Michael Kratz

Michael Kratz has had a long and rewarding career in the music business, especially in Denmark, his home country. Having achieved multiple gold releases as the drummer of mainstream pop act, Kandis, his fanbase grew, thanks to his remarkable skills as a musician, which enables him to play any style of rock music. After an entire year of hard-work, Michael is ready to show to music fans the amazing result of "Live Your Life", a classic AOR / Westcoast music, palyed with a top quality sound and an enviable attitude. Michael in this album worked with famous artists like Steve Lukather (Toto), Michael Landau, Dom Brown (Duran Duran), David Garfield, Christian Warburg (Paul Young) & Alessandro Del Vecchio (Revolution Saints, Hardline). "Live Your Life" will be release on March 3, 2018 via Art Of Melody Music / Burning Minds Music Group in Europe, and April 2018 via AnderStein Music in Japan.
Michael is guest of Rockers And Other Animals for this interview.

 

Hi Michael, welcome and thanks for your time.
First of all, let me say how beautiful is "Live Your Life", literally an incredible mix of emotions in music.


Hi Valeria
. Thank you very much! I’m really happy that you like the album!

I’d start this interview asking you to introduce yourself to our readers.
Sure. 
I was born in Copenhagen in 1972, raised by my parents and later moved to the western part of Denmark where I still live in the countryside.
I got married in 1998 and the year after my wife gave birth to two lovely kids (twins) in 1999. The four of us still live together as a happy family.



How "Live Your Life" is born?
Just after finishing the Cross That Line album in 2011 (it was released in 2012) I was keen to write songs for a new album. The working title of that album was “We All Live In This Nation” that later became the title of a new song on Live Your Life.
I was very busy touring with other artists, so it took me a lot longer to write all the songs needed for the album than I was hoping for.
I had this idea of inviting a lot of my friends and heroes to play on the album and I also decided not to play drums myself. I like to be inspired by fellow musicians. So I ended up playing drums on only one track (Game Of Love). 


How long did the album take to put together from the time of writing the first track to the completion of the album?


The recordings for the album started back in 2015 when we recorded This Town Is Lost Without You. At that time I had finished writing 4 songs for Live Your Life. I was very busy playing drums for various Danish artists on the road so we didn’t record more songs until late 2016. The majority of the songs was recorded in 2017.
When I should decide the track list for the album I came to think of two songs I wrote when I was a teen. That was Paradise Lost and Dying Young. So you can say that it took me about 30 years to get this album completed.  

Is there a song in particular you love most in this album and why?


It changes all the time. My personal favorites at the moment are Paradise Lost, Dying Young and We All Live In This Nation.

I like all songs but “Dying Young” is one of my favorite, would you like to talk about it?


Yeah. In my pre-teen years our neighbor’s two kids grew up with alcoholic parents. The kids were a couple of years younger than me.
Many days every week I saw them sitting on the stairs to their front door after school waiting for their parents to come home. Often they sat there for hours just waiting. Sometimes my mom asked them to come over for a soda but I guess they was told not to go anywhere ‘cause they only very rarely came to our house.
After some time I realized that they often had to go to the local pub to pick up their parents. It was heartbreaking to see this almost every day.

That inspired me to write Dying Young some years later.

How autobiographic, confessional, private is really your music?

All my lyrics is based on personal experiences in one way or another. Many of the lyrics on Live Your Life are inspired by the people around me. Fx Live Your Life is inspired by a good friend of mine who died of cancer. Even though he struggled every day he was the most positive man you can think of. He wanted to live and he tried hard to live every day despite the fact that he was dying.

How much time do you spend refining the sound of your songs? How much time do you actually spend in the studio?


I have a great working relationship with Kasper Viinberg. Usually I send him my demoes with only some sketches for the arrangements. Typically Kasper returns some arrangement ideas to me after a couple of days and then we meet to finish the track or tracks together. Some of the songs we finished in just a few days or a week while others has taken much more time to figure out how to arrange.
I actually wrote In Between for the Cross That Line album, but we simply couldn’t bring it to life. So we re-arranged it and I had this idea of using it as the closing track for Live Your Life. I wanted to make half of the song instrumental. I asked Alessandro Del Vecchio and Christian Warburg if they would do the solos and finally it was done and I’m very happy with result.

Can you pick a song or two and give me an example of the process they went through before they were finished?


Paradise Lost is one of the songs I wrote many years ago. I think it was written in 1994. I recorded the first demo of the song in 1995 and it was very 90’s pop-ish. I never liked that version. 
In 2013 I actually recorded most parts of an album that remains unreleased. For that album we recorded a much harder demo version for the song. One of the versions from these sessions was given to all attendees at Dedolor Music Headquarter when we played there a week ago.
And finally when we were almost done with Live Your Life I came to think about Paradise Lost (originally named I Lost My Paradise) again and asked Kasper to give it a shot. He came up with this new arrangement and finally I was happy. It was also Kasper’s idea to bring in a children choir for the closing part of the song.

In a balance between arrangement, lyrics and melody, which is most important to you? 


All elements are important to me. It’s fair to say that my music and preferences are pretty old-school.
I´ve always been fascinated by the sound and the quality of the American West Coast and AOR music genres. And I’ve always admired the musicality of each musician, the fantastic melodic songs and stunning productions. I guess it’s a genre that challenges the listener a bit in some cases, but the DNA in the genre is the catchy melodies, great arrangements and good lyrics.
That’s what I always try to achieve.

Many important musicians contributed to the album, what was the criterion of choice for these artists?


They are all my heroes and it has been amazing for me to work with these guys.
Many of them has been a great part of defining this genre.
I met David Garfield in Copenhagen some years ago and I asked him if he would join me on some tracks and he said yes. We also talked about who else we could invite into the studio to play on the tracks. 
I suggested Steve Lukather and Michael Landau – two of my lifelong heroes - Garfield asked them and they both said yes.
Dom Brown is another great guitarist I admire. So I wrote him and asked if he would play guitar on two tracks for the album. He accepted so Kasper and I went to his studio in London to do the sessions with him. He plays on “What Did I ..?” and “Never Take Us Alive”.
I have known Christian Warburg for many years and he was my wingman on the Cross That Line Tour in 2012/2013 so it was obvious to me that he should be a part of this album.
Alessandro Del Vecchio was introduced to me by the label. I’m very happy that he was brought in to play the solo on In Between.

The artwork is very particular, futuristic in somehow, what is the concept behind this cover?


After signing deals with Italian label “Art Of Melody Music / Burning Minds Music Group” and Japanese “AnderStein” I wanted the artwork to represent something Nordic. 
I crafted the logo myself deeply inspired by the old Viking symbol “The Vegvisir”, which is known as the Viking compass or the runic compass. It should provide guidance for a person who might lose/lost his way. It would also be drawn on Viking ships before they set sail to ensure they would come back home safely.
The rest of the artwork is done by the amazing Antonella Aeglos Astori.

Which artists influence your music?
A lot! Growing up in the 80’s I was stunned by most of the music of that period. Especially the AOR/WestCoast and Pop/Rock scene. It’s hard to pick up just a few, but obviously Toto had a huge impact on me during the 80’s and still has. Another great inspiration for me is Duran Duran. They write catchy choruses like no one else. So it’s a mix of different genres and artists.

Are you planning on doing a tour to promote "Live Your Life"? If so, the same musicians who played in the album will follow you in a tour?
Yes, absolutely. I hope to tour Europe later this year.
Some of the musicians that played on the album will join me while others are busy playing with other artists. Kasper Viinberg will be the drummer and hopefully Christian Warburg will join the tour if his not touring with Paul Young at that time.

How did you become a professional musician?
I started playing drums when I was 8 years old in 1980. In 1985 four of my friends and myself started our first real band called Way Up. We played together until 1992. After that I joined several bands and in 1995 I was asked to join a Danish band called The Donkeys. From that day I was able to make a living as a drummer. Since 1995 I have played almost 200 gigs a year as a drummer besides recording my own music. Since 2012 I have dedicated my time for my own recordings and though I still play drums eventually my focus remains on my own music.

What else do you do besides music?

I was educated as a woodworking machinist back in 1995, but at the same time I became a fulltime musician. I soon realized that I needed to have other inputs in my life than just music so I started a communication and advertising agency. After 10 years I sold the agency to my business partner but I like the creative work and processes so I still help other agencies from time to time. 

Thank you so much, I wish you all the luck with your album. Would you like to add something else to all people is reading this interview?


I would like to wish all the readers all the best. I hope to see some of you when I go on tour.
Thank you for reading!

 

 

Valeria Campagnale