Unisonic (Michael Kiske)
Few years ago no one could have bet on Michael Kiske return. Now that the Avantasia tour is positively closed, the golden voice from Helloween's "Keeper Of the Seven Keys" is back with his new project called Unisonic, going with experienced musicians and his old Helloween ex-mate Kai Hansen. Waiting to tell you in depth the new outcoming album, we linked up in exclusive with the german singer who, known as a disputed figure, gave us an interview anything but common, far from the rules of the "new album to come" promotion...
Article by Luca Ciuti - Publish on: 20/03/12

Hello Michael, how are you? How’s the weather in Hamburg?

Actually pretty good, it supposed to be only raining but it’s quite alright, it’s not even warm but it is sunny! Rare for Hamburg!

Listening to the album, it’s clear that Unisonic is not a “super-group” but sounds like a real band, bringing out the style from every single member…

Yes, we’re like a real band of course, we worked out everything together, we wanna be a rock band and have a wide range of possibilities, I’m not afraid of going into metal but also I’m not afraid of going in another direction if it’s fun to do, you know?
Everyone expected a “back to back album”, even me honestly…

It’s never good to go back. It’s very funny, because it’s not only in the metal scene but pretty much everywhere, when you have a successful record for some reason some people expect you to copy past records. It’s very weird I don’t know why anyone thinks it’s a good idea because we would not make an honest record, we would fake record, we would copy something we have already done in the past. Especially it’s funny when you look at Helloween because I mean, we never did that, when we look at “Walls Of Jericho” and then we did “Keeper I” they are totally different records. When you listen “Keeper I” and “Keeper II”, they are very different record, even when Kai left the band after “Keeper II” times the record after it sounds different; we’re not trying to copy the Keeper records; we’re not trying to be Helloween, we’re not trying to copy the past, we’re just doing what we can do, we sound like us as always as much as we are ourselves, we won’t try to copy those Keeper records. Anyone who expect that is wrong… This is rather childish, in my opinion.
Unisonic seems to include influences from your later solo works like Place Vendome and Kiske- Somerville project…

I don’t think so, of course all experiences you have go in what you’re doing, but the only similarity you have to Place Vendome is my voice and Dennis (Ward, the bass player, editor’s note) songwriting maybe, but Kai and Mandy don’t have anything to do with it, they have their own kind of sound, you know? Kai had a big influence on songwriting, he has written almost half of the album while Kosta (Zafiriou, drummer, editor’s note) wrote no song at all…it sounds melodic and I think it’s good!
You had an intensive promo tour so far, does it reflect your expectations?
It’s beyond my expectations! So far people we are talking to are all very excited about, all but not the one who actually don’t understand the art of writing and have a very strange understanding of what the job of the musician is, only those ones are really complaining... it’s not our job to please anyone, not anyone else but ourselves, we have to write the music we believe, we have to make songs we find exciting, you cannot write music for critics, you cannot write music for markets, this is as close as you will get to the old sound... We are a different band it’s really silly to expect anything else but us making music... And I also think to the influence which Kai had on songwriting, when I sing a song of Kai it always sounds like the old days, I think it does which is not copying any of the old songs…
Is there a reason in choosing experienced musicians instead of young ones? What’s the difference in your opinion?

No, it just happened...when Dennis and Kosta contacted me bringing out this idea of making a band, Dennis just immediately had in mind Mandy Meyer (second guitar, editor’s note) as guitar player who’s a great picker, while the thing with me and Kai just happened during the Avantasia tour, I think it’s a good thing we don’t care about age... Funny question anyway!

I saw you on stage recently, the way you move is quite different from the early years; did you feel a sort of stagefright?

Not at all...I’m just different now, twenty years older, you know...?

Did you feel something special coming back to business?

So far so good! It’s really special, as I said at the moment things are really cool and I’m really looking forward to the activity of this year... Just a second, someone’s at my door, I’ll be back in a minute...

(Michael stays away for a minute)

kiskehansen_600_01Here I am again...

What are your feelings about heavy metal scene comparing to years ago?

At first I wasn’t very sure... The scenes are different everywhere, in every country... In Germany it has become boring, because it’s not about art anymore, is not about being creative anymore, it’s really just very near old minded. It used to be a little bit different but when it comes to the press well, I found it very “antiart”. Some of the arguments are about expecting a totally different band which is not sounding like 20 years ago, I say to them “what you expect is wrong and should never be that way”…and many are like that but in that way you kill creativity because people from band you want to hear records, if they get criticized for doing new things and sounding different they stop being creative and in the end they just become puppets of their past existence, all they do in the end reproducing records that sold the best and that is a commercial sell out, which is what happened most of the time. As soon as the band is successful something they do the same thing all over, like in the pop world, it’s the same thing in the hard rock world today and I find it very boring.
In the days when I got into metal, it was in the years of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in their prime, they always surprised us with some fresh new especially Judas Priest, is one of the bands that I really like because of their creativity, well they always do something fresh trying to reinvent themselves, I thought that was really exciting. It’s no more like anymore at all, I find a lot of boring so I usually listen to old stuff which is more exciting, more fresh and more real. Looking at the audience, is pretty much the same but in a good way, I was very insecure when I got on stage for the first time in 2010, I didn’t know what to expect I did not have good experiences with the metal scene after the Helloween years, it was a great time when Kai was in the band but when he left the band it turned out to be very bad and very frustrating and then I get out of the band, I was doing solo records but I was just too much negative, it was no fun anymore to make music, so I almost didn’t it, every four years I tried to make a record but it was pretty hard, I was interested in other things, getting huge disappointments in the industry on a human level with my own mates. I did not know what to expect when I got back on stage and had signing sessions after the gig like at Sweden Rock, the audience struck me in a positive way, it was not all negative, it was very sweet because people are excited, that was really necessary for me, it was very important for me as experience, because if you don’t like what you’re doing you can’t do it for a long time, it’s the same feeling I had on tour with Avantasia. In terms of the culture, in terms of the creativity and media I’m not a big fan of it, it needs an artistic revolution to be anyway important for the music industry even having an influence on the market. In the days I got excited for metal in the eighties and in the nineties, mainly in the eighties, metal was so innovative in fact it stroke in the chart, when I listened “Run To The Hills” on the radio, when I heard it I thought “Wow, it’s great”, I mean, the metal scene was really innovative and creative and there was a great rock n’roll spirit going on.
Nowadays, I read about a lot of bands in magazines holding very wrong ideals, about the evil and glorifying crap ideals, the Satanism, they hate humanity, glorifying crap, well I’m totally against it. I believe in good hearted people and friendship, I believe in trust, love and honesty, I believe in good ideals, I don’t believe in selfishness. Yes, I believe in personality but lot of those ideals mix up personality with selfishness they think to their ego and don’t care about anything else but themselves. Some even believe like they have no heart it give some strength, which it’s bullshit if you have no heart you have no heart, that’s all, or you have a weak heart…I always been into those bands which had that positive energy going on, that’s what I loved about Helloween, we always had a good sense of humor, we had a positive approach to music and to life, we had it on KeeperS and we want to keep it in Unisonic too. I can’t speak for everywhere, I can’t speak for the metal scene in the whole world, I can only speak for German metal scene because is the one I know best… Everyone dark in face, everyone wear in black, I don’t like that, I really hope that will be some sort of creative rebirth going on in heavy metal scene, more human friendly ideals, not those crappy satanic evil glorifying ideals. I don’t know how anyone can hold ideas like that!
You know I’m German, eighty years ago we had persons like that ruling this country, the Nazis you know, they had very satanic ideals, so look what they let us… I don’t want that crap anymore, neither in music nor anywhere.

Do you think a sort of revolution could start from Festivals? The mixing of styles could bring some good effects to heavy metal scene?
Festivals are a good thing if there’s a variety of bands, I like festivals especially because of those reasons...it means a lot more, fans have to open up more in terms of musical horizons, it’s really important, you cannot want a band making an album that they don’t really don’t want to do, you cannot want that, I remember  the years when I discovered most of the bands that I’m even with nowadays, I didn’t like them first, it just took few listens, then I got into them, I understood and then I loved them even more. If we want to have a music culture going on, we have to be open to learn something new rather than expecting the past, it doesn’t lead the music in anywhere if bands do the same things all over again, just because you might sell better, it always kills creativity, it always kills music culture, as sure as the business sight, that’s all. In the metal scene very often bands say they’re faithful to their fans, it sounds nice to talk like that but it really means that they’re faithful to the money of their fans, they wants them to buy the record again, that’s why they do the same record. This is business and it has nothing to do with being faithful to their fans. You do the best for the audience giving them an honest song, an honest record, something you really mean and something you really love, that’s the best you can do. This is being loyal to fans, to give them true piece of music. Does it make sense to you?

Totally, Michael. You’re talking with a guy listening Amorphis beside Bruce Springsteen, you can imagine comments by people…

Exactly, I don’t care about styles, anything that gives me emotions, anything that moves my soul is great and I don’t care if it’s pop or rock. You can find honest pop musicians, you can fin honest country musicians; if someone grew up in a surrounding with country music and that’s the music he loves to dot and he writes an honest song, that’s art!
It’s very nice what you said because it’s one of the things that I never understood…even in my hardest heavy days, I was fifteen or sixteen, at the same time when I got into Judas Priest, Black Sabbath or Metallica, the first three Metallica records, I used to listen many things like Elvis, The Beatles even Kate Bush or U2, I was listening to lot of different stuff, anything was exciting, and to limit yourself down to one musical style you know what it is? It’s a sort of extremism, people who do that and anyone who doesn’t fall in their music taste is bad, it’s harmless, is nothing that a fascistic mentality, because they don’t try to open up their possibilities. In Germany what we have is “We are the truth, we are Germany and we are better than the rest of the world”. Some people have a very fascistic understanding of things; it doesn’t matter if you take your country, your race, your music or tastes that you have, if we make it to the extreme is nothing else but fascism, just in a different way. Isolate yourself from the rest of the world, and say “We are the truth, and you suck!” and not even trying to understand what other persons think, it’s a form of fascism. If you only believe in your ego and you don’t care the one next to you and respect them just like as much they respect yourself it’s just individual fascism. I’m not saying that everything is good, I’m not saying we have to agree with anything, but… it is why someone does what he does, if you do whatever you do with an honest heart because you believe it and you do with passion, and whenever you do you do with honesty, and whether metal music, or rock music, or jazz music it doesn’t matter, if you do that with an honest heart and is what you believe in you do some true art, and no one has the right to say that you suck because you do the music they don’t like, it’s pretty childish!

Looking back at your previous solo records, what’s your opinion today? Would you change something?
I usually don’t like them for a long time, I also usually don’t listen to them a lot, when I have finished a record I might be coming back just for sound reasons, just to check the mix or to see what I can do better… For me records are just a statement of the time that I have done them. When the next record comes up I see where that leads me but they usually don’t last very long, I usually like after two three years and then I would have done things already different.


What shall we expect on stage from Unisonic?

Five people on stage having fun hopefully! I want to enjoy what I’m doing. I have always tried to avoid thinking to it as a job. I started music not for getting girls, cars or money, I started making music for pure passion of music, I was just excited about a band and I wanna do the same, that’s how I started. Fun is one of those words...everybody talks about fun fun fun, when you make music especially if you are a singer if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you don’t have a very good spirit going on…if it’s just a job, how can it be passionate? It’s another reason why it’s important to keep it really exciting for you… obviously you don’t wanna piss anyone off, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about fans, I do care and it makes me sad when they are disappointed but I cannot follow that, if I do that I’m not true anymore, it is important to keep the fire burning for yourself to write song you find exciting, it is important to have fun in what you’re doing, as soon as I lose the fun of singing for a band, being in a band or singing a specific style of music I would stop, because it would probably make me sick.

We’re at the end of the interview… Let me say I’m having chills because I can’t believe I’m talking to Michael Kiske…

I’m doing a lot of interviews, especially me and Kai, everybody wants to talk with me and Kai because of our past, about what we did twenty years ago with Helloween, it’s really exciting seeing how many fans are still there, I never thought that would be possible but for some reasons they are, it’s beautiful to see that, I’m really thankful for that, you know…

Many fans are still there because probably you carried good feeling in those years…

That’s exactly what it is! That’s what I was talking about! I think that the secret behind the success of the Keeper records is the spirit that we recorded in it, because we thought that it was the best music on earth from the coolest band on earth. We just loved what we were doing and we enjoyed it and we were not afraid, so you have brought it to the point, it’s the spirit that we recorded, it’s the key thing. Many bands tried to copy that sound, in many ways they might even being better of those records, technically or the sound or whatever, but it’s the spirit that matters! That’s what I want to say to any musician: keep your spirit free, keep it free, we all have to make money and it sucks having no money and it’s great to make money, but don’t let them control your songwriting, don’t let the money control your songwriting, don’t let the money control your performance, learn to get yourself free from all that stuff. It’s a support to pay your bills, but you die as musicians if you don’t keep your soul and you mind free from money!

God Bless You, Michael.

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