Helloween, formed in Hamburg, Germany in 1984, are one of the pioneers of progressive speed-metal. The band, still to this day, remain a worldwide metallic powerhouse. In 1994, midway through the band's 15 year career, drummer Uli Kusch, formerly of the German thrash-metal outfits Holy Moses and Gamma Ray, joined Helloween along with current vocalist Andi Deris, formerly of the German metal band Pink Cream 69. I caught up with Uli while he and the band were in New York recently promoting their new album Better Than Raw.
Unlike the vast majority of rock/metal bands who altered their sound to fit in with the pop, hip-hop, or alternative trends, Helloween have held on to their progressive speed-metal roots with the release of Better Than Raw, which one must repect during an era of corporate crap. Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying that this band has integrity and dedication to their craft (and to their fans.) With the new album in the Top 20 throughout most of Europe and even hitting #2 in Japan, it's obvious this band has aged gracefully while celebrating a decade and a half of continued worldwide success.
Shockwaves: You guys just did a one-off show in New York City the other day. That was your first time playing the US in about 8 years...How was that?
Uli: We've been on the road since April '98, it would have been too expensive for us to do a full US tour. The show itself was great. It was a small club and the fans were great. I actually wasn't in Helloween back when they toured the US years ago so this was the first time I played here.
Shockwaves: So, when can we expect Helloween to do a full tour here in the States?
Uli: We plan to do a cover album of late '60s and '70s songs...not hard-rock songs...but pop and disco songs we're gonna re-record into metal versions. We will start the recording in February and after that we will begin writing for another album which we plan to record in October '99. So, probably early in the year 2000 we will begin touring again and hopefully we'll be playing the US on that tour. We would love to come back to the US to do a full scale tour.
Shockwaves: What songs will Helloween be recording for this cover album?
Uli: We will be doing ABBA's "Lay All Your Love On Me," David Bowie's "Space Odyssey," "Hocus Pocus" by Focus...We'll have 30 or so songs to choose from once we're done recording.
Shockwaves: Helloween recently performed down in Chile for the Monsters Of Rock Festival alongside Slayer and Anthrax. How do you like playing the festivals as opposed to the clubs and venues?
Uli: All the shows are special to me. When you play the clubs it's very easy...you're close to the people and it's much easier to communicate to them. Festivals to me are more like being in the cinema, almost like you are watching from a screen. I'm on my own in the background playing my drums and the rest of the band are way up front, it's totally different.
Shockwaves: Better Than Raw is quite diverse musically compared to previous Helloween albums; particularly songs like "Time," "I Can" and "Hey Lord" which, to me, sound much more melodic and somewhat pop. How did this come about and was it a conscious decision?
Uli: Everyone in the band writes songs, and we had about 27 tracks to choose from. We just decided to go in this realm. A lot of it is very heavy, and some tracks, like "Revelation," are more progressive. That is actually a song I wrote. There were a few songs in which we sort of changed the sound because we weren't too happy with our last studio album, Time Of The Oath. With this new album we were a lot more spontaneous in the studio, we didn't prepare as much during rehearsals. We kept it a lot more open for ideas during the recording process. I had a bit more control over the sound on this album.
HELLOWEEN Interview Part 2