With Michael Waikath in Eindhoven
Well I have heard so much about the legendary Michael Waikath. I heard from friends out of the business and from Helloween fan forum a lot of opinions about him. Most of them haven’t been to nice. Not nice at all.
So my feelings towards this interview have been mixed.
But as Arnold and I arrived for the interview and as it was my turn, the picture I gained in the past about this man melted away.
In front of me was just a musician who said most likely what he was thinking. Not more… and apparently not less.
The ice broke right away as I set up my computer for recording. Though he did not approve too much of my DELL Laptop, he was still surprised of the situation.
How ever, after showing the recording program and some jokes aside, we started with the interview. I was still nervous, but that would fade in no time… after the interview, we seem to find no end in talking about music and private experiences, till Andy (who was engaged in an other interview) and the promoter finally wanted to grab some food.
And the morale of this night, build your own picture. Maybe the wolf everybody was afraid of was just a musician with a furry coat.
Nadja: One of the first questions is obvious: Why did you choose to call it ‘Keeper’ again. Somewhere I read it would seamlessly fit to the story of the other Keepers.
Michael: It is trying to start and connect where the other ended. It is only over the years, when Andy that it took a few years *makes Neanderthal laughing noises* what mostly mend because we think you can not do it.
Of course other people mend that joke in a more positive direction because they would have liked to hear something like that again.
So… what is with a Keepers 3 was mend serious from both sides.
Why ever it didn’t happen in the past, if it was the circumstances or the line up or it was no whish present to do it. However, after the last tour our Japanese Manager came along and said *mimics a Japanese accent* How would you like to do a keepers 3 *hehe*
Since we played some parts from the last Keepers on the last tour, Andy said we actually could. And I agreed that the band lineup is good to do it. And than, as we went on tour we reserved the rights. We wanted to try something and if it didn’t work out, we still could call it something different afterwards, but we wanted to keep our possibilities open.
Finally, Charley our producer, at a certain point, when we already had 58 minutes of music, he said: “You know, this is all great material, but if you want to call it a Keeper record, than there is still missing, a typical classic, epical Helloween Keeper track. You just don’t have something like ‘Invisible Man’ or Occasion Avenue’ yet. You have now modern peaces, but maybe to modern, so you have to compose at least one epic track.
And if you can not do this within the next three weeks, we can not record it in time, and it will not be on the record and you will not be able to call it a Keepers Album. So Andy and I sat together for six or eight days of editing things on the power book. Like parts, chords melodies and everything… and as we finished, we felt time to let Sascha in on the thing with more tracks and Ideas as we have had at this point.
We sat together with Sascha, Markus and me in my living room and edit and edit – it was a very long night and than we played it to Charley and he also re-edit it and rearranged it.
Tommy Newtown and Tommy Handson have been a great influence on the material we did back than, so that’s all come in a very natural way.
Obviously you can save a lot of time working on computers. We used to do this all on tapes and rehearsals by that time. So the track ‘King For A Thousand Years‘ was never rehearsed in the rehearse room. That is really interesting.
Than we came back to the island just to record this and play this song, to add the drums and all the other things.
Nadja: You recorded this in Andy’s studio, right? (Mi Sueno” Studio on Teneriffa)
*preparing some coffee and searching for the missing spoon*
Nadja: Did the title bring more pressure on you? You mentioned already that people liked to see you fail. The expectation of fans will be high.
Michael: Well, that doesn’t matter. Did you hear the Album already?
Nadja: No, I was only provided with the Single.
Michael: Because that are the questions we get before they have heard it. Because usually after they heard it, none of those questions arise, because everybody is just so impressed.
I mean yes, it gives a bit additional pressure, but on the other hand we could have going on doing different records after the Keepers 2. So maybe the pressure was to high by that time that mistakes where done like the ‘Pink Bubbles’ and the ‘Chameleon’ or whatever.
They where not as well received as the other records. So there where certainly something wrong with these records. Even though they where great, but something was wrong.
And about pressure. There is always pressure when you want to play in a band and present your stuff to the public, to many people. If you are not able to deal with it, that this might seem like a lot of pressure. There are people who don’t belong in this business, because they get to nervous when they have to do things. And there are bands who don’t have the talent for songwriting, but wanted to start a band anyway and suddenly they have a record contract and everything they ever wanted, but find them selves afraid because they can not do it.
Nadja: Is there 20 years of experience talking?
Michael: Yeah that too… But I mean I was even more arrogant as we started.
Nadja: Yes, I heard some stories.
Michael: But that’s all in the eye of the beholder. As I was even more arrogant as I was 16 and had no record contract.
Nadja: Will this record now be released world wide, or only in Europe?
I read about other records that have been just released regional. And I read in a lot different interview, that fans wonder why and how…
Michael: We are now with SPV and they are distributing in Europe and the rest of the world and that is nearly a guaranty that it will be sold all over the world.
Well I don’t know about Timbuktu and who would be our distributor there, but just because I don’t know doesn’t mean there is none.
Nadja: Well I guess the chance is little, that people from Timbuktu read our interview anyway. So let’s move on. I was wondering, why you stopped using the pumpkin on your album covers.
Michael: Well, that’s not true…
Nadja: It is in the logo alright and in the booklet, but not on the front cover anymore.
Michael: That is true, but there is also no pumpkin on the ‘Walls Of Jericho’, no pumpkin on ‘Keeper 1 and 2’, no pumpkin on a lot of the covers.
They are mostly only inside of the booklet.
Nadja: Ok… you got me. I did bad homework. You win.
Michael: *grins* Also on the Queen records, there was rarely a crown. And they never showed the Queen. Also on Rush.. they never had a rush on the cover….
Nadja: *slightly childish voice* No, but I like the pumpkin. I can’t help it.
Michael: *soothing voice* Everybody likes the pumpkin.
Nadja: What was first, the pumpkin or the name?
Michael: The name …the pumpkin came later.
Nadja: How than?
Michael: Because of the pumpkin…*grin*
Nadja: Hey, that is nasty…
Michael: Ok… well it was some witch thing. I’m not quite sure if it was England or Netherlands, but on ‘Walpurgis night’ the witches gather somewhere in the forest and have their sex rituals. And because they didn’t want anybody’s around, they placed glowing pumpkins all over the forest, so that every body would be afraid to go there. You know, they place other weird things all around, so people wouldn’t go closer to the forest.
And that’s where it originated.
Nadja: So basically you wanted to combine that all..
Michael: Yea, specially the witches with their sex rituals in the forest…well.. you actually don’t know what they really did there, but nowadays you have modern sources and you might be able to follow up on what they did there…. Maybe even worse things!
Nadja: Well, however your fantasy likes it…
Arnold: Originally the witch rituals haven’t been sex related. You just needed to be naked, to be as close as possible to nature.
Michael: Yes, the Wikka rituals involved a lot of sex actually. I don’t know what rituals we are talking about here and in what time area it really took place.
But later it ended up in sex for sure.
Nadja: *getting nervous again* Well can we change the subject?
Michael: Ok.. did you know that Waik – the word Waik is the term for the witch master in the Wikka?! That’s like the guy who controls the witches.
Arnold: Hmm… so there is something in your background.
Michael: No actually not. My name is just Waikath, and has nothing to do with that… I think.
Nadja: During my preparation for this interview, which I found rather difficult this time, I found an enormous amount of assault towards you and the band. Mostly in sections for the new album and in forum. How do you deal with that? Why is it so extreme?
Michael: Well it is the same as I was 10 years old as I hat a lot of friends, or not friends, guys who didn’t like me and gave me a hard time. That’s just the case if you look different and when you look attractive or something.
Also particularly if you have ignorant people around you, they try to put the blame on other people just for the fun of it. There are even people who beat each other up, or for guys on one little guy and they feel so strong and great afterwards and so…
Nadja: But the music metal business should be a bit different. We are all a bit different and if you check other band pages, it is not as extreme as with you.
Michael: Just check the Metallica web page, there you find a lot more extreme.
Nadja: Well.. I wouldn’t count Metallica to metal anymore.
Michael: No, but what ever. It is just the general human behavior and you gotta get used to it.
That’s also why being in a band is not always so easy.
There are people who don’t take criticism always that easy and maybe it goes to the heart very much. I must also be ignorant on my part because I am not doing anything wrong.
I just live; I wear my hair like I want it. And if someone has a proposal for my hair cut, I don’t have to agree to that. And there will be some guys sitting together in front of the forum and say what do we write now. If they wouldn’t have me and the things I said, they wouldn’t have anything to complain about. They are just poor little ash holes who could better spend there time wiser instead of that kiddy stuff. They probably have little dicks and problems with woman.
Nadja: Most of those seem to be Spanish or Brazilians but that interesting because you have a huge fan base over there and on the other hand so much hatred
Michael: They seem to be jealous they probably want to be in a famous band as well but there not able to. They also have les experience in bed than I have and that hurts and then they get angry because they can’t stand it that somebody like me can do his thing.
Nadja: You think that’s the reason?
Michael: That’s the very heart of it * laughing * especially when your so dumb and don’t understand the things I say. Sometimes one sentence is enough to show how stupid they are they don’t understand what I say and think that I’m an idiot. And I’m so fucking arrogant because I use these difficult expressions and the way I speak I must be gay!!!
And then they think you behave like this because you’re so proud of your self that you show of this much. But I’m just answering questions I could stay home and not do it. But they assume that I do this because I want to be in the center in the middle of everything but I don’t .I could have a good time at home watching some DVDs or whatever. But this is part of the job and if you’re in a band you have to promote yourself
Nadja: I found out that a lot of fans who have been with you from the beginning stopped being a fan because you got another singer why you think that is are they to stupid to look beyond that
Michael: Well people have different taste of course but they are very limited and ignorant for example When Fleetwood Mac replaced there guitarist I understand it because I saw a concert once were they replaced Lindsey Buckingham for another but he was not as strong as Lindsey so he was a week replacement.. If you don’t get what you want to get people tend to criticize that .The band Halloween chouse Andy because we where so impressed by what he was doing and he was everything we looked for rather then the high pitched theatrical voice that Michael Kiske had. Because Michael is doing the same thing always and this can be pretty tiresome for a composer. Now its not that you replace someone because you find them boring, but if it is like that and additional you have personal difficulties, than it’s different. But then people say that we should get someone who sounds like Kiske. Yes ok, but it will all sound the same again. The singer I work with should fill my imagination as well.
Nadja: And Andy does.!?
Michael: Yes, he does. I had my share of Michael Kiske in the past and that’s ok. You can always rely on what he is singing and but he told me to not smoke on the band bus, well I want to smoke. I am in a rock band.
Nadja: Well I find it understandable, if you as singer try to watch your voice for the upcoming gig.
Michael: But before he was not complaining and later on he came with all those ideas.
Nadja: Well maybe he gets old….
Michael: *couldn’t help to smile* No, just different. This is how people can change. I didn’t change much in my live and that is also what people hate so much about me. I gained more experience, but I never drastically changed my views. There are people that change their view ever other week. Or they build up their opinion on the wrong things, because before they didn’t have much of an opinion.
I always had a strong opinion about many things. That’s if you have a personal interest in stating your mind. I find it strange if someone like Michael Kiske, who is singing in a band, changes his opinion so much.
You know, on one tour he goes like “Oh, I want to have a Hotdog” and the next time he says “I am a vegetarian! You shouldn’t eat meat. The poor animals. Did you ever stop to think, what it does to your astral bodies?”.
Well whatever. Did you ever read his book or his articles on his web page? *Nadja shakes her head* That will tell you a lot about how he is and the things he said.
We had to deal with that every day. There is just a certain point, where you can have a certain opinion – but that doesn’t change that you have to deliver a certain quality of songs to the band. So the songs he had on his demo, we just didn’t want to play. Markus didn’t want to play it. I didn’t want to play it and none else.
That was a big problem. I had to tell him, “ Listen, your songs are really so boring, that we wont record them” and he said “ well, than I wont sing and record your songs either”
And so we came to a very professional way of talking.
Nadja: So if felt childish …
Michael: Well whatever. And Roland said to me: “I am not going to record another album with him”. And that’s actually how it happened.
At this point I was actually just waiting for the others to tell me here has to change something. I said that already much earlier, but I am not the big dictator. Though people think it of me. So I waited for the band to say to me “Waiki, please! Let’s get a different singer!” And that’s what happened in the end.
Nadja: Oh.. That was more information than I expected. *laughter*
Well after 20 years of making music. Aren’t you afraid to run out of ideas?
Michael: No not really. As we started out, there have been already so many bands, who have done records. ….
Andy: *suddenly appears behind me*
Hi ! What is that *pointing at my computer*
Nadja: Hi there! That’s my recording device.
Andy: That’s a dell.
Nadja: Yes, it IS a dell. And has even Garfield as wallpaper today.
Andy: That’s impressive:
Michael: With a fire recording display. Like in the win mp3 player.. But is really clever. That thing has a microphone built in…
Andy: Well we are Mac fans, so you thought *everybody started laughing*
Nadja: Yes of course! That was the only purpose …*smile*
(we are going here a bit more into detail about my computer and they try to convert me to a Mac user… after a short break we could go on )
Michael: Let’s get back to your questions. To one question before. If I would take care on other peoples opinion, I couldn’t answer the questions honestly and than you would have no interview. That is of course possible to do an interview like that. But I prefer to make a statement and in the moment you make a statement, you give people the opportunity to get annoyed.
Nadja: And with a statement, you to run the risk of tread on someone’s toes.
Michael: Not really. I am just telling what I am doing and about my work. I don’t tell anything bad about someone. I just get angry if someone gets hostile towards me. Than I dare to go back and say they are just crazy, There is nothing bad about the things I am telling.
In the moment you are in a band, you have to have an opinion and you will be ask in interviews about it and if people can not stand that, that that is jus entirely stupid.
Probably they think I am doing this all bad motives, but there is no such thing as a bad motive behind my opinion.
I am in a band, play my music and want to earn my living with it. That’s all.
But they always draw it down to a primitive level. “ He just wants to meet chicks!” or “And that doesn’t work anyway, because he is gay and wont admit it”
Well that’s only because I spread my finger from my cup if I drink. That is not gay, but aristocratic *smiles* Nothing against gay. They are mostly high intellectual. Haven’t met that many stupid gay people yet.
Nadja: Well, I think it has not much to do with gay if you are smart or not. I’ve got both kind back at my company. But it has to do with human mentality.
Michael: Ja…Well. One basic rule for discussions is: you should try to believe what the other one is saying. Otherwise, you’ll find no end to the discussion and mankind will go nowhere if people stop trusting each other.
This rule should apply to all sorts of media and publishing… the main thing is, to tell the truth.
Nadja: Well I think one of the big rules is as well to respect other opinions. Even if it is not confirmed with your own.
Michael: That’s true. So the people who wrote these bad things about me, thy act against these to basic principles. These people act very uncivilized. They can act like that in the jungle or in the forest, but they will never former of a new society.
And just because I told you the truth again, there will be many who will hate me for this again.
Nadja: But you don’t care!
Michael: I don’t care! Because those people will probably get drunken one day and go around the next corner and strait into a speeding car.
Then there will be one less complaining about me.
Nadja: That’s mean…but ok.
There have been of course rumours, that you only keep Helloween alive because it has a name and due to that makes money.
Michael: Sure we could stop Helloween, change the name and make money with that. But what’s the point. You know, you ask me before if we are not running out of ideas. You could have asked me the same thing in the beginning. Like “ Do you think, you can create something so new, that it is totally different from anything that is already there”
That’s an argument my mom had in the beginning. There are already so many bands like Motorhead, Rainbow, IronMaiden. What do you want to do ….
So I could have just left my guitar in the cupboard because I don’t think, I could do more than DeepPurple did.
Nadja: But you also have bands, that just do their own stuff over and over, so you get the feeling its the same CD with one new riff and partial new lyrics. And they think we are still artists because we change the lyrics.
Michael: Lou Reed can not play very good guitar, but his lyrics are very good. And he always has a guitar player but never lets him play and he try’s concerts.
He is a poet, a very good one, but not the best guitar player there is. Maybe he really should leave that part to others. But as I understood, he has a great deal of fun, producing these sounds in front of others. And that is what it’s all about.
Nadja: What do you think about these entire New Metal bands, which try and think they are so great? And there is not much coming around that sound good.
Michael: Well they gotta try. They will see how hard it is and if they can develop or not.
Nadja: But giving them right away a record deal and airplay. Isn’t that radio pollution?
Michael: It surely is. On the other hand, some of them might be worth having a contract and others are not. You won’t see it right away. But record labels are at the moment not interested in quality. It’s all about selling units. Well, they just calculate how much the band will sell all over Europe and if they make a bit of money, they just signed them.
This way keeps the production costs very low for the record company and producer. That is actually what Karl Walterbach has done with Noise Records. And he was lucky to have bands like Celtic Frost or Helloween. People say, that Celtic Frost is horrible music and no one would buy it. But the truth is, a lot of people bought their records. And for Walterbach that was enough. You can not compare Celtic Frost with Shakira, but for Noise Records, it was enough. He started out with a small punk band from Germany: Slime. And believe it or not, this band sold many records in Germany.
With this money, he actually founded Noise Records.
Nadja: Well maybe that’s a good future plan…
Michael: I don’t know. Then you have to deal with a lot of crazy musicians.
Nadja: What do you think I am doing right now *smile*
Michael: Talking to a crazy musician and getting less paid than a record label boss.
Nadja: To be honest, I am not paid at all.
Michael: Maybe that’s your idealism. You probably only doing that, because you are gay and because you need to be in the middle of everything and you need a quick gain of cheep energy.
Because you will put your word into public and you will enjoy yourself so much, because everybody can read it.
And now you probably try to tell me, you just do it for the information and you want to inform others about the music you believe in!?
I wouldn’t believe you *grinning ironically*
Nadja: If that’s what you think, bad luck for you.
Michael: *half laughing* Can you live with that?
Nadja: Pretty much so!
Arnold: He just tries to show you, what we have been discussing!
Michael: Exactly! You see, you have no bad intensions and still you get criticized and words will be put into your mouth.
Nadja: Since we get signaled to slowly find an end, I would like to play my association game with you.
Michael: Now you become my psychologist.
Nadja: Oh well, you will survive it.
Rock star: Isn’t that a musical or a movie? We’ve been to Cologne and they had the musical there.
Alien: Was one of the first real psycho horror movies. As I watched it with 19, I couldn’t sleep that night. And even after two months I was still afraid.
Gentleman: something that was something in the past. As I was 15 years old, each time women wanted something g they came up with the sentence “You are not really a gentleman” and it was that time of emancipation –same rights and rules- , but each time they wanted something or need something, they brought up the gentlemen.
I just got annoyed and told them “ I am no fucking gentleman. If you want something, do it yourself”
The world don’t need gentleman. You should just be friendly to each other. That’s it. Also if a gentleman finds a lady, with the same manners, than you have a good couple there.
Cheesecake: You men the swearing word, or the thing to eat. Well first in my mind comes the swearing word and the Aerosmith song.
Highway: Highway star. Deep Purple. Highway was a band in Hamburg and they had some good songs. Than there was a old band in the 70s ‘Randy Pie’ with the track ‘ Highway Driver’ – really good.
Thank you for the interview and see you on tour again!