Interview with Helker (Diego Valdez)

Helker is one of Argentina’s finest Metal bands featuring vocalist Diego Valdez. The band just announced signing a worldwide recording deal with AFM Records for their newly released fourth album, their first in English, Somewhere In The Circle, as well as a management and booking deal with Level 10 Music & ITM Agency.

MER: Hello Diego! Thanks for taking the time to speak with Metal Express Radio and your fans. Helker is probably a new name in Metal for a lot of our readers. How about introducing yourself, the band, and the type of music you guys play?

Diego: Hello! Thanks to you for this interview! Ok, My name is Diego Valdez and I’m the singer of Helker, a Metal band from Argentina. Helker was formed in 1998 and today just two original members remain, Christian Abarca (bass) and Mariano Rios (guitar) the rest of the band are Leo Aristu (guitar) Hernan Coronel (drums) and myself on vocals, the music that we play is good old fashion Metal! I see Helker as a band who plays the music that we love, and the music that we want to hear, we didn’t try to re-invent the Metal or create a new Metal style, but we try to play the best songs that we can in the best way!

MER: What is the significance of the band’s name?

Diego: Well, the band’s name means…nothing! The thing was that in the early days the guys created a story, I think it was for a song or for a conceptual album, and Helker was the name of one of the places of this story

MER: What musical influences does the band have?

Diego: Many! As a band we love the German sound, so you can find a mix of many bands from Germany like Primal Fear, Gamma Ray, Accept and many more, but as musicians we also brought to the band our personal influences too!

MER: Paint a picture for us of the current music scene in Argentina. Iron Maiden was very popular there at one time. Are the masses still hungry for “Metal music”?

Diego: Yes! But there are two sides of the story, on one hand we are a very warm and enthusiastic audience, all the bands who came to this country are amazed by the Argentinean crowd, AC/DC, Tarja and Megadeth did their last live DVDs here because of that! On the other hand, most of the enthusiastic people who spend a lot of money in an international show, don’t support the local bands, for example, if you play as an opening band of an international artist, just a few people enter to see the local bands; the other people remain outside of the place, waiting for the international band and only enter when the international band appears on the stage. I can assure you that we have many good bands and talented musicians around here… sad but true.

MER: Your latest release, Somewhere In The Circle, is actually the band’s fourth release but is the first “international” release (sung in English) versus the first three sung in Spanish. Was this a big challenge for you guys? Is all of the band fluent in English?

Diego: Well, in the band we have three people who can understand and talk in English, I mean English enough to understand and be understood, nothing fancy, maybe I am the most “fluent” member. I can talk… and I did some international interviews, and the guys who did the interviews say that my English is fine, but I think that sometimes I sound like Ozzy!!

MER: Why release an English sung album now? What made the time right?

Diego: I think that was our inner clock, we always wanted more, more quality, better equipments and we like the hard work, we have a very clear path in our minds and we felt that the right time for the next step has come, for that reason we called Mat, our first and only option and through him I think that we already reached the next level, but for the next album we want to be even better!

MER: Somewhere In The Circle was also released as a (digital only) Spanish version. Were the lyrics for the new songs originally written in English or Spanish? Was it a challenge to synchronize the dialect of the second language with the same music? Are the words a direct translation between the two languages?

Diego: In the making of this album, we pass through some relaxed moments and some tense moments and the lyrics were one of those tense moments! The album was conceived in Spanish first and then we translate the lyrics to English but not literally, that is impossible, well is not impossible, but the results if you do that could be awful! The meaning is almost the same, but we must change some words because English and Spanish are very different languages but I think that we reached very good results, It was a real pain in the ass! When we finally ended the translation process, Mat checked the lyrics and approved, I think that the next time maybe, we will write two different lyrics but under the same concept I don’t know, but definitely we will change the way we work!

MER: Somewhere In The Circle has a melodic Power Metal feel to it. Would new Helker fans find the first three Spanish sung releases to be the same type of music and quality?

Diego: Everyone who releases a new album says “this album is the best” and in a kind of way it is! This time we have better production and sound, and the songs were checked by a professional. But, I still love our previous albums, there are some really good songs in there too, and the sound that we get by ourselves is not bad at all. You can also hear the “Helker” sound, the thing is that we didn’t try to change the face of the Metal or create a new kind of Metal, we are fans playing the music that we love, the music that we want to hear and we are trying to play it in the best way possible. It’s true that in this kind of music that we play it’s very difficult to be “original” but I think that we have a kind of “Helker” sound in our songs, and you can find it too in our previous albums.

MER: Any discussion or plans to re-record your earlier works in English and make available internationally, at a reasonable price?

Diego: Not yet, I really don’t know what will happen in the future, I guess it all depends on the sales and how the album will be taken by the audience and the critics, but if everything goes right, everything is possible!

MER: Exciting news that the band signed with the AFM Records label? Did this come about after plans for an English release or was this the result of negotiations?

Diego: We planned everything in our minds first. We already had the idea of something new, in this case, to do an entire album in English because I can sing in English and we decided to take advantage of that. Then we started with the pre-production and then we contacted Mat. It was in our minds at the beginning and if we didn’t get this contract we would have released the album in English by ourselves anyway, we were mostly an independent band and we know how to do it!

MER: Matt Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner) produced this album. How did you guys happen to hook up with him? How was that experience? Did you guys learn anything from him?

Diego: We opened for Primal Fear in 2008 and we established the first contact in that time, but we also have a mutual friend with Mat. This friend got in contact with Mat, he remembered the band and then he listened to the pre-production and liked it a lot and then we started to work together and it was an amazing experience! The most tricky thing was learning how to understand each other at the beginning because we live in very different worlds and we manage very different codes. Once we passed through that it was great! Mat is a nice and wise guy, and I can’t wait to work with him all together in the same place!

MER: Was there ever any discussion about maybe Mat playing bass on a track on this album or did he want to strictly wear his “Producer’s hat” only?

Diego: Hahaha, no, he didn’t play anything this time, he was strictly our producer and collaborated with the songs as a writer too, but the next time I want to ask him to record some voices with me! He has a strong and raw voice and I think that we could fit very well together. I want to sing with him!

MER: It’s interesting that on the new album you guys got Tim “Ripper” Owens (ex-Judas Priest) and Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear) to do guest vocals when ironically, you share some of the same vocal qualities and strengths. Was this union by accident?

Diego: Another dream comes true! And thanks for your words about my voice! I still can’t believe it that I shared this song with the guys! It was not an accident, as I said before we had everything already planned, and this plan included Mat, Tim and Ralf. We were extremely lucky to have all of them in the same album! Many times, plans don’t end in the way that we planned!

MER: Any plans currently to tour outside of Argentina?

Diego: Nothing serious but after this worldwide release anything is possible. I know that Mat and Level 10 and ITM are working right now on it, we just can cross our fingers and wait!! We have really high hopes about that!!

MER: When can we expect another release by Helker? Has work begun on it?

Diego: Well, Helker is a very hard working band so yes, we already are working on the new album! We have a couple of songs ready and many in process! We never stop!!

MER: On a personal note, you did a guest appearance on the latest Tarja Live DVD/CD as guest vocalist on the song “Phantom Of The Opera”. How did that come about? Was Tarja someone you knew in the past?

Diego: Tarja has a very close relationship with Argentina and her fans here, a true love story! She lives here part of the year. I met Tarja when she came to Argentina for the first time with Nightwish. My band at that time opened for them, then she started to come here with more frequency because her husband is Argentinian. We would cross paths in recording studios and stuff, the thing was that when she started her solo career she invited me to sing “The Phantom” in the last show of her first tour as a solo artist. At that time we performed the song in Spanish and then when she wanted to film her first live DVD she called me again and this time we sang the song in English. It was an amazing experience, they treated me like one of them and she is a sweetheart! The guys of the band and crew are amazing and the organization was great, and it was also my first serious exposure on a worldwide release. It was a great challenge because she did an amazing version of the song with Nightwish, a real highlight in my career as a singer!

MER: Any last words for your fans?

Diego: I want to thank you again for this great interview! And I really hope that soon, Helker can get there and we can rock together!!! Cheers and all the best!!

MER: Diego thanks for taking some time out for Metal Express Radio and your fans!


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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