Markus Grosskopf of HelloweenOctober 18, 2010
Markus has been playing bass with Helloween since 1984, and after twenty six years, their latest album Seven Sinners is just about to come out.
“I’ve been expecting you” says the bass player, almost like a cliched Bond villian. Nevertheless, he’s an amicable sort of chap who like all bass players, loves talking about playing bass. “Well, Edguy’s bass player’s wife was having a baby so they asked me to fill in just for the one show. I was there at Wacken just in case waiting, but I decided to come on and do a few songs anyway!”
Seven Sinners is released at the end of the month, but as we’ve not had a chat in a while, I thought it’d be best to ask about the previous best-of with a non-metal twist, Unarmed. “The reviews were very mixed. Some thought it was good, a lot of people said it was crap because it wasn’t metal. But it was for us, it was a way to keep the songs fresh and it’s something that we wanted to do. We didn’t really do any of it live, a few acoustic shows here in Germany maybe. But the main focus was getting back onto what Helloween are, and making a metal album”
So, was it a conscious decision to take the sound to almost the other extreme? Seven Sinners is one of, if not the, heaviest album the band has ever produced. “Well, it was a very natural process. We all knew what we wanted to do and how Helloween should sound after all these years”. It’s good to see that there’s a decent spread of credits across the album, with Herr Grosskopf penning two numbers, including album highlight If A Mountain Could Talk. “Well, when I first started playing I couldn’t write a note. I was having fun drinking beer and going to all the parties and bars. I still have fun doing that, but I got interested in the theory of songwriting, so I started sitting down with my four track and just began writing”. As usual, there are nods and hints to older songs, Who Is Mr Madman? in particular; “That was Andi! It’s been 16 years or something since Perfect Gentleman so we thought we’d bring him back a bit. We feel we can do that with Helloween, we have these little bits and pieces like the pumpkin and the Keeper, so we can have fun with it and put it into our newer stuff as a reference”. And what of the flute solos? “That was crazy Weiki’s idea! He always wants to do something that’s a little bit strange, and we eventually found a guy who’d do it because we couldn’t get who we originally wanted. Again, it’s something that we like putting in just to make it a bit different. I’m not sure how we’ll do it live though!”
Well, if Helloween’s long-term bass player doesn’t make it easy for me to make this flow. Helloween hit the road at the end of November with Stratovarius tagging along for the ride. “I’m leaving Friday to start practicing with Dani [Loeble, drummer]. It’s a bit tricky as we all live away from each other. Two are in the south of Germany, I’m in the very north and two are in Spain. What happens is I practice with Dani and to get the bass and the drums right, and then bring in the others once we have our stuff done. It’s just easier that way, and better for me. When the guitarists get here they spend hours going over notes in songs to get right, and I can be there for ages not doing anything. When the basics are down, we bring it all together. We’re off at Christmas until the 10th January, and then we’re doing the second leg of the European tour. After that we’re off to South America, possibly North America, then Indonesia. Places like Malaysia, Singapore, Japan…and then possibly to Australia too. We’ll see!” Helloween are an internationally acclaimed band, but Markus admits he does prefer the European version of going on tour. “I like the bus. When you’re on you can sleep and go back to it after a show. We can go to a bar after a gig with all of the family and the crew and then the next day we can be stood on the stage in a different town. It’s a lot different when you’re on planes. Lots of waiting in airports for flights, for missed flights…it’s a bit more lively when long distance isn’t involved”.
What’s evident about Helloween is that they’ve made a remarkable comeback. From playing arenas in the 80s to being demoted to small clubs in the early 90s, an unfortunate combination of lineup changes, poorly received albums and metal taking a turn for the worse. “Yeah, it was difficult in the 90s because no one was playing anything like this, so we struggled. Everyone was saying metal was crap so we’re quite proud we came out the other side and now people are playing it again. It’s good because we’ve managed to come through it and still be here alongside all these new bands that are playing classic metal again”.
Ever to add the personal touch, we finish up with a quick bit about Markus’ own sideproject, the wonderfully titled Bass Invaders. “We just don’t have time! It’s getting everyone’s schedule to meet. It was great recording though, with Billy Sheehan, Tom from Sodom and Schmier from Destruction [among others]. The problem is that record companies aren’t willing to support a project like that at the moment. In fact, it took more time to schedule everybody together than it took to record!”
Good to see that get every bass player together, and they still can’t organise a record in a studio, as the old saying goes. With that, I left Markus to go and have another listen to his new album.Seven Sinners is out October 31st on Spinefarm Records.