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Exclusive Oliver Hartmann (Avantasia) mini interview for Kiske Fanclub (April 2013)

Here is for now our last mini interview with musicians from Avantasia and this time we interviewed Oliver Hartmann, the singer and guitarist of Avantasia, who is also known from At Vance and his own band Hartmann. So we hope you enjoy reeading some news regarding the ongoing Avantasia tour:

Kiske Fanclub: After your return from Rock Meets Classic, you only have a short period of time to learn all new songs. Is it difficult to adapt them to your way of playing? Since you’re usually the guitarist in the tour, would you prefer to play more songs in the albums?

Oliver: Of course it’s a lot of work to learn all the new tracks in just a few days since I really just came back from the tour with RMC. Normally Sascha is playing most of the rhythm tracks on the albums and his style is not so different from mine so it’s usually no problem for me to make them fit for my style of playing.
I added a few solos again for this record but it wasn’t really possible to do more since there were simply too many guests who wanted do add their solos too. But that’s ok for me since there are some really cool parts by everyone on the new tracks!!!


Kiske Fanclub: Masters of Rock festival published that Avantasia could film the show there? Is this confirmed and are there different line-ups planned for different legs of the tour?

Oliver: I’m not sure if Masters of Rock other shows will be filmed but hopefully they will! As far as I know unfortunately Ronnie Aktins won’t be there for the South American leg of the tour what is very sad since he’s doing a great job on stage. But we won’t change the line up so we will maybe just split up the missing parts of Ronnie between Eric Martin, Thomas Rettke and me.


Kiske Fanclub: What do you say about Michael Kiske in the last tour? Talking about his live performance, but also about backstage experiences. When did you first listen to Michael Kiske?

Oliver: Michael is a brilliant singer and a great guy so we were happy when he confirmed for the last tour in 2010 – and this time, too! In 2010 we were curious how it will be since he wasn’t on stage for so many years. But he felt comfortable with the band and did a great show – and the people loved it! He’s normally warming up backstage with his Ukulele singing some Elvis songs for us, haha. I think the first time when I listened to Kiske and the early Helloween albums was in the mid of the 80’s. Long time ago


Kiske Fanclub:  Like Kiske you are the only one that were in all albums of Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia, the first one is already 12 years old and after all these years, which is your favourite album of Avantasia?

Oliver: Yeah, it’s already more than 12 years ago since we recorded the first part of the Metal Opera – time goes by quickly somehow and I’m proud to be still part of it. Besides the new album which contains absolutely great tracks my favorite one is maybe “The scarecrow”. But of course I like the other albums, too.

Exclusive Amanda Somerville (Avantasia) mini interview for Kiske Fanclub (April 2013)

Here is the next part of our mini interviews with Avantasia musicians and this time with Amanda Somerville. Amanda Somerville worked together with Michael Kiske apart from Avantasia in the AINA Metal Opera, as the duet partner in Kiske/Somerville project and she also participated in several other metal and rock oriented projects like Trillium, Rhapsody, Epica and Kamelot.


Kiske Fanclub: I guess you will sing on tour the new single ‘Sleepwalking’ since Cloudy who sings in the album will not take part in the tour (at least is the information we have…). Do you already know the song? You were too busy to participate in the album this time?

Amanda: Perhaps you’ve seen some of the videos on YouTube already with me singing that song… you’re right! 🙂 It’s a very beautiful song and lovely to sing on the tour. I’m singing on the album, as well! (NDR: Doin’ backing vocals)


Kiske Fanclub: Do you think this new tour will have more exciting shows regarding the stage, performance, setlist, longer shows? What do you think about your new tour partners Ronnie Atkins, Thomas Rettke and Eric Martin?

Amanda: Well, with the length of the set alone, the show is already way more epic than any of the other tours we’ve done so far! Plus, there are songs that people have never heard us perform live before, so I think that’ll be a treat for the fans who have been part of the Avantasia journey since the 1st album.

Regarding the new fellow Avantasians, I’ve actually known and worked with Thomas (we all call him “Fredl”) since I moved to Germany because he’s always done a lot of work with Sascha and the Gate Studio team. Ronnie’s a great guy with a raw and powerful voice and energy – he’s great! He has a very calming aura about him off-stage. Eric is really down to earth and fun – and what a voice! It’s all very exciting to have them along with us.


Kiske Fanclub: Reading forums and comments of fans about the latest albums of Avantasia, it seems there are a lot of fans requesting a more important role for a female vocalist in the project. Why don’t you ask/request/challenge Tobias for a more important character in future Avantasia albums?

Amanda: Avantasia is Tobi’s baby. I don’t care too much for people interfering in my work and pressuring me to do something, so I never do that to others, either. Well, unless I’m hired to tell them what to do as a producer or something! Haha! But really, that’s a decision that is Tobi’s to make and his alone.


Kiske Fanclub: And about Kiske/Somerville: Kiske said in the Japanese Burrn! magazine that they were talking with Frontiers Records for another Kiske/Somerville album in the future, did you accept? Also Mat & Magnus said it will happen soon…

Amanda: We’re very much looking forward to a second album and hope to start on it very soon!


Kiske Fanclub: You returned from the Rock Meets Classic tour with Mat Sinner and after a 2nd album of Kiske/Somerville, do you think you can make some concerts with this new material? Or do you prefer a different kind of tour?

Amanda: Actually, we’ve been talking about it and I would love to perform the songs live with Michi.He’s a great guy and we always have a good time together. Of course, it depends on coordinating our busy schedules, but we’ll be trying to make it happen!

Exclusive Felix Bohnke (Avantasia) mini interview for Kiske Fanclub (April 2013)

After the interviews with Tobias Sammet and Miro Rodenberg, we are glad that Felix Bohnke took the time to answer some of our questions in another mini interview.


Kiske Fanclub: Since you were the drummer in the last tour and now in the new tour. Would you prefer to be the drummer in the album too? Is it easy to adapt your way of playing in the studio recordings?

Felix: Of course it is always a challenge & great tun at the same time to Interpret the Songs. Of course I try to keep the parts original while converting them into my own style. In General I have all the freedom I want and it is great tun to play these Songs.

Concering the recordings: that is tobi’s decision – since avantasia is his project. I did play in the 2 CD’s before (the wicked symphony & Angel of Babylon) besides Eric and Alex. Of course I understand Tobi’s desire to work with other musicians for avantasia. But I am very happy hat I habe the opportunity to be a part of the avantasia live-adventure since the first Tour.


Kiske Fanclub: Please tell us a little bit about your impressions and feelings of the last Avantasia tour in 2010 and expectations for the new tour?

Felix:  the Tour was great! All people involved get along very well and we were having lots and lots of tun and great concerts. it was also the first time I met Michael – even though he also sang for Edguy a couple oft years before.


Kiske Fanclub: What do you say about Michael Kiske in the last tour? I mean talking about his live performance, but also about backstage experiences. When did you first listen to Michael Kiske?

Felix: It was cool to finally meet him and to hear him sing the Songs. He is a very calm and friendly Person – and sings Elvis Songs all the time (in the bus, backstage, at  breakfast, in the shower etc… 🙂 ). We got along splendidly and were both very happy to meet again for this Tour!


Kiske Fanclub: What do you think about Edguy touring together with Unisonic in the future? Perhaps it would be a great chance to perform live ‘Judas At The Opera’ together with Michael, so what do you think about it?

Felix: That would fit perfectly – although I seriously doubt the world would be ready for so much  Party….:-)  At  the Moment it is hard to speculate about  something like  that , because we are all thinking about the current Tour.


Kiske Fanclub: Can you tell us about your most crazy moments on tour with Avantasia? What do you think about the new guys on tour Ronnie Atkins, Thomas Rettke and Eric Martin?

Felix: Eric, Ronnie and Thomas are great additions to the Band. they are all very nice and great singers. personally I am very happy, because I love Mr. Big and am also a great Pretty Maids fan – and got all the Albums of both Bands. It is incredible to finally hear them sing live and to be playing in one Band with them!

Crazy moments? the whole experience is crazy! so many great and talented people beging together on a Tour is just unreal – but it is happening again! One really crazy thing has something to do with Oli (Hartmann), an inflatable doll & the security check at  the Airport in Milano…..but I won’t say more ….:-)

Exclusive Miro Rodenberg (Avantasia) mini interview for Kiske Fanclub (April 2013)

Kiske Fanclub: This time you used a real orchestra on the new Avantasia album. Please explain a little bit how do you transfer the sound from keyboard arrangements to all instruments? Do you meet the classical musicians to discuss about the arrangements? Did you study music?

Miro: Recording with a real orchestra is always a special challenge since you have to make sure that the arrangement you made on the computer fits the “real” instruments and their playing-techniques. The lines have to be playable on the instruments and have to lie within its sonic ranges. Finally you have to write down the scores in a way that the musicians can read them without problems. This is especially important because when it comes to the recording-session, you won’t have much time to do major corrections – unless money doesn’t mean anything to you ;-).Because of some reasons – I guess the financial reason is the most common – bands nowadays rarely decide to have a real orchestra on their records – that’s why I was really happy when Tobi told me that he wanted to go for a real orchestra this time! It’s always a great motivation for me to know that in the end my arrangements will sound the way I hear them in my head – without all the compromises you have to take when you work with an “orchestra out of the box”.


Regarding the recording-session:

If you work with a good orchestra, you don’t have to “practise” the lines with the musicians. There are able to play the stuff right from the scores. But you do have to sit down with the conductor and discuss basic things with him. He has to go through the scores and he has to know the basic approach of the songs to handle the orchestra the right way.

The orchestra-recording-session for “The Mystery Of Time” was just awesome. The conductor got my musical intention perfectly and we had a great team also on the technical side.



Kiske Fanclub: How do you mix the right balance between the metal instruments and the orchestra? Either the orchestra can dominate the guitars, or the opposite may happen.


Miro: That’s indeed the most challenging thing when you make orchestra-arrangements for a metal-band. As the guitars dominate the music, you’ll always have to find spaces within the frequency-range where you can put orch-instruments.

Strings are usually the less problematic choice of instruments since they have a really wide range (basses to violins) – that’s why you can often hear high violin-lines on top of the guitars. Brasses lie basically more in the guitar-range but thanks to their rich overtone-spectrum they can make it also together with the guits.

Woodwinds are a lot trickier to put in a metal-arrangement. I usually use them in parts where the orchestra stands alone – without the “guitar-wall”.

Like you mentioned in your question – the right balance is a crucial thing. If you choose to give the orchestra more room in your music, you’ll risk a loss of “punch & power” – and if you decide to let it play too much in the background, the music probably will sound “not big enough” anymore.

The basic priority of the orchestra within the music has to be discussed already in an early production-stage, as the arrangements depend a lot on this decision.


Kiske Fanclub: In 2007, Sascha and you joined the Avantasia project, after the 1st album of Aina being released. Why did you decide to be part of Avantasia instead of keep working in Aina?


Miro: The word “instead” is actually wrong. As you know, we work on several productions and are not bound to one band or project. Regarding AINA, we in fact wanted to record a second part  – the basic story for the second part was even already written – but this finally didn’t happen because of disagreements between us and the record-company.


Kiske Fanclub: In 2003 after being recording the vocal parts of Aina, Michael Kiske commented: “Sascha suggest me about making a whole album with classical music. In the next couple of years we could record together an album like that, but for the moment it is not sure.” Do you know what happened with that idea?


Miro: Unfortunately I cannot tell anything about this matter. Neither Sascha nor Michael talked to me about stuff like that.

Exclusive Tobias Sammet (Avantasia) interview for Kiske Fanclub (February 2013)

The Michael Kiske Fanclub did an exclusive interview with Tobias Sammet from Avantasia and Edguy. He talks about the new Avantasia album titled The Mystery Of Time, the live tour as well as some things related to Michael Kiske.So I really hope you enjoy it:


Kiske Fanclub: When did you start planning the new album? Did you plan/talk about it at the end of the tour in 2010?

Tobias: Well, after the tour the only plan we had was to do the Wacken show in 2011 and that was it. When I quit Avantasia I honestly felt that I needed to put it on hold and focus on Edguy again. Avantasia was never meant to be a constant project but just a little side project to go crazy, break out of the routine and fulfill my dreams from a music-fan’s point of view. So it felt good to organise my thoughts and call it a day regarding Avantasia. But after we had done Age Of The Joker with Edguy and I think in the middle of the promotional campaign, somewhere in between shows and interviews I found myself disappearing in my basement again, escaping into my very sacred private music room and composing music in my own little world. Just like every man has a strange hobby to recharge the batteries, mine was to compose music. And after a while, maybe at the end of 2011 I realized that this feels like Avantasia.


Kiske Fanclub: You were together with Unisonic at Masters of Rock Festival 2012.  Did you like the live sound of the band? And do you like the album?

Tobias: I watched the whole show from the side of the stage and I felt proud for Michael and Kai and I really enjoyed the show. I mean, let’s face it: Michi still has it and I was able to witness that from the side of stage. I caught “March Of Time” and “Future World” and I think “I Want Out”. I think they also played I want Out but I am not sure of that. I really loved to hear those songs sung by Michael but also the new material sounded great. “Unisonic” and “I’ve Tried”, great songs that really work well with Michael’s voice. I am not too familiar with all of the songs, but I also remember “Souls Alive”, cool song too.


Kiske Fanclub: In previous Avantasia albums you did collaborations with some female vocalists like Amanda, Sharon, Cloudy but these are always very small collaborations, why did you not create a character for a woman, I mean an important character for singing more than half of a song.

Tobias: To be honest, I grew up listening to male singers mainly. All my favourite bands have male singers. In fact I really like Doro, and now that you ask I do not know why I never asked her so far. But apart from that, I do not wanna come across chauvinistic as I do not mean to be chauvinistic at all. But from a fan’s point of view all my favourite singers are men… But of course there are female voices I love, for example the voices of Cloudy Yang and Amanda Somerville, I really like raspy stuff like Janis Joplin. I am not too crazy about soprano voices, but I think there are some great female voices out there. It is just – if I am honest, I grew up with male voices mainly, and as Avantasia is just a reflection of my personal influences it is very natural to have a lot of male voices in Avantasia and only few female voices to bring in some color.


Kiske Fanclub: Now the metal opera is 12 years old and there is a new trend in the scene to play a complete album in a live concert like Iron Maiden and Metallica did. What do you think about it and do you have similar ideas?

Tobias: No, I do not have plans like that. I mean, we live in our current day and age and as much as I love the first Metal Opera album and certain parts of the second one, it would feel strange to play them in their entirety and not mind the more recent material. I mean, we play so rarely with Avantasia, again I do not know if this forthcoming tour won’t be our last maybe, you can never predict it. It’s hard to get all people together. This time we don’t have our bass player, we don’t have Jorn, the line up changes constantly and you never know if there will be another tour, so we better seize our time paying attention to all of our material. But I have to say, on this forthcoming tour we’ll play over three hours, on our own headlining indoor shows in Europe at least, so there will be enough time to throw in a good share of old material at least.


Kiske Fanclub: When I saw the cover artwork of ‘The Mystery of Time’, I was really surprised, because I was translating some old interviews of magazines for the fans and you said in these quotes in 2008: “Avantasia doesn’t make the typical kind of concept albums. It’s not about hobbits, dragons, dungeons and little dwarves…” Did you change your mind?

Tobias: Well, actually I do not sing about hobbits and dungeons and dragons. It’s a very interesting and exciting fairytale, but it’s got nothing to do with what you have mentioned. I lost my aversion for hobbits and all that, in fact I do like fantasy paintings and even fantasy books and movies, I was just sick of having that stamp while as opposed to many swashbuckling Fantasy Metal bands singing about Odin’s grandfather and a bunch of hobbits running through the woods my lyrics had always a certain serious and meaningful intention. This new album is a fairytale, but the fairytale is more a vehicle for certain spiritual questions I was asking to myself. If you don’t like that you can easily put the content aside and just enjoy a beautifully crafted Heavy Metal or Rock Opera with an enchanting lyrical concept, but it is more than just your average fantasy concept about forests and dragons and the evil king. But to each his own and for the record: I do not hate hobbits. On my album cover there are goblins, just because I wanted Rodney Matthews to paint the artwork and its his signature style. The cover embraces his interpretation of the topic of the album, but it is not a summary of the album concept. That being said: The album cover is unexpected, well crafted and totally unfashionable. And that’s why I love it. But there is a huge difference between a real “Matthews” and a muscle warrior riding a dragon.


Kiske Fanclub: Can we maybe expect another Avantasia album in some years and did you save some parts of Kiske for that one?

Tobias: I did not save some Kiske parts but there will have to be the end of the story of THE MYSTERY OF TIME. It needs to have a part two and I will certainly ask Michael again. We have a true friendship going on and I did not want to have him record stuff and then save it and then release it secretly in three years. By the time I will write the second chapter of The Mystery Of Time I will talk to Michael and we’ll do something completely fresh if he feels like he wants to do it.


Kiske Fanclub: We know you were trying to get Eric Martin and Ronnie Atkins for previous albums and you finally got them. Did you try again with the typical musicians like Sebastian Bach, Brian May, Bruce, Yvonne Catterfeld? Did anyone of them reject again and are you maybe a little bit tired of asking again in the future?

Tobias: I never get tired of asking people, but I didn’t speak to one of the aforementioned. One day I will ask Bruce Dickinson again, we’ll play a couple of festivals with Iron Maiden, so maybe we can have a heart to heart conversation. But the line up on our current album is so strong, it’s hard to imagine to replace one of the great performances, with all respect to the four mentioned vocalists.


Kiske Fanclub: You said in some interviews that you watched Kiske live with Helloween, do you remember anything? How did you experience this show?

Tobias: I never saw Michi with Helloween. I saw Helloween without Michi and I saw Michi without Helloween and I saw bands without Michi and without Helloween. All combinations, haha! But I was too young to see Michi with Helloween. By the time I got into Helloween I was twelve and three years later Michael had, ahm, ‘left’ Helloween. But I remember that when I first heard Eagle Fly Free, I wanted to become a singer myself, because I thought that this guy was amazing, he had the technique of Geoff Tate and the raspyness of Bruce Dickinson. The funny thing is, that I got to know Maiden and Queensryche only after I got into Helloween, so I thought those two singers were stealing from Michael Kiske, haha! Honestly, Michael changed my point of view on music. It was so powerful and so uplifting at the same time. It was like Beethoven’s Hymn To Joy. It was positive music with a lot of energy and I never thought something like that existed. I was used to Rock’ And Roll All Nite of Kiss, to AC/DC which was powerful, but angry. Helloween was not angry, it was powerful and positive.


Kiske Fanclub: You know there are some rumors that always appear from time to time, if you were Kiske you would be more interested in working hard with Unisonic or you would like to make maybe some little collaborations with Helloween?

Tobias: These rumors are not true at all. Funny… I think Michi knows exactly what he does, he is old enough and I would never say anything like “if I was Michael I would”… I never thought about what I would do if I was Michael. Oh yes, if I was Michael, I would sing “Reach Out For The Light” myself, haha! But why should Michi join Helloween? They have a singer and they do what they do and they are a successful band. Who knows if it would work? Who knows if it would be what people expect it to be? Maybe it would be a huge disappointment, and then I would be the one having said “If I was Michael I would do”… I am not in the position to even think about that. Michael does what he does the way he wants to do it and I think he does it by intuition. And that can never be wrong!


Kiske Fanclub: The journalist Carl Begai (Bravewords) wrote a review about the pre-listening session of the new album and he commented that some vocalists in Avantasia are placed in a “comfort zone”, he meant that when a vocalist sings that track usually it is of his typical style, Eric Martin singing Mr. Big-type, Bob Catley singing Magnum-type, Kiske singing ‘Eagle Fly Free’-type, etc… Do you think this is the best way to make those vocalists shine or you just want them feeling comfortable?

Tobias: I don’t think about that at all. Carl also said that Biff Byford was shining because he was pushed out of his comfort zone. I’d never do that on purpose. Who am I to try to push Biff out of his comfort zone? He is more than six feet tall… I write songs and think about who would be best to sing them. With singers I have worked with before, especially Bob Catley and Michael it’s different. When I had the melody for “Where Clock Hands Freeze” in my mind, it was already sung by Michael. That sounds funny, but it’s true. It’s almost as if I have a miniature Michael Kiske sitting in my miniature brain humming miniature melodies into my brain. Well, actually my brain is not that small, but that’s a different story, haha. That’s weird, but in the instant the melody came into my mind it was as if Michael was there to sing it. If I remember right that was even before I had started to write a new Avantasia album and if my memory serves me right I told Michael right away that I had a song that was as if it was written for him. But I never think about comfort zones. It’s natural to have the vocalists do the kinds of vocals they are known for. Michael sings like Michael. I would never want him to sing a Thrash Metal song.


Kiske Fanclub: There are some trailers from Frontiers Records about ‘A new metal opera’. Kiske, Sharon, Rob Rock and some others participate there as well. What do you think about this project?

Tobias: Wow, someone is extraordinarily creative here: the title, the guests, the timing… What a funny coincidence, isn’t it?! But there have been thousands of Metal Operas, especially after Avantasia. Such is business…