Michael Voss

This name still rings a bell to people who are aware of the German hard rock scene from the 1980s. Michael Voss launched the ready-to-split-up Mad Max to new borders and along with Bonfire reached the new frontiers of the melodic hard rock genre. Later he moved on to form Casanova and Demon Drive. Today he is engaged in at least three different musical projects including the Casanova reunion. He also teamed up with Jaded Heart singer Michael Bormann to record an album with teenage influence tracks, covers of T.Rex. We were able to track down Michael one weekend when he was away from the recording studio for a while.

MetalKings.com: Hello, Michael! How are you doing?

Michael Voss: Great! Thanks!

MetalKings.com: OK, let's start from the very beginning, from your teenage days. How and when did you get into rock music?

Michael Voss: Oh, a long time ago! (laughs) I started playing guitar when I was 14 years old. I listened to rock bands from England. And very soon I became a fan of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and liked it a lot.

MetalKings.com: How did you get to know guitar player Jurgen Breforth from Mad Max?

Michael Voss: Well, I knew many people on the rock scene in Munster where Mad Max comes from and where I was born. We were all friends and when I heard that Mad Max needed a singer and guitar player I simply went to the auditions and got the job.

MetalKings.com: As far as I know Mad Max recorded an album with a different singer, Andreas Bassler.

Michael Voss: Yes, that's true.

MetalKings.com: Did you hear that album? What do you think of it?

Michael Voss: Yes, I heard the album. I had to learn the songs because Andreas left after the album was released and Mad Max had to go on tour so I learned the songs from the first album and we went on tour with Uriah Heep and Night Hawk.

MetalKings.com: Correct me if I'm wrong. I saw a very very strange album of Mad Max on the Web. It was an EP with four live tracks. The cover said it was released in 1982 even before the debut album. Is that the same band?

Michael Voss: Yes, that's the first recording Mad Max ever released. It was with Andreas as well. But it was a private pressing, self-released to it is very hard to find nowadays.

MetalKings.com: Mad Max were signed to "Roadrunner Records". How did it happen?

Michael Voss: Well, originally the guy who was the owner of "Roadrunner Records" started the label in New Zeeland. He was living there at the time. But then he moved to Holland and took the label with him to Europe. It was a new label and it was signing heavy metal bands from all over Europe and America. The guy was interested in us and we got signed.

MetalKings.com: I was wondering what is the meaning of songs "Fly, Fly Away" and "Thoughts Of A Dying Man" from the first album with you, "Rollin' Thunder".

Michael Voss: Oh, let me remember the lyrics. (laughs) Well, I guess "Fly, Fly Away" was about freedom and that very feeling of being free and doing whatever you want. And "Thoughts Of A Dying Man" is just my imagination. It's pure fiction, there is nothing personal in it.

MetalKings.com: Why Jurgen Sander and Uwe Starck left Mad Max after the release of the album "Rollin' Thunder"? Did they play on tour?

Michael Voss: It just happened. They just left the band. And they didn't play on tour. We found new bass player Roland Bergmann and new drummer Axel Kruse very soon and they were really great guys.

MetalKings.com: The new album released by Mad Max was "Stormchild". Who thought of such a cover?

Michael Voss: It was a guy from London. He is a professional painter, an artist. We contacted him via our management and he designed the cover. By the way, he is the same guy who designed album covers for Demon Drive "Heroes" and B.I.S.S albums.

MetalKings.com: What inspired you to write the song "Heroes Die Lonely"?

Michael Voss: Again, there is no personal background. (laughs) I thought that heroes are people who are always alone. They fight for rights of other people, bring peace into the world, protect somebody but they always fight on their own and die alone when nobody even remembers them in the end.

MetalKings.com: Many years later the album "Stormchild" was re-released by the French company "Axe Killer". The logo of Mad Max was changed on the re-release. Why?

Michael Voss: I have no idea. I even didn't know about that release until somebody showed it to me and said, "Hey, you are on the market again!" (laughs)

MetalKings.com: OK, let's move to the last Mad Max album from the 1980s, "Night Of Passion". What is the background of the instrumental track "R. I. P."? Is it an intro to "Dive Through The Sky"?

Michael Voss: No, no. It was dedicated to a girl I knew. She died in a car accident and we were very close. When we were recording "Night Of Passion" I was in the studio and composed that sad instrumental track.

MetalKings.com: Well, one of your good friends, Angel Schliefer, played on the album as well. Can you tell me his real name?

Michael Voss: His name is Gerhardt Schliefer. Angel is a nickname, he got it because he had great fair hair so everybody called him Angel. I guess he played on the following songs from the album "Night Of Passion": "Wait For The Night", "Night Of Passion" and "Fox On The Run".

MetalKings.com: How did you get Joshua Perahia to play on that album "Night Of Passion"?

Michael Voss: He and his band were recording an album in "Dierks Studios" and they needed a place to rehearse. We said, "OK, no problem, you can use our rehearsal room when you want". So we became friends and instead of charging money from him I asked Joshua to play a solo in the song "Love Loaded". That's how it happened.

MetalKings.com: You probably know that the album "Night Of Passion" was released on CD in Japan in 1987. How did it happen?

Michael Voss: Yes, I know about it. I have that CD, it was released by "SMS" company. But I don't know how they got the contract. Probably "Roadrunner Records" had a deal with them.

MetalKings.com: Going deeper into the Japanese releases issue, do you know that "Rollin' Thunder" and "Stormchild" were released on LP in Japan by the same company?

Michael Voss: (surprised) Really? No, I never heard about it. It could be great to get them...

MetalKings.com: Several years earlier the album "Night Of Passion" was re-released in Germany by "Point Music". I heard the original and the re-released version and the latter is obviously re-remixed. Why? The original is better, I think.

Michael Voss: I think you like it because you are more used to it. Well, the album was originally mixed by Dirk Steffens and I wanted it to be released in the original version. But "Point Music" didn't like the mix and they asked somebody else to remix it. I like both versions.

MetalKings.com: That re-release had two bonus tracks, "Show No Mercy" and "Can't Stop Taking". As far as I know "Can't Stop Taking" is taken from the single "Fox On The Run". Can you tell more about those tracks?

Michael Voss: Yes, you are right about "Can't Stop Taking". It was just a demo track we recorded for the album "Night Of Passion" but the record company wanted only 10 tracks for the album so we released it on that single. About "Show No Mercy", it was written after the album got released.

MetalKings.com: Why did Mad Max split back in the 1980s? Are there any unreleased tracks from those years?

Michael Voss: Well, we lost our contract with "Roadrunner Records". I also thought that it's time to move forward and do something different. There were no problems in personal or musical relationships. One of the tracks written for Mad Max was later released on the first Casanova album, it is called "Hollywood Angels". By the way, we recorded the demo of that song in 1986 with Mat Sinner from Sinner and Primal Fear. I guess there are a couple more unreleased tracks from those years, not too many.

MetalKings.com: Is it possible to re-release "Rollin' Thunder" since it is extremely hard to find nowadays?

Michael Voss: Yes, it will happen. Very soon the album will be free from all old contracts and I'll try to re-release it.

MetalKings.com: How did it happen that in 1999 you decided to release a new album under the name of Mad Max called "Never Say Never"?

Michael Voss: At that time I was writing again with Jurgen Breforth. We composed some songs together and decided to release an album. "Point Music" got interested and they signed us as Mad Max. The whole album was done in 3 weeks.

MetalKings.com: About two years later, in March 2001, the album was released in Japan as "Criminal Religion" with two bonus tracks, "Cry Wolf" and "Surrender To Me". Why the cover was changed and how did you write those tracks?

Michael Voss: The Japanese record company did not like the original artwork so they changed it and I gave them two more tracks for the release. They were written when the album got released in Germany. "Cry Wolf" was simply a leftover from recording sessions and "Surrender To Me" is a great ballad where I played an acoustic guitar.

MetalKings.com: Will there be more Mad Max albums in future?

Michael Voss: You want more albums?

MetalKings.com: Sure! And lots of them!

Michael Voss: Well, who knows? I think we can do more albums in future. But right now I'm very busy with the reunion of Casanova and recording of new albums of Silver and B.I.S.S. Maybe some time later. Also Jurgen (Breforth) has a day job now.

MetalKings.com: OK, let's talk about Casanova. Why did you choose that name?

Michael Voss: It just happened. It obviously has nothing to do with history. We wrote several names on paper and Casanova was the best of them.

MetalKings.com: I head a really interesting and funny story that originally Jurgen Attig and Jochen Mayer were both supposed to audition for Casanova but Jochen failed to come due to the fact that he left the train at a wrong station and that's why didn't make it. Is that true?

Michael Voss: Yes, that's true (both laughing) Incredible, isn't it?

MetalKings.com: Right! And how did you find ex-Warlock drummer Michael Eurich?

Michael Voss: In times of Casanova I was living in Dusseldorf and Michael used to play with Doro in Warlock so I knew him from that time. I invited him to join and he agreed.

MetalKings.com: Is that true that guitarist Stephen Neumeier was working for a TV heavy metal program before joining Casanova?

Michael Voss: That's true. He used to work for the metal program on the RTL network called "Mosh".

MetalKings.com: The one hosted by Sabina Classen of Holy Moses?

Michael Voss: That's right.

MetalKings.com: The Casanova debut album had a track called "Rome Burns". What is the meaning of it?

Michael Voss: It was just a cool riff I came up in the studio with. I wanted to create some freezing atmosphere, like going from very low to very high notes. There's nothing special about that song.

MetalKings.com: There was a single released for the second album "One Night Stand" called "One Of These Days". Where was the live track "Ride The Wings Of Freedom" recorded?

Michael Voss: I didn't even know about that single! (laughs) I guess somewhere in Germany (laughs) since we didn't tour anywhere else. The hard rock scene was declining at that moment so we just toured in Germany.

MetalKings.com: Why that GREAT song "Here Comes That Feeling Again" was never released on the 2nd Casanova album?

Michael Voss: We already had 11 songs for the album and the record company didn't want any more tracks on it. Also our producer didn't like the track very much.

MetalKings.com: Were songs "Judy", "I Believe In You" and "Out Of The Blue" written specially for the EP "Some Like It Different ... Acoustic Night" or were they outtakes from albums?

Michael Voss: No, we wrote then specially for that EP. There were just several acoustic performances and we recorded a couple of them and that's how the EP came about.

MetalKings.com: The story with the release of the album "Heroes" is full of controversy. What exactly happened? I know that some copies of the album were released in Germany but it was an extremely limited pressing. Why?

Michael Voss: The thing was that we got interest from Japan and released "Heroes" there. After that I wanted to release the album here in Germany on "Breaker Records" since Udo Dirkschneider, who owns the company, is a good friend of mine. But the rest of Casanova members didn't like the idea and said they'll file a lawsuit if I release the album as Casanova in Germany. I didn't want to fight them so I simply took some songs and re-recorded them for the Demon Drive album "Heroes". Also "Breaker Records" signed us when Udo was together with "Nuclear Blast" but then he split from "Nuclear Blast" and joined "SPV" and his band is now on "AFM". So the release never happened, only a few promo copies were printed.

MetalKings.com: I know that there is a limited promotional pressing of the EP "Sway" in Japan that features some more tracks like "Shine It All On", "Sylvia's Eyes" and "Children Of The Revolution". Where are they from?

Michael Voss: They were released on the very rare single "Shine It All On" in Japan. The promo release you are talking about I don't know of... It would be great to get it some day, I only have the original EP "Sway".

MetalKings.com: I saw on the Web a Japanese EP of Casanova called "Inbetween". What is that? When it was released? What is the song "Hot Legs"?

Michael Voss: It was released on "WEA Music" in Germany and Japan in 1991. It was a live recording. We recorded two shows and tracks were taken from one of them and released on that EP. And "Hot Legs" was a bonus track. It was written when I was the touring guitar player in Bonfire in 1990 and Claus Lessmann is singing background vocals on it.

MetalKings.com: What was that strange company "Compass Records" that released Casanova compilation album "Tickets To The Moon"? Were you aware of that release?

Michael Voss: Yes, I know about it. They got a license from "WEA Music" and released that compilation....

MetalKings.com: ...which is the only Casanova album featuring "Here Comes That Feeling Again".

Michael Voss: (very surprised) Really? I didn't know about it! Incredible!

MetalKings.com: I heard that Casanova reunited again. When will the new album be released? Is there the official Web site of the band?

Michael Voss: Yes, Casanova is together again in its original line-up with Jurgen Attig on bass. We signed a deal with an British label I cannot disclose so far. The new album will be released in August. The official homepage of the band is under construction, there is only the Casanova logo on it. It is located at http://www.casanovamusic.de

MetalKings.com: Why bassist Jochen Mayer was not involved in the Casanova reunion?

Michael Voss: Because he is playing in two bands, BoysVoice and Domain. He simply doesn't have enough time for one more band.

MetalKings.com: I heard that in Casanova times you composed some tracks with Don Dokken and Paul Sabu. Is that true? If yes, what happened to them?

Michael Voss: Well, it was in August 1992. Then-manager of Accept was a friend of ours and she knew every single musician on the L.A. rock scene. That's how I got to work with Paul Sabu. We wrote two songs together, "Now And Then" and "Captain Moonlight". They were never released and I still have them in my demo archive. About Don Dokken, we just worked in the studio together. It was before the Dokken reunion in 1992 as well. Don was working on the new solo album with John Norum on guitar, Peter Baltes on bass and Mickey Dee on drums. We just played together, nothing was recorded or written. At that time I also worked with Ken Tamplin and Bangles.

MetalKings.com: OK, let's talk now about Demon Drive. Why did you decide to cover "Burn" of Deep Purple on the debut album?

Michael Voss: I always liked the band and that song, in particular. It's a great track, it was in the vein of the whole album so we just played it quite naturally.

MetalKings.com: Did you know that drummer Frank Kraus played in Letter X before? Did you hear albums of that band?

Michael Voss: Yes, I knew about it but I never heard their albums, no clue about their music.

MetalKings.com: Why did you decide to release several mixes of the song "Mama" on the EP "Hot Rubber"?

Michael Voss: We did several mixes of that song "Mama" and gave them to the record company. At that time nobody released several mixes of one song but the record company ("Long Island") liked it and released them all on the EP.

MetalKings.com: The official Demon Drive site said that lyrics to "To All The Women" were never written down. How could that be? I guess they are included in the Japanese sleeve since it was one of bonus tracks.

Michael Voss: It could be but I don't know where they got the lyrics from. Maybe they just wrote down what they heard. The lyrics for that song were really never written down.

MetalKings.com: Why all the Demon Drive albums except for the first one were never released in Japan?

Michael Voss: Originally "Alfa" was interested in releasing all the Demon Drive albums in Japan. But the company went out of business; the Japanese market was hit by a severe economic crisis so we never got the Japanese record deal.

MetalKings.com: What is the story behind the song "Sex Is An Alien"?

Michael Voss: Great song, isn't it? (sings) "Sex is an alien..." The idea is very simple. When you get to know a person, you are in the relationship. And then the situation gets worse. That's when you stop thinking of sex and just want the relationship to be better. You feel cheated at times so that's when sex becomes an alien.

MetalKings.com: Was it really hard to maintain communication with Angel Schleifer since he is living in Phoenix, AZ, USA or not? If not, why did he leave the band?

Michael Voss: Well, that's right. It was hard to work together with him. He is now living in the States, in Arizona and he is playing in a local blues band. We tried to work together for a while but it failed when it came down to rehearsals and songwriting.

MetalKings.com: How did you find Thorsten Kohne? Did you know about his work in Attack?

Michael Voss: Originally Thorsen was supposed to become the guitar player of Casanova but the audition with him failed so we chose Stafan. Yes, I've heard that he played in Attack but never heard their records so no idea.

MetalKings.com: And what does he do now?

Michael Voss: He is a very busy person; he's doing workshops and guitar clinics. He is working closely with some guitar companies so he is busy all the time.

MetalKings.com: You recorded several tracks of KISS with Demon Drive such as "Sure Know Something" and "What Makes The World Go Round". Was KISS a big influence on you as a musician?

Michael Voss: Yeah, I love KISS a lot; it's one of the bands that influenced me. We tried to play "Sure Know Something" when writing the album "Rock And Roll Star" and we liked how it turned out. About that song for the tribute album, we got the invitation to participate and did it, no problem with that.

MetalKings.com: So it means you never met Alexx Michael, who released that tribute album, in person? Maybe you heard his band Shameless?

Michael Voss: No, no, I never saw him in person and never heard any albums of Shameless. We communicated via e-mails and mail posts. He suggested to us to record that song, we did and sent it to him. Next time I heard that song was on the tribute album copy he sent to me.

MetalKings.com: Ex-Bonfire bassist Jorg Deisinger told me that the song "You're My Home" from the Demon Drive album "Rock And Roll Star" was written by you and him back in the early 1990s. Is that true? Are there any more songs you have from those years?

Michael Voss: Yes, that's true, he wrote almost the whole song and I helped him with the lyrics. As far as I know he is now spending more time in Thailand. From those collaborations I still have one more song in my demo archive called "One Thing".

MetalKings.com: Why did Demon Drive split up several years ago?

Michael Voss: One simple reason - no break. We tried and tried but nothing happened so we decided to go our own ways.

MetalKings.com: There is a song on the first Silver album called "Sergei's Revenge". What is it about?

Michael Voss: I don't know. I just asked Don Airey if he could write something in the vein of the intro to Ozzy Osbourne "Mr. Crowley". He came up with that song and that is totally his title.

MetalKings.com: Who are Bar Fly brothers?

Michael Voss: Ah, Mr. Bar and Mr. Fly? (laughs) I can't tell you, that's the secret. Just take it as it is.

MetalKings.com: OK, let's talk about 20th Century Boys, your recent project with Jaded Heart leader Michael Bormann. How did it come about?

Michael Voss: As you might know Michael was the singer on the 2nd B.I.S.S. album I was involved in. I liked his singing a lot and we became very good friends. That's when the idea came about to record an album together. We both like T.Rex and decided to do an album of T.Rex covers. That's it.

MetalKings.com: Why not writing original songs or choosing more covers from other artists?

Michael Voss: Well, it was a project we started during the B.I.S.S. album recording. We played two tracks of T.Rex and decided to do a full-length album. We wanted to have fun and show people what Marc Bolan, T.Rex leader and singer, was all about. And the album is selling great in Germany so we might record an album together full of original songs but no earlier than next years since I am very busy in the studio with the new B.I.S.S. album and the new album from Statetrooper (band of Gary Barden, singer of Silver and ex-M.S.G.). The B.I.S.S. album is already recorded with my vocals but I want to find a different singer for it.

MetalKings.com: Why doing it yourself?

Michael Voss: No, I don't want it, it's a very rough demo recording.

MetalKings.com: Can Michael sing on it?

Michael Voss: I don't know. We have to wait and see.

MetalKings.com: But will 20th Century Boys at least play some shows to promote the album?

Michael Voss: Yes, we will. There's a tour planned for autumn in Germany.

MetalKings.com: Did you write comments to songs together with Michael or somebody else did it?

Michael Voss: We did it. We talked on the phone and said to each other, "What do you think about this or that song?" No other person was involved in it.

MetalKings.com: OK, Michael, it was great to talk to you. Good luck for the future and hope to hear more Mad Max and Casanova albums!

Michael Voss: No problem! Thank you for your questions! Feel free to contact me if you want to know something else! Bye!

Dead Ripper
(June, 2004)

Thanks to Mike Foerster from "Barfly Music" for his persistence
and enormous cooperation in making this interview possible.

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