Interview made by Jutta Bartonek for the magazine Melodic Journey during the Place Vendôme promotion 2005. You find the original interview in German language here: Click here The following translation was made by Michael Kiske Fanclub into the English version.
Tuesday night, my phone rang and a good-humoured Michael Kiske was on the line. He was very happy to talk with another person living in Hamburg. I could not talk much in the following 1,5 hours,… he was hard to stop and talked like a waterfall. No, seriously, I did not know what to expect that night and I was very pleasantly surprised, what a nice guy and gentleman this Kiske is. Since this call was very extensive, I can only write a summary of this conversation and have focused on the musical part of the conversation. Michael will forgive me, but I would have had to write almost a book.
When asked how he is feeling at the moment, he said, laughing, “I’m burned out from all the talking” (90 minutes later I realized why), “but mostly it’s very interesting, because I dealt only with nice people “.
Jutta: Place Vendome became a beautiful melodic album. Who approached whom and how were the songs created?
Kiske: Well I myself would have not come up with such an idea, because if I am doing my own stuff, I just create my own kind of material. It was Serafino from Frontiers Records. He contacted me first and got my email address from a guitarist who has become a good friend of mine (Sandro) and who was involved on my last hard rock project. Then he asked me last year if I would be interested in an AOR project. When he told me that it would go in the direction of Journey and Foreigner, I thought to myself, something I’ve never done before – sounds interesting. However, I’m the person – as always – who makes it dependent on the material. Two weeks later, he picked up Dennis Ward and he wrote most of the material. Song after song came via email as an mp3 and I should always tell what I think about it. If I found something good, Serafino again heard the song and so was the material selected. I have honestly never expected that the songs would be so good. The way Dennis writes songs fits incredibly well with my voice. He said that he had my voice a little bit in his mind during the song writing.
Jutta: You recorded the songs and then sent them back via e-mail?
Kiske: Yes, I did it in my own studio. We only had phone and email contact. I thought that was pretty cool, because I did not have any pressure. If one day did not feel like doing anything, I just went home. You have to catch a good moment and then capture it. This is much more important than being technically perfect. Especially if you are renting a studio, even if certainly prices will have changed in the last 10-12 years, when I still had to visit a studio. I still remember the unbelievable production of “Pink Bubbles”. We were in the PUK studio in Denmark and the price was around 2,000 DM (around 1000€) per day. So there we have wasted almost half a million. Today it is different. The technology has made huge steps and now you no longer need to spend so much money and you can really use a good computer and a good sound card – if you invest a little bit – then you can make good records.
Jutta: Place Vendome can be understood as a project? Will there be another album?
Kiske: It is a project, but this does not hinder us to do another other album. Serafino is really interested to do another album after my next solo record. And clearly, it made really a lot of fun. It was a very a good decision to join this! I learned a lot from this. I’m now a bit more open to this kind of things. I cannot always do my own stuff, because it is becoming more and more difficult to finance it. If I’m in such projects a bit more open, then money comes in to do my own stuff.
Jutta: Do you have plans to perform live with Place Vendôme? Can you imagine this?
Kiske: Not yet. I’m completely retired from the music scene in general, and for 13 years I have not been on any stage. Sometimes I miss the stage already a bit – not really the Hard Rock stages – since I’m already a little bit grown out of this. The typical hard rock thing, to make the ‘Wild Man’ and to entertain people bores me a bit today. I am interested in another form of presentation. I prefer more subtle things. It is enough if just one song is good and it is not necessary that it has to be super well produced. Just what e.g. The Beatles made them so special. They never needed a lot of additional things. It was often just calm and a little strange, but it was just fine. There was always something on a mental basis. Rock concerts are often only a circus with light shows and fireworks and run across the stage and all that nonsense. This is the part that I’m less interested. I want to go on stage and get feedback from people who want to hear my music and as long as that does not happen, it really does not attract me. This is live music as it should be. A record is just something constructed, several pieces are connected together and bands often learn only later how they should really play it. It certainly is now depending a lot on technology. You will notice this when you hear the real bands playing live. Then you think “huh, they cannot really play it”. Back then, in the days of the Beatles, the musicians had simply to be better…..
Jutta: You mentioned at the beginning your solo album. Can you tell us more about it?
Kiske: Yes, I work on it already for a little longer. It was written some time ago and of course I have the problem that I come from a completely different world of music. What you have today with publishers is quite radically, they actually don’t invest in a promising future and only in your past. This means “your previous album sold so many copies, so it does not matter how shitty your new one is” and you get the deal. They believe something can be calculated in that way. I sit down with the best stuff I’ve ever written in front of the publishers and they are really excited – nowadays I can recognized whether they are not telling the truth or if they really like it- but in the end you don’t get a deal, since it doesn’t sound like what you had done before.
Jutta: Can you tell us something about the songs?
Kiske: How should I tell it? Actually it’s more the language of the Beatles. It sounds obviously not like the Beatles, but it’s this “very personal singer / songwriter” thing. Simple songs are very personal, and finally I have not made that mistake again, I made up three years ago: I could not get my head free in a way. Earlier, when I suddenly had an idea, I often just killed the idea, because I thought “no, that sounds normal to me.” Meanwhile, I’ve found that you have to let these things as they are and then I realized, what at first seemed to me to be “too normal” is just a really good tune. It sounds right. If you have an original song then it sounds as if it had always been in that way, as if you only collected the idea. These are the really good songs. And since I understood this, I write really good songs. It also happened from time to time that I had by accident, when I was not thinking, written in two or three minutes a good song, but now it is normally the case that the songs are very quickly created in a short time. But people, especially the publishers are all too cowardly. Then you get to hear such idiotic things like: “Upper class material, voice out of the question, all super blah blah … but anyway we cannot do business with you at the moment. This is ruining the market….
Jutta: Let us return again to my question … Your solo album …
Kiske: I think in the end I will negotiate a deal with Serafino from Frontiers. But he must be careful with me, because he is also someone who tries to influence his bands in the way, he would like them to sound. To support honest music is to support the artists, so that they can make their music, so on one hand a fair contract is needed and on the other hand it is necessary to show respect for the artistic freedom. I’ve already done with him endless email fighting’s – I’m able to talk which you can realize (Jutta: now he has to laugh too) – and I tell him that in a way, that there is no way to create a back door. I can explain all of my points. After some emails then I think “well, it’s over now …. now you can keep your strange record deal and do what you want with it” and then he gives in. This is sometimes very exhausting. However, the agreement is almost done, but as long as there are still some clauses stating that he can talk into my music, for example, that he can decide when the album is good or when the mix is ok for him or even how many electric guitars are in there, I say “that’s it”. But the way it looks, I’ll probably start later this month to record the album and it will probably come out in spring next year.
Jutta: Which singers / artists do have this kind of freedom in their voice?
Kiske: I have a very good recognition of this. I imagine that I can hear this quite well, whether it is honest music or not. Clearly you realize that even in the song, if someone is only doing a show, or if you can look him into the soul. Elvis, for example, is a mystery, except for the fact that he was a nice guy as long as he was healthy … who sang totally honest. Who could sing the most crap. He had to do so, because he could not get out of the contracts. He got some attacks, because he had to sing such a crap (Priscilla told in interviews and in her books about it). He was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and had to sing that ballad stuff. But even these songs, he could sing with honest and credibility that it almost sounded good again. He sang so honest, you could even hear the end in the drama of his voice. When I think of him, I can barely listen to records after 1973. You listen and you hear the tragedy that he loses himself and that he no longer can deal with his life.
Jutta: Then he noticed that he had lost the topic a little bit…
Kiske: What I really wanted to say … I am uncomfortable for some people, because I’m not predictable, I allow myself to be creative and I allow myself not for the rest of my life copying any “Keeper of the Seven Keys” stuff, just because some people think to earn a lot of money with it. They are very mistaken! Maybe that works in a certain circles of heavy metal fans. In some of these groups you can still get along with it, but other than this, the metal scene more and more is becoming meaningless and the market is shrinking, because they are no longer really creative and the scene is also turning to the anti-Christ. There exists a morbid Satanism, a form of glorification of inhumanity. Of course, this is not everywhere, but to a very large extent. This is all very destructive and negative, how should this develop the music? The music scene and the heavy metal scene in the 80’s were very different. There was really something going on and it was really interesting. At that time, a good album just made its way. So I’m at that time with 15 or 16 went often to “Michelle” (a record store) here in Hamburg and we searched through the rock records and if there was a band in between, we did not know, we could pre-listen it there. And when we found it good, we bought the record. That was a special event for us. Nowadays, this is so, if you have anything on television three times a day, then the new album is great! Who cares about that? Ok, such bands as Coldplay, who are successful because they are good. They are indeed very successful and the advertising is terrible, but they’re good. So I do believe that quality will succeed in the end. But unfortunately, this is all very much depends on the promotion that is made. As a band, you are dependent on how much money is put into it. If you don’t have enough support, you stay in the underground.
Jutta: What kind of music are you listening privately?
Kiske: I only listen to classical music, which is positive, which is human! I hear at present only three to four hours a day Mozart. I need that! There is from “Brilliant Classics” a quite cheap Mozart complete Edition for 99 Euros – with 170 CDs! Of course these are things which you have to buy immediately. Something like that was also available from Bach. This is the reason why I’ve also changed so much, what not many can really understand. People, who know me from the metal past, are wondering “what happened to Kiske? Did he become hysterical? “. If these are really quite materialistic people, they immediately think that I follow a sect. But those are all things that I can explain; there are things that I have studied. I have dealt with philosophy, with philosophy at the time when it was still an existential thing, not what philosophy is today. Today, it’s really just linguistics.
Jutta: One moment please! Otherwise I will get angry comments from your fans, when I do not even ask you a few questions that are on my list here.
Kiske: All right, let’s go.
Jutta: What’s happening with Supared? There is something planned for the future?
Kiske: No, I’m done with this. I kept trying to make a band for some years, but that does not work. So the first three years with Helloween, the time when Kai Hansen was still there – even if I’m not that much into this music nowadays – this was a real band. At that time really everything worked well and you cannot create this, it just happens. This is again so a karmic coincidence. Certain things should just happen as they happen and you don’t need to do anything to let it happen. You can put the best musicians together in a room and for sure they create something interesting together, but the band is far above this. There has always to be a special chemistry.
Jutta: With which musicians would you really like to play together?
Kiske: That doesn’t really matter for me. There is a women like Faithl Hill, which I really love. It’s just, she is not only nice to look at, but I also think that she can sing fantastically. But that’s nonsense, of course. I would just like to work together with those who can contribute something. These must not necessarily be stars, only people who bring something that I cannot add myself to make it better.
Jutta: Ok, before you can devote yourself to your clothes, I have a question I need to ask you, even if you no longer want to hear it. Your fans are just interested. Can you ever imagine taking again the microphone for Helloween?
Kiske: Nope. I can understand the question. We were in this paradoxical situation that the “Keeper” albums are still the best-selling albums. As “Chameleon” was published, there were the “Keepers” placed higher. So not the “old” records, but the owner of the label made a double album from Keeper I and II and that was higher in the charts than our latest album. And then it is of course understandable that you want to reproduce the music. This does not work. You cannot turn back the time and Ingo Schwichtenberg doesn’t live anymore. I became a completely different person as well. And it does not work, since Mr. Weikath and I do not go along with each other. Why should we go on stage together? It’s like this: I have a good friendship with Kai Hansen and again with Roland Grapow and it is conceivable that I might do something together with these guys at some point.
Jutta: What do you think about Masterplan?
Kiske: (laughs) I only know the song where I have sung and I think it’s quite alright, since Roland once played that song for me. That’s just not my music style. He really wanted me to enter his band and tried to persuade me, but that does not make sense for me. As I said before, if I would do something with the guys, that would not be the typical marketing crap or some pseudo-Keeper albums. That makes no sense. If so, then this is something fresh and honest. I mean, people can still listen to the Keeper albums, but I’m no longer the 18 year old blonde guy who I was back then. I’m just a different person now and I’m interested in very different things. This is also very questionable if you only live in the past. But I can understand it.
Jutta: Is it true that you recently said in another interview you could imagine performing for a few songs with Helloween at Wacken?
Kiske: No, I never said that. Maybe Weiki said that. Perhaps someone has asked me if I could imagine this in theory, to sing some songs with them. It’s clear there are some songs that I still like today. It’s not that I hate everything now, what we have done at that time. Not at all! It was wonderful for this time and now I find it much more childish now and quite cute…. It obviously had freshness, boldness and playfulness and many really liked it. So theoretically, I could imagine, of course, singing Future World again, but not with this people. All I can really tell you is just what happened at the last tour with Helloween, there were horrific intrigues going on and no one spoke openly with you, the typical bullying. Anyone who has ever experienced this knows how terrible it is. You think “are you going crazy now or is this really happening?” And I’m such an emotional person that I could not sing then. Before each tour, I had laryngitis and could not sing. Two days later it was gone. Six weeks later, the Japan Tour, 2 days before was again laryngitis. Why should I stand with people who cause such a thing to me on stage? You have to make music with people who are friends of yours, and then this also has something positive. That was in “Keeper I” and “Keeper II”, the first three years with Kai Hansen. We all liked each other at that time. It was all right and it worked. This was the best time! Many people, who still like these records, just listened to it in their youth. I can only judge from my recent perspective. I would not like it that much nowadays, I think. I hear today other things, because I don’t like music which is too nervous. I don’t listen to metal any longer, I still like rock music, but when it is too hard for me, it gets on my nerves. There are today some nice scenes, but I just cannot deal with the brutal stuff. This is often the case for people who start dealing with spiritual matters and in parallel hear three or four years classical music, then they don’t want to hear metal anymore. I guarantee you, because at some point they feel the electric guitar as unpleasant. The ear is changing, can you hear it differently.
Jutta: Michael, that was a really a great and interesting conversation and I’m sure I’ll keep this interview remembered forever!
Kiske: It’s always good to leave a lasting impression! Yes we can talk further, when my solo record is out.
Jutta: Sure this would great!
Kiske: So if you like the Beatles and John Lennon, and if you like my voice, then you’ll like the next album from me.