Brazil’s Heavy Talk conducted an interview with bassist Markus Grosskopf of German power metal legends HELLOWEEN prior to the band’s October 31 “Pumpkins United” show at Pepsi On Stage in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The “Pumpkins United” tour features former HELLOWEEN vocalist Michael Kiske and guitarist Kai Hansen alongside current singer Andi Deris, guitarists Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, and drummer Dani Löble. You can watch the entire interview below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On how the “Pumpkins United” reunion came about:
Markus: “That’s actually a couple of years ago, when the two guys who are doing the pumpkins [animation] tonight on the screen [David López Gómez and Carlos Vicente León of EasyRabbit CreArtions], they are two great friends of ours, they started the book, the ‘Hellbook’. Also within the ‘Hellbook’, we were thinking of the great old times with the pictures and the stuff in there, bringing in some emotions [coupled with] Kai and Michael Kiske playing in a band together at the time, UNISONIC. So we gave it some time and the time was right. We just thought, ‘Let’s give it a go.’ It turned out to be a great, great idea. Shows, we’re still working on bits and pieces to find together, but it’s getting better and better every day. I like it a lot.”
On why former members Roland Grapow (guitar) and Uli Kusch (drums) were not asked to take part in the reunion:
Markus: “Actually, not, because it would be too many people, but also, it’s meant to be like a kind of a reunion thing from the ‘Keeper [Of The Seven Keys]’ time, from the very beginning. That’s the idea about the whole thing. They actually don’t belong into that era, if you know what I mean. It’s just, if you would take everybody on tour… we just want it to remind [people] of that good old times from the beginning, with the two ‘Keeper’ albums and ‘Walls Of Jericho’.”
On whether the reunion has made touring easier for HELLOWEEN:
Markus: “Well, of course, with this lineup we got some bigger venues, which everybody appreciates and I appreciate it that the fans are really responding to this. Then it’s great fun, but we’re not firing a guitar player and the singer, we leave them in and extend the whole thing. That makes it even more interesting for the people, I guess, because we got such great success with Andi and we had such great success with Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen. Combining this, is the idea of being together again, not just like a normal reunion, but adding something to what HELLOWEEN was without them, then combining that with what HELLOWEEN was in the times they were there. It’s just like a great combination of all the success HELLOWEEN ever had.”
On the most difficult aspect of putting together the reunion:
Markus: “It was getting together the rehearsals. As HELLOWEEN without them, we had a certain routine going on, but then having two guys working totally different, we had to destroy those workflows and create a new workflow with two new members in. Therefore, we took a lot of time to rehearse and get together, not only playing, but the way we work together and all that. We did this song in between the rehearsals, that ‘Pumpkins United’ song to see what it’s like, to see how it feels. It wasn’t that easy, because it was in between writing the song and rehearsing for the big tour, but, it’s the only way you can find out how things are working out. So far it’s worked well. It wasn’t always easy, to finding a base to work on was the hardest thing so far, but we’re still working on it. But it’s getting better; we’ve found a way. The two singers are together, they’re matching perfect. It’s nice. I like it a lot.”
On choosing which songs to play live:
Markus: “That was pretty tough to choose what songs we’re going to play. We got to keep in mind, being together longer for only for this tour and if we do more tours, then we can always change the set with a couple of new tracks or a couple of old tracks or a couple of very different tracks and very old tracks. We had two weeks of rehearsing, so we had five blocks of rehearsals and in between, we had some time off to think about things. It was pretty well arranged. If you go for more than two or three or four weeks rehearsing, then your mind gets so fed up with it, so we had two weeks’ break in between, which makes your head free again.”
On the general feeling among the band after each show:
Markus: “It’s nice. You have a lot of energy and you can’t go home and go to bed. I’m standing there, drinking a couple of beers and need to come down a little. Now the shows are even longer, almost three hours. It takes even longer to come down after the shows, so you drink more beer. [Laughs]
The “Pumpkins United” tour marks the first time Kiske has played live with HELLOWEEN since 1993. Hansen, who departed HELLOWEEN in 1988, has been joining the band onstage on various tours and festival appearances throughout the years. The set features several duets with Kiske and his replacement, Deris, along with many rarely played songs, including “Kids Of The Century”, “Rise And Fall” and “Livin’ Ain’t No Crime”. Hansen — who fronted HELLOWEEN until late 1986 — sings a medley of several early HELLOWEEN classics, including “Ride The Sky”, “Judas”, “Starlight” and “Heavy Metal (Is The Law)” .