Andi Deris is one of the greatest and most prolific musicians in heavy metal. Come to think about it he’s the heart and soul of Helloween, as he was the one who gave a breath of fresh air in the German outfit when he joined them in 1994 and he continues to do so. He calls us via Skype and he shares his thoughts about Helloween’s latest self-titled opus while at the same time he takes us down on a journey in time with a few stops that include Pink Cream, “Dark Ride”, Greece, his greatest songwriting achievement etc. Sit back and enjoy the (dark) ride! Interview: Sakis Nikas

Rockpages.gr: Andi, I am sure that you are fully aware by this point of the overall positive feedback for the new album. Did you expect that almost every single review would be as positive as it was?

Andi Deris: Well, you always hope for a 50/50 situation (laughs). I am a bit superstitious, you know…when I read only good reviews, I always ask myself: “when comes the hammer…when should I expect the worse” (laughs)?

Rockpages.gr: Does it show you that people impatiently/eagerly waiting for this reunion?

Andi Deris: Yeah, obviously. We’ve seen it before when we first announced that we are doing an album…all the fans in social media they went apeshit…absolutely crazy with the idea! You realize immediately that it’s something hot but at the same time when you release the album, it could easily change into a negative side if the songs are not as good as people expect them to be. If expectations are not met, people get pissed off…you know…it’s not heavy enough, it’s not like the Keepers etc. You always have to satisfy so many people and don’t forget that we are talking about different generations of fans. It can be hard. There will always be people who miss certain things or people who think that there is too much of this and that on the album…you can’t please everybody. But overall I am very intrigued that there are so many positive reactions at the moment.

Rockpages.gr: Does it bother you that people call it a reunion despite the fact that Helloween has been busting their asses for so many years without any break whatsoever?

Andi Deris: Yeah, you are right but how could we call it…? For what we did, we’d have to invent another word. Maybe…reNOTunion (laughs)!

Rockpages.gr: And this reNOTunion was your idea…

Andi Deris: Yeah, in Japan. It was actually the next logical thing we should do. After two world tours and being supported by Gamma Ray…each and every night, Kai (Hansen) was joining us on stage for the last two songs. For the fans, it was a fantastic experience. So the question arose when he had a meeting with our label people in Japan…what could we do next? Is there an idea? And as we were drinking our coffee and knowing that the fans loved having Kai on stage, I said…honestly, why don’t we ask Michael Kiske? Because if Kiske would join people would go crazy but I knew for a fact that he wouldn’t join us for two songs only. So, I took it from there…I conducted Michael and he wasn’t shocked at all with the idea. Quite the contrary actually…he was into it from the beginning. Shortly before my phone call, he had a meeting with Michael Weikath in a festival. We shared a bill with Unisonic…and for the first in 20+ years, Kiske and Weikath met again. Weiki asked Michael Kiske to tell him what he has done that he cannot forgive him! Kiske didn’t say anything for ten seconds or something and his exact words were: “well, actually, nothing”. Probably that was the starting point. Then our management called him and things got in motion. But I believe that the turning point was the realization from Kiske’s side that he had absolutely no problem whatsoever seating at the same table with Weiki and Helloween. That was also the moment that we both got to know each other and realized almost simultaneously that…“I like that idiot” (laughs)!

Rockpages.gr: Did it give you an extra motivation that Michael was on stage with you? Did it push you to become an even better singer/performer?

Andi Deris: Absolutely! It definitely gives you a kick in the ass…that’s for sure! When you have a singer like Michael on stage who is one of the best, if not the best, in the genre. There’s only one guy I’d mention together with Kiske and that’s Geoff Tate from Queensryche when he was in his prime. I am not sure if Geoff can sing as well as Michael nowadays. So for me Michael is among the Top 2 singers in the whole genre. So automatically this gives you a push, an extra motivation as you said.

Rockpages.gr: Let’s go to the album. First of all, I want you to give me an answer as a fan of the band and not as one of its members…however difficult that might be, are you absolutely, 100% happy with the songs? Is it everything that a fan of the band should have expected?

Andi Deris: Sakis, I am never 100% satisfied with any album (laughs)! When you produce an album and then it’s being released you just hand it in to the label…you are never finished. The deadline is there but there are still certain things that you could do otherwise or even fix. Little details regarding the bass, the vocals…anything really. At the end of the day you have to live with the result and luckily this time around the result is very good.  

Rockpages.gr: The songwriting team is more or less the same as both you and Weiki has written most of the songs. Did you approach the songwriting process in a different way compared to the past, given the fact that there are now 3 singers in the band?

Andi Deris: Yeah, a little bit…there are differences here and there. For example, “Fear of the Fallen” I didn’t take into consideration the fact that there should be gaps in between the lines…you know, to take a breath and be able to sing properly the song. Now, when I finish a line, there comes Michael to carry on so I don’t have to think about proper gaps in between lines. So, when I am finishing up a line, Michael is already starting his part. That gives you a certain freedom…definitely. When you have two or three singers you can do anything.

Rockpages.gr: Any standout moments on the album?

Andi Deris: I’d say “Skyfall” because you get the chance to listen to all three singers and the song gives you a very good idea of what this album is. But again on every song of the album you can hear Kiske, Hansen and Deris here and there…even little vocal lines from each other. We did everything together and we worked really hard in the studio to achieve that result.

Rockpages.gr: I am a huge KISS fan…I know that you are, too….after their reunion the band stopped being a productive unit and heavily relied on nostalgia. This is the one thing that I truly fear of the current situation with Helloween. So, the question is: should we expect more albums by the band and the fans should not worry about a long recording break or gap in the future?

Andi Deris: I know what you mean…The only different and logical thing is that we will tour more because the success is bigger and I guess we will extend every leg of the tour. But don’t worry…we will never stop being a recording band. As a matter of fact, as we are talking right now, we still have so many ideas floating around that we want to present to our fans. I am sitting here in my living room and I already have a few ideas for some songs. I am always writing and I know that the other guys are writing, too. We don’t know when the next record will come out but we are definitely writing new songs…always. The problem is that due to the fact that music is most and foremost our hobby and we always love to create new music, you want to present your songs to the fans, to the people who appreciate your songwriting skills. So…no need to worry. Helloween will never stop writing new songs. 

Rockpages.gr: I was always a huge Andi Deris supporter when you joined the band in the mid-90s. You know of course that those albums…Master of the Rings, Time of the Oath, Better than Raw and Dark Ride are highly regarded by the fans. Did you expect back then that you were coming up with some classic stuff?

Andi Deris: The answer is: no (laughs)! It’s impossible to calculate such things because all you have to do really is to write what you like and go where the inspiration takes you. Calculation is impossible. Sooner or later, you might have a song that you feel that it’s absolutely fantastic. Nevertheless, there’s no guarantee that the fans will share the same opinion with you. It’s always very unpredictable and what I learned really is that you should never give a shit about what the label or the management say…you have to do what you love and you have to write songs that you love. My theory is that both I and my fellow band-members in Helloween, we consider ourselves as fans of heavy metal music which means that we mostly like what our fans like. I consider myself a typical metal fan so when I write a song that I like, my theory is that there will be lots of people that will also like the song because we share the same musical taste. All you have to do is follow your heart and your instinct.

Rockpages.gr: My all-time favorite Helloween album with you behind the mic is definitely Dark Ride. Would you say that this is the most under appreciated album of the entire Helloween catalogue?

Andi Deris: “The Dark Ride” is a very good album. Michael Weikath was always against that record because the overall direction of the album was forced by the management back in the day. He was pissed off and we were all pissed off actually but we went with it because the management was really adamant and stubborn about it. That’s why we did a dark album…

Rockpages.gr: Yeah but at the same time the songs are great.

Andi Deris: Absolutely! That was one of my hardest times because I had to write so many songs on that record and it was nearly an Andi Deris solo album. It was tough because Weiki was going against it and he wasn’t a big help during that time but I completely understood his logic behind it. Nevertheless, you are right! Over the years “Dark Ride” gained so many new fans…actually, there was a new generation of fans who would never listen to Helloween that absolutely love that dark mood of that album. “If I Could Fly” was also a big hit and it came out of nowhere! There was a hit song by a power metal band in the charts…that was very cool. From that perspective, “Dark Ride” is a very important album for Helloween.

Rockpages.gr: I remember when you were here in Greece, back in 2005, for a promo interview tour for the Keeper III, The Legacy album, you clearly stated that you really liked the album.

Andi Deris: How could not I love the album when I have written almost the whole album (laughs)? Ι mean when you have written 80% of the album and you don’t like it, then you would betray your own babies (laughs)!

Rockpages.gr: Only a few months before the pandemic, Dennis Ward was in Greece and we had the chance to do an interview with him. He said that a Pink Cream reunion show is almost out of the question because you are absolutely committed to Helloween. But would you do it just for the fun of the whole thing…after all, you released some great records together…

Andi Deris: Dennis is 100% right! Even If I agree to do this and all the other guys from Pink Cream 69 are into the whole idea, the big question is: when? I mean it’s not like Andi appears on stage with Pink Cream 69 and play. It’s not that easy….you have to rehearse lots and lots of weeks to make it sound great. So if you want to have a slight idea about it…even if it would be a small tour tour…say something like 2 or 3 weeks, you need to dedicate 2 or 3 months of your time in order to create something special for the fans. And quite honestly I don’t have 2 or 3 months for Pink Cream 69…let’s say that I go on tour with Pink Cream after Helloween’s world tour. Probably my wife would kill me (laughs)! Also, you have to realize that Dennis is not playing with Pink Cream anymore, Kosta (Zafeiriou) is our tour manager, also Alfred (Koffler) unfortunately can only move a couple of his fingers. Now that we are talking about it, I think that we should never do this because we will disappoint lots of people.

Rockpages.gr: You first visited Greece back in 1998 for the Better Than Raw Tour…any memories?

Andi Deris: Lots of memories! It was finally the time to see all those places that my longtime friend Kosta (Zafeiriou) was telling me about through the years! I have to say that I fell in love with Athens because that’s my style of living and that’s why I chose to live in Canary Islands because it’s more or less the same with Greece…lots of small alleys with coffee shops. People in Spain are like the people in Greece. Live for today and don’t think a lot about tomorrow. That’s exactly the way you should live because at the end of the day you know that if you plan life, most likely something will happen that will alter this course and change things. Life will never go as you planned it…never!

Rockpages.gr: Which is the one song from your entire career that you are most proud of? Your Stairway To Heaven or Detroit Rock City moment…

Andi Deris: (laughs) Oh, my God! That’s tough.

Rockpages.gr: Well, life is tough, Andi!

Andi Deris: You are right (laughs)! Oh Jesus…that’s not fair. Well, maybe, my first #1 hit…“Forever and One”. That song proved that I was really capable of writing a #1 hit. I don’t mean it in an arrogant way…not, at all. In my heart, it was very important to see that I was capable of writing a song which is good enough to be a #1 hit. For a musician that’s a knowledge that gives you courage. That gives you freedom and a certain peace of mind. You don’t have to prove yourself because you already did it!