Heaven Shall Burn – Leading the Pack

Saturday, 30th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

In a world that is overflowing with pretenders, it’s always comforting to see that truly creative originators are still showing everybody how it should be done. Heaven Shall Burn is one of the elite of said group, and with their latest opus Invictus, the band is further proving to be one of the true leaders and innovators. Many only can dream to be 1/100th as good as these guys, and most aren’t nearly as engaging or humble. With the latest album being the third in the Iconoclast series – also including one other studio album and the band’s first DVD release – these German masters bring their trademark combination of power, aggression and thought-provoking themes to some of their highest levels.

The band is as strong as ever, with an ever-expanding worldwide fan base, prompting constantly increasing interest and album sales reaching all-time highs in their homeland. Talking to guitarist Maik Weichert, we get a little glimpse of how the balance of the band and their day jobs has influenced the band’s workings throughout the years, their most recent release (and future ones), as well as a very fun location idea for a one-off show, the band’s inner battle over German club soccer, and everything in between. And to note, as of this writing, the German National Team is certainly exceeding Mr. Weichert’s expectations. We’ll see if this continues! Enjoy!

Blistering.com: First off, congratulations on Invictus reaching number nine on the German charts. How surprising was that?

Maik Weichert: Well, actually it doesn’t mean that much to a band today. Maybe 20 years ago, it would mean we would have sold 2 million records or something like that. You know how it is today. It’s a great thing for the label. Of course, having a top 10 thing is also really good for the band. All my neighbors and other people – the next day – were just as unfriendly to me as usual! So it doesn’t mean that much in my life.

Blistering.com: Has the reaction to the new album surpassed your expectations?

Weichert: Yeah! There is overwhelming positive feedback, but as a band, you should be more interested in the negative feedback, you know? That was also like I expected. It was the third part of the trilogy and that is why we had the same producing team, the same guys mixing it, the same theme, the intro. Of course, there were a few people who said, “That wasn’t a step forward at all! It totally sounds like the concept of the other record,” and blah blah blah. Of course! It’s the third part of the trilogy! Some people didn’t get that, but that was really a small amount of the critics. Actually, it wasn’t reviews. More like fans and stuff like that. I’m more keen on getting feedback from the anonymous part of the Internet. Those people write what they really think – not like some magazines.

Blistering.com: Is this definitely going to be the last part of the Iconoclastseries?

Weichert: I guess so, but every time I get that question, I always say that my heart was set on a trilogy. Some really cool soft parts, and as long as Bruce Willis is starring it, I will love a fourth part as well! [laughs] But I don’t think the next record will be a fourth part. Maybe we’ll do a fourth part after the hype is over and we need some good selling point for a record in ten years or something!

Blistering.com: It’s a well-known fact that you guys juggle between jobs and school in addition to the band. Has that become easier or harder to deal with over the years?

Weichert: It’s become easier. Now we can be like cherry picking – we don’t have to play any shows. We can just play the really big shows we get offered and really cool tours. If we get a really cool tour offer, we can say ok – we want to do it, but we can only do like one week or two weeks. And people are happy with it. Like a smaller band here in Europe, then people will say yes. They’re willing to compromise with us, and that became a lot easier.

Blistering.com: It feels as if you don’t play constantly, there might be more demand to see you guys live. Some bands seem to be on every tour over here and you end up seeing them five times in a month.

Weichert: I always think you can tell if you see a band playing on a Monday evening in some club, and it’s show number 150 of 200 shows. A long tour, you know? I think you can tell that it is like that. If we’re on stage, and we’re keen to play that weekend show – playing for that festival. We’re still on fire and we’re not feeling in trouble or something like that. That maybe means we don’t have like really cool statements on stage or something like that, because we didn’t play everything that sounds the same – the same stuff on stage every night. Maybe you can compare it to like a homemade porn movie! [laughs] The real feelings. You get the real feeling from us! That’s a cool headline!

Blistering.com: A lot of bands seem to struggle financially due to a number of factors. You guys, however, have a different and well-functioning approach. Do you think that has contributed positively to the longevity of the band?

Weichert: Yeah, of course! It’s a huge freedom if you don’t have to pay your rent off the music. All the money we make now, we just put it aside and maybe I’ll do a university course from it or whatever. We don’t have to pay the rent with it and if we don’t feel like we have to do something or we don’t want to do something, then we don’t do it. It’s kept us away from making a lot of mistakes on the path. Some times there are tours we’ve gotten offered that we maybe would have done, but if we don’t feel really good about that or don’t have the time to do this or that, and we just didn’t do it and it turned out the tour was just crappy. So yeah, we’re kind of a rare band to see live and that makes people even keener to see us. We have the freedom to do it because we are independent financially from the music. I also think it’s a different whether you’re in the studio writing a song and you think, “This song has to feed my children for the next two years.” Or if you just write a song and you say, “Ok, I’ll just do what I want.”

Blistering.com: What’s your opinion on illegal downloading and what do you think would make people buy more music?

Weichert: I think that downloading is a good thing. I can’t see a lot of negatives about it, just as long as you can’t download t-shirts or something like that! Because bands are making more money off the merchandise now – if they’re downloading a band they become interested and go to a show and buy a t-shirt. We make even more money off of that than selling a record. I think it’s also a positive thing because it puts pressure on the record labels to offer something to the few people who still buy music. At least in Europe, you have great packaging, like bonus DVDs and stickers in it and whatnot, and merchandise. That is a really cool thing, because for the same money you get more than you did ten years ago. Ten years ago you would just get a crappy jewel case.

Blistering.com: With Invictus of course, there’s the special edition that comes with a wristband, a DVD and whatnot.

Weichert: It’s so little to offer. So if bands produce limited editions of like 20,000 or something – it costs you like 10 cents! So what’s the matter with it?

Blistering.com: And there are some fun ones, like Belphegor coming out with a package that included a replica stick grenade!

Weichert: Yeah! Those guys are crazy!

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