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Heaven Shall Burn - Metalcore for the real metalhead
After reviewing their latest effort and just before my first live-experience with them I had the opportunity to interview Heaven Shall Burn. Guitarist Maik Weichert was found willing to answer some of my questions.

For the readers who don’t know you: could you introduce yourself and the band?

“I’m Maik, I play guitar in Heaven Shall Burn and Heaven Shall Burn is a German metal, metalcore, hardcore, modern metal whatever band and we’re around for almost ten years now. We just released a new CD, which is our fifth full-length or something and we’re on the road again and now I’m sitting here in Den Bosch"

How are you guys doing?

“Really good. I turned out that the other bands are really cool. We knew Misery Speaks for some time already and also the Aborted guys we met before and they are all really relaxed guys. Not too much party, but also not too boring. It’s just the perfect balance. Cool shows so far and everybody’s smiling. Yeah, it’s going pretty well!”

How is the response of the audience towards the new songs so far?

“Really good! There are so many kids screaming along and singing along and it’s really overwhelming. I didn’t expect people would be that much in the lyrics already, but the reactions have been really, really amazing and almost even more than some of the older songs. I’m totally happy with that and it wouldn’t have been possible without the downloading-thing, so we’re happy that the songs all spread, no matter where everybody got it from.”

I did have a question about downloading music, but you’re ahead of me.

“Okey, than I’ll shut up and we’ll talk about it later. Hahah!”

Is the band influenced by it’s fans? Are you listening to them when they are for example critical about your lyrics?

“I wouldn’t change my mind if people are disliking what I write and record-sales are going down, but of course it happens sometimes that you write lyrics about certain topics and kids come to you and discuss it with me and giving me a totally new point of view. This happened to me a few times that I thought about the stuff that I wrote in lyrics and they were like: “ow, yeah…” and I was like: Ow yeah, that’s right, I never thought about it in this way or that way and maybe I’ll introduce another point of view on the next CD or something. It’s also a big luck for me, as somebody who writes lyrics, because you then know what you’ll have to write about on the next record, because you don’t want to repeat yourself. It’s like a dialogue, which is totally evolving and I totally believe that you can follow my thoughts and my political educations from the first CD to the newer CD and you’ll see where I changed my mind and what new influences I got. It’s really important and these kids influence me on a discussion way, you know, just as between friends or something”

How do you keep in touch with your fans; do you for example read (and reply) the messages that are posted on your myspace?

“Yeah, our drummer is doing that stuff. I’m really not into that Myspace-thing at all and I have no idea about that, but I’m doing the e-mail response and stuff and I try to answer most of the e-mails. If there is some special stuff, for example if they’re asking about the lyrics I actually always answer and on our homepage there are our ICQ-numbers and people can contact us and when we feel we want to chat with people we use these numbers. Just where we met I tried to enter ICQ. It’s a lot easier now for fans to approach people I remember I wrote letters to, I don’t know, even Dutch bands like Gorefest or something like that. It’s a lot easier now than back then."

And after the shows, do you hang out with fans or just with the other bands?

“I prefer to hang out with people before the show. After the show you’re like sweaty and exhausted and everything and of course you go out and talk to the people at the merchandise, but nowadays there are strict restrictions, like: the show is over and people get pushed out of the venue and I don’t get a change to meet them, so mostly we talk to people before the show. We enjoy that a lot!”

You recently released the
Iconoclasts album, how are you looking back on the whole recording and writing period?

“Well… it wasn’t so different from the other periods and that’s the maybe the reason there are not that much special memories or something. We’re always sitting together and writing songs and I have most of the riffs in my head already and than I put it together with Alex, our other guitarist. We play the riffs and then we go to the rehearsal room and work it out with the other guys. Songwriting is not so spectacular, but the recordings are always fun. We have many retarded photos from the recordings from three in the morning when you’re totally down with everything. Those are cool memories and you can also see them on our Myspace I guess. When we record a CD we never have the feeling that we are working on a milestone or something. It’s always about having fun with friends in a studio and being curious what eventually will come out.”

Just playing the music you wanna play.

“Yeah, exactly. I mean, we’re like going to a studio 1000 kilometres abroad. We always have studios next to our hometown and if we don’t like hanging around or fooling around we just go home and come back next day or week or… it just doesn’t matter. I could never be creative on button-press, like eight in the morning till the evening, because you only have booked like four weeks in the studio and you’ll have to record. That’s not the way we could work.”

When you look back now, is there something you would do different if you had the possibility to do it all over again?

“Not for this record. I think everything for this record was okay. The stuff for the next record will be different, but there is nothing we would change in the way that we regret something.”

The album leaked in early December, almost 2 months prior to its official release. What’s your opinion about downloading music.

“That’s actually something thrilling already for bands, you know. You’re looking everywhere and you keep wondering if the album is already on the internet, how does it spread, how do they discuss the record. It’s the worst thing for a band that the promos are send out two months before the release and the record isn’t on the internet already, because that means nobody talks about it and that means nobody cares about it. That so many people downloaded the album and discussed it is really a good side. It’s like a first promo-report actually and I mean, you’ll have to face reality. There is nothing you can do about it and I also am downloading songs from internet from bands that I like, so I never had a problem with that. I’m more interested in reactions by people when the record leaks. When I read an anonymous comment from somebody who’s sitting behind his computer who is saying the record kicks ass, that is a honest opinion and not some writer for some magazine who’s afraid of not getting promos anymore. It’s the truth and as long as the feedback is positive I’m totally happy about it and if it’s not then you would probably knew it before.”

It’s also a positive thing for your shows I think. People can be familiar with a lot more bands than in the past.

“Especially with that metalcore label we have. There are so many metalheads who read about Heaven Shall Burn and they’re like: “metalcore… fuck it, I hate them!” Maybe they think we sound and look like Bullet For My Valentine or something and maybe they risk to listen to a download, because it’s easier to get in touch with the music and it’s easier to attract people in that way than in a normal record store. It’s a huge change for any band and a band who doesn’t see that is… I don’t know… I feel sorry for them”

How did you get in touch with Bastian Sobtzick, who did the artwork for
Iconoclasts?

“The guy from Lifeforce is a really close friend of us and he gave me a promo of the band War From A Harlots Mouth and Bastian did the cover for that album and I was totally into that! I called him and I said I was Maik from Heaven Shall Burn and I asked him if he knew our band and if he wanted to do the artwork for our new album. It should look like something between Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill artwork and Spiderman and he was like: “Wow, that sounds amazing, I’ll do that!” Honestly I didn’t expect it would be that cool. When I saw it for the first time I was blown away and I knew that we had to do a really nice package for it… that’s by the way also a positive fact of all the downloading. Record labels have to offer something to the listener and now you receive a bonus-DVD or a cool packaging for the same money.”

Did Bastian have total freedom to make whatever he wanted to make or did you have a strict vision for the whole concept?

“I had this Iconoclasts-concept and I told him about it, told a little bit what it should look like, but I don’t think it’s a good thing to limit artists. Either they do a cover and you like it or you don’t like it and you don’t put it on your CD.”

Alexander (guitarist) recently produced the latest record of Maroon. Do these kind of jobs inspire for your own band?

“I wouldn’t say they inspire me with their music, but of course they push you. If they put out a really cool record then of course you want to put out a better album. There is a healthy competition between us and that’s really good. There are no misunderstandings or jealousy, but it’s just like between brothers.”

What are steps in your career that you are most proud of?

“I think I’m the most proud of the main goal we had when we started the band and that was to release a CD. Having your first own CD in your hands is something really, really amazing. That’s still the biggest thing for me and everything else just happened to us. Sometimes I don’t get why we were so lucky, because there are so many talented and great bands a lot better than we are and they don’t have the success we have. We don’t see everything as career steps, but as a miracle.”

What can we expect from HSB in the nearby future?

“We’ll play some festivals in the summer and then we’ll be a bit more rare in Europe during the fall, because we’ll doing some more abroad shows, like Asia and Russia for example and maybe South America as well. Maybe we’ll work on the new record at the end of the year… I don’t know yet.”

Okey, thanks for your time. Do you have something to add to this interview or maybe something to say to our readers?

“Uhm… No, not really. I hope that many people come to see us on tour and give us a chance and also the real metalheads. Metalheads can also like our music and hopefully they’ll change their opinion about “evil” metalcore or modern metal bands.