TsSKA Ice Sports Palace,
May 25, 2001
How many of you dreamed to see Helloween in Moscow? How many of you believed it would be real? Well, it happened and we at TTI did our best to attend the show and meet the musicians, and follows is the report of what we saw, heard and felt during those two days in May. A time of our lives, I'm telling you.
Part I. News Conference
This was a truly remarkable event. Not only because we saw the musicians, asked them questions, took pictures and got our CDs autographed, but also because the news conference, that took place at the Rok-Vegas bar the day before the show, featured the first ever meeting of all MetalKings.ru staffers living in Moscow. A day to remember, isn't it? Lynx, Dead Ripper and yours truly arrived at the site 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Right at the entrance to the bar we were met by Troll, who informed us that the band had just got in. We quickly followed and at once saw the five Helloween members drinking beer and chatting friendly with each other and people in the bar. Everybody in the band turned to be very nice and friendly people, but at first we didn't know it and got a bit lost, not knowing whether to approach Andi or Weiki at once or wait until the end of the news conference. Before we came up with anything, the event started. At least 40 reporters gathered in the bar, and we only got 30 minutes to ask questions. The situation was worsened by the interpreter, if that girl can be called so. Not only she was totally unaware of the band's career, she tried to interpret huge pieces of spoken information without making any notes, which is grossly unprofessional, as any qualified interpreter would say. As a result, countless mistakes were made and lots of facts were simply distorted. What's worse, those mistakes and distortions got into the press, so the best thing we can do is to let you read the transcript of the news conference in its entirety. Here is what was really said on that day.
Q: Are you going to play old songs at your concert tomorrow?
Andi: You mean all the songs from all the albums? Then we should start now and be ready Saturday. In fact, we're gonna play some songs from all albums, except two of them. We start with "Walls of Jericho" and go up through "The Dark Ride".
Q: And what are those two albums?
Andi: It's "Chameleon" and "Pink Bubbles Go Ape".
Q: A question to Michael Weikath. (the reporter pronounces the name as ['weikat]). Are you still planning to release a solo album?(the whole band bursts into laughter, as it turns out that the news conference in St. Petersburg two days before began with the same two questions)
Michael: Well, I'm planning but I don't know when. I want it to be a good one so it's gonna take some time. And I don't know when. And it's ['waikat], not ['weikat'].
Q: Will there be any difference between your set list in Europe and the set list of your tomorrow's show in Moscow?
Michael: Actually, it's always so hard to describe, I mean, when I went offstage yesterday, and the others as well, I thought that's really weird, 'cause these questions come up like 'what is your favourite place to play?'And when I went off stage yesterday I thought that this is one of our favourite places to play, but we would like to play everywhere, 'cause everybody's different, because here we have the impact that is much more appreciated after the 15 years that we haven't been here, just like you go there as if you've always been.
Andi: Concerning the set list, it's more or less the one that we play on the world tour. We did not exactly change something for Russia, and we will not definitely change anything for South America, it's just the set list that we run through, we started with in Japan and Korea and Taiwan, and the whole Europe and now in Russia, because we're lazy.
Q: A question to Markus Grosskopf. I know that you play in a blues band just for fun. Haven't you been invited to play on a record of some famous bluesman?
Markus: Concerning the blues I just do it sometime, my favourite blues musician was Walter Trout, but anyway this band is not existing anymore, I got another project. Always when I'm at home and I got nothing to do I get some friends together to play in little bars and clubs.(Interpretation of the statement above was especially wonderful. Not only did the interpreter come up with a different name for Walter Trout, but she also said that the man had died some time before, and there's no sense in having a project with him. Luckily for that lady, nobody among the reporters seemed to know who Walter Trout was, so no reaction followed.)
Q: Who is the true author of the name Helloween?
Andi: It was our former drummer Ingo. Have you seen the movie "Halloween"? He got the name from it.
Q (here is where Metalkings.ru, Lynx to be exact, step up): I've seen a lot of reports on your gigs from the current tour on the Internet and they all say that you don't play the song "If I Could Fly" during the shows. Why is that and will you play it tomorrow?
Andi: If we don't play it tomorrow it's simply because we did not rehearse it that much. (the audience produces a sigh of disappointment) We didn't expect that it would be successfully going on all over the place, it was meant for Germany mainly, and suddenly everywhere it's in big demand. But this wasn't before January, before we rehearsed, and then we went on tour, and it's like Helloween here, Helloween there and there wasn't much time to do a good job on "If I Could Fly".
Q: A question to Andi Deris and Markus Grosskopf. Have you compared your emotions from participation in Avantasia and Ayreon?(at this moment confusion sets in, as the interpreter seems to hear both project names for the first time in her life and starts asking the reporter "What? What's that name? Fantasy? Compare with what?" My dictaphone taped a replica from Dead Ripper: "May I interpret this myself?")
Markus (after a minute's meditation)Yes, so what was the question about it? Yes, so what was the question about it?No I think they shouldn't be compared, as Avantasia is just a really classical kind of heavy metal, you know, and Ayreon is more progressive, there is a lot more Hammond, more old-fashioned type, 70's influence. Two different things, you can't compare it actually.
Andi: Well, am I supposed to say something? Well the Ayreon thing was that Arjen himself asked Bruce Dickinson and me if we would like to sing on it. That was about it. I got to know him in the studio of his former guitarist with Vengeance, Oscar, because Arjen comes from Vengeance. We just went to Oscar's studio in Holland and recorded two tracks for "Metal Jukebox" and suddenly Arjen said "hello", would I like to sing on his record. I said yes because I liked the first thing he did. I love this experimental stuff he does, and nobody else does it so far, so I think he is really the one on the whole world market who's trying to build up this atmosphere thing, and he doesn't give a shit if it's 10 or 15 (minutes) long, he just goes from the mood and from the heart, and that's just what we all like about it. (Now check out what the interpreter said, "Yes, there was a proposal from Ayreon to take part in that project, a rather interesting, sort of experimental project, because no matter how long it goes, 10 or like 15 or more, everything went under impression, everything originated from the mood, there were proposals from Oscar later to work on the Metal Jukebox project, did I get the name right? In fact, I have the most positive impressions.)
Q (another question from Lynx): A lot of people see parallels between your latest record "The Dark Ride" and the latest Alice Cooper CD called "Brutal Planet". This concerns both the lyrics and the general atmosphere. Do you think such comparisons are justified?
Marcus: I haven't heard that Cooper record. I think you can draw the comparison but I can't explain why. He didn't do it because we did, and we didn't do it because he did. Maybe it's the managements who have similar ideas.
Q: "The Dark Ride" record contains many riffs that are not typical for power metal...
Andi: It's just more or less a swimming-free process, I would say. If you were allowed to do this, and you were allowed to do "Better Than Raw" than for the next record you could easily do a classical typical Helloween album, but still come up with one or two songs that go into "The Dark Ride" or whatever direction, nobody would go that "ahh!!!" (puts on an expression of great surprise). Because sometimes it's very hard not to be narrowed into a certain kind of music, I mean sure we are a speed metal band, this is a true rock/metal band, but still you should have the freedom, at least for one or two songs, to try this or try that, and don't close your eyes off what is coming, new things and stuff like that. If we really love new things, than I think that everybody would like to have these things next to the classical Helloween. If we don't like it we just don't do it.
Q: What do you think about the future of power metal? (I just wish Kai Hansen was in the hall, it's his most hated question, so he would have a good answer to this)
Andi: Personally I think that if classical bands go like this for 10 or 15 years or even longer and don't close their eyes and their ears, and try to combine what is good at the nowadays scene, things will come better. Then I think it will all have a good chance. Otherwise if you just go there and do the same shit that you have ever done like 20 years ago, everybody will say "OK, it's the same boring shit, I have 10 albums of the same music," that can't be the right way.
Q: Many listeners, especially here in Russia, have noticed Slavic influences in your music. Do you listen to anything that is coming from this country?
Michael: Well, I think, yes, because Kai Hansen, he used to listen to a lot of composers from maybe the East out of his mother's collection, and Roland is a very Eastern guy, cause his name - Grapow - already indicates he's Slavic. I could have been born in East Russia, so I've always had that hint of going East other than anywhere else, so I mean you gotta count with that. I don't know why one shouldn't do this because it's a pretty close kind of music.
Q (presented by yours truly who's been waiting for his chance to speak up for the previous half an hour): A question to Roland. How did you meet Axel Rudi Pell (the interpreter interrupts, "meet whom?") and what can you say about your participation in the recording of his record "Magic"?
Roland: How? "Hello! Nice to meet you! What a nice sound! Mmm!" Axel Rudi Pell, I met him about 1996 for the first time. I'd just known him from magazines, of course, and then I'd read in an interview that he likes... in a response to the question "what guitarists do you like from Germany?" he just mentioned my name, so I was really proud of it, and then I just called him, I'd asked for his telephone number. And he played on my first solo record, I played on his. And since then we're friends and all, little friends.
Q (another shot from yours truly): This one goes to Andi as the author of the song "Anything My Mama Don't Like". What does your mother really think about your music? (misinterpretation again, because the question was interpreted like "What is it really that your mother doesn't like?")
Andi: My mother doesn't like... anything that I am! (a burst of laughter among both the band and the reporters)
Q (it's time for Felix da Katt to speak his piece): Have you heard the recent "Keepers Of Jericho" tribute record? What do you think of it? Did you like any versions from it?
Uli: I've heard of it but I couldn't name anything.
Q (Felix is not giving up): Then have you heard any versions of your songs played by other bands?
Roland: I didn't understand this question... (Felix was speaking in Russian)
Q: (Felix repeats his question in English)
Roland (interrupting): Can I answer? (a burst of laughter) Well, Metalium, I remember this band because their singer Hanne is a friend of ours, he's from Hamburg, and he did a good job. And I didn't like so much... the idea of this (tribute), its concept, because it got involved with the former Helloween manager, kind of manager. So he made a lot of money out of it, and I didn't like the idea because it's a tribute to just the first part of Helloween, only the, you know, Mark II, the first three or four records. I didn't like it because Helloween is still alive and they should pay a tribute to all the records we did. But maybe they can't because we're too good.
Q: The paintings of Frederik Maulert were a Helloween trademark. Why did you stop co-operating with him?
Michael: That's an easy thing to say. He wanted to continue, but he was on vacation very often. Suddenly he wanted to discover the world a lot more, so he was going on vacations very often. So what happened a few times was that we wanted him to do some projects, but he didn't have the time or we couldn't reach him. Sometimes we really needed this artwork, and he said, "Well, let someone else do it if he doesn't copy my style." So Reiner Laws is doing it now, he doesn't copy his style, but he's doing his own projects.
Part II: Up-Close & Personal:
Following the official part of the news conference we were given 10 minutes to take pictures, get our stuff signed and just speak to the musicians in the informal background. And while most of us were busy with the first two options, Dead Ripper chose the third one. Here's what Uli Kusch and Roland Grapow told him.
DR: Hello Roland, nice to meet you here in Russia!
RG: Hello! My pleasure too.
DR: Will the Rampage albums ever be re-issued?
RG: I don't think so. Well actually they may be re-issued but I doubt it.
DR: How did you join Helloween?
RG: Weiki called me and offered to join the band. I did, ha ha ha...
DR: After you left Rampage you didn't play anywhere before you joined Helloween?
RG: No, I did. I played in local bands and stuff like that. They never made it anyway.
DR: When will your next solo album be released?
RG: I don't know, maybe in the end of this year but I guess it will be the beginning of 2002.
DR: Who will be the singer on the album?
RG: Russel Allen from Symphony X. Uli (Kusch) will also be on the album.
DR: Really? Great news! And you won't involve Michael Vescera anymore, will you? What's the reason for it?
RG: Well, I think he's too busy now, he's got a lot of projects.
DR: Your bandmates Markus Groffkopf and Andi Deris participated in the projects like Anantasia and Ayreon. Do you have any similar plans?
RG: No, I don't think so. I'm pretty much involved with Helloween and my solo career. Also I'm going to play on the solo album of Stratovarius singer Timo Kotipelto and that's all so far.
DR: I know that Michael Kiske is your friend. What does he do now?
RG: As far as I know he's recording a new album, should be out in September.
DR: Any plans to co-operate with him on that album?
RG: No, none right now. Anyway, who knows...
DR: Thanx a lot. Wish you luck!
RG: Thank you! Bye!
DR: Hello Uli, nice to meet you here in Russia!
UK: Hello! Nice to meet you too.
DR: Well, as far as I know you used to play with Holy Moses back in the 80's. Now that the band is reforming, are you going to participate?
UK: No, I don't want to. That's not my kind of music, too heavy for me. (laughs) And I don't have time as well.
DR: After Holy Moses you played in Gamma Ray. Why did you leave the band?
UK: Well, we had personal differences with Kai. We spent together about a year and a half and then split up in a friendly way. We had a really good time together but could not co-operate anymore, sorry.
DR: I also know that you released an album with the band called Axe La Chapelle. How did it happen?
UK: OK, I remember this album, I like it but it was the band that had almost no chances for the grunge thing was around so we had to stop everything in the band. The album sold only 750 copies.
DR: And did you actually split up? And why?
UK: You know, we never split up. We're actually going to play a gig next week in Germany. We never called it a day and wanted to quit. We just stopped it for nothing was going on in the band, our management did nothing to promote us and the album sales were also quite average.
DR: On that album "Grab What You Can" by Axe La Chapelle you played together with your friend from Gamma Ray times Uwe Wessel. Is he still doing music?
UK: Yes, he is. He's playing in many bands and promotes lots of them.
DR: Does he have any plans to comeback into big music business?
UK: Actually he is in the music business but I doubt he wants to play in any famous band in the future.
DR: I read in the Internet that you planned to release a solo album. Later the sources said it was cancelled. What happened?
UK: Well, it was never cancelled, just put on hold. I don't have time for it right now. Well, I did the Rainbow tribute album a few years before and Uwe played on it as well, but that's basically all I was able to do up to now. I also played on the Sinner album "The End Of Sanctuary."
Your friends Markus (Grosskopf) and Andi (Deris) participated in studio projects like Avantasia and Ayreon. Do you have any plans like that?
UK: Actually I would like to but again I don't have time for it. I'm too busy with Helloween and Roland's solo album.
DR: Thanx a lot. Best regards!
RG: Thank you! Bye!
Part III: The show
To get inside a venue at a heavy metal gig in Russia is always a great problem, both for those who make it, I mean the police, and for those who are to solve it, that is the fans. Since the problem was more or less easily solved by many at the Aria/U.D.O. gig a month ago, this time around the police came up with something new and more sophisticated - they mounted themselves on horses hoping it would be easier for them to prevent fans from getting in. Moreover, they opened four doors for those going to the stands and just one (!) door for those going to the floor. You can only imagine how much fun it was to drag oneself through the enormous crowd and police cordons before I could relax inside with no beer, no CDs on sale and no place to leave my coat. I haven't had so much fun in more many years, believe me. So let's all say thanks to our brave law-enforcers for protecting the society from metalheads, for they get extremely aggressive and dangerous when there are more than three of them in one place.
As a result of such policy, the gig had to be delayed by one hour to let everybody in.
When the curtain finally fell down and the five musicians went onstage, the crowd went apeshit at the moment. The audience was not too numerous, but full of energy, and the band felt it at once. The first song "Power" was rather strained, but already during the next track ("Salvation") the band realised that they were in front of friends and started really having fun. The sound left something to be desired, and even though it was much better than U.D.O. and Rage had in this hall, Andi still had a hard time singing. Actually, the sound was almost excellent at first but then got worse so by the end of the show Andi had to shout to make himself heard. "Future World" was almost entirely performed by the audience, and during the first chorus of "How Many Tears" the singer actually went out of pace, but managed to regain control of his performance very quickly. Despite that, all the musicians did their best and really enjoyed the show, especially Roland and Markus who restlessly ran about the stage and banged their hands. However the major of all hails goes to Andi who displayed great artistic skills by explaining the meaning of almost all the songs with gestures and face expression. His performance was especially enjoyed by Lynx, whom he recognised in the front row and smiled to a few times during the show.
The set list was controversial, it pleased one (me included) and disappointed many. It capitalised on the tracks off the latest "The Dark Ride" album and included only a few earlier songs. However the crowd generally enjoyed compositions of both categories, and the ones that received an especially warm welcome were "Steel Tormentor", "Future World" and "I Want Out". "If I Could Fly" was not played, but our staff was not expecting it anyway, so that was not a problem. My own favourites were the already mentioned "Steel Tormentor" and "The Dark Ride" that rounded up the main set.
Of course, there was an encore ("Dr. Stein" and "How Many Tears"), and cheers from the crowd, and thanks from the band, as usually. Great show, and if the sound had been somewhat better, it could have been among the best gigs I've ever seen. As such, I would rate it at four fists. A major request to the organisers: for heaven's sake, NEVER EVER arrange a gig in TsKA, this place sucks, I mean SUCKS!!!
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