Markus Grosskopf - Helloween

January 24, 2004

I had the opportunity to go and check these guys out. It was my first time seeing Helloween and it was an incredible show. I was sitting with another interviewer in a coffee shop and Markus was remarking on how long it had been since they were here last.

It's been about 15 years.

Why were you guys gone so long?

We had a little break. We needed a rest after the second American tour. We do records constantly and tour all over the place but America for some horrible reason. Once you're here, you're able to find out what places are best for you too. You've got to check it out and then we don't play the venues like we do in Spain, Europe, or Japan. It was cleared but we didn't know what to expect so we just came and did the obvious. We know that and need to keep coming to do more venues.

Have you found out which are your stronger areas?

L.A. was really good and then New York was pretty good. Chicago could have been better when there wasn't this huge football game or something.

You were one of the few German bands to break into the American market. Why is it so difficult for foreign bands to make it over here?

I don't know. It's a bummer what's going on. It's easy to lose a lot of money if you come from Europe to America. It's very expensive for us so we tour differently than we tour in Europe. We get different things going than we have in Europe or somewhere in Asia. You can just lose a lot of money if you don't do it the right way. You get major experience one day to find out how to do it. I don't know. It's very difficult and it's not easy for some bands who are selling less records than us. You have to be careful when you budget because it's not so easy. We come over and we rent a truck and a bus. We don't know so much about the American market so we have to come back and find out. We haven't been here in such a long time. I don't really have an answer to this problem. We don't really know what to expect or what's going on.

You've had personnel changes.

Rock and roll and the business we're in isn't always happy and having a good time and doing rock and roll. We've also been doing it for 20 years I have to say. You go through sad times and you have discussions and disagreements. Sometimes you have to make some hard decisions if you don't agree. There has to be a change in the band situation if it isn't just right. You have to make hard decisions to stay together and you've got to keep it together somehow if it's not working. If you feel that it's not going to work like this or some members of the band feel the same way then something has to change. It's not always easy. We're not doing it for the hell of it. There's a reason for it. Stefan Schwarzmann our new drummer has been in Accept and U.D.O. and some other bands. He didn't even do the last album we did so this is something new for us, working with him in the studio. We have Sascha Gerstner who did the last album. Hopefully we'll be touring a lot of months together.

Getting them road tested before going in the studio again?

No, that's not the deal. When Stefan got in the band, the record was already done. It's not like we do a tour and then take them into the studio. That's just the way it was. We don't plan like this. We have to react to situations when they're coming up just like that. Especially for Helloween, sometimes everything goes wrong. Things that are weird or things that you don't expect come up just like this and then you have to react.

You had Mikkey Dee play on Rabbit Don't Come Easy.

Yeah, we had a guy named Mark Cross and he came from a German metal band called Metalium. We had him coming in replacing Uli Kusch. We did a big rehearsal but then in the studio after his first set he had a breakdown and his system was very low. He couldn't get it together. He had a very big neck and then he went to the doctor. They ran all these blood tests and it looked like the Epstein-Barr virus. It affects the system in a way that you just can't handle any stress. No one can tell you how long you'll be affected. We couldn't wait any longer. After we gave him a break for eight weeks, we had a meeting about Dee coming in and doing half the album and then doing all these tracks. The guitar tracks, the vocal tracks, finishing these songs and getting Mark back in. Mark still wouldn't be able to do some things so we had to get Mikkey in to do the rest of the album.

Who designed your album cover? I've always been fascinated by your album covers.

Schmidt Design did that. They're good friends of mine and they did the video. They did some animated stuff and we're just added in. They do very good pieces like this. They did it for a good price. If you give it to a company, three minutes is a major expense. It costs a hell of a lot of money. Because I know the guys, they did it for a friendship price.

This latest release shows your happier side as opposed to your dark side. Why the switch to a more upbeat album?

The Dark Ride was kind of forced upon us by the record company and from more of the management side. They got us a producer in and they said we should do it like this and like that and like this. We could even make it in America. That was fine with them. Actually they also wanted to achieve something more in America by getting us an American producer and he had an eye on the arrangements and on the lyrics. He was promising us kind of an American deal and we ended up without an American deal. For us it was like an experiment. What will the record do if we do it their way? We ended up with no record deal in America. It's been released almost three quarters of a year after it came out everywhere else. So after this we decided to do things the way we like to do them and not even thinking about giving a track away to let it be checked by somebody. This is what we came up with when left alone.

You learned a lesson from this.

Yes.

You guys are booked for quite a few festivals this summer.

I hope so. Some of them are not really confirmed yet but then we have to go home and see what's going on. There's definitely a summer season for us in Europe.

Any other comments?

Come to the shows, have fun, and drink a couple of beers.

Damn, a man after my own heart.

Helloween