At The Opera With Hansi Kürsch
Interview by EvilG
talk a little bit about the new album A
Night At The Opera. First of all, why did you pick that title and
obviously you are aware that it is the title of something another band
has done - namely Queen!?
There is a movie called "A Night At The Opera" as well. We
are aware of that too. We're big supporters of Queen. The reason for the
title is pretty much connected to the album cover itself. We first
considered to have the album cover artwork connected to the circus in
general. But the two painters we were instructing for the picture both
failed, so we were in need of another cover concept. We finally came up
with the orchestra pit with a bunch of fairy tale creatures playing in
there as the orchestra. So at that point we said it makes sense to have
an album title dealing with orchestral or opera things. And the first
thing that came to my mind was the title "A Night At The
Opera" because I'm a big Queen fan and that's one of my favorites.
So I suggested that to the other guys and they said it was kinda ironic
and they liked it. As well, we found that the music more or less has
given justice to the title as well. It seemed to be the perfect title.
Some people were complaining about it, but we expected that.
So you actually designed the concept as a band rather than give it
to an artist to interpret?
For the cirrus motif we used two Russian painters who unfortunately
couldn't come up with something decent. Since we were running out of
time we instructed an English painter by the name of Paul Raymond
Gregory to do it. He's an absolute professional, a brilliant painter. He
was the only one who was able to do it in such a short amount of time.
Onto some of the songs on here; perhaps you can pick out a couple
of them and tell people a little bit about what you had in mind with the
lyrics and the meaning behind the song.
OK...let's start off with "Under the Ice" and "And
Then There Was Silence", because they are somehow connected. They
both deal with the Trojan war and they are mainly presenting the
scenario of the war and of the consequences from the point of view of
Cassandra the female Trojan Seer, who could foresee the whole
catastrophe but had not been able to change it. And "And Then There
Was Silence" is a kind of empire war song, but pretty much from the
mythological and historical point of view. Then we have a song called
"Punishment Divine", and that's about the German philosopher Friedrich
Nietzsche, who has been a famous atheist in the late 19th century
who had an extremely brilliant mind. He was somehow offending religion,
especially God. By the end of his days he finally went insane. I took
the opportunity to write my own fictional storyboard about the moment he
went insane and had his own dialogue with God; although he denied his
existence. He also hears angels sing and he starts figuring out that
there might be something more beyond space then the void. At the point
of recognizing that there might be something else, he gets punished by
God. This is a harsh God, the punishment is madness. Another song is
"The Soulforged", which we had a vote on our homepage on the
forum board. They could vote for their favorite topic and the fantasy
series, The Dragonlance won for the most popular by our fans. So we made
one song, lyric wise, about that. I've chosen the protagonist of the
story, the most interesting person in the story, who is a very difficult
to describe. He is called Raistlin Majere who was a very very weak and
Do you yourself read the Dragonlance novels?
Oh I've read some. I recognized that when I saw the voting and I read
some even before they decided that that would be the topic. So after
that made the "race", I read several stories and I enjoyed it.
It's pretty entertaining, I think. That guy, Raistlin, he is the great
Do you think you'll write a future story containing him?
I don't know yet. There is so much stuff to write about, so it's
always difficult to get back to interesting topics for a second time. I
sometimes do that with regard to religious themes, especially Jesus
Christ, and I have often done that for Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
because that's my absolute favorite story. Dragonlance is just one
entertaining story for me and the peak of fantasy. It's a great story.
On the new album you didn't use Flemming Rasmussen this time. I
was wondering why you chose to use someone else for the new album?
One reason surely is that on NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH, we worked
during the recording period, with Charlie Bauerfeind and we figured out
that the chemistry between him and us had been superb. So we decided
that he could be a good opportunity for the particular album A
Night At The Opera. We also had in mind doing the whole
production in our own studio which is here in Germany in a town called
Krefeld. We depended on the freelance producer, and Flemming pretty much
stuck to his own studio; and he stuck to Denmark. So it was very
difficult to get him out there unless you pay a certain price and we
weren't able and weren't willing to do that. Flemming is an opportunity
for the future. It's not that we didn't like IMAGINATIONS FROM THE OTHER
SIDE or NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH, it's more just to try out something
Can you tell me a bit about the song "And Then There Was
Silence", which all the press, when it first came out, was boasting
that it "used over 128 tracks". I was wondering what possessed
you take on something so monstrous?
Ahhh..don't ask me...It was just growing, and later in the
production. It's not that we wanted to achieve a new record, because we
have already had kind of an overkill on some of the NIGHTFALL songs
already. They went up to 120, 130 tracks. This time is has gone to 180,
but that sounds like so much more, but in the end it is not because
usually what bands do during the production is put stuff together to
tracks. They don't have the luxury of having 180 tracks at the same
time. We didn't have that privilege, so we kept things separately up to
the very end of the mixing sessions. The orchestration has been so huge,
and André's guitars turned out to be a little differently orchestrated
than in the past so he required a lot of tracks. Once the music was
solved, it was obvious that we needed the biggest choirs that Blind
Guardian has ever done, that swallowed another 80 or 90 tracks (laughs).
From the beginning, the music was constructed in a big way. Almost in a
classical Wagner way; who has been famous for creating something big. It
seems to be the German madness or something....
So how many tracks are used for a typical song?
That's difficult to say. I would say between 90 and 120 maybe. But as
I said, everything is kept separately. It's like we have three or four
different signals for the bass guitar itself. Though it's just played
one time, we kept several signals to have each option in the mixing and
finally we decided to go for a mixture of the signals and the direct
signals, and we had some tricky things going on with some effects boards
and blah blah blah. We kept that all separately and the same can be said
about the rhythm guitars and theoretically about everything. For example
we build up all choirs in sections. Like one voice will be sung lets
say, eight times by three people, so you have eight tracks just for
that. Then we drive that onto two tracks, and in the end you end up with
at least 60 or 70 tracks just for the choirs alone
And what about for your own lead vocals?
Oh, there was a big difference this time because all the choir stuff
has been done by me as well. So I had to do my, if there is any kind of
lead vocals, and then I had to do my choir stuff and we kept that
separately, and then did the whole choir stuff again with the real
choir...and finally mingled everything together. So I used between 60
and 70 tracks because there is a lot of overlapping things going on. If
you don't want to bounce it, you need at the same time for two voices,
So I guess this bring us to the next question. How does your music
translate to the live setting where you don't have as many voices or
tracks type of thing to bombard the listener with?
We've dealt with that in the past. There was kind of a problem ever
since you could say, but, definitely since NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH.
You would be surprised how basic all those songs still work and be
recognizable as a great song. We even considered playing "And Then
There Was Silence" and we might not even use any kind of backing
vocals for that one. Usually what happens during a Blind Guardian
concert is that the audience takes a big part of the choir. But it is
very complicated at some points on the album A
Night At The Opera, I appreciate their support but in case they
cannot follow each line, it's not a big accident. It has a different
kind of attraction; it gets a little rougher, it gets a little clearer I
think, but still will please people. We might play 4 or 5 songs from the
new album, and whenever we accomplish a new album, the previous stuff is
almost easy to play.
I'm sure you've been asked this before but why did you decid to
stop playing bass and do you still play bass live at all or in the
I don't play right at the moment. I'm really considering this for the
next tour. But as the music becomes so complicated, even if you take the
vocals away....just the music is pretty progressive and pretty
demanding; it would be over my level. So there is no chance to do that.
That basically has been the reason for me to stop playing the bass. When
we did NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH, before we started production, I was
still not pleased with my bass result on Imaginations,
so we went to the studio and it was my decision to tell the other guys
if we want to do a better album than Imaginations,
then we need a proper bassist. So I finally decided to have a bassist
with us and fortunately Charlie Bauerfeind, who later became the
producer of A Night At The Opera,
introduced Oliver Holdzwarth to us. He will be with us on tour so that's
Back to something we mentioned a little bit earlier; and that's
related to your lyrics. Obviously as we said, Tolkien has been a great
inspiration to you. I was wondering as a fan of the movies...what did
you think of the first movie in the series?
It's killer. I was blown away. I can't even describe it. I mean, I
don't care if they change the storyboard or if they left things out or
if the characters are not presented 100% correct. The way did it was
absolutely cinema compatible and I tremendously enjoyed it.
I've read in the past when the word was coming out that this movie
was finally being made, a lot of fans were saying that Blind Guardian
should be on the soundtrack. Well you weren't on the soundtrack for part
one, but is there a possibility of you appearing on the soundtrack for
parts two or three?
We still hope that their might be a chance...but they have filmed the
whole trilogy already and I'm sure they will use the same kind of score
music they had for the first one. I doubt there will be Blind Guardian
on there, but I would not say it's impossible. We have been close to at
least the producer of the company to Peter Jackson himself but, we
weren't able to come up with a proper version of what we had in mind. So
we decided it would be better not to send out a demo version.
So regarding reading, do you still find time to read now? And if
so then what kind of books have you been reading lately?
If I find the time, and I usually try to read as much as possible, I
am only able to that in my spare time. It is part of my job because
that's where I draw at least 60 to 70% of my inspiration for the lyrics,
and for my vocal melody lines as well. The book I'm reading right now is
Ted William's the Outerlands. Then there is some historical stuff I'm
reading at the moment and I'm into Friedrich Nietzsche
and I read his stuff as well; just do deal with different topics. At the
same time, I'm a lunatic when it comes to Lord of the Rings because I
just read "The Two Towers."
Have you lost count on how many times you've read it? haha
I usually don't read them in a row. I just say, it's about time to
read "The Fellowship Of The Ring" again (laughs). So I just
grab that one and read it, and seeing as how I know the rest of the
story, I don't usually read the rest afterwards. So this time I did not
even consider reading "The Fellowship Of The Ring" (before
reading "The Two Towers") and that was before the movie
started. So I just said, lets take "The Two Towers" and read
Do you have plans maybe for the future for letting your fans pick
the subject matter for you to write about like you did with the
Yeah, but it is a risk as we found out because people usually tend to
complain about whatever you do. It is impossible to please everyone.
[There will always be someone to complain] Yeah, I mean there was
another topic in there which they somehow managed to manipulate the
voting, and was number one for a while. All those kids freaked because
they hate the story, and I just thought "wow, what an amazing
story, that would be killer", so I might just take it and write a
song about it.
Since the band sound has evolved so much since your beginning,
have your listening habits also changed from what were your earlier
influences to what makes an impact on you today?
That's a very good question. I think the way I look at music has
changed. In the earlier days it was simply the energy and the music
itself without checking the technical aspects and without checking the
abilities of the musicians. Nowadays I have a critical ear on almost
everything, so it has changed yeah. But I still enjoy listening to music
and it can be anything from 60's pop/rock up to more modern stuff, but
still mostly to heavy metal. I think most of the recent releases haven't
been very exciting, apart from the Dream Theatre release, and maybe the
last Iced Earth release.
I've read reviews for the new album and a lot of people are saying
that this is the most musically significant release regarding the new
Blind Guardian from a quote unquote "power metal" band, if you
want to call it that. It's kind of gone beyond power metal, but a lot of
people are praising it up as being quite a landmark release for you
guys. Do you feel that this is the album that's going to break the band,
say even here more, in North America more than you've been before?
Yes I believe it is, but, that does not necessarily mean that this
will be the most evolved Blind Guardian album from the artistical
standpoint. It is a great album and overall it's a very skilful album. I
wouldn't be surprised to figure out that the next album will be far more
entertaining, intense, and far more everything apart from probably being
not that successful. I think this will be
a kind of landmark and it will be a breakthrough in a lot of countries
and it might lead us to the next level of commercial success because of
the fans for Blind Guardian and for that type of music we are playing has
being higher than in the last 12 years.
A recent press release said you are going to play your
first ever US show at the ProgPower festival. And also you're going to be
making your first ever UK appearance at the BloodStock festival.
There's a lot of firsts coming up considering you've
Guardian are NOT a new band, but obviously are still growing.
That says something, and it's usually all these effects you see now
they are more or less a result from the success of NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE
could have at least ten first time appearances this time because we have requests
from all over the world. I mean from Indonesia, Canada, US, Africa,
etc... Great Britain, that's a very strange thing because Virgin Europe
changed their attitude toward Blind Guardian completely, and as we have
been a national priority for Virgin Germany for over that past ten
years, we have never been an international priority. Some have been
Virgin partners in their own territory who have been really great and brought us to commercial
success already but, it was never the whole company who was putting the
campaign behind us and this time it seems that they really stuck to
their guns and will present the band as their major artist for the first
half of 2002. And that's helpful in Great Britain. Of course in the
states there is a lot of metalheads there and if you are signed to a major
label, it's impossible to get a release in Great Britain which is not on
that major label. So we have been lucky with Century Media for the US
because that's a far distant territory, so they can give that away, but
they couldn't do that in
So with regards to playing your show in Atlanta (ProgPower), I know everybody
here in Canada and in the States are all wondering if you will be
playing more than just the one show? Is there any plans in motion now to
do somewhat of a tour?
I of course hope so. We haven't planned anything right now but
there is a request for a festival in Montreal at the same time. We
either stay in the states directly or we go back to Germany for a while
and come back later on in the year, and play our first club shows all
over the country...but it won't be a huge tour that's for sure already.
I am convinced that we at least play, let's say, 10 shows in the states this time.
Regarding the recording of older material...Have you ever considered
re-recording the Lucifer's Heritage demo's or even some of your early
Blind Guardian material to bring it up to date with the newer
style that the band has become involved in.
Yeah we have considered it for some songs. We have not
considered it for the BATTALIONS OF FEAR or the FOLLOW THE BLIND stuff so far, but we definitely
work on something like the FORGOTTEN TALES 2 album which will be
released in the future. It will have a completely different shape like you
know there will be, let's say, re-recordings of old stuff and then we do 5 or 6
songs that have never been released before, and then we do a good amount
of decent cover tunes, whatever that means. I have some strange ones in
mind and I'm sure the other guys do too.
Regarding strange cover songs; whatever possessed you to cover songs
like "Mr Sandman" and "Surfing USA"?
Haha Ummmm....Mr. Sandman was one of the favorite songs for a
Blind Guardian cover version by the band itself. So every band member
had a kind of idea how it was supposed to sound. Then when we did that,
that was our first experience with Flemming Rasmussen, and he hated the
song completely. He refused to work on it. So whenever we worked on
"Mr. Sandman", he sent in his assistant engineer who did the
recording for that one. We tremendously enjoyed it and when we finished the song we
said that is going to be a B side of a single or something like that and
that's it. So
we sent it to the record company, and as it is with major record
companies, they fell in love with it. For the first time, they were
willing to spend a huge amount of money on a video because they believed
in that song. So we said ok we'll do that and if we do that it might
make sense to have that on an album but that can't be Imaginations
because that ruined the attitude of the album. So we said lets go for
another album and do something extraordinary, which has been The
forgotten Tales. Therefore we said it might make sense to
have another song like "Mr. Sandman" and since we all like the
Beach Boys, we decided to go for "Surfin USA".
So I guess you're not letting "the cat out of the bag"
regarding what you have up your sleeve for a future cover songs are
I tend to jump back and forwards on deciding whether or not
have 70's or 80's stuff, and even some classical metal songs like I
would love to do "Future World" by Pretty Maids and
"Gutter Ballet" by Savatage, but I couldn't find supporters for those
two songs in the band so far. They like it, but they just think that it's too good and too
close to what we do, to cover them. So I need to convince them :-) And I
would love to some old hippy stuff, so whatever like America or maybe some
mainstream rock like Meatloaf...that would be cool.
One question about Demons And Wizards...Is there going to be another
Demons And Wizards album and if so, do you have any idea on when you
might be working on that?
Jon is working on it already. I just toured Europe for the
last 8 weeks and they finished the tour some days ago, and he visited me
yesterday, so we had a long night and had some discussion about Demons
And Wizards also. He has sent some stuff which I will work on next week,
and we might be able to come up with the completion of songs at the end
of the year. Then the album will be released sometime in 2003.
Ok, cool...Well that's just about everything I had picked out to talk to you about.
So are there any other things you'd like people to know about the new
album or anything in general about the band?
Check it out and don't believe anyone who is telling you
anything about it. It's a very personal album and it really depends
on your personal kind of taste whether you like it or not.
Yeah, it's the type of album I found where you put it one once and
it's like "oh yeah", and then after probably 8 listens you
really start to grasp what you are hearing because it's quite a busy
It is a busy album and I mean I can honestly say this about
myself; when we have accomplished everything and listened to it, I just thought every single song is
killer! All the songs in a row, that is a pretty
demanding task I felt (laughs). So the first thing I did was just
concentrating on one song and then leaving it for a while for the second song. But I
am convinced that it will grow on everyone a lot!!
- Transcription by Ronnie -
Guardian CD Reviews
Official Website: www.blind-guardian.com
Label (North America): www.centurymedia.com