Singer, guitarist Michael Voss is a well known German artist who claimed fame with his hard rock and metal bands Mad Max, Casanova, Bonfire, Phantom 5, Wolfpakk, Rock Wolves and did tons of other musical contributions over the years. He is also a successful producer and song writer and works closely with guitar legend Michael Schenker now for almost ten years. Growing up in the vibrating sixties and roaring seventies, Voss got hooked on the sound of rock ‘n roll at an early age, which led him eventually to the sound of heavy metal in the early eighties. On 21st January 2018 Michael Voss will release his very first solo cover album, called `Remember Yesterday’, as a very limited edition of 300 copies for very special reasons. The musician reached out to HeadBangers LifeStyle to tell about the why’s and the who’s of this very personal release.
How did you get the idea to release a solo cover CD?
,,When I started to do music in 1982 with my band Mad Max, I had my own 4-track recorder and I also started, next to writing my own songs, to record a cover version once a week. I did it just for me, to get better with the drum computer or with bass programming or with guitar playing. I always had fun doing it and I have dozens of old demos of cover versions in a hidden box, my box of treasures [laughing]. Two years ago, when I was living in Berlin for a while, I recorded some cover songs without releasing them at the time. One day I played these songs to my father and he said ‘’well that’s great music, this is not so wild, I like that’’. In November my dad passed away, out of the blue. He died of a heart attack and it was a shock. Soon after I realized that I wanted to release a selection of these very private and intimate songs that I recorded in Berlin now.’’
What is the musical essential of `Remember Yesterday’ to you?
,,I wanted to feature the songs that I really liked when I was listening to the radio during my childhood. They take me back to my youth when I started to listen to actual music instead of the spoken fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, because that’s what we did in the old days. But then suddenly we got rock ‘n roll on vinyl and when I heard Buddy Holly as a 6-year old boy for the first time, it was something really different to me. I grew up with Buddy Holly and all these rock ‘n rollers and once a week I was begging my parents, collecting money, just to buy one single. I had a big single collection and played these songs all the time and I still have them. In the CD booklet of `Remember Yesterday’ you will find a couple of old photos of me being 12, 13 and 14 years old, up till now and it is really a trip through time. It brings back memories and it makes me smile that I am able to do this, that this music gives me the chance to play and produce them and make it my own. This is such an unbelievable feeling.’’
What kind of childhood did you have?
,,I had a good childhood, although I was moving a lot with my parents because they were running their own business. But like a normal boy I was just living in a country, playing soccer and having a good time. Once a week there was a disco in our small village where they needed a DJ. So that got me in, because I said I had a couple of singles. When I was about 13 years old I started playing guitar because I thought that was something special and I was always into it.’’
,,I grew up with the TV show The Partridge Family during the early seventies.’’-Michael Voss
How did you select the songs for `Remember Yesterday’?
,,I sat down asking myself which are the songs that I really want to do now for this release. For instance ,,Stagger Lee’’ of P.J. Proby was the first rock ‘n roll record I ever had actually. I really had to do this song. Gerry Rafferty passed away some time ago, so ,,Days Gone Down’’ had to be on it too. I grew up with the TV show The Partridge Family during the early seventies. I watched these guys travelling around in a big bus, making music and having fun. I thought that was incredible and that’s why I was so caught by David Cassidy. I remember having a tennis racket in my hands, with a leather belt around it like a guitar strap, pretending it’s a guitar, while trying to imitate David Cassidy’s ,,Rock Me Babe’’ in front of the mirror. Because David Cassidy died recently I wanted to do this song too. Also The Monkees had a TV show a few years later and they had this huge hit ,,I’m A Believer’’. That song was originally written by Neil Diamond, one of my favourite singer/songwriters, so yes, this one I had to do as well. And there had to be The Beach Boys song ,,God Only Knows’’ on it, because it’s one of my favourites. All the songs on `Remember Yesterday’ are from a timespan between 1971, when I was 6 years old until 1980, when I was 15. Then there was disco music, which I couldn’t stand but then I got directly in touch with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I was listening to Y&T and Riot and when I heard Saxon and Iron Maiden for the first time I thought “Wow what is this!?’’. I was addicted right away.’’
Was it important to you to record all the instruments yourself, except for the piano and Memotron?
,,Definitely. I really needed that, and this is why `Remember Yesterday’ is such a personal album. But the song of The Monkees needed that special sound that you had in the sixties. My friend Holggy Begg from Switzerland was in the studio anyway and he had that specific sound in his Memotron keyboard so he recorded it for me. My other long-time friend Axel Urban played the Honky-Tonk piano on ,,Stagger Lee’’ because I cannot play the Honky-Tonk, but he can so I said let’s go for it. Everything else, every single note, all the instruments and all the lead and backing vocals, I recorded myself. One day I just started to record and I took it from there and the only person I had to argue with was myself. I gave all the songs my personal touch that I was feeling on the day I recorded the song. Sometimes I sticked to the original version and sometimes I was really loose, like with ,,Rock Me Babe’’, that has a different bridge and also ,,Stagger Lee’’ has some changes.’’
Which songs were the most challenging for you to record?
,,I always loved to hear ,,While You See A Chance’’ of Stevie Winwood on the radio but when it came to recording it, it was so complicated, it took me one week to do it. It is easy to sing but it was so hard to get an instrumentation underneath this song and I was nearly close to give up, but then I tried it a again and again. He is a real genius. ,,What Now My Love’’ was really exciting to re-record. It is a very old song from the sixties and the first version was actually done by Herb Alpert, the greatest trumpet player of the sixties and who is also the founder of A&M Records. When I listened to the version of Agnetha Fältskog, former singer from ABBA, I like her voice and always loved ABBA, I thought this is something that I have to try. A song that I also really stayed tight to the original version is ,,Remember Yesterday’’ of John Miles. I am a great fan of his voice and this song was a challenge to record as well. When AC/DC played in Berlin I was invited by Mr. Chris Slade, the drummer of AC/DC himself, and I directly ran into John Miles Junior, the son of John Miles. What a small world it is. He was such a nice guy, he is playing in a Belgium band called Silver and he is a great musician and artist as well. I told him I recorded a song of his dad for my new album. He thought it was great and that it was an honour I named my album after his dad’s song. Later on I sent him a copy, which he also sent to his father. I was shitting myself in the pants actually. But this is what keeps me driving. It is the same when I was invited to a show of The Rubettes in the beginning of the nineties and I was actually in the Rubettes fan club when I was 9 or 10 years old. I went to their show and I was talking to the band members. I had my old records with me and they signed them for me. I love that! Music is such a wonderful tool that you can build yourself up, you can enjoy it, bring it on the way and it is personal in the end.’’
,,I am 52 years now and I don’t have to impress anybody.’’-Michael Voss
Don’t you think you being known as a rocker and a metal producer, people will be more than surprised that you recorded covers that have nothing to do with heavy metal.
,,[Laughing loud] For god sake I didn’t even release snippets so far, because this will definitely surprise people. If you know these songs and if you like my voice, because it is coming from the heart, you will like it. But the guys who have never been impressed by me and my work will never like it. But I don’t care. This release is very personal and that is why I just sell it to 300 people. I am 52 years now and I don’t have to impress anybody.’’
Why doing a limited release of 300 pieces independent and not with a record company?
,,Because it is just a labour of love and a really a personal thing. I just wanted to do it for me and my father. 300 copies and done, because I want to sign each copy and when they are gone they are gone. At first I spoke to a couple of labels to release the album, but then in the end I decided to do it all on my own. I just had to find somebody to do the artwork for me. I am going to send the copies out on 21st of January, on my birthday. I’ve got a lot of orders from South Korea to even Australia, England and USA. This is really incredible. For the very first time I am in direct e-mail contact with my fans, people who like my voice. This is amazing. I love it.’’
Are their still copies available to order?
,,We are doing good but orders can still be done. Worst case, if I go over 300 orders like 100 or 200 more, I will re print of course but we are not that far yet. I still have a few more interviews to do. But I didn’t want to work with a promotion agency that gives me interviews and stuff. I didn’t want to make a big thing about it, so I just do a few interviews here and there, talking with people who I know and like my work and who I like. That’s all.’’
,,These songs definitely helped me to overcome my blue heart.’’-Michael Voss
Are you considering doing more cover albums in the future?
,,After my father died, during the last weeks of the end of 2017, I actually started to do more songs, because I was not caught up in a production job. I had the time to just sit alone with my guitar in my studio and these songs definitely helped me to overcome my blue heart. But this second album is going to be different than `Remember Yesterday’ because I invited some friends to play on this new great collection of cover songs. I am now in the middle of producing them. The album is going to be released at the end of 2018 or early 2019, we’ll see.’’
What else can we expect from you in 2018?
,,At the moment I work with the pop band Glüxkinder on their new album, I have a song writing session going on and on top of that, I finished the new Mad Max album, which will be released in June on SPV. It is 35 years Mad Max, is that crazy or what? Song writing took us a year, we took our time but we collected good songs. It’s going to be a wonderful album, really rockin’, heavy and full of metal shouts. We still have to record the drums plus the bass and then we are ready. I hope we can also do a couple of live shows with Mad Max. And let’s see what happens next with the Michael Schenker Fest album. So you never know what’s happening in the Michael Voss camp. Actually I am also recording another album with my pal Holggy Begg and I will have a song writing session with Claus Lessmann [ex-Bonfire, Phantom 5] as well but I don’t know what it will be and under which moniker. We are friends and we love to sit together and recording, just for us. Claus has a lovely voice and he always has something to say in his lyrics and melodies. It is a blessing.’’
Follow Michael Voss on Facebook and visit his website here