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Interview

HELLOWEEN vocalist Michael Kiske recently spoke with Jimmy Kay of Canada’s The Metal Voice

A few excerpts follow:

 

On how the “Pumpkins United” reunion came about:





KISKE: “For a long time, this was totally impossible for me, because I was hurt and full of anger and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. For a long time I didn’t want anything to do with the metal scene. It went very deep. But in the last couple of years before the reunion, without me noticing, things changed somehow, and I realized something is different when I ran into [HELLOWEEN guitarist] Michael Weikath in 2013. It was a festival in France and suddenly I was standing in front of him and he said something like, ‘Michael, what have I done that you can’t forgive me?’ [laughs], which I thought was a great line. Then I just [said], ‘You know what? I think I have forgiven you a long time ago.’ That was just how I felt. There was no anger — I was totally relaxed. We talked a little bit, and this is how it all started for myself. I was not aware that during the years something had changed in me. I believe we’re here to learn. I believe that life is not about getting fat and just being happy and satisfied all the time — it’s actually about going through difficult phases again and again and growing out of it, and I think we grow most of the time out of the difficult phases we grow through. Happiness makes us rather decadent. We all need happiness — otherwise, we hate life — but if you have reached a certain age, you realize as painful as things are sometimes, you actually learn the most out of the difficult parts of your life. I have learned so much, especially during the years outside of HELLOWEEN when I was on my own, being my own man without a band behind me. Not even management — I was completely on my own for a number of years, and I dealt with a lot of spiritual things. All those years, I learned so much and I gained so much out of these years that after a while, I just couldn’t be angry anymore about what happened, because I just realized it was good for me. I think that plays a big role in why I can do this now. I think it was kind of meant to be, this genius sort of karma configuration.”

On what caused so much bad blood in the first place:

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KISKE: “When I talked to Michael or anyone else who was part of it, everybody has a different view. Everybody has experienced something completely different, which to me was a clear sign that there was nothing really going on. It was no objective reason for anything — it was just meant to be over. There was just bad spirit seeded among us somehow. There was demons sitting between us and making sure nothing works anymore, because it was meant to be over. It’s really interesting to see how completely different every individual experienced those years.”

On who made the “first call” to get the reunion rolling:




KISKE: “It was actually me. I was actually the one who started it in a way. I mean, Kai Hansen always wanted to do it — he was always saying something that he would love to do something like that at least once more, and I just remember this after this thing with Weiki in France happened, I realized something had changed within me. After that, we had some nice shows in Spain with UNISONIC. I remember that the gig was over, and we were backstage changing, and Kai turned around, looked at me and said, ‘Michael, if we don’t do something once more under the name of HELLOWEEN, that would be so stupid.’ I said, ‘You know what? I’m open.'”

On sharing the stage with latter-day HELLOWEEN vocalist Andi Deris:

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KISKE: “That’s the funny thing. When I started to bring up this idea, I was not thinking about sharing the stage with Andi. I was thinking we could do a sort of a ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’ reunion tour, or something like that. But later on, the manager for HELLOWEEN was making it clear to me you can’t really do that — you can’t create another HELLOWEEN band that is in competition with the nowadays HELLOWEEN band. It doesn’t work. We have to do something together. I slowly realized, ‘Yeah, he’s right,’ and then after a while, I started to actually like the idea because it sends out a nice message. Of course, it’s great in terms of a show for the audience. It’s much more entertaining. You can make a big circus, which we do, but it’s not something that is easily done. We didn’t know if this would work out, because I didn’t know Andi — I’d never met him before. I was his pain in the ass for a number of years when he got criticized from my fans, and he was my pain in the ass because he took over my job. We didn’t know each other, but, of course, we had an effect on each other. It was a very interesting thing to get together, and we both were very nervous, and it was very interesting to see how good we actually get along just as people. We like each other now, which is so helpful. You don’t have to go on stage and fake something while hating the other person. I couldn’t do that. I’m really happy that this worked out that way, but we didn’t know. It was something that we just had to check and see what happens, and it turned out really nice. I like hanging out with him, which is very, very cool.”

On what to expect from the “Pumpkins United” studio album due in 2020:

KISKE: “It wasn’t the original plan in the first. You have to do step by step. We just wanted to see how this goes down, and how we get along. But since everything worked out so nicely, and it works totally on the human level, which is a great experience — even better than some of the other stuff that I’ve done later on — obviously, that idea came up. We sat together and we made that decision: ‘Let’s frickin’ make a record with this bunch of people, with two singers.’ There’s a lot you can do. Artistically, just in terms of making an album, its an interesting thing to do, because we are very, very different type of singers, and you can work with that in terms of songwriting. It will be interesting what comes out of it. Honestly, I have an opinion about what I would do, but I’m not a main songwriter. I don’t even know if I will be writing a song for this. I’ll see what happens, but there are other musicians in this band who I consider as the key songwriters. It’s definitely Andi; it’s Kai; it’s Weiki; it’s Sascha [Gerstner]. In the end, it will depend on what they come up with. I would love to sing some stuff in the ‘Keeper’ vein, because I like those records still. I like some of the stuff that they have done later on, too. I wasn’t listening to any of it for a number of years, but now that we’re doing this together, of course I had a free head and a free heart to listen to it, and they’ve done a whole bunch of stuff that I think is pretty cool. Anything that we have done under the name of HELLOWEEN, we could actually do. It could be anything, but I would love to have some material that has some of the ‘Keeper’ vibe to sing. That would be great.”

On the taped vocals that the band used during the opening show of the “Pumpkins United”tour:

KISKE: “It was not all playback. I’m quite glad that I did it once, because I’d never done anything like that before and I am certainly not going to do it anymore because I can’t — it just doesn’t work. The situation was that I had an infected throat already before the first show. I wanted to skip the shows and management said, ‘We can’t start this tour with canceling shows.’ So they talked me into it. The whole band made that decision, and then management came to me [and said], ‘Michael, we have recordings of you from six weeks earlier’ – it was live recordings we did in some kind of a rehearsal situation — and they said, ‘You just go out. You sing, and if the sound guy feels you’re dying somewhere, he just sneaks [the playback track] in.’ I didn’t want to do it, but I said, ‘Okay, if that’s what you want to do, I’ll give it a try.’ The thing is, I’m so used to singing live that, of course, I messed it up. I pulled the microphone to the audience when the sound guy had my voice up there, so it came out. But I don’t really take that that bad, as some people like to take it. I did it because they talked me into it, and because they didn’t want to cancel the first shows. After that, I was already back. We only did it a few bits here and there. I am not going to do that anymore. The next time when I don’t have a voice, I [will] either cancel the show or I do it the way I can, period. It was basically just because it was such a big thing for us. In any normal situation, we wouldn’t have done that, but since it was this big reunited ‘Pumpkins United’ thing, a decision had to be made. I just followed that decision in the end.”

 

The full conversation can be streamed below:

Exclusive Tobias Sammet (Avantasia) interview for Kiske Fanclub (February 2016)


avantasia_nuclearblast.bffa6cfeKiske Fanclub
: We know songs like ‘Reach out for the Light’ are real classics for Avantasia now, but is there a reason why new album songs like ‘Where clock hands freeze’ or ‘Dweller in a dream’ were not added to the last tour? Tobias Sammet: The setlist is always a combination of what feels right naturally and what we assume most people would want to listen to. You simply can’t leave out ‘Reach Out For The Light’ and ‘Avantasia’, and ‘Shelter From The Rain’ has been established as a live monster as well. But on this forth coming tour I can promise we’ll do new stuff with Michael singing on too.

Kiske Fanclub: You often told us that you love to write a kind of ‘Eagle fly Free’ song for Avantasia and especially for Michi Kiske’s voice. So which song you have written in this style for Michi is your favorite one?

Tobias Sammet: That’s a tough question, because I like them all. Every of the aforementioned and also the ones on the new album. Right now it’s probably ‘Ghostlights’, for sentimental reasons it’s got to be ‘Reach Out For The Light’, because that was the first time I heard Michi sing one of my songs. It may not be as well crafted if you look at the lyrics, but it was the first one with Michi and it has that primal naive energy, which I love! And all the great memories…

 

Kiske Fanclub: The Metal Opera celebrated its 15thbirthday, so imagine your first ideas and what is happening right now. Have you ever imagined in these ancient times that you would be releasing albums and touring several continents 15 years later?

Tobias Sammet: No way. I wanted to fulfill myself a dream, work with my idols, write an album with a lot of singers out of my private record collection and try to get Michael – the singer that influenced me most when I was young – to sing Metal again, the way I wanted to hear him, although he had done a lot of interesting stuff outside Metal. “Avantasia – The Metal Opera” was meant to be just those two albums, like “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera” in a Metal version. Just with real songs with chorusses and verses. I didn’t plan more albums, I didn’t even mean to establish Avantasia as a bandname, it was the title of a musical, that wasn’t meant to be played on stage. In fact I knew that we could do whatever we wanted on the record, because it would never have to be reproduced live on stage… And I was completely wrong, haha!

 

Kiske Fanclub: Have you ever thought about playing ‘Judas at the opera’ with Avantasia or at the latest Edguy/Unisonic tour?

Tobias Sammet: No. We never thought about that, I don’t know why…

 


Scannen0005Kiske Fanclub
: Now switching to a very recent event for Avantasia, the Eurovision Song Contest: Do you have anything specific to prepare for it?

Tobias Sammet: We are so busy getting ready for the tour, I don’t really have much time and interest to prepare for that. And how should I? Rehearse singing? I am a Rock singer, if I have a bad day I have a bad day, I hate rehearsing to sing just so I sound like all these high gloss vocal teachers who wanna sound like Mariah Carey. My vocal lessons happen when I stand between Jorn and Michi in front of 3000 Mexican Metal heads that are so loud that we can’t hear or control our own voices anymore. Overall the tour is what counts. That’s where we’ll be in front of our fans, that’s what we’re known for. That’s what my focus is on. The whole ESC thing is a nice bonus, something funny, something to promote ourselves and wave the flag of Metal to an audience in an environment that usually ignores us. No more no less. So we’ll go there, sing, and then kick off a world tour.

 

Kiske Fanclub: If Avanatasia wins the pre-selection, who will play in the ESC event in Stockholm? Sascha, Miro, Andre, Felix? Maybe you think about adding other Avantasia musicians/singers as support? Maybe even adding an orchestra?

Tobias Sammet: Orchestra won’t work. You’re just allowed to have 6 people on stage. Amanda will play Piano for that show and Herbie will play bass, because he did all the backing vocals on the studio version, and as we’ll sing live I wanted him on bass for the TV thing. He usually is a bass player and mainly guitarist by the way.

 

Kiske Fanclub: I know you were asked several times about singers you would like to add to the Avantasia family. Besides a long life wish like Bruce Dickinson, do you have any other wishes for a new Avantasia album? Maybe someone new and not so well known until now?

Tobias Sammet: I’d love to have Steve Perry and Paul Stanley. Actually they’re not really new and not really unknown either, but I would love to work with them.

 

Kiske Fanclub: Did you ever consider changing the name of ‘Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia’ to maybe just only Avantasia or Tobias Sammet?

Tobias Sammet: No, it was established like that and I never thought about it after that. In the beginning I really thought about calling the band “Tobias Sammet” and the album “Avantasia – The Metal Opera” but I thought that it sounded like an ego thing, yet we wanted my name on the cover as we wanted to reach the fans I already had as the singer of Edguy. Also “Avantasia” was the name of the album, the ‘musical’ so to speak. After it was perceived like that and established as that, there was no reason to think about it anymore.

 


ghostlights-earbook250x250Kiske Fanclub
: With Ronnie Atkins and Jorn Lande you have 2 singers with a quite a similar style. Is it not difficult to find enough songs for both vocalists?

Tobias Sammet: They aren’t too similar I think. And we have a discography of around 85 songs to choose from, we’ll play 3 hours every night, I don’t think it will be difficult to find enough great songs for both.

 

Kiske Fanclub: Eric Martin didn’t sing in the last album, so what can we expect from him in the new tour?

Tobias Sammet: He will do what he did on the last tour plus a few surprised once Bob Catley leaves the tour. Eric is such a distinctive singer, I love to have him on board again.

 

Kiske Fanclub: Michi Kiske once said that he gave you his Playstation Fifa account to play but you never showed up. Did you find time for it until now? J

Tobias Sammet: Ha, did he say that. You know what? This whole wifi playstation thing made me nuts, first it blew our whole wifi setup at home, then Sony was hacked and all the credit card information apparently stolen. I hate that kind of shit. I rarely play, sometimes 20’minutes on my own, but I am not overly crazy about it. Michi is so good, on tour we played tennis against each others on a playstation, I had no chance… On the next tour we should play real tennis, on a playstation Michi is not a fun match partner, because I’ll lose without a chance.

 

Kiske Fanclub: Do you like Star Wars? If so, who is your favorite character and what did you think about the latest movie ‘The Force awakens’?

Tobias Sammet: To be honest, I don’t know it. I think I joined the other Edguys to a movie theater in Australia on tour once, and they wanted to see that one new Starwars movie about 8 or 10’years ago. I fell asleep. I can’t stand surround sounds and starships flying around me all the time and making noise and shooting at each others, and that talking Bigfoot and all these weird characters.

 

Kiske Fanclub: Have you ever thought about writing an album based on a real historic event or a novel/movie?

Tobias Sammet: No, not really. But Scarecrow was influenced by Goethe’s Faust. Not really a novel, but strongly inspired by something that had been written and published, if that counts.

 

Kiske Fanclub: Avantasia played festivals and concert hall shows. Now with ESC something special, but have you ever thought about playing at a special location like Metallica playing at the South Pole?

Tobias Sammet: Did they really do that? Wow, if you’re extremely really rich, life must be extremely boring… No, I am happy to play Arena in Ludwigsburg. I’d love to play the Madison Square Garden in New York, but why would I wanna play the South Pole? It’s cold and there are just penguins. I don’t get the point…

 

avantasiainoberKiske Fanclub: The new Avantasia tour including festivals will be the longest one. Did you have problems with the scheduling and especially the scheduling of all the guest musicians?

Tobias Sammet: It is always a problem, this is why Avantasia tours don’t happen too often, we never know if we’ll tour again and what the lineup will be then. Bob will just join us for the first European shows and then be on tour with Magnum. It’s always difficult, that’s why I’m so happy that most things work out this time, Michi and the others will join all shows.

 

Kiske Fanclub: What do you think about the progression or evolution of Unisonic? I mean from the 1st album to the second album. The same regarding live experiences, since you were on tour together.

Tobias Sammet: I haven’t seen them on their first tour, but on our tour they were great. Great songs, great playing, great singing, great guys.

 

Kiske Fanclub: That’s it from the Kiske Fanclub and thanks a lot for taking your time. 🙂