Michael Kiske – To Be Exceptional

Wednesday, 22nd April 2015

Beloved former Helloween singer Michael Kiske is a busy man these days. His own Unisonic outfit is on the cycle for its second album, the well-received Light of Dawn. In addition, he has his hard rock project Place Vendome, and, the collaboration this interview was arranged for, Kiske/Somerville. Paired up with American vocalist Amanda Somerville (who has worked with the likes of Avantasia, Kamelot, to name a few), Kiske’s unbeatable, always-melodious team up nicely with Somerville, creating a slightly symphonic, but no less straightforward and hook-oriented effort in the form of their second album, City of Heroes.

But in talking to Kiske, you’re always going to get something different than what you expect. The man – arguably one of the best interviewees in metal – was ripe for discussion on the current state of his career, the unavoidable topic of his time with Keeper of the Seven Keys-era Helloween, and the noticeable gap of productivity in his career where many assumed Kiske would never return to metal. Alas, he has. He’s better for it, and so are we.

So here’s the Golden Voice of Metal himself in top form in a discussion that eventually led to Kiske sending this journalist a batch of Elvis songs, which are utterly fantastic, and will be kept under lock and key. Here goes…

Dead Rhetoric: Between Unisonic and the various side projects you’re involved in currently, is this most fun you’ve ever had in your career?

Michael Kiske: Absolutely. It’s different. The most fun you ever have in your life is usually when you’re very young. You have an ability to be excited about everything that only young people can have. That’s the beauty of youth. Your soul is still so open and wants to suck it all in. The most fun years of my life in terms of being onstage was the first number of years with Helloween. But I have pretty much the same fun now, but I’m so different now that it’s hard to compare. It’s a different quality of fun.

Dead Rhetoric: Are you a lot of projects being thrown your way these days?

Kiske: Way too many, which I can’t complain about. I guess it says people like what I’m doing. I also must say, pretty much all of the projects that I’m still continuing to do, they started before Unisonic. I have the plan to start with Unisonic and let it all die pretty much. It’s difficult to do that because you have an audience who likes this stuff. It’s easy to do. It’s not painful for me at all to sing a record like the Kiske/Somerville or Place Vendome. It’s easy; very quickly done and I enjoy it. It’s hard for me to let it go, but I try to keep it to a certain level, so there’s a whole bunch of things I can’t do.

Dead Rhetoric: It also helps you’re doing a variety of projects. They all don’t sound the same.

Kiske: I love it! I love to do many things, but as you said, I’m not playing live with Kiske/Somerville. I have to restrict it somehow. It was offered to me five years before I had my own band, which I really love. I was able to do whatever I wanted to do because there was no band to feel pissed about. We only did this [self-titled] record and we did lots of interviews, but that was it. It was not a real band, so in the meantime, I made my own band, and that’s my priority right now. Amanda wants to do things and her heart is bleeding that I have to turn all of these offers down. I explained to her in an email that it’s not possible for me – I’m not a solo artist anymore. I have to sort it out with my management and if they say it’s not a good idea, then I probably won’t do it. Unless this record goes over the top and sells zillions, it would be insane not to play live, but I see that. It will do okay, but Unisonic is a different kind of world that will be my priority.

Dead Rhetoric: It helps with Unisonic that Kai also has Gamma Ray, Dennis [Ward] has studio stuff, so you’ll have these windows to do other things.

Kiske: You can’t forget that I had many years where I was doing too little.

Dead Rhetoric: Right, you weren’t touring and not even recording.

Kiske: I wasn’t doing anything. I was so frustrated with how everything turned out; I’m a very sensitive guy. I’m pretty strong, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a sensitive side. I was really pissed about so many things for a number of years. I reduced it to very little, like three or four years, I would do a solo record. At the end of the 90s, Tobi [Sammett] contacted me about Avantasia and that was my first move in that direction again. From that point on, there were lots of little offers. I even did small bands. Sometimes I sang for amateur bands a song or whatever because I know what it means. I did lots of things like that. Then Serafino [Perugino, Frontiers Records] came up with the Place Vendome stuff and over the years, I’ve made my peace with it and the time was right when Unisonic came up. I wouldn’t say it was wasted time because I used the time spiritually to grow as a person. In terms of record releases, I wasn’t that active at all.

Dead Rhetoric: During that downtime, did you keep your voice in shape?

Kiske: When I started doing Unisonic, I was supposed to go onstage which I hadn’t done before. The very first live appearance I had was with Avantasia which was in 2011. My management wanted me to do it. It was an easy start. You’re not the main singer, you’re just among others. You sing a few songs and it was perfect to get a feel again and figure it out. Can I still do it? Do I hate it? Do I love it? It’s a beautiful bunch of people and I love Tobi – we have a very special friendship. It was a very perfect thing that lead me into this world and when we did the first world tour with Unisonic, I was a lot more ready than I would have been without it. By that time, I had to figure out how much my voice could take. Singing is not bad for the voice. Anyone who tells you too much singing is bad for the voice – they don’t know what singing is. If you do it in the right way, it only makes it stronger, as long as you do things right. It’s something you have to learn and listen and have a feel for it. Then it’s a beautiful journey.

Actually, I didn’t sing in any way enough over those years. There were times where I didn’t sing for two years, nothing. It says what kind of a state I was in terms of music and singing. But I’m so happy I made this turn and said “Yes.” You wouldn’t imagine how much this does me good. I feel so much better now. I’m so glad my voice turned out to be better than ever. It’s just more powerful. It’s fuller. It’s stronger. I have more resonance – I can sing Elvis tunes in a way that actually sound. In the early Keeper years, I was a teenager, which was okay, but I sounded like a teenager. I think my voice sounds a lot better now. In that sense, I think I do things right technically. I love singing; I’m working with my voice. If something doesn’t work out, I figure out how it works. That’s why I’m doing so well.

Dead Rhetoric: A lot of your contemporaries have the guitars tuned down, but you don’t do it.

Kiske: I hate it. The song feels different when you sing it. It makes things more complicated because everything feels complicated. I tell them “Keep the guitars in normal tuning, guys.” I never have any problems singing high.

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