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Interview - Michael Kiske

Interview with Michael Kiske from
by Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco at 23 November 2013, 4:54 AM

Everyone should be familiar with Michael Kiske and all of his accomplishments. The new PLACE VENDOME album “Thunder In The Distance” has just been released, and Metal Temple’s Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco was given the opportunity to speak with him about his artistic efforts and contributions to this band and all of his career’s accomplishments, reigning as one of the most recognized and exceptionally talented vocalists in Metal, fronting HELLOWEEN in the 80s and working with the likes of AVANTASIA, AINA, REVOLUTION RENAISSANCE, TIMO TOLKKI’S AVALON, SUPARED, TRICK OR TREAT, and now heeding the call to be reunited with former HELLOWEEN band member Kai Hansen in UNISONIC.

Hey Brother, it is so cool to get a chance to sit down and chat with you. I revere you as one of my favorite all time vocalists.

Thank You, actually I have been doing quite a lot of interviews with Americans lately.

I appreciate all that you have accomplished, even your solo material. I actually bought “Instant Clarity” as an import when it first came out because you were playing with both Kai Hansen and Adrian Smith.

Yeah, Kai and I have always been friends, which is why it was so good when he joined us with UNISONIC. We figured having two guitarists would really complete the sound we were trying to achieve.

I was so excited when I heard about this. I understand that UNISONIC came about after your working with PLACE VENDOME. I just got the new album, and even though I am not too familiar with the band, I really like the Album-oriented rock approach to the music.

Well, unlike UNISONIC, PLACE VENDOME is not really a band.

From what I have read, apparently the music is written by a number of talented musicians such as Timo Tolkki, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Magnus Karlsson, etc. and you sing while Denis does the production, right?

Basically, I just select the songs I like and work on mixing and recording the vocals here at home. I do not go into a studio and rehearse like we do with UNISONIC.

I find the songs to be quite accessible and fun to hear. I have not heard SUPARED, but I do enjoy your re-working of the HELLOWEEN songs on the “Past In Different Ways” album. I have always been a fan of both “Pink Bubbles” and “Chameleon” and bought the import CDs back then. I had a very engaging conversation with "Weiki" all about the "Heavy Metal Hamsters".

Oh really?

Yes, and I have spoken to Kai all about his time in HELLOWEEN. I actually met you on the 89 Headbanger's Ball Tour with EXODUS and ANTHRAX?

Oh really, it is always fun to reminisce with fans and friends who I met back then, and who still support my work.

Indeed, we are almost the same age, both born in 68 but a few months apart. I skipped half of ANTHRAX's set to meet HELLOWEEN by the buses. I went to the Dayton Hera Arena event with a Japanese exchange student who was able to introduce me to the band. I have talked to the guys in EXODUS about this but their memory is blurred due to too much drug abuse back then. However, you and I had a great conversation, since we were both vegetarians at the time.

Ah, yes, I think I recall. Helloween was really splintering at the time, as Kai had just left. He will never admit it, but this was the biggest mistake of his career.

Well, yes to a certain degree, but then he formed GAMMA RAY, and now is re-united with you in UNISONIC.

Our first U.S. Tour with HELLOWEEN was a lot of fun and lasted for three months. Things were just better then, as we were young but having the time of our lives.

I did not get to see you on the tour with GRIM REAPER and ARMORED SAINT. I did see the Halloween Special Tour event air on MTV, though. I was always bothered by how poorly they edited the "Halloween" video, complaining that it was too long for their viewing audience. Is it not funny how a year later they had no problem with the debut video by METALLICA for "One", or only a few years later the mini-epic by GUNS ‘N ROSES for "November Rain"? At least the video for "I Want Out" celebrated the true spirit and mettle of the band.

Yes we had such fun making that. Our director who did that recently died of cancer.

That is a shame. For me that video epitomized both the silliness and seriousness of HELLOWEEN, which I am sure inspired Toby with EDGUY, and later with AVATASIA which basically rebooted your career, right?

Yes, I respect Toby as he has such amazing talent for writing, and can do so quickly. I was very reticent to do AVANTASIA at first, and I did it for him, which is why I had him call me Ernie. Now in retrospect it was the best decision I ever made. Touring with the band has been such an eye-opening experience.

I admire how none of the AVATASIA albums are the same, and Toby is always re-inventing himself. This is why the first two “Metal Opera” albums are so important. You also worked with Amanda Sommerville in AINA, and later joined up to record a duet album with her.

Like with PLACE VENDOME, that was Serafino Perugino's idea. I did not know her when I did "Silver Maiden" and other songs for AINA. Sacha came up to Toby and I and told us about her project and the song for which she wanted us to sing. Since then we have become close friends and are going to do another album together. It was not originally supposed to be Amanda, though, as I think it was some other lady, Simone, maybe? I do not quite recall.

Simone from EPICA? Surely not Simone from EDENBRIDGE, although she is an amazing vocalist as well.

That sounds right. I think the problem was that her band did not want her to do it, though.

Hmm. That sounds more like a NIGHTWISH notion? Simone gets along quite well with her band, but there may have been scheduling conflicts. Either way, working with Amanda was a wise choice. With AINA she invented her own language for that concept album.

You are very knowledgeable and I very much enjoy having this conversation with you. I do not pay too much attention to all those details. You have a very different approach to how you do and view everything. I think you are the first person to compare PLACE VENDOME to my solo efforts, but I appreciate the support.

Thank You! I just mean that you have a very distinct and recognizable voice, as does Toby for that matter, and Kai. Now you can understand why it really hit us hard when you denounced Metal, like when Rob Halford did. Halford gets criticized for his sexual orientation not being Metal, but I could care less, given other excellent front men such as Andi Deris right?

JUDAS PRIEST most likely invented the true Metal sound, then IRON MAIDEN, and ACCEPT here in Germany were so original too.

I agree. First BLACK SABBATH, then JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, SAXON, SCORPIONS, and ACCEPT all laid the foundations. HELLOWEEN set the precedent for what has now become Power Metal. I was wounded by what Rob Halford, the "Metal God" said about Metal in general when he teamed up with Trent Reznor and Johnny Five for the TWO project. When you were angry about the Metal genre you yourself said some harsh things, but I know that you had your reasons.

I was just in a different place altogether. I had made other choices in life. I began a lot of reading and learning about other things. Yes, I was pissed, and felt wronged, but then I met other musicians who shared my grief, and I began to realize what my music meant to the fans.

I am sure you did not want to be pigeonholed to just what you accomplished in HELLOWEEN. I know a lot of people were hoping UNISONIC would be a 'Keys 3'. HELLOWEEN already tried that and it did not pan out too well. I actually like how UNISONIC represents all aspects of yours and the other musician's talents.

Thank You! The problem today is that there is no real originality and everyone is copying everyone else. I have very eclectic taste. I am a big fan of Elvis. I do not want my work to be mechanical. When I was in HELLOWEEN we were honest about our approach. We were just really kids living every minute of our lives, like the song "Kids of the Century". I do not want to live in the past, though.

I respect that. I am always open to what my favourite artists are creating. I do not want them stagnating or repeating themselves. I am not a fan of Elvis at all, and I always wondered why HELLOWEEN did and why UNISONIC do Elvis covers, but if you are an advocate, then more power to you. Although, I prefer Neil Diamond myself.

Is that a fact?

My father liked Elvis, but not I. I prefer other Pop Standard vocalists. I do not like Frank Sinatra either. I always enjoyed the songs you wrote with HELLOWEEN. I really enjoyed the positive approach you took lyrically. I know some found the band to be "Happy Metal" or cheesy, but that is what drew me to the band in the first place. That and the savage pumpkin artwork.

Yeah, everyone was trying too hard to be heavy, fast, or dark. The 80s were a productive time, and everyone was creative and inventive. Even the Pop genre had some really good songs.

I agree, and I listened to those songs along while voraciously feeding my Metal appetite. Everything is so fake today. I am amazed Cher has a new album, as her new single sounds like Annie Lennox’s.

I have always been a fan of Suzy Quattro. Although, I did have a crush on Pat Benatar too. With UNISONIC we want to keep the inspiration and songwriting fresh and spontaneous. Sure, we play the classics for fans but it is much more than that.

This is why the band is made up of such talent and artists with whom you work in a number of projects.

Yes, we are like a family. I sang on the first GAMMA RAY album that Kai did vocals on, and he guested on mine.

I know you did Time To Break Free. You rejoined GAMMA RAY on stage recently and performed that live on their new Master Of Confusion (EP) and Skeleton & Majesties Live album. Kai never thought GAMMA RAY would continue after Ralph departed, but he made the band better and tighter, and we all love his unique vocals. Ralph went on with Mat Sinner to form PRIMAL FEAR, so it always eventually works out. Then you worked with Mat when recording with Amanda.

Yeah, I guess once you make your peace and embrace everything. I actually spoke with Michael Weikath recently and we seem to be on the same page about things now.

I also spoke with him, and we discussed you. Go figure! I know that break-ups are like a divorce and it is hard not to want to harden your heart, but time does eventually heal. On a personal note how did the band deal with the tragedy with Ingo? I am so grateful that I at least got a chance to briefly meet him. When we heard the news of his suicide in 1995 it struck us all. There really was no internet, and rumors were spreading.

Yeah, it was during our injunction with Noise Records. The band was inactive, and Ingo became a cokehead in less than two years. When we saw him he was in terrible condition for a guy barely 30. Everything had taken its toll on him. Things were just not the same. This really affected us all in a major way.

Kai dedicated the song "Afterlife" to him, and you recorded "Always" from Instant Clarity, and even made a video.

Yes that is right! Man, you really do know your shit.

Yes, I do, but I am sure that information is on the Internet now and can be accessed quite easily. I know this because when I first bought Land Of The Free on CD I thought the song with Hansi from BLIND GUARDIAN on vocals called “Farewell" was dedicated to Ingo, then I read the credits more carefully. My original copy of Instant Clarity' has lyrics so I knew you were honoring his memory with that song, although, once again before I dug out the booklet I thought the song "Do I Remember A Life" might be a song dedicated to his memory.

I was really trying to evaluate my whole life with that solo album.

So I assume you are hard at work on the next UNISONIC album?

Yes I have three songs written. In December, I will be performing with a number of artists for the "Christmas Metal Symphony Tour" along with Joey Belladonna, Chuck Billy, Udo, Joacim Cans, Floor Jansen, etc. They wanted me to play "I Want Out", but I am going to do "Longing" and "March Of Time" instead.

I saw HELLOWEEN live recently, and wrote a review of my experience. I was amazed at how many people were drawn to their newer material, more so than the classics.

Yes, they are really a whole other band entirely than when I was with them.

I agree and Andi has been in the band now for 20 years, much longer than you ever were. Still I love hearing "Eagle Fly Free", "I Want Out”, “Future World", "Dr. Stein", "Halloween" etc. and even GAMMA RAY play those songs live.

Well, Kai wrote most of them and they are good songs which is why we do them in UNISONIC. We just do not want to become a band that only plays our hits, though.

I respect that. As I mentioned, I celebrate all your vocal appearances whether with AVANTASIA or a smaller HELLOWEENesque act like Italy's TRICK OR TREAT or TRIBUZY. As I told André Matos, I love your very specialized vocal approach. I always recognize when it is you singing, even if it is when you are covering Elvis. Thank You for spending so much time speaking with me.

Michael I have really enjoyed our conversation. This did not feel like an interview. We took some time to get to know one another. I hope to speak to you again when the next UNISONIC album comes out, sometime next year.

Yes, I very much look forward to that. Cheers and farewell!



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