I had the opporunity to speak with Michael Weikath as he was resting after Helloween's massive world tour. Here're some questions and answers.
You guys have been around for a dozen years now; what has it been like?
Helloween has had different eras with different lineups and it has been crazy. What we're doing here is all madness. You meet so many people and have so many impacts and you have to get used to getting through it all and making sense of it for yourself. It's not something for everyone, and it creates a lot of tension. You have to be made for it. 12 years seems like 50 years because you encounter so much that you normally wouldn't.
If you had a chance to go through it again, would you?
Yes, I would watch who I'm dealing with. I'll make it a point to keep an eye out for my health which is very important. You think you're fit but if you head the wrong direction you end up having serious mental trouble.
You just ended a massive tour. How did it go?
The tour went very very well, especially in Spain and South America. We built up on our previous efforts and successes in all countries except Germany, which stayed the same. This is good since no one recognises me when I go out on the streets. Right now, we're spending time in leisure. We plan to start recording for a new album in September next year.
So what happened with the U.S. portion of the tour?
It didn't come about as planned. The first plan was to go there with Bruce Dickinson, but that didn't work for some reason I cannot remember. We didn't have much of a private life and the management felt it would be a hardship to go tour the U.S. We figured the tour would have to be under real conditions with at least 50-60 shows and we had already done a lot of shows with a lot of travelling. It has been very stressful and rough in this stage of our career. With the new lineup and everything, we're all just getting used to each other and we thought it was enough for now. Next time we will be able to do it. It's not that we had difficulties, but we wanted to recharge ourselves. We plan to tour [the U.S.] in the future with Iron Maiden since they will be releasing a record at the same time.
I understand Andi, Roland, and Marcus are working on solo records. Do you know what the albums will be like?
With Andi, it'll be Pink Cream/Helloween type stuff. Straight Deris, but good stuff; stuff you will like. Roland is working on progressive-classical-70s music stuff. Marcus is working on pure rock 'n' roll type stuff, being led by heroes like Thin Lizzy. I've not heard any of it, but it should be very very interesting.
What about you?
I'm doing nothing. Just surfing the 'net a lot. I wanted to do this for a long time, wanted to contact people all over to the world. I had to reconfigure my computer to connect to the 'net and now I'm able to do so. Right now, I'm very happy just relaxing. I get about four email messages a day from fans and I try to answer all of them.
How did you start playing guitar?
I started out when I was 12, which is 24 years ago. My main intention was to collect women at the campfire. I once saw this guy playing the guitar at a campfire and he was awful and thought I could do better. I heard some Beatles and spent a lot of time in front of the stereo. The machine with the music coming out fascinated me a lot. I was really inspired by the song While my Guitar Gently Weeps and this is why I like to bend strings a lot even today. I saw Clapton and Hendrix having white Strats and I wanted a white Strat. So I went with my mum who took 450 marks from my personal account and bought a white Strat, which is still one of the best guitars I own. At the age of 16 I formed my first band which was Deep Purple-oriented. I was very much influenced by guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Roth, and Van Halen.
I know you like Deep Purple and Rainbow. Have you heard their latest releases (Purpendicular and Stranger in Us All), and how would you compare the two bands today?
I think Steve Morse may be the best choice for Deep Purple, but I have to admit that I didn't like very much the new album. It is very folky and I don't like folk. With Rainbow, it is so many repititions of things I've already heard and the rhythm section was just bad. It's just a weak album. I think Blackmore can be really good, but it depends on how his mood is and whether he's up to proving things any more. I think both bands have made mistakes.
What're your views on the music industry?
I think you need to be careful who you to talk to. There are good people who know a lot and are talented, and there are crapheads. Before you sign a contract you should realise you're selling your soul to the devil, if you're not careful you might not get much for what you do and you might end up in hell. I've seen both sides being with Helloween and I think one should be very very careful dealing with the people in the industry.
Do you view music as art or entertainment or both?
Music is the art of entertaining and entertaining art. That's the way it should be done. If something is not exactly music it should be entertaining, and as long as people have a good time that's what matters. There's got to be a fun element there.
What do you think of the metal scene today?
Heavy Metal is doing fine in the world except maybe the U.S., Germany and Holland. South America and Japan have heartful people who've kept the taste and who know what they want to hear. In media-powered territories, the tastes are influenced by the media. But there's another generation coming up that wishes to change the things they listen to and so I feel it just cycles back and forth.
What're your views on bootlegs?
I don't mind fans dealing with bootlegs as long as they buy my other products. I also have some bootlegs and I usually sign them after a show when people bring them to me. The bootleggers usually make a lot of money and have a good life off of other people's efforts, but there's not so much you can do about it.
What're your plans for Halloween?
Halloween here in Hamburg is done with a lot of techno, and I don't like techno. I plan to stay home and watch TV since I don't want to go out and listen to computerised music.
What're your future plans?
We plan to continue to do what we're doing for some more years. We're having fun and success, and so far I'm the happiest ever with my career. We also have to prove something against those idiots who say things against us.
Where do you plan to be in the year 2000?
I'd like to be part of the media event. I'd like to be somewhere on TV doing a show with Helloween.