HELLOWEEN Guitarist On New Album: 'The Server Was Our Rehearsal Room'

Metal-Experience.com recently conducted an interview with HELLOWEEN guitarist Sascha Gerstner. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:

Metal-Experience.com: How did you launch into writing the material for "Gambling With The Devil" after your previous album, did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

Sascha: We had been getting a bit of pressure from our management lately; they said it would be great if we could get out a new album very quickly. So we were clever and we used the modern technology of the Internet and basically the server was our rehearsing room. Everyone was sitting at home and uploading tracks and ideas, we also rehearsed that way. It was a kind of patchwork. Even Michael Weikath and I wrote lyrics this way, we used Skype. And that saved a lot of time and money, it was a good idea to do it like that. For "The Legacy" album we spent three months recording but for this one we just didn't have the time.

Metal-Experience.com: Was this pressure a good thing?

Sascha: It didn't feel like pressure, everything just came by coincidence. I can answer your next question about the hard and raw sound of the album right now: it just happened. With this lineup we just grew together on the last tour and so we know each other's ideas, we have the same minds. We collected song ideas and the best ones happened to be quite raw with more heavy sounding rhythm guitars and more aggressive drums.

Metal-Experience.com: What were the goals you had in mind when you started to write the songs for "Gambling With The Devil"?

Sascha: We wanted to take it a step higher with this record because the "The Legacy" album went very well, we got some good [reviews] from the press. People had been saying that HELLOWEEN might be dead in a few years but I think we proved them wrong. You can hear the freshness on the album.

Metal-Experience.com: Was it hard to write a follow-up to "The Legacy" as the [reviews] were so good?

Sascha: We hardly thought about it, we just did it. We just did it and had fun! If you're too much into the subject you lose your point sometimes. And then there was the great producer Charlie Bauerfeind! He's very German, very correct. He never misses a thing and he just matched everything together. Marcus was recording in Hamburg and Michael and I were recording in my studio so Charlie had to fly back and forth. The drums and vocals were recorded in Andi's studio so there's the patchwork thing again. We all work with the same systems though.

Metal-Experience.com: This is the third album you've done with HELLOWEEN. You've seen three albums come and go, have you noticed a change in the way HELLOWEEN works?

Sascha: Of course some of it depends on circumstances. "Rabbit Don't Come Easy" we did in some rush, I didn't even realize I was a permanent member when I was doing the guitar parts for this album, I really didn't know what was going on. The rest knew I was going to be part of the band though. We just grew together, they used my ideas and that was great. "The Legacy" was more planned; we took a lot of time for the songwriting and communication. You know, circumstances are very important, with the "Rabbit Don't Come Easy" album we had drummer problems and that takes away the focus from the music. And for me it was very difficult because I had just joined a legendary band which I realized later. During the tour I had a lot of problems getting used to everything because I'd never played in a big band like this before. I'm an open-minded musician; I'd done pop music and other stuff before I joined HELLOWEEN. People talked a lot of bullshit about me at first because I didn't have the right metal look etc. I saw a picture on the Internet of myself when I had just joined the band, I looked very punky, I had pink hair and stuff.

Metal-Experience.com: Did the band ask you to change your look?

Sascha: Well, just before we did "The Legacy" album the management came to me and they said, "Hmm, maybe you should change your hair, you know, because of the fans." I said no at first but I found a middle way. Where I live we have a huge heavy metal fan base but they don't ever recognize me there because I look kind of different in private.

Metal-Experience.com: Can you explain the title "Gambling With the Devil"?

Sascha: The last album had a concept behind it and we thought we'd kind of go on with the subject, there's a song called "Occasion Avenue", where the devil is lurking around and getting people to try things, this is a strong theme on the album. We think alike on many issues like politics and we'll talk about this kind of stuff. We were staying in a hotel, I think it was in Romania, and it had this casino style. We were talking and we decided that life is like gambling with the devil, you turn the wheel but you never know what happens, you could walk outside now and get hit by a bus. We've all had to make decisions of which we knew they might be evil. So when we'd come up with this subject, Andi had the brilliant idea of making a wheel in the booklet and to add a scratch card, you rub it and you get a riddle and if you solve it, it links you to another riddle and if you solve the whole thing you can win a prize! And it's not just a t-shirt, you can fly to a country of your choice to see a HELLOWEEN show! We'll fly you out there, you'll see the show and meet the band. That was a great idea and it hooks on to the gambling subject, gambling with a fan! [Laughs]"

Read the entire interview at www.metal-experience.com.

HELLOWEEN's video for the band's new single "As Long As I Fall" can be viewed below. The clip was shot at Munich's AVA studios (who previously worked with the group on the "Light the Universe" clip).


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