MICHAEL KISKE Says HELLOWEEN Was 'Fearless' When Creating Classic 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' Albums

May 13, 2018

Veteran Japanese rock journalist Masa Itoh recently conducted an interview with vocalist Michael Kiske and guitarists Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath of German power metal legends HELLOWEEN about the band's current "Pumpkins United" tour, which also features current vocalist Andi Deris, guitarist Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Dani Löble. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On getting Kiske onboard for the "Pumpkins United" tour:

Michael Weikath: "We were pushing things that way. When Michael and me talked on the phone, I was explaining to him what we had in mind and what the planning in my mind was for how to get there. I mean, he's always been pragmatic, seeing what happens and whatever, but I was planning that shit. I was going, 'And then, if we put this thing together, what would you play there and what would your second voice be and your first voice?' Structuring. The management and record company and promo, what is it called? Structure that is responsible for what happens because they all want to make a lot of money with us and suddenly all of these institutions were able to work onto the point because there was money in it for them."

On Kiske's thoughts on HELLOWEEN's 1985 "Walls Of Jericho" debut studio album:

Michael Kiske: "Nowadays, I actually enjoy some of the songs from 'Walls Of Jericho'. When I see you [Hansen] do the medley, it is cool. But, in those days, it wasn't my type of music. I remember that Markus came into the room of my band, my school band and he gave me 'Walls Of Jericho'. And he said, 'The singer we have now [Hansen] doesn't want to sing anymore. He wants to play guitar and we want you to have a listen and maybe join the band.' I listened to the record and it wasn't my cup of tea. It sounded to me, like one song the whole time. The same song, always speedy, speedy. It's not very fair to the record. I listen to it differently now. But in those days, I was into [IRON] MAIDEN, QUEENSRŸCHE, BLACK SABBATH, not the speedy stuff, so I never called them. It was not my cup of tea. Since he called me up on then [Weikath], I was in the bathtub, actually, by the way. My mother came in and said 'Here's a guy called Michael Weikath from the band called HELLOWEEN."

Michael Weikath: "Me too. I was in the bathtub as well."

Michael Kiske: "He said what exactly what he just said: 'Yeah, I know 'Walls Of Jericho' is very rough and punky and whatever. We want to go a little further than that and we need someone like you for this. So, why don't you come to the rehearsal room.' I remembered that. But then you [Hansen] actually had written — him, too, but you [Weikath] also had written a few songs already."

Kai: "That was a real point of 'Keeper [Of The Seven Keys Part] I' — It was the chemistry. He actually talked Michael into joining the band, then we had some test rehearsals and stuff. Convincing for him was his vision. Weiki and, of course, we agreed that we wanted to get more sophisticated than 'Walls Of Jericho', go further, that kind of, he could sell it to him. [Laughs]"

On putting the twin "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums together:

Michael Kiske: "I think they have a certain spirit. I think, how I remember that time — you probably have a different view, but how I experienced it is, we were fearless, just fooling around, working with the elements of the bands we were excited about, fooling around with it. I think the creative spirit that was going on by that time is captured on the record somehow and you can feel it. It's stuff you can't artificially produce. It's there or not. It was definitely there in those days."

Michael Weikath: "This is nothing against Deris because he has his own magic, but it's his voice [Kiske's] on the 'Keeper' records. I heard the UNISONIC [Kiske and Hansen's now-dormant side project], the last one you've done and there were some tracks that sounded close to HELLOWEEN. I heard the producer, he was studying what we were doing and putting things together to create something similar. And there it was. I put in on and I was like 'Godly sunshine going with choirs.' It was his voice. I was like 'Yeah, that's it.'"

Kai: "I was just like 'Yeah, there's a certain magic on these albums.' They became cult because they were special. We were after SCORPIONS and ACCEPT, the third band to kind of look over the horizon of the [German hard rock/metal] scene and have created something that was pretty unique and pretty good at that time, compared to what was around."

The "Pumpkins United" tour marks the first time Kiske has played live with HELLOWEEN since 1993. Hansen, who departed HELLOWEEN in 1988, has been joining the band onstage on various tours and festival appearances throughout the years. The set features several duets with Kiske and his replacement, Deris, along with many rarely played songs, including "Kids Of The Century", "Rise And Fall" and "Livin' Ain't No Crime". Hansen — who fronted HELLOWEEN until late 1986 — sings a medley of several early HELLOWEEN classics, including "Ride The Sky", "Judas", "Starlight" and "Heavy Metal (Is The Law)".

The North American leg of the "Pumpkins United" tour will kick off on September 7 in Las Vegas and conclude on September 15 in New York.

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