SN&R sits down with German power metal titans, Helloween, who end their ‘United Forces’ U.S. tour at the Warfield on Saturday

Photograph by Martin Hausler

By Eddie Jorgensen

Ever since the band’s first release ‘Walls of Jericho’ in 1985, Helloween has delivered top-tier heavy metal with a laser-like focus on speed, dynamics and harmony.

Today, the live band still features its core members, which include Michael Weikath (guitar), Markus Grosskopf (bass), Kai Hansen (guitar), and Michael Kiske (singer), along with Kiske’s replacement singer Andy Deris, drummer Daniel “Dani” Löble and guitarist Sascha Gerstner. The end result is a glorious cacophony of two lead singers amidst a solid, power metal background, which can be heard across the band’s 2021 self-titled release on Nuclear Blast Records.

Helloween’s 16th full-length record, featuring the special “Pumpkins United” line-up for the first time, has been winning over new fans while bringing back its hardcore original fanbase. The band’s Warfield Theatre show in San Francisco this Saturday marks the end of its major-market U.S. run and, if fans are lucky, the event may feature a couple of surprises from their storied catalog.

SN&R caught up with original singer, Michael Kiske, to reminisce, and get the lowdown, on one of this year’s most-talked about tours. Below is the conversation.

Michael Kiske: The size of the production does not affect our set list. Neither does it affect our joy of playing. Wherever we tour, we are ready to give 100% no matter if 1,500 or 15,000 fans show up. Although we are not travelling with our huge production from Europe, the stage is fully packed every night with our complete stage set up: the huge pumpkin, Dani’s drum kit, and everything else.

Sacramento News & Review: With yourself back in the fold, we almost have the full core of Helloween onstage. I can imagine you all miss drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg who passed in 1995. I remember meeting him at The Stone in San Francisco in the late 80’s. Any lost material from his time that could see light of day?

Kiske: I don’t think we´ll release anything with / from Ingo. Besides not knowing if there is anything available, it might turn out pretty difficult since it was a different time, different labels, different deals, etc. He left us almost 30 years ago, but his spirit is always with us. That’s why we did the virtual drum battle (live video) between him and Dani during the ‘Pumpkins United’ Tour. He’s one of the original “Pumpkins” and he will always be in our hearts.

SN&R: What are your favorite Helloween songs to play?

Kiske: Sure, I have some favorite songs, but in the end, I love to sing them all. I really like “Eagles Fly Free.”  It is refreshing for me because I haven’t been doing that for a long time. “Future World” is another one because I love singing as a duet with Andi. I feel so natural doing it. And during the writing process, we all had voices for the songs to be sung. Like “Angels”- (guitarist) Sascha said right away that he wrote the song with my voice in his head and it was clear from the beginning that I would sing the majority of this song.

SN&R: You and singer Andy Deris seem to be having so much fun passing off vocal lines. I’m so ecstatic this became a full-time thing.

Kiske: We kicked off right from meeting each other the first time. I flew and spent 2 weeks with him in Tenerife. It was almost like we knew each other, we were really connected. And that’s one of the reasons we share the stage equally and enjoy so much what we are doing. Our fans can feel if it’s not fake or pretended – we really have a great time together.

SN&R: Will we see another solo Kiske record or is it Helloween United full-stop?

Kiske: I am very sure this will see the light of day at some point, but right now I don’t have the time to even think about it. I am 100% devoted to Helloween and we have a long tour in front of us.

Doors open at 6pm and the show kicks off with Hammerfall at 7:15pm. Advance tickets can be purchased at starting at $49.50 and $135. The Warfield is located at 982 Market Street in San Francisco. All ages are welcome.

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