MESSIAH’S KISS – Letting the Bulls Out
Heavy metal has a long history and an even longer shelf life. Catalog records get passed down generation to generation, so we shouldn’t be surprised if some of our favorite acts take a little while to put out new albums. Especially in the case of the multi-continental band Messiah’s Kiss, who have had a seven year gap between their last album "Dragonheart" and their latest offering, "Get Your Bulls Out!"
As you’ll discover in my conversation with vocalist Mike Tirelli, it’s not as if the five-piece hasn’t been relaxing at the beach, sipping on cocktails. Serious health issues for two of its members took a number of years to resolve themselves – which as an end result, makes their current record a story of strength and survival at all costs. Here are Mike’s thoughts on all things related to Messiah’s Kiss – as well as his cancer battle which is currently in remission. Let’s hope that we can get the band back on the road for some shows in 2015… both in Europe and in North America.
I’m curious to know how things are going in terms of your stomach cancer issues – are things in remission since your last surgery, and how heavy of an impact did this have on the delay between albums for Messiah’s Kiss?
"First, yes I am in remission. It’s been six years since March since the last operation, and everything has been perfect. Better than it’s ever been. I really take care of myself, I look at things in a lot of different ways now, especially when it comes to my stress level. I feel great. They had to do a full gastrectomy, so they had to take my whole stomach out, and a series of treatments which was much worse, the chemotherapy. So far everything is good now, it definitely was a big delay in the production of the record because I wasn’t feeling that great. In the meantime we were sending ideas back and forth to each other, writing off each other, the guitarist and bass player live in Nottingham, and the drummer and other guitar player are from Germany, so we had interesting writing sessions. We probably would have come out with something a couple of years after the last album. The guitar player as well who used to write all the material before this record Georg Kraft, he had two strokes, which also presented a delay. We picked up the pieces and marched forward. The bassist Wayne Banks and guitarist Jason Banks from England wrote most of the music this time, which was good because we needed to change a little bit this time. We are traditional with the same thing, I wrote the melodies and all the lyrics. I’m probably going to elaborate more on this probably later."
Do you believe what happened to Ronnie James Dio also has had a profound effect on more males getting screened for all types of cancer, including stomach cancer?
"I would hope so- I had my stomach cancer diagnosed before Ronnie James Dio, like his wife Wendy says though early detection is very important. Stay in touch with your doctors, make sure get you check ups and if you aren’t feeling well, don’t let it get to a stage where it’s untreatable. For me it was stage three, they took 33 lymph nodes out of me which was a good thing."
The new album "Get Your Bulls Out!" differs from many Messiah’s Kiss efforts in the sense that there was a lot more songwriting collaboration and contribution going on from all members – do you think this made for a more wide open, dynamic final product in the end?
"Most definitely, no doubt about it. I felt better being creative on my end, because I do write a lot of stuff. It took the band into a different level, where it should be. I believe people are receiving the style as where Messiah’s Kiss should be- a little bit more mainstream, American sounding, and that’s because of myself and the two English guys who are inspired by American bands."
My favorites on the record include opener "Living in Paradise", the catchy riff parade on "Mission to Kill", as well as "Who’s the First to Die". What can you tell us about the lyrics and music on these tracks- and what seems to be your personal favorites off the new record?
"We just did two videos for "Buried Alive" and "Time to Say Goodbye", but I think everyone in the band loves "Living in Paradise". I like the "It’s No Good" remake from Depeche Mode. As far as the lyrics go… "Living in Paradise" obviously I’ve been through a lot, and you remind yourself every day of the qualities and good things in life. To wake up and say we should be living in paradise, it matters how you look at things. By looking outside and seeing the way things materialize, take life in and live every moment to the fullest. It can mean a lot of different things to other people as well. As far as the other songs, "Who’s the First to Die" is about a movie Wayne and I saw and collaborated on, a war theme. "Mission to Kill" is basically the same thing, there are so many songs on the record that I sometimes forgot what I wrote them about (laughs). I was in Vegas still doing chemo, 6-7 months I was doing a show at Planet Hollywood and Skyping some of the songs back then in 2009, we spent 6 years putting things together."
Where do you think at this point each Messiah’s Kiss album stands in your eyes- do you have any specific memories or highlights that you’d like to share as far as the songwriting, production, or performances?
"Basically "Dragonheart" the last CD, I really enjoyed that more than the other ones. I was really able to open up and sing what I wanted to sing, as far as what George gave me, more traditional in the Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept, Dio kind of thing. The other records I was kind of following a guideline. For instance the first record "Prayer for the Dying", which I really love, all the vocal melodies and lyrics were already written. The band originally were all German, and they were fans of the band I was in at the time Holy Mother, an American band. They asked me to sing on the record, so I sang what they gave me. About "Metal", that was right after "Prayer for the Dying" and we were on tour for a while. It was the same process, I wanted to be creative vocally like I was on "Dragonheart" but we had a new producer and we didn’t have a lot of time for me to go in the studio and create. It was a little difficult for me, I only had 3 days to do the record, and it was hard for me to sing and be creative in that short a window."
Do you see a major difference in terms of creating records through home studio and internet file swapping measures versus you early records say with Burning Starr and Holy Mother were you were able to get together, rehearse, and jam things out for the songwriting?
"Yes, definitely. We did get together a couple of times in Messiah’s Kiss and fed off the ideas we had. "Immortal Memory" was written 5-6 different ways, there would be times where we would revise and try different ideas back and forth. There is definitely a difference, I think a band needs to get together as far as being creative. Not so much of having a complete song, but having ideas to play and feed off each other- it has a different energy than sending MP3’s back and forth through the internet. Back in the Burning Starr days, it was a totally different thing. We would always jam together, and fine tune things in the studio. It’s such a difference when a band gets together in a room. Having the time to be home, sitting on it, trying a new idea, that’s an advantage of today’s technology."
Are there any special techniques or tricks of the trade that you do to keep your voice in tip top shape? Have there been times on the road when other singers ask for your advice, or you’ve been able to gain a tip or two from others?
"People ask me for advice… the most important thing for any vocalist is vocal rest. It’s like a muscle, and going to the gym so to speak you can’t over work it. Hydration is important, not too much alcohol, anything in moderation is really important. You need to work your voice for it to keep it in shape, but you need a lot of rest. As far as people giving me tips, not too much. I use to take some vocal lessons early on, and I see other singers who can smoke and drink a lot… I don’t know how it’s doing for their voice, but it wouldn’t be good for mine."
At what point did you know you wanted to be involved in heavy metal for a career? Did you have any family influence or moment of self-discovery?
"In high school there are bands, different guys playing music. I would be the guy singing Ozzy, Judas Priest, and I was able to sing it really well at 16 years old. It just came natural. I have two brothers and a father, but none of them were into music at all. Style wise, heavy metal was always appealing to me- the loud guitars, the vocals, so basically I just ran with it myself. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Dio- all those things from the 1980’s. I could always seem to sound within the range of a Dio kind of voice- and I was into Queensrÿche too."
What is your opinion at this point when it comes to the heavy metal scene today? I for one find it difficult to keep on top of all the new releases that flood the market place from all parts of the world…
"I have to agree with you as well. I listen to satellite radio, the Octane station. I can definitely enjoy a lot of these new bands… as far as newer bands go, they use a lot of today’s technology to their advantage. Chevelle, I like a lot of what they do – the variety I listen to is good. I’m in a top 40 band, I sing country, I take everything in. Nickelback is great band, they write great songs, Alter Bridge – Myles Kennedy is a great singer."
How has your perspective of the world changed from early adulthood until now that you are in your late 40’s?
"My views have changed so much. As you get older you get wiser. I look at things a lot differently, I’m fortunate to be here and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to enjoy most every moment, enjoy my daughter I have in my life, my family, the music I play, and I’m always trying to learn. When I was younger I was stubborn on learning, every day is a positive day, never a negative day."
Will there be any plans for tours or festival appearances to support this new Messiah’s Kiss record?
"Definitely, definitely, definitely. We are in the midst of putting together some shows and major festival appearances. I would like to try to break the band here in America, and I think that we definitely could. We want to support this record, merchandise and live shows is how to do it."
What would you say are some of your career highlights? And what’s left on your bucket list of goals to accomplish – both inside the music business and outside of it?
"Highlights, I have a lot of highlights. So many I can’t even think, playing most of the major festivals like Wacken a couple of times, touring Europe, playing 14 different countries. I’d like to have a CD that does very well as far as sales go, and bring the band to more of a mainstream popular heavy metal act."
What are your feelings on the European metal scene versus the American metal scene?
"I think the scene in America is starting to grow again. In Europe, they are very dedicated to rock and metal- if they are a fan of yours, they are a fan of yours forever. Which is great, because in American even pop artists are in one day and out another day. I think it’s important with rock it’s important to sell a product- having people wear your t-shirts with Messiah’s Kiss on it, Riot, whatever it may be. That’s a personal thing. Bands in hard rock and heavy metal can last forever. Europe has more of a passion for the music that they listen to. I think the market is saturated too much, there are so many bands it’s tough to get super popular. People don’t buy CD’s as much, there’s nothing for them to hold onto. I hope and believe that it will get back to arena levels one day."
Will we see a newer Messiah’s Kiss album faster than the wait between these last two?
"Yes. Now we have to roll them out and keep going. It should be seamless, just keep putting them out. You have to stay in the spotlight."