He was born in Hamburg, Germany on 7 August 1962. He and his band created a new revolution in Heavy Metal music in the 1980’s. Michael Ingo Joachim Weikath (AKA Michael Weikath and Weiki) is one of HELLOWEEN’s founding members and along with Markus Grosskopf he is the only other original member still active in the band. He is a musician and songwriter who plays guitars and keyboards, he also sang backing vocals in some of HELLOWEEN’s songs.
I was lucky to have a chat with Michael a few days ago and place my Burning Crown on his head. I found him a very nice person who doesn’t fear to speak from his heart. But unfortunately we had some problems with the line at first, but as you will hear it improved later. I’ve split this interview in to 3 parts to make it easier for you to listen.
* Please note as some parts of this interview are broken up, if you had open heart surgery, or blood pressure issues or you are under 18 years old, you can still listen to this interview. But if you are one of those angry people who always disagree and you are not a fan of HELLOWEEN, you’d just better leave it and find someone else to blame!
In the first part, I asked Weiki about the team who produced HELLOWEEN‘s newest album “Straight Out of Hell” and why they changed the record company. He told me it’s still Sony and a cycle of people working well together…. We also started a conversation about why they chose to be on positive side, when many other bands are writing their music with dark themes. Weiki stated that he doesn’t know anything about the dark side and it’s not healthy to write about those kind of themes for him. Listen to part one to find out more below:
I believe HELLOWEEN‘s logo is great so I asked Michael about it, as it seems they use different pumpkins for each album. Michael stated the following when I asked him whether the idea for this was the designers or the bands:
“It’s a mix of both. Sometimes you can say this pumpkin is boring, or cos we have a different subject, or just for fun, or there is something particular going on in the artwork. You can always do something for the pumpkin itself, or you can make the last logo or a classic logo. It’s just a matter of playing around with ideas and having some fun with it. Be creative.”
He also continued when I asked him who designed this new logo, with the following:
“Yes I designed that logo in the beginning, and that stupid pumpkin in the middle, to the left in the logo, that’s the way I wanted to have it, because I simply didn’t care. I thought “why the middle only?” And you go “give it a gas mask” or it has a straw head, or whatever, you can play with it.“
I had an interview with guitarist Roland Grapow (MASTERPLAN, Ex-HELLOWEEN) a few months ago, and asked him what was the reason of his firing from the band, he said: ” I felt very secure in Helloween. In the middle of the tour I said something to Michael and Markus and I said my opinion about something. I wanted to make something the best for the band and I think they misunderstood me, like I wanted to be leader. I was telling the truth and that’s how I am… It was a great time in Helloween …” So I found it a good moment to ask the same question from Michael to hear the reason from HELLOWEEN‘s side, Weiki said:
“Well actually we said those things in the past. It’s basically because there was interest in a different kind of music to be made with Helloween, and then some side projects that he was doing. They seemed to consume a lot of time and the process and whatever. We on the other side we were not quite happy with the output that we were actually given by for instance Roland, and you know there’s some kind of misconception when you hear those things. We wrote him an email, Markus and me, about why we did that and I can still remember the first few interviews they did after that, saying they don’t understand why. It was in the email why, you know that’s not public, so if they still have it, maybe they can publish it and everybody can read it. It was really quite clear why. We also had some little discussion with Uli, because he was kinda disappointed, I actually had him on the phone and we had a short talk about it and the reasons that we said in the interviews basically. So it’s strange that this is always being brought to attention. There were lots of misunderstandings at the time, and that’s why, I don’t like misunderstandings.
They were also saying lots of things about Masterplan and the first record. They said so many things in interviews about the situation, like “the pressure has all gone.”Months ago he told Uli he felt really comfortable in Helloween, so it’s contradictory. I don’t know what to think, he must know what he wants to tell people, I have given up trying to understand what was going on there, and that’s another reason.
You know, it was actually really easy. It was Kai Hansen ok, he wrote some songs, I wrote some songs. Then we did records, and we wanted to records as good as possible. I told Roland before he came into the band “we want to change the music a little bit, we want to be more diverse and have more variated music.”I really don’t know, what’s difficult being in a band, Helloween, making great records, everybody writes some great songs. I don’t know where the problem is with that. Things are running good now and not problematic, no misunderstandings and stuff. It’s been about 10 years now, which I actually enjoy a lot, because there are no misunderstandings and this and that, and no contradictions, you know?“
Listen to the second part of this interview to hear Michael answering about HELLOWEEN‘s logo, Roland Grapow, the earlier days of the band and also why they chose the Helloween name.
In the final part of this pretty long conversation, we had a serious and interesting chat. I asked his opinion about the differences between old songs and modern songs and Michael agreed with me that old songs are more like pure art. But when I asked him about the roles of the singers in HELLOWEEN‘s styles and how much it affected the style of the band’s music. He started talking about his problems with the band’s ex-member, Michael Kiske, and also why he thinks Andi Deris is better. Check out the following:
“Well, for me as a songwriter it was kinda getting difficult with the voice of Michael Kiske, which is perfect, really good, really elaborate and whatever, but always kinda the same. If you wanted to make a rock and roll or rock song, or something heavy, that requires shouting or grumbling or growling, he really wasn’t good for that. If you wanna have something like “Nothing To Say” or something else, it would be like Elvis on steroids or something. He could do that, because if you listen to his recent recordings, he managed to do that. He can now growl or sing a little bit more distorted or whatever, he can. He just didn’t want, cos he was afraid of harming his vocal chords or whatever, then actually he can do those things. Deris is a shouter, he has variety and stuff and has several techniques he can maintain or create. To me, that was very impressive and also very powerful, for a certain approach of songwriting that you want to do. You can’t do a “Hair Of The Dog” by Nazareth with Michael Kiske, that would sound strange.
And you know, I always like shouters and singers. The best guy probably, there is, is Bruce Dickinson or Ian Gillan. They can sing, they can shout. I would have appreciated that. Instead of that we had lots of discussions and lots of changing of attitude. Michael was like a normal guy, then soon he turned to be vegetarian and he had religious ideas. And he was sharing that stuff so much that sometimes you really got enough of that, you didn’t want to share that so much. Thinking about those things, he also wanted to do tracks and music and hits, and Helloween tracks, and you know, to be successful or whatever. Because we don’t want to play in clubs for 50 people only, it’s not the idea behind the whole thing, and there you go, those are the differences. It comes to a point where it’s boiling and you want to have decisions.”
I really couldn’t leave this interview without asking Michael‘s opinion about the legendary singer, Ronnie James Dio who is a father to me. Check out the following which are Michael‘s opinions about Ronnie:
“Well, he’s the one. He’s always been very magical, ever since he did recordings. It was noted by lots of people, his voice and the way of singing. It seemed so magical, it touched your soul and your heart. At that time, it was the best voice for rock or metal and when people get to hear him first, it was like “ooh what a voice, who is he?” That’s absolutely clear. Even Freddie Mercury can shout and that is one word for Dio, it’s a synonym, right? That’s the stuff I always liked.“
We almost lost the time during our pure METAL conversation but it finished when Michael found out that he had an appointment for dinner in a Persian restaurant which surprised me, as I am a Persian metalhead. Also my special thanks to Blackdiamond, Caitlin and Leslie who helped me to sort this interview. As my final word, I hope you found this interview interesting and I apologise the sound was not clear in places. Hopefully next time we will have a better line. Till then I leave you in peace and METAL.
Photo by Martin Haeusler