Interview date

September, 8th 2010


Blaster of Muppets


Interview M. Kiske & A. Somerville (face to face)

How did you become involved in this particular project?

Michael: It was Serafino's (from Frontiers Records) idea. You know, he was responsible for a couple of things like Place Vendome… he actually was the one who had the idea for the acoustic versions of my old songs from Helloween. I recorded a song for a band called Indigo Dying, it was a duet with the singer who was a girl… that’s when he had the idea. Then, he asked me if I would be interested in recording a whole record like that. And then, I think he contacted Matt Sinner right away, he already had him in mind. And Matt is actually the one who did everything…

Amanda: Matt’s get stuff done!

M: He really put his heart into it. You can tell it’s not just a job for him.

A: He’s really a great guy. And he’s so layback, relax, easy-going…

M: And the video-shoot was so much fun too!

Did you take part in the writing of some songs or melodies?

M: She did!

A: Yeah, I did. But everything was pretty much laid out (by Magnus Karlsson, and Matt)… they came out with all the songs for the most part. But I asked if there was some room in terms of creative process because I’m a songwriter as much as I’m a singer… and Matt said: “Yes, no problem, if you’ve got anything, send it.”. So I wrote four songs, and three of them ended up on the album.

Which ones?

A: “A Thousand Suns”…

M: … which is my favourite.

A: … “Arise” and the bonus track “Set a Fire”.

“Set a Fire” is pretty heavy and aggressive; I was quite surprised to hear you (Michael) sing on such a song as it is known that you’re not too much into the heavy stuff. You didn’t have any problems with that?

M: I personally don’t need such heavy guitars… but if it’s a good song, it doesn’t bother me.

Do you plan to give a few concerts to promote this album?

A: We would love to! But, you know, it’s not really up to us… it all depends on how the album does.

M: Yes, they don’t put you on a tour if the album doesn’t sell. But, sure, it would be nice.

A: But we’re going on tour together with Avantasia!!

That was actually one of my next questions. So, it is definitely official. This is exciting news!

A: Yes, it is. WE are excited!!

Well, I will be even more excited when I hear that you come to France. Because so far, no French dates have been given, only Germany, Switzerland and South America…

A: Well I hope… but you know, I’ve heard rumours that there could be dates for France, Italy and Spain (smiling)…

M: and I’ve heard Kai Hansen would be there too!

And Jorn Lande, Bob Catley, Sascha Paeth…

A: Yeah, the usual suspects (laughs).

Did you have the opportunity to record your songs together, or did you work separately?

M: I prefer working in my own studio. I have my own rhythm… and I don’t like people talking into the vocals, I don’t believe in that.

A: He was afraid that I would hurt his ears… (laughs)

Are there any other singers with whom you’d like to record duets?

M: I don’t really think about it very much. I like to listen to other singers but I don’t imagine myself singing with them. I like Bono from U2, I like Tom Chaplin from Keane… there are many vocalists that I like. I would say that, to me, it’s more interesting singing with a girl though…

A: I’m open to it. Like Michael, there are lots of people that I admire and I certainly wouldn’t say no if they asked me to do a duet… but…

M (interrupts and mimes a phone call): “Oh, Hi Bono… no, I haven’t got time for this…” (laughs)

A (laughing): … but I don’t really think about it actually.

What are your favourite songs on the Kiske-Somerville record?

M: Well, “A Thousand Suns”, “Silence”… you know what, I forgot… I haven’t actually had a CD!

A: Me neither (laughing)! It depends on what mood I’m in. I’m actually proud of very song on the record. Of course, I have a more personal connection to the songs that I wrote but I really like “Silence”, I also like “The End of the Road”…

Would you consider recording a sequel to that record if it was successful?

A: Yeah, totally!

M: I couldn’t kill it! It’s actually a good thing that they asked me to do this record before I was in my new band Unisonic, because I had lots of offers… Now, I don’t accept them anymore. Now that I’m in a real band, I just can’t. When you’re solo, you have time, you do what you want… but now, it’s over. So, I’m really happy that this project came right before Unisonic, because if it sells now I cannot kill it, it would be a crime!

What words would you use to encourage people to listen to this album?

M: I’d say it has drama…

A: … and it has lot of heart! But you know what’s really missing in a lot of records in the Metal genre these days is that the hardcore guys are so afraid to talk about any matters of the heart or use the word love that there’s a lot of emotion missing for me. But with this one, it’s all about love and relationships… I think it’s cool.

Yes… but it’s so much fun to talk about swords, kings and dragons.

M (laughing): Yes… I wonder if it’s not Black Sabbath that invented that sort of stuff… with Ronnie James Dio. Dio’s lyrics were always like that… about fantasy medieval stuff… but it was actually good. You know, when Dio died, I listened to “Holy Diver”, “The Last in Line” again… I still have my “Mob Rules” record; I recently ordered “Heaven and Hell”… God, how good those albums were!!

Yes, but that’s the thing about Ronnie James Dio, he was so good, so talented, that he could have sung about a plate of French Fries, I would have listened to it!

M (laughing): You know what’s funny about Ronnie Dio: his voice is so big, so strong… that you don’t really notice how high this guy actually sings. When Bruce Dickinson sings “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, you can hear it’s really high; Dio does the same thing on “Heaven and Hell” but it doesn’t sound as high because his voice is so big!!!

So you already told me that you would be part of the Avantasia tour…

M: Yeah, Tobias actually asked me to join the tour the last time… he even offered me a lot of money (smiling). But I was not ready…

Yes, but this time it’s different because you’ve started touring again with your new band last summer…

M: Yes, exactly! Now, I have been on stage again.

So, how did it feel to be on stage again after sixteen years without touring?

M: For the first three warm-up shows, it was weird… the adrenaline rush was so big! Sometimes, I wasn’t in control… I was pushing too much… But I was a quick learner, I guess. The second show was better, and the next… When it came to Sweden Rock, I felt good. And the most exciting thing for me was meeting the fans! They had a signing session, and I was really moved to see this long line of fans that wanted me to sign… there was everything from the Keeper albums to my solo albums, Place Vendome… and there were all ages! There were young people; some were not even born when I left Helloween… and people my age of course. I was really surprised and moved. Because, you know, being absent for such a long time, I didn’t really know what to expect.

Talking about your absence, it seems that your relationship with the hard rock scene has been quite complicated for the past years, and there has been some misunderstanding as well… How are things today?

M: It’s a couple of factors, you know. First, I was really pissed off the way things ended with Helloween, and then the way my solo albums were treated by some people who were always trying to compare them to the Helloween albums…

Did the criticism from certain people or magazines that didn’t like your solo albums make you suffer?

M: Yeah, yeah… it pissed me off!! I think I have matured a little bit when it comes to that. I don’t really care that much about that anymore. Everybody’s different… I understand now that you should just not try to please. Don’t try to please everyone, it just doesn’t work. Please yourself and if you can find an audience that can identify with it, then it’s good. Do your thing and then it happens, or it doesn’t.
I was pissed about many things… I had the feeling that some people in the metal community were really narrow-minded. You know, as long as you truly express yourself, it is true art. Some bands are so f***ing scared of doing something the fans would not understand… so in the end, they say they stay true to something, but they really serve their market and artistically, it is totally wrong. I don’t like masks, I don’t like fake… and I also don’t like the satanic crap. I believe in good, I don’t believe in the church but I’m a spiritual person, I believe life has a moral meaning… I’m not saying that music has to be beautiful all the time. You can express aggression, it’s very justified. But expressing aggression or frustration is not the same as idealizing violence… it’s very different. There’s a part of the metal scene I’ve become really fed up with.
But then again, there’s been some misunderstanding; a lot of things have been mixed up too. I have never rejected my Helloween past, never. I love the Keeper records. It was just a personal thing… a particular person that was trying to get rid of me and that’s all. And when Kai was no longer in the band, the chemistry wasn’t working anymore. That’s all there is to it. I still love my Judas Priest records, my favourite Iron Maiden records, and I’m ok with a lot of things from the metal scene as long as it’s not satanic.

Talking about Kai Hansen, I’ve just realized that the two of you are going to be on stage together for the first time since 1988!!

M: Yes, that’s great. I didn’t know about that until a few days ago. That’s awesome!

You’ve recorded a few Elvis Presley covers with Helloween or for your solo albums. Would you like to record and release a cover album of your favourite songs?

M: Oh yeah… but it’s gotta be Elvis. I love his phase between 1968 and 1971…

A: Oh my god! I was just thinking while listening to you… you and Jorn Lande have to sit together in the airplane! He’s a huge Elvis fan, he wants to do an Elvis album… he’s talking about it with Sascha Paeth!

M: You know what’s funny? I’ve just remembered that back when I was still managed by Rod Smallwood, you Iron Maiden’s manager, a nice guy… there was a discussion about recording an Elvis cover album. I told Rod that I’d love to do it… but he didn’t pick me for it.

But did the album get made? It doesn’t ring any bell…

M: I don’t know… maybe it never happened. It probably failed because I wasn’t on it (laughs).

Now, you seem to be busier than ever. You’ve got the Kiske-Somerville album, the tour with Avantasia, you new band Unisonic. Still, are there any other plans we don’t know about?

M: No. Especially now that Unisonic is on the move… I’m in a real band again, the “project years” are pretty much over.

Where are things with Unisonic?

M: At the moment, we’re writing. We’ve recorded a nice demo, a couple of songs, because some labels were asking… that’s pretty cool.

You haven't signed anything yet?

M: No, no... but it's really great, you know... a major label contacts you and wants to hear a demo... it's awesome. Hopefully, next year we'll have an album and we'll be able to tour.

A few years ago, I remember reading about the possibility of you doing something with Kai Hansen and Roland Grapow, has this project been abandoned?

M: Yeah, it never happened We sat together and talked about it... but I must admit that the main reason I was interested was Kai... because I just connect the best years in Helloween with him. But I'm quite happy it never happened. I feel that sometimes you just have to let things be over. I like a lot better being in Unisonic, it's all fresh and new.

Amanda, I really liked the Metal Opera Aina (a project with Sascha Paeth, Michael Kiske, Tobias Sammet, Glenn Hughes and a lot of other guests). Will there be a sequel?

A: Well, I've basically written one. I would love to... but the record company that originally released Aina went under. So yes, I would love to do a second episode... but I haven't had time to take the initiative. Maybe one day...

Do you have any other projects after the Kiske-Somerville episode and the tour with Avantasia?

A: I'll be on tour in January 2011 for the Rock Meets Classic project. There will be some excellent musicians such as Ian Gillian (Deep Purple), Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Steve Lee (Gotthard), Dan McCafferty (Nazareth)... and Matt Sinner will be there too! And, we'll play with the Bohemian Symphonic Orchestra from Prague.Then, I'd really like to have time for my solo career.

M: You should get her album called "Windows", it's really great. It has various styles, I love it.

A: Thank you.

One last question for Michael because we're running out of time. In the past years, you've been participating to a lot of projects, sometimes just for a couple of songs, is there one that you cherish more than the others?

M: Definitely this duet and Aina, to be honest. For some reason... there's this innocent, beautiful light to it that I really like. And I also like Timo Tolkki's Revolution Renaissance, it turned out to be really nice!

Thank you very much for this interview, I had a great time!

A: Thanks for the interest and see you soon.

M: Yes, thank you. See you... hopefully on the tour with Avantasia!

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