ANDI DERIS: IN CONVERSATION ABOUT THE BAD BANKERS AND HELLOWEEN
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
Recognised primarily as the lead vocalist of German Heavy Metal kings Helloween since taking over the microphone for the 1994 album 'Master Of The Rings', Andi Deris has also released two solo albums plus the first three albums by Pink Cream 69.
The song-writing talent is currently finishing off a tour with Helloween in South America when I catch up with him, to interrogate him on his most recent third solo studio album 'Million Dollar Haircuts On Ten Cent Heads'.
Going by the band name Andi Deris & The Bad Bankers, it is instantly noticeable that the main man might well have a grievance with the banking fraternity. The title of the album perhaps also indicates this angst? But with so many curiosities floating about regarding the timing of such an album and his ongoing commitments to the mighty Helloween, were there any skeletons hiding in the closet? Maybe revelations needed to be unearthed for all to see?
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"We are just about to finish the world tour in South America with Helloween. During the beginning of the tour I was still recording my bits in the hotel rooms somewhere in Europe. During a tour you have soooo much time waiting for the show that it's rather a great thing to have something to do... Why not recording a solo album if you take your studio and bits with you!?!!?"
Why not indeed? Andi poses a rhetorical question before our conversation continues.
I probe further in to what is an obvious disgruntled attitude of the banking system and of the people within the framework of our financial establishment. "I am not the only one who is pissed off I hope... They (and the corrupted politicians who are deeply connected with the banker's world) are the main reason for this very dangerous crisis we are seeing ourselves in... Only because it's not on TV anymore doesn't mean it's solved.
"First of all, I am living on a tourist island and most of my friends struggle for not having a job anymore or only part time... Which was not the case before the crisis when people had still money for holidays. Second of all, being a musician I can tell you that the ticket sales of any artist all over the world shrink... The kids just do not have any dime left for a concert."
Recognising his passion about this subject and noting that recent interest from the mainstream press in the concept of the Bitcoin, I thought it would be prudent to enquire on what Andi had to say about a currency that was not controlled by the banks.
"Still has to prove itself a bit more." He winks mischievously with a wry smile before adding, "A good idea which will probably die because of too much fraud."
The new album 'Million Dollar Haircuts On Ten Cent Heads' isn't merely about financial observations regarding the seemingly unjust way our money is being exploited and reduced in value. Other subject matter like the broadcast in 1938 in America where people believed they were being genuinely attacked by aliens, when the BBC aired a programme about 'The War Of The Worlds' is a notable highlight.
"I think it shows how we trust the media. Nowadays, we hopefully would not trust a radio broadcast that blindly anymore, but we would trust the TV nevertheless. It has not changed actually, we are still blind believers." Continuing the thread of UFOs and aliens, was there a deeper interest from Andi on this topic? Had he seen an alien or a UFO? "Not that I'd know. I love SciFi though and discussions about "where do we come from?"; Descendants of aliens?"
So does Andi believe that life exists out there in the vast expanse of space? "Would be stupid and ignorant if I would not believe in other life forms - even intelligent - out there." The temptation to pursue this philosophical debate weighed heavily on my mind, but I had other fish to fry. I digressed turning the focus back to the new solo album.
I wanted to know what the objective was in recording such a provocative and blatant album. "I had my fun, so it's up to the listener out there to have some fun too. And if there is only one guy who understands and loves the lyrics and maybe in ten years is a boss or manager or politician, who knows, maybe I helped him to not become a complete asshole!"
Regarding the duration in the creative process of 'Million Dollar Haircuts...' Andi spoke directly. "Some (songs) are around since 10 years, some just a few months. The recording took round about six months; weekend production, so to say; the guys very often had to wait until I came back from tour."
The guys he refers to are about to be addressed next. "The guys'd been playing in a harbor fest and I really loved what I heard. Hendrix bits mixed with Slipknot drums and Radiohead vocals and funky rock bass; strange but amazing mixture. Finally, I realized that this band is the former band of my son."
Andi offers another cheeky wink, before progressing with his line of thought. "I asked them if they would like to help me recording my new album, and here we go!"
Noting how much this band means to Andi, I quickly tossed in a question regarding any touring plans or intentions. "Maybe next year... We will rehearse and take it from there."
Looking over his solo career and observing the two previous albums, I wished to touch on them and find out more: "Well, for the same reason why every musician records an album, because there are songs you love. What I do not understand is the always appearing question 'what do you want to achieve?' Do we need to always achieve something?
"To honestly answer these questions: I don't want to achieve anything and nothing. Just want to have fun writing songs and enjoy the luxury of putting them on an album."
This was his response regarding his debut solo album 'Come In From The Rain' and regarding the second solo album 'Done By Mirrors': "This was a lonesome ride; fulfilling the contract, so to say. I would not like to write songs JUST to fulfill a contract anymore."
Naturally I wanted to find out his thoughts on various aspects of Helloween while I had his attention. Starting out in the band, he had to step into the shoes of Michael Kiske and take the reins on 'Master Of The Rings'.
"Scary and thrilling to the same time; the future of the band was completely unsure but I knew that the boys loved my songs, so for me it was the logical consequence to join them, rather than staying in a band where they did NOT like my songs anymore."
The last bit of his response is aimed squarely at his former band Pink Cream 69.
Two of my favourite Helloween albums arrived in the shapes of 'The Dark Ride' and 'Rabbit Don't Come Easy'. "Just for 'The Dark Ride' we wanted to do something more - well – DARK. The mistake was to push it a bit too far to please the management, something we would not do anymore."
Knowing how Kiske was involved on the first two epic 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' albums, this felt like a good opportunity to quiz Andi on his thoughts about being part of the third instalment. "The political situation told us to do it. On a solo record I can (and will) finger point the assholes, but on a Helloween record we do not do that lightly. So the idea to disguise everything in the 'Keepers...' world was quite logical so the 'Keeper...III' was born to cover up the Bush area."
With rumours and speculation accompanying solo album releases along the lines of "Are they going to leave their band to pursue a solo career?", or "Are they happy in their band?" I felt obliged to enquire if Andi was still happy fronting the German Legends?
"Yeah, I am very much enjoying touring with the boys, more than ever actually! Nevertheless, I am happy being back home in 10 days and finally being together with my family over Christmas. Helloween will be back in the studio middle next year and the craziness may continue. Again, nothing to achieve, just having fun with what you're doing and that you can't be everyone's darling. Well, you shouldn't give a too big shit on it."
With that, Andi disappears into the yonder with his mischievous smile and happy-go-lucky wink to battle another day of Metal dominance.