Vocalist Hansi Kürsch
Interviewed by EvilG
Blind Guardian are easily one of my favorite bands thanks to their complex symphonic/power/thrash/folk mixture, imagery, lyrics, storytelling etc. They have it all. Vocalist Hansi Kürsch has lead the band from the beginning in the late 80’s. Hansi spoke with us about the band’s latest best of entitled MEMORIES OF A TIME TO COME, an update on what the band is doing, and where the band is heading, along with a couple of quick questions on other things that fans will be interested in. Enjoy!
Things have been quiet on the official Blind Guardian website lately with the last news item being from April 2012. Any reason for the recent silence? I know you’ve played South America, played some festivals, and shows with Judas Priest in 2012…but the website makes it seem like not so much is happening?!
Your are right here. It has been silent and it still is. The reason is quite simple. Once we are on the road it is more natural for us to post something on our Facebook site. So people get a lot of information about activities from there. They are both cross-linked as well. So people definitely get the word. But in general we should come up with more content for the homepage, too.
With the "best of" MEMORIES OF A TIME TO COME, what were the reasons for doing such a release?
I´d say the 25th anniversary plus the need for a decent compilation featuring some new aspects on old gems. Our old record company was asking for such an output for a long, long time. For us it was obvious, that even a “Best of” demanded some creative input and therefore we needed to find the right spot to spend some time and thoughts about such an album. 2011 was simply perfect to work on such stuff.
Sometimes a band does "best of’s" and endless live albums when that band is out of ideas…but with everything going on and hopefully to come in 2013, this is clearly NOT the case with Blind Guardian. So what for you is the "proper" time for an album like this?
As mentioned in the question before, the 25th anniversary was a good reason for us. There is more than just one reason for an artist to release live albums or DVDs. Live always features a different approach in an artists work and so an artist might feel the urge to release different versions of the same song. Of course, money can be an argument, too. Our rule is more like we need three, or four studio outputs to justify a DVD or a live album.
Do you ever look to a time when you won’t be recording, writing, and touring? Or is the plan to keep on doing this for as long as people want to hear/see you?
Well, we already have one of the nicest schedules in the scene, since we take our time for everything. We have a very enjoyable 12-months-period of creativity before we are able to start recording an album, which demands another 12 months of our time. During this time, we also have a real life. Once we are on the road, we do not push it too heavily as well. I do not see a reason to change that or to start thinking about retirement. Living a life as a musician means your profession ends with the day you pass away. Music is an addiction and a passion. So we have no intention to put an end to it.
Some of the songs were re-recorded….did you do this for any reason other than "because it was fun" or was it more for reasons of you wanted to improve it, didn’t like an original performance, etc?!
Mostly it was just for the sake of fun. “Silence…”, of course, is different. This song is a challenge. I, personally, underestimated it a little bit.
Was picking the final tracklist much of a problem or were you all able to easily agree upon what to include?
Not a problem but a compromise. It at points felt like insulting some other songs and it also meant to make a collective judgment instead of an individual decision. We all can easily live with the compromise, though. The selection was made fairly quickly.
It’s cool and interesting to note that when listening to this album that although the band has evolved, you’ve managed to always sound like Blind Guardian and a song like “Valhalla” for example is as relevant and fresh sounding in 2012 as it has always been. How do you view the situation? Do you ever feel that any of the material has become "dated" or not so fresh sounding?
“Valhalla” surprised me, too. To find out if we were able to transfer the rough excitement of this song in 2012 was one of the reasons for us to do it. Everyone did extremely well, I must say. Apart from Kai, we all have had a lot of practicing especially with regard to this one during the last years. Especially with regard to the songs we have redone, I did not have the feeling the original were not fresh anymore. Of all the songs on “Memories …” this probably would be the case with “Follow the Blind”, which we certainly could do better , nowadays, and “Majesty”. But this is something I realized when we did the mixing for the songs. No one has had this in mind when we decided for the ones to be rerecorded.
There is a marked improvement in the re-mixed songs on here. So with that in mind does this mean you may consider re-mixing and improving the sound on all your older releases? Or is that something you’d rather wait to do much later on if at all?
Actually this is exactly what we have done during the first half of 2012. There will be a collectors box release in Winter. This one will feature new remixed versions of all the 8 EMI/Virgin studio albums. “Battalions …” and “Follow …” have been remixed for the Remastered series some years back, already. For us it is a natural process to revisit old albums and do stuff like this. We do not see this as an improvement but more like an up to date statement. The music will win a little bit – the historical context obviously is taken off.
With the title we have "time" again in here (Memories of a time to come….At The Edge Of Time)…so with the title in mind…time, what is time?
Time is not real and not relevant in terms of a suitable definition. Therefore it is closely related to everyone´s imagination. This makes it an ultimate B.G. topic. Thank you, Mr. Einstein, for putting it back on track. We may not use “time” for the title of the next album …
Often fans will analyze your lyrics and make analogies to events or things going on and read between the lines to find a message from what on the surface may seem to be pure fantasy. Do you find it interesting to see what people get from the lyrics and do they ever get it right OR are there sometimes no message to be had and they are basically making shit up?
Some get very close at points. I was surprised when I read what people wrote on the forum about things they were finding out by research, knowledge or due to intuition. I am just happy there are people figuring that there is more than just one meaning to a phrase. Songs like “Control the Divine” or “Under the Ice” , for example, are full of individual thoughts and relate to so many things that I am sometimes confused that many people relate all our stuff to fantasy and believe there is nothing but dragons in our music.
We all know both you and Jon are super busy with your respective bands, but everyone always asks about "when’s the next album?" So, what’s the latest on the next Demons & Wizards album….
There will be a third D&W album. This is for sure. We may get a chance in 2013 to put our heads together and come up with some decent songs. A release in late 2014 or early 2015 would be my goal here. It is necessary to do some touring for this baby, too, which could take place late 2015.
Can you give us an update on the orchestral album "The Lord of the Rings"?
It is progressing and will be on the agenda for the next two years, still. It demands more attention than any of the other albums. We did a lot of recordings and there will follow some more recordings in the second half of 2012, but the amount of work and ideas we have here seems to be endless. Whenever I think we are done with songwriting for the orchestral album we add another song or another part to it. It is very nice classical but also very individual music with tons of beloved B.G. elements. It will lead people into a new musical universe and is going to tell a gigantic story, which will not be related to “The Lord of the Rings”. Markus Heitz carefully works on a great frame for it, while I will do individual lyrics to comfort the story.
Most already know that this won’t be a "power metal" album or even a symphonic metal album, so how much in the way of distorted guitars, soaring vocals, and double kicks will there be? Zero? Or just a little?
The vocals at points are related strongly to Blind Guardian since I will do the singing. The voice arrangements will contain more typical classical choir scores. The music partly sounds like B.G. but without our regular instruments. There at least will be one version mostly ignoring the other members. In a second step we are considering to have them in as well. At that point everyone will be strongly involved. I have no idea when we will be able to accomplish this special mission.
With bassist Oliver Holzwarth off to Rhapsody of Fire, will you get a full-on contributing bassist for the band, or will you be hiring a session player for live gigs etc?
Yes, indeed. We depend on a stable line up. Therefore a bassist doing the live shows constantly is mandatory. We were able to find Barend Courbois, or Bear as we call him, from the Nederlands. He is a super nice guy and plays a stunning bass. Different than Oliver but definitely on the same level. I am absolutely curious to see where this cooperation is going to end up.
André Olbrich’s lead guitar playing somehow feels a little overlooked when it comes to people raving about the who’s who of the modern lead guitar world. I for one think he’s amazing, especially with all the melodies he does where it is ALMOST like he’s always playing leads! So my question is – does he often write these melodies before the backing rhythms or is most of the lead melodies written after the basis for the song has taken shape?
If you play in a successful band like Blind Guardian, you can´t consider yourself being underrated. [touché] I think André can easily live with his status. I would guess it is not really of interest for him.
But I recognize quite often, that a lot of prog guys and pure Metal fans do not exactly understand what we are doing and therefore easily underrate it, technically.
You have one festival live date coming in a few days but no other live dates listed. Do you have studio time booked for the remainder of the year?
As we can see: time flies by quickly. We already finalized that one and there will be no more shows for the next two years. We have considered these summer shows as our ultimate ones for “Memories…” and “At the Edge …”. It is about the time for us to start songwriting. There is a certain urge in everyone to keep the band´s focus on new material. I would love to see two Blind Guardian albums in 2014.
I saw you guys live in Toronto in 2010 and it was magical. Even in the line outside, everyone was signing "Valhalla" and "The Bard’s Song". It felt quite special as a fan to realize that so many people here in Canada know you and the words too! With that in mind – do you have any recollections of the North American tour or any shows that stood out?
Canada is very special for us. I remember when we did “Follow the Blind” there was a handful of B.G. Die hard fans supporting us as good as they could. This special relationship became more obvious when Century Media got the chance to distribute our back program in the Northern American territories. “And Then There Was Silence” was really high in the inofficial/official Canadian single charts. Not that we sold a massive amount of single, but still it was a great feeling to see the single on such positions for a few weeks. Needless to mention how great the shows in Canada go for us. There is a strong connection. Almost every Canadian show stands out. If I had to mention one in particular, it would be the first one we have played in Montreal. It was total chaos and pure magic at the same time. A miracle how we survived the weather circumstances in December 2002. I was completely wasted for a few months afterwards, I remember. As for the last tour in 2010, there were a number of amazing shows. Edmonton was a special trip, too, because of the obscure club we were playing in. There was a very unique, movie-like atmosphere to it.
Do you listen to any current metal releases? If so, what has caught your ear?
I love Joey Bonamassa, Black Country Communion or the last Nevermore. Matheos/Arch released a great album, too. Yes, I try to keep me updated. Still it is hard to find new stuff, which really blows me away.
What do you think of other bands like Rhapsody, Kamelot and Nightwish who also use a lot of orchestration (even though none of them sound like Blind Guardian or alike one another).
All of them are good and all of them have a different approach when it comes to classical orchestration, though I think all of these bands are a little more on the movie score side in comparison to us.
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME!
Thanks for the interview.
BELOW: Fan-filmed live clip for The Bard’s Song from Toronto, Canada in Nov. 2010.