Interview with ULI KUSCH (RIDE THE SKY)

Uli Kusch

If you’ve not heard about the new band/project Ride The Sky, then you’re in for a real treat. One of the founding members is drummer Uli Kusch, most notably of Helloween fame. Ride The Sky’s first album, New Protection, came out August 24th (2007). Even though the music is a great mix of Power Metal and Power Progressive, don’t expect to hear a Helloween “clone,” as Uli himself confided in telling Metal Express Radio. Read on …

MER: Hello Uli! Thanks for taking the time to speak with Metal Express Radio and your fans.

Uli Kusch: Thank you too. You are welcome!

MER: Ride The Sky is an exciting project featuring yourself on drums as well as vocalist Bjorn Jansson and guitarist Benny Jansson, both of Tears Of Anger. Talk about how the whole Ride The Sky project started.

Uli: In May 2006 I met Bjorn the first time to exchange musical ideas at my studio in Norway. After I left Masterplan, he had sent me an e-mail, asking if I would be interested in playing drums on the next Tears of Anger album. I got some song material which surprised me, or let’s say which has blown me away :-), and I sent back some of my own, to see if he would be interested to gather a new band. Bjorn, his brother Benny (guitar) and I recorded a one-track demo. With that demo we got very positive response from several labels who where interested to sign us. After we decided to go with Nuclear Blast, Benny suggested Mathias [bass] because he knew him from earlier work. Finally when it was about time to find a keyboard player, I contacted Ronny Milianovizc from Dionysus, because I knew that the band had split up weeks before. After that I met Kaspar [keyboards] and it was clear that he was the one and we started to work on the album.

MER: How would you describe the new music?

Uli: Modern, heavy, Symphonic, AOR-like, Hard Rock, Melodic Heavy Metal and a little Doomish and Progressive in some parts …

MER: How’s the fan and media reaction to Ride The Sky been so far?

Uli: Most of the people I have talked with are surprised that a band with this name does not sound like expected. Some of the reporters were almost euphoric about the album and some seemed very interested anyway. In Japan, the album became album of the month in the biggest Japanese metal magazine (Burrn) and I am fishing every day for new responses … all in all, we are satisfied with the reactions I would say.

MER: Is everyone committed to making Ride The Sky a full-fledged band, or is this a one album “project?”

Uli: This is a band for sure. We’ve been working together since December 2006 and have daily contact with all of the members … and from what I understood, all of the members are excited to make this a stable line-up with a future possible. Last weekend, for example, we made a video and it was no problem at all to gather the members … we’ve made plans for touring in November with Sonata Arctica and for the second album … as well we want to tour as much we can in 2008 … all the plans would not be possible without this kind of project!

MER: Listeners might have an expectation that Ride The Sky is the latest “supergroup” and label them as such. How do you feel about this label?

Uli: Well, what does that mean? Experienced musicians gathering to make music together … that is what it is. If people say “RTS” is a supergroup, I feel flattered and I hope it will become one.

MER: Do you think with yourself involved, that the first reaction by some listeners will be to compare you guys to Helloween? Is this a typical reaction and how do you guys deal with it?

Uli: Once someone listens carefully to our music, they will find out that there is just a little bit left of what influenced me in seven years with Helloween. That may be just a melodic structure, but any other is just different and has nothing to do with the musical direction of Helloween. I think there are so many bands much closer to what Helloween does.

MER: What story is behind the band’s name?

Uli: Nowadays it’s not easy to find a strong band name which reflects the music and sounds timeless, so we made a list with fifty names. The good ones were in use, and other names sounded strange. The name “Ride The Sky” popped up one day. And my first reaction was “GREAT” that’s it. I passed the idea to Benny and Bjørn and the immediate reaction was positive, without that they knew the background and history about this song. When the Helloween album Walls of Jericho came out I had been playing drums for four years. At the time it just blow me away. I remember, that the song itself was eventually THE reason why I bought a second bass drum in 1985. Before I could even dream about playing in that band I was connected to Helloween.

MER: The CD cover has some wonderful artwork on it, who drew it and who came up with the theme of a rather dark winged man flying over or rising out of a desolate landscape?

Uli: Thomas Ewerhard, who also designed the artwork for Masterplan and Beautiful Sin worked it out. My idea was basically “the birth of a new protector out of a cocoon”… connected to the band’s name, with wings… he may appear again 🙂

MER: Who took part in the writing for the New Protection?

Uli: Most of the music on the album was written by Bjorn, Benny and me. Around half of the songs are based on my ideas and the other half came from them… together we’ve been arranging and composing the missing links, like some choruses, mid parts, vocal melodies etc. Most of the lyrics are written by Bjorn and Kaspar, though I contributed to three of the lyrics. Mathias came into the band very late and that’s the reason why he was not part of the writing team.

MER: Is there any connection between the songs on this album or just separate themes on their own?

Uli: Most of the lyrics (“Heaven Only Knows”, “The End Of Days”, “Silent War”, “Beyond The Stars”, “Make The Spirit Burn”) are about experiences, emotions and feelings one could go through. Some describe strong feelings, like love or anger. Three songs (“New Protection”, “Black Cloud,” and “Corroded Dreams”) tell about our climate-weather situation, the changes and problems we all are causing in our environment. The song “New Protection” can be read as a wake up call, and that we all have to do something about it. At the same time the lyrics of that song mean that for all band members the new band and the people around us are a NEW PROTECTION. The lyrics of “A Smile From Heaven’s Eye” are about our love, dedication and longing for such a glorious song we as musicians dream of. “The Prince Of Darkness” and “Endless” is a dream scenario and more fantasy than anything else. “A Crack In The Wall” tells about a person who lost their grip in life but is fighting back very strong and realizes how good life can be. Finally, “Trail Of Fame” describes my personal experience about touring and what is connected to play a tour of 90 gigs.

MER: Were there any extra leftover tracks from the sessions for perhaps a second album?

Uli: No… not exactly… there was one song we skipped, but I don’t think it will ever return 🙂

MER: Guitarist Benny Jansson mixed the new album. Did this work out well to have one of your own involved in this process?

Uli: Yes, I think so… but it was a challenge because you as a composer and recording artist should have someone from the outside who gives your music the right finishing colour. We also were not sure if that’s a smart idea to do that our self. So we kept all options open. Along with Benny’s mix we got a test mix from two well-known producers. Benny’s mix turned out to be the strongest and most supporting sound for the album. We have been lucky and I don’t know if we’ll do that again, but it’s always worth a try.

MER: Who handled production duties?

Uli: Benny, Bjorn and me. In a way I was a coordinator for the production. Benny recorded and mixed the album and Bjorn was a kind of third supervisor.

MER: You’ve announced exciting tour plan with Sonata Arctica and Epica that starts in November. Are you guys familiar with these bands and are you looking forward to touring the globe?

Uli: Unfortunately we only play Europe with that package… but we have got an offer to tour Japan in January… as well we are planning a tour in Slovakia and Czech Republic and a club tour in Germany in 2008. I know both bands and I think it will be an interesting event.

MER: In closing, any last words for your fans?

Uli: If you download an album for free and you like it, please buy it! And of course, we hope to see you on tour!!!

MER: Uli, thanks for your time!

Uli: Thanks for the interview!


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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