UPDATED: 02/24/99

Helloween have a new album out called BETTER THAN RAW, which signifies a return to their glory daze. This is one ferocious disc, featuring some of the most exciting songs the band has ever recorded. We recently had a chance to talk with one of the members to find out what's going on with these cult metal legends.

Highwire Daze: Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Helloween.

Uli Kusch: I'm Uli Kusch and I've played the drums in Helloween since four years.

HD: How did you think the new album BETTER THAN RAW compares with the earlier efforts?

Uli: Somehow, we changed the way of recording it, so it went out different. The sound is better, I think. There's more new stuff we put into the music. If you hear the track "Time" or "Push," they are different than the other songs we've done in this line-up so far. We took care with each song we did individually. It was a very spontaneous thing.

HD: You've been in Helloween for four years now. Were you a fan of the band before you actually joined up?

Uli: Oh, yeah. I remember the time when I had my first band back in '84, but nothing ever happened with them. When I got the "WALLS OF JERICHO" album, I was really influenced by the drum playing. I loved the album and I was a fan.

HD: Why did it take so long for BETTER THAN RAW to come out in the States?

Uli: I don't know exactly. It always depends on what the plan is of the record company. I actually can't answer this question.

HD: Well, we'll go on to the next one then. Out of all of the Helloween songs, what are a few of your favorites?

Uli: I like "Eagles Fly Free" -- we still play this song live and it's always has a great feeling -- it's the speed metal stuff combined with melodies and it's a very interesting thing. It takes you away, like the song says -- sometimes you feel like this when you play the track live. And "Dr. Stein" is a fun song and it's very easy to play -- you don't have to think about it while you're playing. And we also do "How Many Tears" which is a great, great song. And "Keeper" is a very good song -- we've rehearsed it but we couldn't actually play it live because the set would have been too long. But it was very nice to rehearse that track. You have to get into every track. If you listen to a track and you like it -- that's a very different thing than playing the track and you like it. You have to get into the feeling of everything. There are a lot of tracks of Helloween I like.

HD: What do you think keeps Helloween exciting after all of this time?

Uli: Because we're not a**holes. (Uli laughs) Naw, we try to get along with each other. We've done three records so far and one live album and three tours and it's still working very well. We don't have any stress. We can work things out, which is very important. The thing is, you have five people around you, you have to talk, you have to get things done. It's very important to talk about everything -- even if they are bad, bad problems. The way we work together is very fine, because everybody has the freedom to do whatever he likes to, and can put his ideas into the band. Nobody is the band leader, and we still have a lot of fun. I think the next few records are going to be in this line-up. We are very happy and are keeping it exciting.

HD: For those of us who haven't seen you live, what can we expect from one of your shows?

Uli: Powerful stuff -- sometimes it's a bit of chaos going on because nobody knows what the plan is for the day. If we're on the road as a support band, like we did on this tour for Iron Maiden in Europe, we don't actually have a big show with us. It's very powerful I think. But the next tour will be a headline tour, and hopefully we'll tour in the States. I don't know in what sizes of venues or what cities. In Europe, or definitely Japan, we have a big show going on with inflatable pumpkins and explosions. We played Greece for the first time this year. We even payed for it. We'd really like to play everywhere, but it's very expensive for us to come in the States, because we're not selling so many records over there. That would have been pay to play. If you do like 40 shows in the States, it costs a lot of money.

HD: What current bands are you listening to now?

Uli: At this time, I'm still into the older stuff like Rainbow. Faith No More I'm really into. Queensryche I really like -- the old stuff. Some of the new bands I like, but it's not like that they really kick ass. Like Rammstein -- it's a good band and a good mixture, but it's not my taste. So I'm more into the old stuff.

HD: What other style of music are you into?

Uli: Anything, except reggae. I'm listening to classical music. I'm very into film music. The new Madonna record I like very much -- "Frozen" is a very good song. And some pop stuff like Abba.

HD: What do you think about the different styles of metal -- like black metal and death metal?

Uli: I don't care about it. When I was back in the 80's, I was in a band called Holy Moses, and they had these words going on like "poseur" and "trasher," and I never liked this way of talking about different kinds of musicians -- I really hated it. It's like you have pop, you have rock, techno, classics, black metal and thrash metal -- it's just a name for something. You have to name something -- and that's all.

HD: What would you like Helloween to be remembered for twenty years from now?

Uli: An influencing band. Already, we have very young musicians coming up and they're asking for advice and it makes me proud. Maybe in twenty years, our records will still be out on the market and there are going to be a lot of people who liked the way we played. I'm influenced by older stuff like Rainbow and that would be quite the same for some people in regards to us.

HD: What advice would you give a band just starting out?

Uli: To keep on working. Don't fight with each other. Talk about problems and talk about everything. And don't sign stupid record deals. Don't get arrogant when you go on the road -- don't shout at people -- just relax. And practice your instrument -- these days I think it's very important because some bands are really not able to play their instruments.

HD: Do you have any messages for Helloween fans here in the States?

Uli: We would like to make a U.S. tour, and if we can afford it, we're going to do it, probably with the next record. Hopefully you'll have enough patience.

In addition to drummer Uli Kusch, the Helloween line-up is Andi Deris on vocals, Michael Weikath and Roland Grapow on guitars, and Markus Grosskopf on bass. BETTER THAN RAW has been released domestically on Velvel Records.


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