Helloween Biography

Formed in 1984 in Hamburg, Germany, from the ashes of local bands Second Hell and Iron Fist, the original line-up of this durable heavy metal band comprised Kai Hansen (17 January 1963, Hamburg, Germany; guitar, vocals), Michael Weikath (b. 7 August 1962, Hamburg, Germany; guitar), Markus Grosskopf (b. 21 September 1965, Hamburg, Germany; bass) and Ingo Schwichtenberg (b. 18 May 1965, Hamburg, Germany, d. 8 March 1995; drums). After having two tracks included on the Death Metal compilation album released by Noise Records in 1984, the label issued their self-titled debut mini-album in 1985. This was soon followed by Walls Of Jericho and an EP, Judas. The band gained a strong following with their unique brand of high-speed power metal. Soon after its release, Helloween decided to add a vocalist/frontman, namely Michael Kiske (b. 24 January 1968, Hamburg, Germany), a charismatic 18-year-old. Keeper Of The Seven Keys, released in 1987, showed the band to be pursuing a much more melodic approach and Kiske proved himself a worthy addition.

Helloween then toured Europe relentlessly, building a sizeable following in the process. Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II was released in 1988, together with a successful appearance at the Donington Festival that year. After this came an EP, Dr. Stein, but behind the scenes, all was not well. The band had become increasingly unhappy with their record company and started to negotiate with several major labels who had previously shown an interest. As a stopgap the band released Live In The UK, recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1989. Kai Hansen then left to form his own outfit, Gamma Ray. His replacement was Roland Grapow (b. 30 August 1959, Hamburg, Germany). A protracted legal battle with their record company ensured that it was not until 1990 that the band was back in action. They finally signed to EMI Records and gained major management in the form of the Smallwood/Taylor organization. The band’s debut for their new label, Pink Bubbles Go Ape, released in 1991, depicted Helloween as a shadow of their former selves, sadly missing Kai Hansen and his songwriting skills. Shortly after the dismissal of Kiske, Schwichtenberg was also given his marching orders owing to personal health problems and a clash with Weikath, who was now the main force behind the band. Their former drummer took his own life by jumping in front of a train in March 1995.

The new band members were Andi Deris (b. 18 August 1964, Karlsruhe, Germany; vocals, ex-Pink Cream 69) and Uli Kusch (b. 11 March 1967, Aachen, Germany; drums), who were in place in time for their Castle/Raw Power debut, Master Of The Rings. This became Helloween’s most successful album for several years, topping the Japanese charts. The Time Of The Oath featured writing contributions from Weikath, Deris and Kusch, while the group composition ‘Mission Motherland’ saw the band tackle one of the social problems affecting Germany since the fall of the Berlin wall - refugees. Grapow and Kusch left the band in 2001, with English drummer Mark Cross (b. 2 August 1965, London, England) being brought in to replace the latter.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.