interview by: Roberto Martinelli
The impact that Helloween had on melodic metal up until this very day is immeasurable. With a release of a mere two albums in the mid- to late-80s, Keeper of the Seven Keys I and II, the benchmark for the style that is commonly thought of as European power metal was set. At the forefront of this revolution was Helloween’s singer, Michael Kiske. Since his day in Germany’s most important metal band ever, Kiske has been the idol of many a high squealing metal singer.
However, Kiske has been hanging very low since his departure from Helloween nearly 10 years ago. He put out some solo records that no one really paid attention to or even heard of, partially because they were never available in the States. From the reverence of a fan base unable to let go of the identity of Kiske as Helloween frontman, to his much publicized, bitter quibbles with Helloween guitarist Micheal Weikath (a man Kiske still calls “Weiky”), Kiske’s musical persona became trapped in limbo, as talented as he is. And he is talented, now more than ever. Kiske’s new band, the rock group Supared, is proof that he can come back, reinvent himself, and make something great. I contacted Kiske to chat about his image and where he’ll be going.
Maelstrom: Hi, Michael! I was pleasantly surprised to be blown away by Supared's debut album. I find every song has something nice to offer. Your voice is in fine form and the melodies are superb. You chose not to do any of the high vocals that put you on the map, though. Was this a conscious decision or do such vocals just not fit your music? Will you sing high again?
Michael Kiske: It’s funny that you have that impression, because on a couple of songs I thought I sing very high. Or do you mean those very high, someone stepped on my foot, kind of squeaks? I don’t really like those ones anymore. Everyone sounds the same doing them.
Maelstrom: Certainly the record wouldn't be a success if you didn't have a great band to back you up. Please tell us about your band mates; how did you hook up with them?
Michael Kiske: A friend has a friend who knows someone sort of thing. I new the drummer from the previous recordings, and he knows everyone. Came together very natural.
Maelstrom: Fourteen songs! That's quite a lot. How long has this band been in the works?
Michael Kiske: It took a little with the drums, all the rest went very fast; just the vocals took forever, because of a stomach problem of mine. I had to wait almost a year to do them.
Maelstrom: I find that the chorus to "He Pretends" is the one that stays in my mind the most. I didn't have the luxury of getting a lyric sheet. What's this song about?
Michael Kiske: Don’t really know! It’s a mix of a few people I have had the pleasure to know, I’d say.
Maelstrom: I was reading up on your career since Helloween. It seems that you put out some records with groups named RTS (in 1999) and a self-titled band (in 1996). I'm sorry I had never heard of these before, but I've never seen them in stores in the US. Mainly for our US readers, what are these records like, how are they different from Supared? Will you release any more solo albums?
Michael Kiske: Hard to say what I will do in the future. If SupaRed doesn’t go anywhere, I might do solo things again. The music on those two solo records of mine is just me. Like always. The first one is the most metal-like. I worked with Kai Hansen and Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden on it. R.T.S. is pretty wild. Very poppy. No red line in it. Impossible to sell, but interesting from an artistic point of view. A lot of searching and defining myself anew was going on.
Maelstrom: You've had periods of quiet that have lasted years between albums. What have you been doing? Do you prefer to make an album every three years or so?
Michael Kiske: I was trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life. Did A LOT of book reading. Spent over 25.000 Deutsch-Marks just on books. The business sucks in many ways, you know! I am still sometimes not sure if that’s what I am supposed to do. But I love singing. I had a big hunger for some more depth in my life. And I have found what I was searching for. A record should come out every second year. But it always takes forever in my case. I hope I can change that in the future.
Maelstrom: What's your fondest memory and/ or your greatest accomplishment yet in your musical career?
Michael Kiske: The first three years with Helloween. Because everything was right. Since than I know what it feels like being in a real band that works. Being on tour felt like being invincible! But it was pretty much over when Kai Hansen left. The chemistry was gone. But it was also very great to be able to personally meat pretty much all of my idols. I made my teenager dream come true. Now my goals are more art oriented and moral.
Maelstrom: Both your fame as a musician and the press release that came with the Supared promo cannot go long at all without mentioning your career with Helloween (which ended 13 years ago). We can certainly understand why, but it seems almost like a (perhaps) unwanted crutch that I hope will diminish as you continue to make great albums. In the meantime, do you feel that you live in your own shadow, of Michale Kiske, Helloween frontman? What is that like?
Michael Kiske: For the metal press and in certain metal heads for sure. And it’s very understandable too! Until I have achieved something new on a similar level, the old image will probable not be replaced too soon. But as a person I don’t live in the shadow of my past at all. It was great, but it’s over. And I am still burning. As I said: I have had some great years with that band. I don’t wanna miss them. A lot of people will probably never get the chance to experience what I have. As I said above: I lived my dream. And that’s so cool. I have new ones now, and I will try to live them too.
Maelstrom: I was reading up on your career on the internet. There's a site, whose url is really long, that has a brief and not all that flattering summary of Helloween's career. It mentions the problems that Ingo Schwicthenberg had that led to his suicide, and it also mentions your split with Helloween due to your getting involved in some "obscure religion." Would you care to comment on such words?
Michael Kiske: These things get written by those typical smart-ass materialists. My ‘obscure religion` is simply Christianity. But I am not a member of any church. I think that the official Christian religion has to do with real Christianity by name only. I don’t need (nor like) institutions! I am looking for an over-religious way to truth. And I am not a materialist, so as a Christian I am dealing with spiritual-science… Christian occultism even! That’s what early Christians always called the Holy Spirit. No big deal to someone who is looking for some truth, and has some senses left for something more than the brutal matter. Someone who really lives some kind of a spiritual life will always be obscure or crazy or what ever for materialists. I honestly think this world is gone nuts in so many ways. Someone who is still at least in some way alive in his soul is crazy or obscure, and soul dead materialists are considered to be healthy. Well! To each his own. I certainly am religious! - I think Michael Weikath has spread those stupid things about me. I saw a statement like that from him years ago in a Magazine. Maybe that’s where the person had it from. The band simply split up because we didn’t understand each other anymore. Weiky was playing his false games behind backs, like he always does. That kills everything. It was simply over. And of course they didn’t understand me talking about true art or young spiritual Christianity or things like that. It just didn’t make sense anymore. All the rest is talk. Ingo slowly killed himself with alcohol and cocaine. It’s the saddest end you could have for a life and a band.
Maelstrom: My last Helloween question: Now 15 years after the final installment of the "Keeper" series, so many European bands (including Kai Hansen's Gamma Ray) continue to emulate what you did (and usually without much originality of their own). Looking back over this period of time and the current state of power metal, what are you thoughts on your impact?
Michael Kiske: It’s cool! I was very surprised to find out that those records still mean that much to young people, and musicians still get inspired by it. Especially considering being out of the scene for such a long time. I always thought Maiden's Number of the Beast, or Priest's Screaming for Vengeance were much more important as influences, but in certain areas it seems to be different. But I honestly think that the cool rock/metal scene of the eighties and early nineties died out so much because of a big lack of creativity that took over. The nowadays scene has no respect for the individual or creative freedom. I also think that has to do with all the silly love for evil and Satanism in it. That has to kill all life slowly! It only creates moral wimps. It truly has become a scene of the dead. And I believe in the GOD of the living. I know that the god of the dead exists also, but that’s not where I wanna go, or what I have anything to do with. I don’t feel at home there anymore. And a lot of circles there don’t seem to like me either, so it’s about time to tame new grounds. I really don’t care about a scene that kills all progress. It has no intelligence and absolutely no sense for honesty anymore. It used to be so different. But there’s more rock n roll in pop/rock today than there is in metal. It’s bitter, but a fact. And I know! Cause I try to stay real for number of years now, and the scene doesn’t want that. But I rather leave a stupid scene than lose my soul. In the good times of Helloween it was an exciting, rebellious scene, today it bores the hell out of me.
Maelstrom: Well, Michael, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. You're one of the best singers in rock or metal and Supared for sure will be one of my favorite albums of 2003. I hope you continue on this path and continue to make wonderful songs.
Michael Kiske: I will never stop making music, but if those destructive jerks I call pseudo-critics always kill everything already from the start, I can’t promise you that my records will always be available. And add to that all this copying CDs business, the future is very unclear. The future of honest rock music in general! I hope that there will be a mind revolution soon, because music the way I like it disappears more and more. Everyone who copies a CD of a cool band kills it slowly. The whole concept doesn’t work like that. Just all those gay-fake-boy-groups will survive, because they have millions behind them. The cool honest stuff dies first. It’s up to the people. They got it in their hands! I still believe that music from the heart will make its way somehow. I just hope there will be a platform for it left in five years.
It that sense!
All the best to you!
Michael Kiske www.supared.de
editor's note: finally, here is an excerpt from Supared's website. You may find it quite interesting:
"To all my friends and all my enemies
I finally decided not to try to give an objective moral justification for my creative doings and the way I understand true art here anymore. It will not be understood by certain people anyway, and others don't need to hear that, because they know. I am simply tired of justifying myself. I am tired of fighting against ignorance, stupidity and pseudo-ideals. It only eats up all energy. I want to make it fully personal here. Some people even told me that my ideals are shit. Well! The ideals I have, I have learned from my idols and (for me) the only true real masters in art like: Richard Wagner, Beethoven, Goethe or Schiller and many more. I am less than nothing compared to these giants, but at least I understood them. What we do today, in their eyes it is never art! They were able to create music and culture out of the centre of their strongest humanity, and It was GOD speaking through them. We are only little kids, but most of the time just pure barbarians compared to their humanity and ability. After thankfully learning from them the highest and most beautiful ideals of art and its mission for human culture, the only way for me to keep on making records was to reduce it all down to music's necessary bases like: honesty and freedom. But even that seems to be too much for modern music to be able to carry or handle in most areas. I don't want to talk anymore. It just waters out the words. But I want to get this out of my system:
A lot of people say that they are my fans (friends), but they are really not. They are just fans of certain records I was involved in. They want to make me a slave of my past and certain successful records and won't let me be what I am today. That in fact (wanted or not) makes them my enemies. Who ever rejects my music, rejects me. That's why every musician takes bad and unfair criticism very personal. Because it is very personal! I know that a lot of you guys don't mean bad by telling me what to do, or that I should do the music I got known with, but it is bad. The worst thing you can do to someone is to constantly rape his heart by telling him not to be himself, and to steel his freedom. A lot of people are even arrogant enough to really think that they know better than me what a good song is. Well! Write your own! I can only give you MY Song. If that won't do, just leave me be. If you guys can't follow me anymore today, please just don't! And don't write about my music unless you really want to destroy me as a musician. I won't sell my soul for anyone. Some of you guys will probably never get it, but I guess I am just not trained well enough in being a pleaser and an ass-kisser. I never thought that's the musicians job, but for far too many today unfortunately it is. In the end it's very simple: Either my music will sooner or later make its way to some real friends of mine that want and expect me to express myself as free and honest as I can through my music, or it simply won't.
I can't be what I'm not, and I don't want to be what I'm not.
And for some who care, I put Richard Wagner here. He says it better than I ever can anyway. And I absolutely know how little his words fit together with our modern slavery-music and pseudo-ideals:
... denn die wahre Kunst ist höchste Freiheit,
und nur die höchste Freiheit
kann sie aus sich kundgeben,
kein Befehl, keine Verordnung,
kurz kein außerkünstlerischer Zweck
kann sie entstehen lassen.
... Und doch werden wir sehen, daß die Kunst,
statt sich von immerhin respektablen Herren,
wie die geistige Kirche und geistreiche Fürsten es waren,
einer viel schlimmeren Herrin
mit Haut und Haar sich verkaufte:
...Das ist die Kunst,
wie sie jetzt die ganze zivilisierte Welt erfüllt!
Ihr wirkliches Wesen ist die Industrie,
ihr moralischer Zweck der Gelderwerb,
ihr ästhetisches Vorgeben die Unterhaltung der Gelangweilten.
Aus dem Herzen unsrer modernen Gesellschaft,
aus dem Mittelpunkt ihrer kreisförmigen Bewegung,
der Geld Spekulation im Großen,
saugt unsre Kunst ihren Lebenssaft,
erborgt sich eine herzlose Anmut
aus den leblosen Überresten
mittelalterlich ritterlicher Konvention, und läßt sich von da
- mit scheinbarer Christlichkeit auch das Scherflein des Armen nicht verschmähend -
zu den Tiefen des Proletariats herab,
entnervend, entsittlichend, entmenschend überall,
wohin sich das Gift ihres Lebenssaftes ergießt.
...Zur Zeit ihrer Blüte
war die Kunst bei den Griechen konservativ,
weil sie dem öffentlichen Bewußtsein als ein gültiger
und entsprechender Ausdruck vorhanden war:
bei uns ist die echte Kunst revolutionär,
weil sie nur im Gegensatz
zur gültigen Allgemeinheit existiert.
...Aus dem entehrenden Sklavenjoch
des allgemeinen Handwerkertums
mit seiner bleichen Geldseele
wollen wir uns zum freien künstlerischen Menschentume
mit seiner strahlenden Weltseele aufschwingen;
aus mühselig beladenen Tagelöhnern der Industriewollen wir alle zu schönen, starken Menschen werden,
denen die Welt gehört als ein ewig unversiegbarer Quell höchsten künstlerischen Genusses.
(Richard Wagner. Die Kunst und die Revolution 1849)"
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