Markus Grosskopf welcomes us backstage...as always, he is really cool, smiling and doesn't stop exchanging jokes with the Helloween roadies but also with Sascha Gerstner who sits patiently, waiting for the show and eating the traditional Greek souvlaki! The one thing that's immediately obvious is the "family" atmosphere and the overall pleasant mood among the members and the personnel of Helloween, Stratovarius and Avatar that are touring the world in 2010-2011. Many thanks to Kosta Zafeiriou for his precious help.
Interview for RockpagesTV: Sakis Nikas, Yiannis Dolas, D. of Photography: Makis Koufos, Camera: Vlasis Skoulis, Editing: Open Field Team
Rockpages.gr: How’s the tour going so far?
Markus Grosskopf: Oh, this tour is going very good so far… We did a couple of places already; we did a lot of shows in Europe and it’s fun… Sometimes we have Avatar –like tonight- as a support band, we have Trick or Treat and of course Stratovarius playing sometimes more than an hour. It’s a great package! It’s going good and people seem to like it…and we like it, which is important, too!
Rockpages.gr: You also have a new album out now. What’s the feedback so far?
Markus Grosskopf: The people, I think, are really surprised because with Helloween you don’t know what to expect… And with this record, with all this heaviness, the rawness they’ve been pretty surprised, I guess, and they seem to like it. We are playing a lot of songs from it and it’s fun seeing the reactions (of the fans).
Rockpages.gr: What’s the best and the worst thing being a touring musician?
Markus Grosskopf: The best thing –as a touring musician- is of course, you know…you go out. If you are working in the studio you don’t get feedback directly; you are playing, you think you are right, you write a song, you write a tune, you put it down, you record it and then you have to create something that you love hoping that the fans will love it too because only if it’s coming right out of your heart then other people will like it, too. But, the best thing of being a touring musician is that you are in contact with the audience every day. Even if you out to buy a bottle of water you see them, sign some stuff…but the best thing is that you get the feedback for the work that you did (in the studio). You look at them (the fans) directly in their eyes and you make them happy with your songs, you bring them in a good mood and you can make a hell of an evening for them. You are very close to the audience and that’s very important! For a musician being on tour, seeing the feedback immediately right after playing the note is very different from being in the studio, you know…there is no other “take”. Once, you do it, it’s there! There is no pre-recording or something…only one chance, one song, one reaction. I like that…it’s dangerous!
Rockpages.gr: …and what’s the worst thing…?
Markus Grosskopf: The worst thing…well, I wouldn’t complain about anything because it’s been 27 years of touring…well, it starts to get boring a little bit when you hang around in the airports for hours and hours and you’re missing a flight… you have to stay in the airport and spend your money for another 5 hours or something… and then it starts to get really boring when you eat so much, drink so much (he laughs). But at the end of the day, you’re doing all that for that moment of being on stage which is glorious!
Rockpages.gr: Do you prefer playing in a huge open air arena or a club and why?
Markus Grosskopf: Oh, there are two sides of playing in small clubs or huge festivals, you know…I think that playing in a small club is very charming because you can look people directly into their eyes; they react immediately with each note you are giving to them. This is not possible if the stage is far away from the audience at a real big festival….when there is like 60.000 or 70.000 people –in Wacken for example- but this has a different kind of charm, you know…you see all these people moving up and down from the front up the desk where they do the sound…this is another thing that gets you goose bumps! But they both have a different kind of charm…from playing in a small club and sweating like a pig and then playing in those huge festival stages…I love them both! (After all) we do small clubs from time to time while on tour and we also do big festivals in the summer season. That makes our job very very interesting…also, when you do the festivals you get to meet people that you haven’t seen for a year or two, for example Schmier from Destruction, because they are touring, we are touring, they are in the studio, we are somewhere else. In the festivals, we all come together, sharing beers and talk for a while. That’s what I love about festivals.
Rockpages.gr: Do you remember any funny incidents – I am sure there are many- from touring all those years? Is there any funny incidents that come to your mind straight away?
Markus Grosskopf: Oh, the whole thing is just funny… doing a funny thing about the tour is just getting on the bus, you know, and having this “family business” on the bus, all the people you work with drinking beer, and having a laugh is fun all night!
Rockpages.gr: Any groupie stories?
Markus Grosskopf: Ahh, groupies… It’s been a long time ago since I was a young boy doing all that business… there aren’t any groupies hanging around anymore, that was done from the beggining to the end of the ‘80s, that’s so far away!
Rockpages.gr: Were you anxious when you were doing the “Master Of The Rings” tour, the first one with Andy Derins behind the mic? Were you worried about how the fans reactions?
Markus Grosskopf: Well, doing the record was just like a “killer” experience, because we were down a little bit before that record with our two previous ones, and then we got together saying “allright, we should do what we do best, we should do Helloween again!”, and Andy helped us with his ideas getting the band back together. We had a very very strong feeling when he was there working with us for the “Master Of The Rings” album. And we were pretty sure that after those sellings from the album that the tour was going to be great… we weren’t scared to do anything. If you are scared to do something you shouldn’t be working in this business. You’ve always got to do what you feel right for the band without being scared. You’ve got to take a risk, you’ve got to take a risk always, because you cannot do something expecting 100% of the people liking it you know. You have to expect some of the people hating it, some of the people liking it, but then you cannot satisfy 100% of them. My opinion is: “don’t shit in your pans if you do something! If you really like it, just do it!” You’ve got to stand for it, you’ve got to stand up for it, and then it’s Ok if there’s people hating it, then you can take it, then you can take criticism, and anything. But, don’t shit in you pans, don’t be scared doing anything, then it’s over, then you go like “eeeewwww” (makes a scared face), then you looked scared, then you are scared, then you shit in you pans when you go on stage, but if you really like 100% what you are doing, then there is no problem. If the others don’t like it, then I don’t care! Go home! Listen to something else! But, then it’s being 100% with the product you just did…
Rockpages.gr: You’ve been a founder member of Helloween, you have done the Bassinvaders project, is there anything left for you personally, as a musician, as well as a person that you would like to achieve?
Markus Grosskopf: Well, there are still some things… we didn’t do headlining all those big festivals yet, you can always try to go a step ahead, you can always try to carry on with what is there concerning what is there to achieve for a band like Helloween. I think there is some stuff… there is always some places we’ve never been before. This year we go to China you know… so this is the very first time for us! There is always a place where we could go… we haven’t been to South America yet… (Cuuuuuuuuuutttt) that’s what we can maybe do someday. We could play headliners on festivals, we never did this, we have always been in a good spot, but being a headliner in festivals is something different, it’s still something to achieve, there is so many things we could do as Helloween still… and I’m gonna be there, I am gonna be with it! I am there whenever you need me!
Rockpages.gr: Is there a next Helloween? Is there a next super power metal group?
Markus Grosskopf: I hope so! (he laughs!) you mean if Helloween is going to be the next power metal super group? We are already! (He laughs) I don’t know! It’s up to the people. We just do the best that we can, we try to do killer tracks, we try to do killer albums, we try to do great shows on the level we are working, in the venues we have other ideas, and we have other thigns we are thinking about, but then it’s either the size of the venue, or the budget that are not agreeing sometimes (he laughs). But, we still have ideas! It’s still just coming, and we still like to do something, and as long as everybody has ideas and working on them, it shows me that we can carry on pretty easily you know.
Rockpages.gr: Have you listened to any new or any Greek metal band?
Markus Grosskopf: Well… what’s a new Greek metal band? Is Firewind a Greek metal band? They are one of my favourite bands really, but I don’t know so many Greek metal bands, tell me some of them…
Rockpages.gr: When someone mentions the word “Greece”, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Markus Grosskopf: Greece! Well, my mind is always as coming to Greece as a band and having all those crazy people with dark long hair, really willing to go to a rock show, be right on the track, to be with us partying, and then of course is the holiday thing going and all that… you go to Samos… I’ve been there years ago! It was after I did a rock show in Greece. To me the first thing I did in Greece was a cool rock show with Helloween…