HELLOWEEN – THE EAGLE HAS LANDED
We’ve had several opportunities in the past to interview some of the seven members who now are part of the new Helloween. But to understand what we have in our hands today we have to go back with the memory to the first times we listened to the Hamburg Pumpkins. Each one of us maybe has his own favourite track… I personally would choose “Starlight”, “Eagle Fly Free” and “Power” just to pick one from each period that characterised the 3 Teutonic singers. But there is so much more between the line-ups, the live shows, the emotions and various anecdotes, and the judgement is very personal. Among the many bands that I have seen in over 20 years of concerts, Helloween I can only count one date and that was for Pumpkin United, at Firenze Rocks in this 7-piece line-up with the alternation of these magical voices on stage, high calibre musicians and a truly majestic scene since they were not even headliners. Now we have the opportunity to hear the 3 voices alternating in a whole new album, with the collaboration of experienced and capable musicians and with a maturity worthy of the time that passes. Talking to Dani Loeble, who has been in the line-up since 2005, was alienating, because I realised that he is still a Helloween fan himself and even though he has been playing with them for a long time, he still feels certain emotions and vibes being in contact with such legends. Yes, because when you talk about people who made half the world of heavy music sing and move, you can also talk about legends! Famous for their easy-going power metal also known as happy metal, veterans of 16 studio albums and countless live performances around the world, today Helloween are back with their sound, ready to give us new emotions. But here’s Daniel Loeble in this chat of about 1 hour and a half about the new self-celebrating album, but not only!
You are finally out with this new album. The expectations are really high for all fans. Tell me what do you think in your opinion about the results and which is the response of the first critic, comparing to all previous Helloween discography?
To cut the story and taking back of reactions of the journalists I would say it’s really great. It wasn’t plan at all to release an album like this and it can sound a bit superficial, but you never can expect to have success in things like this – we are truely happy and really overwelming about the results. Sure charts from the magazines are different but many are on place 1 and anyway really positive reactions. It makes us shocked about how much positive and we are really looking forward to go out and to see our fan base in tour for the last response. I am really quite excited about this.
What you can tell me about the composing and record process with 7 musicians and an album so hard and difficult highly expected from all the metal scene?
Writing process it happened more or less as always. We have been collecting ideas in studio and we get there all together. We used to have band meetings to listen to our demos and sitting to spread ideas for pieces of songs and discussions on which way to record and what songs record or not, put together our impressions… then we had first jam sessions that for us it was not usual. We didn’t did it before. Then we entered studio in Hamburg and we had 5 weeks of jam sessions playing existing songs and jam to check what was working or not. After we starting recording and this set has been split in 2 segments: one in Hamburg at H.O.M.E. Studios where many other Helloween albums has been recorded and the other in Nurnberg in really huge studios. Probably the best i had ever saw, not set in an old building but really great room and venue; it was easy to put so many people in this room and we had a great sound. The production we searched for, it has been perfect to connect the best we could for a vintage sound as the old keepers, recording in tape machine, using real drums.. and old machinery, all mixed up with today new technology. We used really tons of amplyfiers, drums, speakers and all has been recorded in pure air. We used different positions to have the best sounds changing microphones, using tons of guitars and spending lots of time and using lots of material for to reach just an organic sound. I also needed to change many drum kits to check out which set could be played or not, and I used also the drumkit from keeper Era. A combination of sounds that was really amazing and we all invested a lot of money for that! Tape machine and all the old stuff… digitalized life is not for us!
The title and cover explain itself.. I mean, never before Helloween came out with a so simple and auto celebrative title. Moreover the cover artwork was a challenge not that easy.. how you came out with it?
After finishing these recording we knew it could be really a strong album. We had a kind of list of titles like Fear The Fallen and more and then one of us came with great idea. As we were talking about a sort of a reunion album it could be easy to have a masterpiece probably. That’s what we could expect and so why not to name it just Helloween? It’s simply us, so we thought that a strong statement for this line up could be a great idea, after so many years! It still feel good or more than good! It is for sure a strong title and an album like that deserve to name it just Helloween!
We recorded only air, no digital signals because of his vintage sound and the recording process also. That’s why we also choose for a vintage work for the cover artwork hand painted as to have something really hand made. Eliron Kantor, the artist, arrived with this fantastic script.. we had a discussion of a couple of artists with rough painting, but this was really standing and for us it is a real masterpiece that set great for that title! When we saw the 4 bricks that compose the whole work we had not doubt!
3 guitars and 3 voices.. how has been possible to fix all these combinations considering also the 3 different period in time through the Helloween carrer?
To be honest we had 5 vocalists. We wanted really to go in a new direction for this album as we used doing things we didn’t do in past. We are not new in the metal scene but we brought lot of changes through these years and thanks also to new technologies, new fan base, so you could hear Sasha on many vocals in the background and this first time Weiki also sung something.. I really shit in my pants hearing it!
We are in a luxury situation for sure with this line-up and listening to the album you will see that it’s really different album and there are songs with screams and shouts as in Walls of Jericho Era. Andi also did a great job as he use to do. Some songs are related to the Keeper times with perfection of Mikie and other very neat – having 3 different charachters of singers it was really like a battleship, simply perfect. “Angels” for example was written for Mikie and you can hear it how he shine bright on this title. Of course our producer Charlie Bauerfeind and Dennis Ward invested so many energies on best balance of voices not to have too much Kiske or Deris or too less Kai. We also made a bunch of different versions to have all the best possibilities and 3 or 4 for songs has been rejected… really not easy for all. Sometimes it is good to be just a drummer!
To cut a long story, the songwriter of the song always do lyrics as well. Sasha and Andi wrote a lot for this album. Weiki and Markus as well came out with suitable songs and lyrics. Weiki is lost in a crazy future, comic world, difficult to describe. Kai for sure is set somewhere out in space, while Andi points his finger to nowadays system and society! Sasha write most on his past and personal things! Mikie.. no idea on his mind! Can’t answer! Probably he is more on esoterical stuff! All of them you can find on this album! Subjects are so different but if you read it all, you could have an impression that it all was planned as a concept and connected in a whole story!
You will be in tour next march in 2022… after the huge Pumpkin United tour you had all the pandemic times to release the album and still have time to prepare for the tour with Hammerfall.. I saw dates through all Europe from march to may… what we should expect and do you think about to plan festivals too or we should wait for 2023 for that?
Shows scheduled are for the kick of tour. One and half year of tour for the first European leg, then North America, South America, Japan, Australia also and then directly to Festival season. All shows will keep us for many times in tour – we postponed shows for pandemic reasons for long but we will come back soon and we will bring with us Hammerfall; they should play for about an hour and we are suppose to stay on stage for 2 or 2 and half hour. We are discussing the set list of this tour and probably we will play some songs which haven’t been played before so to bring out something different on stage. And sure we will have new lights, new lay out, drum solo… a big stage that will satisfy everyone! Shows cost a lot of money. Of course we will do our best to deliver the best show ever to our fans!
Choose for me 3 songs of the last album and tell me why you can consider them the best or however your favourite!
“Angels”: when we recorded it, I ad immediately goosebumps, so probably it is my favourite, at least in my personal opinion.
“Robot King”: it is really full of energy. One of the most powerfull of the whole album.
“Down In The Dumps”: it’s kinda a thrashy song and it is really a pleasure to play it! I can’t wait to play it live on stage.
So… Which of the old songs are your favourite then and which ones you really like to play live?
Believe me or not but one of my favourite is “Eagle Fly Free”, when I play it with my drums makes me feel proud and I really try to bring it into the best I can. The chorus, the melodie, the feeling and double bass drumming. That song have really all.
“I’m Alive” don’t know why but I really like the grooving rock n roll and speed metal in that song – somehow it is a progressive song.
Then sure there are many others like “Dr Stein”, tricky song or “If I Could Fly” also!
Ah.. yes.. “Are you metal?” is a song that I like a lot, somehow similar to “Angels”, definitely one of my favourite. Strange Helloween song but really we have it as fix statement in our setlist.. since the day we wrote, we played it in every tour or concert!
Well I could name lots more! But however it is all part of my life and style of drumming.. it’s me and sure I like every single note and song to play live and connecting with the Pumpkins..! It’s in my blood, veins and dna!
We would go out with this line up as long as possible for sure even if never knows what future will bring. It is 7 of us for this next future and we are already discussing for the next album.. what we should do and plan. Everyone is in this new old Helloween line up since the Pumpkin United gone and we are taking place! 2 years ago we were before recording process and now we prooved we can work together! Creativity is infinite! I am so proud of it even if sure nothing is written or carved in stone for future of anyone!
Tell me one good and one bad memory of the Pumpkin United tour!
Let’s start from the bad one. Our first show was planned when Mikei falled sick and the day before we were in doubt to go out with success or not. He had really bad throat and he needed to use technical support just to go on stage.. we received lots of complainings but we had no chance and we wanted not to cancel that show. It was the only way to be honest and play that show in that way. In the end it was really good anyway.
I have really good memory to see fans in Wacken or Rock In Rio.. that was our last show of the tour back in october 2019 – we entered the main stage in really good time.. broadcasting and moment i will never forget.. in i’m alive.. listening to 100.000 crazy fans singins our lyrics and chearing us.. environment of that festival.. great succes.. magic moment! Still proud and kind of blown away.. thrilled by the show.. played woodstock also with more people in front of the stage but compared to wacken and rock in rio.. was really successfull and higher moment!
There are two songs Golden Times and Save My Hide that we had not chance to listen to as they are bonus track on digibook and vinyl…why you decided to sacrifice those songs not giving the chance to listen them to everyone?
That’s the reason why they are called bonus tracks. Always there to make people buy a certain issues for real fans. We had 16 songs but only 10 of them could go into the record. It is always necessary to sacrifice some songs. The same situation is for any other band such as for Metallica, or Testament, or Slayer.. not all can be used to an album. In the 80ies there were just about 8 songs. 40 minutes and no skipper songs. Just main songs. I fight for get back on 8 songs but quality songs, but market ask for more!
How still strong is it today a lable on how to build an album like this and which decisions could be taken easily or only with conditions and lawyers?
Of course you need that all turn out and could be in good conditions for both sides. With NUCLEAR BLAST we had with us Markus Steiger, the most responsable guy for us. He is himself a big Helloween fan and he doesn’t care about money. He just wanted to offer the best Helloween album he could and he was in the middle of recordings, listening us. No lawyers and all this stuff, just a great flow by working with NB and all the team. They are good friends! Markus really doesn’t care about money as long as good is the quality! It’s a good thing! I would like to say a couple of words. he still kept 9 most favourite bands he still take care of and we are one of those. He would sell his mother for a great album. To me as a metal fan, when talking about metal God, it’s not Rob Halford.. it’s Markus Steiger.. no one else in the metal market!
To those who think this huge reunion is a good way for good money what would you answer?
Of course they are right.. why not? An occasion to make good money. I had a luxury position that i could make my hobby and passion. Not a job for me! Became the tool to make living my family and myself. Everyone has to do with pay rent and food, bills as part of human society. I can’t do a regular job outside of Helloween or there could not be the chance to go on tour so much or write so many songs with quality, at least not at the same level. Doing music and work at the same time it’s really hard, specially with clear state of mind. Living with a regular job it’s really hard if you want to do all at so high level. I sure respect who can do this, but not to loose the sense of the question.. of course we go on tour in 7 of us and crew members – and they have family too. So now I would say that we are not just a group of passionate people that make music, we become to be a kind of company, responsible to feed people and that’s a business side for us.. we need to take a look to bank account for anything. The Pumpkin United was not only a reunion because of only passion. Probably it was a money thing too even if sure not on a first place. It’s not about making money at first place for what i can say.. for sure! It’s a simple thing. I would reject or decline, telling that money are not important, but then how should I explain how and why people should pay tickets at concerts?
Yes.. a real old drumkit, for me it was a dream come true. Back in the days, it cost a lot of money and i felt like a king; I grew up in the 80ies as drummer and I wasn’t use to play a signature. Nothing new for what i played, but i really recorded feelings, an esotheric way to feel the Ingo drums with whom i grew up. Sitting there with original members it was magical.. but didn’t help me! Ir made me feel good and for sure it was important for all the way we recorded. The precision and timing are also important.. that’s why I am part of Helloween: to make people feel the groove of our songs in a pack of emotions! I am old drummer and maybe I don’t have tecnical skills of new drummers but I think that today feelings are getting lost!
Technical question… you have a set with a simple drum on the last video but it is more easy to see you sit on a more complex drumkit, so how this settings can change the way you record or you play in tour?
In the video i bringed only a small drumkit with me and that’s why I used that.. eheh no.. really. The producer wanted to have some kind of colors and needed to have a small subjet to see more me and other things. Sure on stage I always have a massive drumkit. I grew up with Van Halen and those drums are standards for big stages and could happen that you need really to play different parts of the kit.. moreover it is part of the show and look, too!
With Gotthard I used to play a 3 toms drums. It was Hena Habegger set, but usually I play set with 5 toms.
Time of last greetings man.. last words are yours!
Thanks Ivan. I Really appreciate your questions and interview. I hope that crowd and fans will enjoy the album. It’s important. We both need each others. Crowd and band have a kind of relationship.. it’s giving and taken.. after almoast 40 years. That happens for true fans as in a soccer club. We need this kind of people. What you see in music or soccer club.. it’s real attraction and connection… music without fans wouldn’t exist.. and vice versa!
Albums comes from ideas from your head, with chance to touch people in their emotions and expectations, tomake them happy and this can happens just from your mind.. that’s makes you feel really.. good! It make me proud and give me also a huge responsibility for the fans also! I really hope to see soon all our heavy true metal fans around the world!