And Then There Was…
An Interview with Marcus Siepen of Blind Guardian
By Chris Hawkins
A Night at the Opera is
perhaps Blind Guardian's strongest release to date. Taking their
previous albums to the next level, and adding a bit more aggression, it
is certain to be somewhere on everyone's list for favorite album of the
year! Although Blind Guardian have been mainstays on the Metal scene
since the mid 80's, it is now finally time for their first North
American tour. It is truly an exciting event for both the band and the
fans. Here is the chat I had recently with Blind Guardian guitarist,
So are you geared up for your first North American tour?
It's great. Everybody in the band is really excited. We've been
waiting for that to happen for a long time. Finally we get the chance to
play over there so it's going to be very exciting. I hope so! (laughs)
How long do you plan on making the set list?
I don't know exactly because basically we change the set list
everyday. It's not that we change all the songs, but a couple of songs
are changed everyday. Sometimes more…depends on our mood. It would be
pretty boring for us to play the same stuff every night. We've been on
tour since April now, and the tour will end next year in the summer. So
we need these changes. So far we've always played between 110 and 120
minutes so I guess it's going to be the same in the States.
Are there any specific cities you're looking forward to playing?
We tried to get a gig in Twin Peaks because we've been fans of the TV
series, but someone told us that Twin Peaks isn't named Twin Peaks
anymore so we said, ok then forget it. (laughs) I'm not looking forward
to a special city. It's the whole thing that really excites me. We've
been waiting to tour the States for so many years, and now we get a
chance to do it. We also get to go to Canada for a few shows so it's
going to be great.
I must admit that since A
Night at the Opera was released it's been one of my
Cool…thanks a lot!
From my perspective, one of the keys to the success of your sound
is your ability to take the listener to an entirely different place.
That's what we try to do. Thank you. That's perfect!
What do you think brought about the shift from pure Speed Metal to
the more orchestrated sound that you have now?
We just developed. I mean back in the late 80's when we started, this
was all we could do as musicians and songwriters. This was the music we
were listening to all day. Over the years we just became better
songwriters, I hope. (laughs) We became better musicians, and we started
experimenting with different things. The main goal was that we not
repeat ourselves because this would be boring for us. There's no use to
do something like that. We were always looking for new influences and
new ideas to get into the music and it just developed. Besides that,
also we started listening to more different stuff. Basically, everybody
in the band still is the same Metal fan like back in the 80's, but we
also listen to other stuff today. This brings new influences into the
music, and obviously changes the sound a little. The roots will always
be the same. Basically, we're still a Metal band. I've read a lot of
discussions on the internet about what kind of music we're playing. Some
guy says we're a Speed Metal band. The next guy says we're a Power
Metal, and the next guy says that's Progressive Metal. Just call it
Isn't that the ultimate goal, though, to defy classification?
Yes. We just play whatever comes to our mind. There's no master plan
when it comes to songwriting where we say we need two fast songs, a
ballad, and a progressive song. We just write the songs that come to our
mind. If we like them, cool. If we don't, we throw them away and start
all over again. When we start writing an album, nobody knows how it's
going to sound like in the end.
There's no set plan…
No. Definitely not. It changes constantly. We write a song, and it's
happened in the past where we had a song with about 4 minutes done. We
listened to these four minutes and said, "Well the first minute is
great, but the last three minutes are not exactly like we want them to
happen." We threw them away. We kept the first minute and started
from that point all over again. It can change everyday. For example, on
this production some of the songs changed quite a lot during the
recording because Thomas and Charlie, our producer worked a lot on drum
arrangements during the production. On a couple songs, they drastically
changed the drum arrangements which made the songs much heavier than
they were planned to be. So we had to change the guitars along with the
drums to make it still fit. Even if we're actually done with writing the
songs, it can still change.
I did notice the album is more aggressive.
Definitely. It's much heavier than "Nightfall in Middle
Earth". It's not really back to the roots, but the feeling is more
like the older stuff.
What were some of the influences that you alluded to earlier that
brought about a creative spark in the songwriting?
There's all kinds of stuff. I mean, obviously one of our major
influences today is Queen with all of their choir stuff and the guitar
harmony stuff. Also completely different bands like Jethro Tull, for
example with all the folky elements and stuff like that. I listen to a
lot of soundtrack scores from Classical stuff like the John Williams
stuff or people like that. So it's all kinds of stuff.
What can you accredit your longevity to? You've had the same
lineup since the start.
Why should we change the lineup? A lot of people ask why we keep the
same lineup. It seems to be very unusual today to keep a stable lineup
for such a long time, but of course we have the same fights and
arguments like all the other bands have. We don't fire someone just
because we have an argument with them. We try to find the best solution
for this problem whatever it is. Until now, we've always managed to find
the solution. We've been working with each other so long. We know how to
work best with each other. We still have the same goal. We still have
the same vision. So why should we change anything? We have success with
what we're doing so everything's fine. (laughs)
It's very rare…
It is, I know. It's a dream come true. When we started playing in
bands when we were 15 or 16 years old, everybody was dreaming about how
it would be so greatl to get a record deal and tour and release albums.
All this came true. We've been on tour for over a year, seeing all these
great places, and meeting great people. You even get paid for it!
(laughs) It's great!
So what do you do in your down-time, such as when Hansi is off
doing Demons and Wizards?
I guess after this tour, Hansi definitely wanted to do another Demons
and Wizards album so I guess we'll start writing stuff for the new
album. I mean, we'll be extremely busy the whole next year because we
recorded up to 30-40 shows 'til now and there will be a new double live
CD out next year. From January on, we'll be sitting in the studio
listening to a lot of live tracks! (laughs) We have to find out what
tracks are good and what not. We're playing a lot more festivals next
year. We also filmed a couple of shows this year and we're going to film
a couple of these festivals next year. There will also be a new DVD out
next year. So I guess all of this will keep us busy until September or
October of next year. Then we take a small break, a couple of weeks, and
start writing the new album.
Do you ever get bogged down when you realize you're booked until
this time next year?
I mean, it's like this. When you're sitting at home or in the studio
doing songwriting, you're looking forward to playing live again. Now
I've been on the road since April and I'm looking forward to a break
definitely (laughs) because I can't stand hotel rooms anymore. I want my
own bed. I want my own living room, and I want my family around me. It's
always like this. Playing live is the ultimate thing for me. It's great
to write songs. It's great to see how they grow in the studio, and it's
great to hear the final result. The ultimate thing for me is to go up on
the stage, play the stuff, see the reactions from the fans, and get this
direct feedback. To me that's the ultimate thing.
Have there been any highlights so far in the tour?
Tons of highlights! It's full of highlights. We played in a couple of
countries where we'd never played before. We played a show in Moscow,
and another in Russia. Both were extremely great. We played in Turkey
which was great. We headlined Wacken in front of 50-60,000 people which
was awesome, and now we're leaving for the States and Canada which is a
dream come true.
It sounds like that DVD will be awesome!
Yeah! We filmed the whole Wacken fest. We filmed one or two shows
here in Germany on the German part of the tour, and we're going to do
our own festival.
I saw that on your web-site…the Blind
Yeah, exactly. We're going to headline both days, and both days will
be filmed for the DVD. Especially on this festival, we can do whatever
we like to, whatever lights and stage setup. We have a couple of shows
to choose from for the DVD, plus we had a friend of ours following us
with a small digital camera for about 4 or 5 weeks. We have tons of
backstage shots and signing sessions, whatever we did all day. Plus we
have material from the last ten years which Andre and I shot with our
own camera. It's going to be a huge package with lots of bonus stuff.
What kind of setup are you using to get your guitar tone?
Nothing special, actually. I'm using a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier.
I'm using Gibson Les Pauls and Esp Eclipses with EMG pickups so nothing
special. On the clean sounds, I use an Intellifex for chorus and reverb.
On the heavy songs, it's just the amp and the guitar.
Is the amp modified at all?
No, it's a very good model. It's an awesome amp.
What does a Triple Rectifier go for in Germany?
I paid about 3000 DM which is about $1500. It's more expensive now,
almost 3500 DM.
It definitely comes across clear on the albums. I like the fact
that every instrument can be heard as well.
That's good because that is the most difficult part of the mix. We
recorded so many tracks. For example, on "And Then There Was
Silence" we recorded up to 200 tracks on one song. It took Charlie
about 4 weeks to mix this one song. If you say you can hear everything,
he did a perfect job because that's what we wanted to have obviously.
That's good to hear.
In most of the songs the guitar is frequently doubling the vocal
line. Does the guitar or the vocal melody actually come first?
It depends on the song. It can be both. A lot of times we have the
music first which means we have the rhythm guitar riffs, we have a
couple of lead lines, and Hansi tries to sing to that. If he finds a
good melody line, we keep it. If he doesn't, we might change a couple of
parts or we throw it away completely. It just grows. It changes from
part to part. Sometimes Hansi's first. Sometimes the guitars are first.
There's no fixed way of writing.
That's about all I've got. I'll be looking forward to seeing you
at the show at Jaxx in Virginia.
Definitely say hello. It was good talking with you! See you soon!
Official Site: www.blind-guardian.com
Interview With Hansi Kürsch