Michael Kiske (born January 24, 1968 in Hamburg, Germany) is a singer best known as the lead vocalist for the German power metal band Helloween, from 1986 to 1993. From 1996 up to 2009, Kiske recorded four solo albums, participated on various metal and rock related projects, while he also performed with numerous bands as a guest vocalist. In late 2009, he formed the rock band Unisonic and began touring again after 17 years.
Prior to joining Helloween, Kiske sang with the German band Ill Prophecy at the age of 17. He founded this band together with his school friend Karsten Nagel who played drums in Ill Prophecy and also later at some of his solo records. Ill Prophecy recorded a demo in 1986, but it was never released commercially. This demo tape had early versions of future Helloween songs “A Little Time” & “You Always Walk Alone” and also featured some Geoff Tate like vocals on the songs “Heroes”, “Riding the Wind”, and “The Way Of Life”.
Ill Prophecy had the following line-up:
Vocals – Michael Kiske
Drums – Carsten Nagel
Bass – Patric Hampe
Lead Guitar – Ulrich Schulz
Rhythmus Guitar – Raico Ebel
At the age of eighteen, Kiske was asked to join the German power metal band Helloween, which was fronted by singer/guitarist Kai Hansen. Hansen had some difficulties being both the lead guitarist and lead vocalist, and it was decided that a new vocalist would be needed. Kiske rejected Helloween’s first offer, due to his dislike of the sound of the band’s Walls Of Jericho album. Kai Hansen tried to add Tyran Pace vocalist Ralf Scheepers who also refused. After a second attempt, Michael accepted in late 1986 because Helloween’s guitarist Michael Weikath promised him they would make more melodic sounding metal.
Helloween had the following line-up in this period:
Vocals – Michael Kiske
Drums – Ingo Schwichtenberg
Bass – Markus Großkopf
Guitar – Kai Hansen
Guitar – Michael Weikath
Michael’s first album with the band was 1987’s Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1, widely considered to be one of Helloween’s best albums and a milestone in the creation of the power metal genre. They wanted it to be a double CD but Noise Records refused. Michael included one of his old Ill Prophecy songs “A Little Time” for this album but in a little changed version. This LP also has more classic songs like: “Future World”, “I’m Alive” and “Halloween”.
After a successful tour in 1987, they released Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II as one of the best Metal albums in history. It had several chart entries all over Europe and a golden record was handed to Helloween for their success. Later this golden record had to be given back due to irregular counting of the record sales. With this album, they had their biggest success which enabled them to play in the biggest festival of the time Monsters Of Rock. During this festival two people died.
There they played alongside bands like Iron Maiden, Kiss, Megadeth, Skid Row. Michael wrote two songs for this album “You Always Walk Alone” & “We Got the Right” and two songs for singles called “Savage” & “Don’t Run for Cover”. Other classic songs to emphasize are: “I Want Out”, “Eagle Fly Free” and “Dr. Stein”. The Keeper of the Seven Keys albums proved to be highly influential and aided in the formation of a new wave of European power metal bands, such as Blind Guardian, Stratovarius, HammerFall and Edguy.
During their first headling tour in 1988, which was dubbed the “Pumpkins Fly Free tour”, the Scotland show was recorded for a live album. It was released under three different titles: “Live In UK” (Europe), “Keepers Live” (Japan), and “I Want out Live” (USA). All had the same tracklist with the exception of the US release which didn’t have the song “Rise And Fall”. After the completion of the band’s 1988 headlining tour, Kai Hansen left the band and was replaced by guitarist Roland Grapow.
Vocals – Michael Kiske
Drums – Ingo Schwichtenberg
Bass – Markus Großkopf
Guitar – Roland Grapow
Guitar – Michael Weikath
Legal disputes with their record company Noise and especially their owner Karl-Uwe Walterbach, prevented Helloween from releasing new material until 1991’s Pink Bubbles Go Ape, which was already recorded in 1990, but due to the dispute was not allowed to be released. In addition Helloween was forbidden to do any interviews or other public performances during this time. The album “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” was released in 1991 through a record deal with EMI. On this album Michael wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 11 songs. These songs are: “Pink Bubbles Go Ape”, “Kids Of The Century”, “Back On The Streets” (with Grapow), “Heavy Metal Hamsters” (with Weikath), “Goin’ Home” & “Mankind” (with Grapow), “I’m Doin’ Fine, Crazy Man” (with Markus) and finally the great ballad “Your Turn”.
In 1993 they released “Chameleon” which was the last Helloween album with Michael Kiske as the singer. The album was basically like a solo album for the three main songwriters (Weikath/Kiske/Grapow). Although the album sold one million copies, the change in musical direction angered a lot of the die-hard Helloween fans. Michael wrote the following songs: “When The Sinner”, “In the Night”, “I Believe”, and “Longing”. During the Chameleon tour Ingo broke down and was asked to leave. Right before they entered the studio to record the next album, Michael was fired from the group. Michael was fired from the band in 1993 by an SMS message, reportedly for personal reasons and musical differences. He was replaced by Andi Deris, who has remained with Helloween ever since. Kiske was rumored to be Bruce Dickinson’s replacement, after he departed from Iron Maiden in 1993, but that position was filled by Blaze Bayley.
In 1995 Michael did his first musical performance since he left Helloween and did a guest appearance on Gamma Ray’s album Land of the Free, where he sings the chorus in the title track and lead vocals on “Time to Break Free”. He was also giving some interview e.g. in German magazine “Rock Hard” after some time of absence in media.
On August 16, 1996, three years after leaving Helloween, Kiske released his first solo album, Instant Clarity. This album’s musical style differs from his older work with Helloween. On this album, you can hear “The Calling” & “New Horizons” with the typical Helloween sound, “Somebody Somewhere” & “Hunted” are pure rock and the melodic rock track “Burned Out”. There are also two great ballads: “Always” which was dedicated to Ingo Schwichtenberg who committed suicide a few months before and “Do I Remember A Life?”. He also released an EP entitled “The Calling” which features two previously unreleased tracks. The band members on the album are Ciriaco Taraxes (Guitar/Piano), Jens Mencl (Bass), and Kai Rudy Wolke (Drums). The productor was Charlie Bauerfeind.
At this time he still had the same management as Iron Maiden and Helloween. A music video for the ballad Always, dedicated to deceased Helloween drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, was produced and filmed in New York City. Instant Clarity contained songs in a wide variety of styles. During the same year he also wrote a book, ‘Kunst Und Materialismus’, which is only available in German and showed us his point of view about the art.
His second solo album, Readiness to Sacrifice, was released in Korea and Japan in 1999, and in Europe in 2001. The music on the album featured Michael moving away from his heavy metal roots and even contained two symphonic songs. On this album you can find a ballad like “Where Wishes Fly” which is where the name of his website comes from, rocker songs like “Ban’em”, “It” & “Philistine City”, the funny “Watch You Blue” and two symphonic songs “Shadowfights” & “Easy”. This album was edited two years later in Europe by Sanctuary.
In 2006, Michael signed a contract for two albums with the Italian record label Frontiers Records. Also in 2006, Michael Kiske released his third full-length solo album under the name of Kiske. The album contained songs in a mellow, acoustic pop-rock style and was a step away from the sound of his previous solo albums. According to Michael “It’s a healthy-careless and musically free album. I am very proud of this record because it is a true statement from myself”. The new album has some nice pop-rock songs in a singer-songwriter style, for example: “All-Solutions”, “Kings Fall”, “Sing My Song”, “Painted” and “Sad As The World”. The album has a few collaborations, among others of his old friend Karsten Nagel – who was the drummer in the first Kiske band 20 years ago – and Corinna Wolke – his ex girlfriend – who make the backing chorus on two songs. The Japanese edition has a cover of Elvis Presley: “Mary in the Morning”.
In 2008, Kiske released his fourth solo work, entitled Past in Different Ways. The new solo album contained acoustic re-arrangements of his old Helloween material and one new song. Although it was supposed to be an acoustic album, it was necessary to emphasize the great production which creates an epic atmosphere on songs like: “We Got The Right”, “You Always Walk Alone” and “I Believe” which finally end up sounding more symphonic than acoustic. Also important was the polishing of songs like “Goin’ Home” which became much better than the original version. According to Kiske the album “on one hand shows that I don’t reject my past just because I’m a different person today, and on the other hand it can maybe give people who were part of that past a different view at those songs”.
There are plans to do a new solo record in 2011 and Michael said about this in his latest interview “I will do another one over the summer together with my good friend Sandro Giampietro. Again: no limits or rules for my solo-records! What ever comes across as fun will be done.”
During 1995, Kiske participated as a guest on Gamma Ray’s (Kai Hansen’s band, formed after his departure from Helloween in late 1988) Land of the Free album, singing lead vocals on the song “Time To Break Free” and additional vocals on the title track.
In 2000, Kiske was asked to participate on the Avantasia project The Metal Opera in the role of Lugaid Vandroiy, which he agreed to do, but only under the nickname of Ernie. The nickname was printed on the back of the first CD, but not on the second, where he was featured under his real name. Michael said in interviews that, at that time, he did not want people to link him to heavy metal anymore. He had a main role in the concept of the Metal Opera albums and sang on a total of 7 songs.
During 2002, Kiske sang the song “Key to the Universe”, which was featured on Timo Tolkki’s (guitarist of the band Stratovarius) solo album Hymn to Life. In the same year, Michael also sang the duet “Heroes” (together with Jorn Lande), featured on Masterplan’s self titled debut album.
In 2003, Sascha Paeth (Heaven’s Gate) asked Michael to work on the Metal Opera: AINA. Michael sings in the role of narrator on 4 songs: “Silver Maiden” & “Serendipity” by himself and a bit in “Revelations” and “Restoration”. Most of the tracks are symphonic like the songs from the second Kiske solo album “Shadowfights” & “Easy”. They could be included in a “Walt Disney” Soundtrack.
In 2004, Michael sang the duet “The Encounter”, together with the female vocalist of the band Thalion on their debut album Another Sun.
During 2005, Michael was a guest on the heavy metal album Execution by the band Tribuzy, singing on the duet “Absolution”. Following this participation Kiske sang another duet, entitled “Judas At The Opera”, together with Tobias Sammet (vocalist of the band Edguy and founder of the Avantasia project) on Edguy’s Superheroes EP.
In 2007, Michael sang on the song “Breathe in Water”, together with the female vocalist of the band Indigo Dying on their self titled debut album. During the same year, he recorded guest vocals for two Avantasia tracks; “Promised Land”, which appeared on the Lost in Space Part II EP and “Lost In Space [Extended Version]”, which appeared on the Lost in Space Part I & II compilation album.
During 2008, Kiske took part on the Avantasia album The Scarecrow, singing lead on the track “Shelter from the Rain” and backing on the title track and on “What Kind Of Love”.
In 2009, Michael was a guest on Trick or Treat’s album Tin Soldiers, singing all vocals for the song “Hello Moon” and additional lead vocals on the duet “Tears against Your Smile”.
During 2010, Kiske performed on the Avantasia albums The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon, singing on the tracks “Wastelands”, “Runaway Train” and “Stargazers”. Following this participation he recorded guest vocals for the song “All You Need to know”, featured on Gamma Ray’s To The Metal album. From November 30 until December 19, Kiske took part in the Avantasia tour “The Metal Opera Comes To Town”, sharing the stage with Tobias Sammet, Jorn Lande, Kai Hansen, Bob Catley, Amanda Somerville, Sascha Paeth, and Oliver Hartmann among others. Another Avantasia performance will be at the Wacken 2011 festival, one of the biggest heavy metal festivals of the world. He also recorded a track for the upcoming debut album of Tomorrow’s Outlook, a Norwegian Metal Band which is still searching for a record deal.
In 2003, out of desire to make rock music again, Kiske formed a band, named SupaRed. They released a self-titled album in January 2003. This album had a modern rock sound and a song structure, distinct from both his solo albums and the heavy metal sound of Helloween. It’s a great rock album where you can hear songs like “Ride On” (very reminiscent of the song “We Got The Right”), mid-tempos like “Freak-Away” & “Let’s Be Heroes”, and hard-rock songs like “Hey”, “Turn It”, and “Boiling Points Of No Return”. They had opportunities to tour but Michael had problems with his stomach which eventually had to be operated on. The project was under promoted and unsuccessful and he dissolved the band.
On November 10, 2009, Michael formed the band Unisonic together with Dennis Ward, Mandy Meyer and Kosta Zafiriou. Unisonic began their first tour in June 2010, playing some warm-up shows in Germany and performing at Sweden Rock Festival and Masters Of Rock Festival as well. In March 2011, Kai Hansen joined the band. Unisonic is scheduled to release its debut album in the end of 2011 and well as performing including festival appearances.
Very important statement about Unisonic: “Unisonic it’s a band and not a project”
In 2005, Kiske was a part of the Place Vendome project, on Italian record label Frontiers Records. Place Vendome was composed of members from the German band Pink Cream 69, the keyboard player from the band Vanden Plas and Kiske on vocals. The band’s music was a blend of melodic hard rock and AOR, comparable to the sound of bands such as Foreigner or Journey.
In 2009, Place Vendome released the second album of the project, entitled Streets of Fire. A video was filmed for the song My Guardian Angel, marking Michael’s visual return since 1996. The songwriting for the second album was provided by musicians Magnus Karlsson, Torsti Spoof, Ronny Milianowicz and Robert Sall.
During 2008, Timo Tolkki departed from Stratovarius and formed the band Revolution Renaissance. The band’s debut album, New Era, was recorded by session musicians and Kiske on the role of the main singer, performing all the vocals for the tracks “I Did It My Way”, “Angel”, “Keep The Flame Alive”, “Last Night On Earth” and “Revolution Renaissance”.
In early 2010, Kiske collaborated with female vocalist Amanda Somerville in a duet project, put together by Frontiers Records. The project marked the contribution of musicians Mat Sinner, Magnus Karlsson, Sander Gommans, Martin Schmidt and Jimmy Kresic. Two videos were filmed for the songs Silence and If I Had A Wish, enabling most of the participants to actually meet in person. The album was released on September 24, 2010, under the name Kiske / Somerville.
In comparison to Kai Hansen, Kiske had a more vibrant and clean voice. To some, Kiske is an atypical 80’s Heavy Metal “screamer”. Some fans and critics have likened his singing style and range to that of Geoff Tate or a young Samson-era Bruce Dickinson. He sings in a tenor manner and possesses an almost 4 octave vocal range, as he is capable of reaching extremely high notes (A5) and low baritone notes (C2) as well. Kiske’s time in Helloween has proved to be highly influential, and many singers cite him as a major influence.