Michael Kratz is out with his second solo album Live Your Life. Blue Desert meet with Michael Kratz to a talk about his recent release.
Mike, first of all congratulations with your second solo album. You have got some awesome reviews from all over the world – what is your first impression of that?
Yeah, Live Your Life has gotten a lot of attention. That makes me really happy! After being in the studio for so long time to record an album it’s amazing to see that the album is doing great out there and I’m honored to see all the great reviews from all around the globe.
Listening to your debut album “Cross That Line” from 2012 and then listening to “Live Your Life”, it seems like 6 years have grown a lot towards your songwriting and also the overall musically landscape of your new album is on a bigger scale – can you tell us more about your own view of what have happened for you as an artists the last 6 years.
I guess I just got older :).
Many of the songs on Cross That Line were written when I was very young. I wrote the first version of the title track when I was still a young boy. We did a total new version of the song for the album, but the lyrics is pretty much the same as the original I wrote 30 years ago when I was still young and naïve. Another track on CTL, Lonely Soldier, I wrote that when I was 13.
You are from Denmark, a country that have had a good impact on the European Westcoast/AOR music world with artists like De 5, Arvid, Bamboo Brothers, Toby, Peter Brander, V6, DC Army Band and many great singer/songwriters, but it seems like you are the first artists that are breakin´ outside of the country, especially looking at your international reviews – what have you done different to achieve that success?
Wow, I didn’t knew that! I don’t know what I’ve done that they didn’t do. I guess it has a lot to do with the label. I was lucky to get a record deal with Art Of Melody Music. They simply love AOR/WestCoast music and are working their asses off to give their artist attention in the AOR/WestCoast medias and among the fans of the genre.
Your album “Live Your Life” is somehow landing in between Westcoast and Soft AOR and typically for an artists the music style is often coming with references to your own music heroes. What is your inspiration references in your songwriting?
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. I also love the grunge movement that started with Nirvana in the 90’s and the Brit pop scene from the same period, so it’s a mix of different genres and artists.
To get a commercial success with Westcoast/AOR music is not easy, you can say that we are not Billboard friendly with a commercial mindset, what have been your biggest challenges to reach to the position you are today?
You know, during the writing and recording process I haven’t really thought about the commercial part of it. I believe if I did so as a songwriter the songs will not be representing me in any way. For me, it’s not about just releasing songs. It has to be songs that I like myself and it has to be songs that I will be proud to perform for many years to come.
If I was still just 17 years old I’d might have another view on the commercial part of songwriting but it’s really not on my mind when I’m writing.
That being said, it’s great to see that my songs reach some kind of commercial awareness.
I read in an article that you are a big fan of Duran Duran, and furthermore also have a huge collection of their albums and memorabilia. What got you into Duran Duran?
I saw a TV documentary back in 1985 – Sing Blue Silver. I taped it on my parents VHS video recorder and saw it again and again. The one song that really got me into the band was Save A Prayer.
Since that day I have collected tons of DD records – 1500+ items.
On “Life Your Life” you are featuring the Duran Duran guitarist Dom Brown, any plans for getting another DD band member on the next album?
I would love to have John Taylor on the credit list. His playing style would fit perfectly one or two songs on the new album that I’m recording these days. That would be awesome!
With your commercial success with the release of “Live Your Life” I assume that you already have plans for your 3rd album, can you reveal some of your plans?
Yes. Kasper and I started recording new songs immediately after the release of Live Your Life and we have already finished half an album.
The fact that AOM is working so hard for me and my music gives me a boost of energy and I’m very inspired by the interest that has been given to Live Your Life.
We are also working on a special release that will come out during the second half of this year. I’m not sure I’m allowed to tell you more about it yet :)
The title “Live Your Life” – can you talk us through your title?
Most of the songs on Live Your Life are related to personal experiences or to people close to or 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.
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 were told not to go anywhere ‘cause only very rarely woud they come 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.
So, Live Your Life is a statement for myself to remember to get the most out of every day of my life.
Mike, your main instrument are drums, on “Live Your Life”, you only play drums on one song, in Denmark you are well-known for your “Porcaro Swing”, so why only your own “Swing” on one song?
I like the idea of having other great musicians to play on my songs. On Live Your Life I actually planned on playing drums on half the album myself, but often when I came to the studio Kasper had already played drums on a lot of the songs. Sometimes just to fulfill the arrangements or to tape some ideas. If the ideas work I just see no reason to change anything.
Maybe I will play drums on more tracks for the next album :)
Let´s get back to the music inspirations and “play the old game”. Name me the 5 albums you will take with you to the desert island, and why these 5 ones?
That’s a tough question. Even if you asked me to pick 50 albums it would be hard to choose.
At this very moment it could be: All Things Must Pass (George Harrison), Rumors (Fleetwood Mac), The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Siders From Mars (David Bowie), Fahrenheit (TOTO).
Growing up, all of those albums had a huge impact on me.
Music shall be played live – when and where can we expect to hear your songs live?
I will be playing around Europe this year and we’re planning a club tour this Autumn.
A bigger scaled tour is being prepared for 2019 and I’m really looking forward to hit the road!
Thanks for taking your time, and look forward to hear you on the road soon…