I was awaiting with great anxiety the debut album by Unisonic. The presence of Kiske and Hansen in the same band surely brings forth some of the best memories in heavy metal. Despite the fact that I’d expected more from that debut effort, I could not but underline that I was once again taken by storm with the sheer excellence and the unreachable level of Michael Kiske’s voice! For all things Unisonic and not only, we are talking via Skype with Mr. Kiske...
Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: Michael, how do you view Unisonic...as a real band or as a project?
Michael Kiske: This is a really band; a totally different situation from the years before…I mean, I was trying to form a band with Supared but in reality it was yet another Kiske solo record with a different name. You can’t make bands; they just happen…and Unisonic happened! It was Kosta (Zafeiriou) and Dennis (Ward) approaching me, then Mandy (Meyer) stepped in and we were fooling around with songs for a couple of years. Then I went for a small tour with Avantasia and reconnected with Kai (Hansen). We thought that it would be a good time to do something together again and he was really the one who suggested that he should join Unisonic. But it needed some time! Unisonic with Kai started working towards the right direction. Before Kai, some songs were just OK and when he joined they started sounding really really good! A good example is the song “Star Rider”…Dennis wrote the verses and he had a chorus but it wasn’t that good…when Kai heard it, he suggested to change a few things here and there and then, in a matter of 20 seconds, the chorus sounded excellent! That’s what makes a real band. We work and discuss everything together. If someone doesn’t like something, he says so. In the end we are trying to make everyone happy…
Rockpages.gr: That’s great…I am asking this because in the last few years you have been heavily involved with many studio efforts like Place Vendome, the album with Amanda Sommerville and others...
Michael Kiske: I know what you mean…Unisonic is a real band. You see…the other things that I’ve done in the past were not as intense as Unisonic.
Rockpages.gr: So, from what I understand Kai Hansen was the missing link…
Michael Kiske: Yes, absolutely!
Rockpages.gr: Who thought of the name Unisonic?
Michael Kiske: We were fooling around with various names…there were some that I thought were OK; others that I didn’t like. We ended up with the word “Unison” and transformed into that musical “Unison” called Unisonic. It’s a very good name and it doesn’t sound overblown. I am really happy with that name. It’s just happened by fooling around with names.
Rockpages.gr: Before we go on with the rest of the questions, it’s great to hear you so happy and excited about this band. We have talked a couple of times before but this is really the first time that you sound so optimistic about music.
Michael Kiske: Yeah, I know! I passed through some long phases of not being so excited about music in general. I had bad experience in the past with the music industry and I wanted for a while to keep my head out of it. But now it’s different; I am really excited about something again and I am thinking: “I am 43-44 years old…it’s now or never”! It’s just the right time and my voice is still really good, I am in a great physical condition and I am really happy that this band came together. I haven’t been in a real band for so many years now and as I said before, things take time and it’s always a matter of the right timing. Unisonic just happened and I didn’t have to do anything. It was beautiful.
Rockpages.gr: One small correction on what you said a few seconds ago…your voice is not very good, it’s excellent!
Michael Kiske: (laughs) Thank you!
Rockpages.gr: Lots of fans were thrilled when they learned that Kai Hansen would join the band. How did it feel for you to be working once again with him?
Michael Kiske: (It is) really great…Kai is a person that you really like to have around because he is always goofing around and he has a loveable personality. He likes to enjoy everyday as much as he can and he has this gift of making everybody around him laugh and have a great time. Back in the Helloween days, when Kai was in the band, the chemistry was great. When he left the band, it was a totally different situation. For me, personally, it turned into a nightmare. There was one particular person (ed.note: I guess, our readers understand who that particular person is) who always stubbing me behind my back. When Kai was in the band there was a great atmosphere within the band. It’s the same thing with Unisonic…all the guys are awesome and it’s fun to be around with them. To tell you the truth I don’t really enjoy working in the studio and trying to keep up with all those time schedules and deadlines. I like to sing a song when I feel like it…when I am in the right mood. But you can’t do that when you have a record deal with a big record label like earMusic that’s putting their money into the band. You have to work hard and try to meet their deadlines. The biggest fun is when I am onstage or rehearse with the guys.
Rockpages.gr: Let’s get back for a little bit to Kai Hansen…will his schedule with Gamma Ray interfere with Unisonic because from what I gather from his comments so far, Gamma Ray remains his priority?
Michael Kiske: Well, we will try to do it that way…one year he will focus on Unisonic and the next on Gamma Ray…but that doesn’t mean that in between those bands will be inactive or something. When there is the “Gamma Ray Year”, the priority will be given to Gamma Ray and there will be less things regarding Unisonic. I don’t mind that, I really don’t! I like that schedule, to be honest. I like the fact that there will be an intense Unisonic year and then an easy-going Unisonic year.
Rockpages.gr: Judging by the sound of your album, I’d say that the songwriting is obviously suited with your taste of melodic rock music and it’s hardly considered a heavy metal album that many would probably expected. Do you agree?
Michael Kiske: First of all, I agree with you…this is a melodic rock record. I know what you mean though…with Kai in the band the fans expect a…heavy metal edge to the songs. The truth is that I like rock music and I really enjoy listening to some of my early metal records by Maiden and Priest. Take for example the song “Unisonic”. It’s a heavy metal song without any doubt…
Rockpages.gr: Yeah, but that’s really the exception to the rule…
Michael Kiske: Well…maybe “My Sanctuary” is also kind of heavy, isn’t it? It all depends on the definition of the term “heavy metal”. Many people would consider the song “Star Rider” as heavy metal. I mean if you look at the “Keeper…” records, I have written songs like “We Got The Right” that nowadays are considered as melodic metal. What’s really “metal”? In the end, everybody has his own definition. Some people who don’t listen a lot to heavy rock music would even call Bon Jovi “heavy metal”! Others who are more into that brutal kind of metal like Korn, Slipknot and all the others would probably think that Unisonic is pop! The definition of “heavy metal” depends on the person who makes use of it. To me Unisonic’s album is rock music combined with some melodic metal elements.
Rockpages.gr: Which Unisonic song would you suggest to someone who wanted to have a clear picture of what the band really is?
Michael Kiske: That’s a difficult one…I don’t know because they are quite different. I would probably go for the ones that I like the most…let’ see…definitely “Star Rider” or “King For A Day”…I like the fact that it’s a diverse record.
Rockpages.gr: How about your touring schedule...how’s the demand for the band from the promoters around the world?
Michael Kiske: We have done a lot of promotion in terms of interviews but touring is pretty easy going. We are not planning to overkill…what we are doing is 8 days of promotion with me and Kai flying to some countries around Europe and even Japan. We will focus on the radio stations and maybe play a couple of acoustic songs. After that we are preparing for a South American Tour…a small one, maybe 10 days or so. A couple of Japanese dates and then mainly festivals over the summer…so, as I said, we won’t overkill…
Rockpages.gr: Well, in comparison with the previous years and your activities, this could easily be called “overkill”!
Michael Kiske: (laughs) Yes! I have to get used to it…of course! But I don’t take anything for granted, you know…I really enjoy the fact that something is happening now for me. I can’t wait to go out and travel. I have been sitting here in Hamburg for a long time…don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t want to sit here...it was just the right thing at the time.
Rockpages.gr: Now that you say that, from your perspective, which was the turning point, the crucial point that made you wanna change your lifestyle?
Michael Kiske: It wasn’t a single moment…I’d say it was more of a slow process.
Rockpages.gr: You have one of the best voices in rock music. How do you retain this high vocal level and what advice would you give to the young singers out there?
Michael Kiske: There are few things that you must be aware of…it’s important to have the right technique. I mean when you have a healthy voice, it is possible to sing in almost all keys…as long as your voice is healthy! When your vocal chords are in great shape and your head is at the right place…because, let me tell you that your emotional state deeply reflects your voice. If you are suffering from depression or something, you won’t be able to sing well. In addition, you have to learn how to sing high notes…it’s not that difficult but you need the technique. You mustn’t burn your voice…you must learn how to do it and constantly practice. If you believe you can do it, you will! But you should never force your voice because there is a good chance to make permanent damage to it.
Rockpages.gr: We have talked a couple of times in the past under different circumstances. But, now, I guess you are more open to talk about it...if the occasion arises would you be open for a possible reunion with Helloween?
Michael Kiske: I have the best part of Helloween in my band now! It’s not really necessary to do a reunion. I am not friend with Mr. Weikath. I have always had a good relationship with Kai. Yes, we had our differences but it was never like we hated each other or something. Now, with Kai in the band we have every right to play songs from the Helloween days….just for fun. Songs that Kai has written or I have written. Of course, we won’t play anything that Weikath has written! But the key tracks from the past, at least the majority of them, were written by Kai. We could play those songs live but I don’t see any reason for a reunion. I know the press would love that but trust me it wouldn’t be that fun. Let me tell you…just for the music, I would love to sing “Eagle Fly Free” as it was always one of my favorite tunes. The things that went on between me and Weikath…I don’t forget that! I’ve never been more betrayed by any person…so, I don’t see that (reunion) happening to be honest with you.