Everytime we say the same things, when we have the pleasure to make an interview live/On Air here during our Radio Program. But this time, let me say that I am really happy, I am really honoured, I am really proud, I am so excited because tonite we have Michael Kiskeeeeee!!!!!
MK:Hallo. I am not Michael, I am Harald Schmidt (a German comedian and journalist; ndr)
Moin Michael, willkommen bei Rock On! Just today I discovered that we are the same age (born 1968) and actually my very first concert, when mama allowed me to go out of home, it was long ago, 1987 in Reggio Emilia M.o.R. when I saw this unbelievable band HELLOWEEN … do You remember this band’s name, maybe??
MK:Mh, noo. Who is this? Is it a new band that is coming out with a record? Yes it could be, maybe with a record that is talking about keeping some keys, etc…
I felt immediately in love with this screamer, so today I thought:
“Shit … I was so young, I was just a teenager going to a metal concert…damn! And he, Michael, was also 19 years old. And already performing in the best German band (excluding Scorpions…)”.
MK:… and Accept!
Ah of course, Accept too! So, you were only 19 years old and you were already kicking our asses!
MK: Yeah! It is quite a while ago, we were both babies at that time, but it was great, it was awesome, it was a great time too. I mean, since you have my age, you know how the 80’s have been. Musically it was much more interesting than what happens now in these days. It was very fruitfull rock, metal and pop or whatever, music scene by that time.
I am quite happy that I had my teenage years in those days.
Yeah me too actually! Even if we didn’t know that we were living during the best era of metal. A lot of great album came out every week …
MK:Yeah, totally! Like every month you go to the record store and there was a new band coming out with great records, and one was better than the other. It was great a time and it was very inspiring.
Mike, ah sorry, do you prefer I call you Michael (in German), Michael (in English)?
MK:Call me Elvis please! Don’t worry. That’s the good thing about Michael, it is also an English name.
Just my mother calls me “Schieter” (pet name for beloved people in the dialect of Hamburg; ndr) which is pretty ridicolous because I am getting close to 50 and she still calls me “Schieter”, you know, you call a “Schieter” someone who actually is pooing in his paints.
As I told you my life was running in parallel with yours. When you left the metal scene I was really sad, that time.
Was it true that you were really fed up with all the system, the business, and that you didn’t want to belong to satanic bands and all those shit.
MK:Yes, I never liked these types of bands, but in the 90’s I had too many bad things going on. I had too many bad experiences so I was totally fed up with it. There was a number of years where I didn’t want to have anything with it.
I was just dealing with other things. It was just a lot of things coming out together, bad experience with Helloween, and then the metal scene, especially over the 90’s took a path like Slipknot, Korn, Marylin Manson and all that stuff, that just is not my cup of tea.
And on the other side, I was dealing with a lot of spiritual things which I still do. It was a combination of all those negative experiences. Getting into the spiritual side of life, a lot deeper, and then my solo record has been criticized because not sounding like Helloween records. Everything was negative. So I kind of got fed up with it and I went totally to the opposite, you know, I didn’t care about anything anymore, that anyone wanted to hear from me. Just slowly over the years it got better, it started at the end of the 90’s with Avantasia with Tobi. [Tobias Sammet; ndr]
This was one of my questions, as well. It was thanks to Tobi that you came “back to the system”, let’s say?
MK: He is at least one, he is an important part of it. It was not only him. It was also Serafino Perugino, from Frontiers Records, he came out with Place Vendome. I got to know Dennis (Ward, producer; ndr) through it, which it led to Kosta (Zafiriou, drummer; ndr) and Unisonic in the end, and through Avantasia I was on stage with Kai (Hansen, old Helloween guitar player; ndr) again and then we started talking that we want to do music together again so he joined Unisonic. So it all came together but it was a slow proccess over the years.
If I remember well, it was in 2010 when I saw your coming back with Unisonic, at the Sweden Rock Festival. I was so excited to see you again on stage. This was one of the first time you performed “live” again?
MK: Oh yeah, this was the first gig after almost 17 years. It was scary! It was like we didn’t even had a record out, that’s why we played Place Vendome material, that was the lonely choice. We just announced Unisonic, and then Sweden Rock said “We want you to play there!” But we said “We don’t have a record!” we didn’t have a choice, so we played Place Vendome material which actually made that gig very special, because it was the only time that we played Place Vendome material.
Indeed. I was surprised. At the beginning of the show you were a bit “shy” if I may say this …
MK: I was very nervous, of course! I didn’t even know if I could still do it! I mean, when you haven’t done things like that for such a long time, you don’t even know if you wanna do it! I just had to try it out, it was gig by gig by gig, and especially later on, the Avantasia Tour. That first Avantasia tour, that was extremely important, because I was in the rhythm, I was like almost on stage every second day, or every next day, for a hole bunch of weeks. And that gave me my confidence back. It was again, it is very natural when you haven’t been on stage for such a long time, of course, you’re nervous. I mean, before the gig I was scared but when I was on stage I wasn’t that much after a while,
I got into it, but still I was stiff in all which just is very normal when you haven’t been doing this for such a long time.
Yeah. I remember it! I was phoning to everybody in Italy: “Oh my God! He’s singing again! His voice is ubelievable even on stage!” You needed only few minutes to warm up, but then the magic was pure again! I was so excited to see you again!
MK: It was great! It was also a very friendly festival. I remember that. There was just some kind of signing session afterwards and there was lots of very sweet fans there. Which was also great.
Which is your secret? How you can still keep your voice so brilliant?
MK: I think that you have to work with your voice, you just have to be enjoying singing. Because when you do that type of vocals it’s like an extreme sport, if you talk to someone who does some kind of an extreme sport he will have to keep himself in shape, he will have to, whatever he is doing, he has to prepare for it. And If you do it right, you do not damage yourself. And it’s the same with that type of singing. If you sing, not only when you have to, but also in your free time, because you enjoy doing it, or if you have a new microphone to check out, whatever. So if you constantly, not everyday, but if you don’t take like months of break, if you continue working with your voice, you’re always in control! You know what you’re doing and then you don’t fuck yourself off live when you are in control.
Let’s talk about this project made by Serafino Perugino, who dediced to call the band PLACE VENDOME and to have Michael Kiske as the vocalist: Is it difficult for you to sing songs that you didn’t write, where you didn’t participate in the songwriting process?
MK:No, no. I always did that. I mean, in Helloween, l was just writing a few songs here and there, anyway. I mean, it’s the same situation, I was singing stuff from Kai (Hansen; ndr) or Weiki (Michael Weikat; ndr). Of course it’s slightly different because we were working those songs out in the rehersal room. The band process is different in a real band than in Unisonic, sorry, in Place Vendome. But in Place Vendome you, more or less, get like a finished kind of basic track and then you have to figure out the vocals for yourself. But it’s great, I love doing that! It’s amazing because, especially, when you do songs that you haven’t written yourself, you learn a lot of new things, because those songs are written in a way you would probabily never do it. I love doing that! It’s a great challenge. Of course if I don’t like, if there’s something that I don’t like, I can change it. Sometimes I change some lines in the lyrics, something I change to the opposite, of what they sayed, because I don’t see it that way, or whatever … stuff like that! It’s great fun to do! I am always doing by myself, in my own place, I do it whenever I like, and that is just amazing, and great fun to do. Since Dennis (Ward; ndr) is producing it, it’s always gonna turn out right. This time the songs were very pleasing. I like this record a lot better than the previous one.
I think you put your trademark on this record, even if sometimes the way you are singing is a bit weird, strange, let’s say different.
Am I wrong?
MK:It’s just the songs. You know, the song demands the singing. I mean I am singing a lot of different stuff privately. It is just the most known things, the classical high pitches, kind of “metal” vocals. But I am capable of doing other things and I enjoy doing other things. The only difference is, you’re not the first one asking the same, I didn’t see it that way at all. I am just hearing a song and I am trying to figure it out how to do it. And if I don’t like it, I do it again. The song demands the vocals in my opinion. So it’s the songs that make me sing in that way or this way.
In the 80’s I was also a Pink Cream’69 fan. Which is the link relating you with this band? I mean: Kosta, Uwe, Dennis, they are all playing with you.
MK:It probabily just came together because of Kosta (drummer of PC69, ndr) I would say. Because Costa is managing Helloween and other bands with his agency (Botton Row; ndr) and he is good friend with Dennis. So when Dennis is looking for musicians, he’s probabily looking in his neighbourhood, people he knows, who came together. I never had big relationships with Pink Cream ’69 I am just starting a great relationships with Andi (Deris, ndr) now!
Actually that was a question I wanted to ask you. Even if, to be sincere, when you left and Andi jumped into the Helloween troop, I was sad. Because in one shot we lost two bands: PC 69 and Helloween. Sorry to be frank. He was completely different in my ears, I didn’t like it at all.
MK:It was a very big change! Of course, it is always a big change when you change a vocalist of a successfully band. It was a stupid time. It was just something that had to happen I guess. I needed this time off. I needed that time for myself.
…And he’s performing also some guitar parts on the album.
MK:Yeah sometimes he does few things but he also got few guitar players like Gus G (Ozzy Osbourne, Firewind, ndr), Kai Hansen, Mandy (Meyer; ndr) played there a bit, too. He was just going crazy with guitar players on that record.
Yeah I saw that the album has a bunch of guests.
MK:Yeah! It shows you that it’s not really a band! It’s just a studio project.
You also did a cover of a DGM song – an Italian band, friends of us.
MK:You mean the one we did the cover for?
Yeah. The song is called “Hereafter”.
MK:Nooo! I dind’t even know that it was a cover! We both didn’t know! We were doing the song and then when the mix was done, Dennis was just actually sending me the link of a Youtube video of that song. I would have loved to know before because than I would have sang it a lot different. I thought: “That’s a great demo!”, when I heard it. Because the vocals are great! That guy sounds pretty cool! I thought: “That sounds great for a demo!” But it wasn’t! If I would have known it has been recorded I would have done some other things in the versus, in the bridges, maybe slightly different. But it turned out good anyway.
I don’t think we will ever see you performing live with this band, because it’s a project.
MK:Noo. Especially now that I am doing the Helloween thing – I don’t see that. I’ve so many good things that I can play live with, you know. Avantasia, I do the Helloween stuff now, and than there is Unisonic … that’s more than enough.
Let’s talk about the reunion. You will share the stage with Andi, who now is a friend of yours …
MK:Yeah actually that’s the funny thing! I never met him before! And he never met me. Whatever we had as an impression of each other was created by other people – which is a very interesting thing. The time we met up, on the first meeting we had, at the beginning of last year, we both were the ones that right away kind of clicked. That was funny. He was the one I felt good with right away. I just came back last week, wednesday, from Tenerife, where he lives, and I’ve been there for two weeks. We were just meeting up like everyday. It’s a very funny situation, I really like him! We get along very nicely. I am sure he will tell you the same. We’re not just saying this for fucking Helloween or something. It’s just a fact. We get along very nicely. Even with his wife I’ve a strong connection, too. Spiritually. Very interesting because, you know, looking back, he was always this individual of pain for me: he took over my job, he’s doing that now. It’s such a great feeling to actually get along with him – not only getting along with him. But really liking him! It’s great!
I mean the hole thing for me, the hole Helloween thing, for a number of years, it would have beedn impossible for me to do, because I was hurt. I was refusing anything. Like three, four years ago, I was refusing anything, even thinking in that direction. And now I am so happy that I am doing it, because it’s such a relief. you know. I am sitting there while Weiki (Michael Weikat; ndr) is living in Tenerife, too. So I wasn’t only meeting up with Andi all the time, and he was showing me all those great places where you can eat, you know, these local places, not the tourist places, where they have the best food. And very often Weiki came by and it’s such a new situation for me, sitting in front of this guy, and actually having good feelings going in this direction.
This is something that I didn’t think would ever be possible, but that’s life you know! You grow older, things change.
Talking about Sweden Rock, that was actually 2013 when I played there with Avantasia, where I ran into Michael Weikath backstage. That was my first kind of experience with him, and I just realized that all my anger was gone!
That was very interesting to me. That was the start of it all. Running into him, he said to me, the first line he said to me was: “Michael, what have I done that you can’t forgive me?
Uuuuh! He apologized!
MK:That was just the perfect thing to say! I just said: “You know what, I think I have forgiven you long time ago.”
And that was just the fact, that was just the way I thought. That’s how all started and than a year later, we had some, three nice concerts in Spain with Unisonic, and at the end of one of the gigs, we were backstage and Kai Hansen, who is always very important when it comes to this, he was always trying to motivate me a little bit in this direction over the years, because he want to do this since long time. Backstage Kai said to me: “You know Michael, if we don’t ever do anything again under the name of Helloween, we’re just idiots!” And I said: “You know what? I am open!” And that is how it started. Than Kosta was in the room, of course, who is managing Helloween with “Botton Row” that’s how everything felt into place.
Is Kosta still playing drums?
MK:Nah. He doesn’t want to play drums anymore. It is just too much work for him. He wants to do the Management business there, if we continue with another Record by that time we probabily might take Felix (Bohnke; ndr), from Edguy and Avantasia. He asked me to. He wants to do that. He is a very good option as he is a great drummer. Who knows maybe he will be on the next Unisonic Record. Who knows.
Who is your best friend you have in the metal scene?
MK:Of course it is the people I work with. I’ve got started a friendship with Joe Lynn Turner. He actually is a very sweet guy. I had some great hours with him, when we did this touring thing. And of course it is Dennis Ward, who became very friend of mine. I mean, we are not only talking when we are producing something, we write sms back and forward almost every day. We always have something about microphones or we send shootout from youtube back and forward. Dennis became a friend of mine … Kai is always busy having party! Taking holidays somewhere with his girlfriend, but I mean, when we get together it’s always fun with him. He is always great fun and of course he is a buddy of mine, but it’s a different level.
Did you had the time to listen to some Helloween stuff in the past? Or do you prefer not to listen them? Is there any any song of the “Andi Deris era” that you wished to sing instead of him?
MK:In the 90’s I was refusing listening to it. I mean I was hurt, I was pissed – so I didn’t listen to any of it. I refused it completely. But now, since we’re planning to do this, I was starting to listen to some of the songs, and I actually like some of the stuff. I didn’t listened to a lot yet, but some of the songs they picked out, for me, as an option that I could do, the management thing, it could be an interesting idea to have like one or maybe two songs of his era, that I do vocals live for. Just to give him an option and viceversa.
We will certainly do some stuff together. We will certainly do like the song “Helloween” for instance. We gonna share it because it’s the perfect song for it, it’s like an opera, you have these differents parts (starts to sing) “I’LL SHOW YOU PASSION AND GLOORY? ” … ” HE IS THE SNAKE”.
You can make like a theatrical kind of thing out of it. It’s just the perfect song for doing something like that. We will also sing stuff in harmony and things like that. But since I am supposed to check out some of the stuff they have in mind theat I could do, from the Andi era, I started to listen to it. And I like it! It is actually pretty cool! It is also produced in a very nice way.
I was also for so many years, for the first time, listening again to the “Keeper” Records (“Keeper of the Seven Keys” Part I e Part II;ndr) and just trying to sing them again, and I know why they are so succesfull, because the spirit is great. Of course, I was a teenager, we were all over young, and a lot of things you woul do different nowadays. And the production you can do things a lot better these days. It’s all very 80’s, it’s all very wild, but the spirit is just very nice. There is no fear, we had no fear of anything, we were just doing the stuff that even the record company didn’t want us to do. They hated most of the stuff we did on the “Keeper” Records because they only followed out “Walls Of Jericho” (first Album of Helloween;ndr) which was the successfull record before, and the record companies they always don’t like it when you change. They always want you to do exactly the same … we didn’t care! We just went for it. Stuff like “Rise and Fall”, “Dr. Stein” – only crazy stuff, with Tommy Hansen. We were totally fearless and that spirit is on the record. I can sing most of the shit better now. I can do the high shit just exactly the same, but I am lot better in the lower range, I am lot better in the middle range, I am much stronger there and I have more control, technically. I was a teenager and I sound like a teenager, but the spirit is great, it’s great fun to do and I am really happy that I can still like it, I can still put my name under it and say: “Yeah, that’s cool!”
Do you think that the Avantasia shows experience will give you some more ideas and inspirations for the next Helloween reunion sets?
MK:I don’t think so. It’s a different kind of party. We are celebrating like 30 years of Helloween, with the two phases: the “Hansen/Kiske era” and the “Andi Deris era”. So we will have like video screens, with some special stuff going on.
It’s a different thing. It’s a band that has two very different phases, periods. Like Van Halen for instance, when you look at the phase with Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth, you can do the same kind of thing there I hope they don’t do it, because we think it’s a good idea that we do it now. I think that It’s very cool to do something like that because I don’t know anyone has ever done anything like that. You know, usually, someone gets kicked out and then a new boy comes in (or girl). We don’t do it anymore. We just have Kai and me joining the club, and we make even bigger circus out of it which I think it’s a cooler idea. You have bands like KISS who always had two singers with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and people know about it. But now we have two singers, too. And actually very different singers. And it will be a lot more interesting live than having just one singer. I think it’s also commercially a “plus” to do something like that, Avantasia is, in general, a Rock Opera with seven or eight singers at least. Which is an even bigger circus than now.
Could it be that the refrain of Avantasia’s “Unchain the light” is the most powerful refrain you ever sang?
MK:Yes, Tobi was doing this in a very high pitch key. I don’t want to mix it up. Is “Unchain the Night” that one with the very high chorus, as well? I wasn’t even sure if he is insane when he wrote it to me. I was like complaining “Are you crazy?” I still have balls! But then I tried it out and it sounded cool. It was a kind of working. Tobi loves the high stuff, when I do the high stuff. He always plays with the Helloween kind of vibes in Avantasia. I would love to do a bit more some Pop songs in Avantasia than he does, like the more Rock Mainstream kind of stuff. I would like to do it. And I know that Bob Catley would like to do speed metal songs ones! So we should swap it! But I am pretty sure that Tobi is always gonna write something that he things suits the successfull style of the singer somehow. It’s a great song. It’s a great song to sing! Tobi knows what he does.
What about your collaboration with the Sommerville / Kiske project?
MK:I don’t know. I don’t ever know if we will do another one. We might some time, but, I don’t want to do too much,you know. Now that the Helloween thing is coming up, and that’s on a very, very high level. We will play in big places. Making like a big production, and it’s like we are planning to make a lot of big festivals next year, also. I am sure there’s gonna be a longer break time after that again. And then I am actually planning to do another Unisonic with Dennis. So I don’t know if there will be time for making another one. But I love Amanda and I know that this project means something in her eyes, it probabily gonna happen some time but I cannot really tell you when.
Which is your favourite song on this Place Vendome album?
MK:”Strong” is one of my favourites, I like a lot of the songs on the album, but that one is especially good. I sang it like 45 minutes, an hour, because that is how much I can feel the song!
Do you have any special formula how to save the heavy metal scene nowadays?
MK:Well in the end you need good bands and you need good records. When we play with Unisonic or Avantasia it is always sold out, most of the times. In the south of Germany we were even playing for like in 4,500 – which is not bad for that type of music. It depends on the bands. If you have good bands coming up, who are having something else to say than “Evil, Evil, Evil, Satan, Satan, Satan” it can get to a bright audience. Helloween has a good spirit, I think that’s for why we had been around for such a long time. It made us different in the 80’s already. We always had this sense of humour. We were never a satanic kind of band. This is a big reason. I mean a lot of people just get scared away from this negative image the music scene has. The more positive bands you have … you don’t have to be White Metal Band, but be uplifting. be positive to life, have some good messages and the scene will grow up again I think the scene had a strong down out of its negative vibes for so many years.
You never tried to growl?!
MK:To what? Oh my God! I sound like that when I throw up, actually.
Don’t worry! At Rock ON we are more related to melodic music, taking about love. We hate death metal … so we agree with you.
MK:The image of the music scene has just gone very bad because of those sick bands. It just needs more positive kind of bands. Bands who have a good approach to life and have some heart energy instead of – whatever you wanna call it. It’s a weakness to me! If you idialise darkness, hatred and all that. It’s just a weakness. They are just wimps. They just don’t have any heart, that’s the thing! I don’t know, maybe they’re scared, maybe that’s a cry for love even. I don’t know.
I totally agree with you. You know how difficult it was for me in the 80’s to listen to Heavy Metal music in a Catholic country like Italy …
MK:The Catholics are more satanic than anyone. I believe in God and in Christ, but I just don’t believe in the church. I don’t like the church, I don’t think that they are christianity. They just used it, they misused it. They are actually fighting against all living spiritaulities. I think they betrayed Christ. The Antichrist is very strong in the Roman Catholic Church. Not only in Metal!
Wow. Thanks for the long talking. You’re invited here any time to party and to tell us even the second part of this long story! We’ve delicious food and good wine, if you prefer wine.
MK:Yes I love red wine.
So vielen Dank Michael!
MK:(Laughing) You’re welcome!
@Written and corrected by Sabrina Deckert