s Ingo Schwichtenberg - interviews The rhythm section of the Pumpkins
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The rhythm section of the Pumpkins

by Yukinobu Hasegawa - English translation by Shinobu Iwami

Even if a vocalist sings good or a guitarist plays good, if the rhythm unit does not play steady, the band will not exist.
I thought so, when I saw a Helloween live.
What a firm and powerful play Ingo and Markus do! I am very impressed...
I am going to ask two of them the secrets behind their powerfulness.

First of all please tell me about your equipments (instruments)?
Ingo Schwichtenberg: All right. I use SONOR signature. Ah, yeah... as I have a card about my drum set, I will hand it to you later.
I use the cymbals, the model of Sound Creation of PAISTE..
Markus Grosskopf: A bass guitar of WARWICK, and a preamp of YAMAHA, Marshall loading speaker units of Electro-Voice, and two wireless systems. I think so.

Do you customize?
M: Yes, I changed position marks to pumpkin shape [laugh]. Well, my bass guitars are themselves custom-made. I have two. Bartolini pickups are mounted on one and EMG pickups are mounted on another.
I: In my case my sticks are custom made. I have asked to make to some musical instrumental maker in West Germany.

When did you start to play? (From how old did you start to play?)
I: The end of '79..... about 14 years old.
M: I started playing a bass guitar from almost the same age.
I: And I met Markus in '80 and we started a band.
M: Yes, yes, since then we have played together.

It means that you have been doing together for about ten years. Wow! Did you learn drums or bass by yourselves?
I: Yes!

In those days from which bands were you influenced?
I: I liked AC/DC and Judas Priest. I was influenced by Les Binks (ex. Judas Priest).
M: I liked early Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Yes, Rush, Meatloaf.

Did you copy them?
M: Sometimes.
I: We often played Judas Priest songs in rehearsal. But I don't think to cover them in Helloween. However, even now I have been influenced by a lot of bands and drummers.

Which band or drummer do you pay your attention to recently?
M: Dan Reed Network.

Ummm, I don't know.
M: The band that has just debuted recently...
I: I am interested in some jazz drummer. His name is ... uhhmmm, I forget his name.

As you said, you have been doing together for about ten years, so do you (only two of you) practice the rhythm part in a rehearsal room?
I: Of course. In order to find a new rhythm or a groove.
M: Yes, we often do. But I sometimes make rehearsals with a guitarlist, Weiki, too. And we make phrases in which a bass and a guitar are intertwinted.
I: In the song of "Future World" there is a part in which Michael makes a duet (give and take) with audience. The part was a normal rock rhythm. But from the previous tour we changed to a very funky rhythm.

So you hit on the idea when you rehearsed with only two of you, did you?.
I: No, we made it in a ten minutes sound check [laugh].

Really [laugh]!
I: We tried to play what was not like rock sound and in the session an interesting rhythm came out.
M: But at that time the drum was not setted yet, Ingo was patting his knees [laugh].
I: Yes, yes. [laugh].
How do you play when only two of you rehearse? Do you play on Helloween songs?
M: That's right. I play a Helloween song with my bass guitar and Ingo adds 'okazu' on this. (okazu: a fill-in to complete the song)
And we try to make the song more interesting than before.

Now you are on tour. When you are off, do you have a session with other musicians?
I: I do often well.

For example, with whom?
I: With West German musicians or with friends living near my house. There is a rehearsal room in my house, and there guitar, bass and drum are setted. And when my friends come, we play together. I have two drum sets, so we have a drum battle.

Do you have any experience that such a session gives an impetus for you to make ideas of songs or some new rhythm?
I: Very often. They do not link to songs at once but some phrases that I can use as 'okazu' happen to be born. As many Helloween songs are fast in tempo, it is very interesting stimulation to play medium tempo rhythm in such a session.

Are there anything you want to try but you cannot do in Helloween?
I: Yes, of course. What I do in Helloween is not all that I can do. As Helloween songs are so fast that there is no time to think about even if I try to do, but I can play many interesting phrases in medium tempo. So I think I want to try such a thing in Helloween from now on.

For example, do you think that you try to make your solo album not as Helloween or to play in a session project?
I: I am thinking I want to do in the future, but anyway now I am busy with Helloween.....
M: I have a 8-track MTR in my house and I have recorded many phrases in it. I hope I can use them one day.

If your session project came true, with which musicians do you want to play?
I: Well, I have not had time to think about until now, but I want to play with Kai Hansen (ex. Helloween) once again.
M: I would rather like to play alone than to play with someone else.
I: I think each member of Helloween is thinking to make each solo project in the future. Did KISS do such a thing, did they? So we'd like to do once. But now we don't have time, so I think it will not come true for some time. If it came true, in my case it would be completely different from Helloween; for example: fifteen minutes drum solo and then piano will join... It will be something experimental and adventurous... maybe it will go beyond the concept of a song.
M: in my case it will be funky and pop. You know the genre which is called 'pop rock'? I want to make more funky music.

I see. Well, let's talk back about Helloween. What do you try to do as the rhythm unit of Helloween?
I: To be tight and to be correct, I think. We can say it about every genre of music... If the rhythm unit does not play steady, a song will mess around, so I think that to be tight and to be correct is the most important for rhythm section.

When you add your drum sounds or bass phrases to an original version which is becoming concrete, how do you play? Please show me concretely.
I: Good question. In the case of Helloween the original version is about completed to certain extent because all members have MTR systems or rhythm machine in each house, and when we make a song, the composer himself thinks drum phrases. But it does not mean that we have to play exactly in the same way as the composer made. It means that the composer wants other members to play like this. And I try to arrange my drum part on it.
M: I can say the same thing about my bass.

So do you change the song when you are not pleased with the original rhythm or phrases?
M: Yes, of course. Sometimes it becomes completely different.

So which song changed most?
I: Yes, "DR. STEIN." This song seemed to be very strange in the original version. And in the case of "We Got The Right", I extended to think too much.
M: I can say the same thing about "March Of Time". We arranged (changed) the song into the rhythm which we thought out.
Do two of you think out almost all of rhythm patterns?
I: Yes, we think and arrange them as we exchange our opinions, but what we are thinking is almost close with each other, so there is seldom disagreement between us.

As you have played for about ten years together, there is something to understand with each other.
I: That's right.
M: So I think we have succeeded like this.

Do other members say anything about your rhythm section?
I: Sometimes I used to be said, "I wanted you to make it to the one like this", now I have few times. If I was said so, I would ask him back, "so what do you want me to play?", though, and I would play along with it.
M: In the case of "Eagle Fly Free" which Weiki made, when I was handed a tape of original version,
I was said, "I want you to put your bass phrase like this on this place, "so I did as I was said.

When you play a dramatic song, what do you mind (take care of)?
I: When the key changes, I change from hi-hat into ride cymbal. So I think I make it more dramatic and modulatory. As "March Of Time" is a very emotional song, I especially pay my attention to play.
M: I also change the key into octave difference but the same key, so I make the song vibrant with life.

Until now Helloween has released several albums already, do you think your own plays have changed compared with your early days?
M&I: Yes, of course!
I: When we made our mini album, "HELLOWEEN", it was the first recording. So, "this is the mixer! This is the recording mic!
Wonderful!! We were excited! The sound of drum was farther better than playing in a rehearsal room. And so I was only
surprised and I played without thinking. So, now I think they were not good at all when I listen them again [laugh]. Besides, I think it would be a lie if I said we do not come to play better than before, so I always learn(study) even now. Though I cannot learn during our tour, I challenge to play many kinds of phrases in a sound check time or on a day-off.
M: I also learn a lot in a free time during the tour. But as we have interviews like this, we don't have time to learn [laugh].

I am very sorry [laugh].
I: But you can always practice because bass guitar is not so large as drum...

Have the ways of thinking towards playing also changed compared with your early days?
I: Yes, that's true. I gradually come to understand what sounds come through 'how to play' or what phrases come out by 'how to beat'. So I think my own style has become more concrete in my attitude towards music or in my playing. Though I have not established my own drum set yet like Ian Paice or Buddy Rich, I have come to know which drum I should use when I want some sort of sound like this ......
M: I checked whenever a new model was released. But now as I have a bass guitar which suits me, I am going to establish my own sounds.

Last year you took part in Monster Of Rock in England and you played with big name bands, or you made a European tour with Iron Maiden, did you? What did you learn from them?
M: The rhythm section of Iron Maiden is very tight and strong. But they are a different type from us.
I: I was very excited to see the stage of Iron Maiden [laugh]. And Greg Bissonette of David Lee Roth was great! Their music style was different from us, but I thought the attitude was similar.

What kind of band will you want to make Helloween in the future? What kind of musician do you want to become?
I: I want make the band to be able to play all kinds of music like Cream. I would be glad fans are adhere to us, even if we became like that.
M: As you know, even if a band plays every kind of style of music, it is the idealest for musicians that fans are faithful to the band.
I: In that meaning I think our next album will be a little bit different. As we played many speedy songs until now, songs in medium tempo or mellow songs in slow tempo will increase. As a musician, I want to be said that you are a good drummer by everyone.
M: Me, too.

What kind of drummer do you think of yourself you are? And what kind of bassist?
M: Much more ......
I: We are still young and there are a lot of things we don't know. We are in the growth process. For example, if a drummer who plays for dozens of years thinks "it's a perfect", I think it is over for him to be a man. I think human beings make progress through learning a lot of things until just before the death. I think I have to be so.
M: As I want to grow (develop) as a bassist, I am going to learn contrabass in earnest in the near future.

I want to ask you about the next album as you said. I hear that you are going to start recording in December?
M: Not yet. We are still making songs, so it is not decided when we will start recording.

But you have already some ideas for your new album?
I: Not 'some' but we have a mountain of ideas. I made notes or recorded to tape of what I wanted to do from a long time ago.
M: I am making a song in medium tempo which I can play with thinking. It seems that Weiki made one song and Michael made two songs.
I: Even though we say a 'medium' tempo song, it is like a Helloween song. It's so powerful ,energetic, and has a development ... I am sure it's a very interesting song. We are going to put some ballad in the album.

Which album do you like recently?
I: Albums of Blue Murder, Judas Priest, AC/DC, and Rush. I am pleased with the newest album of Rick Springfield, too. I think it is good whenever I listen to the play of Curt Cress in that album.
M: I, you see, listen to Thin Lizzy and Meatloaf's albums, and I like the concept double album of 'War Of The World'. I bought a Glenn Miller's album and there were many good arranged songs.
I: I also listen to not only rock but also many others. I think that the attitude like this is important as a musician.

Now any advice to young musicians!
M: You don't better only to copy. And I think it is good thing to find a good drummer as soon as possible and make grow together.
I: Don't slow down but practice (Don't neglect in your practice)!

From 1989 "Helloween in Japan"Tourbook

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