When I went to conduct an interview with Michael Kiske, the legendary singer of Helloween, Avantasia, Unisonic and an array of other bands, I was not prepared for what I actually encountered. Having just witnessed his performance with Avantasia, as they blew the minds of those attending that Amsterdam concert, I was still in awe at his skills.While I had briefly met Michael Kiske when I interviewed Sascha Paeth at the PPM, I didn’t really know him, so I had my doubts as to how well the interview would go. Hell, there’s always the concern that the person you interview will not be very happy about talking to you to begin with (especially, as in this case, if you do the interview after the show) and will give you short and barely usable answers. And yet, it was the opposite.
Michael Kiske is a curious person; despite having achieved his fame through heavy metal, he is also a very spiritual person and (although he may reject the adjective) a religious person. This is something that, despite being an agnostic, I don’t see as a negative thing. Clearly faith (another word that he wouldn’t approve of) plays an important role in the life of Michael, and it honestly seems to do so for the best.
While Michael Kiske and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything we discussed, to have the opportunity to talk with him, to see the light in his eyes as he describes his beliefs and, most importantly, how genuine those beliefs are, is refreshing.
As odd things go, the day in which I interviewed Michael had been a pretty bad day… who knows, maybe the fact that I ended being told by a metal singer that we’re all spirits and that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, even if only in the afterlife, might be a sign.
… Or maybe I shouldn’t be writing this shit at 2 AM. Whatever.
I am a very spiritual person… and I have a huge problem with this idealizing of evil that goes on in the metal scene
Metal Blast: Michael, I’m sure you are very tired from that amazing show, so I really appreciate that you’re doing this.
You are the only member of Avantasia, with the exception of Tobias, that has been in the band since the very beginning, the first Metal Opera. Considering that at first there was some skepticism about the band, for instance Ronnie Atkins refused to participate, what made you trust the project and to continue doing it?
Michael Kiske: When Tobi called me up I was in a very “anti everything” phase and wasn’t really willing to do anything like that, but I liked him. It was his attitude, he kept calling me on the phone, and I just liked that.
Now I’m very happy that I actually said yes, because I’m really enjoying it, but in those days I was very fed up with everything, so I said “…OK, do it, but call me Ernie”. That’s why I’m credited as “Ernie” on the first one, remember?
MB:….Yes! Back then you had decided to pretty much quit metal, right?
MK: Exactly; I mean [quit] everything, there had been too many bad experiences over the years, and I was just sick of it.
MB: Back then, what made you decide to quit metal, despite the success that you had given, for instance, to Helloween, and then what made you come back?
MK: I think it was Avantasia. I have been off-stage for almost 17 years, so I think that I had the wrong image of what the scene is really like. There were a lot of things that came together, but it has to do with time, time passing and getting over the anger.
Honestly, Avantasia was a big help, because it’s a very easy bunch of people, not stupid egos, no beating around the bush, they all like to enjoy this, and they made it very easy to go on stage. When we played on the first tour in 2010, the response of the audience was really nice, and I think that was the first step. It’s true that Kosta Zafiriou, from Unisonic [drummer and manager] approached me first and said “we would like to manage you, we think you have been managed well”, etc., but the tour with Avantasia was the thing that I needed to do to feel comfortable again on stage. When you haven’t been doing this for so many years… I didn’t even know if I would be able to do it, what it would be like. [Although] Now I feel very confident, it was something that I had to try out, and it was very easy to do (just a couple of songs to sing, stuff like that).
It was basically Avantasia and Kosta.
MB: This is not the only metal opera project that you have going on, you also worked with Timo Tolkki’s “Avalon”…
MK: Yeah; we didn’t know what it would really be like. A couple of times in the past I sang in some stuff that he was doing. Tobi was also supposed to be on it too, but he didn’t have the time. I think I did one song… ?
MB: I’m not sure…
MK: Yeah; he just wanted me to do one song, so I did it.
MB: You always have a lot of projects going on, there’s Avalon, Avantasia, Place Vendome, Kiske-Somerville and Unisonic.
MB: Unisonic is my main band, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep doing these other things like Place Vendome and Kiske-Somerville, but since everybody else in Unisonic is doing something else, like Kai [Hansen] is doing Gamma Ray and stuff like that so, for instance, this year we do nothing so..
MB: Well, when we interviewed Kai at the PPM Festival in Belgium he mentioned that this year, due to his commitments with Gamma Ray Unisonic had to be put on ice.
MK: Exactly, so I just decided that instead of hanging around and doing nothing… I mean, those [other] things have been quite successful, they have been very well received, so we’d just do another record with both of these projects.
MB: So they’re both going to release new material?
MK: That’s what I’m doing right now; I’m doing vocals for the third Place Vendome album.
MB: And in the case of Kiske-Somerville?
MK: Well, they have to write the material first, so I’d guess that would be until the end of the year.
MB: What would you say are the benefits, and also the shortcomings, of, as Tobias says, having so many lead singers in the same band?
MK: It’s weird for me… it’s totally weird to be on stage, to get warm and then to get off, wait and then go on again. It’s pretty weird, but I think that for the audience it’s quite interesting, because it’s almost like you have 10 bands playing. I don’t think any other band could play for over three hours without boring the audience.
MB: I don’t think I would be standing up for three hours for any other band!
There’s also a bit of suspension of disbelief from the part of the audience, because although they know that you’re coming out, they know that everyone is coming out, they’re still acting like “HOLY SHIT! HE CAME OUT!!!!”. The fact that you’re hiding and then come out is something that really gets the audience going.
MK: Yes, it’s a brilliant concept that he [Tobias] has. I don’t know if he was aware of what this was going to be, but everywhere we’ve played, Avantasia has been very well received. Honestly, the response is awesome.
Tonight was a good night, we don’t have bad shows, but it was not one of the best. We’ve had killer shows, where the audience was just nuts.
MB: When you started with Avantasia, did you ever think that it was going to become something like this?
MK: After the first tour, I did, because I thought that it’s a really good band. The drums and the guitars together, just those three, have so much energy and are so tight… I think it’s a really good band.
MB: Besides the songs where you sing, which one is your favorite?
MK: My favorite was always “Twisted Mind“; I really love “Twisted Mind”, I would have loved to sing that one. On the last tour I had “Dying for an Angel”, Eric [Martin] has that one now… but my favorite is “Twisted Mind”.
MB: Do you mind if I ask you about Helloween?
MK: No, go ahead.
MB: When you see what they have become, and I asked Kai the same question, do you think that they achieved their level because of, or in spite of, your absence?
MK: I don’t know, I really don’t know. It’s a totally different band, in my opinion.
MB: Do you think that once you and Kai left the band the direction dramatically changed?
MK: I haven’t really followed it to be honest with you… it’s like an ego thing, I sort of faded it out. I don’t know what they have done, just a few bits and pieces I saw here and there.
MB: Part of your disappointment with heavy metal came from leaving Helloween?
MK: Mmmm, it’s a big bunch of things; it has a lot to do with how creativity is treated, especially on the German metal scene. It’s different in other countries; you can’t really generalize the metal scene, honestly, it’s different in every country. When you go to Italy or Spain is a completely different world than in Norway or whatever.
I am a very spiritual person and I believe in good and that we are here for doing something beautiful, and I have a huge problem with this idealizing of evil that goes on in that scene, that was huge portion of why I was pissed with it.
Nowadays, when I look back, I understand a bit better why some bands act in a certain way, I don’t blame them if they like a certain record of a band and the band changes and they’re frustrated about; I understand that, from a fan point of view. But in terms of journalists, people who write for magazines and stuff like that, they should know a bit more about music culture, and that music culture has a lot to do with expressing yourself and to do what you think is exciting; it should be the way that when you have success with a certain record that you try to copy that record for the rest of your life just to keep the business going; I think that’s artistically wrong but, in many ways, in the metal scene that’s requested. If you do something that’s different, it doesn’t really matter if it’s good or not, it gets destroyed in many ways. I’m not saying [it’s like that] in every country, but in Germany I was fed up with that attitude, I thought it was anti-music; every music scene has to die if you are not allowed to move on and try out new things.
I started making music, especially this type of music, because I was excited about some bands; it was Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, this kind of bands that, I thought, were awesome and made records that I liked. It was pure excitement for music, why I started this; I never thought about success, business or anything in that direction, it was pure excitement for music. I was very “blue-eyed” when I started doing that.
The first couple of years in Helloween were just a blast, awesome, I’d say the first 4 years, they were really great, and then things started to become more and more painful. There are a lot of things that came together; there will always be a conflict in me when it comes to the metal scene, because I like most of the music and I like most of the fans (I think they’re really sweet) but I will always be against this devil-worshipping and idealizing of Satanism and things like that. How can anyone hold that up? How can anyone hold up an ideal like that? Like inhumanity, brutality and things like that.
MB: Personally, it bothers me as well.
MK: I hate that stuff! But it’s not the whole scene, there are a lot of others, and that was very necessary for me to realize that there are lots of other people who agree with that [in the sense of] hating that stuff too or not taken it seriously. The majority of people that come the Avantasia shows are very sweet and very nice people; same goes for Unisonic, and if that’s the crowd that’s connected with metal, then I’m fine with metal and I like metal. I started with metal because I loved certain bands, certain music and stuff like that, but I will always be against idealizing inhumanity and brutality and things like that.
MB: It’s a hypocrisy within the metal scene. I’m an agnostic, so I don’t have a religion, but if you say that you believe in Christ-
MK: I do.
MB: Right; let me finish! [laughs] If you say that you believe in Christ, people will be like “Oh, you’re stupid, you believe in an imaginary friend”, but if you say that you believe in Satan they’d be like “Oh, alright!”.
MB: It’s a completely ridiculous thing, because if you’re going to ridiculize believing in a deity…
MK: There’s an American TV series called “I Survived: Beyond and Back“; it’s nothing but interviews with people who have been clinically dead, and left their bodies and have been on the other side. They have seen angels, demons and all the other things; they have actually met Christ, he’s there, he’s not an illusion, you just have to find your way to it. I don’t care about religions, I don’t care about the church, but the spiritual side of our existence is a fact, and you just have to find a way to it. I’m not telling you what to believe, I don’t tell anyone what to believe, but agnosticism just means that you have given up, that’s all that it means, that you’ve given up on truth. The thing is that you have to find a way to it. Check this TV series, it’s just people giving interviews about what they have experienced, and many of them met Christ, he’s not an illusion, he’s real; he’s the second logos.
I can’t explain this stuff now but… materialism means that you have cut off the spiritual world, that’s all that it means. Agnosticism means that you just cut off to the spiritual world, and that’s just you or whoever that is an agnostic. It doesn’t matter, you choose what you wanna be, you choose where you wanna go.
MB: I think there’s a mistake here; Agnosticism refers to the position that the existence or non existence of God is beyond the ability of human comprehension.
MK: Oh, but he exists, he does exist. That’s why you’re there; you came from him and you’ll go back.
MB: Don’t feel offended by this but Nietzsche said that “A casual stroll through a lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything”. ((This quote is basically a simplification of a passage in “The Antichrist”, “The fact that faith, under certain circumstances, may work for blessedness, but that this blessedness produced by an “idee fixe” by no means makes the idea itself true, and the fact that faith actually moves no mountains, but instead raises them up where there were none before: all this is made sufficiently clear by a walk through a lunatic asylum. Not, of course, to a priest: for his instincts prompt him to the lie that sickness is not sickness and lunatic asylums not lunatic asylums.))
MK: Faith? Sure. I’m not talking about faith.
When you look at that series the thing is that the people that they interview, they just have had experiences while being with their hearts stopped, their brains were off, sometimes for hours. They should have been totally brain damaged, but they weren’t.
These are just facts, and these people, when you really look at these interviews that they recorded, not every case, but most of the cases, the most exciting ones, you can really see that it is not explainable in any other way than that the soul can be separated from the body. They are telling things that they could not have possibly known, because they happened in another room; discussions that they had, instruments that they used, they saw everything and could tell everything that happened down there in detail.
MB: Do you think that being a person of faith-
MK: I’m not a person of faith. I’m a spiritual person.
MB: OK… Believing in Jesus is faith.
MK: No. I know. I know. You think it’s faith.
MB: I’m not saying that you’re wrong, just that the belief in Jesus is faith, it’s not fact.
MK: No, it’s a fact. It’s typical agnostic; you don’t know. I know.
MB: It’s not even typical agnostic. Even the Church says it’s faith.
MK: The limit of your mind is not the end of the world. I know people who can see him. I know people who can see angels. What do you think they are? Crazy?
MB: It’s very likely, yes.
MK: You see? That’s arrogant, because your limit of mind is not the end of the world, but that’s what you’re doing.
MB: I’m not trying to offend you here, but you have to understand that if I was to tell you that next to me, right now, there’s a unicorn…
MK: [laughs]. That’s not what I mean. Just imagine: now you have physical eyes, where you can see physical things; but just imagine that there are other organs in you, other eyes that you can train to see things.
Even the physicists these days, know that there are other dimensions that are not physical. They’re talking about 11 dimensions nowadays, in physics, that exist but are not physical
MB: Even the Catholic church, when they speak about…
MK: They’re very materialistic.
MB: All the Christian…
MK: I don’t think they’re Christian.
MB: What? Christianity is defined as the belief in Christ as the son of God.
MK: And he is, the Second Logos.
MB: Alright, but that’s like the requirement to be a Christian.
MK: Not necessarily. I honestly think that you don’t have to believe anything. If you really want to know you can know; your eyes can be opened and you can see these kind of things.
MB: You see that you’re sounding like Tom Cruise when he was talking about Scientology, right?
MK: Scientology is crap.
MB: “You know, because you have to know!”
MK: You’re a perfect example of someone who’s stuck in the material way of looking at things, and you think that anyone who says anything above that, that you don’t understand, is crazy.
MB: We are living in a material world…
MK: That’s what you see.
MB: … And I am a material girl.
You are also a spirit, and you have just forgotten where you came from. Remember my words: When the day comes that you die, as soon as you leave your body you will see that all of this is true.
MB: Let’s make a deal.
MB: If you die before me…
MK: I probably will.
MB: …You have to come and tell me “you were wrong”.
MK: But what if people try but you can’t hear it, because your senses are closed. You have to develop certain senses, to open them up.
If you learn mathematics you can’t start with high mathematics, you have to start simple, in school. It’s the same thing with spiritual things; you have to develop a certain thinking, certain organs to be able to understand this kind of things. It’s not something you can just judge like that.
MB: I respect people of faith… “Of fact”, if you prefer, but…
MK: I can give you a name where you can learn that it is not faith: Rudolf Steiner. The interesting thing about that guy is that he studied nature sciences, he was a scientist, and he was able to express certain things in a scientific way. He has written, “Wahrheit und Wissenschaft,”, “Truth and Knowledge”, and “Die Philosophie der Freiheit,”, “The Philosophy of Freedom”; they are philosophy, but break the door open to the spiritual side of it. I don’t know of anybody else that has done it like him, with the thinking power to understand that the spiritual world is actually the next step and that materialism is nonsense. If you really study nature sciences with an open mind, you see the Spirit everywhere; there’s no evolution, there wouldn’t be any thinking.
MB: You don’t believe in evolution?
MK: Of course. There wouldn’t be any evolution without spirituality.
MB: So you believe in evolution?
MK: SURE! Forget about the crap that happens in America; I’m not like that. Of course evolution is true.
MB: It was an important question!
MK: That’s how God creates.
MB: I was in a Catholic school, and when we asked our teacher how Genesis and Evolution coexisted she said “Well, that’s how God did it” [laughs]Ç
MK: These creationists in America… both sides are ignorant. The materialistic sciences are ignorant because they ignore the spiritual side of our existence, and the religious people are ignorant because they ignore the physical side.
The thing is, there wouldn’t be any evolution without these intelligent spiritual forces making evolution. If there wouldn’t be spirituality there would just be a dead piece of stone in the cosmos and no evolution; I wouldn’t be there and you wouldn’t be there. Both sides are true, they are two sides of the coin; the physical and the spiritual.
MB: I wanna move on, but I can’t let this one slide. They have replicated the same energy from the Big Bang.
MK: The Big Bang it’s a fact, yeah.
MB: I mean that it can happen without celestial intervention.
MK: Yeah… you think so!
The materialistic world makes no sense at all. If you dig deep into the matter, in the end you have atoms and electrons flying around… in the end you just have energy, that’s all that’s left in the end.
MB: Do you think that this sort of thing plays against you within the metal community?
MK: I don’t care.
MB: Regardless of whether or not you care; just as I mentioned before that there is a hypocrisy regarding religion, do you think that fans would see you differently if you’re open, now you definitely will be, about your beliefs?
MK: I always have been open, I don’t think that anything has changed. I’ve just spent a lot of time in the 17 years that I was off reading so much stuff; I was dealing with philosophy, nature sciences and all this kind of things, I had a huge hunger for it, because I don’t believe in prejudice, I don’t believe in people who have answers quickly right away and don’t even search for answers. I was dealing with these things for years, and I had the time to do it, the whole day. That has changed, I have a lot more to tell when it comes to that, but my look at life and my basic approach to life hasn’t changed; I don’t think that anything has changed there.
MB: For me it was interesting when last year in Bloodstock Open Air, a festival in the UK, I interviewed a Swedish black metal band called Watain, known for being very Satanic. I asked Erik, the singer, if he believe in God, he said that he did, so I asked why he would then choose to worship the devil.
MK: Yeah, it’s weird.
MB: There’s no difference in believing in God or Satan..
MK: They’re both real.
MB: In my eyes it makes no difference.
MK: Sure, they’re spiritual beings.
MB: I was like “Dude… the only source we have on this [very theoretical] event is the Bible and the Bible is pretty clear on him being the bad guy!”
MK: Not really the only source.
MB: For Christianity? Yes. The Bible and the Gnostic Gospels.
MK: But that’s the Church; don’t identify the Bible with the Church.
MB: Really, there’s no “director’s cut” of the Bible, that’s it.
MK: I don’t think so, I honestly think that there have been mysteries in all cultures for thousands of years.
MB: But Jesus existed 2000 years ago…
MK: Yeah, that’s what the Church has made up. The thing is that there are so many revelations. Do you know how the Bible came across?
MB: The Council of Trent? ((Not only did I actually mean The Council of Nicea, but I was also wrong on the actual effect of the Council of Nicea on the Bible. The more you know.))
MK: If you look at, for instance, the Apocalypse. The guy [John] said that he had a vision, that he saw something spiritual and that he wrote it down; like I said earlier, it’s a question of getting your senses open. If you could develop certain spiritual senses, where you could see angels, like in that series that I was talking about, where those people are out of their bodies and suddenly they see this other dimension; and some of them were not even religious, they did not care about this stuff at all. After that they are, because they’ve seen things.
MB: About the Apocalypse, scholars have interpreted the symbolism in it; for instance purple was the color of the Roman Empire…
MK: I don’t want to get into that. Why I started was how did he get to it? It is always like a revelation; you have a spiritualized opening and you can see certain things, which is difficult for us nowadays, because we have a rational mind, but the further you go back in history, the more people had these senses open. Now we look at them with arrogance like “They were kids, they were fantasizing” and things like that, but they were not.
The whole Egyptian culture, for instance, is a culture based on spirituality, on certain things that they could still see; if you go further back, to Zarathustra, in Persia, it was all completely based on spiritual information; and if you go back to India, what they could see was even higher.
You can see that in our spiritual evolution we have gone down, the “fall of man” ((Michael uses the expression “sin fall”, which is the literal translation of the German “Sündenfall“, which refers to the Fall of Man after the original sin.)) from seeing all this kind of things; let’s say that we were in heaven, in a sort of way, we were spiritual beings and we fell down into the physical dimension, lost all of our spirituality, became individuals, forgot about God, and now we are supposed to get back up, and I think that that’s where we are.
It depends on you, me and every individual; no one can do that for you. If you want to know, if you really want to know, you will find the answers. If you have certain prejudices, if you wanna be an agnostic, an atheist or whatever, that’s what you’ll be and that’s how you’ll live and that’s how you’ll die, but it’s up to you.
I honestly believe that if you want to know, honestly, you can. I think that that’s what Christ meant when he said that when you knock, it gets opened. When you ask, you get answers. It really is like that.
After the interview, which we had to end because we were simply running out of time, I gave Michael my card. The following dialogue ensued:
J: Here’s my card, just send me an e-mail and we can continue this, it’s very interesting.
Michael: Thank you. I will!
J: You’re not going to do it, are you?
Michael: I’ll think about it.
J: If you don’t, I’ll just assume that you have given up on all of your beliefs and that you are therefore admitting that Agnosticism is right.
Upon publishing this interview, I received a very nice, 5-page long, e-mail from Michael. He remains a deeply spiritual person.