Prdoucer, songwriter and musican Michael Voss is a man very much in demand at the moment with recent production duties including the solo album from ex Quiet Riot vocalist Paul Shortino and an acoustic project with MSG. Together with Chris Lausmann he is also behind the Voices of Rock concept that highlights some of the finest vocalists on the melodic rock scene. Dean Pedley caught up with Michael for a chat is to find out more about Voices of Rock II – "High And Mighty" the new album that has just been released on Metal Heaven…
SoT: Hi Michael and welcome. Tell is about Voices of Rock - when and how did you first come up with the concept?
MV. "…Hi mate, lovely to talk to you!! That was about three years ago, actually… Chris Lausmann and I were on tour with my band ´Madmax', Chris was the live engineer on that tour…, and late at night, one night on the bus, he just started to play me some demos, without vocals… They sounded amazing so I gave the ideas a spin and wrote lyrics and melodies to those tracks…. The idea went from there, became the first VOR album… etc. etc."
SoT: For this second album was it important to have an entirely different group of vocalists than last time around?
MV "Yeah, and it was quite a challenge because we'd set really high goals with the first album and had achieved a lot with it…..We thought it would be a great idea to come up with different singers so we approached a lot of our heroes and friends…and here we are! All worked out really well and all the artists delivered a hell of a job, I think!"
SoT: Did they come to your studio and record or was a lot of work done via the Internet and mail?
MV; "A bit of both really…, Paul (Shortino) had recorded with me over the Net already; some of them recorded directly here in my studio….Mr David Reece and Herr Heerink (Bert Heerink – ex Vandenberg)…, both came to the studio which was really cool; having the direct approach gives it an added edge….Others used their home studio staff, and others like Rob Rock hired a studio to do his vocals… (on "Remember Me")."
SoT: And how about the songs…were they written with this new project in mind or have you revisited some older material?
MV; "….Bits of this and that, really Dean… ha! ha! Some of the songs were old ideas...but in a good way! I mean, we are doing the 80-ies sound, so it doesn't matter anyway how old a song is, as long as it is a good one ...ha! ha!..."
SoT: There are so many great performances it is hard to single any one out but Tony Mills does a great job on a very different song "In The Heart Of The Young"; a laid back more contemporary feel. Tell us about this one and why you thought it was right for Tony's voice?
MV; "…Well, to be honest...we didn't really think too much about the 'right' choice for a tune, it comes naturally...it just happens. We first send the demo to the artist and discuss the track and the idea behind it… They're given pretty much free reign to work on the song how they want, and, mostly we hit it right on the spot…. I don't think there's one song here which had to be given over to someone else! The guys we chose really worked their magic on these songs, and I'm totally grateful.."
SoT: And how about Paul Shortino…his voice and the song you chose for him has a real huge arena rock feel?
MV; "Huuaaahh.yeah, it does, you're right! He sounds absolutely amazing actually! The track- "Rock Me" - was a real stadium rocker in the first place anyway…. We changed the melody in the choruses a bit here and there, but that was it. Paul gave it so much life!"
SoT: Did any vocalists turn you down for the album due to other commitments...is there anyone you would have liked to have got but didn't?
MV; "That would be telling…! Obviously, we have approached and been in contact with over 30 singers overall, I guess, so there's always going to be one or two that you can't always get…. Some of them had family problems, others time scheduling restrictions, and the rest wanted to have more money...ha! ha!"
SoT: And are you already thinking of a Voices of Rock album number three?
MV; "Oh yeah, absolutely, but let us hope number two does really well first! For me, it is a great honour to write for these icons and idols from my youth, and if there is a chance to do it again, Chris and I will certainly take it."
SoT: Aside from this you are a very sought after producer in Germany…what other projects are you currently working on?
MV; "… At the moment, I'm just finishing off a band called Cooper Inc.. That should be done real soon, and then there's the new solo album from the ex Vandenberg singer Bert Heerink called "Better Yet", which will be out on AOR Heaven…. I'm in the middle of recording the new solo effort from Swiss singer Mark Sweeney (of Crystal Ball…), so plenty of things to do."
SoT: Which do you prefer…performing on stage or sitting in the producers chair?
MV; "….Both are a hell of a lot of fun.. If I had to be honest, I prefer both...It is great when you write songs, record them and, in the end, play 'em live, too. You can't beat that feeling - that is why they are meant to be written, after all…., but producing can be equally fun because you're giving someone else that same journey through their material and helping them achieve it!"
SoT: I know the NWOBHM scene was influential on you…who were you favourite bands from this period?
MV; "Ha ! Ha! That's easy! Leppard, Leppard, Leppard….! I love their first two albums...And 'Maiden of course, too! I saw them live during their first tour with Bruce, and would you believe it, five years later, he was at a Madmax show in Munich… ? We had a great time that night! Yes, I was really into that scene, soaking up every new album coming over from England!!!"
SoT: Are you familiar with the band Magnum and their vocalist Bob Catley at all…I think Bob would be an excellent choice for either a future Voices… album or indeed for you to work with him on one of his solo albums
MV; "Of course and, well, it's a perfect idea! Let us keep him in mind! I love his voice and Magnum's "Storyteller…." album is one of the mightiest!!!"
SoT: Tell us a little about the acoustic album you worked on with Michael Schenker and Gary Barden…how is Michael to work with and was it hard to take away the Flying V?
MV; "Ha! Ha! No… Michael is very spot on, very professional and in great condition. It was a real pleasure to work with him on the album and it all came out naturally, without any stress."
SoT: You seem to be very prolific, Michael…do you get any time outside of music to have any other interests?
MV; "… Yeah, I try to. I'm jogging whenever I can and playing Speckbrett, a kind of tennis but with wood rackets...we have the World Championships over here in Germany...no joke...! I think it's important to try and give yourself a bit of space…"
SoT: And finally was there anything else you wanted to add? Many thanks for your time!
MV; "Thanx for the interview mate!! Check out the album and please enjoy.! Enjoy music and life as a gift."
SoT: Yours Michael!!
Photo by Burkhard Salzmann