Helloween just set off on the United Forces U.S. tour alongside Hammerfall, running now through June. Metal Contraband’s Chelsea recently spoke with vocalist Michael Kiske about his return to Helloween, the Pumpkins United tour and current lineup, the latest tracks from the band, some of Michael’s history in and out of Helloween, his tribute to Ronnie James Dio, his favorite vocalists, and more. Check it out below.

(Photo by Mauricio Santana/Getty Images)

Helloween just set off on the United Forces U.S. tour alongside Hammerfall, running now through June. Metal Contraband’s Chelsea recently spoke with vocalist Michael Kiske about his return to Helloween, the Pumpkins United tour and current lineup, the latest tracks from the band, some of Michael’s history in and out of Helloween, his tribute to Ronnie James Dio, his favorite vocalists, and more. Check it out below.

Chelsea here, happy to be joined virtually by Michael Kiske of Helloween! How are you doing today?

I’m doing good, thank you. And you?

I’m doing well too, thanks so much for hopping on this Zoom. There’s lots of great things going on with you and Helloween for the past few years, so I’m definitely excited to talk with you about it.

Yeah, since the pandemic ended, we’re actually finally doing something again.

Yeah, definitely. Pre-pandemic though, jumping back a little bit, I mean, a 3-vocalist, 3-guitarist lineup for a band is something almost unheard of, and then splitting vocals on an album is one thing, but then taking everyone all out on tour together is another. So to start off, can you tell me about Pumpkins United bringing together Helloween as we see it today?

That was a long journey to be honest with you, I mean, it was a long time where I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I was just frustrated, I even didn’t want to have anything to do with the music business, I was just off. I was doing some stuff here and there, like every 4 years something, I was releasing something, but my mind was somewhere else. It was a good time, it was important, but it was a long time where I wasn’t paying attention to the whole music world. And it slowly kind of grew back on me. It all started in end of the 90’s with Avantasia, Tobi basically talking me into singing one or 2 songs on the first album. I still didn’t want to play live. I mean, I didn’t want to do it, but I liked him a lot and his attitude. But I was still in that sort of “leave me alone”, you know, kind of stage, like…I had him call me Ernie on the album, so that’s why I’m Ernie on there. But that was actually the very first beginning of opening up to that again, and then later on there was this offer from Serafino from Frontiers Records to do Place Vendome, which I think we did 3 or 4 records, I’m not even sure, but they turned out pretty nice. By that, I got to know Dennis Ward who was producing it, and he was also writing the most of the songs of the first 2 records, and that was leading later on to forming Unisonic with him and Kosta playing the drums. Costa was also doing tour management for Bottom Row, which is our management.

There was one time in I think ’15 or ’16, I’m not 100% sure, where I was on tour with Avantasia, we were playing on a festival in France and Helloween was playing on that festival, too. And the dressing rooms were next to each other, and so as it happened, I walked into Michael Weikath. And I still had everything piled up, but it all had changed, but I didn’t notice. There was some sort of fixed state down there without me recognizing that things had changed. But when I ran into him, he was in a cuddle mode, he said this line and I never will forget, he said, “Michael, what have I done that you can’t forgive me?” And, I mean, what can you say to something like that? I was just stopping, and I was just thinking for a few seconds, and I said, “You know what? I think I forgave you a long time ago. And that was actually the very first situation where I noticed something had changed here. Because there was no anger anymore, it kind of…it was 23 years, you know, and you grow older. He has changed and I have changed. But that still wasn’t the beginning of Pumpkins United, but it was the start of the change within me somehow.

The real initiation for this came, actually, from me, or you could say from Kai, but we were playing 3 shows in Spain with Unisonic, I think that was definitely 2016. But it was like almost a year after I ran into Michael, so the festival must have been ’15 or something like that, doesn’t matter. We did these 3 shows with Unisonic, it was in great shape during that time, it was fantastic, it was nothing huge, it was something like 2000 people or something like that. Great shows, was great fun, and after one of the shows, we got out of the stage clothes and Kai said to me, “Michael, one day, we just got to do something with Helloween again, before it’s too late”. And so I said, “You know what? I’m open”. And me saying that I’m open, and Kosta who was playing the drums in Unisonic, he was also part of Bottom Row, which is the management, and him passing that statement of mine on to them made the manager Helloween, Jan – who’s now my manager – to call me up, and he wanted to hear how serious I was about this idea. Because Helloween was in a phase where something refreshing wouldn’t hurt, you know? So he was asking me and I said, “Yeah, I am open and then I had a few discussions with Weiki and we just realized there’s just no problem anymore with me and him, we have both changed so much, we don’t even really know what happened, which it’s often like that.

And then Jan said, “you’ve got to spend some time with Andy Deris”. I didn’t know him by that time, I mean, I knew who he was, but I never met him. So Jan said, “you really got to spend some time with them, and you guys got to check out if you get along, because if you guys don’t get along, it doesn’t make any sense to try anything”.

Good point!

Very true. And so I flew over and I spent about 2 weeks with him, and I always say when I describe the situation, I always like to say that I’m not saying this to promote Pumpkins United or anything…I mean, you have a lot of these bands who, everything they say is just promotion for what they do, you know, everything is “oh, it was so amazing, such great producers, the best work we’ve ever done”. I don’t do shit like that. When I tell you something, that’s how it is, at least how I experienced it from my subjective point of view. But it worked out really great, it was almost like I knew him, it was almost like we knew each other from like…whatever previous life or something like that, because we really connected. It was weird, and he even said so. So when that was out of the way, and there was absolutely no problem, then we started to sit down and talk seriously about how we could pull this off. And like you said, it’s a bit unusual, but that’s what I like about it. I mean, you have bands with 2 vocalists, you have Kiss with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, you have Linkin Park with these 2 vocalists. I mean, bands like that exist with 2 vocalists, but usually they’re there right away, but normally like with bands with one singer, one singer goes, another one comes, and that’s the new band. But this time it happened differently, the previous singer and the previous guitar player joined the band, but the others stay, so we have 7 now. So that’s different, I mean, in terms of the stage show. Which is not really why musicians do things like that, we have we have a personal reason for why we think this was important, to get all this stuff out of the system, especially with me, Weiki, the old members, we just needed to fix it up. And it’s really healing, you can honestly forgive and forget and get that out of your system, it’s amazing, it’s a lot of weight that’s just not there anymore.

From the management point of view and from the show point of view, this is the bonus, of course, because you can pull off a completely insane show, you can just do anything now, you can play songs from any era, from any record. You have the original singers there, you know, we can do Walls of Jericho with Kai singing, we can do the Keeper stuff with me singing, we can do all the Andy stuff with Andy singing, and we can swap it around and do whatever we feel like. And when you look at the history, there’s so much we can really do, and so from the show perspective, it’s a plus, anyway.

But it’s a surprise that it works that well, because you wouldn’t believe how different the individuals are in this band. We’re not alike. I mean, Kai is a complete rock and roller. Kai Hansen is the essence of rock and roll, he lives for what rock and roll is, you know, he drinks, he parties, he doesn’t sleep, you know, he does everything. I am the opposite to that, I’m not at all rock and roll, I’m more spiritual, I’m dealing a lot with spiritual things, and I care a lot. I mean, I love singing and I love playing music and stuff like that, but I’m not at all heavy metal cliché or anything like that. And when you look at Sascha Gerstner, that’s the same thing, he’s completely different. He’s like a very beautiful soul, you know, he’s very creative. I mean, he can take pictures much better than most of the photographers we work with, he’s like, so talented, and he’s also a very extreme character, with a very strong mind. And Marcus, again, is what you see, he is just that sweet soul that loves to drink a beer and have fun with people, and he is this storm on stage. Weiki is living in his own world, he’s not on this planet, he’s just in a completely different reality and that makes everything that comes from him interesting. You can sit with all 7 somewhere and something happens, and Weiki will say something nobody would see in that situation, you know, it’s just how he sees things. He’s very unique, a little crazy, but in a very productive way, you know? Dani is the essence of discipline. He looks at what he’s eating, he does sports, he’s slim, he’s almost my age, a little bit young, I think he’s 50 or 51, but he has a shape of a boy. I mean, this is just a rough characteristic of the people, but we are very, very different, and it’s interesting that it works, but it does somehow. I also believe that since we’re such a comic strip as a band, it also kind of shows on stage somehow. I am biased, you know, I don’t have an objective view that I can just express how I think it is. But I think that there are not many bands with so many different, extreme characters. I think that makes this band special, the characters in the band.

Absolutely, and the way you’re describing it almost sounds like…you know, we were talking about The Mandalorian before we started recording, and it reminds me of a TV show or movie, describing all the different characters and dynamics. We don’t tend to think of bands as much in that sense of, “this character does this and this character does that” but it seems like that’s the dynamic that you guys have.

Absolutely, absolutely, and it’s not always easy because everybody is also very sensitive. We just have our convictions and we believe in the things that we’re doing, but it works because we have reached a certain age where you do have enough respect. You do listen more to what the others say and stuff like that. I don’t know if it stays like that forever, but I hope so. So far so good.

Fans are super excited too, I mean, there’s the fans of the different eras of Helloween, just like you were describing how you can touch songs from the different eras, and I feel like everybody is just collectively so happy to see it all come together in one place. It’s one of those things where somebody would say, “What’s your dream lineup” or something, well, they don’t have to come up with a dream lineup, they’ve got it, it’s all right there, everybody you could want in the band.

I think we managed to mold it all together. I mean, it is obvious when we started to play live with this lineup, you must have the Kiske part and the Deris part, like in terms of the fans. You know, people who prefer that era, some might. I know people who like everything, but usually you have people who prefer either the Kiske/Hansen era, or the Walls era, or the Deris era. I’m sure in the beginning, you had these parties enjoying the show, and they were happy when Andy was singing, and others were happy when I was singing, but I do have the feeling that when we started playing again last year, that kind of got them together. Now, that’s why it was so easy for the guys who did these comic strips, I hope we will extend on that, maybe next year or something like that. But it was quite easy for them to draw the characters because they have such a strong personality that you can easily get it into a cartoon, you know, I think that’s part of it, and everybody recognized who was who in the comic strips.

Another thing I want to touch on that you mentioned before is about how you can do songs from each different era of Helloween, each different singer’s version of Helloween. So I’m curious, what are some songs that you’re excited to be doing again, and also on the flip side, which songs have you not really touched in a while that you’d like to bring back live?

A whole bunch, I mean, I have not been singing these songs for like 23 years, so it’s like…when I do some of my favorites like “Eagle Fly Free”, it’s refreshing for me because I haven’t been doing that for such a long time. I know Andy told me many times that he’s so happy that he doesn’t have to do these songs anymore that don’t suit him as much as the songs that are done with his voice, and for his voice, and he’s used to singing. So now the original singers can sing the song, and we still split it, because it’s fun to do. We wanted to do like a complete swap on the first tour, but we ended up not doing it because it just turned out it was better as a duet. It was meant that he would be singing a Keeper song, maybe “Future World” or something, and then I was supposed to sing “Why”, which is a great song, but in the rehearsal room when we were practicing it, we just automatically made it a duet, because the verse is like, you repeat the same thing twice. So one singer does the first half and the other one does the other, it felt completely natural, so it just automatically became a duet. But that’s how it often works, I mean the same thing happened when we were recording this album. It was always about figuring out what makes the song shine the most. It was not about ego, not between me and Andy at all. It was a little bit, the ego thing was a little bit going on between me and Kai because when Kai was writing “Skyfall”, he wanted to sing it completely, and we didn’t know that. So I laid down vocals for the song, and everybody was happy about it, everybody felt like, “yeah, that’s it”. And it didn’t sound better when Kai sang it, but he just wanted to. We had a lot of discussions going on, it wasn’t really fights, but we talked a lot to convince him that it’s not about ego, it’s about what’s best for the song, so we ended up with a compromise. He still sings a whole lot in the song, and he also has a version on a single where he does even more and whatever. But with me and Andy, it was never about that. We had Dennis Ward who knows my voice and his voice very well because he has worked with me, and he’s worked with Andy. We had him make a draft. He was going through all the songs and said, “Oh, that could be good for Michael, that could be good for Andy”, and that’s how we tried it out at first, unless someone like one of the songwriters had a particular singer in his head. Like “Angels”, Sascha said right away, “I wrote this for Michael, I wrote this with Michael’s voice in my head”, so I was clear that I would sing the majority of that song. But with other songs where it wasn’t so clear, we had like, Dennis Ward making a draft, and that’s how we tried it. And if someone didn’t feel comfortable with something, we just swapped it over, “you can give it a try”. It was always like, when I sang something that one evening, the next day I told Andy how I felt about it, and then he would maybe give that part a try. It was like we were just working together on the song, and it was really the way it should be, it was never about ego, it’s always just about figuring out what works the best, what suits the voice best. I mean, we’re very different in terms of how we think, so sometimes it’s very easy to tell, “that suits Andy” or “that suits Michael”. And if that wasn’t the case, we just tried it out, and in the end, whatever sounded best to the producer or to us all was what we took in the end.

And that’s a benefit for the songwriting too, because you have a wider range to work with in terms of vocals. There’s no limit of what anyone can contribute or write vocally because there’s so many different angles you guys can take.

I mean, I’ve never been to any concert in my life with…Avantasia is a bit like that too, Avantasia has a whole bunch of singers, there’s even more. But normally, you have one vocalist, like a whole show, and I can imagine that it’s much more interesting probably, for an audience. This is almost like having 3 bands, it’s not really 3 bands, but it’s like, with different singers it sounds different, and I think that it’s definitely a plus on the entertaining side for us now.

I agree. Another thing I wanted to touch on is the song “Out For The Glory” because of the very fun video you have associated with that, I mean, it’s not only unusual to kind of have a full-on animation, and I read that you also got a bunch of art students involved, which is fun, but it also tells a pretty elaborate story, and it’s a great song, so I wonder if you could talk a little about that one.

I really like that song. I remember when I recorded this, I drove back to my hotel the apartment that we were renting, and I was really happy. I’m not so happy with the way it is mixed, I think it is too unclear. I would have balanced it out a little different, but that’s just me. Which nobody was complaining, but I don’t think it has been perfectly mixed. The same with “Angels”, I still hear it slightly different, I think the guitars are bit too overblown. I mean, the song has such a great melody, especially in the chorus, that it doesn’t need to have these overblown guitars that much. But there you go, I mean the metalheads usually like that. But the song is really nice, I mean, “Out For The Glory”, really, it fits me very well. As far as I’ve been told, it was a song that Weiki had in his pipeline for a while, and they actually tried to record it twice before, and it just never worked out. It was almost like it was waiting for me.

It was, totally.

And when I sang the vocals, I never sang it before, I was learning the parts in the studio, and then I was recording it, which I normally don’t like to do. I like to know a song, but it was different that time. I never sang that song before, and the funny thing is, I was trying to sing it again afterwards. When the pandemic hit, there was still time, we wouldn’t release the album for another year. It was planned to be released in 2020, and then going on tour, and since the pandemic hit, we still had it in the pipeline. So I was trying to do the vocals again, but I couldn’t sing it like that. So it’s like, not knowing the song so well gave it some sort of, I don’t know, some kind of rhythm that comes out of the insecurity of not knowing the song too well that I couldn’t copy, and I kind of like. And so I kept it that way. Which, it’s rarely like that. Normally when you do something twice, you feel more secure and the song has sunken in more and you can do it better, but this time, it was the opposite. The first recording was better than the second one.

That’s good. In a way, it’s kind of just like when you’re jamming with the band and figuring out everything as you go along.

It was something with the rhythm, I sang a different rhythm. Because I didn’t know the song so well, so I was kind of flying over it a little more, not so much having the rhythm inside or whatever, I don’t know what it is. I was singing quite loose over it, and it has some kind of a vibe that I thought was a lot better than me trying to do it better. But it’s not always like that, but it was definitely with “Out For The Glory” like that. I just wish it would have been mixed differently, I just don’t like the sound of it.

Well, I mean, eventually you can do a remix or reissue of it or something and get it to sound exactly the way you want it to, right?

I don’t think that’s going to happen, it was such a hustle with the album. It took so long, especially mastering it. The recording was easy, but the mixing and mastering process took just forever. We were always not happy, I thought it sounded great to a certain point and then the record company dude started to have comments, and that’s when we kind of lost it. You know, there’s the thing with too many cooks.

Definitely, that can happen. Something else I wanted to bring up for sure while I have you on here, you’ve probably been asked about this song a lot over the years, but I just have to ask, because my favorite Helloween track is “I Want Out”. There’s so many other great Helloween songs, and I’ll listen to those too, but I still always end up with “I Want Out” stuck in my head, because you wrote something so epic, heavy, and catchy at the same time. I just wonder if you can kind of take us a little bit back to the writing and recording of that song.

The thing is, all of these songs that turned out now to be hits and classics, we had really had to fight for them. “Dr. Stein”, “I Want Out”, “Future World”, “We Got The Right”, “Rise and Fall”, the record company didn’t like these songs. Because, you know, the record that Helloween had released before was Walls of Jericho which was a pretty thrashy, kind of speed metal record with a good sense of humor. But different than that stuff. But that’s what we wanted to do. It was actually the reason why I joined the band, because it’s like, I still was practicing with my school band when Marcus once showed up – bass player –  and he was asking me if I wanted to join the band. They were looking for a singer because Kai didn’t want to sing anymore, and he just wants to participate in guitar. And he gave me Walls of Jericho. I was 17 by that time. And I didn’t like the album, so I didn’t call him back. And then about 3 or 6 weeks later, I don’t remember. Weiki called me out. I was still living with my mother, and I was taking a bath, and she was handing me the phone and he said, “Yeah, Michael, I know it’s pretty thrashy, the album, but you know that’s something that we did. Then we want to do something else, we want to extent musically, and we need someone like you to do that. Why don’t you show up to the rehearsal room, and we play to you the stuff that we’ve written for your voice. And then I went to to the rehearsal room, and they already had a whole bunch of songs that ended up on the Keeper album. They had “Twilight of the Gods”, Kai had “The March of Time”, Weiki had a huge portion of the Keeper of the 7 Keys. And I was just feeling at home right away, it was one of those karma kind of things, you know, you just know. We didn’t even say I am the singer of the band, it was not even…we didn’t even talk about it. We just made another appointment for rehearsal, that was it.

Just locked it in there.

But when we got into the studio, we had to fight on both productions to get these songs on. We’re like, we either do our record that we want to do, or we won’t do anything, we just stop working, you know? That was our attitude. Thank God we had that attitude, we stood against the record company, and the rest is history. But it’s like, record company people are very, very uncreative, most of the time. They’re just business people, especially nowadays. And they just look at what you’ve done in the past, and when you have done something that was successful, they want to push you in a direction of reproducing that. But that doesn’t create interesting records, it doesn’t create anything new. We wouldn’t be talking if we would have listened to that, and would not have made the Keeper records the way they were. And I can always just encourage any musician, follow your heart! I know it’s a cliche, and people always talk about it, even though they don’t, but you’ve got to do what you believe in. Because only then it has the energy to reach audiences, because it’s not the rhythm, it’s the spirit. It’s always the spirit of a song, why is a song like “Let It Be” never boring? I bought the new surround mix of the “Let It Be” sessions, it’s a DVD and they remixed it, the son of the original producer of the Beatles did that. And it just blows you away, and I had a Japanese friend sitting on the couch and I played it, and she had tears. Why is it that it still has this magic? Because it was coming purely from the heart. When Paul McCartney sings “Let It Be”, it just blows you away, it’s just genius. So whenever any musician, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what type of music it is, it doesn’t have to be metal. But if it’s country that you love or whatever, it doesn’t matter, as long as that’s what you love to do, and you do it with your heart – stick with it. Because that’s the only music that can connect with people in longer terms. You might fool them briefly, but those musicians never have a long career. You know, when you have those casting shows over here in Germany, you have these young ones, everything gets designed for them, the songs are written by the people who make this show, and then they have this massive promotion for years, so everybody goes and buys their stuff, and 2 years later they’re forgotten. Because it doesn’t have any substance.

True, it’s that whole one hit wonder kind of concept, and definitely, a lot of pop artists get stuck in that too. They may go into with good intentions thinking they’ll make their music, but sometimes they get stuck in that…having everything done for them and that’s it.

I wouldn’t recommend it, because, I mean the people that go to these kind of shows, they are those type of people who think that that’s the way it has to be. I think a serious musician with with some attitude and and some vision will never go there. They will just do their own music and see if they can find a way to build their own audience rather than building themselves to please a certain audience. Because that’s the way it works. And like I said, we could have listened to the record company in those days, and I don’t think that the Keeper records would have ever existed. Some of the main songs, like your “I Want Out”, wouldn’t be on the album.

Right, I’m sure the Helloween would have still existed as a band, but it just would have had a totally different direction, different sound.

Yeah, we probably would have been a thrash metal band or something like that. I mean, we still have a lot of speedy stuff and it’s still a lot of energy. But we also have a lot of other things now. We extended on what the band sounded like previously, and that was the plan.

Absolutely. Another one of my favorite songs of yours is a very recent one that you did last year, the tribute to Ronnie James Dio that you did with Michael Schenker Group, and I saw that you were part of Monsters of Rock with Dio when the debut album came out in 1987, but other than that show, did you get to know Ronnie during his lifetime at all?

Yep! We toured with Dio in, I think, ’88 for about 3 weeks, that’s when we got to talk to him. He was always very nice and a gentleman you know, and he always sang perfect. It’s like, Dio is one of those rare…if not the rare…I mean, I can’t think of anyone in that league. We have had a few great singers of course in that genre, but the quality of the voice Ronnie Dio had, he was able to sing like an angel clear in a top upper range there, and he could roar like a lion. And he could do everything as if it is nothing, you know? Regardless if you like the music or whatever, just from the quality of the voice, he was like no other out there in my opinion, and I witnessed the show, I was watching the shows, and he never sang bad. Never. It was always perfect.

That’s what I’ve heard! I actually never had the chance of seeing him live, unfortunately, before he passed, but that’s what I’ve heard from everyone, it was just flawless every time, almost superhuman.

He knew what he was doing. He learned to sing, and he learned how to use the diaphragm by learning…I think that he was playing the trumpet before. You gotta check it out on Spotify, there’s the very early stuff with Ronnie Dio and the Prophets, and he is singing like Motown kind of stuff. “An angel is missing”, you could laugh your ass off. That’s how he started. It was Bjorn Englen who played that stuff to me, I didn’t even know. I mean, he started in the 60s, and he was in that sort of tween rockabilly kind of music, and he slowly made his way, into Black Sabbath and stuff like that, it was very interesting.

That’s great, have you watched the Dio: Dreamers Never Die documentary? It pretty much takes you through every step of starting with that early doo-wop and transitioning to rock, I’m pretty sure it’s on Showtime, I think that’s where they have it on demand, and it’s an awesome documentary. I saw in the theater when it came out last year, and it was such an incredible chronicle of just…his whole lifetime pretty much, and took you through everything step by step. It was a lot of fun, it was a tear jerker at the same time.

I think he should have been much, much bigger than he was. You know, he’s known and respected in the Hard Rock community, but I think he was just such a giant in terms of vocals, he should have gotten a lot more attention even outside of this. Yeah, I think so.

He was wonderful though, and you are also a very respected and revered vocalist, especially in the metal community, so it’s great to hear your appreciation and respect of other vocalists in that space as well.

Oh yeah, I mean, Ronnie Dio to me is number one in terms of — I have a few that I really like, you know, someone like Dickinson, for instance. I mean, I was still in school when I got into this type of music, and I was listening to Number of the Beast, it just blew me away. These energetic vocals, I mean you can’t do that any better than Dickinson or Number of the Beast, you can do it differently, but you can’t do it better, it’s just perfect. And you had a few, Halford for instance, I mean, Judas Priest. I was always a Priest fan, like from my school days on, it was Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and then I loved Metallica, the first 3 records. And I got into Queensÿche, especially The Warning, that was my favorite record, where they still sounded a bit like Iron Maiden, but that’s pretty much it. And anything with Ronnie Dio. But nowadays, Priest, I see them a lot more objectively in a way that they’re actually probably the best. Because the whole bunch of records that they’ve done that are different in grade, no other band has that. I mean they were like the most creative in terms of, regardless of the taste of music you might have, you know, it’s just to have done so many records that are really good, very interesting with great guitar stuff and great hooks for so many years. And even that freaking last record was great, I wasn’t even expecting something like that, I was really impressed by that. Judas Priest to me, I have nothing but respect to them. I think they’ve done some really fun records.

I agree, Priest has always been one of my favorites, and it’s true what you’re saying, they’ve kept it up consistently, where they’re still writing new music, and it has that touch where you feel almost like it’s classic Priest every time, you’re like, “oh, of course, it’s unmistakable Priest”, but yet still completely new every time.

And Halford, I mean, who screams as beautiful as him? It’s just him who sounds like that. He can scream, and he can sing like an opera singer, and he did it all over the records. It’s comparable to someone like Freddie Mercury, who had a lot of colors, a lot of variations in the singing. Halford was always somehow excited about, what can you do with your voice, you know, what can you get out of the voice? It’s like the most entertaining and the most colorful type of vocals. When we played last year, we did a whole bunch of shows with Hammerfall together. I was in a plane, I was listening after a number of years, many years I didn’t listen to the album, I was listening to Defenders of the Faith. What a freaking great record that is! It was like, “The Sentinel” it’s so great how he pulled it off in the end, you know, the climax and stuff. Priest are just top notch, and I don’t have the hairstyle because of that, but it just happened. I always wanted to look like Elvis, but it didn’t work out.

*laughs* So, this has been awesome hearing you talk about your favorite bands and musicians, your admiration of everyone else, but back to Helloween, you have the exciting United Forces tour coming up in the spring with Hammerfall, so why don’t we wrap this up with exactly what’s on the horizon for you right now?

Well, we actually decided to jump on this tour that Kiss is doing, Kiss, Deep Purple, Scorpions. And then before us is Europe, I think it’s about 5 festival shows in South America, that’s the next thing we’re going to do. They just asked us if we wanted to jump on that tour, and it’s a good possibility, or a good chance. Because when you look at Kiss, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Europe, they do attract a specific kind of audience, and there might be a whole bunch of people there that don’t know us, so maybe we can catch some extra fans, that’s why we just do that. It’s not a long show, it’s probably just an hour, it’s very easy, but I love these kind of things, just go on and off, you can just shoot down your hits, and much easier than being a headliner, really. Everything is on your shoulder, it’s great to be the headliner, and nowadays, we are actually headlining pretty much every festival we play, but of course, when Kiss is doing a tour, we’re not going to headline. But that’s the next thing we’re going to do. That will be a lot of time changes, we will be coming back from South America to Europe for 2 shows in Germany, and then 5 days later, we’re starting off to North America for those 13 shows. And then after that, which is a bit more than 3 weeks, maybe, then we’ll have festivals almost every weekend. We fly in somewhere and have a festival, it’s gonna be fun, festivals are great, they’re great fun.

Definitely, and festivals are like what you were saying, you just get to kind of hop on, do your hits and everything, and then pop back off, but it’s still a great environment.

And you know, I finally got to meet Halford, I never met him before, it’s like, in 2018, we played the Knotfest, it was in South America, and that’s when we did a press conference and Halford was just beautiful, and he was just a gentleman. And I finally got to talk to him a bit and stuff, and that was great. I mean, when you start off as a fan, it’s just important to you to like those people when you when you finally meet them. It’s very disappointing when it turns out that you don’t like the people that you admire. And everyone that I met of my heroes of my youth have been very sweet. It was actually the first line that I said to him, “You are actually one of the heroes of my youth that I haven’t met”, and he said, “Thank you”. *laughs*

Very nice! Yes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Judas Priest a couple years back, and he was so cordial, so lovely, they gave a great interview too, of course. So many great things to say.

He’s a gentleman, everybody says that, he’s just a gentleman. He’s just a very nice person.

Absolutely, I agree. Well, it sounds like there’s a lot of great stuff coming up for Helloween, I mean you guys are definitely going to be keeping busy, hopping in and out of festivals all summer, and touring the world beforehand. So everyone is definitely looking forward to seeing this.

I really like the festival thing, because it’s like, you are at home, and then you fly in, maybe the show day, you have a show, next day you fly back home. It’s like weekend working.

Yeah, exactly, and then working in a very fun, cool environment with a bunch of other bands and good music going around, so I can imagine it’s a fun time.

Thank God that we can do it again, I mean, a lot of festivals died, I just hope they come back. A lot of promoters died, the price has exploded, it’s like everything is 3 times as expensive. For us, we’re okay, because we can still fill bigger places, so you are fine, but there are a lot of fans when you tour on a certain level, it doesn’t make sense at the moment to tour for them because they just lose money. If you don’t attract at least a certain amount of people, it’s too expensive. I just hope that things are going to turn out for the better soon with the inflation and all the stuff, you know.

Yeah, it’s been a hard time for the music community recovering, but at the same time, I think everybody has their minds and their energy in the right place, just happy to be back, happy to get back out there, so it’s going to keep on going up in the good sense.

It’s gonna recover, I think so too. It is already, and the fans are showing up, so that’s the most important thing. I’m looking forward to it, I mean, I haven’t been to the States since the 80s…let me think, no, that’s not true. I was there with Avantasia, but I don’t think it was a lot, I don’t know how many shows we did. I think that must have been 2016. But with Helloween, I wasn’t there since the 80s, and it was just something to try out, we just tried out these 5 shows and they turned out really nice. The audience is different, it’s more like European audiences, it was a lot of young ones, of course, I mean, it’s a music that attracts a lot of young people, but the energy was very familiar, I mean it was also great in the 80s, but in the 80s, you had the feeling that you need to work hard. Maybe it’s also because we’re dinosaurs now, and people show up and know us anyway. And in the 80s we were a new band for the first time, that’s probably why it is, you know, they just needed to be convinced.

Yeah that’s a good point, well, they’re convinced by now, all the different incarnations of Helloween all come together, so I think they’re pretty much convinced now.

It worked out, it was great, I remember I was 19, we did the very first tour in ’87. Grim Reaper was headlining, and then Helloween started, and then second was Armored Saint, and then after a couple of shows, promoters said Helloween is setting the tickets. So after a while they sent Grim Reaper home, which was not very nice for them.

Oh yeah, that’s rough there.

That was a painful thing, and then we just swapped Armored Saint and Helloween, whoever sold the most tickets wherever we played. And that’s how we ended the tour, and I really, I still remember Canada because I was really sick. I caught something on the way to Canada in the bus, and I was young, I was 19, so you can pull it a lot easier off than I could do today. I was really sick, and I didn’t feel like going on stage at all, I had a high fever. So I went on stage and during the performance I was cutting songs off, I said, “I can’t do that because I didn’t have the power”, I did the best I could. The audience was amazing, and the thing was we finished a very short set, and they bought all our merchandise, and then half of the venue went home when Armored Saint played.

Oh, wow!

That was, for us, it was great, you know? That’s the memory I had of that particular show in the 80s in Canada. And I remember the stage in Detroit being too high, some of these things just stick into your head.

Exactly, you just have very specific memories at different places, which is fun. But, I mean, that was great news for Helloween, but for Armored Saint, that probably hurt a little too.

Well, it was just that show, and the other shows, they did great. But it was in Canada with that show, they were just completely on our side, that was just really our thing. Even though we were really bad because I was sick.

I mean, I feel like it always sounds worse in your head, it probably sounded better to them than you felt like you were actually singing.

We were also cutting the set short, it was a really short set, but it didn’t seem to bother them. They were still happy, and bought all our merchandising, it was just all gone. We had the same thing on the last tour in South America, on the first one we did, we just couldn’t get enough merchandising, because they were just buying it all. That was really surprising.

Very cool. Are you seeing that happen now, like on the most recent tour?

It’s not as bad, it’s not as much as on the first one. I haven’t got the numbers to be honest with you, it’s probably also been great, but I know that it was so extreme that they mentioned it. We had a few shows where everything was gone, and they had to reorder, which is perfect.

Wow, that’s exactly what you want as a band, so that’s awesome.  Well, again, thank you so much for telling me all these stories, telling us the Helloween of today and Helloween of the past. Lots of exciting stuff going on, so I’ll let you hop back into your day and your interviews, but again, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me.

Yeah, and thanks for your interest, see you next time!

(Metal Contraband thanks Michael for the interview).