BIOGRAPHY BY: AUSTIN JENKINS
Michael Kiske is one of the most influential vocalists to ever appear on the metal scene. His career began at the young age of
16, when he fronted Ill Prophecy. The band recorded a demo, giving Michael his first real recording experience. Many of the
songs from this demo later went on to become Helloween classics. This band soon came to an end, giving way for Michael to
join the legendary metal group, Helloween. With Helloween, Michael released a live album and 4 studio albums, including the
classics Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2. Since his time with Helloween, Michael has continued to release new material
on his own, as well as being featured on many records as a guest vocalist.
INTERVIEW BY: AUSTIN JENKINS
Austin: When did you first decide to become a singer?
Michael: Subconsciously when I saw Elvis Presley on TV 1977 (the news of his death). It was rather quiet
about him in Europe the years before his death and I was too young to notice him earlier.
Austin: You are one of the most influential vocalists to come out of the Power Metal scene. However, its widely known
amongst your fan base that you nowadays much prefer other types of music. Can you list some influences for me that
helped to shape who you are today as a vocalist, and explain a little bit about what they have in their voice that you
maybe tried to emulate? What types of music have you grown to listen to as you've matured?
Michael: One major influence was Elvis Presley, much more than people might guess. And also the Beatles
and John Lennon. As a Teenager I was singing mainly Elvis, Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel Songs.
But when it comes to the techniques of singing higher keys, it certainly was the metal and rock
vocalists of the late 1970s and the 80s like Halford, Dio, Dickinson, Tate, but also John Farnham
or Bono from U2 impressed and impresses me still a lot! Not to forget classical tenors like Rene
Collo and such. -
Austin: Have you ever had any formal training, or†have you †worked with any books/CDs/DVDs? If so, who or what products
have you worked with? If not, what did you do to get your voice to the level it is today? There had to be some vocal
routine that you've worked out with to keep your voice in shape and to build the range and tonal quality you possess.
Michael: No, never. I always had a good ear to hear the techniques and make my own out of it. I do
absolutely nothing to keep my voice in shape, that's why it often simply isn't, and I have to
prepare myself before I can do higher singing. That would then be just easy singing scales up and
down, sometimes a tune or even just yeah-yeahs. But it's not good to do it like me! It's very good
to train your voice at least 3 times a weak (without overdoing it) I would say today.
Austin: At what volume do you sing? Do you try to keep it around the same level that you speak, or do you sing with a lot of
volume? Do you change the volume of your voice depending on the situation your in, such as being in the studio or
singing on stage?
Michael: Interesting question. I guess I am trying to be in level with the speaking-voice, but it's louder
than that. I always try to sing not too loud, but my voice is carrying and getting louder by itself the
longer I sing (and the older I get). Of course this always also depends on the song. Singing harder,
makes it louder. On stage it tends be louder too, but it's better to be more controlled there. This
also sounds better. -
Austin: Do you have any idea as to what your current range is?
Michael: Not really. But the older I get, I find it more and more difficult and also slightly stupid to sing
those typical metal-over-heights. As we all know; part of the metal-truth is: faster, louder,
higher = better. I disagree with that fully. Vocals are not "better" just because you sing higher or
louder. It's the performance, the soul, how you tell the story, which makes the quality. I find too
high singing rather childish today. But it always gets requested again from me, because many get
easily impressed by those superficial elements in music like sound, volume, extremes or
heights. The more nonsense and noise you create, the more people you seem to impress; but this
doesn't impress me much anymore. This is also a matter of age usually. -
Austin: Where do you place your tone? Are you actively placing it into the mask of your face? Can you feel it on your soft
palate, or do you just sing it let the sound go wherever it ends up?
Michael: I sort of press from the stomach-area and control it like a trompet. That would describe it best in
my eyes. The tone feels like being placed a little above and 30 cm before my larynx in front of me.
Like if I sing to another persons face. But I am an emotional sucker! If something lies on my soul, I
can't sing! Then I do it all wrong. That makes it impossible for me to work with people I don't like
or sing music I hate or be in an environment which sets me under negative preasure. My voice is
the boss and it closes, if something's not right. The voice is generally a very spiritual organ; we
are talking air and soul here ….
Austin: When singing, what kind of support do you use? Do you utilize what Jaime calls the power push (pushing down as if
going to the restroom to avoid strain and add power to your voice)?
Michael: Yes I guess so; but I never think about it to much I must admit. All I can say is, that my stomach
becomes pretty big when I'm singing and I can't sing well, when I have eaten too much. I put the
pressure into the stomach and press down and away from me maybe. -
Austin: Have you ever caused any major damage to your voice? What was the damage and what did you do to recover?
Michael: Not to the voice directly, but to my stomach by bad-emotions. And my stomach-problems do
have a big effect on my voice. I rest my voice then and don't sing. Or when I have to do a
recording, I only sing songs I really enjoy with my acoustic guitar (mostly Elvis again) to feel better.
Singing makes me free, you know. But freedom means: no pressure and loving what you are
Austin: When your on the road and are having vocal issues, how do you get your voice back in shape by show time? Any tips
for The Voice Connection readers?
Michael: Loooong warming ups, lots of water and milk and honey-teas. Stay away from too dry air and
people who smoke. Drink water, drink tea with honey and milk … and don't forget to drink. (but I
don't mean alcohol!)
Austin: Obviously as singers, we carry our instrument around all day because we are our own instrument. Because of this,
many singers have issues keeping their voice in top form because they aren't always conscious of the fact that
anything they do can and will affect their voice. What do you personally do to insure you don't cause damage to your
voice, and that you keep in the best vocal shape possible? Do you have a workout routine you can share?
Michael: I don't drink any alcohol and don't smoke (never did). I find parties usually extremely boring, so I
rather read a good book or go to see the city. Trying to be morally in tune somehow (not always
easy!), that is the best for me, and if I fail here, I suck in singing. -
Austin: When you have to sing early in the morning, what are the steps you personally take to get your voice ready to sing?
I'm sure back in the Helloween days you had many early morning radio performances to do, and not much time to
prepare. Are there certain drinks you drink or vocal exercises you perform to wake the voice up quickly?
Michael: I don't sing early. And when I had to do it in the past, I was so young that it didn't matter. Other
than that, drink warm water with honey. Also "Odermenning-tea" is a secret here. -
Austin: The most important thing singers need to do is a proper warm up before singing. Some people are lucky and can
get away with not performing a warm up. Are you one of the lucky ones, or do you have a warm up routine? Explain
some of the exercises that make up your warm up routine.
Michael: The older I get the more I have to do that a bit when singing tenor-heights. When the voice is
good, I only need two minutes. If it is bad, 30 Minutes. But in my case usually less is more.
Austin: About how long does it take for your voice to be completely warmed up and ready to go? Do you take a break after
your warm up before going back into singing, or do you do the warm ups right before you have to sing?
Michael: A little break in between is good, but just a bit too long, and it is not good anymore.
Austin: In your opinion, how important is breath support? Are you always checking to see if your breathing correctly, or do
you just let it happen naturally?
Michael: Breath-support is at least 70%! I will be getting 40 in January, and the older I get, the more I
must do something for having breath. This is actually the main thing nowadays for me. But breath
and the inner state of yourself is connected. If you feel free, you sing free. If you are depressed,
you'll be closing all up. Doing sports does help! -
Austin: I want to talk a little bit about your studio approach. Throughout the last several years, you've released several
amazing records and have been featured on many different albums as a guest artist. How do you choose which
projects to take on?
Michael: Always if I like the music (and people) and what it sounds like, when I sing it.
Austin: Is most of your recording done in a home studio? What kind of equipment do you use?
Michael: It's my own little studio. I can't stand any kind of >MUSTS< in music. I am recording through
Neve-Rack and Focusrite input Channels into a MacPro. Don't like the sound of ProTools (TDM or
Native makes no difference here) that's why I use Logic Pro 8. Sounds really warm to me. The
warmest sound delivers Digital-Performer. (And yes! Digital software DOES sound very different.
No matter what some people always say). I use an old fashion Neumann Mic for vocals. The one
that you find in every studio and I have now forgotten the name of right now … -
Austin: Give me a summary of a normal studio day for you. How do you approach the recording? Do you†record a scratch
vocal and then just fix the mistakes, do a line at†a time and comp it altogether in the end, or something else?
Michael: : I always start my days with reading good literature a few hours. This is my main breakfast. In
the studio I like to do something like 20 takes and then take the best verse, best bridge etc. and
cut it together. I prefer to keep original parts together as long as possible; this feels best. But
when I suck I have to drop of course. -
Austin: How do you feel about using recording technology? The owner of The Voice Connection, Jaime Vendera, is actually
endorsed by the leading vocal processing company in the world, TC Helicon. Do you think that harmonizers and pitch
correctors are a useful tool for a vocalist, or do you believe they just take away from the emotional quality of a
performance? Do you personally use any voice enhancing processors in your recordings?
Michael: I can understand, if someone made a perfect performance-take he somehow can't repeat, and
there are one or two spots a bit sharp or flat, that he fixes this; it saves time. But if tools like this
make someone sing, he's got to rehearse! These tools let many vocalist today seem to be much
better than they really are. You can find LOTS of records in the shops today which are only
possible because of technology. That makes music more and more a lie, a blinder. Many people
don't even try to learn how to sing or play right anymore, because the producer can fix it. That's
the bad side about it. You don't need to be perfect to convince. There is a charm in not being
perfect. If you listen carefully to my records, you will always hear me being a bit sharp or flat here
and there within a normal frame. Those elements are totally gone if you use those tool. And it does
take away performance and life, because slides in and out of tune are often wanted in a
performance. So whenever producers use those tools, they should be careful not to make it
sound totally clinical. -
Austin: Tracking vocals is obviously a very taxing process. How do you keep your voice fresh when spending long hours in a
Michael: On a good day it only gets better, the longer I sing; and then after a few hours it totally loses its
tone. That's when I have to call it a day.
Austin: You have an incredible vibrato. Did you have to work to develop it or is it just a natural byproduct of your voice?
Michael: It was too strong when I was 20; and it naturally changed over the years to be more balanced
now. I tend to like less vibrato more these days. But some tunes simply need it. It always depends
on the song.
Austin: How do you make the transition from chest voice to head voice? Have you ever had to work to bridge your range to
avoid cracking? Do you place the tone in a different part of your body or do you modify the vowels differently when
going for high notes?
Michael: When it comes to these (where are my balls) much too hight tones for men, it automatically goes
over to the more head voice. But I again also never thought about it much. It happens naturally. I
really don't like head-voice that much anymore. So certain keys which I used to sing much closer to
the head-voice when I was 20, I ry to push with chest-voice now. -
Austin: You are usually a clean singer, but sometimes you add some rasp. When adding that rasp, what†changes do you
feel in your throat†to produce that sound?
Michael: When the voice (me) is in good condition, it feels good and motivating. When it is not, it hurts. -
Austin: How are you able to sustain notes for so long? On songs like Eagle Fly Free from your Helloween days, you grab a
note and hold onto it forever.
Michael: Air, and not trying to do it too loud. It's an illision when people think, loudness sounds fuller. It's
the other way around. If you don't sing more controlled, much more frequencies are coming
through. And if you scream, just a few are left and it sounds thinner. -
Austin: The most impressive thing about your voice is without a doubt your ability to sing in a high range with tons of
resonance and no strain. The best example of this would be We Got The Right from the Keepers 2 album; how did
you go about being able to sing this high? Do you make any changes in your throat when you have to sing full verses
up in your head voice, and do you focus the voice in a new spot? How are you able to keep your tone from being
weak and breathy?
Michael: I don't really know; I always felt it coming easy. But as I said, since nowadays I sing it slightly
difficult, but it also sounds better.
Austin: Tell me a little about your work post-Helloween. You've obviously released several great solo albums, as well as
appearances on many other records. What are some of your favorite songs that you've released, and what are you
currently working on?
Michael: >Aina< was very nice. Also the track: >Breathe In Water< for another band I did last year.
(I have forgotten the name right now). I also like most of the new songs Tobi did for Avantasia. It's
a lot more opera and Queen-like than Metal. And right now I am in the finish-run for the
rerecording of my own Helloween-Tunes in new manners. It was necessary to make those songs
mine again. Just because I disagree with the main dark and negative metal-spirit and the art-
enemy-dogmatic-attitude of the metal-scene, it doesn't mean that have to reject my own music of
the past. That's why I said yes to this idea when my label (Serafino) brought it up. But I can't wait
to write my next NEW record again and than finally start going on a little tour. -.
Austin: What inspires your songwriting? Do you have a set routine you follow each time you need to write? What are some
basic things you do to get inspiration? Where do you go to write?
Michael: I always sort of have to learn it new again. I usually don't even try to write anything for one or two
years (loading up the batteries maybe) then I grab the guitar and see what comes. My main
inspirations are: fighting my own inner demons as a "wanna-be" Christian. If you don't just practise
pseudo-religious-soul-masturbation with your religiousness, like too many today do, than it means
a deadly fight with YOURSELF, trying to develop some moral-substance and spiritual lucidity in your
life. All this is inspiration enough for me. I personally don't need the sex, drugs and rock n' roll
nonsense (yawn!) for having something to say. … -
Austin: One final question; what's the most important advice you can give to a singer?
Michael: As unfashionable as this may sound to the ears of many, and as little as I have to do with certain
pseudo-Christian-groups of religious fundamentalists today: try as much as you can to develop a
free and morally strong individuality in love for God, that will make you always sing best and it's
much more important than technique, range, hair, clothes, make up or loudness to impress
Michael: Thanks man! And all the best to you! Michael
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 - 1987
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2 - 1988
Live in the UK - 1989
Pink Bubbles Go Ape - 1991
Chameleon - 1993
Instant Clarity - 1996
Readiness To Sacrafice - 1999
Supared - 2002
Kiske - 2006
Gamma Ray - Land of the Free - 1995
Avantasia Part 1 - 2000
Avantasia Part 2 - 2002
Timo Tolkki - Hymn To Life - 2002
Masterplan - Masterplan - 2002
Aina - Days of Rising Doom - 2003
Thalion - Another Son - 2004
Tribuzy - Execution - 2005
Edguy - Superheroes EP - 2005
Place Vendome - 2005