May 8, 2014 Interview – Andi Deris of Helloween
Heavy metal has always been highlighted by powerful epic vocalists since the early beginnings of the genre. Perhaps one of the most unique and ear-tingling metal voices to come out of the 1980’s was Andi Deris. Starting as part of Pink Cream 69, in 1994, Deris joined up with Helloween, helping revitalize the band to their glory days of speed metal dominance. Over the past two decades, Deris and Helloween have become one of the most consistent, beloved metal bands in the world continuously touring and producing high quality records including their most recent Straight Out of Hell (2013). Keeping his creative juices flowing, Deris also released his first solo record in a decade last year titled Million Dollar Haircuts on Ten Dollar Heads. Recently we sat down with Andi Deris for a personal look at his time in Helloween, his new solo album, balancing touring with everyday life, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in metal for three decades now from your time in Pink Cream 69 to your time in Helloween. You have been the voice of Helloween for two decades. Your voice transformed the sound of the band and helped make them one of the most well-respect metal bands in the world. When you first joined the band could you have imagined the success and long-term relationship you have developed?
Andi Deris – That was only something we hoped for. Back in 1994 when I joined the band, I really shit my pants because I was really scared to death. I knew this was the way to go for me because my old band Pink Cream 69 actually turned the music down and wanted to do something like Alice in Chains and Metallica. They are great bands, but they were already there, so I never understood to throw away a successful style of music to an already there kind of music. If you are an inventor of something, why should you change your invention to something that is already there. That is something I never understood.
It was very easy for me to join Helloween and leave my own band because in Helloween I knew I had Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf who were big fans of my song writing. I knew there my song writing was welcome. I knew in 1994 Helloween had lots of identity problems, because I think a lot of the majority of metal fans in the world were completely disappointed that Helloween went more or less into the hard rock Bon Jovi wave. I think this was not very healthy for a metal band to suddenly sound like Bon Jovi, nothing against Bon Jovi, I like a lot of songs by Bon Jovi, but if you are a metal band you shouldn’t sound like Bon Jovi (laughs).
So, when I joined the band my call was to lead the band back to melodic speed metal. It was a lot of fun, but also very much involved with that fear of the future. As I said I was really scared. I thought, will you be accepted by the people? It turned out to be fine now. It was a gamble, most of the time it does not work out when you replace a great singer like Michael Kiske, he is really great singer. If I will ever be accepted by the fans was definitely never clear from the beginning.
CrypticRock.com – It has worked out amazingly. Your voice is extremely distinct and not your prototypical power metal voice. There are many inflections and even harshness. How have you developed your vocal style over the years?
Andi Deris – Nothing on purpose. I just sing with what my heart beats for, that is the only thing I can say. My biggest hobby is writing songs. Sitting down with my guitar in front of the television on the sofa is when I am happy. I need a cigar and a good whiskey, and that is my life. I never actually make my mind up with singing techniques or should I sing it a certain way. I just compose a song the way I feel and that is the way I sing it. There is no secret or formula behind it, I just do it the way I feel, and I think that is rock-n-roll.
CrypticRock.com – It has to be from the heart. With Helloween, you have help write nine albums. Each album is different in its own way. In 2013 the band released Straight Out Of Hell. What was the writing and recording process like for that record?
Andi Deris – I am quite sure that the rest of my boys would agree it was the most easy going recording. We already had a lot of success going on with Gambling with the Devil (2007) and the 7 Sinners (2010). We knew we were back on track, we knew we had the right mixture of 80’s and newer metal. Coming from the 80’s, I think a band should never turn down the legacy and heritage you have for being a popular band from the era. You should sound 50% the way that your old fans would expect you sound, but then not close your ears from the new sounds that great bands like Deftones or Disturbed, which play great rock-n-roll. The fun is to combine the new sound, that I personally love, with the heritage you have from the 80’s. Maybe that keeps us going now a days with two generations in the audience, maybe that is the secret, I don’t know.
Back to the question, it was definitely the most fun recording I ever had in my life. It was so easy to record because we had this consciousness it was the right thing we were doing. We just had a very successful world tour, the chemistry has never been as great as it is now.
CrypticRock.com – It shows on the record, it really is an excellent record. Having kept yourself busy with Helloween over the years with writing, recording, and touring, you have also managed to write and record three solo albums including your most recent Million-Dollar Haircuts on Ten-Cent Heads. The album is your first solo in almost fifteen years. What was it like putting together this album after not doing a solo album in some time?
Andi Deris – The whole history of my solo albums was before the year 2000, I was only bringing three to four songs to each and every Helloween album. The Dark Ride (2000) album was the first album I suddenly saw myself as the main songwriter for Helloween. Suddenly, I didn’t have to just bring three to four songs, I had to bring seven to nine songs to each album, which automatically reduces your leftover songs (laughs). You do not have three to four great leftover songs to which you want to put on your next solo record, you are suddenly only left over with one to two great leftover songs. It needed ten to twelve years to finally have twelve to fourteen good songs good enough for a solo record. Probably the next solo record will take at least another ten years (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs). Obviously that makes sense if most of your material going to Helloween after The Dark Ride, so there was not as much time or material left over for a solo record. The album has some really great hard rock guitar driven tunes which are full of energy. Your voice does sound slightly harsher to go along with the music and it works excellently. What was your approach going into this album, and are you happy with the outcome?
Andi Deris – Yes, I am happy with the outcome though there is an old saying, you never finish you just hand it in. There are lots of things that I would change; turn a little bit more treble here, and some bass there, maybe the voice is too loud here or as loud as it should be there. The more you listen to a record the more you would like to change it. Overall, I am very satisfied with the album.
CrypticRock.com – As you should be, it is really a solid album. Now, lyrically you have always been extremely honest and never seemed to hold back, which is admirable. Do you find writing lyrics and transcribing them into songs to be your most therapeutic release?
Andi Deris – Absolutely, I do not need worry if it has too much realism, negativity, or pessimism. Helloween, you have to be mindful because it should always been a little more happy Helloween mixed with The Keeper of the Seven Keys fantasy world. All that stuff is nice, but it hinders you here and there. On the solo record, you are allow to say what you have in mind. I do not actually need to care that the record company is disappointed because the lyrics are too harsh to play on the radio. On the solo record you just go for it. That is a luxury that I really enjoy.
CrypticRock.com – You have the ability to do what you please. You honestly should not care what other people say, it is your art and you should see that vision through.
Andi Deris – Absolutely, for the whole conceptual thing, it was important to say what I wanted to say. The title says it all, it is about these idiots up there which control the banks which actually nearly destructed our system. In the USA, the biggest problem you had was the housing market which nearly broke your neck. Here in Europe it is still the banks, because people have to rescue the bands. It is not good at all, because people are paying for something that is not their fault. Visa Versa, if the banks would make billions of dollars the people which now have to pay would not have even received a dime, but the investments were all made with the people’s money. This is a very perverted system in my opinion. It was a big urge in my stomach to put this on paper and really make a record for it.
CrypticRock.com – You did articulate that very well with the record. It is very interesting what you are saying about the way our society is. We are living in a time where increasingly more people are enlightened with these issues and more distrusting of the government systems. What do you think about that?
Andi Deris – It is a very logical thing. For example, in the USA and other countries as well, that a president cannot be elected more than two periods. The USA president has to say goodbye after two periods of four years maximum. This has been done to avoid corruption. I think the problem would not be the president, the problem is the Senates, House of Representatives, and political surroundings which have been there for decades. They have been thirty or forty years, and they will still be there for the next president periods, and the next president periods. These people are the problems I believe, all the corruption goes down with them, they should actually change. We should not only change eight years president maximum, we should actually change everything around them as well. I think we suddenly would see less corruption.
CrypticRock.com – It is very true. Getting back to the music, having released your solo album and the Helloween album in the same year, where did you find the time to work on both. Did you have a sense of urgency to get both albums out in the same year or was this just coincidental?
Andi Deris – Mainly because I had four to five months after the world tour. I knew I had the time to sit down in my house and still have the time to sit down to write songs for the solo record and write songs for the new Helloween album, it was now or never.
CrypticRock.com – It had been so long and you had been so busy working with Helloween over the years.
Andi Deris – Yes, the only time window you have being a touring artist is directly after the tour. After the tour, everyone wants to relax, hang loose, and do whatever you want. You have no management calling you, no record company calling you, because it is after the tour. That is always the right time to do something. Then, after three months it all starts again, they call you asking you what is going on; new songs, let us talk about the new record, let us talk new summer festivals, we have to schedule the new worldwide. The whole ship starts to sail again, as long as we are in the harbor so to say, I am free to do what I want. When it is out there on sea, let us say on the world tour again, there is no chance to do something.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously you have a passion and love for music. Being on the road as much as you have, is that wearing on your body and mind?
Andi Deris – It sometimes does. It depends on the schedule itself. I remember there were schedules that we saw ourselves stuck on a plane for fourteen hours, flying from Frankfurt to Singapore, then finally land in Singapore and have to go another seven hours on boats to arrive in Borneo, and then the very next day you have to play a big festival in Borneo. Seventeen hours later, to fly back to Frankfurt to play a festival in France. This is not something I would do again, it was something we did on the last tour, it really kills you and you really feel it. Fortunately, we did not have to do that very often. On the other hand will not do that very often because we learned we shouldn’t do that because everyone was completely destroyed. I had some throat infection, the other guys too. I think Sascha even had a lung infection. For the money, you should do it, but your body says ok this is enough; you only can do certain things and call it a day. Then you have to see we are not getting any younger. In the moment we do not feel it, in ten years I will be sixty, and we will probably feel it. It is a very exhausting thing to travel the world as extensive as we did in the last world tour for example.
CrypticRock.com – Yes and plus you have family and friends, you need down time to relax at home. You need to enjoy life.
Andi Deris – Absolutely, that is the most important thing to actually learn to really make some quality time between the touring. That is the most important thing we learned on the last world tour, is actually to make some breaks in between, even if it is only a week or two. It gives you some quality time back home and you do not have the feeling that you are constantly on the road for twelve months, because that eats you alive, it is impossible, and you should not do that. The next world tour will probably thirteen to fourteen months, but with at least six or seven breaks in between that you have a chance to see the family and to have quality time in between. It is very important.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. What are some of your musical influences?
Andi Deris – It all started with Kiss actually (laughs). That is mainly why I started to play guitar, because Kiss is very easy to play along with. Then I remember I sang at least one-hundred or two-hundred times together with the Unleashed in the East (1979) album from Judas Priest. I thought it was unbelievable how that guy sings. I always wanted to actually hit the high notes like Rob Halford. After a year or so I finally saw myself hitting the high notes, not as good as him, but at least I was there (laughs). That is how I started, then I realized ok, it is fun to sit down and try and write songs with my guitar in my bedroom. I really nerve wrecked my parents (laughs). I had this school band going on and I played them my newest ideas and they would say it sounded great and asked if I wrote it. I realized I have something here which is probably a gift from god that others do not have. That became even more like an addiction to sit down and write songs.
CrypticRock.com – That is great and you have had a phenomenal career, let us hope it keeps going for years to come.
Andi Deris – Still here (laughs). I would love to see myself like the Motorhead’s or Iron Maiden’s of the world standing on stage at sixty and still doing a great job up there, why not.
CrypticRock.com – Definitely, why not at all. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films, and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Andi Deris – I would not turn down horror movies. Sometimes I love to watch horror movies, sometimes I am not in the mood to see a horror film. My all-time favorites are still A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). For me it is still the most classic and up and running film for me. I still watch the first one and I still nearly shit my pants (laughs). It is really a great movie.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) They are great films. The sequels were not as good as the original but they hold their own.
Andi Deris – Yes, the third one, A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warrior’s (1987), is still ok, but in my opinion the first one is the classic unbelievably great movie. It is the same with the Highlander (1986) film, which I am a fan of. You cannot watch the sequels (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Yes, they made so many sequels for the Friday The 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978) as well.
Andi Deris – The first Halloween (1978) with Michael Myers was great. The same with Final Destination (2000) for example. We have to be fair because once you finally have grasped the idea of the film, then the sequels are boring. For the first Final Destination, you had to realize what was going on; death being outplayed. When you get the idea, the sequels are boring because you already know what is going on. The same for the Matrix films, the first Matrix (1999), for me, was a great idea and story behind it. Once you realize what the Matrix is and when you know the story, then the sequels become boring, at least for me.
Read the review of Andi Deris & The Bad Bankers – Ten Cent Haircuts On Million Dollar Heads on CrypticRock here
Read the review of Helloween – Straight Out of Hell on CrypticRock here
Helloween will be performing on the following dates:
2014-05-24 Metallsvenskan Metallsvenskan
2014-06-27 Piešťany Topfest 2014
2014-06-29 Kavarna Kavarna Rock 2014
2014-07-11 Ballenstedt Rock Harz 2014
2014-07-12 Masters Of Rock Masters Of Rock
2014-07-19 Karjurock Karjurock