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Andy Deris (Helloween)

Interview with Andy Deris from Helloween
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 08 September 2005, 11:54 PM

There's more than just a few metalheads out there who are fans or - to even put it more plainly - listen to Helloween. German Power metallers, with a really long history on their backs, who've written their own special (personal) page in the book of Heavy Metal. A band that's had its ups and way downs…and back from the ashes again. You see, Heavy Metal is all about never giving up. Here's what one of Metal's most smiling and honest characters had to tell Grigoris and me about their new Keeper Of The Seven Keys - The Legacy album, what it's about, his thoughts about former Helloween singer Michael Kiske and much, much more. Ladies and pumpkinheads, I give you… Mr. Andy Deris!

Orpheus: Ok Andy, my first question has to do with Record Labels. For over 2 decades of existence the band has changed labels many times. Right now you’re signed to SPV and previously you were signed to Nuclear Blast Records. Do you get disappointed that easily, as musicians, as a band?

Nah, not disappointed, no, but it’s always a mixture of business decisions. For example you sign a contract for just 2 albums and when those 2 albums are gone then you fulfill the contract…and then you go out for shopping.

Orpheus: Yes, of course but if you’re satisfied by those 2 albums then you extend your contract, you continue with the same label, right?

Normally yes but it depends by the offer. If someone approaches you and goes we offer you this and this and this then you compare. And if your old record label says no, we’re not gonna make it because it’s too much for us then you decide.

Orpheus: I remember reading a statement you guys made when your contract with Nuclear Blast was over and you signed with SPV. I think you said Nuclear Blast was treating you not as you’d like to be treated, as a big band.

No, you can’t say that. That sounds like not important enough or something like that. The problem was that the first album with Nuclear Blast, The Dark Ride (2000), they treated…\[pauses]…Let’s put it this way: Two or three persons responsible for us, they just did a lot of bullshit. They did not only treat it bad, they did not treat it at all and they really fucked things up big time. And this was not very much building up the trust. So for the second album (Rabbit Don’t Come Easy - 2003) everything run down ok. It was ok. Everything was working but the problem was that because the first album was so important and even the label chef was giving us calls - privately - congratulating us with what a great album it was etc, still they fucked it up big time, those 2-3 guys; not the label chef. But the trust wasn’t there anymore. And you saw in other countries where for example JVC was on it, they did a fabulous job and suddenly…

Like the best example is in Germany, there’s MTVs and VIVAs and they’ll only play your video from your single if it hasn’t been released yet because they want to have exclusivity. That’s only one example. So, they fucked it up completely \[referring to these 2-3 guys who worked for Nuclear Blast Records] . We had a video for around about 60.000 Euros (sic) which wasn’t played in the first place because they totally fucked it up.

Orpheus: What a great waste of money…

Yeah. The problem was you may fuck things up, that’s ok, we are not perfect. But that guy, that responsible guy knew later on that he had screwed up but he didn’t go to us and tell us I fucked up, I’m sorry, guys.

Orpheus: No?

No. He said he would have sent the video to VIVA, MTV, VH1 etc but it would not be good enough to be played… And we’re talking about the If I Could Fly video, one of our best videos.

Sure he was thrown out of the company because later on we had to prove that he was lying and we proved it because we happened to know the director of MTV. We gave him a call and said Olie, why wouldn’t you play the video? Wasn’t it good enough or fit for the contemporary stuff of MTV? and he said what video? We never received a video. He was at least cool enough to say at least send me the video so I can see what I obviously don’t want to play because it’s not good enough. So we sent the video and he said I love the video and then it was played…

Grigoris: There was a slight delay, yeah…

A slight delay? (Laughs) But yeah, bullshit like this is not building up the trust.

Orpheus: Keeper Of The Seven Keys - The Legacy. Ok, lots of questions concerning your new album. Why did you choose to do a third Keeper.. album (as a band)?

Several reasons. First of all, since I’ve been in the band for 12 years…even with Master Of The Rings, we put out Master Of The Rings (1994), it was several times platinum, seven times gold all over the world and still you had people who’d sit there and go why don’t you do another ’Keeper…’ album? and I was like fucking crazy people. (Laughs) You release an album that just in its first year sells double as much as the Keepers -nowadays, ten years later the Keepers still sell more because of the time - but still you have to imagine, you go triple platinum, seven times gold and people look at you and say well, when are you going to do another ’Keeper…’ album? (Laughs)

Grigoris: Most of them though got into Metal music after listening to the Keeper… albums.

Absolutely! Still, you look like a bus being hit by a starship…Because…just because! \[All Laugh] Even after The Time Of The Oath (1996) album, a fucking successful album there’d be people everywhere going will you do another ’Keeper…’ album? (Laughs) And The Time Of The Oath was as a matter of fact something like a Keeper… album. It was not the Keeper… but as a conception it was about Nostradamus…

Grigoris: Yeah and the front cover…

Yeah. But we were, you know, guys we don’t wanna do another ’Keeper…’ album these days and back then we didn’t say why. But nowadays we can definitely say why. We did not have a guitar team and it’s no secret, everybody knows Roland \[Grapow] and Weiki \[Michael Weikath] did not get along very good. So Weiki didn’t like Roland, Roland didn’t like Weiki….what can you do?

Orpheus: If there’s no chemistry within a band then you can’t do anything as exceptional as the Keeper… albums…

Exactly. So at the end of the day they’d both be idiots.

Orpheus: So, that kind of answers my other question I had about why particularly now.

Several reasons. Not only because there’s a guitar team. Now, you have two guitarists who like each other, they even sit down on the sofa privately and play guitar together because they have fun playing together. Just incredible. I hadn’t seen that in ten years. But they do. And there’s another reason which I personally did not like to touch and that’s the theme of the Keeper… album. I strongly believed that it should be sung by Michael \[Kiske] or at least parts of it, you know. But then the guys said look, first of all Michael Kiske said he hates Metal so would you really like to have him on a Metal album? That looks like selling out you know, because a lot of people will come and say yes, on one hand it’s great you have Michael Kiske singing on the ’Keeper…’ album but why would you let a guy sing who says he hates Metal? It sounds like a sellout

Orpheus: Michael Kiske is in more albums as a guest than I could count right now.

Yeah, which is ok because on the other hand I always say look, he’s a fucking great singer, and it’s a fucking hard job to sing the stuff that he did and let him live. I mean we all know that he’s not very smart in the things he says but still he’s a fucking great singer and he needs to live. So, when he sings on a Metal album, why does he do that? Because maybe he needs some money which is fair enough.

Grigoris: Maybe he likes to memorize things, the good old times by appearing on various albums, you know, maybe he’s just not up to doing an entire Metal album…

That’s ok. What I said in my previous interview…Whatever he says, whatever bullshit he might say does not make him a worse singer.

Orpheus: So, in relation to what you’re saying, do you feel that it was a big risk for you as a singer, as Andy Deris, to do this album?

Ever since the Master Of The Rings album, which was the big comeback of Helloween, you know, even when the last albums with Michael didn’t sell shit and the people did not accept Michael - I mean they didn’t even buy a record of Helloween even though Michael was singing - there have been people complaining. The people who are always complaining are a handful diehard Michael Kiske fans which is great, I mean they stand up to what they love meaning it’s there and this is something I cannot change. Even with an album like this \[the third Keeper…], I think it’s a great album, double CD, Keeper… theme, everything there but still, I swear to God, I already hear them in the back of my head because of this and Michael is not singing there and Kai Hansen should be playing the second guitar…. Yes guys, ok, I understand because with Keeper I you probably had your first tongue kiss, sure, and with Keeper II you fucked your lady for the first time. These are memories we cannot bring you again, you know, it already happened.

Grigoris: I don’t think there’s a reason to be trying to bring those memories back…

For them maybe yes. But even if Michael would be singing on The Legacy, even if Kai would be playing the second guitar or the first or whatever, it would not bring this back. Period. This is something they have to accept. Because now I can talk like this because meanwhile we have the second generation \[of Helloween fans] which second generation, to them The Time Of The Oath or Master Of The Rings is the time when they fucked for the first time or kissed or whatever…the time when they had the hand under their girl’s t-shirt. (Laughs)

Grigoris: I think those fans are more devoted to Andy Deris as the frontman of Helloween.

Yeah, that’s true.

Grigoris: Yeah, as a fan I think that you gave new birth to the band.

I had to. And I couldn’t change myself. Then again I was coming from a very successful band, why not take all these people with me. We needed it, we needed them in Helloween. Helloween was dead. Chameleon (1993) nearly destroyed the band.

Grigoris: Yeah. I’m glad you guys made it.

Me too! But then again that’s what I say, I really don’t care because I understand these people who always complain but I cannot bring the youth back, nobody can.

Orpheus: A lot of people followed you from Pink Cream 69.

Yes. A lot of them…

Orpheus: Yeah, there’s a lot of people who liked you first with Pink Cream 69 and then followed…

Yeah, definitely.

Grigoris: But also vice versa…

Oh that too, of course!

Orpheus: How did the collaboration with Candice Night happen?

There was a demo of mine in which I sung with a friend of mine, a lady from Austria. Good singer.

Orpheus: Wanna mention her name?

Oh, sure…Gabriela from Austria. So we were singing in the same way \[like on Light The Universe], Andy-her-Andy-her and the refrain together and the boys just loved the concept. The question was if we should do that. We said that if we were planning on doing a long album then why not. So we were asking Within Temptation, Evanescence, anyone we liked and Markus \[Großkopf - bass] mentioned Candice \[Night]. So, some SPV guy said that would be easy because they are with us on our label. We contacted them and Candice said she would definitely be interested in listening to the song and if she liked it she would be eager to do so, to sing in it. We sent it to New York and waited and a week later she called and went what a fucking nice song, I’d really love to do it.

Orpheus: Who designed the cover artwork for the new Keeper… album?

Oh, he’s called Martin Hoisler (sic), a new guy. We told him to draw a cliché thing of the good battling the evil, you know, but this time we also wanted the evil to not be evil and the good not good… So you see the Keeper from the back but only from the back. You don’t know who it is so…I wouldn’t trust him. Still you would know that he’s the good guy. And you have the devil who has long blonde hair, she’s like a more transvestite devil and she’s not looking evil in a normal way. Sure this is the Keeper and the Keeper’s fantasy world but it is always like having a parallel connection to the real world. As we all know it’s a fairy tale but… you can translate it if you want to and…you are here! We thought we should show our feelings because we don’t trust the good anymore in this world and we don’t trust the evil anyway. But now it’s like twisted and turned and the good guys say we are the good guys because and that’s why we go to war. Years later you realize that the good guys had not been so good because the reasons why they went to war were a lie. I don’t know whom to trust anymore, it’s a fucked up world.

Orpheus: Yeah, indeed it is…

There’s no evil and there’s no good ’cause both are fucked up and it’s a very strange world!

Grigoris: Everyone entitles himself as good…

Yeah, I mean in the meanwhile you have to take a look at yourself in the mirror and make clear who you are. But we, parts of the Western World, of the so called free world, how can we really look in the mirror and say we are the good ones? I can’t do that anymore. It’s impossible. Because we participate, you know?

Grigoris: Because we aren’t reacting in any way?

We cannot react! That’s the problem. We are puppets. And if you would react, how would you do it? Like in the 70’s? Go out and become a terrorist? You know what I mean? What can you do? Not go to vote? Not go to elections?…

Orpheus: I think we’re pretty much condemned…

We are, aren’t we? I mean, if we wanna go political, there’s hard political stuff in there \[in the new Keeper… album] if you translate it. The King For 1000 Years…(Laughs)… I hope we’ll be allowed to play in the United States if they translate this. \[All Laugh]

Orpheus: You want me to take this off the interview, Andy?

No, why do that? Who else could do it? I mean, there’s only us, the Metal bands who occasionally do that. Last time I was black & white words. This time we’re not even putting black & white words, we’re translating it into the fantasy world. You have the Keeper fighting for mankind against the devil, against evil, against corruption, against greed…it’s always in the name of greed. How stupid can mankind be? Why would I need a Mercedes when there’s no streets to drive on, you know? Mankind is so stupid and I’m part of it.

Orpheus: We’re all part of it…

But that’s the sad part of the story. We know it better but we cannot make it better because how would you do it? Become a terrorist?…

Orpheus: Yeah I don’t think we’re left with many options…

Not anymore.

Orpheus: To change the subject, what do you remember the most from the recording sessions of your new album?

Well, there were good days and bad days. One of the bad days for example was after five weeks we had a kind of emergency meeting with Stefan \[Schwarzmann - drummer] and he wanted us to meet because he had a big problem he wanted to discuss. After five weeks he just put on the table that I can’t play it. There are like all middle parts in ’Occasion Avenue’, there’s ’Silent Rain’ and this part and that part…he couldn’t play it. It’s 192 beats per minute, sure it’s stupid, stupidly fast. But he really had a miserable life, at the end of the day he was frustrated all over the place. He tried hard but at the end of the day he told us he would like to leave the band.

Orpheus: And he’s an experienced drummer…

Absolutely! He’s one hell of a drummer for stuff like Accept etc but he has his limits when it comes to speed. So what we learnt after that was that the drummer we were going to choose had to be not only out of sympathy from the first second, you know? We were even ready to bring in an asshole just who could play that shit…

Orpheus: Yeah, like just come over here and play it…

Yeah. We had to learn from that. Stefan told us please don’t limit yourselves. He could do the job if we limited the music but it that the right way? To limit Helloween, not to play speed Metal in high standards simply because your drummer can’t play it? He simply said he would not like to be responsible for that.

Orpheus: And in a way what he said was very decent of him.

Absolutely! That’s why that was an hour of tears. It was a departing that nobody really wanted. But you had an honest guy who said look guys, I’m not gonna make it, I can’t play it, period. I think that’s greatness. Anyway, that was the sad part…

Orpheus: So the good part was?…(Laughs)

Well, the good part was that in the back of our minds there already was a guy who even recorded in my studio with his former band, Rawhead Rexx. We were touring Japan and I remember my lady calling me and saying ah, there’s a band producing in the studio with Charlie \[Bauerfeind] again, called Rawhead Rexx and they’re really funny guys and that Dani \[Löble] is one hell of a drummer etc… even my friends were fans of his. And when I came back from Japan, the boys were gone but all my friends were… or even my son was Oh Dani, I played basketball with Dani and he’s so funny! etc. (Laughs) I was what the fuck is with this guy? I don’t even know him and everybody is talking about him. I was like shut up!…and 1.5 years later we called him! \[All Laugh] For him it was like coming home because he had already spent 6 weeks in my studio. And my friends were right, he is a really funny guy.

Orpheus: Since I was given the five minutes remaining signal, we’ll have to compress our Q&A’s a bit.

I talk too much… \[All Laugh]

Orpheus: No man, it’s ok, really. (Laughs) So, who else is on the new album? Who else should be given credit? I ask this because there seems to be a choir…or is it digitally done?

The choir? I programmed that. There were like very nice sound samples out there but I reprogrammed everything in Logic and it was really nice.

Orpheus: Who does the narration in the beginning of The King For 1000 Years and Ocassion Avenue etc?

The intros? The intros were recorded by myself….

Orpheus: Huh? So it’s you?…

No, I produced it.

Orpheus: So it’s a mechanical voice?

The voice itself? The old man is a guy from a tennis club in Tenerife.

Orpheus: You must be kidding! (Laughs)

No, he’s actually a pal of mine. He plays tennis, he’s 78 years old, a very old English guy. But I knew, the moment I sat with this guy and heard his voice, I said David! I need you! \[All Laugh]

Orpheus: Now for two questions from your fans on your official message board on the Internet. Johannes Willborg from Gothenburg, Sweden, says hello…


Orpheus: …if he’ll see you in Gothenborg and asks what your opinion is about Michael Kiske as a singer and if you listen to any of his work nowadays…

Well, Michael Kiske always has been a great singer and it’s hard to sing the shit he did so I’m always very aware of him. When I listen to the stuff he does now - it’s not my personal taste, I have to say, but still his voice is great and he still sings the shit out of everything. I also think that without his voice, stuff I listen to nowadays would not have been that good.

Orpheus: Ok. Eric Stanize from Brazil asks if you consider this to be the best material of the band.

I hope so. For the moment definitely. But I hope at least that there will be as much good material for the future.

Orpheus: And finally, your message to the world would be?…

Yeah. Welcome the Keeper, he’s back! (Laughs)


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