Michael Kiske about his partners in Unisonic: "Kosta is honest and the perfect manager. He also plays some fine drums, as you know. Dennis is very gifted, capable of many things where I am not too good, so he can fill those gabs. I love the fact that now I can mainly concentrate on singing and don't have to write all those songs anymore. I live for singing, it even helps me through bad days. I write songs when they come, but I feel best when I sing everyday. Mandy is easy going, a great person and smart too. But I don't know him for a long time yet, like I know Kai. What I love about Kai is his excitement for his work and his originality. I also love to have him around because he's very funny. It's easy to have a good time with him. When he left Helloween, the fun left too."
Forming the band
The three founders of Unisonic: Michael Kiske, Dennis Ward and Kosta Zafiriou have been working in the project Place Vendôme for two albums: Place Vendôme (2005) selftitled and Streets Of Fire (2008). And everything started at the end of 2009 when Kosta Zafiriou contacted with Michael Kiske to talk about his management. Kosta is founder member of Bottom Row music agency/management company so he wanted to offer to Kiske his services or the company work. They organized a meeting in Hamburg between Michael, Kosta and three persons of Bottom Row company and there Kosta said to Kiske a straight phrase: "Michael, I think that in the last couple years you have not been properly managed." and Kiske answered "I agree with you, because I have not been managed at all. Since I stop workin' with Rod Smallwood in 98-99." So Kosta got Michael's management. Kiske explained:
Kiske: "I don’t want to do anything with persons that I cannot get along very well on a personal level. Even on the management side. I really don’t understand anything from business… I had no management for many years and I’m quite happy to have again a management after so many years. When we had the first meeting with the 3 or 4 people from Bottom Row I only relied on my gut instinct. I had just a good feeling on the human side and I think they are true and good persons. My heart normally never fools me in such situations. That’s why I sign contract and trust them."
After that meeting about the management, Kosta, Dennis Ward and Michael had another reunion where they offered to Kiske to create a new band. The exact phrase they told to Kiske was: "How about a real band around you?". And Michael explained it better than I could do:
Kiske: "I was stuck with my solo record, I didn’t get anywhere, couldn’t write songs for months. I was kind of really stuck and later Kosta and Dennis wanted to meet me in Hamburg, and we met up. 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."
In this moment they started to think in names for the band. They thought in some different names but one liked for one member and hated for others and viceversa. After a while they had a talking which was something like: "... blah, blah sonic and unisonic something blah blah" and Kosta said: "Why not those words together? Unisonic." and Kiske said: "That's cool!", but the others was not sure. Also when the designer did the logo, Kiske was the only one who said he like it, the rest needed a little longer to get into it.
To complete the band, they needed a guitarist so Dennis suggested Mandy Meyer (Gotthard, Asia and Krokus) because he knew him of previous work with the band Korkus. Dennis commented about Mandy:
Dennis Ward: "I knew Mandy since the Gotthard days, and I also helped out with the Krokus’s album where Mandy played as a guitarist. I am always impressed by how hardworking he is in the studio. He’s open-minded, so he’s always up for new challenges. When he doesn’t like something, he says his honest opinion, which is very important. When he’s on stage, he’s so energetic, which makes me feel so old even if he’s actually 5 years older than me. It’s just so much fun to have him around."
The band already with Michael Kiske as vocalist, Mandy Meyer as guitarist, Dennis Ward as bassist and Kosta Zafiriou as drummer started to compose songs.
First live experiences
With nine songs composed they decided to give another step and book a few shows as warming up for two big festivals. Unisonic started their first tour in June 2010, first playing three warm-up shows in Germany (Mörlenbach, Balingen and Bruchsal) and then performing at Sweden Rock Festival '10 and Masters Of Rock Festival '10.
The set-list was done with some Place Vendôme tracks, one brand new song 'Souls Alive' which was previously released in demo form via Myspace and two Kiske classic tunes of Helloween-era, also released in Past In Different Ways solo album; 'A Little Time' and 'Kids Of The Century'.
Since everything worked fine, they started recording the first demo of five songs and started to spreading to labels. There were at least two labels very interested in sign the band Frontiers Records and earMusic/Edel. They wanted to release the album in the beginning of 2010 but the composition progress was slow. They have great stuff but not enough to make a whole album. In that moment, Michael realized they need another helpful hand with the composition because the songwritting was going a bit slow, so he thought they need another guitarist/composer, Kiske thought in his solo album guitarist Sandro Giampietro but it didn't happen. Kiske explained:
Kiske: "I was the one, in 2010, I started to tell, we need another guitar player, another songwritter I have a friend of mine, Sandro Giampietro... but for some reason, the band was not too interested in have him there, Kosta was kinda afraid of him I think. A great person but very different. It seemed like he didn't like the idea that much, so it didn't happen...he was too much of an individualist for the others I guess."
Kai Hansen era
In December 2010, they took a break because Michael joined in Avantasia tour where he shared stage with Kai Hansen for first time in more than 20 years. During that tour Kai and Michael feelin' a good chemistry between them and they started to think in working together. As Kai said they had three options:
Kai Hansen: "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."
And Kiske explained:
Kiske: "During our tour with Avantasia we both felt the chemistry on the stage. 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. It’s too heavy for me. 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."
When Avantasia tour finished Kai and Michael were in a taxi in Germany come back to home and Kai said: "Michael, do you still just have one guitar player in Unisonic?" and Kiske said: "Wow, yeah that's true." And they realized that was the right solution. A few days later, in Christmas time of 2010, Michael wrote an email to Kosta to ask if it would be a good idea if Kai would join in the band, Kiske wrote: "What will you think if Kai Hansen would join in Unisonic?" and Kosta said: "That will be awesome, great". In March 2011, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween) joined in the band. With Kai in the band everything was faster, they composed more songs and some tracks which were not finished were fixed very soon in the rehearshal room. Michael commented about the rehearsals: "Kai is the total opposite of Dennis. Kai is very European, he influenced the whole European market a lot with his type of playing and writing songs. I remember the first working session in the rehearsal room that we had with Unisonic quite a while ago. I actually smiled at Kosta on the drums, because we both noticed what was going on there. With Dennis and Kai it was throwing balls back and forth... it was working. They threw ideas around and I thought that is cool. They are so different, but it works. I threw my shit in, but it was very exciting to see the American Dennis and the very European Kai got ot a point somehow."
The band did a break for playing in Loud Park Festival '11 in Japan (first show with Kai in the band). In that moment the band had 14 tracks ready for being recorded but one was discarted because they didn't have enough time. They joined in the ICP studios of Brussels to record the drums, later they used the Kai Hansen studio and also Mandy recorded some things in Switzerland. Kiske recorded the vocals in his own studio. Meanwhile they were recording the full-lenght album they released a mini album titled Ignition and they filmed the videoclip 'Unisonic'.
Unisonic released their first Mini album titled Ignition on January 27th via earMUSIC/Edel and the full-length album titled Unisonic will be released on March 30th. The band will make a short tour to South America in May, then a few dates in European festivals, in September a few dates in Asia and in the middle of October they will start (probably in Spain) a more extensive tour with the band Gotthard.
Unisonic Promotional stuff
Unisonic Photo session 2010
In 2010, Unisonic did the first promotional photo session in an old warehouse with the German photographer Marc Stern. The shoot was made in Karlsruhe, Germany. A few days later, Marc uploaded on his official Facebook the behing the scenes from this first photo session.
Unisonic Press kit 2010
Unisonic Photo session 2011
The promotional photoshoot was made by the German photographer Martin Hausler, who also was the director of 'Unisonic' videoclip. The shoot was made in a ballroom in Heidelberg, Germany. The band also used some pics taken in Loud Park Festival 11 as promotion, but the copyright belongs to the festival.
On January 12th, at 6 pm, Unisonic released their first videoclip for the self titled song 'Unisonic' via Earmusic official Youtube Channel. The label published: "The reunion everybody was waiting for: One of the most unique voices in metal and rock music, ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske, and Helloween co-founder Kai Hansen are joining forces again for the first time in 23 years! Together with Dennis Ward and Kosta Zafiriou of Pink Cream 69 and Mandy Meyer (known for his work with Asia, Gotthard and Krokus) they are forming the new super group Unisonic."
The videoclip shows a powerful band performance at a magnificent ballroom in Heidelberg, Germany. The clip was directed by photographer / director Martin Hausler who previously worked with artists like Meat Loaf, Gotthard, Helloween and Motörhead. He was assisted by Renatus Töpke (Mediaprint.tv) for the lightning and grip equipment.
Curiosities about Unisonic
There are songs which didn't end in the first album?
Yes, we know there are at least two. One song without title, is the track known as the "14th song". I knew about that song because in Burrn magazine it was published there was 14 songs available and later in a few interviews, Kai Hansen talked about that missing track, he said:
"...there's one song which we did not finish because it was a bit too different and we had not place in this album. The song was not finished, it was a idea or demo of Mandy Meyer who did with a friend. I really liked that song because it had a different "touch", so I added a few vocals, but for time reasons we left it. I think it could fit better in Gamma Ray than in Unisonic."
And the second unknown song is 'That Was A Lie', I knew about that song because Kai talked about that song in another interview and he said:
"..when I joined in Unisonic there were already songs and pieces of songs written like 'That Was A Lie' or 'I've Tried' or 'Souls Alive'. So there was already some stuff and there were of course plenty of demos and ideas from Dennis."
Why not using Place Vendôme band name?
Kiske: "With Place Vendome there is the problem that it is so much under control from Serafino (Frontiers Records owner) that we wouldn’t have any freedom. We thought just let us create a complete new band, because otherwise we would have to deal a lot with negotiations about name rights and other contract details. I like Serafino a lot and I will be always grateful to the things he did for me during all these years, but we wanted to have a free band to start with."
Why did they choose the name Unisonic?
Kiske: "It took a while to find a good name! And Unisonic was the only name we all really liked right away, because it doesn't sound like so many stupid… We had some shitty names. I was really frustrated. We were coming up with some stuff that I really didn't like and the others liked it and I was like "No Way!". For a while I thought we would never find a good name. We had something like blah, blah sonic and unison something. Something where those two parts were in it and Kosta put them both together and I said “That´s cool!”. It's a new word in a way and it has a good meaning, you can read it as being sonic in unison or you can read it as universal sonic. I think it's a very good name for a rock band, because it's not so clear what kind of music a band would do that has such a name. I think I was the only one who was totally sure about it. The rest needed a little longer to get into it."