I spoke with Markus from HELLOWEEN about re-uniting with former band-mates, the ‘Pumpkins United’ tour and the new self-titled album coming out shortly featuring all of these members. Check it all out below.
Markus good to be chatting to you again. It's been six years now, next Saturday night, it'll be six years since 'My God-Given Right' came out and now six years is far too long between albums, but you've got a pretty good excuse in that you guys have been very busy in the meantime. This whole Pumpkins United thing, that is huge, when did it come together? And how daunting was it?
Well, we did the Hellish Rock Tour, part 1 and part 2 with GAMMA RAY and Kai was there. And that already felt really, really familiar to us, right? And hanging out with them with this guy, with this Kai guy was like, he's never been away, you know, it was like easy and we're hanging out on buses, we're hanging out in hotels, we're hanging out, and then even playing even playing together a couple of songs. You know, that gave actually gave us a little idea about how it's going to be playing together with Michael Kiske in the future, you know. But it took a lot of time to convince people and and we needed time to get this thing right, you know, and asking Michael, he had us thinking about it, but it would have been stupid, not even trying it, you know? So we gave it a try, we gave it a shot and started with a tour instead of going into the studio directly, you know.
So, even back then you were thinking ahead to a studio album?
Well, we thought of if you do a tour just in case it wouldn't work, you know, then you of course can do a couple of shows. You can do a tour and if it's not fitting, you can say goodbye afterwards, you know. But if you're right in the middle of a creative process like working together in the studio, creating new tracks and all that stuff, it's not that easy. If the understanding is not right, you know? You easily can do a tour without going on your nerves because you could go back to your hotel room or something like this. If something cruel is happened, you can still do the tour but in a studio it would have been very complicated if you're going on your nerves but still you get to do some tracks together, you know? So that's why we actually started with a tour and then deciding doing an album. But as the tour went on and on and the reaction are being really, really great, you know, there was so much energy from the people lifting us up and kind of, you know, putting us together all the time. That felt really, really great and gave us the idea that this is going to work and the understanding was cool, the understanding was great, you know. So after the tour we decided, definitely to try to work on new tracks.
Was there a specific show or a specific moment in a particular show where you sort of looked at someone on stage and thought 'Yes, this is going to work', or was it just flowing great right through?
It's probably being the first shows we did when it worked out very, very well. We knew, wow, there's something going to be happened. Just because of the energy from the people, put us in a real emotional mood, you know, it was just like there's so much coming back from the audience and that is actually the kickstart you get when you playing live. It's just like the emotional reaction from the audience is just like driving you, you know, and that was happened from the very very first beginning at the very first show and there we thought it's like it's going to happen. This is something special.
Yeah, I was watching with interest from afar and the tour kept going and the shows kept coming and then the festivals and I thought this is interesting, something might come of this.
So we've got an album we're just about to come out with, heard it for the first time earlier on today. Excellent album, thank you so much. Let's talk about this.
All right. Well, we went back into the studio, before we went into the studio we had a couple of months writing ourselves, collecting ideas and then we started sending tapes,well, sending files, nowadays around listening to stuff till we thought we got enough stuff to hook up together as we are living in different parts of the world. We met back in Hamburg where it all started, you know? And then listening back to the tracks everybody was doing, having loads and loads of ideas, having loads and loads of songs and then talked a couple of hours listening to all those ideas. And we didn't make the final decision then. We gave us a couple of more weeks to listen to it, to give the music the chance to grow, you know, you know how it is probably you're listening to one song for one time and you listening, it's turning into a very, very different song if you listen to it a couple of times or three or four weeks later, becomes a totally different song because you understand it better or you hear it with different eyes (ears) than you did hear it for the very first time, so we gave it a couple of weeks to decide to hook up again and then make a decision what songs we are going to take to, you know, actually paint the picture. With that idea we went back into the studio for a month just like rehearsing, get the bits and pieces and the songs we already kind of chose, you know?
One thing that intrigues me about this is two lead vocalists, who have been in the band at separate times having to write songs together and sing together, has it proved difficult or has it proved remarkably easy?
Well it was not really easy, having two more people into the whole process of writing songs it's not going to make it more easy. It's just like two more people are throwing ideas at you while you are playing, you know, it's just like your head is exploding from all those ideas and we have loads of discussions because each and every band member has a different idea about what to play, how their parts should sound, how the parts should be played. And this is sometimes not really easy and we have big discussions about it, but this makes the whole process even more interesting, you know, we had like teo persons not being in the band, like, producer, Charlie Bauerfind and the co-producer. Dennis Ward, always checking what the song really needs, some pair of ears from the outside are listening to it is always great. So this way, you don't lose the track, you know, it's not going to be easy working like this. But it's also very, very interesting, very creative process, and it was all worth it after it after all. It's it's a lot of, it's a lot of notes coming at you you gotta sold out, you gotta find the real notes to make to satisfy the song.
It's a long album too, over an hour. Was that because.. was it difficult to get down to this length album? Was there more material?
There was definitely more material because where we ended up with having five or even six songwriters in the band and everybody has ideas, and that there was tons of stuff, you know, but we couldn't really use all of it but then it's hard to.. some songs are really there. You think that's it, this is definitely going to be on the album but there's others. There's there, they have like kind of the same class and you don't know if you take this song or that song, there's many songs you're not sure about, but one, but you got to start somewhere, right? And then you have to make this decision. This song goes back in the trash can, we rather work on that song and it's, it was not easy to make those decisions. And also about this subject, everybody has like different opinions but in the end of the day you know they're all got it fit on one record and that's that's the only way to make a record. They all have to fit in one picture in a way, you know?
Yeah, so to say.
Tell us about the song 'Skyfall', all 12 minutes of it. You've pulled a Helloween again.
Yeah. It's like one of Kai's moments, you know? Once he's starting writing something he's just on the right track, you know, it's just amazingly fitting what HELLOWEEN is doing. Of course, he only wrote this one track but this one was like the title track in the way so to speak, right? And he's got that story and why not make it. We didn't really try to make it. We didn't really plan to make like a long song like this. It just came out like this and when we heard it, we thought. All right, we just tried to get the best out of it without copying the Keeper stuff, just creating something new, you know?
With all the songwriters you were mentioning, many, many people throwing ideas at you and having to whittle it down, it must be hard to look ahead and create a song list. How we're going to go there when this comes out live? Have you worked out what's going to be played live and what's not going to be played live? Have you thought that far ahead?
I think we're definitely going to do 'Skyfall', I think. This is one of the strongest live things we can do from that album. I really don't know. We have more long songs and it doesn't make it easier to choose the set list because you want to play the old long songs as well. That's why we kind of like the idea to do like longer treks cut into half and do like medleys from the long stuff. Otherwise we you cannot do like one hour, spending one hour in the set just for four songs, you know, then you're missing a lot from the stuff that people really want to hear as well, you know?
Yeah, because if you did, if you did 'Halloween' and 'Skyfall', that's half an hour gone.
That's half an hour, then you have 'Keeper' and maybe 'King For A Thousand Years'. I mean, what you going to do, you know, then you have one hour for four tracks something like this.
What's happening now? We've got this album coming out very soon, how are things going over there? How is the the scene going? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? I've noticed shows of being booked here and there are they looking promising?
Well actually the whole tour is booked for almost a year, we have some festivals in the end of the year, like the end of the summer, but it's it's not going to happen, you know, they're all canceled because of the situations that there's too much, it cannot be done, you know, so we don't do anything this year. We re-booked the tour and we start next year April something, hoping that everything is getting better and everybody had that most of the people has their second injections and all that, so the whole situation is hopefully a bit more controllable and it's not as dangerous and we're not go into quarantine each time we leave any state or whatsoever you know, and so we're actually we're booked from April. We will actually hopefully starting the tour in April next year. We cannot really do anything this year. It's not really possible in Europe and also in other territories, I mean, South America is a very big market for us, but just have a look over there. It's not going to be happening now.
Just heading back to the the Pumpkins United tour. How much of a logistical problem was it having a show that big with all these people? Was it a challenge? Did you seem to manage it okay? How did you go?
I think it was managed really really good because we're not really involved into the ideas of course, but we're not going there and doing it all. We just have been asked what we want to do, and there's like great ideas from the management, great ideas from the technicians. So we let them do their job, you know, we just go into the rehearsal room which was like a bit more complicated than the other tours we did because we have one more guitarist, one more singer, you have to think about who's singing what part, and everybody's singing an even part of the show, you know, and even time part of the show, it needs to be balanced as well. And then you have a third guitarist thinking about is if he's going where he's going to play the rhythm guitar, where he's going to play the lead guitar and if he's going to play some third harmony in a way or not, this was like, very, very intense process to rehearse for that function. You know, what's also very fun.
I bet it was. What's your best memory then from the early days of HELLOWEEN? When did you first think to yourself, 'This is going to work'?
Actually when we did the first record going back into when we, when we had the first, there is also a lot of a lot of situations where you thought. Well, this is going to be, all right, this is going to be taken over, you know, taking over my daily life routine, which was cool. When we get asked, I mean, we did the two songs on the death metal sampler and after that we did the mini-lp followed by the 'Walls Of Jericho', you know, this was all thinking 'wow, this is a step into the business'. With 'The Keeper', it became bigger, the first American tour started. You know that was giving us an idea about wow, this is a nice rock and roll life. I don't want to really miss it ..again. This is what I love doing, you know, this is what I like to do.
Hey, it's been great chatting with Markus from HELLOWEEN. They've got an excellent new album coming out on June 18th. I've heard it, it's fantastic, get into it. Markus, thanks so much for talking to me again.
All right, thank you, been a pleasure. Thank you. Bye bye.
This is the beginning of a new time calculation:
Forget HELLOWEEN – here comes HELLOWEEN
»Please stick together!«
This was the ardent wish of thousands of fans calling out to Andi Deris, Michael Kiske, Michael Weikath, Kai Hansen, Markus Grosskopf, Sascha Gerstner and Dani Löble during the PUMPKINS UNITED WORLD TOUR - and their dream has come true! With the upcoming album, simply titled HELLOWEEN, the band opens a new chapter after 35 years of a glorious career. The future of one of the most influential German metal bands from now on will feature three singers. Originally planned for the live performances only, it was the birth of a unique seven piece metal alliance.
Dani Löble: ”This record is the coronation of the PUMPKINS UNITED journey! Still today I am fascinated by the different character traits and facets of the HELLOWEEN history. As an example I’d like to point out the legendary voices of Michi, Andi and Kai. To enjoy them now together on one record, under one flag is the ultimate HELLOWEEN experience”. It is therefore not surprising that the pre-release single SKYFALL, a 12 minute epos written by Kai Hansen, has the long yearned “Keeper-vibe” - even if the long player can by no means be limited to it. SKYFALL implies the musical arch which will be loved by fans of every era. This first album of a new age is taking the fans from unforgettable memories of the fifteen studio records and four live CD’s to new adventures.
SKYFALL begins with a bang. The epic track describes an alien landing on earth and a dramatic chase while Kiske, Deris and Hansen duel with each other in a breathtaking manner and create a vocal broadband adventure. Produced by Martin Häusler, it is the most elaborate video clip in the history of the band; shown with 3-D animation and having a cinematic look, this video is a real high end experience. ”FEAR OF THE FALLEN” – the second single is a fast paced, melodic track done the way only Deris can do it. ”I had so much fun not only writing a song for my voice but also for one of the greatest singers out there. I always have an extremely broad smile on my face when I hear Michi singing my melodies“, says Deris and Kiske adds: ”The whole process, including the spirit, was just ideal. If I had the feeling that one of the parts would not be really fitting, I asked Andi if he would sing it and vice versa. There was no competition whatsoever – what counted was what is best for the respective song. I am thankful to be (again) a part of this crazy family. I love them all”.
Along with massive album tracks such as HELLOWEEN classic and album opener “OUT FOR THE GLORY“, the epic “DOWN IN THE DUMPS”, both written by Weikath, the power metal shouter “MASS POLLUTION“ by Deris and Grosskopf’s scuff proof rocker “INDESTRUCTIBLE“ (which could be an analogy towards the unbreakable career of the band), the album release is flanked by the ‘party-track‘ of the record, “BEST TIME“. Lyrically the song by Sascha Gerstner reminds of the good old days, musically it´s convincing with confident HELLOWEEN style guitar harmonies and a chorus that stays in your long-term memory after hearing it for the first time. With “ANGELS“, a no less powerful song of his comes into view, bursting with joy in playing: “Synergy, energy & creativity! These were the main elements on this record. We used old school recording engineering from the 80’s merged with the current HELLOWEEN-vibe and here we are: more than 35 years of heavy metal experience on one record!“ adds Gerstner. Besides the line-up and the unique interaction of world class front men – this is what makes the album outstanding: it is a precise time travel through all phases of the band’s history, going back to the roots but at the same time at the speed of light towards the future. “HELLOWEEN“ offers a complete metal universe within 12 songs.
The base of this milestone album was already erected in the studio: using the original drum kit of Ingo Schwichtenberg, the recording was done with the same modulators at the Hamburg HOME studios where back then ”Master Of The Rings“, ”The Time Of The Oath“ and ”Better Than Raw“ were recorded. Completely analog and under the eyes of long term producer Charlie Bauerfeind and co-producer Dennis Ward, the UNITED impact travelled to New York and got the final mix in the Valhalla Studios of Ronald Prent (Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Rammstein). ”After 30 years with the different line ups of the band I really thought I was well prepared for another extreme challenge, but I was wrong! My expectations were highly exceeded in every way with this super-sized creativity package” tells us Bauerfeind. Dennis Ward adds: ”HELLOWEEN is an institution with only one goal: making music. Not only for themselves, but for the fans as well. When we started mixing we realized that we had a record that covers the whole spectrum of the band and every one of us gave 110% for it. It was an honor to finally work with Charlie and I am grateful to the band that I became a part of their history!”
Besides all musical competence, it is also the special enthusiasm that defines HELLOWEEN. Michael Weikath characterizes in his own way: ”It is the incomprehensible encounter of seven musicians who are working as friends and even family and created something that no one would have thought it could be possible. It is like awaking from a sleep but still being in an incredible dream“. Returnee Kai Hansen reflects: ”Being in the studio with my old companions after 30 years was very emotional for me. But at the same time it was a completely different experience with the ‘new‘ boys. The collaboration of different songwriters and strong characters made the album very special: a unique mix with reminiscences from all chapters of the band’s history. HELLOWEEN is a big part of my life and I am looking forward to celebrating the songs live for and with our fans“! From another perspective Markus Grosskopf agrees: ”For me, being one of the last “survivors” who played every note from the beginning, it was a fantastic experience and a very emotional process. I think everyone can hear it on this album. I love it“.
When it came to capturing the larger-than-life emotions in the artwork, it quickly became clear that it was only possible as a handmade painting on which the important topics of the band's history are processed. The work of Berlin based artist Eliran Kantor has achieved this and visually underscores the fact that the band cherishes all parts of their history.
“HELLOWEEN“ will be released on June 18th, 2021 as 2CD-Digibook, 1CD-Jewelcase, 2LP-2CD Earbook and as an elaborate Deluxe-Boxset incl. Earbook, a Helloween-wall clock , pins, necklace, patch and an art print of the cover. Available digitally as well as on vinyl with a 2LP Gatefold-version in different colors and picture disc. For all collectors HELLOWEEN offers a limited spectacular 3LP-Hologramm vinyl.
With all this brand new material an album has been created, an album that is set apart from the digital mainstream and showing the essence of the band was never more solid. This is the beginning of something big – here comes HELLOWEEN!
HELLOWEEN is one of the most respectable German metal exports and pioneers of German melodic speed metal. On the road since 1984, HELLOWEEN performed on all important festivals globally: Rock in Rio, Wacken, Loudpark in Japan or the Polish Woodstock, thrilling more than half a million fans as the headliner. Looking back on a more than three decades lasting world career, the band toured the world countless times and delivered spectacular shows with fellow musicians such as Iron Maiden, Scorpions or Ozzy Osbourne. HELLOWEEN released 15 studio and 4 live records, achieved and was honored with 14 Gold and 6 Platinum-Awards and sold more than 10 million albums. The “ Keeper“ records are counting to one of the most successful German metal records of all time and are reckoned internationally as absolute milestones of power metal.
01 - Out For The Glory 7:19
02 - Fear Of The Fallen 5:39
03 - Best Time 3:36
04 - Mass Pollution 4:15
05 - Angels 4:42
06 - Rise Without Chains 4:56
07 - Indestructible 4:43
08 - Robot King 7:08
09 – Cyanide 3:29
10 - Down In The Dumps 6:01
11 - Orbit 1:05
12 - Skyfall 12:11
Bonustracks Digibook & Vinyl:
01 - Golden Times 4:48
02 - Save My Hide 3:11
01 - Golden Times 4:48
02 - Save My Hide 3:11
03 - Pumpkins United 6:20
Michael Kiske – Vocals
Andi Deris – Vocals
Kai Hansen – Guitar, Vocals
Michael Weikath – Guitar
Sascha Gerstner – Guitar
Markus Grosskopf – Bass
Daniel Loeble – Drums