Editor’s Note: It was rather awesome talking to legendary guitarist Maik Weichert of Heaven Shall Burn for Madness To Creation. It felt like old friends getting together over a beverage and just shooting the breeze. On March 20th, the legendary German metal band released their latest album “Of Truth And Sacrifice” and in this conversation, Maik of Heaven Shall Burn talks about President Trump, mental health awareness, the writing process from the album and even being there in person when the Berlin Wall came crashing down. It was a music lesson and a modern history lesson of sorts. Fans can find Heaven Shall Burn at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: You guys have been around for over 20 years, and on March 20th, you released “Of Truth And Sacrifice”, take us into the album, and where you’re at as a guitarist?
Maik: Well, you always learn that you are not as good as you think you are, that is the conclusion that I always take from the studio to home with me, it’s a lot of work but it’s a very creative process, it’s very challenging and always keeps you very busy and thinking and it keeps you awake at night, but once you’ve managed to get all the songs on the record, it’s a really good feeling, to make such a big thing as a double record, I wrote most of the music and recorded most of the music, it’s just really good in the end, but the process has to be painful in order to bring a good outcome.
Madness To Creation: As a guitarist, what’s one thing that you do really well and what’s one thing that you want to continue to work on as a musician?
Maik: Actually, I’m not feeling totally like a musician, the reason why I started the band and why I write the lyrics is just because I wanted to spread my opinion and I realize that people listen to me a lot more when I have a guitar in my hand compared to writing an article for the newspaper, that’s why I started making music, I didn’t feel like Trey from Morbid Angel, having a really new guitar style, people have come to know it, I’m not thinking like that. To be honest, I’m not trying to get better so much, I’m more keen to not get too professional, and not to lose the spontaneous creativity that comes with my way of playing guitar. There’s so many bands where their demos and their forth records were great, then they grew up into really good musicians and then everything was shitty, you know, and that is something that I’m totally afraid of in the past 20 years. I’m more keen to keep the status quo, of course I try to play correctly, I’m not interested into playing a crazy solo from a Trivium record or something like that, I don’t have urges.
Madness To Creation: Have you played shows with Trivium or have a good relationship with them?
Maik: Totally, especially with Matt and Corey, I know them well. Their first show that they played outside of the U.S., they played as a support band for Heaven Shall Burn, I’ve known Matt since he was 16 years old or something, and he’s such a great guy. It’s a really great example of always treating support bands and smaller bands with respect and give them what they deserve in a positive way because that band could become Trivium or Rammstein or something like that, and maybe they are in some market that’s a lot bigger than you are, then they can pay you back the respect that you gave them, and that is exactly what has happened with Trivium. They took us out on this great Australian tour a few years back and they didn’t forget how cool the time was when we both started out playing shows in Europe and if we meet the guys, we’re always having a chat and sitting down and talk about the new stuff and Matt is always interested in everything, he’s such an open-minded guy. It’s always a pleasure meeting them.
Madness To Creation: When you talk shop or talk business with a guy like Matt from Trivium, what are some pointers that you look to pick up?
Maik: As a guitarist, I’m not even close to being on the level that Matt is, I don’t even belong to discuss playing guitar with Matt or Corey, those guys are playing in a different universe than me. I’m not talking a lot about guitars, we’re talking a lot about art, music, and cool music bands, and Matt and I will talk about old black metal stuff, it’s just like that, just friends talking, it’s not like a business meeting or a workshop if we meet with each other, I’ll ask about how Matt’s dad is doing or something like that.
Madness To Creation: You mentioned about “returning the favor”, what is one band that’s starting out that you see opening up for you and that could blow up someday?
Maik: I don’t know, we actually played with a lot of these on festivals, we would love to support Iron Maiden or Rammstein maybe Metallica would be cool as well, but as a support band for them(same with Rammstein), you usually don’t get a lot of attention or the glory of being the opener for iconic bands like that, so that’s why we always stood away from bands like that, and maybe we will get to play a few shows with Slipknot, that would be cool.
Madness To Creation: Awesome! Let’s go into a couple of videos from “Of Truth and Sacrifice”, I have to say that I love the tempo changes in “Ubermacht”. Take us into that video and crafting that song.
Maik: I think doing the electo part in the middle was a lot of fun, because it was kind of chill and something different and working with other instruments and plug-ins and stuff like that, that was a lot of fun recording that, but it was also challenging being how accurate you have to play it, to have it sound a little like Rammstein.
Madness To Creation: To be honest with you, I was so confused with what was going on in the video, what was the message that you were trying to convey in that song?
Maik: The message of the video is do not take everything so seriously. The video starts as very dark, but throughout the video, don’t take everything so seriously.
Madness To Creation: What I’ve appreciated about Heaven Shall Burn over the years is that you guys stay true to your message, whether it’s the straight edge lifestyle or anti-racist or anti-fascist, I must ask, from your perspective being from Germany, how do you think America is handling this pandemic?
Maik: I just think that your President is a moron. I can’t describe it. I feel really bad for the people, I feel even bad for his supporters because I as a German know what happens when you follow a fool and if you totally believe in the fool. I’m not saying Trump is as bad as Hitler, not at all, but following a fool and having a fool as a leader is something that is absolutely abysmal for a nation, and I think that the American people really need to start realizing that it is not true that they are not the best in the world, that’s not true anymore. Other countries are about to start taking over, and in every meddling country like the U.S., they’re losing ground and I’m not only talking about the U.S., it’s something that we totally have to be aware of, that while we are thinking that we are the greatest and we are the biggest, other countries are taking over, and that is something that’s dangerous.
Madness To Creation: What kind of activism do you do to spread your message further?
Maik: We go to a lot of demonstrations especially against the right wing parties in Germany and with animal rights issues, we are talking a lot about that and support organizations from the local animal shelter and a wide variety of activities, we’re doing a lot of stuff.
Madness To Creation: I really appreciate you guys living your message that you believe in. Take us into to the song and music video for “Eradicate”.
Maik: First, I have to explain what the song is about. The song is about a gang of girls in the Netherlands during the Second World War and they were resistant fighters against the Nazis and they killed German officers and they helped Jews and homosexuals flee from the Nazis and stuff like that and when I talked to the director of the video about it he was more into the idea of not totally translating the story of the lyrics one to one, he wanted to have it more from a meta level, so he chose an African girl gang hunting down some poachers, and I think it’s a very unique music video and everybody likes it of course, I think it’s unique.
Madness To Creation: That is a super interesting take on the song. I love history, fun question for you, what is your favorite piece of history to learn about?
Maik: That’s a tricky question! At the moment, I’m really into ancient history, like the Stone Age, I just wrote a paper about ancient instruments, like those old flutes that are made from bows and stuff like that, the oldest ones that they found are like 40,000 years old, which is crazy, and stuff like that is very interesting and I’m also from old East Germany so I grew up behind the Iron Curtain and I’m also very interested in the east part of Germany of like 40 years ago when they were socialists.
Madness To Creation: What was it like growing up in East Germany?
Maik: You have to imagine somebody building a wall through New York and all of a sudden one part of the world is different than the other part of New York, you know, that was long before my birth but I was like 12 or 13 years old when the wall came down and the two parts of Germany came together again and that was a really really great feeling and I will never forget it for the rest of my life and you have to think about the two German parts like North and South Korea, in Germany it was a lot more friendly, you were allowed to write letters to your relatives in West Germany and you could do phone calls, and stuff like that, the countries were a lot more connected to each other, it was a crazy situation, and the East Germans would receive West German TV programs, they could see all the commercials as well, and of course all the great stuff that you could buy in West Germany you couldn’t buy in East Germany, so everything that people knew about West Germany was from West German television, so imagine the capitalist system introducing itself just by TV commercials, and so the crazy situation after the wall came down, people realized that capitalism is not always just people shopping with everybody rich and smiling. Of course, the East German regime told the truth about West Germany that there was homeless people and that there was unemployment but nobody believed it. It’s like the picture that some of the South American refugees have of the U.S., you may compare that.
Madness To Creation: We cover mental health awareness at Madness To Creation, what are some things that help you get through life and struggles?
Maik: History helps me a lot. I think of my grandmother for example, my grandfather was in the war and my grandmother and the five children had to flee from her part of Germany because it was ran over by the Russians, and what this woman made through is no comparison. History has taught me perspective, it helps you deal with the actual problems.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add that we haven’t covered?
Maik: People should just give the record a try, it’s truly dedicated music, there’s a lot to discover in it, I would be happy if people listened to it.
And there you have it! You can check out “Of Truth And Sacrifice” by Heaven Shall Burn via Spotify in its entirety below: