Ever since Michael Kiske passed the helm of the ship called HELLOWEEN to Andi Deris, frontman of the up and coming German hair metal act Pink Cream 69, fans have been divided between those who saw the legendary double-album “Keeper of the Seven Keys” as the band’s apogee and those maintaining that Helloween was reborn thanks to Deris‘ efforts. Let’s not forget Kai Hansen, the founder and leading force of Helloween during its glory days back in the 80’s, who left the band to form Gamma Ray.
As it’s very common in these scenarios, many have been speculating about a reunion with the two iconic former members for a long time. When we asked Markus Grosskopf, the band’s bassist, if that might happen in an interview back in 2015, he clandestinely said: “You never know what might come next”. And just when everyone seems to have given up hope, Helloween announced a tour dubbed “Pumpkins United”, a two-year long trek featuring the current band lineup with the addition of Kiske and Hansen, followed by a brand new song with the same name.
The first leg of the tour proved to be an immense success, with the band selling out arenas across Europe and Latin America. We spoke to the band’s frontman Andi Deris and his returning colleague Michael Kiske about the experience of sharing the stage, their future touring and album plans, what 2018 has in store for them and whether this line up might last longer than we expect plus more in this brand new, exclusive Helloween interview.
The first leg of the hugely successful Pumpkins United tour wrapped up in December and what are your impressions now that you’ve had a little time to recover and let it all settle in?
Andi Deris: I am kind of looking back and smile – what a fantastic tour!
The tour has seen you going from medium-sized and large venues to selling out massive arenas, playing four shows in Tokyo, and more importantly giving millions of fans a show of their life. How does this incredible interest affect the band members, both returning and “new”, did it come as a surprise?
Andi: I guess it became even bigger than we all dared to expect (laughs). It has no effect on us except we became happier by the moment. But our attitude didn’t change, we just wanted to play and perform at our very best.
What was the most memorable moment for you from the first leg of the tour?
Andi: The greatest gift or memory for me was a sold out Porsche Arena close to my hometown in Germany.
This reunion of sorts has been talked and speculated about for years, as far back as “Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy”, at least as far as I can remember. I’m guessing everyone expected it to resemble the Hellish Rock Tours with Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen joining the band for the encore. Were there plans for something like that at first?
Andi: No, but after the experience, we made during the Hellish Rock tours we realized that the greatest thing for the fan and the band would be what we do now.
We’ve got a full-blown three-hour show with both of you sharing vocal duties equally and Kai playing songs he helped created and those that came after he left. Can you take us behind the scenes of what it was like to plan this concept for this tour?
Andi: Actually it turned out the way it is now during rehearsals. We tried different things, liked or disliked it and ended up with what you hear now (laughs).
With a career spanning fifteen studio albums, how hard was it to come up with a setlist for this tour?
Andi: Take a wild guess (laughs). It‘s certainly a pain in the ass to reduce a show down to 3 hours… Yes, I know 3 hours is long, but there are still lots of beloved songs you cannot play. We decided you take songs from every area, classics, fan favorites and that is how we finally built the set list.
Were there some songs you wish you had played but didn’t make the final cut?
Andi: Yes, we all do. But we comfort ourselves with the idea of a next tour. Then we are going to play this or that song which we miss on the present tour.
It would be a shame not to have some memory of this tour, and to that end, you’ve recorded your shows in Sao Paulo and Madrid, from what I understood. I’ve also heard that the both Sao Paulo shows had some technical difficulties, so does that affect the planned DVD, are we going to see it in the future and do you have any idea when?
Andi: I don´t think that some technical fuck ups in Sao Paulo will affect the DVD, but I have no idea when we will put it out. Somewhere after the Pumpkins United tour… 2019? But then again, no idea yet.
Fans have always been building a rivalry between you and Michael Kiske as well as the albums you’ve contributed to respectively. In regards to that, the chemistry between the two voices of Helloween seems like you’re long lost reunited best friends rather than rivals, at least on stage. What is it that you like the most about your fellow singer now that you’ve finally met?
Andi: First of all I really like Michael because we always have great and interesting themes to talk about. It´s never boring with him. Very entertaining during a long tour (laughs). Secondly, I am really very thankful that he is back to sing his own songs, which were really hard work for me during the last 20 years. I can simply put it, nobody can sing his tunes as good as he does it himself (laughs). Third of all, I expect him to be my future neighbor here on the island of Tenerife. He visited me for two weeks last year and fell in love with the island. So it seems there are a lot of things we already have in common and will have more in the future. If this includes a long common future with Helloween even the better (laughs).
In older interviews, you’ve stated that you haven’t listened to the albums Helloween recorded since your departure. Now that you’ve obviously had to (laughs) what do you think about those later albums? Do you feel that they’ve kept the legacy of what you created in the 80’s alive throughout these years?
Michael Kiske: Yes, for sure. They did a wonderful job and I think otherwise Helloween wouldn’t be so successful after all these years. It is just great!
What is your favorite song Andi has recorded with Helloween and why?
Michael: I can’t name one, I like most of what he did. I love his voice, I like the way he feels the songs and is united with them. It would be very hard to pick one.
Andi, what about you?
Andi: Many, but “Forever and One” is unforgettable for me because it was my first number 1 hit. The first always cuts the deepest (laughs)
And what is your favorite song recorded with Michael and why?
Andi: Easy answer – “Pumpkins United”, because it´s the only song I ever recorded with Michael Kiske.
As someone who’s seen Helloween on every tour since Hellish Rock 1, I have to say your voice sounded amazing, on point and kind of rejuvenated. Did you have any special vocal training for this tour or is it just the fact that you get the chance to rest your voice when Michael is on stage?
Andi: Getting some rest here and there helps a lot, but the main reason is the fact that I only sing my own songs in my own technique, so I don´t need to always jump from one to the other.
Obviously, everyone’s speculating about the band releasing a new album with the returning members. Hypothetically if it were to happen, what do you think it would sound like? Would you share vocal duties on all songs, have some songs sung by one and some by the other or a bit of both?
Andi: As a KISS fan I hope we share vocals here and there, have our solo songs too, and help ourselves with backings and so on. Just put in everything to make a song even better. Sometimes I guess a song sounds best just with one voice, sometimes I am sure this or that song gains a lot with 2 or even 3 singers, don´t forget Kai Hansen. Anyways, I think the song will tell (laughs).
Is it safe to hope for at least a few more new songs in this lineup if not a full album?
Andi: Not safe but we are already talking about it. It would be a great future option which I am sure we take if the bands´ chemistry stays as great as it is now.
The Pumpkins United tour is going to continue throughout Asia, North America after which you’ll be busy with the festival season. What can we expect from the festivals, is the setlist going to be shorter or are you getting bigger slots? Have you already thought about which songs you’re going to keep and which you’ll have to drop?
Andi: I expect this to become a little problematic, we all have to decide. But then again we have so many songs to choose from, why not change the setlist from festival to festival in case we cannot play a full 3 hours show!?
Are you planning on doing another run of Europe with solo shows and visit countries you didn’t have the chance to visit the first time around, like Serbia for example?
Andi: Absolutely yes. So far we were only playing the biggest cities which also were not too close to the summer festivals we are going to play. After the US and Canada, we will be back for more in Europe (laughs).
Thank you for taking the time to answer these question. Any final messages for our readers and your fans in Serbia and the Balkans?
Andi: It would be time to be back on stage in the Balkans, it´s been a while! Fingers crossed – I would love it!