign so they understand, without any word, that it is a heavy metal album. If we would have done any other artwork, people maybe would have thought “Aah that could be another Unarmed bullshit, we don’t want to listen to that. “ It is sad that people don’t get it sometimes but we wanted to make it clear with the artwork. When you look at the artwork, when you see it, it is heavy metal outside and it is going to be heavy metal inside.

(About “Are You Metal?”) “I was even imagining someone sitting on a table with all these typical clichés: having a skull on a table, guitars in the back, sitting like in a cartoon, with his long hair, thinking if he is metal. The whole heavy metal scene tend to not listening to anything else than metal even heavy metal fans don’t listen to gothic metal.

Both “Gambling With The Devil” and “Keeper Of The Seven Keys – The Legacy” came out around Halloween. The new album “7 Sinners” will be out around Halloween this year. Is it something that has been planned for marketing purposes or is it just pure coincidence?

We have a circle which is always the same circle: we are going on tour, then we are writing songs, then we are doing a new record and you don’t get all of that because it is always like the same time we’re going on tour. We are going on tour in fall, in the studio in summer so naturally our albums are released in fall and, of course, it is also a little joke. However, in my opinion, there no need for releasing the album on Halloween but it is obvious that it is a good day. We could have done it one day before or one day after, it doesn’t matter! Of course it is funny to release a Helloween album on Halloween, it makes sense but it is not a marketing thing. I don’t think that we sell any more records because we releasing the album on Halloween.

7 Sinners is Helloween’s thirteenth studio album, it contains thirteen tracks. So are you superstitious?

We have this relationship to mythology and numbers and everything but there was no purpose about that. We had like eighteen tracks for the record but not all tracks were fitting into that kind of sound and concept so it was thirteen but not for special purpose.

But anyway did you have any bad luck during the recording session, any problems in the studio?

No, totally not. That’s the strange thing or even it is a good thing. I remember in the past when I joined the band there were so many things just happening in a bad way! I even heard the same thing about the past, before I joined the band. I would say that after the Legacy Tour the line-up got very stable and that’s why we were able to do the Gambling With The Devil album the way it is. Since this period things are going great! There is nothing bad happening any more.

The album is called 7 Sinners, you are five in the band, so who are the two other sinners?

It is not so spectacular; it is not a concept album. It is not like Keeper Of The Seven Keys. It came out very dumb, sitting on a table and Michael had his I-pod and his songs on it and he made this item with 7 Sinners, seven stars. Then we were talking about mythology, that you have everywhere in the whole world written the seven sins of mankind.  We thought like “five of us, the pumpkin and the keeper of the seven keys and will get the seven sinners” in connection to the 7 sins. There is no special concept behind it. It was just some ideas coming up and we picked them up.

One of the new songs is called “Are You Metal?” I am not sure if it has to be taken seriously as a celebration of the metal spirit or if it has to be taken more on the humorous side. What can you tell us about it?

Of course it doesn’t have to be taken seriously! You know us; you know how the band is in a very sarcastic and ironic way. We always express ourselves in humour. It could also be connected to the Unarmed thing: expecting something else from metal. (Laughs) So Are You Metal? I was even imagining someone sitting on a table with all these typical clichés: having a skull on a table, guitars in the back, sitting like in a cartoon, with his long hair, thinking if he is metal. The whole heavy metal scene tend to not listening to anything else than metal even heavy metal fans don’t listen to gothic metal. I don’t get it but (laughs) that’s what the song is about.

So what is according to you being metal?

I think it is a lifestyle; it is to be against anything in the system. I really can’t tell you how you should be if you want to be metal. It changed so much! When I was young there was just heavy metal, you had just thrash metal coming out but it was very new for the period. There was no gothic, there was almost no death, it was not as split up as it is right now. I really don’t get the idea behind it. For me it is just trying to be different. That’s what I would call metal: trying to find any alternative of living. That’s what I would say what is metal but everybody else has his own conclusion about that.

So, I have to ask you the question : are you metal?

In my opinion yes. I am probably more metal than most people are. (Laughs)

What makes you say that?

Because I’m trying to find any alternative I can find, even within heavy metal themes.

Do you think that a good metal head is a good sinner? Some religious organisations tend to think that metal is inevitably linked to sins.

I don’t think so. I think heavy metal is reuniting people around itself. Like I said before, if you go to Wacken Open Air you see 40 000 people being together like a big family having fun celebrating, nothing happen. If you see like the bad guys with the beer and the tattoos they don’t do anything! They look that way but they don’t do anything bad. I would say that probably you find the most sinners among those people who don’t look that way.

The song “Who is Mr Madman?” is obviously the follow-up to the song “Perfect Gentleman” because of the melody line the two songs share. So,how did the “perfect gentleman” become “Mr Madman”?

(Laughs) I got that idea because I was thinking “we have The Perfect Gentleman and people love that song” and I was thinking that it would be interesting to know, sixteen years later, where he is now. What is he doing? What does he become? That’s what happens in the intro. He was like playing with the girls and he fucked out his mind, that’s basically what happened so he ends up in a straitjacket, in a clean white room, having two sexy nurses taking care of him. That was basically the idea and he still got it. So that’s why he’s saying: wait until I get out of my straitjacket and you will see who is Mr Madman.

” When I joined the band, that was not a band any more, they were just in a ritual trying to do music but it was not a band anymore.

I have read that the instruments on this album were tuned to pitch 432 instead of the usual 440 hertz. Apparently it is supposed to be more natural to the ear,to have a relaxing effect. Is this true?

Yes, it should be more natural to the ear and if you listen to the album, it does something with the energy and it pleases the ear more. It is just a physical thing. It came out when we were talking about frequencies surrounding us like there is one main key frequency holding everything together. There is a Swiss professor, an engineer, who was trying to convert this 8 Hz into musical tuning. If you multiplied it you would not end up with 440, which is the main key right now, but with 432.

That’s like the main frequency holding everything together in the universe… That’s what they say. On the other hand, 432 is what the Buddhist people used in their music for ever, it is interesting how that’s connected. Since we are interested in such things, we always were: Helloween is a positive band, we tried to find new ways of living.  We try to find how everything works together in this universe. That was one of the thing we wanted to try because we were reading about.  We thought that there were some connections to other things so why not trying it? Why do it the old way? You can’t do any harm. We did it and it really does something, I don’t know what it is but it has a different feeling. If you listen to the record it has different feelings to the other albums we did.

The first two songs on the album are quite dark. In that regard it reminds a bit of the darker direction the band took on “The Dark Ride” album but on the other side the album on a whole remains on the fun side just as Helloween has always been mostly known for. Do you think that Helloween is more about fun than darkness contrary to many metal bands?

The thing is that we don’t think about those things. People always think we do stuff on purpose, that we do music on purpose, that’s not true. We are artists and you have like two generations in this band. I’m like fifteen years younger than Michael is. I’m of course bringing a more modern style to the band and everybody has his own kind of legacy and his own kind of influence, musical life.  We don’t think about it. That’s the thing about Helloween, that’s what I always keep on saying. People think we are doing the whole stuff on purpose that’s definitely not, that’s not sitting at home saying “so now let’s do a dark album or now do this or now do that”. We are artists; we just want to make music and to do what we want to do. What we are doing with this line-up, since it’s so stable, is the music we want to do right now. All the influences mixed together up is the album. What I personally think is that, on this record, you have a very balanced mixture in comparison to the older records, you have all these influences but they are well-balanced. There is nothing sticking out totally different.

Helloween has always expressed serious and even dark themes with a positive attitude and even a sense of humour. Do you think that humour is the good way to increase awareness?

As I just said, we don’t do things on purpose. So, humour is the way we are, we just do it. There is no dark side, no sun side, that’s not what we are thinking about. We are just doing music and that the feeling we have. If you listen to our record that’s the feeling we have at this moment. So, for example after the Legacy Tour, we did Gambling With The Devil, we had totally fresh feelings, we were so excited about the line-up that we brought up this style of Helloween metal music. So we did Gambling With The Devil which was already different from all the other records before. Nevertheless we still have old influences as well because we have Marcus, we have Michael, we have Andi who were there before and they have their influences. Now you have Dani and me and we all have influences, we provide that into song writing as well. When you are listening to Helloween 2010 there is no purpose at all, nothing like “let’s do a dark album or let’s try to be very funny so that people are more interested in the band “ that is not necessary. That’s not why we started music in the first place.

So do you think you can laugh and write about any subject with Helloween?

Yes that’s what we do! That’s what I try to explain to you…There is no planning, we just do what we want to do, we just want to be musicians, we just want to play. That’s what I’m sick of, I’m sick of those kind of questions, I’m not talking about your questions but of the “you did everything on purpose, what’s with this way? What’s with that way?“ I mean no! We are just doing music. I am not asking you why are you doing interviews? Is there any purpose? Do you want to get involved to music scene? Is it the reason why you are doing interviews? That’s not what I’m asking.
I hope you love what you do. So you are interested in journalism? That’s why you are doing that? I don’t know.  Not everything is on purpose, I’m not asking you if you want to be rich as a journalist. Those kind of questions are what we get such as: “Do you make music because you want to be famous?” or “do you want to make music because you want to be on the dark side? Do you want to play death metal because you want to be on the dark side?” It doesn’t matter!
For me playing guitar was like a therapy, it was something to get out my questions and I wanted to express myself, that’s why I started music in the first place and there was no purpose. I didn’t want to be cool, I didn’t want to get rich and famous. Maybe a lot of people are that way , I would agree with you if you said that, but that’s not the way we are, that’s not the way I see the band.

That’s why the band does what it wants to do. Helloween does not stand for 25 years, every record the same shit. That’s not the way it is. Helloween is doing what Helloween does at the moment. Helloween 2005 is not Helloween 2010, we are in some kind of evolution. (Laughs)

So do you think that in the future Helloween could again take some more risks with its music like it did with albums like Chameleon, The Dark Ride? Is it something that is still possible today with Helloween?

I think so yes! It could be possible because everything is possible that’s my personal thinking about life in general: everything is possible. I wouldn’t say today “no we will never do that again!” I wouldn’t say “oh we only do Gambling With The Devil and nothing else.” That’s bull shit! Life changes, you change, you probably won’t make interviews any more in ten years maybe you’d something else, who knows? I don’t know and you don’t know that. You just know what you want to do that’s a thing! We want to play heavy metal, that’s our first thing at all. We just want to play heavy metal, we want to write music, we want to go on stage, we want to keep that lifestyle because it is a great one. I love to play in this band, I love to go on stage, I love travelling the world and I love being stressed out from the studio, everything I love. That’s my life, the one that I had chosen. I wasn’t born into this, I was working for that really hard and I’m happy that I made it and I would be happy if the band would make even more in the future. You never know what’s going to happen in the future but of course the direction we are holding right now is what we want to do, like 7 Sinners is like the Helloween 2010, that’s exactly what we are standing for.

“I think there are just too many heavy metal bands, everybody thinks he is a guitar player, everybody thinks he is a producer, everybody thinks he is a rock star. Since the whole myspace and social networks stuff, everybody thinks he is a rock star and that’s bulshit.

I’m asking this because it’s been a long time since Helloween has not experimented a lot on a studio album…

Well, Unarmed was an experiment right?

Yes of course, but apart from Unarmed which was kind of a calculated risk since it was a special project to celebrate the anniversary of the band, as you said earlier. Chameleon and The Dark Ride were very different for Helloween. And as a matter of fact both albums led to major line-up changes, due to tensions in the band, so is it something the band could be afraid of?

Right now? No! The band is really stable right now. I can just tell what Michael and Andi keep saying. For them, it is the most stable line-up they ever had and they hope to move on with Dani and me for, hopefully, the next ten or fifteen years or how ever how long this journey with Helloween may be.

I think from the past, the relationship between all band members was not good at all from the beginning. Of course they created something, of course if you join the band there is something exciting about it and you have a good feeling but it is not as if Weiki was best friend with Roland for example or with Uli from the beginning that’s not the way it happened. When I joined the band, it was a totally different thing. I was hanging out with Michael for four weeks doing nothing, we didn’t play guitar at all. We were just hanging out, watching Shreck on DVD and we just had a good time, we wanted to know each other. It is a totally different thing with the whole line up. When we are going on tour, we are sitting in the tour bus together, we talk about things, we have the same interests. We finally found ourselves as individuals even though everyone is different. I am totally different than Andi and he is totally different than Marcus and Marcus is totally different than Weiki but we have the same kind of interests. That’s where it starts. We respect each other, we like each other, we found a way to make good music. It’s working out really good. There is a great relationship between Michael and I. There is no jealousy or whatever, there is no need for that because we are adults, we are not kids any more. Andi is a great songwriter so you’ve got to respect that. There is no bad feelings left in that line-up so probably we’ll move on from year to year. I don’t think that we have to do something that will lead into a split of the band.

So you feel confident about the longevity of this line-up?

Totally! Since the Legacy Tour we felt that we get along very well and with Dani as well. I had to find my place in the band. When I joined the band, that was not a band any more, they were just in a ritual trying to do music but it was not a band anymore. There was not a fixed drummer. I was new and it takes some time. That was what people didn’t get! You can’t be best friends from the beginning! It is a growing thing. We have been on tour and we have been together for so long! We had to know each other and now we do know each other even musical wise. I would not write any songs and send them to Michael if I know already that he will not like it. Why should I do it if I know what he likes? So of course we are collecting ideas and ideas I think would fit the best, or which Andi would like the most or that Michael would like the most or even the rest of the guys would like the most, is the song that we write. When Andi writes a song he already thinks how Dani would play the drums. How Sacha would play the guitar? That’s a great relationship musical wise and from a personal side as well. I don’t think that anything will change in the future that much except on positive things.

Helloween from its beginning has always been one of the top of heavy speed metal bands but today the metal scene is really flooded with heavy metal bands. Isn’t it hard now to keep the band at the top level and not let it get lost in the crowd? What is the secret of the band? What makes Helloween still stand out?

I’ve already told you the secret. It is that we have different influences, that we don’t do heavy metal for the purpose of doing heavy metal. It is a lifestyle and that’s where we come from, it is our life and that’s what we put into our music, it is a way we are writing music. We don’t have one or two songwriters like most of the bands, everyone is writing songs in the band except Dani. We have like four songwriters in one band tell me one band that works the same way… I don’t know any of those in metal bands. Maybe that’s the key for success. Helloween always sounds different. A Helloween record sticks out of any speed or heavy metal record. Andi is a great singer, he is the only guy who sounds that way. I don’t know any singers who sound the same way. I know many Michael Kiske for example, many singers sound like him!

There are also so many singers who sound like Bruce Dikinson, that’s not special. However, no one sounds like Andi. He has a special voice and a special sound maybe that’s another key to the success of Helloween.

Do you think that heavy metal bands copy too much each other and maybe copy the fathers of the genres such as Iron Maiden or Helloween etc.?

I don’t know, I think there are just too many heavy metal bands, everybody thinks he is a guitar player, everybody thinks he is a producer, everybody thinks he is a rock star.

Since the whole myspace and social networks stuff, everybody thinks he is a rock star and that’s bulshit. First of all it is about art and music, it is not about being cool. You just create art if you get something created in a creative way. In my opinion that’s the success for any band. That’s why there is no second Iron Maiden, that’s why there is no second Metallica. Those bands created something that no one else was able to create because of their characters and their creativity.
Basically there are too many bands around and most of them maybe copy themselves. That’s what I was saying before: they do things on purpose they say:

“- Oh lets do a heavy metal band that sounds like Helloween!
– Okay ha ha ha. We need a drummer who can play really fast bass drums!
– Okay I found one!
– Great! Now we need two guitarists and they have to play two voice guitar solos.
– Yeah! Great! Ha ha that sounds much more like Helloween!
– Oh the singer sucks! We need someone that can sound very high! Aaaaaah!”

And then you have a band that sounds like Helloween but that is not how you do music! Come on! That’s not the way to do music!

Source: Radiometal.com

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Sascha Gertner is featured in a new interview with Metal Gods TV, conducted at the Hard Rock Hell IV Festival in Prestatyn, North Wales on the weekend of December 3rd – 5th.

Helloween recently issued the following update:

“Thanks, Europe: the first part of the world tour was simply sensational.

After the amazing kick-off in Vienna, gigs in London (UK), Eindhoven (NL) and Oslo (NO), sold out shows in Zlin (CZ), Tallinn (EST), Tampere (FIN) and Helsinki (FIN), the expectations were even exceeded by the 2010 tour finale in Prague.

Last Sunday, more than 4,500 Czech fans partied without mercy and went sheer berserk in front of the stage!

Prague definitely is Metal – let’s see if this can be topped in 2011… At any rate, overjoyed Helloween are going on their short break, just to challenge the French sinners on January 11th at the sold out Elysee Montmartre in Paris. Part 2 of the European tour can begin!

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Helloween’s promotional call-to-arms in their native Germany for their new album, 7 Sinners, was as loud as it gets. In the weeks leading up to the official release, full size billboards appeared on city streets across the country screaming the question “Are You Metal?” Impossible to ignore, the campaign made it clear the band was back in form following their off-kilter 25th Anniversary album, Unarmed, defusing the moronic rumour that Helloween was moving in a tame and distinctly non-metal direction. Guitarist Sascha Gerstner – pushing a decade with the band – shakes his head remembering the number of people that expressed concern over Unarmed’s light-hearted acoustic / lounge music revamp of Helloween’s catalogue. “Bullshit,” he says of the worried reactions, and with good reason.

“It was clear from the beginning that we wanted to do something different,” says Gerstner. “Everybody that’s doing 10 or 20 or 25 year anniversary albums is using orchestras or going all acoustic and stuff like that. Helloween has been known for doing something different from everyone else since forever. We wanted to do something special, and we had to explain in every interview that, for the diehard Helloween fan, Unarmed is a fun album to listen to. It was a musician thing for us, and I don’t know of any other band that has something like it. We knew it would be like that, but we didn’t think some people would get it so wrong that they thought that was our new direction. It’s like, come on! You’re not serious! It was something fun for us. Just because three shitheads didn’t understand the concept, I don’t think we really need to explain ourselves. That album is art, and if you’re an artist you never know how people are going to react.”

“We had a long break since the last tour – we hadn’t been on stage in over two years – and doing the 25th Anniversary album as we did, it was only natural that we wanted to crank up the amps and play loud again. If you listen to Gambling With The Devil, the album we released before Unarmed (in 2007), you can tell 7 Sinners is the direction we were going in anyway.”

The “Are You Metal?” campaign was spawned by the name of the first single from 7 Sinners. The album as a whole showcases Helloween as a full-on slavering beast. Some folks will spout the perpetual complaint that it isn’t Keeper Of The Seven Keys or Walls Of Jericho, but that’s empty air at this stage of the game. The band focused on the here and now, currently riding a well-earned internal high.

“We’ve got a great line-up which is very stable,” Gerstner says, “which isn’t normal for a band like ours (laughs). In fact, Michael (Weikath / guitars) was saying the other day that the line-up we have now is the longest lasting one in Helloween’s history. That’s amazing.”

A line-up that works well in spite of the fact – at least on paper – the band members wrote the songs for 7 Sinners separately. Nothing new in the Helloween camp, but still surprising that it works.

“It’s a lot of fun, actually,” Gerstner reveals, “because everybody is sitting at home working on stuff and we use the internet to communicate and talk about the material. We’re a pretty modern band (laughs). We all have home studios so we just record stuff, then send it out to each other, and wait for someone to say ‘This is bullshit, man (laughs).’ In the end we get together in the studio, of course, and that’s when things become really energetic.”

Vocalist Andi Deris is particularly prolific, which has been the case since he replaced Michael Kiske in 1994. Fans that remember his melodic metal past with Pink Cream 69 continue to be surprised by the amount of heavy material he has contributed to Helloween’s catalogue over the years. The new album is no different; ‘Are You Metal?’, for example, is a Deris gem at its foundation.

“We’ve all evolved as musicians and songwriters,” Gerstner says of the notion Deris is a melodic softie. “In Andi’s case, he has a son who is 19 years old now, and he listens to crazy heavy shit every day (laughs), so that probably influenced Andi a lot. I mean, look at Jon Bon Jovi; he’s not writing stuff now that sounds like it did 20 years ago. People change and get new influences, especially if you see yourself as an artist. The problem in the music scene, especially in metal, is that a lot of people start out just because they want to look cool. I call them fan bands. That’s not what art is about, and that’s not why I started playing guitar. I just wanted to express myself by writing songs. I started out playing mainstream rock like Bad English and Toto, and look what I’m doing now. Every musician evolves in some way.”

Gerstner is no exception to the rule, having spent the last eight years working alongside six-string mainstay Michael Weikath. He fits the classic Helloween guitarist profile, far and away from his power metal days with Freedom Call.

“You always learn something new, especially when it’s from someone who’s been in this business for over 25 years,” he says, reflecting on his relationship with Weikath. “In the first couple years Michael influenced me a lot in the way I think about the music scene, but we’re not really that much different from one another. That’s why I’m in Helloween. I didn’t go to a rehearsal room with my guitar to perform for them, it was just me and Michael hanging out for a couple weeks doing bullshit (laughs). We didn’t play guitar once in that time, we just hung out and got along great.”

The new album is a far cry from his Helloween debut in 2003, Rabbit Don’t Come Easy, which was slammed for being less than worthy of praise. Going back to his feelings on artistic evolution, Gerstner addresses his own performance on the album and how he has developed since then.

“That’s an interesting question. I don’t normally listen to the records we’ve made, but I was listening to Rabbit Don’t Come Easy a couple weeks ago and realized that it’s actually a really good album. Everything was new to me back then so I had no idea what was going on. Everybody had some songs but Helloween wasn’t even a real band at that point. We’d never been on tour together, I didn’t really know the guys except for Michael, and I didn’t know anything about the history of the band. So, back then it wasn’t the best album. Listening to it now, though, I think it’s very good. There are some really good songs on there. Rabbit Don’t Come Easy is a pretty brave album. At the time it’s a wonder this band even did a record.”

According to Gerstner, 7 Sinners has been received extremely well by fans and press alike. Something of a first from his point of view.

“Actually, I’m blown away by the reactions because, since I joined Helloween, there have always been some journalists being picky and fussy about a new album. It’s really new to me seeing 100% positive reviews from everybody including those people. We used different recording techniques, different tunings, so it has something. It’s a very energetic album, as I said, and I think people are impressed by that.”

By Carl Begai of Bravewords.com

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An interview with Michael Weikath can never be short! The band’s guitarist gets the chance to analyze his way of thinking in every question fired at him. Also, he talks about the new album “7 Sinners”, the 25th anniversary compilation “Unarmed” that dissected the fans, Greece, and the power metal scene in general. Enjoy… Interview by Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: Well, it seems that Helloween has a special bond, or relationship, if you ilke with number “7”. What is so special about that number?
Michale Weikath: I think it’s a magic number and it’s also mentioned in the bible, and also I think in other religions, and sciences. Plus, I was born on the 7th of August. Bands usually use pentagrams and stuff like that, which is a star, and I used to wear stars on my jacket sleeve.  When you put that stuff on your record it oozes out a certain impact on to people, which can be positive, or negative, but that’s why war planes, for instance like the Americans, and the Chinese, and the Russians, they all used a star. Because, I think that in a situation of a war it’s quite practical to work with magic. So, I wanted to surround myself with magic a little bit. I’ve been looking for something different, I was looking if there was a seven-pointed star, apart from the five-pointed one, and there was. I didn’t know! Then, I read a little bit about it and I wanted to put it on my desktop of my computer when I was doing the demos, but I couldn’t because I had to scale it to look really really good, and I didn’t find anything large in that form that would have looked good in the big screen. So, I put it on the demos I played to Deris, and I said “Look here, I got that heptagon, “septargam”, we could actually use it for the cover somehow. You get more magic, it’s seven-pointed, and we have the seven sinners”, and he said “yeah, very good!” and so then we got the artwork you see now, and the original star I had on my demos as the iTunes artwork that you see with the titles we have there.
Rockpages.gr: So, who are the seven sinners?
Michale Weikath: Yeah, it’s the five members, the pumpkin man, and the keeper!
Rockpages.gr: Is there a concept, or even a central idea for the new album?
Michael Weikath: All in all, there is a certain concept. So you have the tracks, and we knew about the title track early enough and so everybody tried to put it into that direction, but not seriously. So, it is some kind of a concept album, but not, as usual! When we did “The Keeper Of The Seven Keys” the tracks were selected and done, and put on the album, and then you have an overall mood that it’s been created and the context of the Keeper who has to lock the seven seals, and everything, but the tracks for themselves are independent from that. And here, on this one, you may have a bit more interaction between those things rather than before, but still it’s a loose concept.
Rockpages.gr: I think that the new album carries on from where “Gambling With The Devil” stopped. It might be a little more aggressive, but the atmosphere is the same. What do you think?
Michael Weikath: Yeah, it’s in the same direction and I think that’s the point that you reach… Charlie Bauderfield is the producer, and the material you collect from the four songwriters that we have, Deris, Gerstner, Weikath, and Grosskopf- evens out. You have variety on each record because of the four different songwriters, but still if you have heard the overall production from Charie Bauderfield, it appears to be in one piece, and these pieces seem to be similar, even though you have entirely different songs from each other. But, maybe we have achieved something like a distinguishable sound. Or, at least that is so similar to the last three projects. But, it’s not such as it’s getting boring, so you’d say “Ahh, you are doing the same all the time”. It’s just the songs’ sound impact that it’s similar, which sometimes bands want to achieve a lot earlier. But, still I think that we are doing so many different things. We can choose from a wide variety that we have taken care of creating beforehand with all the criticism and the trouble we’ve had with different albums that we’ve done, with people saying “yeah, but this one is too cheesy, and this one is too funny, and this one is not heavy enough, this one is too dark…”
Rockpages.gr: This one is pretty dark too… the themes from the songs from what I could understand while listening to the record are dark…
Michael Weikath: You may say so, I can understand you. It means that we have all those dark aspects. Deris calls it “mystical”, or “mysterious”. I call it “dark”. You say that there is a little bit too much of dark aspects in there. Even since the “Dark Ride” we followed that direction. Nowadays, you have to go that way in order to serve your concept, and sell records, which you only sell a fifth of what you used to sell before. Each and every artist at minimum has lost four fifths of the sales they had before piracy, and illegal downloading. So, in order to be on the safe side we had to have more of the dark and mysterious aspect to our music in order to sell to the whole world. I had to understand that first, because before I was entirely against it. Now, it seems that there are too many people that like that aspect and buy our records, while there is other people who wouldn’t need it, but also thought that we were too ridiculous before. So, the Sanctuary management we had, they would have had us a lot more serious as a band you know. Something like Queensryche…serious. That’s not what we are, but it appears that the overall sound of the music, and the records gets more serious. Because on the “Gambling With The Devil” I did something like “Can’t Do It”, and then I got a lot of criticism again for that song. Like “all the record is great except for that one sit song in there”. I felt very proud of that song, and I think it was perfect, but there’s people who don’t know what glam rock is, they’ve never heard it, or they have no idea, they have no access to this type of music. On this record I didn’t feel like doing anything controversial, I was just trying to do something in a cynical way, I wanted to make great tracks, like “The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner”, and “Embrace The Noise” that there are not too much people that could complain about it. There’s no surface for them to attack those tracks! So, that’s probably why it seems more honest, and more dark in general, because there are no “cheesy Weiki” tracks on this one…
Rockpages.gr: Well, actually what you said triggers a lot of stuff that I would also like to ask you, and I will a bit later. But first, I would like you to talk about a few songs from the “7 Sinners” album… “World Of Fantasy”…
Michale Weikath: Which I think it’s a Markus track, and this must be the most “poppy”, commercial track. It’s the most easy going melody on the album. It’s reminiscent of German pop music. Actually, there are a lot of people who actually like this track. It must be the cheesiest song, that isn’t exactly cheesy!
Rockpages.gr: “Who Is Mr.Madman?”
Michael Weikath: “Who Is Mr.Madman” is a continuation of “Perfect Gentleman” from 15 years ago who overindulged himself in a way checking out too many women! He is now at an old age, and they made him go crazy. So, he ends up in an asylum, on a wheel-chair… that one was written by Shasha as a continuation of “Perfect Gentleman”, which I think was a great idea, but it has nothing to do with “Perfect Gentleman”. He just got that idea and said “I will continue the song and tell the story of what happened to the guy today”, very good idea I think.
Rockpages.gr: “The Smile Of The Sun”…
Michael Weikath: “The Smile Of The Sun” to me is some kind of ballad-esque, almost minstrel, medieval kind of song in a typical Deris fashion. The chorus gets heavy and it’s more medieval than the rest as far as the mood is concerned. That would be one more wanna-be “commercial track”.
Rockpages.gr: “If A Mountain Could Talk”…
Michael Weikath: Again another typical Markus’ song that has that vibe in the melody that you have to get used to. You either like it from the start, or you don’t like it. That’s just the way he does things. We’ve been surprised that there’s been so many people who actually like his tracks, and the stuff he did in the past. So, he is not just the master of B-sides, and bonus tracks, anymore-he still is- but then it happens that tracks like these would appear on the records, which is actually good, because then you get more material, and people like it so much, so there it is! In the past it was always like “why doesn’t Markus do more tracks on Helloween records?”, there you go. Meanwhile, he is a steady composer every time with at least two, or three tracks.

Rockpages.gr: “The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner”
Michael Weikath: The idea is that you actually never know what you are doing, if you are a complete idiot, or if you are committing some kind of karmic sin, even though you are not aware of it, something that you do might look very very stupid to some people, or very harmful to other people, and you are not even aware of it, so then you look into the mirror and you don’t actually know if you are a wiseman, or a complete idiot, or sinner, that guy. You never know, it could come in different ways, and you can’t foretell fate. You never know what kind of bullshit you’re going to do in the future, or something good…
Rockpages.gr: Is there a song on the album that you think it has the potential to become a Helloween classic, and a fan favourite?

Michael Weikath: I wouldn’t know. “Are You Metal”, the video, I don’t think that’s the instant classic, but on the other hand it’s the most memorable thing. I think that the album is full with some classics, so I couldn’t point my finger to just one. I mean, all the tracks that you have mentioned before could be controversial. Like not everyone will like, and love “The Smile Of The Sun” but a few people will. So, this is very much a 50-50 album in a way, cause there are so much stuff for those people, and so much for those people, and I consider “The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner” a classic, but also “Who Is Mr.Madman” is a classic in a way, so I mean there is a few tracks on the record that I would point out as classics. “World Of Fantasy” is extremely cheesy, but it gets memorable and there will be many people that will point at that song and say that “this is a Helloween classic”. Some reporter said to me that this is the best song on the record, and I said “really, you think so?”…
Rockpages.gr: Well, I suppose that’s the majesty of music… This lineup of Helloween seems to be the most stable that the band ever had. Would you say that this is a plus which helps the band work, and make new albums, and new music?
Michael Weikath: Absolutely, because having trouble inside, with someone who “doesn’t like” anymore, or someone who “still likes” but is not capable of doing this job, or gets ill, is a big problem. You get sad, because you have to get rid of that person even though you like him, or it’s all very negative if you have to change band members, but that’s not just on my behalf. I have to do those things, and decide about those things, every time something like that takes place, but it’s also Markus who has to agree with it, and then there was Deris who has to agree with other things, or who is responsible for a change, or whatever. (…) I am happy about this lineup that we have now, and it is the most stable one. There are persons in this band now who care a bit more about the band. Before, that wasn’t possible. Because, there was people that cared more about themselves. I am always interested in healthy group situations. You can never be perfect, and behave perfect towards each other 100%. That’s not possible! But, what’s possible is to deal with each other, and respect each other. It needs just one person who doesn’t care about respecting people and you already got a problem.
Rockpages.gr: You have celebrated 25 years in music with a “different” kind of an album, I mean “Unarmed”, whose idea was that?
Michael Weikath: The manager’s. We finished a long world tour that we’ve done, and the manager wanted to do something about our 25th anniversary, and he asked us what did we think. Basically, Deris, Grosskopf, and me had no break for 15 years! We were constantly at work, or doing promo, or travelling, and then there were a few months in between that you could call “free time”, but there was too much work constantly for 15 years, and we wanted to take a break by that time. The thinking was that you do a 25th anniversary compilation, but we didn’t want to do that. So, we recorded, but by usual means that would have been a total production that would have asked for a lot of time, and input. Everybody had to record a little bit, but we were not as involved in that thing that took about a year. The manager did the artwork, and we had several people stepping in for the arrangements. So, we did the “Unarmed” album in a relaxed way and It took about a year from the beginning of the conception of the first ideas to the final result, and we as a band were not so much involved.
Rockpages.gr: I really like the “Unarmed” album a lot and I think that it’s a lot in the vein of a Helloween album, with a lot of humour, a lot of different ideas, and generally being totally different. But, I imagine that you must have had very controversial feedback for that album. Some people would go “Oh, yeah that’s a great idea”, or some people would go “I don’t like it because Helloween songs are supposed to be heavy”…
Michale Weikath: Yeah, it’s particularly strange that it made the charts in Greece! Because, in Greece we had so much trouble with the “Chameleon” album. I had to do the promo back then with Roland, and it was terrible! They almost hanged us, or at least they made sure that we really knew how much they hated the “Chameleon”. It really wasn’t easy; I thought we wouldn’t get out of there alive, because there was so much hatred from a few people. And then, something like the “Unarmed” record enters the charts n Greece, it’s crazy!
I was born in 1962… I am not 21 years old right now! And I have a different point of view towards music. Sometimes as a musician, if you were born so early, you have a different approach to music in general, and you are more open. I just hope that the people who really hated it they would regret that later on and say “OK I gave it a listen again, and maybe I was mistaken”. I am a guy who used to put the crystal of the tone arm of the record player on Beatles ballads on the vinyl record so later on it would scratch right there. So, when Paul McCartney was really singing like “Aaaaeeeoooooo” I would scratch the crystal on the record so later on it would do “Ffffffffffssssssss” ‘cause I hated it so much! And then I couldn’t listen to those soapy ballads that I didn’t want to listen to, because of the scratches, and I would enjoy that! I was like “Yeah! I’ve done that to that song!”. I used to be that stupid as well, so I can understand when people hate it.
Rockpages.gr: In the beginning of the interview you said that Hellowen is a band that doesn’t want to stick to one music style, and play the same stuff all the time, and want to be different exploring new ideas, and music. Since Helloween are considered to be the beginning of power metal, and since there are many bands in this kind of music that sound the same, do you think that there is a kind of responsibility for Helloween to be a bit different and show the way of power metal to new bands, or even the older ones as well?
Michael Weikath: Well, what they copy is what they understand, and what they like best. That is what they only want. If you look at Amazon for instance and take a glance at “Buyers of that also bought” you will see that they bought all that similar stuff that is more or less the same all the time. So there is a big group of people that they want only that. They like this generic power metal, and they want to hear only that. But, the thing is that they don’t have to play it, they are consumers. They just want to put something on the stereo that sounds good and that they consider it theirs. It’s like people that like to eat noodles with tomato sauce all the time… Being a musician you have a different approach, you are not consuming things. You are exposed on what’s on the radio, whether you like it, or hate it, and then you are addicted. You have a different understanding of music and you don’t want to deliver the same kind of “food”, usually. But, there are bands that want to do just that. Also, you have bands like AC/DC, and ZZ Top who seem to do the same all the time, but that is not the case. That is a different thing because they have very strong hit songs, and they work very hard for every hit song that they do, and although it sounds the same, it’s not the same. For power metal bands… with us… we are used to it.
In the ‘70s you had all those “One Hit Wonder Bands” who would have a single hit, and then they would try to the same thing again and it would flop, and they would vanish. What I like bands, for instance the Beatles, or other artists, is variety, I am willing to accept that, it comes with age, and imagination, and the opinion someone has. Now, there are people who are very well opinionated and they say that an artist has to be the same all the time. So, you have to deal with that. On the other hand, likely there are a lot of people who likes variety. We just give that to the people, whether this is our responsibility or not.
Rockpages.gr: What were the best, and the worse moments for Helloween so far?
Michael Weikath: Well, the best moments naturally are to see how our lineup is working for so many years now, and certainly our “Monsters Of Rock” appearances in Donnington, or in Germany, and Nuremberg, or playing in Japan for the first time, and having that crowd of crazy people welcoming us in the airport, and on the train station. That was really crazy! Or, when we had forty three thousand people in Indonesia in a stadium, because we played there for the first time during our “Rabbits Don’t Come Easy” tour. It was so many people that got in the stadium and they didn’t have a ticket. It was the police that let them pass, ‘cause otherwise we would have a riot. It was something not so pleasurable. Plus, there were some other moments, like when we went to the United States for the first time, with an American opening band, which wasn’t usual by that time.  It was very unusual to have an American, or English band opening for you if you were German. And the most bad point must have been the “Chameleon” tour, that were very annoying moments, and very sad moments, and very frustrating moments, and the death of Ingo, we don’t have to talk about that. Also, every time we had to fire somebody from the band, or when somebody went. That’s always sad, or not good for a lineup.
Rockpages.gr: The new tour is going to bring you back to Greece in early 2011. Is there any feelings that evoke when you are about to play here?
Michale Weikath: No wonder it used to be so difficult when we had to come over the first couple of times. Last time we came we played for all those people and it was incredible. I just want to say a big thanks to all of our fans there that made it possible that we could make that big concert in Athens last time. It was great, and it’s building up, and it has to do with the music, and the way we present things. Anyways, the last concert was a lot larger, maybe it’s going on that way. Even if not I just want to thank everybody for what happened on our  last tour, ‘cause that was extraordinary, it was really really cool!
Plus, this time we have an interesting band as a special guest, Stratovarius, that’s probably a magnet for people to see those two bands. Naturally, I hope that it’s just for us!
Courtesy of Rockpages.gr

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Markus Grosskopf Interview for the Bulgarian website Metal Katehizis.
He talks about the writing/recording process, shares some details about each song, and unveils who the other 2 sinners are.

MK: Congratulations to “7 Sinners” – your new album is definitely among the fastest and most aggressive things you’ve ever recorded …

MG: Thank you! Very glad you appreciate it. In my humble opinion this is really the hardest material we’ve created.

Did you deliberately decided to release it right after “Unarmed” – the album with acoustic and jazzy adaptations of your biggest hits?

Well, not quite, because when we did “Unarmed”, we had no idea that the subsequent things will become so atrocious, but when the first songs from “7 Sinners” began to take shape in more detail, both with Weiki (Michael Weikath) said we would get a super cool contrast, if we play the other tracks in the same aggressive style. So it was accidental, but importantly, got cool!

It is noteworthy that the speed and aggression in the album does not harm at you’re your typical melodic lines … How did you find that delicate balance?

In fact the first songs were not as fast, but when Dani (Loeble) added his drums, there was a real madhouse. And for those tracks which he had not played the drums yet, he proposde to add here and there more brutal passages (in “Are You Metal?” even added a few blastbeats) to harden them even more. We listened to him and as you see, the result is stunning. From the time of their composition, passing through the rehearsals and then get to the studio recordings, the new songs became more heavy and heavy, and it goes especially to Dani!
At the same time I want to say and that not only Dani, but all of the group contributed to the high quality of “7 Sinners”. This is one of the most united team and creative works. From first to last song, everything is the result of joint efforts that could not be born without the incredible chemistry that currently prevails within Helloween.
So, first we prepare any ideas yet home. Then we gathered together and began to discuss them. When we discussed and set what must be done, we got to work on assemblies of individual passages and grinding a rough ideas. The whole time since we were rehearsing, up until May, when we went in to record in “Mi Sueno” (Andi’s studio in Tenerife), the songs gradually grew and changed, evolved before our eyes until they turned into this killers who are at the moment!

You sound pretty excited, but for good reason – the new material is really killer. In “7 Sinners” we detect some more modern, non-traditional items for you … I guess the credit for them is Andi, correct?

Absolutely. He is the most open to new stuff, unlike me and Weiki, we are traditionalists … Interestingly, Andi moisture not only sound and modern approaches in his compositions, but also modern ideas, modern worldview … ugh I do not know how to express it … something that fulfills the song inside.
And not just him. Here to pick and Sascha for example – he also thinks highly original, fresh ideas moisture in his tracks and helps us to diverse our sound … Especially when the album managed to combine the best of all these – a traditional, typical Helloween style meets modern thinking of Andi, the various ideas of Sascha, and to top it all, Dani plays like a monster machine and weld it all in a brutal steel fist.

Awesome said! I’ll take you to quote for your review, ha-ha! Incidentally, what are these “7 sinners? I can think of five of them, but the rest …

What are the five you think?

You, Weiki, Andi, Sascha и Dani.

Right! You deserve to say what are the other two, because most people will understand it only when the album appears officially on the market. The sixth sinner is The Keeper – a very old, old sinner, who is with us almost from the beggining, but the seventh one is the Pumpkin.

The Pumpkin? Willie?

Yes, exactly. Willie himself. A great sinner, if you ask me, ha-ha-ha! Being older than even the Keeper …

And so then … Because there were various rumors and hopes of the fans that Kai Hansen and Roland Grapow play as guest musicians on the CD, but apparently were just rumors …

Oh no, we are not even hinted at such a thing!

May have been dictated by your joint performance with Kai Hansen of your last tour …

Sorry if I have to disappoint someone, but no, none of them did participate in the album.

Well, to change the subject. Tell me more about the cover – very dark and sinister look …

Oh yeah, and I really like it. It is generally not something anyone know what it means, it does not stand behind a deeper idea, but its terribly impressive. You know I always loved to play with the number 7 – partly because it is the opposite of 6 … 6 … 6 ha-ha! Yet it seems weird, yet it fits perfectly with the spirit and the message of the album.

Little reminds me of the artwork and atmosphere of “The Dark Ride” … There we have a go-round (in the title track), but here – rotating blades …

Yes, there is one thing I had not thought … definitely the new cover is pretty grim, does not have anything to do with that “Happy Happy Helloween” worldview and mood …

And why did you went in this direction? From “Rabbit Don’t Come Easy” which was dominated by cheerful and positive notes, and even “Gambling With The Devil” was pretty carnival …

Frankly, no particular reason. So we get and said: “Why not add a little variety?” Therefore, all songs have become evil, surly, snappy sounding …

Another dark album in your discography is undoubtedly “The Dark Ride”. How would you compare it with the new?

Hmm, interesting question. I think “7 Sinners” is much more helloweeenish album, meaning full of traditional things for us, and though dark and sinister, it is dark and sinister in our typical, helloweenish way. While “The Dark Ride” was largely created under the pressure of producers and external groups. The new record is more organic and holistic, and despite its solid sound, you can not go wrong – it’s one hundred percent Helloween!

But not a concept, huh?

No, it’s not some common thematic threads that bind most compositions, but generally not a conceptual work.

Well, would you be so kind and tell a few words about each of the songs?

“Where The Sinners Go” – one of my favorite, very strong opening composition, full of power. There is something extremely powerful, with stadium fell there, and I want to play it live because there will be a terrible effect on the audience.
“Are You Metal?” – Something like a confession of Andi in the spirit of the entire album. The message is to remember the past, when we grew up with our favorite music and then we started to play. Heartfelt confession of true love for real music.
“Who is Mr. Madman?” – Very much like this piece because as music and text it refers to the story of the “Perfect Gentleman”. It’s about him – where he is now, what does he do and so on. So we included in it and the melody of “Perfect Gentleman” … Very addictive song!
“Raise The Noise” – a traditional song, written by Mr. Weikath. It is so easy to tell that it is composed by him. And I like it as hell.
“World Of Fantasy” – I wrote it, focusing firmly on the melody and a lighter sound, and when suggested it to the boys, I had no idea if it will fit the album. However, they liked it pretty much and then put it in fifth place, because it would give a breath of air to the listener after the initial shake, ha ha. Something like light at the end of the tunnel … Or, more precisely in the middle of it, ha-ha-ha!
“Long Live The King” – a great composition that Andi devote their heroes Judas Priest and Ronnie James Dio, to show where he came from and that still remembers his heroes. Homage to the biggest.
“The Smile Of The Sun” – an extremely interesting piece. Some define it as a ballad, though not quite a ballad. At the same time its title is “The Smile of the Sun, but no smile and no sun in it, it has dark mood as the rest of the disc. Many like it because of its unique atmosphere and great arrangement. This is the key to the basic idea of the album.
“You Stupid Mankind” – amazing song, the brainchild of Mr. Gerstner. He had some crazy ideas that were developed in an even more crazy way, and the song perfectly matched the amazing new material.
“If A Mountain Could Talk” – my song. Born in my head exactly with this verse – “If mountains could talk – and then it turned into its title. I wondered what we do with nature, without thinking how irresponsible we treat the earth and how would react the mountains and oceans to our irrational behavior. Thus a simple rhyme grew over seven-minute composition in the typical Helloween style, with many different moments and plenty of variety, corresponding to each other parts.
“The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner” – a typical example of how Weiki writes songs. He has always liked loud deployed compelling choruses with a strong vocal lines, and centered around other parts of the song. A true classic!
“My Sacrifice” – another great composition by Sascha. Original reading of the traditional things for us, but served in such a way as to fit into the whole concept of “7 Sinners”.
“Not Yet Today” – a minute intro that Andi created to introduce the audience even more in the final piece.
“Far In The Future” – very interesting, I’d say even experimental song, again by Andi, which shows how to combine classic Helloween-elements with far more modern and funky stuff, without losing the identity of the group.

Thank you very much! I notice that after “Rabbit Don’t Come Easy” you seemed to unleash something and now you write far more material than the earlier years of the band …

Yes, there is something true. During the 80’s most of my tracks were within the B-sides of singles, but lately I’ve obviously got better ha-ha! Have I become more exacting to myself – I do not know, maybe, but unlike before, now I save any idea that hit me. You never know where the rabbit will come from, ha-ha!

Do you have a favorite album of Helloween?

Not just one. I love both Keeper-a, “Walls Of Jericho” and “Master Of The Rings” – with it we found again ourselves in a rather difficult time for the band.

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Helloween are known as the inventors of ‘German Melodic-Speed-Metal’ and are creative pioneers and one of the most successful Metal bands in personal union since their beginnings in 1984. If there is a golden thread throughout more than 25 years of band history, 13 studio albums, countless headliner tours around the globe and far more than 5 million sold records, then it’s the special kind of humor: don’t take yourself too seriously and simply live statements like: “just have fun with the shit you’re doing.” Maybe it’s exactly this easiness, that allows Helloween to be one of the most constant bands of the genre, and yet the one that at the same time dares to experiment more than others and has defined Metal in advanced and modern ways for decades. While some copycats rather stick with the same old patterns, Andi Deris, Michael Weikath, Sascha Gerstner, Markus Großkopf and Dani Löble aren’t afraid of risking something – and are rightfully rewarded with success.

“7 Sinners” proves all that once again. It’s definitely one of the fastest and hardest albums in the band’s history, bursts with vitality, presents sensational novelties – and still is a record in best Helloween tradition. That might partly be due to the versatility of the various songwriters within the band, who over time have become so homogenous, that the 13 songs have formed a unity on their own in the studio – but there also is a very concrete explanation. The album was recorded completely without a click track, which, considering the extreme speed of the songs, borders on ‘high-performance music’. Especially drummer Löble showcases that his technique is at world-class-level. Following his excellent inner clock, bass and drums drive tracks like “Are You Metal?”, “Long Live The King” or “Who Is Mr. Madman?” to dizzying tempos and still neither sound strained nor sterile. Bands who dare such a technique, have been situated in slower realms to date.

“Who Is Mr. Madman?”, whose intro is again congenially spoken by Saxon’s Biff Byford, is interesting for another reason as well. The composition by guitarist Gerstner is effectively the successor of ’94s “Perfect Gentleman” and lets the protagonist look back on his life full of lust and what is left of it 15 years later. The so-called mortal sins, among which lust is one, are the overall concept of the album. “7 Sinners” plays light-heartedly with the heavy symbolism of the seven main vices. The artwork, once again stylishly designed by Martin Häusler, mirrors the motive just as masterfully. This is also a specialty of Helloween: touching dark themes and turning them into something constructive, owed to their positive attitude. And this quite deliberately. Not audible for the normal ear, yet another important aspect of “7 Sinners” is the instrument’s tuning to chamber pitch 432, instead of 440. Although musicology agreed on 440 Hz in the 50ies, it’s been found today, that 432 Hz is the more natural frequency for the human ear and therefore radiates a relaxing effect. It was the band’s idea, to record this extremely hard album in a calm frequency and in such a way oppose balancing vibes subconsciously to the supposed agitation of Speed-Metal. Definitely a unique approach, at least in this genre.

The atmosphere was equally as relaxed beneath the palm tree roof of the “Mi Sueno Studios”, where the recordings took place from April to August 2010. Charlie Bauerfeind, the long time producer, describes the sessions to “7 Sinners” as maybe one of the most casual productions with the band. Disregarding climatically difficult circumstances – a power cut destroyed one mixer, two computer modules and at least three microphones – the recordings had holiday flair. Additional contributions came from a second sound engineer who relieved the production side, as well as from keyboarder Matthias Ullmer, who – like on the two previous albums – has in the meantime nearly become a band member during recordings. This explains why more keyboards than ever can be heard on “7 Sinners”, adding another facet to the record. The fact that Ullmer doesn’t have long hair and isn’t a die-hard Metal head meanwhile is of no significance to the quintet. Helloween just don’t think in these categories.

It was agreed, that “7 Sinners” shouldn’t only be sounding lively, but also emanating a live feel was crucial to the selection and arrangement of the songs. And the anticipation of performing stadium smashers live, like “Raise The Noise”, “Where The Sinners Go“ and “Are You Metal?”, is clearly audible on the album. Complexity doesn’t have to contradict this disposition, neither in regards to lyrics nor music. “You Stupid Mankind” is the best example for the fact that social criticism can be presented in a multi-layered and modern way. Andi Deris puts it like this: “I love Metal. I listen to a lot of music, new stuff too. Why shouldn’t I develop my songwriting with sounds, that I have just fallen in love with?” This way a quiet song has found its place between the tough Speed-Metal tracks like “Long Live The King” and the in the best sense typical Helloween songs like “If A Mountain Could Talk”. “Not Yet Today”, the intro to the last song of the album, describes a time when Andi cared for a friend lying in coma and had to confront the topic of letting go. Fortunately, everything turned out to be all right – but the feeling of “corresponding with another world” as a “silent witness” lingers on.

“7 Sinners” with its typically strong melodies and the tangible joy of playing, is a straight album whose range reaches astonishing dimensions, even for Helloween: the experienced five manage to develop further and break limits once again, without selling their ‘Speed-Metal soul’. Not only the front man looks forward to the “7 Sinners Tour”, which starts in November and will take the band all over the world one more time until the end of 2011. The singer casually puts the band’s vibe in a nutshell:

“We are still fans.”

From End Records

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The 7 Sinners

If there is a golden thread throughout the more than 25 years of Helloween‘s history, 13 studio albums, countless headliner tours around the globe and more than 5 million records sold, then it is their special kind of attitude: don’t take yourself too seriously and simply live statements like “just have fun with the shit you’re doing.” Maybe it is exactly this easiness that allows Helloween to be one of the most constant bands of the genre while simultaneously being the one band who dares to experiment more than their musical peers.
The Band
While some copycats would rather stick with the same old patterns, Andi Deris, Michael Weikath, Sascha Gerstner, Markus Großkopf and Dani Löble aren’t afraid of taking risks — and are rightfully rewarded with success.

“7 Sinners” is definitively one of the fastest and hardest albums in the Helloween‘s history and it bursts with vitality. That might partly be due to the versatility of the various songwriters within the band, who over time have become so homogenous, that the 13 songs formed a unity on their own in the studio , but it may also be due to the fact that the album was recorded completely without a click track, which, considering the extreme speed of the songs is an impressive feat. Especially drummer Löble, who proves that his technique is at a world-class-level. Following his excellent inner clock, bass and drums drive tracks like “Are You Metal?”, “Long Live The King” and “Who Is Mr. Madman?” to dizzying tempos. “7 Sinners”, with its typically strong melodies and the tangible joy of playing, is a true metal album whose range reaches astonishing dimensions.

It has become a cliche for metal band’s to tout their newest opus as their “fastest” or “heaviest” album ever made, but in Helloweens case, “7 Sinners” is truly a return to form and is indeed their fastest and heaviest release in years. Helloween bass player Markus Grosskopf stated about the band’s new material: “For all those out there who found our special best-of [CD] ‘Unarmed’ to be too smooth and calm, I have great news: The new album will hit you right in the face! It’s gonna be very heavy and contain all [the classic] HELLOWEEN trademarks! Some songs are very powerful and hymnic, others contain the fastest bass-drum patterns our drummer Dani ever played, and this means a lot!”

“7 Sinners” track listing:

01. Where The Sinners Go (Andi Deris)
02. Are You Metal? (Andi Deris)
03. Who is Mr. Madman? (Sascha Gerstner)
04. Raise The Noise (Michael Weikath)
05. World Of Fantasy (Markus Grosskopf)
06. Long Live The King (Andi Deris)
07. The Smile Of The Sun (Andi Deris)
08. You Stupid Mankind (Sascha Gerstner)
09. If A Mountain Could Talk (Markus Grosskopf)
10. The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner (Michael Weikath)
11. My Sacrifice (Sascha Gerstner)
12. Not Yet Today (Andi Deris)
13. Far In The Future (Andi Deris)

Samples are in here

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