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Michael Weikath - Guitar for Helloween

Date: 9/23/10
Interviewed By: Rich Catino


1. In the press release about the latest Helloween album "7 Sinners", it states this is your fastest and heaviest album to date. Tell us why?

MICHAEL: Yeah it is pretty intense, it sounds brilliant with a very good mix and production. Yeah it is our heaviest most aggressive album (as a whole) in years, since the "Walls Of Jericho" album (which came out in 1985), but "Jericho", as fast and heavy as that was doesn't have this production on "7 Sinners".

2. Can you give us an example from your previous album "Gambling With The Devil" of what these songs on "7 Sinners" are like? Do they have a similar vibe as '7 Bells of Hell'?

MICHAEL: It's like a continuation of "Gambling", the sound is just more aggressive. Also, this time around the keyboard player (who did a few things on "Gambling With The Devil"), has put a little more work on this album. On "Gambling" we used our own audio tracks for keyboard work and special effects, but on this one we skipped that step and gave everything to him (the keyboard player).

3. Of the 13 songs on "7 Sinners", how many are aggressive?

MICHAEL: Basically all of them, then you have a sing-a-long tune 'World Of Fantasy' (composed by bassist Marcus Grosskopf) which could be seen as kind of cheesy but that's typical for us to have one of those songs on an album. 'The Smile Of The Sun' has a kind of minstrel/medieval touch to it but still is heavy in the chorus, a little modern, and then the rest of the album is pretty straight forward and a bit progressive. I did a track called 'Raise The Noise' which has a live atmosphere towards the end, it's pretty straight forward commercial glam rock meets modern times...I think it got that vibe, hahaha.

4. Why the title "7 Sinners" and is it a concept album?

MICHAEL: A concept album in a way, a supposed concept, some of the lyrics are conceptual because of the underlining subject. Andi (Deris, vocals) has a song on the album called 'Where The Sinners Go' (which happens to be the first track), and I have one called 'The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner', and comparing demos I said I guess we are gonna change the album title because these two tracks with the word "sinner" in the title, so we figured lets use the word "sinner" in the album title. Then on the demos I put a septegram (which is a 7 pointed star) and when I played the songs on my Iphone you could see the star and I said maybe we can do something with that for the artwork. And we thought that looked cool and it all came together between the songs titles and the artwork. The lyrics go a little bit along that line, dealing with doing the right thing, the wrong where you can sin, where you can be the fool, the sissy, pussy, or idiot, you know.

5. Did you do anything with the music that has not been done on a previous Helloween album?

MICHAEL: Maybe within the structures, they could be considered a little more difficult, maybe more progressive…see the drumming has been taken to a level than before and that was one of Dani's (Loble) goals with this album and from what I understand he tried some different drumming techniques in order to achieve these crazy speeds. Plus, we didn't use a click track to record, so Dani was playing more freely on basically all the tracks (except for maybe one), and the drums were played with many signals to use them for a template on the digital editor for retakes later.

6. What song, or songs, will you shoot a video for?

MICHAEL: The second track on the album, 'Are You metal', it's a pretty straight forward song and in the vein of what we do and very catchy. The title is very memorable and to the point, its not a commercial single (per say), but in itself it is commercial, but still rough and heavy. Its more along the lines of Judas Priest's 'Painkiller' or something like that.

Another thing we did on this album was tune everything to 432 hertz as opposed to 440 which is the regular way. 432 follows the frequency of the planet earth. Its sounding in 8 hertz or something, other artists have recorded works based on that principal so we thought let's give it a try, it could be a little magical. Based on that theory (if it's true) everything that we do apart from 432 would be disharmonic to what the planet is moving like. We thought it was something interesting instead of sticking to 440, and it took some time working with 432 hertz because you have to watch the tuning meters and it was more difficult to keep it there and correct.

7. Will the European tour with Stratovarius come to the U.S.?

MICHAEL: I hope so, Stratovarius are a great band and so certainly I hope it (the tour) would. The last time we toured the States (with Gamma Ray) it went great so we would like to come back.

8. What kind of setlist are you preparing for the "7 Sinners" tour?

MICHAEL: We are starting rehearsals this week and the tour starts in November in Europe, there are a few dates until February and its likely to become as a monstrous as last time. See the last tour we did that came to the States (for "Gambling with The Devil") we didn't have to pay anything on it and it was a success, we had great preparation and great fans…so that way you can do more shows. Our setlist is ready but I'm not going to tell you what we're playing, haha...I can say we are playing 5 new tunes from "7 Sinners", and then we are doing a few older Helloween tracks we haven't played in many years.

9. You didn't play anything from "Walls of Jericho" the last couple tours that came to the U.S. If I'm correct, the last time was on the “Rabbit Don't Come Easy” tour when you played 'Murderer' and 'Starlight'

MICHAEL: You know when we did 'Murderer' and 'Starlight' the reception from the crowd could have been better, so it seems the fans (majority) maybe are from the "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" album on, I don't know. So for the time being we skipped doing those songs...o wait...we are doing 'Ride The Sky' on this tour and we haven't done that one yet with this lineup so that will be fun.

10. Aside from the one off date in the late 90s for the album "Better Than Raw" in New York City, Helloween started the touring cycle again in North America in 2003 for the album "Rabbit Don't Come Easy". Right?

MICHAEL: Yes...and that tour for "Rabbit" didn't go so well unfortunately because something was wrong on the promotional side.

11. I have seen Helloween on every tour in the U.S. since "Rabbit", and there are a few songs I have yet to hear. I'm curious if there are plans to add them for this current tour, and if not, what are your thoughts on them.

a. 'Phantoms Of Death'
MICHAEL: I like that one it's just a matter of if more people would appreciate it to warrant adding it to the setlist. Similar situation to what I said before about 'Starlight' and 'Murderer'. But it's a classic track and an anthem in a way, I have nothing against playing it.

b. 'I'm Alive'
MICHAEL: That we're actually going to play, and now I'm going to reveal almost all the setlist, hahaha.

c. 'Kids Of The Century'
MICHAEL: Nope. It could happen, we did play it a lot at the time and for the original members who played it at the time (myself and Marcus) we got pretty sick of it. It's the last good one former singer Michael Kiske has written.

d. 'Why' or 'Still We Go', I like both a lot.
MICHAEL; 'Why' was in our B setlist for the 7 Sinners Tour, it might appear, it has been noticed. 'Still We Go', no because we had a lot of people in the crowd who weren't feeling it. We enjoyed playing that song and Roland (former guitarist) was a bit disappointed because it wasn't as successful as we thought. But it's interesting to get that feedback from you. I liked to play it so it was sad when it doesn't get the right reaction from the crowd.

e. 'Wake Up The Mountain'
MICHAEL: We use to play it on the "Better Than Raw" tour but there is another song we are doing on this tour from the album "Time Of The Oath" that we haven't played but I'm not telling you that one, haha, you have to wait and see. It kind of sucks now because with the internet after the first show the setlist is online. In the 80s aside from word of mouth you had to wait and see what a band was playing.

f. 'Hey Lord' and 'Handful of Pain', two from one of my favorite Helloween albums.
MICHAEL: Well we have done 'Hey Lord' on previous tours and it probably won't return just yet. And concerning the album "Better Than Raw" I'm not telling you what song, or songs, we are playing (laughs), I don't want to give too much away.

12. What Helloween album (or albums) do you think are the most overlooked or underrated?

MICHAEL: Ugghh...all of them (laughs) except for the "Keeper of The Seven Keys" albums, because they all have been overlooked at some point. See the problem is that everyone compares everything to the "Keeper" albums, same problem exists with Stryper and their album "Soldiers Under Command" which doesn't really have a bad track on it where as they did other records that maybe were not as strong as "Soldiers". Or take Slayer for instance who have strong points elsewhere in their catalogue, other things that people just don't appreciate as much as "Reign In Blood", you can't compare them because it comes down to songwriting. Like ELO, "Discovery" from 1979 is not their best record to me but to most people it is because that's where the major hits came from.

13. Message to your fans?

MICHAEL: We can't wait to see our fans again and looking forward to getting back to North America. The album comes out in the U.S. somewhere in the beginning of November. In Europe it comes out on Halloween. There is also a pre release single out in Japan for 'Are You Metal' with a bonus track.

Official website: http://www.helloween.org


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