Michael Kiske - When Beliefs And Music Collide
By: Alon Miasnikov
Interview With: Michael Kiske (Vocals)
Michael Kiske is still considered as one of heavy metal's greatest vocalists, even though he has distanced himself from the genre since his much discussed departure from German metallers Helloween. His albums with that band are still considered to be heavy metal masterpieces, but Kiske has long since moved into different musical horizons - such as acoustic rock.
His latest project sees him covering his own songs from the Helloween period, this time acoustically, and he recently also did a third stint as a guest vocalist on Tobias Sammet's Avantasia project. Michael was kind enough to fill us in on his latest activities, and also elaborate on his (rather unorthodox) way of thinking.
Hey Michael, First - Happy birthday! I understand it was yesterday, what did you do to celebrate the occasion?
I'm not celebrating my birthdays anymore since I turned 16. So birthdays are pretty much normal days for me, I must say.
The latest update in your website says a new album is almost ready, is that the Helloween acoustics versions? What can you tell us about it?
That's the one. I am very happy with the results. I was quite surprised how nice my songs of those days function as acoustics.
How different or similar is it from your last studio effort because if it made from covers?
Those are different songs, so it is different. But I generally always try NOT to make things the same ways anyway. Every new record shall actually really be something new.
How difficult was it to move the originals to acoustic forms, and what was the reason you decided on doing that?
It was quite easy; sort of came naturally. I think most of them are even stronger now. Especially singing wise. I personally would not have come up with this idea. It was Serafino from Frontiers Records who brought it up. And after a while I thought it was a good idea to make them mine again.
Are you working on original solo work as well at this time?
Yes, I want to write and start recording another record this year.
There are several usual collaborators you work with, such as Sandro Giampietro as a guitarist and Charlie Bauerfeind, are they involved with the current projects as well?
I don't have contact with Charlie for a number of years anymore, but Sandro is always present. Also on this record. He's one of my best friends and a really cool person.
You’re also busy with other stuff as well, what can you tell us about your recent work with Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia project?
That was very nice. I like Tobi. And I think he gets better and better everytime as a songwriter. He also has the guts to move on and try out new things musically; which is very important.
There has been a lot of talk about a future project with Kai Hansen and Roland Grapow, what is the direction of the material planned for it, and where does it currently stand?
Just talking so far. And I am only interested in it, if we do something really different and totally unexpected. I can't stand critics-ass-kissing productions, you know.
Now to some more in-depth questions, First - it seems you will always be approached and both loved and hated by people from the heavy metal genre, something which you relate to at length in your Myspace page, what is your current point-of-view about that, and why do you think that you’re still so important a figure for these people, years after moving far away from that genre?
I guess that is because also in metal many do understand my artistic point of view. Music has got to be a free expression. Any boxes mean the death of true art. These days I don't care at all about stiles and scenes anymore. Those are useless. All I care about is writing a true song. And then I will produce it the way it wants it.
Do you view the ones criticizing your current work just because it’s not metal anymore as people with narrow musical horizons?
Of course! That's all there is to it! They are just little selfish egos who want to make musicians their personal prostitutes. And I am no one's whore in my life. But it all also goes deeper than that. It has to do with an essential leak of respect for the individual.
Now the a basic fact that has interested fans of yours for years, there have been countless rumors about your departure from Helloween, with claims that it happened because you wanted to move into a more pop-rock direction which band members didn’t care for - care to give your own interpretation of the situation back then?
That's bulls**t... which only convinces many, because that's what they want to hear and like to believe. Every musician in Helloween freely wrote the songs he wanted to write. Just look at who wrote Windmill etc. I never forced Mr. Weikath to write that song. And my songwriting was always different anyways (Just check out the coming re-recording of my stuff; it still fits me nicely). I was always behind everything we did. The problem in Helloween was plain personal. But for promotion reasons certain people twist it in the way they like it. But I am certainly the wrong person for the typical: let's reproduce our best selling records forever concept.
It seems that the things happening back then left such a deep and lasting impression on you that you distanced yourself from everything the heavy metal scene represented, what was your state of mind about that back then, and has it changed in the last few years?
My way of thinking about art and also my bigger problem with the glorifying of evil, inhumanity or satanism in the metal-scene already started very early. It just got more and more concrete over the years. That's simply what growing-older means. Many of the the personal problems I had with especially one person the band started to grow the more I found to my own-self. Don't forget that I was a teenager when I did the Keeper records.
What was it that attracted you to the more laidback acoustic work you’re more famous for today?
I don't think a song needs to be loud to be convincing. A good song works also, when you don't blow everything up. Superficial loudness and extremes are sort of a blinding-mask for music in my eyes. Acoustic sounds are also more friendly. But I also like electric guitars if they are not too heavy.
What would you describe as the main musical influence on your solo material? Traditional American 70’s acoustic rock? British acoustic folk?
My life and all music I grew up with. Even in my hardest metal days I was always also listening to very different types of music. When I enjoyed Metallica, Maiden, Priest etc. I also listened to Kate Bush, U2, Pat Benatar, Eurythmics, even Simon and Garfunkel, not to forget Elvis and the Beatles.
In the last few years you’ve done some guest work for metal projects such as Avantasia and Timo Tolki’s album, why did you decide on those particular two?
It always depends on the music, if I like a song and can I hear myself in it. But it also depends on me liking the person who asks. You know, just because my own songwriting is different doesn't mean that I can't enjoy rocking song anymore.
One thing that seems to tie you and Avantasia is the religious theme the project has, are the views expressed in it regarding organized Christianity similar to your own?
Partly, but I am very concrete here. But Tobi is certainly a good heart on it's own way.
What can you tell us about your own Christian beliefs? When did you acquire them? What stands at their basis?
Impossible to put in a few words! But mainly: The only way to true Christianity is getting into the spiritual worlds by death and resurrection (following Christ). I don't think that official Church-Christianity is REAL. It is actually fighting against everything Christ really stands for. I have described it a bit more in my English essay which appears on my website.
I understand you wrote some serious articles and even books about the subject, what drove you into becoming an author?
Things to say! Experiencing many things which are morally (artistically) false. It is actually the artist's job to build human culture and not to get decadent, you know. And for that musicians need to understand what human nature (culture) really (spiritually) is. Agnosticism is nothing else but a nicer sounding word for the individual being mentally and spiritually bankrupt. It only says: I am too weak for truth...
I know that my home country of Israel usually bears a special importance for Christians for obvious reasons, did you ever get a chance to visit it? Do you plan to?
I search for the spiritual Jerusalem, which is NOT a place on earth anyways. But it would still be great to visit your place one day of course!
Any last message to the fans reading this interview?
Free music stands higher that ANY dogma people may build to slave art. Styles, scenes, trends, critics as laws are really just a problem for art = limitation for music - an illness or general misunderstanding of music-culture.