Latest release: 7 Sinners (Steamhammer/Sony)
German metal legends Helloween began 2010 like any other 25-year old metal band would, by releasing a poppy, jazz-inflected acoustic compilation of their best known material. Unarmed polarised the band’s fanbase almost to the extent the reviled Chameleon did, but as drummer Dani Löble explains to Brian Giffin, that experiment has allowed them to create the heaviest album Helloween has ever made.
Q: The reaction to Unarmed was pretty mixed. A lot of people didn’t seem to like it that much, and other people appreciated that you did something very different.
A: Yeah, I know, I know. All the true metal fans are really disappointed because we didn’t fulfil their expectations. But the reaction from older fans who aren’t into that metal sound anymore really appreciated to finally have those songs from their youth a little bit more, “unarmed”. So there were fans who were complaining, and the others who were saying, “Well, you finally did something cool.” I have no idea what I should say, but I’m quite proud of this album. Because Unarmed has, to be honest, made 7 Sinners so hard and so heavy! It’s neither an excuse nor an explanation for 7 Sinners, but Unarmed has forged our skills… so this experience we got from doing Unarmed has forged and pushed things during the recording of 7 Sinners. So I’m quite happy that we made Unarmed another way.
Q: Some of the songs on that album were from a time long before you were in the band. What was it like playing those songs in that fashion? Because you were brought into the band because you could play the really fast parts, but on that album it was much looser and more of a rock feel.
A: It has been a great honour for me to play those older songs. Because I have to play those old songs, that were written a long time before I joined Helloween, every night on stage, it was a challenge for me to play them that way on Unarmed. But I’m lucky to now be able to play heavy metal again on 7 Sinners.
Q: Well I haven’t heard the new album yet, but from what I’ve read it’s very fast and very heavy.
A: Yeah, at least from a Helloween point of view. I guess there are heavier and faster albums from death metal bands and, er… speed metal bands. But I guess 7 Sinners is the fastest and heaviest album that Helloween has ever made. We wanted to make a fast, heavy and hard album. I don’t know why… because everybody felt that the time is right to do a certain album. We wanted to record it back to the roots. We wanted to get rid of that polished sound which we used to have. “Are You Metal?”, which is supposed to be the single, is a really tough statement for what the fans can expect for the upcoming album. We wanted to get rid of the meticulous working style and so we neglected to be as precision as we usually do. So we put in a lot of effort. We brought in a lot of passion and attitude, and emotion into that recording.
Q: Because your recordings are known to have that level of polish, was it just as much work to make one a lot rawer sounding than one that’s more polished?
A: Yes of course. At the beginning it was very strange, because we are used to recording with a click track from me as a drummer, for example. A metronome who shows you the way, the timing. This time, it was rather strange because we turned off the click track and just recorded as a band, a metal band… any band recorded a long time before any of the computers and click tracks came in. At the beginning we needed a little bit of time to get used to that feeling… to play without that and let things just happen. Every little mistake… someone would be a little bit too early, or too late… it’s a little bit shaky in the drum groove especially! But after three or four songs, we really enjoyed recording that way.
Q: So it has much more of a live feel?
A: Yeah. Because of what I was talking about, and just play like we were on stage. We were together in the studio and we just rushed through the songs, through the ideas. And we neglected to get into that polished thing and to be too meticulous to the point of saying, “Oh Sascha, you did there a little mistake” or “Oh Dani, that was a little bit too fast”. We just wanted to paint a good picture and get a good feel.
Q: When I was talking to Markus late last year he was telling me about a few things that you had planned for the 25th anniversary of the band. So what have you been doing in between recording these two albums this year?
A: Oh… not that much! We spent a bit of time on vacation because the Unarmed work was quite hard. Harder than we expected, so we needed a little time off. But everybody was working already on new material. Because we knew we had to do another album this year.
Q: And once the album is out, you will of course be going out on tour again.
A: Yes of course. We are going to do the Hellish Rock Tour, together with our special guest Stratovarius from Sweden [sic], who wants to follow us around the world. So we want to do a Hellish Rock Tour Pt 2, because Hellish Rock Pt 1 we did together with Gamma Ray in 2007 – 2008. And now we going to start the tour on November 26… I have no idea where! But for sure, we are going to come over to your country.
Q: Great, because we need to see Helloween down here because we’ve missed out for a very long time!
A: We went there on the last tour. We just did three shows. I have no idea why… there are not that many clubs to play, and we are not that big in Australia? It’s a money thing too. It’s better for us to just do three big shows. It’s sad but true. We have to make a living out of this. But hopefully your expectations will be fulfilled and we can do a lot more shows in Australia.
Q: Well metal’s really taken off here in the last few years, so hopefully the album will do really well and someone will offer you some money to come here and play some shows in the new year and we’ll all have a good time!
A: Hey I agree with you there! [laughs] What more is there for me to say about that?
Q: Well I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go now, which is a shame because I feel like I could talk with you for much longer. With luck we can talk again when you come down in the future.
A: It’s been great talking to you, man. Hopefully you’ll enjoy our 7 Sinners album as well and you can see us on the upcoming tour… Somewhere, anywhere. Good luck, keep on rocking!