Pioneers of power metal, Helloween have seen their latest release 7 Sinners whip up a whirlwind of critical acclaim. I caught up with Marcus Grosskopf for Rushonrock.
November 10th 2010
rushonrock: First things first, how did it begin with Helloween?
Marcus Grosskopf: It began like every band, arranging the shows by yourself, running round in the middle of the night getting posters on the walls and getting some shows. That was how we started off. And I’m still living here!
rushonrock: Did you have any idea what Helloween would become at the time?
MG: I was just about to do music and I knew it was going to be something that I would do for all of my lifetime. I didn’t know that we’d get gold records but it was quite clear that I was going to do music for the rest of my life.
rushonrock: Gambling With The Devil was considered to be a darker album. Is there anything that sets new album 7 Sinners apart from your last record?
MG: It’s even more darker than the Gambling With The Devil Album. It just came out like this in a very natural way. After the Unarmed record, everyone was ready for some real heavy stuff and we had some very heavy ideas, and it came together very naturally without talking about it, it was just there. It came together almost just by itself.
rushonrock: In what way would you say your playing style has changed since the beginning?
MG: It didn’t really change, it also depends on the track you do and what the song needs. For this album it’s a bit more back to the rockiness that we started off with, but my style is actually kind of the same. I hope I’ve got a little better than 25 years ago! [laughs] I’m sure I’ve got a little more routine now!
rushonrock: With side project Bassinvaders, obviously as the name suggests it is more bass orientated.
MG: That was something I had in mind when I was sitting in a bar, thinking about something to do and I had this idea come into my head; you can do heavy music without any guitars at all. I think it’s working. It was more work getting those guests together than actually recording it. It was fun and a great experience.
rushonrock: How does it make you feel that Helloween have become a huge part in speed and power metal scene?
MG: I think it’s nice to be a part of all that scene, it makes me feel very good because in 25 years you’ve got to do a lot of work and a lot of tours. You have to withstand a lot of pain and a lot of bad treatment from the music industry, and all of that goes with it with a career like this. I can say for myself that it’s great that I was able to survive all of this!
rushonrock: What have you been listening to at the minute?
MG: I’ve actually been listening to a lot of old stuff at the moment. There’s some Soilwork involved and some Dream Theater of course. But when I was doing the record, I was listening to almost no music at all. I was just concentrating on my own stuff. I like doing my own stuff without getting too much different stuff in my head.
rushonrock: So you like to keep away from too much outside influence?
MG: Yeah, I just try the ideas I get and work on those.
rushonrock: The upcoming tour is absolutely huge, there are a lot of dates there.
MG: We’ll get a Christmas break…then we start Europe and another part of Europe in January. Then in March, April and May there’s South America and maybe a little bit of North America too, I don’t know yet. But then we have Asia and summer festival time in Europe. We thought about getting one of these round the world tickets and it makes the travelling a little cheaper, but you don’t have that many breaks in between because of the plane depending.. What do I know?! [laughs]
rushonrock: Do you still enjoy touring?
MG: On the bus I like a lot, because you get the family, the band and the crew together on one bus in a small place. For years and years it’s been nice, it’s just like a touring family going round the globe. But the flying business is sometimes a pain in the arse, waiting in airports for hours and hours, but you know, I’m not in a position to complain! It’s the best life one could ever have.
rushonrock: In the new video (Are You Metal?), there’s a girl going through some kind of pain with a head-brace on. What kind of message do you think the band wanted to get through with the video?
MG: Oh I don’t know! I shall have to read the script next time instead of shooting our thing then off to the bar!
rushonrock: Well it might have something to do with the challenging of someone’s musical tastes.
MG: Yeah, we ordered some girls in the video!
rushonrock: Now, as a contrast to Helloween’s faster songs, you’ve made slower songs like If I Knew and a Tale That Wasn’t Right. Will you always have that slower song inside you?
MG: We have a lot of songwriters in the band and it’s not just one or two songwriters doing one directional composing. We have four people with four very, very different ways of writing songs. Mikey (Michael Weikath) probably has the more traditional and classic way of writing songs in the Helloween way. But then you have Saascha (Gerstner), who has a completely different way and Andi (Deris) who a lot of time goes very commercial but still Helloween. He conquers other ways of creating his music. There are a lot of very modern elements there that he is probably very interested in, and we come together as Helloween playing all these ideas. We’re all very different from each other but after we go and work on it, it automatically becomes Helloween and it’s nice that the songs work like this rather than having just one thread you can’t leave.
rushonrock: So almost like a democratic process in a way?
MG: Yeah, have fun with it and fool around with it and you have to allow yourself things like that to make it interesting. If we did for years the same stuff, it’s not going to be as interesting. But we have all these ideas and put them all together. And although it’s different it’s always Helloween.
rushonrock: Do you still talk to Gamma Ray vocalist Kai Hansen?
MG: Haha, I just did! We’ve still got one bass guitar at his house and he’s got to send me it before the tour!
rushonrock: So do you see him often?
MG: Well not really. I was supposed to pick it up but I didn’t really have the time to do so, and forgot about it and now a couple of days before rehearsals start, I need the bass guitar! So we talked on the phone, asking how he was. When we see each other we share a beer or two, and it’s ok.
rushonrock: For how much longer will Helloween be going?
MG: Until my bones will carry me and till my hair will not leave me! Another 20 years maybe. Look at how long Deep Purple have been around. It’s such a long time 40 years.
rushonrock: But kind of timeless?
MG: Well yeah, it’s the same with AC/DC too. The greatest rock band in the world if you ask me.
rushonrock: Are there any albums that stick out?
MG: I started off doing punk actually, so I had the Ramones live album. Their first live album was very great, and Never Mind The Bollocks album was one of those albums when I first started off doing music in punk. Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous and Rainbow’s On Stage – all those records were fabulous. And Judas Priest too. That’s stuff I’m still listening to, everlasting stuff.