March 8, 1995 – Ingo Schwichtenberg (Helloween) was born May 18th 1965 in Hamburg, Germany. At the age of 14 he took some clarinet lessons with the encouragement of a music teacher at school and started playing folk music in the school’s band. During this period he also had his first approach to a drum kit. “As the drummer in my group was very bad, I could not stand it and I sat in front of the kit and played as I liked ” he said ” I think I was fifteen… I knew I was going to play it seriously since then”.
His father Heinz bought him his very first drum kit and he started practicing by himself. During the same year he met a young guitarist called Kai Hansen who played in a new born band called “Gentry”. The boys became good friends immediately and Kai asked Ingo to join the band because they needed a drummer. ( “Gentry” was made up of: Kai Hansen – guitars, Markus Grosskopf – bass guitar, Piet Sielck – vocals, Ingo Schwichtenberg – drums). Right after that the band was renamed to “Second Hell”. Ingo remembered: “I was a rock’ n’ roller with long hair and with a leather jacket. (laugh) As others in the same age wore tidy clothes, I may have been seen very different from them, but there was no bad relationship with them”.
1982-1983: The band changed their name into “Iron Fist” and the line-up was finally completed by Michael Weikath on second guitar. While playing in “Iron Fist”, Ingo did different jobs in order to gather as much money as possible for buying himself a new professional drumkit (a Yamaha): he worked at an office for two years ( which he really disliked a lot!) and then he worked also in a huge Hamburg market. “Though it was a hard job starting from 6 o’clock in the morning, I learned a lot of things there. I think it was good for me to have done it”.
1984: After watching the movie “Halloween”, Ingo came up with the idea to rename the band “Helloween” and the “a” was replaced with an “e”. The band started a mini tour around all the small clubs in Hamburg and took part on the sampler “Death Metal”. At that time his family was very supportive to him, so Ingo was encouraged to go ahead with music. “As the album cover was the illustration of a disgusting man who was disemboweled, my father frowned: “…On this album?!?”, and he was looking at it suspiciously (laugh). But listening to “Metal Invaders” and “Oernst Of Life”, he seemed to be pleased with the melody and said: “Keep going!”. At the end of the same year, Helloween finally signed their first contract with Noise Records.
1985: In March “Helloween” the first mini-LP was released. “When we made our mini album, “e;Helloween”, it was the first recording. So, “this is the mixer! This is the recording mic! Wonderful!! We were excited!” said Ingo smiling. Then, on November 18th the band released “Walls of Jericho”, the first full-length album that laid the basis of modern power metal with its unique speed’n’ thrashy touch. The album gathered the metal audience’s approval and got also lots of positive reviews from all over Europe.
1986: November. While touring all over Europe, Kai found some difficulties in singing and playing guitar at the same time. Ingo confirmed: “Kai wanted to devote himself to be a guitarist. So sooner or later we needed a singer, a front man”. So they recruited the 18 year-old prodigy singer Michael Kiske and started working on their third effort. “When he joined, he was eighteen years old, but I thought he himself knew he was a talented man and he knew well what he should do”.
1987-1988: “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part. I” finally saw the light on February 1987, putting Helloween on a higher level of popularity and received overwhelming feed-backs from all over the world, including U.S.A and Japan.
After touring Europe ( with Overkill) and U.S.A. ( with Armored Saint and Grim Reaper), in 1988 the band released the second part of the Keeper’ s concept, ” Keeper of The Seven Keys Part II” . The album went gold in Germany and Asia, and reached #108 on the U.S. Billboard Chart as well… and the whole heavy metal world fell in love with the Pumpkins!
1989: On January 1st Kai left Helloween and formed a new project called Gamma Ray. It’s well known that Ingo never recovered from his good friend’s departure… The guys found in Roland Grapow ( from Rampage) a brand new guitarist that fit with the band not just only as a musician but as a friend as well. Talking about Roland’s joining Ingo said : “The rapid growth of Roland is amazing. Because before joining Helloween, he was a car repairman. [..] Suddenly he had a call from Weiki : “Why don’t we play together in Helloween?” .
With this new line-up, Helloween embarked on their second U.S.A. tour. During this period, the guys decided to break up their contract with Noise and signing with EMI Records, but things didn’t exactly go as they were expecting and they plunged soon into a real mess… Noise filed a lawsuit against Helloween which went on for a longtime.
1990: At the end of the legal battle Helloween lost and the band had to pay a huge amount of money to Noise Records. In addition they were not allowed to perform or release any kind of material except for Europe and Japan. This bitter experience left its mark on the whole band, especially on Ingo who remembered: “1989 was a terribly bad time for the band and for me. I had never experienced such hard days before”. During those days Ingo was dying to play drums so, together with Markus, he took part as special guest in a German metal band called Doc Eisenhauer which released the album “Alles im Lack” (1992) and did also a few concerts in some pubs around Hamburg. The beginning of the 90’s were also crucial for Ingo’s health because he started giving some signs that something was going wrong with his mind…
1991: After two years of silence, Helloween finally released “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” but only in Japan and U.K. The album didn’t receive many positive reviews by fans and critics. This was one of many reasons that brought some tensions between the guys about what kind of musical direction the band should take.
1992-1993: After reaching an agreement with EMI and Noise, “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” was finally released in Germany and rest of Europe as well ( april 1992). One year later it was the turn of “Chameleon”. Even though it contained some very good tracks, the album was harshly criticized and became the most disappointing work of Helloween’s whole carreer. Inner tensions grew, meanwhile Ingo’s health situation became really serious: he seemed to be sunk in a deep state of depression, his behavior was characterized by strange and crazy episodes and, in addition to that, he was heavily into drugs ( cocaine and hashish) and drank a lot, starting a dangerously vicious circle that he couldn’t get out of. However, Helloween went on tour to promote “Chameleon” and his conditions kept up worsening. ” We started to notice something was wrong with him when we were on tour, with all that road pressure” remembers Weiky ” Ingo had a strange behavior… he did strange things and we noticed something seriously wrong with him. We lived with him and we could see his changes”.
And the situation took a turn for the worse: during a show in Hiroshima, Ingo collapsed on stage and was immediately hospitalized. During some therapies and treatments they found out that Ingo suffered from hereditary schizophrenia. The whole band didn’t know what to do with him, but one thing was clear: he couldn’t be part of the band anymore until he recovered from drugs and alcohol abuse and took his medications against schizophrenia seriously; so after a six hour telephone call with Weikath, in which he explained why they had made that hard and painful decision, Ingo was asked to leave Helloween. Schwichtenberg’s replacement in the band was Uli Kusch.
Talking about Ingo’s mental disease as well as his drug and alcohol addiction, Weiky said ” … He was destroying his own brain and he didn’t notice it! The problem was that he didn’t know how many damages he was doing. How could we let him go through the stress of a new album and a new tour? “. Unfortunately it seemed that Ingo never accepted his fate and he didn’t trust doctors, so he didn’t take his medications regularly: “Ah, it’s all crap what they tell me. Why should I take medications? I have to heal myself somehow” he used to say.
1995: After his ejection from the band, Schwichtenberg slid further and further into his schizophrenic episodes. Everybody knows how the story ended. On march 8, 1995 Ingo committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway train. It happened two and a half months before his 30th birthday. ” If he could have lived a life with a wife, children and a house in the fields, he would certainly have had a better chance to be better” said Weiky ” The stress in our carreers is terrible, sometimes I think I’m lucky surviving all this. Imagine how all that damaged Ingo! To be honest, I think that he took much more than his condition would allow”.
His friend Kai Hansen had dedicated the song “Afterlife” from Gamma Ray’s Land of the Free to him. As well, Michael Kiske made a tribute to Schwichtenberg with the track “Always”, from his first solo album Instant Clarity. Also the song Step Out of Hell from Helloween album Chameleon is written by Roland Grapow about Schwichtenberg’s problems with drugs and drinking.