Interview with Heaven Shall Burn

Interview with Heaven Shall Burn – Maik Weichert, Guitars

Interview By Ollie Thomas

Heaven Shall Burn is one of the figureheads of the German Metalcore scene at the moment formed in Saalfeld, Germany circa 1996. The band combines very aggressive music with very politically influenced lyrics – such as fighting racism and social justice. As provocative as the name may be, you’d be wrong in believing the band is anti-religion.
The name is taken from a Marduk album titled Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered. In an interview, the band said, “It’s not that we’re huge Marduk fans, but we liked the name. It sounds a bit provoking and so people ask us again and again for the meaning behind our name. It has been like that since the very beginning.

We use the term heaven as a metaphor for some kind of a fake paradise that people create in their heads. Some people close their eyes and don’t see the truth surrounding them. So this kind of fake heaven should burn. Some people might think that our name is an anti-religious statement, but it isn’t.” Heaven Shall Burn have released two split EPs with their close friends in Caliban, and in 2010 completed their ambitious Iconoclast trilogy.

Comprising two studio albums and a live performance captured on DVD, the Iconoclast trilogy was a success. Heaven Shall Burn are currently touring off the back of it until heading into the studio to unleash their next effort.

How did this tour with Rise to Remain come about?
We were just looking for a few dates to play in England and just asked the agency what band would be cool to tour with or support and stuff like that. We didn’t know the guys before, I mean of course we knew the band and our friend Matt in Trivium toured with them a few weeks ago and also said it would be really cool to do that. We met some cool guys, cool band and have a lot of fun every night.

It’s been a while since you released an album, would you like to talk about your last few, because it was a bit of a concept going on wasn’t there?
The last 3 albums were a concept, like Iconoclast. To tell stories about unknown heroes and also reveal dark sides of very well-known heroes. So that was the iconoclastic approach we had with the last three albums. Don’t ask me, I didn’t think of a concept for the next album yet [laughs]

So is there a new album in the works then?
Yeah, well you know we’re on tour now and then summer festivals will come and I think in the fall we will write new stuff. So I think by Christmas we will be in the studio.

What was it like writing the last album? The music, the lyrics?
That is always a very natural process, we are five friends playing together. We rehearse once a week, some people meet in the pub, we met in the rehearsal room so we’re always writing new stuff. It’s just we have a phase before we go to the studio, like two or three months when we have very intense periods of working together when we do some serious song writing.

There’s always something happening in the rehearsal room so we don’t see it as a working process, that’s actually what being a band is about for us. That wasn’t a problem.

Your lyrics deal with very controversial subjects, would you consider yourselves a very political band?
Well we are, totally. I always have the expression that in Heaven Shall Burn, 50% is lyrics and 50% is the music. Lyrics are the warhead and music is the missile, bringing it into the target. We were always a political band, I mean that started in school. I was always a political kid, I just realised when I had my guitar in my hand there were a lot more people that would listen than when I was writing for the school newspaper or spreading flyers. We could never sing about trouble with our girlfriends, or how bad our parents treat us or none of that bullshit. That would just be a waste of energy.

Is that how your friendship with Caliban formed?
Oh, Calban. When we started out in Germany there weren’t many bands around playing that style of music, so we met at really tiny shows, playing squats together and stuff. We’re from quite different parts of Germany, if you translated it to England, Caliban would be from Glasgow and we’d be from Brighton. We met them at the first shows, but it was really fast we had a good friendship with them. Mark, the main guy in Caliban is one of my closest friends and we still do lots of things together.

Are the split EPs with Caliban and others something you wish to continue?
Yeah, we actually talked about doing a third part of the Heaven Shall Burn/Caliban split but so far our release schedules couldn’t really come together. I’m pretty sure there will be something like that in the future, in five years or one year. I don’t have a clue, but we’ll see.

Is there any chance of you guys doing some dates over here?
I don’t know, maybe. We never played England together, but we did loads of tours on mainland Europe so why not bring that to England.

What would you say was your favourite UK tour?
Our favourite tour? Which one was that? Actually, this is our first REAL tour. Usually we did European tours and had two or three UK dates, but we never did like a real big tour in the UK. This is not a big tour, but we had like ten dates so it’s our longest run so far.

What do you have planned for 2012 then?
No, not yet. You know how the booking business works, we have plans and plans and it all falls together, something new comes up and in the end you do something totally different than you actually planned to do. We are not expecting things, so if something comes we do it and if not then we don’t. We don’t pay our rent from music, so we just do what we want to do. We don’t have to play shows, so I can’t really tell you when we’ll come back.

Any festivals?
No, not really. I mean there are a few cool festivals over here, like playing Bloodstock or Download would be pretty cool and we’re in talks about that but we’ll have to see  how things work out. I don’t feel like coming over to Download and playing at half past 9 in the morning in front of 50 people. That would be disappointing for us, and for the people.

You’re quite big on mainland Europe, do you think it’s a shame that success hasn’t carried over as much to the UK?
Considering we’re a German band, not on a label that is really huge in the UK like Roadrunner for example, I mean Century Media’s doing a good job but they are not as big as Roadrunner in the UK. We’re a German band, and German bands always have it kinda hard in the UK for obvious reasons you know? Football and Second World War, but we’re happy how things work out in the UK. We’re one of the few metal bands who can tour here at all, but of course compared to Germany or something it’s still developing for us.

Do you feel your country’s history is something you always have to overcome?
I don’t know about overcoming, we’re just making fun of it. I’m happy things are so far in Germany now that they can make fun of it, even if 10 years ago if someone from the UK or these Monty Python jokes about the second world war, people in Germany would be like “I don’t get this.”

If there was one thing for any fan to take away from your music, what would it be?
Our attitude – that you should always question authority. If someone comes and tells you what to do, you should first ask who is it and why is he telling me that and is he telling me the truth? If you have that attitude in your mind, than many, many dangers in your life are actually banned. You’re one of the few thinkers and not one of the followers and one of the sheep. That would be a good approach actually, I would rather have that attitude spread than people playing our riffs on YouTube or something!