Michael Kiske Biography
First steps in music
Michael Kiske was born in Hamburg (Germany) on January 24th, 1968. He is the youngest child of the family. He has an older brother and a sister.
When he was 8 years old he started to hear a lot of Elvis Presley, which inspired him to sing. Michael said, "I got into singing by Elvis. When I was eight years old, that was the year Elvis died and that´s when they showed all the stuff on TV and I just thought “What a cool guy!”. The record that changed my life forever was "Elvis Forever 35 Hits". I was 8 years old when my sister got this record for her birthday. I listened to this record a few times in her room and she later gave it to me, since I liked it so much. Before I listened to this record, I had only listened to fantasy and fairytale records." A few years later, at age 12, he asked for a guitar in Christmas from his parents and he started to play and sing songs of the Beatles and Elvis. He even began his first steps making little compositions in German language. He was very influenced by the father of a friend, who was a fanatic of the Beatles. His friend started to play the guitar and Michael sang. He commented: "When I was 12 years old, I got my first guitar and I began singing to it. Then my mother came to my room and said, that sounds horrible (laughing). Now she is very proud of me." He became a big fan and collector of Elvis, even doing pencil drawings and sketches of him.
At age 14, he began to listen to the classic stuff of Iron Maiden with his friend Karsten Nagel. Michael said about that, "When I was 14 years old I heard Iron Maiden's 'Run to the Hills' on the radio and it blew me away. That was the first time when I realized a man can also sing woman tones if he practiced enough. Also an ex-boyfriend of my sister forgot a vinyl of Scorpions at home, it was Animal Magnetism, I listened and I liked a lot, I loved a track like 'The Zoo' for example. I knew Karsten in that moment, he also love those bands, expecially Kiss but also Maiden and Priest, that's how I joined in this world." He also was influenced by bands like Judas Priest, Queensryche, Accept, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Scorpions and the first albums of Metallica at that moment. He gave a funny anecdote about it, "I'm a big fan of the first years of Metallica, I really love the energy. I remember when I was 14-15 years old, my mom gave me money to eat in my holidays and I spent all the money buying the "Ride The Lightning" album, so I only could eat half sandwich, it was funny." But he never stopped listening to other artists like Pat Benatar, Eurythmics, Kate Bush, Simon & Garfunkel, The Who, U2, and Barbara Streisand.
When he finished school, he started doing a course to become a car mechanic, but he left after six months because he didn't like it anymore. Then he did a locksmith's course, but he also left that as well. So his mom knew someone who owned a greenhouse company, which was searching for a guy to teach him how to make greenhouses. He did that for five months. He combined that work with his band Ill Prophecy. As Michael said, "If I hadn't become a successful musician, I'd become an unsuccessful musician. I always wanted to become a professional musician."
Early Era (Ill Prophecy)
After those first steps in music, Michael decided to form a band with his school friend Karsten Nagel at age 16. Since they really loved Iron Maiden and Queensryche, they tried to make a sound like those bands. At first Karsten and Michael created a band named Breeze which was changed later to Ill Prophecy. In that first band, Breeze, Karsten played the guitar and they had a drummer who started to bother so he left and Karsten took his place on the drums and they decided to change the band name to Ill Prophecy and they started to search another guitarist.
That name was chosen by Karsten and Michael. Michael said about it, "It’s a funny name, isn’t it? We played Heavy Metal! We were angry kids!" Michael made an advertisement in a small music newspaper in Hamburg, called Oxmox (one of Hamburg's leading magazines) to find more musicians to complete the band. The advertisment said, "Metal band looking for rhythm guitarist." The guitarist Raico Ebel was the first to answer the request and he went to Kiske house in Mümmelmansberg. Raico said, "After reading the magazine, I phoned him and he gave me his address and that evening I visited him, but it was difficult to find his house because I had the wrong address. A friendly taxi driver tried to help me using his radio, but it didn't work so I checked house by house hoping to discover the name on the doorbells. Finally a guy who knew him gave me a hand. Michi was there with Karsten and they played some CDs of Iron Maiden, Dio, Saga and The Warning album by Queensryche and they explained to me that they were trying to make a mix of those styles. I liked it very much because I was a Queensryche fan." After this meeting, the three guys met the other Ill Prophecy members Patric Hampe (bassist) and Ulrich Schulz (guitarist) at a Mümmelmansberg school. The school headmaster allowed them to rehearse there; it only cost one symbolic penny if they would play at the graduation ceremony. So, Ill Prophecy played at the graduation and the show was a resounding success, even if they only played four songs. Michael commented: "We were lucky because our school (Karsten and mine) was at five minutes walking of my house and we can use some rooms to make rehearsals at night so we could use them when we finished the day at school. We could to stay a lot of time without any problem, I'm very thankful for that. But even when we left the schoole we still can use them."
Before starting to play live, they wanted to record a demo tape. They did it at a little studio in Barmbek (Hamburg). It was not very good, but it wasn't too expensive either. They recorded and mixed the demo in two days. That demo contains five songs written by Michael: 'A Little Time', 'You Always Walk Alone', 'Heroes', 'Riding the Wind', and 'The Way of Life'. He wrote those songs when he was searching for members of the band. That's why he was the main composer, but when the lead guitarist Uli Schulz joined in the band, they started to compose more songs together. In that moment Michael wrote another classic 'We Got The Right'.
Limp (ex-manager of Mania and Helloween) was looking for a band that could play some concerts together with Mania, so he visited the band in their rehearsal room with a couple of band members from Mania and they listened their music. The next day he came again with Markus Grosskopf (Helloween's bassist) and they both listened to the band again. When the rehearsal finished, Markus and Limp went out to eat with Michael and Markus asked him to join Helloween. They were searching for a vocalist because the current vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen was finding it difficult to sing and play guitar at the same time. Markus gave Michael a copy of Helloween's Walls of Jericho album and told him if he was interested in joining, to phone him. But Michael didn't like the album and never called back.
Keepers Era (Helloween)
Helloween tried to add Tyran Pace vocalist Ralf Scheepers, but he also refused. After a second attempt, Michael accepted due to Helloween's guitarist Michael Weikath promising him they would make more melodic sounding metal. He said, "Markus told me Kai Hansen couldn't sing for more than 3 hours and he just want to play guitar now. So he gave me a copy of Walls Of Jericho, which I hated! (laughs) So I never called back. I thought the album had only one song played 10 times, one faster than another (laughs) but two weeks later, Michael Weikath called me and told me he was looking for a guy like me because he was writting new stuff and I would fit perfectly."
Michael Weikath had a longer explanation: "I had a female co-worker that I worked with in this record store where we did mailorder and stuff like that. It was my job before I got into Helloween. She told me there was this guy named Michael Kiske who could sing like a young god. So I asked for his phone number because we were looking for a new singer. Also Markus had gotten the number from someone else and went to have a listen to his voice and the band Michael had which was Ill-Prophecy and tried to convince him to join the band. Michael did not take him seriously at first and never gave Markus an answer. So then I called up the number and Kiske was actually in the bathtub when I called him. The basic thing was that we do not know each other but we needed a good singer and he was one. He was sitting in the bathtub talking about it and I invited him to have a look at our song material and if he would want to have him singing with us. It took a long time for him to decide to do it and for us to actually take him into the band because we were not quite sure if he would fit or not. I remember at first Hansen thought that his voice was too weak and it could have been quite heavier and there you go. Well that became a topic later on and each person took their own approach when writing songs for his voice. However in the end he fit perfectly and he did a great job for the band and his voice turned out to be heavy enough for us."
With Helloween, he recorded the album Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I which was released in 1987. They wanted it to be a double CD but Noise Records refused. Michael wrote one song for this album called 'A Little Time'. This LP also have more classic songs like: 'Future World', 'I'm Alive' and 'Halloween'.
After a successful tour in 1987, they released the second part of Keeper Of The Seven Keys, one of the best Metal albums in history. It was the first album to be labeled Power Metal or German Metal. With this album, they had their biggest success which enabled them to play in the biggest festival of the time Monsters Of Rock. There they played alongside bands like Iron Maiden, Kiss, Metallica... Michael wrote two songs for this album 'You Always Walk Alone' & 'We Got The Right' and two songs for singles called 'Savage' & 'Don't Run For Cover'. Another classic songs to emphasize are: 'I Want Out', 'Eagle Fly Free' and 'Dr. Stein'.
During their first headling tour in 1988, which was dubbed the "Pumpkins Fly Free tour", the Scotland show was recorded for a live album. It was released under three different titles: Live In UK (Europe), Keepers Live (Japan), and I Want Out Live (USA). All had the same tracklist with the exception of the US release which didn't have the song 'Rise And Fall'.
At the end of this tour, guitarist Kai Hansen decided to leave the band because he disliked long tours. Rampage guitarist Roland Grapow was asked to join the band to replace him.
Three years passed without a new studio album from Helloween. Rumors saying that Michael Kiske had left the band began to grow. The band spoke about this in an interview bonus track from the Kids Of The Century single.
The album Pink Bubbles Go Ape was released in 1991 through a record deal with EMI. On this album Michael wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 11 songs. These songs are: 'Pink Bubbles Go Ape', 'Kids Of The Century', 'Back On The Streets' (with Grapow), 'Heavy Metal Hamsters' (with Weikath), 'Goin' Home' & 'Mankind' (with Grapow), 'I'm Doin' Fine, Crazy Man' (with Markus) and finally the great ballad "'Your Turn'.
In 1993 they released Chameleon which was the last Helloween album with Michael Kiske as the singer. The album was basically like a solo album for the three main songwriters (Weikath/Kiske/Grapow). Although the album sold one million copies, the change in musical direction angered a lot of the die-hard Helloween fans. Michael wrote the following songs: 'When The Sinner', 'In The Night', 'I Believe', and 'Longing'. During the Chameleon tour Ingo broke down and was asked to leave. Right before they entered the studio to record the next album, Michael was fired from the group.
Kiske commented about his departure: "On the last tour I lost my voice. It was funny, I had a flu and when it was gone I had a break and 3 days later the voice was back. Then we had a 4 weeks break and when we started again, my voice was lost again. It was very clear that it was a psychological thing. It was so clear that i was unhappy in the surrounding that I could not even sing anymore. I tricked myself with Helloween and it is very interesting looking back to what exactly I did. I was laying the bombs myself to get kicked out. Because I didn't want to destroy it, it meant so much to me. Don't forget, I was 18 when I joined the band and I loved it. From 1 year to another I was living my own life. I moved out of the apartmen of my parents. I made my own money.I travelled the whole world.and life was great. This meant the world to me. I was very unhappy in the end and it went into a nightmare in my opinion. It was not working anymore, but i just couldn't destroy it. So I was laying bombs. I remember that I said to Roland that i do another record and if the spirit doesn't change and things don't become better, I will leave the band. You don't say something like this to a band member and less unconsciously I wanted them to end it for me."
Kiske Solo project era
In 1994, Kai Hansen invited Michael to sing on the Gamma Ray album Land Of The Free. He sang lead on the track 'Time To Break Free' and the high choruses on 'Land Of The Free'.
Michael released his first solo album Instant Clarity in 1996. Kai Hansen and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) guested on the album. This album's musical style differs from his older work with Helloween. A few months later he released an EP entitled 'The Calling' which features two previously unreleased tracks. The band members on the album are Ciriaco Taraxes (Guitar/Piano), Jens Mencl (Bass), and Kai Rudy Wolke (Drums). The productor was Charlie Bauerfeind.
On this album, you can hear 'The Calling' & 'New Horizons' with the typical Helloween sound, 'Somebody Somewhere' & 'Hunted' are pure rock, and the melodic rock track 'Burned Out'. There are also two great ballads: 'Always' which was dedicated to Ingo Schwichtenberg who commited suicide a few months before and 'Do I Remember A Life?'.
Michael also decided to release a book called Kunst Und Materialismus in German which showed us his point of view about the art.
The next solo album Readiness To Sacrifice was released only in Japan in 1998. On this album you can find a ballad like 'Where Wishes Fly', rocker songs like 'Ban'em', 'It' & 'Philistine City', the funny 'Watch You Blue' and two symphonic songs 'Shadowfights' & 'Easy'. This album was edited two years later in Europe by Sanctuary.
Kiske Collaborations era
In 2000, Edguy singer Tobias Sammet wanted to make a Metal Opera called Avantasia. He needed 10 singers for the roles on the album. Michael was given the role of the druid Lugaid Vandroiy. Kiske didn't want to have his real name on the first part so he went under the pseudonym of Ernie. The name Ernie was taken from a toy doll he use to bring out during Helloween shows. Michael sings on five songs: 'Reach Out For The Light', 'Breaking Away', 'Farewell', 'Avantasia' and 'The Tower'.
2002 was a great year for Michael as it featured the release of Tobias Sammet's Avantasia Part II where he sings on the songs 'The Seven Angels' and 'No Return'. He also guested on Timo Tolkki's 2nd solo album Hymn To Life singing on the ballad 'Key To The Universe'. Former Helloween members Roland Grapow & Uli Kursch asked Michael to guest on Masterplan's debut album. Michael sings a duet with lead singer Jorn Lande on the song "Heroes".
In 2003, Michael released the only album with SupaRed. It's a great rock album where you can hear songs like 'Ride On' (very reminiscent of the song 'We Got The Right'), mid-tempos like 'Freak-Away' & 'Let's Be Heroes', and hard-rock songs like 'Hey', 'Turn It', and 'Boiling Points Of No Return'. This album was under promoted and it didn't have much success. They had opportunities to tour but Michael had problems with his stomach which eventually had to be operated on.
In the same year Sascha Paeth (Heaven's Gate) asked Michael to work on the Metal Opera: AINA. Michael sings on 4 songs: 'Silver Maiden' & 'Serendipity' by himself and a bit in 'Revelations' and 'Restoration'. Most of the tracks are symphonic like the songs from the second Kiske solo album "Shadowfights" & "Easy". They could be included in a Walt Disney Soundtrack.
In 2004 Michael guests on the song 'The Encounter' by the Brasilian band Thalion on this first album Another Sun. Michael sings a ballad duet with the lead singer Alexandra.
In 2005 there were three more projects. The first was with Renato Tribuzy (ex-Thoten) on a album called Execution. This album was thought up in 2000 but was put off because Renato wanted Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) on the album. Bruce, at the time, was busy finishing the tour with Iron Maiden. Other guests on it are: Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear, ex-Gamma Ray), Kiko Loureiro (Angra), Roy Z (Bruce Dickinson), and Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween). Michael sang on the song "Absolution" with Renato.
The second project was Place Vendôme where Michael sings on all tracks. This album was suggested by Serafino (owner Frontiers Records) with the great work of Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) who play the bass and produced the album. The other musicians include Kosta Zafiriou (Axxis, Pink Cream 69) on drums, Uwe Reitenauer (Pink Cream 69) on guitars, and Gunther Werno (Vandenplas) on keyboards. This album has 11 songs: 9 in AOR style and 2 Hard Rock. The whole album is a vocal exhibition. You can listen again to Michael's voice at 100%. All songs are amazing but we can emphasize: 'I Will Be Waiting', 'Place Vendôme' and 'The Setting Sun'. This year Kiske also sings with Tobias Sammet on a Queenish song 'Judas At The Opera' which appears on the Edguy EP Superheroes.
In 2006, Michael signed a contract for two albums with the Italian record label Frontiers Records. He recorded his third solo album titled Kiske and re-released his debut solo album Instant Clarity with four bonus tracks. The new album is empty of pop-rock songs which sounds great, for example: 'All-Solutions', 'Kings Fall', 'Sing My Song', 'Painted' and 'Sad As The World'. The album has a few collaborations, among others of his old friend Karsten Nagel - who was the drummer in the first Kiske band 20 years ago - and Corinna Wolke - his ex girlfriend - who make the backing chorus on two songs. The Japanese edition has a cover of Elvis Presley: 'Mary In The Morning'.
In 2007, Michael appears on a few projects. He sings the song 'Promised Land' on the new Ep Lost In Space Part 2 from Tobias Sammet's Avantasia and then again in January 2008 on the whole album The Scarecrow he sings on 'Shelter From The Rain' and a few chorus on 'What Kind Of Love' and 'The Scarecrow'. Also was sold by itunes on the net a special version of 'Lost In The Space (Extended Version)' sung by Michael and Tobias. This song was published one year later on a re-packaged Lost In Space Chapter 1 & 2. He also appears on Indigo Dying's self-titled debut album where he sings a duet with their female vocalist Gisa Vatchy on 'Breathe In Water'.
In 2008 Michael released his fifth solo album Past In Different Ways where he remade his old Helloween songs acoustically. Although it was supposed to be an acoustic album, it was necessary to emphasize the great production which creates an epic atmosphere on songs like: 'We Got The Right', 'You Always Walk Alone' and 'I Believe' which finally end up sounding more symphonic than acoustic. Also the polishing of songs like 'Goin' Home' which became much better than the original version.
Also this year Kiske joined up in another collaboration with Timo Tolkki - already out of his former band Stratovarius - on his new band Revolution Renaissance first album 'New Era'. Michael sings on the rock songs: 'I Dit It My Way', "Last Night On Earth' & 'Revolution Renaissance'. And on the ballads: 'Angel' & 'Keep The Flame Alive'.
We're waiting for confirmation of a release date for two more collaborations this year. The first one will be with the Italian band Treat Or Treat for their second album: "Tin Soldiers". Michael sings on the song "Hello Moon" and in parts of "Tears Against Your Smile". The second project is the new album from Place Vendôme titled "Streets Of Fire".
Unisonic was formed in 2010 by Michael Kiske, Dennis Ward and Kosta Zafiriou after have been working in the project Place Vendôme. Both three had a meeting in Hamburg and they decided to create a new band.
Kiske commented: "I was stuck with my solo record, I didn’t get anywhere, couldn’t write songs for month. I was kind of really stuck and then Kosta and Dennis wanted to meet me in Hamburg, and we met up. Kosta is part of Bottom Row Promotion, it’s a management company and he said something like, “I don’t think you have ever been really managed” and he is right! I didn’t have management. Mainly, the reason was - I was kind of stuck and it was the right time. It’s like two years earlier I wouldn’t have done it, but you can’t really say why, you just feel it is good. If I don’t do it now, I will never do it."
The guitarist Mandy Meyer joined in the team after the advice of Dennis Ward.
Michael Kiske did his first show after 17 years with Unisonic, who started their first tour in June 2010, first playing some warm-up shows in Germany and then performing at Sweden Rock Festival and Masters Of Rock Festival.
In March 2011, Kai Hansen joined in the band.
Kiske commented: "During our tour with Avantasia we both felt the chemistry on the stage, and we knew it was perfect. As we got on with each other backstage, we started thinking about doing a gig again together and then I just asked Kai if he wanted to do a project with me. Later on as we were on our way to the hotel with a taxi, I told him “I think I’m not suited in Gamma Ray. Then he replied “There’s only one guitarist a Unisonic, right?” So from this point, Kai is the one who started the idea of him joining the band.
When we completed our Avantasia tour in last December, Kai invited me over to his house on New Years eve. I told him a week later that he should definately join Unisonic. That’s why I asked him to join us, although he was the one who first suggested it."
Kai Hansen commented: "When we were on tour with Avantasia, Michael said “Kai, it will be great if we can play together again, I just really feel the chemistry between you and the band.” I actually felt exactly the same, so we discussed about our future possibilities of working together. I wanted to avoid projects like Hansen/Kiske. I dislike projects and I think no one is waiting for such projects. I thought about couple options. First option: Michael joins Gamma Ray, second option: I join Unisonic and third option: we start a brand new band. The third option is already out, because we both are in bands already. Michael said Gamma Ray is too “hard” for him, so we had only one option at the end. I should join Unisonic.
I said to him that I wanted to first join just as a assisting position and slowly blend in the circle, but then they told me that they wanted me to officially join in as a member. I had to think for a long time after that. In the past, I was joining Iron Savior and Gamma Ray at the same time, but it needed a real hard work to organise the schedules. The music was similar as well so I always had problems deciding on what song to be played in which band. From this point, the music preferred in Unisonic and in Gamma Ray are different, so I won’t be having any problems with this, but I do need to organise my schedule really well. I think I will take some time off from Gamma Ray to be able to concentrate on Unisonic. I think I can work it out. I have been looking forward to making music with Michael for such a long time. I still get inspired by his voice and I get so many new ideas from it. I definitely don’t want to waste this chance, before it’s too late."
Michael Kiske vocal advices
Keep your voice in shape
Kiske: "Loooong warming ups, lots of water and milk and honey-teas. Stay away from too dry air and people who smoke. Drink water, drink tea with honey and milk … and don’t forget to drink. (but I don’t mean alcohol!). Drink warm water with honey. Also ”Odermenning-tea” is a secret here. I do absolutely nothing to keep my voice in shape, that’s why it often simply isn’t, and I have to prepare myself before I can do higher singing. That would then be just easy singing scales up and down, sometimes a tune or even just yeah-yeahs. But it’s not good to do it like me! It’s very good to train your voice at least 3 times a weak (without overdoing it) I would say today."
Metalshop magazine, issue #9 1989:
Michael Kiske is very aware of the care and maintenance his voice needs, especially during long tours. Kiske: "The most important is warming up. I had a bad experience about that, I didn't do it on our first German tour and that's why I fucked up. I had to stop." Colds, a constant tour plague, are bad news vocally. "I sing very high and if you're not well it can be hard. I can reach the notes, but not for that long. When I'm well, it's not a problem."
Kiske: "People always say that I am loud, but I'm trying not to. Cause if you are too loud, you easily do something wrong. Once I sang a little bit higher in front of Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) in his house in England to show him that I don't really sing that loud, but he said: "Sounds pretty loud to me, my dear!" Also the sound engineer from Iron Maiden who also mixed Helloween for a few tours said,that it is a pleasure to mix me, because my voice is so clear that always easily stays on top.I don't think I sing too loud, but I guess the voice carries, if you know what I mean? The voice gets naturally louder, the more you sing, but you should never force it to be loud."
Kiske: "I am trying to be in level with the speaking-voice, but it’s louder than that. I always try to sing not too loud, but my voice is carrying and getting louder by itself the longer I sing (and the older I get). Of course this always also depends on the song. Singing harder, makes it louder. On stage it tends be louder too, but it’s better to be more controlled there. This also sounds better."
Kiske: "Vocals are not ”better” just because you sing higher or louder. It’s the performance, the soul, how you tell the story, which makes the quality. I find too high singing rather childish today. To sustain notes for long time, the air is the key, and not trying to do it too loud. It’s an illision when people think, loudness sounds fuller. It’s the other way around. If you don’t sing more controlled, much more frequencies are coming through. And if you scream, just a few are left and it sounds thinner."
Kiske: "I sort of press from the stomach-area and control it like a trompet. That would describe it best in my eyes. The tone feels like being placed a little above and 30 cm before my larynx in front of me. Like if I sing to another persons face. But I am an emotional sucker! If something lies on my soul, I can’t sing! Then I do it all wrong. That makes it impossible for me to work with people I don’t like or sing music I hate or be in an environment which sets me under negative preasure. My voice is the boss and it closes, if something’s not right. The voice is generally a very spiritual organ; we are talking air and soul here."
Kiske: "I am recording through Neve-Rack and Focusrite input Channels into a MacPro. Don’t like the sound of ProTools (TDM or Native makes no difference here) that’s why I use Logic Pro 8. Sounds really warm to me. The warmest sound delivers Digital-Performer. (And yes! Digital software DOES sound very different. No matter what some people always say). I use an old fashion Neumann Mic for vocals. The one that you find in every studio and I have now forgotten the name of right now."
The King of Vibrato
Kiske: "My vibrato was too strong when I was 20; and it naturally changed over the years to be more balanced now. I tend to like less vibrato more these days. But some tunes simply need it. It always depends on the song."
Metalshop magazine, issue #9 1989:
Kiske sometimes gets song ideas in his sleeps. Ingo Schwichtenberg reports that Kiske once asked: "'you want to see how I get my ideas down?" He showed me this little tape recorder, pushed play and you could hear him in the middle of the night (muters/sings in a sleepy voice)".