Michael Kiske – Good Karma Chameleon Part II

Monday, 16th December 2013

As for the second installment of our interview with Michael Kiske, once discussion moved past the evolution of his solo career and Avantasia, we waxed over somewhat of a contentious topic – the Helloween reunion rumors that have popped up of late. As you’ll read below, Kiske isn’t exactly in favor of them, while his former bandmates are straddling the fence, seemingly open to the idea, but not quite ready to embrace it. Kiske, though, makes it pretty clear where he stands…

Dead Rhetoric: Moving along, the two solo albums you did in the 90’s (Instant Clarity and Readiness to Sacrifice) – do you view them differently now?

Kiske: Of course, but I feel the same with the Keeper records. I don’t know many musicians – maybe some – but after a couple of years, or for some, a couple of weeks, you’d maybe do things differently. You can’t worry about that, but you do whatever you feel right when the time is to do it, and that’s okay. A lot of the stuff is pretty funny to me when I listen to it now. That was the best I could do in those days. I see those years after Helloween as a learning phase. I was learning so much, even producing records nobody cared about. Even the process of setting up the microphones, mastering, mixing…you learn so much. I don’t want to miss that. There have been some nice tunes, too. I don’t think there’s all crap there. Maybe I’ll feel the same way about the new Unisonic record five years from now.

Dead Rhetoric: Considering your state of mind doing Instant Clarity, was it hard getting up to do something like that?

Kiske: I think the Instant Clarity record was rather easy because there was good money support, especially from Japan. Then I had Kai [Hansen] and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) there for support. And I was renting a house and we had everything set up there. That was quite fun to do. Then it got difficult afterwards when you don’t reach the sales for certain record companies. You get less money and you have less available production – that makes it more difficult. I actually lost interest, to be honest with you. Looking back now, maybe the Instant Clarity album still had a bit of the…drive of the past, it was still in there. Then I completely lost interest. I was interested in other things. I was studying things, reading books every day. There was this request for another record and I made one, but it wasn’t until 2006 when I got interested again.

Dead Rhetoric: But what about when you started working with Avantasia and Tobi [Sammet] called you up? You were eased back into metal and didn’t even use your real name on the first record. [Editor’s note: Kiske went by the name of “Ernie” for Avantasia’s 2001 The Metal Opera album.]

Kiske: I was the one who wanted it that way. That was my hate phase…I was anti-everything. I only did it because I liked Tobi. He sent me the material and what he wanted me to do, and I thought, “That sounds familiar!”

Dead Rhetoric: Yeah, just a little…

Kiske: It’s not what I wanted to do and I was in a very difficult phase, but I liked his attitude. I just like him. He’s very direct, upfront. He has a nice mixture of respect and disrespect, which is nice. I just did it because I like him, and now I ‘m glad I did it. It’s such a beautiful part of my life now. It’s a joyride to be on the road with them and to tour on that level and to meet all of those people on the road again. I’m so happy I said yes to the first one…it’s why I’m with them now. Now I love the music, which is the funny thing. [laughs] I didn’t care much in those days, but I really like it.

Dead Rhetoric: And that was smack-dab in the period where you didn’t want much to do with metal, and here you are, singing over music that very obviously, sounds like the Keeper albums.

Kiske: Oh yeah. And like I said – it was because of Tobi’s personality that I did it. Then I said, “You have to call me ‘Ernie.’” Then, when the first Place Vendome came out – which turned out a lot heavier than I thought it would – the third one, the new one, is AOR in my book. The first one had a lot of metal, among clear AOR tracks. It was hard to get used to it, but I enjoyed it. My voice sounds good with that “guitar” music. It’s part of the process.

Dead Rhetoric: People would die if you did a full-album with speedy double-bass songs.

Kiske: That would be boring. [laughs]

Dead Rhetoric: Do you get a lot of requests to do guest vocals?

Kiske: Oh my, yes. Way more than I ever could do. I can’t do all of that stuff. There are some really sweet, passionate musicians out there, and sometimes I do it because I like the passion, but I can’t do everything. There’s a lot of very amateur musicians out there that are fans who have material, and they know I tend to do things way more than anyone else. You hardly see Bruce Dickinson recording vocals on a record of a fan. You do all this stuff. Sometimes I think it’s cool to do that especially because no one does it.

Dead Rhetoric:  There’s been some talk lately of a potential reunion between you and the Halloween guys, so I wanted to get your thoughts. Any truth to these rumors?

Kiske: No. That’s something the Helloween guys are bringing up. They have that in their head for whatever reason…I don’t know why. They have their own singer [Andi Deris]. I wouldn’t do that. I’m up for peace, up for talking everything out and getting everything out of our systems. I met up with [Michael] Weikath a couple of weeks ago in Sweden. He was extremely nice and friendly. It was clear they have changed their mood. They’ve changed their attitude toward me.

They really did me a lot of wrong over the years. I don’t want to pass the blame here, but they’ve accused me of doing things that they know very well are not right. They needed some stuff to convince the old fans that it’s good I’m not there anymore, and they went way too far. One of the things that I was really pissed about was this “musical direction” talk, as if I would be the person to tell anyone what kind of music he should do! Everyone who knows me – anyone who really knows me – knows my attitude is totally different. I would always say “Do what you believe in. Whatever song is your song, write it, go play it.” I would never be the person to tell anyone in Helloween the direction we were supposed to go. That was so ridiculous, to blame me for the things that came up. Yes, I was responsible for my own songs, but it was always something the band made work…or not.

Dead Rhetoric: I talked to Weike in person when they were here in the States in September and we talked about Chameleon, and how the band was trying to be like Queen…

Kiske: I don’t think we were a band anymore in those days. We didn’t try anything on Chameleon; there were three songwriters trying to make a solo record. We were not functioning as a band anymore. Totally dysfunctional. But about this reunion thing, I’m in Unisonic now. I don’t know how they have suddenly changed their tone and why I should be there for a reunion tour and all. Like I said: I’m fine with making peace, but you can’t undo the past. I’m a typical person. I can easily forgive, but I never forget. If someone betrays me, I tell them, “Okay, I forgive you. Go in peace. I don’t trust you anymore. You showed me who you are. I’m not saying you can’t change, but you have to do a lot to convince me you have changed.”

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