German speed / power metal legends Helloween are coming to the US and are touring in support of their My God-Given Right (2015) release on Nuclear Blast Records. They’re only playing a handful of shows (see below) so catch them when and where possible. Metal Insider caught up with founding member and bassist Markus Grosskopf while in Kosice,Slovakia during a rare day off.
Your method for choosing songs and cutting songs was very unconventional for the My God-Given Right sessions. The band collectively wrote 34 songs for the latest album but ended up using only 13. Why?
When we cut songs we always try to create a whole picture of songs in relation to how they would fit the album. We also involve management, record company staff, and many other people’s input to decide. What’s most important for us is the song. We did have a lot of extra material at these recording sessions, but that’s good because we we are big on bonus tracks. While some people call them bonus tracks, we still call them B-sides. There’s always a couple of songs we end up using as B- sides in Japan and over here on a compilation or EP.
The band’s tour cycles these days are not as ambitious as the early days. Is that intentional?
In the last ten years, we did do a lot shows. After a while, though, you just need some time to breathe and simply take a break. From now on up until September 2016 we will do a lot of Summer festivals, some Japan and, of course, some America dates. We’re really looking forward to playing the United States again. At the shows we already played here, the response has been very amazing. We had Rage (former label mates on Noise Records from many years ago) out with us and then we joined up with Gotthard.
Charlie Bauerfeind has produced nine albums to date from Dark Ride (2000) to My God-Given Right (2015). Are you planning to use him again?
Yes. We really like doing records with Charlie who I actually met for the first time while he was in the studio with Gamma Ray. It’s been a working team so far so why stop? We like to keep it in the family these days and totally understand the way he works. He has a good ear and we have loved how the last records have come out.
You’re coming up on the 30 year anniversary of Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I (1987). Any plans to have shows that feature the album in its entirety and, perhaps, with Michael Kiske?
I don’t think so. We don’t really like to make a big deal out of these things. I see Michael Kiske now then and there’s definitely no bad words said anymore. Of course, we’re not hooking up and meeting up for beers but what’s important now is that we can talk. It’s good to see him back on the live front after so many years away with bands like Unisonic (with Kai Hansen) and Avantasia. He didn’t do much for a long time.
What’s the hardest part about touring these days?
Nothing for me, actually. I’ve been married for twenty years and have no kids so it’s not so much a problem. I am actually around kids quite a bit when I’m not touring. My brother and sister both have kids. Sometimes I will take my brother’s kids for holidays or to hang out for the day. I like it, though, because I can pretty much pick them up whenever I want.
Do you have new ideas for the next Helloween album?
You know, it’s funny you ask. Right now I have a couple of ideas. They are really more like just melodies in my head. Sometimes I shout them into my mobile phone wherever I am at whether it be on a toilet, backstage, or somewhere else. There is a big collection of riffs and more saved up and I plan to sort all these out when I get home.
Which bass do you favor most these days when playing live?
I play a lot of Sandberg basses. They’re a German company and they’ve got some basses that are really cool and very Precision bass-like: They almost look the same. There is a slightly different head stock but the two different basses are virtually the same. These ones are very toney and I love playing them.
Any new side projects coming out? What about Shockmachine, Kickhunter, or a continuation of Markus Grosskopf’s Bassinvaders?
I don’t have any plans to start any others right now. Writing is a lot of work and it’s getting harder to be in Helloween with other distractions. I don’t have time for side-projects since Helloween is such a big part of my life and takes up nearly all our time. If something came up it would have to be pretty important. Helloween is my 100% priority.
HELLOWEEN tour dates:
02/29/16 – Imperial de Quebec – Quebec City, QUE
03/01/16 – Best Buy Theater – New York, NY
03/03/16 – Agora Theater – Cleveland, OH
03/04/16 – Concorde Music Hall – Chicago, IL
03/06/16 – Showbox at the Market – Seattle, WA
03/07/16 – The Avalon – Hollywood, CA