MICHAEL KISKE: ‘I Can’t Really Listen To Myself’ On HELLOWEEN’s ‘Keeper’ Albums

On April 20, Aniruddh Bansal of Metal Assault conducted an interview with with former HELLOWEEN and current UNISONIC singer Michael Kiske. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metal Assault: Did you feel that the songwriting [for the UNISONIC debut album] went through a big change when Kai [Hansen, former HELLOWEEN and current GAMMA RAY guitarist/vocalist] arrived in the band?

Kiske: Well, he has his own ways. I like him and his songwriting anyway, and I know him for a number of years now. I was always a fan of the things he was doing. When he comes into a band like UNISONIC and starts working on material, he does it in his own way. Dennis Ward, who is an American, he also has his own ways and he writes beautiful songs. It’s not that Dennis can’t write great songs, but Kai has his own style of pushing things around, and as soon as he has his hand involved, things get more interesting, at least for my ears. It just gets more of an edge. Kai has a talent for nailing things down to the basics and throw out useless stuff. I think pretty much all the songs gained a lot after he joined the band. It’s just my personal opinion. Maybe there are people who don’t see this as dramatically as I do, but I really think Kai is a huge plus to UNISONIC.

Metal Assault: The main question in the fans’ minds would be, how does UNISONIC‘s music compare to the HELLOWEEN material that you did a number of years back?

Kiske: To me, there’s not much of a difference. I’m still myself, you know. I’m a different person, of course, it’s been 23 years since the “Keeper” days. Kai has changed, too. I think when I sing stuff that he has written, it always sounds like HELLOWEEN in a certain way, because that’s just how we sound. I don’t believe in a record production that attempts to sound like records of the past, trying to fake the sound on purpose. I would never go for that. I think that’s really wrong, but we’re just ourselves, and as much as that’s the case, I think we do sound the way we always sounded. Of course, there are other people in the band now. Mandy, Dennis and Kosta are different people as compared to Michael Weikath, Ingo and Markus [members of HELLOWEEN‘s “Keeper” lineup]. So, for that matter, it sounds different, but nobody knows what the next HELLOWEEN record after “Keeper II” would have sounded like, if Kai was still in the band at that time. It might have sounded like that, but we were never the type of band that repeated itself, you know. We always tried to break some new grounds creatively, and I think that’s why those “Keeper” records, even to this day, appeal to younger people. There was some kind of a “no-fear” spirit going on, just enjoying the time and making the best out of each song, not worrying too much, and that’s what I loved about that time. To a certain extent, it’s still the same way with UNISONIC. There is still a spirit going on between me and Kai, which reminds me a lot of that time.

Metal Assault: Vocally, have you done anything different on this album, or is it the same style that we’ve known you for over the years?

Kiske: I think I’m a lot better now (laughs). I can’t really listen to myself on the “Keeper I” and “II” records. I was a baby then. I was like eighteen years old when I did the vocals for “Keeper I”. Same for “Keeper II”, I was nineteen at the time. The vocal cords were not fully developed when you’re at that age. For a man, you have to cross the age of 30 for your vocal cords to really develop. So I think in terms of the sound of my voice, I’m a lot better these days than I was back then. I sound a lot fuller, and I don’t have to kick my ass that much to sound good out there, you know. Of course as a person I have developed, so my singing has improved. The vocal performance always depends on the personality. I’m 44 years old now, and I’ve been through experiences. I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m a grown man now, and I think all that benefits the performance I’m able to give.

Metal Assault: Obviously, you got better with age in terms of your voice. But not every singer is able to do that. Some get worse with age. Do you think that’s just natural, or is there something singers can do to improve with age?

Kiske: Absolutely. I mean, singing has a lot to do with your head. I don’t have problems with my voice unless I’m having a bad time. When my soul is down, then I begin to have problems with voice, but when I feel good about things, I can sing without any problem. I think it’s pretty much the same for every singer when it comes to technique. If you do things right, there is no reason you’d lose your voice. It will change over the years, but not necessarily in a bad way, and if you’re aware of what you’re doing, you’ll be capable of singing great, and you’ll be able to do everything you used to do when you were young. As long as you deal with the changes in your voice and learn how to do things differently, you can enjoy singing your whole life, actually. When singers lose their voice, either it’s a mental problem, or they do something wrong to burn the voice. You should always try to avoid violating your voice as a singer.

Read the entire interview from Metal Assault.