Helloween - 20/10/2007

German melodic metallers HELLOWEEN were busy working on their twelfth studio album until the end of August, and are now ready to release more details about the CD. Entitled "Gambling With The Devil", the regular album consists of eleven songs (plus an intro, spoken by SAXON's Biff Byford). For their many faithful fans, there will also be a limited first edition (40,000 units in a digipak with an embossed and stamped slipcase to be released in Europe, and 10,000 units in a jewel case in the U.S.) with a bonus CD featuring two extra tracks, the video for the first single "As Long As I Fall", and a "making-of" of the video, including interview sequences. As a special highlight, the first edition includes a scratch ticket with an exciting puzzle, as described in detail on the HELLOWEEN homepage.

Under the direction of producer Charlie Bauerfeind, HELLOWEEN recorded a total of 16 songs at the Mi Sueno studios in Tenerife. The focal point of this diverse album is a three-part epos consisting of the chapters "The Bells Of The Seven Hells", "Falling to Pieces" and "I.M.E.", which represent the ambiguous album title that thematically covers all the songs. The cover artwork was designed by Martin Häusler ("Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy" and "Live on 3 Continents") again.

‘Gambling With The Devil’, which is scheduled for release on October 23, 2007 (USA), October 26, 2007 (Germany) and October 29, 2007 (rest of Europe) via SPV.

Recently Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner visited Amsterdam for a promotional tour. Because of the heavy traffic jams around Amsterdam we arrived just in time to ask Sascha all about Helloween’s new release.  

Your latest Helloween album ‘Gambling With The Devil’ is due to be released in a couple of weeks, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it!
Sure, no problem!

How did you launch into writing the material for ‘Gambling With The Devil' after your previous album, did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

We had been getting a bit of pressure from our management lately; they said it would be great if we could get out a new album very quickly. So we were clever and we used the modern technology of the internet and basically the server was our rehearsing room. Everyone was sitting at home and uploading tracks and ideas, we also rehearsed that way. It was a kind of patchwork. Even Michael Weikath and I wrote lyrics this way, we used skype. And that saved a lot of time and money, it was a good idea to do it like that. For ‘The Legacy’ album we spent three months recording but for this one we just didn’t have the time.


Was this pressure a good thing?

It didn’t feel like pressure, everything just came by coincidence. I can answer your next question about the hard and raw sound of the album right now: it just happened. With this line-up we just grew together on the last tour and so we know each other’s ideas, we have the same minds. We collected song ideas and the best ones happened to be quite raw with more heavy sounding rhythm guitars and more aggressive drums.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to write the songs for ‘Gambling With The Devil'?

We wanted to take it a step higher with this record because the ‘The Legacy’ album went very well, we got some good critics from the press. People had been saying that Helloween might be dead in a few years but I think we proved them wrong. You can hear the freshness on the album.


Was it hard to write a follow up for ‘The Legacy’ as the critics were so good?

We hardly thought about it, we just did it. We just did it and had fun! If you’re too much into the subject you lose your point sometimes. And then there was the great producer Charlie Bauerfeind! He’s very German, very correct. He never misses a thing and he just matched everything together. Marcus was recording in Hamburg and Michael and I were recording in my studio so Charlie had to fly back and forth. The drums and vocals were recorded in Andi’s studio so there’s the patchwork thing again. We all work with the same systems though.


This is the third album you’ve done with Helloween. You’ve seen three albums come and go, have you noticed a change in the way Helloween works?

Of course some of it depends on circumstances. ‘Rabbit Don’t Come Easy’ we did in some rush, I didn’t even realize I was a permanent member when I was doing the guitar parts for this album, I really didn’t know what was going on. The rest knew I was going to be part of the band though. We just grew together, they used my ideas and that was great. ‘The Legacy’ was more planned; we took a lot of time for the songwriting and communication. You know, circumstances are very important, with the ‘Rabbit Don’t Come Easy’ album we had drummer problems and that takes away the focus from the music. And for me it was very difficult because I had just joined a legendary band which I realized later. During the tour I had a lot of problems getting used to everything because I’d never played in a big band like this before. I’m an open minded musician; I’d done pop music and other stuff before I joined Helloween. People talked a lot of bullshit about me at first because I didn’t have the right metal look etc. I saw a picture on the internet of myself when I had just joined the band, I looked very punky, I had pink hair and stuff.



Did the band ask you to change your look?

Well, just before we did ‘The Legacy’ album the management came to me and they said, uhm, maybe you should change your hair, you know, because of the fans.. I said no at first but I found a middle way. Where I live we have a huge heavy metal fan base but they don’t ever recognize me there because I look kind of different in private.


Can you explain the title ‘Gambling With the Devil’?

The last album had a concept behind it and we thought we’d kind of go on with the subject, there’s a song called ‘Occasion Avenue’, where the devil is lurking around and getting people to try things, this is a strong theme on the album. We think alike on many issues like politics and we’ll talk about this kind of stuff. We were staying in a hotel, I think it was in Romania, and it had this casino style. We were talking and we decided that life is like gambling with the devil, you turn the wheel but you never know what happens, you could walk outside now and get hit by a bus. We’ve all had to make decisions of which we knew they might be evil. So when we’d come up with this subject, Andi had the brilliant idea of making a wheel in the booklet and to add a scratch card, you rub it and you get a riddle and if you solve it, it links you to another riddle and if you solve the whole thing you can win a prize! And it’s not just a t-shirt, you can fly to a country of your choice to see a Helloween show! We’ll fly you out there, you’ll see the show and meet the band. That was a great idea and it hooks on to the gambling subject, gambling with a fan haha!


So you came up with the title and then you wrote the album?

Yep, there is no written way of working when you do an album; sometimes you first write the songs. Our lyrics always have some connection, whoever writes them. So we put our ideas together and they all kind of fitted with the album title so that’s probably why it sounds like a concept album.


How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

Of course it is very important. I see stupid people running around telling people bullshit like “I killed my mother because she used to beat me when I was young” or “kill yourself because life sucks”. I would never go out and tell this to anyone. We get letters saying thank you because this song of yours kept me away from drugs and stuff like that, people thanking us because our music is so positive. I think you choose your fan base with the music that you make and I don’t want to run into dark minded people that will come and shoot me because they misunderstood our lyrics.


How important is producer Charlie Bauerfeind for Helloween? You have been working with him for a long time now, have you ever thought of working with someone else? Or do you guys feel more like 'never change a winning team'?

First of all, he’s a brilliant producer and he’s a technigeek! He has all these gimmics that you would never think of buying like the little electric tennis thing to kill flies and this arm protection mouse holder and stuff. He’s the same with his equipment. And he always keeps the overview. We’re kind of chaotic and laid back but Charlie keeps things together. He has his own idea how a Helloween album should sound as well and so he’s a big influence on how the albums sound. Since the Legacy album went so well it would have been a mistake not to work with him.



Any special elements on the album you can hear came from him?

I think you can hear it overall, but especially in the drums seeing as he is also a drum geek. He hears little details and works with them. It’s cleaned up and raw at the same time because of him.


Have you received any feedback on the new album yet?

When I came into the band people were disgusting sometimes, they were saying the band was dying. There was some cruelty going on. And now after the Legacy album people are asking, “how did you do it, you came back, you’re one of the biggest power metal bands, I’m proud to be a fan” but it would be the same guy that was giving you a hard time before. But we’ve had very positive feedback on this line-up.


Is there anything on the album that you are particularly proud of?

No, I’m proud of the overall result. It’s very difficult to be objective; I don’t even listen to the album. I just heard it when it had just be mixed, it’s  weird because I know it so well I hear every single detail, I hear things that others won’t hear.


Anything on the album you’d want to change in retrospective?

As a perfectionist I can say there’s always things I want to change afterwards but that’s impossible so I just had to get used to that.


Is there a special ingredient to a Helloween song?

That’s a difficult question! I think if you asked another band how they would copy our style, they’d say, “we’ll take a double bass, a high voice and twin guitars with a bit of a classical sound”. But the line-up is what makes it a Helloween song. We listen to all kinds of music, unlike many heavy metal fans. We are more musicians than heavy metal people. And those influences we use for song writing as well. That makes a Helloween song, people creating something together.



What do you listen to?

Jellyfish, a band from San Francisco. The keyboard player from Air founded it, he used to play for Shaggy, he’s been from rock to pop to heavy. It’s seventies psychedelic rock. The other band I like to listen to is the Used, it’s an alternative band from California.


What can we expect during the planned Tour with Gamma Ray early next year, are you planning to do anything special?

The tour will be very interesting because Gamma Ray are not going to support us, they are the special guest and they will be playing a long set. Axxis will join us as well for a few shows so I think that’s a great package for power metal fans! It will be cool that all the people who were bulshitting about fights among the bands will see that it’s not true. We’ve been talking about having Kai perform with us on stage for a couple of songs.


What do you think of the power metal scene these days?

I don’t really know, I’m not really into it. I just make music, I don’t get informed about it. I really don’t know. I should check that! For me it was always heavy metal, I don’t know about all the subgenres.


Is there anything you’d like to tell us after these questions?

Never buy flame shoes! I hate these things..


Thanks for your time!

(Martina Schouten) 



Current Members

Andi Deris - Vocals (1994-present)

Michael Weikath - Guitars (1982-present)

Sascha Gerstner - Guitars (2002-present)

Markus Grosskopf - Bass (1981-present)

Daniel "Dani" Loeble - Drums (2005-present)


Former members

Kai Hansen - Vocals (1978-1986) - Guitars (1978-1988)

Michael Kiske - Vocals (1987-1993)

Roland Grapow - Guitars (1988-2001)

Ingo Schwichtenberg - Drums (1981-1993)

Uli Kusch - Drums (1994-2001)

Mark Cross - Drums (2001-2003)

Stefan Schwarzmann - Drums (2003-2005)



Helloween (1985)

Walls Of Jericho (1985)

Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1 (1987)

Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2 (1988)

Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)

Chameleon (1993)

Master Of Rings (1994)

The Time Of The Oath (1996)

Better Than Raw (1998)

The Dark Ride (2000)

Rabbit Don't Come Easy (2003)

Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy (2005)
Gambling With The Devil (2007)


I Want Out Live (1989) - America only

Keepers Live (1989) - Japan only

Live In The UK (1989)

High Live (1996)

The Legacy World Tour 2005/2006 - Live In Sao Paulo (2007)