Interview: Heaven Shall Burn

Interview Heaven Shall Burn

Germans know a few things. Metal is one of them. Few countries have carried the flag of metal so consistently and proudly as the Deutchland. Heaven Shall Burn attack with old school thrash roots adding that touch of melody so it isn’t just completely lopsided with speed and put a hardcore crunch in there that makes it feel more in line with some of the younger metal bands. It’s got the crushing stutter guitars and paint peeling harsh vocals backed by a relentless thunder of percussions. It’s metal done well. Line up.

The guitarist responsible for the intricate arrangements is Maik Weichert. The German accent is thick but we had no trouble exchanging views of his music, country and even the USA.

Absorb what other people have to say. Especially musicians. Especially musicians from other countries. They travel a lot and get a better, more open minded world view of other cultures. You may not always agree, but seeing the picture on a larger scale is a worthy goal.

So what was the required German metal to listen to when growing up?
Maik: Of course the standards like Kreator, Sodom, Tankard… I don’t know if you know all these bands, you know Kreator for sure. That was one of our biggest influences when we started doing music from the metal side. Kreator has always been a political band. They were always one step ahead of the rest of the bands playing modern metal, but not losing their traditional stuff.

Any American metal slip in there?
From the metal side we were influenced by European bands, like some Swedish stuff like Entombed and also Carcass and Iron Maiden from England. There are a lot of cool American bands that we also like to listen to and we still will find new ones, like Shadows Fall for example, but all these bands are also influenced by European bands, so it’s that influence. But I’d have to say Earth Crisis had a big impact on the way we thought and the way we wrote our lyrics.

I just don’t hear the Earth Crisis. Do you think it’s more from your Veganism and political views.
Yeah it’s more the attitude that is more hardcore like, more Earth Crisis like. Somebody once wrote that Heaven Shall Burn is a metalcore band without the core. We just play metal but our attitude is hardcore. We are really a socio-political band. That’s very important to us. As important as the music.

You seem to have built your success by concentrating on Europe. Intentional, don’t care about the US, or just too difficult without proper label support?
I don’t know why it never happened in the US. A tour will happen this fall. We’ve toured a lot in the world. We played in South America twice, and Iceland and the whole of Europe. I don’t know… there was so much stuff we wanted to do before touring the US. The US is so big, you don’t know where to start. You can tour the east coast for four, five or six weeks. It’s like nothing. We are all in a University and still studying and we can’t afford to take off six weeks in a row to tour.

You are all in college (just getting out of college), and you have three full lengths and two split cds. How old where you when you started with Heavan Shall Burn?
I was like 14 or 15 when we started out. We are all between 23 and 27 now. We were more a band of friends playing together. We were not professional musicians. But the band became so big that we don’t have jobs besides college to get our money. It has a professional extent now, but it was never meant that way.

How would you define a successful career in music?
That is actually a really good question. I think if the songs or the music remains in the peoples hearts. If somebody takes a CD or vinyl in 10, 15 or 20 years and says, “Oh yeah, that means something to me. I have memories for that.” Then that is a successful career. You can’t tell it with money. Today it’s possible to make millions of dollars with one song that will be forgotten in two years. Music like, “Slaughter of the Soul” from At The Gates. It’s a CD that every metalhead will be banging to in even 30 years.

What’s the best thing about being German?
That you have the right to do jokes about Hilter. That is pretty cool. And that everybody hates you for the German soccer team. I know that’s not too big in the US, but if you go to South America or somewhere and people realize you are from Germany, they’ll immediately kick a ball in front of your feet and want to play soccer with you. I like the language a lot as well.

What’s the worst thing about being German?
There is still some kind of guilt we carry from the past from WWII. I wasn’t there. I didn’t kill people. But it’s still a really bad feeling. I look at my grandmother, and she’s like 93 years old, and I love her so much and she’s such a lovely woman. But in another way you wonder how somebody like her ever let something like that happen? I think it’s good that it’s still so much in people’s minds. There are so many nations that have forgot about their history and the slaughters and the crimes they did. Like the Spanish with their inquisitions. Or the Americans with their Indians.

What’s your perception as the best thing about being American?
The best is the freedom you have. I realize there are lot of people in the US that are moving a lot. The move from Florida to California, or Boston to California (or in the authors case, Wisconsin to California)… people in Europe don’t do that. They are born in a certain country or certain area, they want to stay there. And it’s not such a huge country. In Europe, you can travel for two hours and cross two or three countries.

What’s the worst thing about being American?
That is fact that you are most likely some fat person. I’ve never seen so many fat people than in the US.

Why will Heaven burn?
It’s not like a Satanic or religious thing. Heaven for us is a symbol for somebody’s fake dreams or illusions. It means something like “open your eyes”. It’s not bad if belief gives somebody power, but if it’s the only meaning of their life, then something is wrong.

What’s the sense of humor of a band like Heaven Shall Burn? Is there German humor?
Um. No. Germans are not very funny people. But then, we are not typical Germans. Heaven Shall Burn is more policital and social and critical. But we do want to bring fun to the people, especially the kids. At the shows they dance and have fun. It’s just much easier to spread the message if you open peoples hearts by having fun with something. Then put something into it instead of just being on stage with a dark face and preaching something from above. That is totally wrong. People hear stuff from upwards everyday, from their bosses to their girlfriends to their parents. So there should be another way to spread the message.

From American eyes and ears, you all seem pretty angry for some reason.
We are. For example, if different nations rub together in the projects or something, they all try to find context with each other by having fun or doing jokes. Whereas Germans they want to show their qualities by showing something. By being as good as possible. And over that, they totally forget to have fun.

What country has the angriest crowds?
The Netherlands and Belguim… these kids really beat the shit out each other. Great Britain as well. The coolest crowd, maybe the biggest surprise was when we played in Iceland in Reykjavik. We came there and we did not know what to expect. And there were like 300 kids just going nuts. But the hardest moshers are from The Netherlands and Great Britain.

What is the most metal thing you’ve ever witnessed?
One was when I saw Amon Amarth live, they were so drunk they had to hold onto their amps to stand up. I think that’s why we are friends with so many metal bands because they can have all our alchohol back stage.

Is that rare to be a German non-drinker.
If there was an alien from Mars running around the city here, it wouldn’t look as strange as a German who doesn’t drink beer.

You just shot a video for “The Weapon They Fear”. Define the song and was their any concept tie-ins with the video?
It’s about a singer from Chile named Victor Jara who lived in the 1970’s and was murdered by Pinochet, the military dictator. I was really impressed with the the story of this man. He was a pretty average guy just having a guitar and singing political songs. But his songs and music became so famous that they started to influence the people, so it was a danger for the military dictatorship so they killed him. So the song is about his life and his last hours before he was executed.

Being such a world traveled band, what is your opinion on the state of metal? The crowds? The sales? The originality?
I think it’s really amazing what the world wide web metal scene has. There are bands and songs you can see in every corner of the world. I even think that songs like “Run to the Hills” from Iron Maiden or “Ace of Spades” from Motorhead can see more metalheads around the world than the anthem of America or something like that. And aside from the traditional stuff, I see a wave of new and modern metal that is very powerful. Bands like Shadows Fall are becoming famous around the world.

Was Motley Crue cool?
Of course they were. I am from former communist East Germany. I remember when the Iron Curtain came down and we could see MTV. I recorded a video from Motley Crue and was totally shocked at this guy who looked like a girl. But I liked the song and the stories they did were just unbelievable. The whole sex, drugs and rock and roll. It’s something for history. Of course Motley Crue was cool. “Kickstart my Heart” is my favorite.

What is the biggest evil in the world?
The ongoing Ecoside and pollution of the planet. The biggest deal not about which country is marching into which country and destroying them or all the wars going on. People just care about this bullshit. People aren’t caring about the greenhouse effect. The dying gulf stream. The ice on the north pole that is melting. These will be the main issues of the coming century. But people are still caring about nations and religions. So the biggest evil is that people still don’t realize that we all live on one globe.

What needs to be done to make the world a better place?
There has to be a lot more floods. A lot more catastrophes. A lot more hurricanes. A lot more tornados. As long as people don’t suffer, we are not willing or able to change. We will continue and continue and continue no matter what harm we are doing to the earth. Unless we are really on the edge of our existence. That’s how the earth has always been. It makes me totally angry and totally fills me with fear.

So what can anybody do? Just sit back and wait for it to burn?
I think the mighty in the world, they have to change. Not so much interest in owning money. Stop thinking about the next 10 or 20 years. Instead wonder how they are going to spend their money in 50 years with a destroyed planet. Then maybe if they think like that, then maybe something will change. For example, here in Europe, all the exhaust from factories, they’ve cut it so much down. But in South America and North America there is still so much produced. There is still so much we can still do to reduce pollution and exhaust from traffic. In Europe, nobody drives a car that has like 200 or 300 horsepower. Almost nobody does. Because the petrol is too expensive. But in America, no one cares if they drive a 300 horsepower car because the petrol is so cheap.

Everybody complains here about gas prices being high, not realizing that we have some of the cheapest gas in the world.
The other thing is that the whole south of our globe is kept in poor conditions. They don’t know what they are going to eat tomorrow. Just the whole dynamo of our wealth. The whole south of the globe has to suffer to secure our wealth. Its part of the game that we abuse these nations. Just imagine if everybody in Africa, or China or India also wanted a car. What would happen to the world. It would just be insane.

Yeah. Heaven would burn.