As our magazine had a strong connection to the band members since they started working at their respected recording companies, we have interviewed 3 of the members. We will start with Michael Kiske.
When did you first hear that Kai Hansen is interested in joining your band “UNISONIC” and how did you react?
During our tour “AVANTASIA”. I got the opportunity to get used to the feelings of the band again and to break out of my barriers, so we had a great time when he joined us during the tour. 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. It’s too heavy for me; well it’s a typical metal band after all. I actually want a start a open-minded band, just like HELLOWEEN ”. 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. After that I started to think over about it.
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. I disliked the idea of joining a band with a very long existence, like GAMMA RAY. It’s so much better to join a band which doesn’t expect too many things other than quality. That’s why I asked him to join us, although he was the one who first suggested it.
When was this conversation in the Taxi? Before or after the “Avantasia” tour in japan?
I suppose it was after our tour in Japan. Kai and I have been discussing about doing a gig together long before our small discussion on the backstage during AVANTASIA. I already knew him for a long time and we’ve always been on good terms. We shared an amazing time together since we were in HELLOWEEN, so it was natural that we came to that conclusion. But it was after our tour in Japan when we seriously started considering about this possibility.
How could it influence the new Album UNISONIC, since Kai has joined the band?
I’m also excited about how it’s going to turn out. We’ve written many songs, but there are two things I’m expecting from Kai. First of all, I want him to be involved in every song, because I know that it’s only going to bring positive results to our songs. All members of UNISONIC are very talented, but they are a little different from Kai, and that’s what I like about him. He lives in his own world, and thus has his very own music. I want him to bring this into our band and give our music a bit of a Rock n’ Roll touch.
I’ve been always wondering why Unisonic always takes so long to create an album. We wrote so many songs, but we were never satisfied. We did have good songs, but we never thought we were prepared enough to create an album out of it, even if we had 20 songs already! But now I know why, because we have been waiting for Kai all along. I’m quite spiritual, so I believe in faith. We have the freedom of choice in life, so you can become good or bad and you can choose to say yes or no. I wondered all this time why it takes so long for us to create an album, but as we played at AVANTASIA, it was so great to meet all these fantastic people. Tobias (Sammet/ Edguy AVANTASIA) was one of my favourites. He’s the one who helped my friendship with Kai rekindle again. So now I know that AVANTASIA helped us to recognise our skills once again, and that I’ve been waiting for him to join UNISONIC all along.
So Kai was the last piece of the Puzzle?
That’s right. It’s finally complete.
It’s a bit hard to describe it since the chemistry on stage can’t be so easily determined as a one certain feeling. For example, there was this chemistry in HELLOWEEN when we created “KEEPERS OF THE SEVEN KEYS” . This chemistry is made up of the existence from each band member, so it’s different in every band. The band BEATLES is the perfect example for it. After the breakup of BEATLES, George Harrison went on to become a successful songwriter just like John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He wrote the last songs from BEATLES, “Something”, “Here Comes The Sun”, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and the quality is just as good as the songs written by Lennon and McCartney. However, Harrison didn’t write any of those kinds of songs again after his time at the BEATLES. That could be explained that the atmosphere at BEATLES has influenced his way of creating the songs. He needed Lennon, McCartney and Ringo Starr in order to create those amazing songs.
It makes a huge difference with whom sensitive people are sitting with in a room. On one hand, if they feel a negative and destructive atmosphere, they will start to feel uncomfortable and plan to leave the room straight away. On the other hand, it feels so pleasant to be with someone amazing, presumably because you feel the creative feelings being shared. The exact same things happens in a band as well, it does not matter if there are only 2 or 3 people, the chemistry still gets created. Then something fantastic breaks the ice, though it’s very hard to explain how exactly the chemistry feels, because it is so spiritual. I will just say that it makes a big difference if you are alone or not. It could either inspire each other, or discourage each other’s creative side. In my opinion, there should always be a positive atmosphere floating within the band, so that the members could compete with one another in good terms. When one member writes an amazing song, the others will be determined to write even a better song. This will eventually result in evolving the band even stronger.
I have been working alone for a long time and made lots of solo albums. During this time I learned so much about producing, making songs, and creating the sounds. However I started to feel too pressurised, since that everything depends entirely on my own skills. At the end I got tired of the life without a band. If I were in a band, I only had to share my idea to the others and then they will suggest other good ideas so a great song will be created in a very short time. Composing a song together is the fundamental knowledge within making music. My friendship with Kai was truely from my heart. I constantly felt his existence within the music and he, as well, understands the importance of “feeling” the music, not with the body, but with the soul. When he suggested the idea of joining UNISONIC, I immediately knew that it was going to work out, though once again, I don’t know if this was the chemistry we are talking about. This chemistry is so spiritual, sort of like Karma, or something similar. Who knows what will happen in the future, it might all change in the next few years, but so far I know that this was the right decision. If we face the world of music together, I’m sure we can create one powerful album.
You just said you always made 20 songs. How do you usually compose the songs in UNISONIC?
The internet is one of the best tools available in this world. All the members are spread around the globe but we can still easily create music together. I have a Mac Book, an Apogee sound card, an Electro voice Microphone made in the 70’s, and a 12 corded acoustic guitar. When I have an idea I just have to open up my laptop, start the program and plug my microphone in. After I’m done with recording I’ll send the file to Dennis, who will then try to compose it further. From now on I’ll also send the same thing to Kai. I’ve been making music all by myself for a while, but I don’t want to do that ever again. I like the way how other band members also join in to develop the music so it suits the whole band, and I’m hoping it’s going to stay like this. All I have right now is the melody. When I have an idea of an entire song, I will try to create the song as good as possible and will not try to back up and leave it to the others. But usually as soon as I have one melody in my mind, I record it and send it to the others right away.
Do other band members send you some ideas as well?
Sure. When they have an idea, they usually send the file with some vocals, but it turns out so different when I sing the lyrics. It is also contrasting when Dennis sings it. He is open-minded so he can develop the song differently when adding my ideas, though my ideas are usually accomplished so it is not often that I have to change my ideas.
I’ve been visiting Dennis for a week now and been recording around 6 songs which we wrote together. We were at his home studio, so we made the songs in a relaxing good atmosphere. For the first few hours we discussed about which tools we are going to use and we also watched some funny videos on iTunes. If Kosta knew about this I’m sure he would have gotten mad at us saying that we are just playing around and not working. But this was important to create the good atmosphere, and thanks to this we made about 6 songs in mere several minutes! When I showed him the melodies which I recorded on iTunes, he’ll start playing it on his guitar, and then finally I sing the lyrics onto it. With this method we can always check how it’ll sound like when I sing it. It was exactly the same at PLACE VENDOME when I heard the first Demos which were sent by Serafino (Chairman from “Frontiers Records”). I didn’t think it was a breathtaking song, but as I sang with it I started to think that it’s not bad at all. So that’s why I always have to check the Demos myself to check if it actually matches.
Kai and Dennis are two different song writers. I’m sure Mandy meyer also contributes in song-making, but can you describe us the characteristics of these songwriters?
There are all completely different from one another, but that’s what I like about it. This is also the reason why Kai is so thrilled to join us. He thinks it’s very interesting from his artistic view. He got to know Dennis, so now he knows how it’s like making songs with him together. Dennis is American and thus has a special ear for American tunes. I’m British so I’m quite influenced by British music, but Kai has other influences. This is why I’m pretty sure Dennis’s ideas are coming from the American AOR. This is already very good, but I still want our music to be more special. I could say that Kai is the father of the melodic power metal, and thus has this unique song writing skills. Mandy is definitely from a “Rock world”, maybe because he’s also the oldest from us all. His style is very similar to the Rock n’ Roll all the way up to several generations back then. He’s the one who always come up with good cord combinations and lyrics. Just a few days ago, Dennis wrote an amazing song out of cording ideas which were imposed by Mandy.
Nevertheless the most important thing is that we are always open to other ideas and that we all accept the creativity from the others, always work on the music with passion, and bring in the ideas. We don’t have to be sad when the idea doesn’t get accepted, though we never had that problem. We are all grownups so we are all experienced in that situation. We are old enough to know that there are no hard feelings. I get along well with Dennis in those ways too. He’s a good guy and so relaxed, a perfect person to be making music with in a encouraging atmosphere. When I wrote a song with him for the first time I was surprised because I never thought it would be so comfortable to make music with someone else.
During my time at HELLOWEEN, we never wrote songs together. Well, we did discuss and adjust it a little during rehearsals, but the songwriter mostly brought in the almost completed songs to the rehearsals and we made the songs for HELLOWEEN from only that one piece. We did always add the ideas from other band members, but not as much as we should have. I am pretty sure that’s exactly what Kai is planning on doing. He usually brings in songs which are almost completed, but still needs a finishing touch. I hope he asks us for suggestions when his thoughts doesn’t get any further, because that is what usually happens; you have parts of the songs, but you don’t know how to connect it to the rest of the songs. In that case I want him to send us the ideas. Then there will be a good chance that the rest of us can help him.
It seems like Kai has yet to develop some ideas for the coming songs?
He just told me few days ago that he’s working on several songs at the moment. He has been busy with GAMMA RAY these days, but he said he finally has the time now to work on the songs for UNISONIC. He sent an Email saying “I get inspired by your voice even till this day. I’m sure this is going to lead us to good ideas for UNISONIC”. I have to be patient and give the musicians plenty of time to work on the piece. Nothing comes out if you pressurise them. All I can do is to ask once in a while if everything is going well.
Dennis and Kosta came up with the plan around two years ago. Kosta contacted me saying that he and Dennis wanted to meet up with me in Hamburg. Dennis poked fun on me saying “Michael, you sure haven’t been managed for the last 2 or 3 years, have you?”. Then I replied “I haven’t been managed and there are no such things as managing when it comes to my music”. I have never been a proper businessman and although I know that earning is very important in life, counting numbers and thinking about money were never really my priority. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been working on songs that seriously. If I didn’t get this offer from Serafino, all of this wouldn’t be happening right now. I’m a person who needs someone to ask me “Michael, do want to try making an album?”. I did make songs on a daily basis, but I needed a good reason when it comes to making an album. They first said they wanted to be my manager, so that we won’t have any problems in this part later on when I’m around 55 years old. I agreed to what they suggested, because I liked the thought of leaving the business part to them, which i hate doing, and all I have to do is just make music. (notice: Kosta is currently a staff by Kiske’s Management office Bottom Row)
Dennis and I have gained great results during our time at PLACE VENDOME, so we’ve been exchanging Emails often and planning on making music again together. I’ve been turning down offers for joining a band back then, excusing myself that I’m not yet prepared for the task, but when Dennis asked me to join his band, I just felt I was finally ready for it, and I agreed immediately. I believe everything is meant to be and not just a coincidence. Well, I don’t think everything is already planned and spread in front of us either. There are certain choices which we can choose, no matter how it is going to turn out, and I assume it was just the right time and the right offer for me. After that our plan went quite smoothly and Dennis later suggested to ask Mandy to join our band. I have never known him that well, but I heard the songs from KROKUS before, where he devoted himself in the 80’s, so I knew what kind of music he plays. Dennis said he wants Mandy to join in especially because of his unique personality, and Dennis was so right. Mandy has since then blended into UNISONIC like no one ever did. I can’t wait to see how Mandy and Kai create the song together, especially because their musical mentality is so different from one another.
If there were to be any changes within the band since Kai has joined, what could that be?
I have no idea. All I can say is that Kai is very excited to join us. So far we’ve been collecting our ideas and I hope Kai could compose 2 or 3 songs out of it. After that we will do rehearsals, and then we will know how it is going to turn out. For me, it has been 16 or 17 years since I last entered a rehearsal room and played in a band, so I really have no clue, but I do know that all the songs at UNISONIC all turns out to be great and fascinating. It was not so good at first, but then our magic soon busted out after the second or the third rehearsal. That’s how it worked out when there were only four of us in UNISONIC, so I’m really looking forward for Kai’s new influence on the band. It might be a bit difficult at first, but that’s why we do rehearsals. We have to function as a band, and not like exchanging endless ideas on the Internet, we can directly say “What do you think about this?” or “Can you maybe try out this tune?” , so the whole process goes alot faster. The songs get composed. This is what is necessary for Kai, and he’s been waiting for the rehearsals all this time. Before the rehearsal the whole thing is a little vague, but we finally feel the reality soon.
I can’t wait for the new album to be released. By the way, have you ever thought about participating in other artist’s songs as a guest?
I have been asked from the management Bottom Row once in a while, and I did understand why. As a solo singer, I could do anything as long as I’m interested in it. That’s why I have been doing many projects so far as soon as it sparked my interest, and after 2 or 3 years I have just been doing more and more. In the 90’s the only thing I did was joining the albums of AVANTASIA and GAMMA RAY, but from 2000, I have been getting a lot more offers then I did in the past. That is maybe because I was getting tired of playing music by myself, or maybe because I got many offers from the Serafino. However, since I joined UNISONIC, I started to think it’s better if I just stick with this band and turn down other offers. It has been like that for 2 years now. I am not saying that I will never accept other offers ever again, but I’d just say not as much as I did before, as long as UNISONIC remains as my main band.
SO UNISONIC is the main focus?
Yeah, but I might do a live concert with Amanda Somerville soon. After our duet album “KISKE-SOMERVILLE”, one promoter keeps asking us to hold another concert. We both want to do it but it all depends on our schedule.
Finally, what is the first thing that comes across your mind when you recall your time at the HELLOWEEN?
Frankly speaking, we always had so much fun, but it ended only after 3 or 4 years. We had our first rehearsal in 1986, did our first tour in 1987 and released our first album “KEEPERS OF THE SEVEN KEYS ~ PART 1”. We all got along really well, and even if we argued once in a while we didn’t have any hard feelings after that. We liked what we were doing and we had lots of success. The music world wasn’t as demanding as it is today, and so we were able to make music without any pressure. At the moment it’s not that easy financially and there are only few people who support our recordings, which is very sad. This recording can’t be replaced with concerts either, because it’s just totally different. The recording itself is very artistic and it’s not comparable to the live music. Nowadays people just copy or download the recordings, so it’s always harder to produce really good music. Anyways, UNISONIC has to show everyone what it can do. I’m really hoping for success, especially because I truely like recording.
We didn’t have any of these problems in the 80’s, until Kai left our band. Not only did we lose his melodius support, but we also lost his whole existance in our music. It’s not too much to say that he was the rock of the band, but then at the same time, I didn’t want to admit back then that he left such a big hole in the band. I don’t really care anymore what happened in HELLOWEEN though. I can look at the past objectively now, and all I can say is that the glory ended at the moment when Kai left the band after “KEEPERS OF THE SEVEN KEYS”. It’s a totally new band now but I’m so happy I was part of HELLOWEEN in those old days.
So now we’ll continue interviewing our next guest, Dennis Ward. His talent is essential in UNISONIC, where three songswriters with colourful experience exist, to produce critical techniques to mix both the individuality and the harmony within the songs.
Around the end of January. After Michael came back from the AVANTASIA tour, he told me how ecstatic it was to be able to play with Kai and that their friendship has once again blossomed. I was astonished though when Michael told me how Kai asked him if he could join UNISONIC, but then I quickly thought that will be a great idea. Kai is a fun person to be with and his skill as a songwriter can only bring good things in our band.
You are also a producer and made many songs in the past. From this point of view, how can Kai Hansen influence the UNISONIC’s upcoming album?
The first thing I must say is that Kai is an amazing guitarist. I always liked his unique style since ever, especially with his guitar skills. Additionally, he has this Rock n’ Roll inspired attitude, so this will match perfectly with Mandy. Even though the music’s genre is quite different, I think their attitudes are compatible. I am hoping that Kai will bring in his Rock n’ Roll touch into our band.
How do you usually make the songs in UNISONIC?
There are several methods. I can for example record my ideas just by using the verse bridge chorus, and send it to other band members to see if they like it, and if that’s the case, then I add in the introduction, middle part, and the endings. I could also make the songs together with Michael. He plays the acoustic guitar and sends me the rough idea and then I work it out to give the idea a better construction. Kai just started making songs at this point, but I am sure he’ll start sending me his own ideas very soon. Mandy usually send me songs which are mostly completed. Then I put in some melodies or lyrics onto it. After that we all meet up in the reheasal studio and we build on the sounds like all the other bands do. So from the point of music production, there isn’t anything so different about our band.
How many songs have you made so far?
We have ideas which are enough to create more than 20 songs, but that doesn’t mean the songs are ready to be heard. I can’t be satisfied even if I have 30 or 40 ideas. Since Kai is with us now, I really want to make couple songs out of his idea. When we are done with this, we will then decide which songs we are actually going to put in the album. This is the most exciting part.
Have all the members met together since Kai joined in?
We did meet, but we haven’t done any rehearsals yet. Kai was still in GAMMA RAY at that time, and he needed some rest too. The rest of us have been already rehearsing several times and thinking through our new songs.
How long would it take to create a song and to start recording?
We will be done with all the songs and hopefully with the recording within two months. Both Kai and I have our own studios, so we can record and make songs at the same time. Maybe this is what is different from all the other bands. Anyhow I have to get working on it. No time to rest!
Is this recording for a Demo? Or for the actual final recording?
Actually both. Even if we are recording a Demo, we have in mind to play our best in case it turns out good enough to call it was the final recording. It can also be that we are recording for finals, but then decide on the songs as Demos. It’s always different, but because we have this luxury of working at home, we don’t have any time pressure. It is a really nice feeling to be able to make music in such a free environment. Of course I try to make a impressing music in a short period of time, but when we are dong with song production in two months, I really want to work on making a good basic tracks on each song. I’ll think about the plan after that later on. I might record the vocals somewhere else to obtain the good vibes. I haven’t decided on the details yet, but I’m looking forward for all of this. I just want to have fun with it. I’m not doing this for money, well; I don’t think we are that famous at the moment anyways. So I just want to make music stress-free. We have all the time and there is also no need to rush.
You are the person who invited Mandy Meyer into the band. Why did you think his talent was necessary in UNISONIC?
I knew him since the GOTTHARD days, and I also helped out with the KROKUS’s album where Mandy played as a guitarist. I get along with him really well and 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.
It’s so exciting to see two guitarists on the stage from now on isn’t it?
Each band member contributes to making the songs, but do you think each one of them have their individual preferences?
Kosta helps me out with the song arrangements rather than with song writing. Mandy writes AOR-inspiredhard rock songs, like the songs he made during his time at KATMANDÜ. The songs which he sends us are always mostly finished, and the songs are finally complete when Kosta and I contribute to the songs. I really like this part. Michael is the melody-maker. As I mentioned before, he constantly sends me his ideas. It could be some humming songs recorded on his mobile phone or sung on an acoustic guitar, on which I add on my ideas. Kai is well experienced so he should be done with his songs any moment. He has written songs since his time at HELLOWEEN, so all we have to do is to put in some UNISONIC like tunes to it.
You have always been working with Michael Kiske, for example during PLACE VENDOME. What kind of music do you want to work on from now as a member of UNISONIC?
This is a little tough to answer. I don’t even know that “main stream” means. So many people come up to me and ask “I want you to play metal, can you do that for me?”, but I keep answering “I played with Kosta in PINK CREAM 69, and Mandy has never played a speed metal before!”. This means 3people out of 4 of us haven’t played metal before. We just want to play hard rock songs with good music quality. It’s important for me that we become a cool guitar rock band, and I don’t really care if people call us modern or old school. We have this wonderful melody from Michael, this sing-along type of music. This is all I could say at the moment. I have no idea myself how all this is going to turn out. Even if we did some Demos, there is also a good chance that all this could change once Kai joins in.
How do you want to contribute to UNISONIC’s activity and song making from now on?
In a very good way?
What do you mean exactly?
If it’s possible, I just want to do this all simple. This is what is different from PLACE VENDOME, I want to use the keyboards only when it’s necessary, or not at all. I don’t want sounds which sound like you used 20 guitars at once. Two guitars are enough. I want to maintain this identity. I don’t mean that I want a sound like RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, but something similar to their pure melodies, which only includes drums, guitar, base, and the vocals. This might be too pure, but I just want our band to be a rock band made of only simple music. When we are on stage, I don’t want to people to think “Where is the orchestra part which was in the album?” or being in need of assistant singers as a back-up.
So you mean you want less octave?
That’s right, I don’t want two tones playing at the same time. I also want to stay away from some power-metal- scenes. I have nothing against it but most power-metal-bands use support members in concerts and use back-up tracks in order to maintain the soundvolume. Of course I do understand the necessity of it. They can’t bring along a whole orchestra with them on every single tour. However, I just think that people expect these things on live concerts once you write these kinds of songs and put them on the album. So that’s why I don’t make those types of music in the first place.
Hard rock.. well maybe something more melodic than that. Can you imagine Michael singing the songs from MÖTLEY CRÜE? No way. MÖTLEY CRÜE does sing hard rock, but there’s no chance we are going to play that sort of music. Our music is probably going to be a bit more similar to PINK CREAM 69, though it’s not going to be completely the same since we don’t have Koffler as a guitarist. It might be a bit hard rock, but I might give my favorite progressive touch to the middle part, introduction, and at the ending. Anyhow it won’t be like HELLOWEEN. We have Kai now, so the atmosphere could remind the style from HELLOWEEN, but maybe just the old school part. Well, we were very surprised that the songs from the current HELLOWEEN are rather up-tempo compared to the old days when it was usually mid-tempo. So as a conclusion I want our songs to be hard rock, but not the typical hard rock music.
At the bottom line, it all depends on the singer. It doesn’t matter if it’s the singer from PINK CREAM 69 or MÖTLEY CRÜE. I always thought the singer for the hard rock band should be sexy, agressive, and have this Rock n‘Roll type of attitude. But I just can’t imagine Michael singing the songs from MÖTLEY CRÜE! So that’s why I can’t completely say that we are going to make our music in that direction. We want the vibe, and the progressive aspects of hard rock, but we aren’t trying to show off how fast the guitarists can hit the notes. What I’m looking for is the progressive side but not as a arrangement from the mainstream, and at last Michael’s vocals. I can’t say anything else for now.
So you mean we have to listen to it first to understand what you are meaning?
I’m looking forward for the album, What other projects are you contributing in at the moment?
Well, I’m always working on all sorts of things. At the moment I’m working in the albums of the band called CATEGORY 5, which is based in the Utah province, and also on Joe Lynn Turner’s next album SUNSTORM. The recording is mostly complete, but he’s on a tour now, so we can’t progress until he’s done. Other than that I’ve been working on Fagy Fredriksson’s album since over a year. He’s been having serious health problems (cancer which cannot be operated on), and so we are nowhere close to finishing, but I just emailed be several days ago saying that he was feeling better and so the songs are mostly done, so I’m looking forward to listen to the songs. And I spend all of the rest of my time with UNISONIC. Kosta is coming over to my place in a couple of hours and then we are going to work on some songs.
It sounds like you have got your hands full. It all sounds very interesting, but do you think UNISONIC’s album would be released in this year?
Of course! We want to be done with recording by the end of summer, so we should be able to release it by the end of the year.
Finally let’s talk to Kai Hansen who spectacularly joined the band. When we interviewed him at the end of March, he just came back from his busy schedule from GAMMA RAY.
Were you skiing during your vacation?
No, I went to Thailand with my girlfriend and my kids. We had a great time just basking in the sun and scuba-diving.
Are you taking your time away from GAMMA RAY at the moment?
Not exactly. Before I left to Thailand, I just finished the production for the next EP which we are playing in. I don’t know when it’s going to be sold in Japan, but we are kicking off our “SKELETONS AND MAJESTIES TOUR” at the end of april. It’s going to be a show which is constructed with songs which we never played in live concerts, and we are going to add on the unplugged version of some classic music such as “Rebellion In Dreamland” and “Send Me A Sign”. I just thought about trying out different things. And then on top of that we are going to shoot and record it for DVDs and CDs. I think our fans will be pleased, especially the ones who have seen our live concerts many times. We have been playing the same music in a similar concert over and over again, so I thought it’s a great idea to hold a show. In order for our fans to know how it’s like in a concert, we recorded the metal songs“Brothers” and “Hold Your Ground” for the second time. Then we recorded the unplugged version of “Rebellion In Dreamland” and “Send Me A Sign” and created one EP.
So there will be four songs in this EP?
No, 7 songs. We also have this expanded version of “Brothers”, in which people can hear the part which we originally cut out for the normal version. There’s also the song “Wannabees” as a bonus track in the “TO THE METAL!” album sold in Japan. This song only got recorded in a 7inch analogue tape in other countries, and we also recorded the Karaoke-version of the “Rebellion in Dreamland”. We’re planning to do a concert, in which the participants can sing along the Karaoke version of the song, and then could win a prize at the end.
How do you decide which songs to be recorded?
I tried out “Rebellion in Dreamland” and “Send Me A Sign” with an acoustic guitar, and then I thought I should give it a try and record them. We thought it’s better to perform metal songs such as “Brothers” and “Hold Your Ground” in a live concert, so after that we tried it out couple of times in the rehearsal room and then we decided to go ahead with it. We always give it a new appoach as the current GAMMA RAY.
I heard you asked your fans to vote for which songs to be played at “SKELETONS AND MAJESTIES TOUR”.
Yeah, we asked them to vote on our GAMMA RAY website. We obviously wanted them to vote for songs which we don’t often play, so we first decided on the candidate songs by ourself, and asked the fans to choose from those selected songs. However, this doesn’t fully mean that we are going to play the top 10 songs which the fans chose. I do get to decide at the end, depending on the show and how the song will match the other songs. Well of course I want to give my best and play what the fans wants us to perform.
Didn’t GAMMA RAY go on a similar tour in the past which was named “SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET TOUR”?
Yeah, at that time we also played songs which we rarely played in live concerts, and we released it at the end in the album called “SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET” in 2003. At that time we didn’t have a new album, we just annouced that we are planning on doing a tour like it. I wan’t really expecting much, but it was still a great success. The live album was also well praised and it made us so happy that our fan was loving it. It’s been a long time since then, so I thought it’s time for another one.
Are you planning to perform “SKELETONS AND MEJESTIES TOUR” only within Germany in April?
For the time being it is planned in Germany and in Switzerland, but we are not sure yet. At first we will shoot and record our show in both of these 2 countries. After we release the DVD and the CD, and if people around the globe will show their interest, then we might do another show in autumn and go around the globe next time.
So now I want to ask you about UNISONIC. It was such a surprise that you are going to join in. Apparently you were the one who first suggested of joining in. So what actually happened?
I’m actually a little confused myself about this press release; because it is a little different from what it actually happened. 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. For me, I wanted to avoid projects like KANSEN/KISKE. I dislike projects and I think no one is waiting for such projects. I wanted to do something proper, but what? When I started thining about this, I thought about couple options.
1: Michael joins GAMMA RAY
2: I join UNISONIC
3: we start a brand new band
Well, 3 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, because I had to think through every consequence. 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.
So you were having those serious discussions with Michael during AVANTASIA?
We first talked about this during the tour. When Michael told about this plan to the other members, they were surprised but quickly agreed, so we all met up in Hamburg and made the final decision.
I talked with Michael a little while ago. He told me that you two were on a taxi during the tour when you first suggested him about joining.
Yeah, that’s right. I totally forgot that that was when we started talking seriously about the plan.
So you asked him if you could join UNISONIC. Am I correct?
Yes, well when we both went over all the possibilities, this option was one of it. I didn’t want to do a project, and he wants me to join in officially, so this option was perfect at the end.
A perfect option?
UNISONIC is Michael’s band, where he feels home at most. There are only great members within the band. I know Kosta since a long time and I got to know about Dennis as well. Michael is giving everything for his band, so it will be silly for me to say “Let’s forget about UNISONIC and create a whole new band!”. That would be pathetic. I wanted to join UNISONIC because there were all these amazing people with endless possibilities.
Michael is apparently waiting for your ideas
I know. I’m trying to do my best at the moment. I have been recording all this time and I have a rehearsal for GAMMA RAY this afternoon.
I am sure you have already heard Michael’s solo album or his Duet with Amanda Somerville. How did you thinking about his previous works?
I have not heard all of them but I heard parts of his work with Amanda and in PLACE VENDOME. It was all wonderful. Well, he’s going to be making music’s with me now though.
Michael told me”Now I finally know why UNISONIC always took so long to create one music. We have been waiting for Kai all along.”
I heard that directly from him. I was so happy to hear this.
We have mentioned it before, but what exactly is this chemistry which you felt with Michael’s voice?
I get inspired and then come up with new ideas when I hear him singing. Even since our old time at HELLOWEEN, we didn’t compose the songs based on my voice. Thanks to him, I was able to make all those great songs in the past. I can never write the lyrics with my voice. He has this ability to sing out my ideas without any difficulties. This is the chemistry I’m talking about. Not just this, but we have been feeling this harmony between us since I know him. He’s a very special person for me.
UNISONIC often play vocal oriented hard rock types of music. How are you planning to join into this type of band as a guitarist/songwriter?
Of course I would like to continue with my own ways, because it doesn’t make sense to change my style all of a sudden. UNISONIC is a very open-minded band, so it doesn’t have any restrictions, which allows me to be a bit more “hard rock”, but I could also play with a little pop style. I will just don’t think about other things and write the song first, then I will know if the song suits the band or not. And I can’t write songs like the other bandmembers anyways. The most important thing is a band is to play the song together. I don’t want people to think that the songs shouldn’t belong to the same album; just because different members wrote the song and thus the song styles are completely contrasting. That’s the reason why we always have to rehearsal. We want all the songs to suit UNISONIC.
But don’t you think there will be a small change to UNISONIC’s previous songs since you have joined in?
Probably, but this band still has a lot to grow and develop. It might take some time until my style settles down to this band, but I think this was the right time for me to join in. There will be many things which I will learn from them, and they learning from me. This is how our chemistry is created.
When did you tell your band members in GAMMA RAY that you are joining UNISONIC?
As soon as I knew it, I forgot exactly when though. I didn’t really summon them officially. I told them when we met up some time later.
So you didn’t hold a band meeting or anything?
No, it wasn’t like that. It’s not like I’m leaving or breaking up GAMMA RAY. I just told them I have another thing to do now.
And how did they (GAMMA RAY members) react?
They understood that I was looking forward to work with Michael. Of course everyone was worried that this was going to cause some problems within GAMMA RAY, but I told them “Don’t worry. GAMMA RAY is my band and it is my first priority. I won’t let you down”.
By the way, I heard that GAMMA RAY is supporting the DREAM THEATER- Italy tour in July. How did this happen?
We got some offer from a italian promoter. They were looking for a powerful band, and that was us. We had time as well so we decided to go ahead with it.
Are you going on the “SKELETONS AND MEJESTIES” tour after the Italy tour?
Well, I’m first going to a festival in Belgium in April. Then I’m planning to perform at the Port of Hamburg on May 7th. This day is the anniversary of the opening of the bay and there is always a festival around this time of the year. There are always bands playing in the evening, and I’ve been getting offers for several times now, but I never had the chance to actually accept the offer because of other work commitments. So I’m happy to be finally able to participate. After that I play on May 14th in Sweden, in Czech Republic in June, and I will finally play on DREAM THEATER in July. So far I’m planning on playing in Spain and in Poland later this year.
So you are planning on going to the rehearsal for UNISONIC in your spare time?
That’s the plan so far
Finally, what is the first thing that crosses your mind from your days in HELLOWEEN with Michael?
When I look at the photos from that time, I can see how I was performing, wooing the crowd and having fun on the stage. Michael was such a great entertainer and a perfect front man, with his performances, looks, and how he fascinated the crowd. That’s what I remember the most.
From now on you can see that every day at UNISONIC
That’s right. I am very looking forward for the album. It’s still the beginning, but I am excited to see the growth of the band. I can’t wait for the day when we can all go to Japan again together.
Mini- biography of Michael Kiske
He was born in Hamburg on January 24th, 1968. Since he first heard the song from Elvis Presley at around the age of five, he showed his interested in music, and he started to play the guitar in his teenage years. When he was playing in an Amateur band in 1986, he was scouted as a vocalist by the band HELLOWEEN where Kai Hansen was also playing. He first turned down the offer, saying “I’m not interested in speed metal. The songs from HELLOWEEN are too fast and too much heavy metal”. However, he had a change of heart when he heard the songs in the Album “Keepers of the seven keys I” and decided to join the band. The albums, “KEEPER~ PART I ” , which was produced in 1987 and “KEEPER~PART II”, which was produced in 1988 become quite well known, especially because these albums have created the first German metal/ melodic speed metal, which attracted many followers, and let the world know about the existence of singers such as Kiske.
Although Kiske never experienced professional band activities before joining HELLOWEEN, he demonstrated an impressive performance on stage and quickly blended into the spotlight and developed his youthful and powerful quality from day to day. Since then he has become the voice of the KEEPER, which fascinates the listeners to this day. In the follwing years, HELLOWEEN experienced a number of changes. Hansen left the band during the world tour “KEEPER~PART II “, Roland Grapow joined the band, and business difficulties started to emerge. Thus the band was forced to halt their activities for around a year. Kiske spent this time studying classic music and Philosophy, and this new experience showed him a new horizon of the concept of life and the beauty of art. HELLOWEEN later released “PINK BUBBLES GO APE” in 1992, and “CHAMELEON” was introduced to the world in 1993, but Kiske stared to feel the strain between the band members and isolated himself in the band. He eventually left the band in January 1994 after completing the tour “CHAMELEON”. He held this last concert in Japan as HELLOWEEN member in November 1994, but none, not even himself, ever thought that he will leave the stage for the next 17 years.
Kiske was in HELLOWEEN from the age of 18 till 26. However, since Hansen left the band and after all the dynamic changes and the rather negative events which happened after that, he pulled into the backstage and his doubts about the heavy metal and only got worse. It was then Hansen, who later on pulled Kiske back on the scene again (with performing a guest appearance on Gamma Ray’s Land of the Free album). Hansen was playing in GAMMA RAY after he left HELLOWEEN, and during their recording in 1995 for the album “LAND OF THE FREE” he convinced Kiske to sing 2 songs, which were the first songs which they worked together after a 6 year pause. This sparked Kiske’s interest in playing in a band again. He later on released his first solo album titled “INSTANT CLARITY” with the help from Hansen and Adrian Smith (g), who was taking his time off from his band “IRON MAIDEN”. Since then Kiske released other solo albums “READINESS TO SACRIFICE” in 1995 and “SUPARED” in 2003. During this time, he participated in a solo record of Timo Tolkki “HYMN TO LIFE” in 2002 in which he sung “Key to the Universe”, and later the song “Heroes from the debut album of Masterplan, the band of his former HELLOWEEN bandmate Roland Grabow. After he participated in the rock opera “AINA” in 2003, he suddenly announced that he is once again leaving the metal world for good. This was a statement which resulted from his negative thoughts which collided with his belief as “the voice of the keeper”.He thus needed at the end sometime to be alone to find his trueself again.
Even after his statement, artists and bands never gave in in his declaration and kept asking him to join in as a guest singer, which gave Kiske an opportunity to explore his valuability as a wanted singer. From all of the songs he participated in, the big metal-opera project AVANTASIA most likely gave Kiske the biggest influence. He developed a great connection to Tobias Sammit, who was playing in EDGUY and organised the AVANTASIA tour. Kiske was impressed by Sammet’s unique sence of humor and his ways of thinking, and even after AVANTASIA, Kiske continued to join Edguy’s songs, such as “Judas At The Opera”, which was a big hit in the album “SUPERHEROS”. On the other hand, it was Serafino Perugino, the chairman of the recording firm “Frontiers Records”, who introduced Kiske widely to the music world. The first project which Kiske played in with the help from Perugino was that hard rock project PLACE VENDOME in 2005, which included Dennis Ward, who was the producer and also the basist of the band PINK CREAM 69. The second project was named “STREETS OF FIRE”, which was released in 2009. Kiske himself released a solo album titled “KISKE” in 2006, and also published his 4th solo album “PAST IN DIFFERENT WAYS” in 2008 with the help from Serafino. In 2010, Kiske appeared again as a guest on GAMMA RAY’s album “TO THE METAL!” and sang the song “All You Need To Know”, and after that released a duet titled “KISKE-SOMERVILLE”sung by him and female vocalist Amanda Somerville. During PLACE VENDOME, Kiske got to know Dennis Ward(g), Alfred Koffler(g), and David Readman(vo), who were all members of PINK CREAM 69, and he got to know Mat Sinner(b) amd Magnus Karlsson(g) during his recording for KISKE-SOMERVILLE. The meeting with all these song writers gave Kiske endless thoughts of creativity, which resulted in his own will for forming the band UNISONIC in November 2009.
UNISONIC includes Kiske(vo), Ward(g), Kosta Zafiriou (who is the member of PINK CREAM 69 and also the staff of the management company “Bottom Row”), and Mandy Meyer (who played in ASIA, GOTTHARD, and KROKUS), and perfomed their first warm-up gig in June 2010 in Germany. Since then they appeared in “SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL” and “MASTERS OF ROCK” and played songs which were composed during their time at HELLOWEEN and PLACE VENDOME. Through thse new activities, Kiske not only gained back his good year-long fans, but he also captured the hearts of new young fans, which made him realise the difference between the heavy metal which he always stuck to and what his fans actually wanted to hear. After this Kiske started planning his second AVANTASIA tour.
The second AVANTASIA, which kicked off in Switzerland on November 30th 2010, included Kai Hansen, which made it possible for Kiske to sing with him after 22years of silence. This memoriable scene was to be seen at the performance on December 8th in Japan, and the two commented in the previous interview (in February 2011) that they were considering working together again. And at last, in March 2011, UNISONIC officially announced that Hansen is joining the band.
Dennis Ward Mini Biography
He was born on November 22nd 1967 in Dallas, Texas between an American father and a German mother. In 1981 he moved to Würzburg, Germany because of his father’s profession in the military. He entered an American army school, graduated at the age of 17, and started his musical career in Germany after deciding that it offerd him a better chance than in the U.S. In 1987, he met the people with whom he later created the band PINK CREAM 69, and he later joined HELLOWEEN in 1988 where he met Andi Deris (vo), Kosta Zafiriou (ds), and Alfred Koffler (g). In 1989 he finally debuted as the member of PINK CREAM 69. At the time, German metal was typically associated with melodic power-metal, but his band demonstrated the fresh American styled metal mixed with a catchy European melody. This was praised widely from the people involved in this field and it has also impressed the Japanese fans during their tour “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” in 1991. In 1993, they released the album “GAMES PEOPLE PLAY”, and the band frequently argued over the album since then, and this lead to Dennis leaving the band. The band later on added David Readman and continued with their activity as a band. In 2001 Koffler started to suffer from a illness which unabled him to play for a long period, so since then Uwe Reitenauer took on his place.
Dennis started working as a producer since his time at PINK CREAM 69, but he started working professionally in 1996. Since Readman joined the band, PINK CREAM 69 has released in total 7 albums (the newest album “IN10SITY” was released in 2007), and Ward was the producer in all of them. His other contribution includes “TEMPLE OF SHADOWS” by ANGRA (in 2004), two songs in PLACE VENDOME and “HELLRAISER” by KROKUS in 2006.
Kai Hansen Mini-biography
He was born on January 17th 1963 in Hamburg, Germany. He started playing the drums as a teenager, but then soon changed to the guitars. He formed his first band CATHERINE WHEEL at the age of 12. Later on, he formed a new band GENTRY with his best friend Pete Sielck (g) and started making original songs. During his activity in GENTRY~SECOND HELL~IRON FIST, he slowly got to know musicians who he later form HELLOWEEN. Hansen got to know Michael “weiki” Weikath(g) when Hansen was not belonging to any bands, and then they called in Ingo Schwichtenberg (ds) and Markus Grosskopf(b) and formed HELLOWEEN. From their first song “HELLOWEEN”in 1985 until their single “JUDAS”in 1986 Hansen played a mojor role as a singer. HELLOWEEN was a popular band along the locals, but they have been looking for a new singer since recording for the “JUDAS”, mostly because the band and Hansen himself wished to concentrate more on the sound quality of the band. The singer they found was then still 18 year old Michael Kiske. Although HELLOWEEN achieved great success with the 2 songs of “THE KEEPERS OF THE SEVEN KEYS”, they started to lose their creativity after enduring long tours and tight schedules. Hansen then left the band on January 1st 1989 for health reasons. Later on, as Hansen studied music at the University of Hamburg, he got to know Dirk Schlächter, with whom he later formed GAMMA RAY. The band later added Ralf Scheepers (now: PRIMAL FEAR) as a singer and released the song “HEADING FOR TOMORROW” in 1990. Since the 2nd release “SIGH NO MORE”, they invited Schlächter in as a guitarist and continued their band with 5 members when they released “INSANITY AND GENIUS”. Hansen then joins the vocal in the song “LAND OF THE FREE”, which was released in 1995, and in “SOMEWHERE OUT IN SPACE”, which was released in 1997, they invited Henjo Richter in to play the guitar and Schlächter went back to his previous position to play the base. Since then GAMMA RAY released 5 studio-recorded albums and 2 in live versions. In 1997, Hansen formed IRON SAVIOR with Sielck, where Sielck worked as a senior manager, and then later released 3 albums. However, he left the two bands in 2007 to concentrate his time on GAMMA RAY. Kiske has also contributed as a back-up singer In one song “All You Need To Know”, which is one of the songs in GAMMA RAY’s newest album “TO THE METAL!” (2010).
Kosta Zafiriou Mini Biography
He was born on September 26th, 1966 in Switzerland between greek parents. His parents later moved to Germany and he bought his very own drum set when he was 16, apparently by lending money from his father. He later joined a band in Karlsruhe with Andi Deris (vo) and Alfred Koffler(g), which later becomes the PINK CREAM 69. The band first arrived in Japan in 1992, and again in 1999 when they played together with D.C. Cooper. Since 2000, Zafiriou also is a staff of the management firm “Bottom Row” and has also come to Japan as a manager of HELLOWEEN.
Mandy Meyer Mini-Biography
He was born on August 29th 1960 in Saskatchewan, Canada between a Swiss father and a Canadian mother. His parent’s divorced when he was very young, and his father moved back to Switzerland with him. Meyer showed his interest in music at the age of 9, and soon started to play the guitar. He later joined a local band in the 1970’s, and it was not until in 1980 when KROKUS’s members Chris von Rohr(b) and Tommy Kiefer(g) spotted him and asked him to join the band. During his time at KROKUS, we toured around all over North America and Europe. KROKUS didn’t release an album while Meyer was a member, but he showed his charismatic skills during this time and obtain many contacts. He later moved to Memphis, Tennesse in the U.S. in 1982 and formed the band COBRA with Jimi Jamison (Jamison later joined SURVIVOR). In 1984 John Kalodner recommended Meyer to join a popular band ASIA, which was at the time looking for a guitarist who would take over the place of Steve Howe. Meyer then moved to London and ASIA released the album ASTRA in 1985, but Mayer later left the band and headed towards Los Angeles. In the U.S., he made his living as a songwriter, and later formed the band KATMANDÜ with Dave King and later released an album. However he never gained as distinctive success in which he was satisfied. He later moved back to Switzerland, and rekindles his friendship with von Rohr again, who was then becomes the producer of the Swiss band GOTTHARD. In 1996, he joined the GOTTHARD tour as a support guitarist after they released their album “G”, and he also helped out in their acoustic live album “D FROSTED” in 1997. Since 1999, Meyer officially joined GOTTHARD and released albums “OPEN”, “HOMERUN”(2001) and “HUMAN ZOO”(2003). He also performed during their visit in Japan, but he left the band in 2004 in order to pursue as a solo singer. He then joined the newly created KROKUS in 2005, and he released the album “HELLRAISER” in 2006, which Dennis Ward produced, but he soon withdrew from the band.