Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian

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Interview by Curufin



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Thanks for having this interview with me. How did the addition of < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Frederick to the band change how you go about writing songs?


Well, in terms of songwriting, everything else was set up at the moment when Frederick joined us. Apart from the drum arrangements we still had some open spaces, and musically – in terms of classical arrangements – he here and there had the chance to come up with stuff, but for most of the part everything had been composed and he was supposed to deliver that by his performance. Of course, once you perform it you have the chance to bring in your own personality and that’s, you know, the big step. On the other hand, it’s important that he featured some of the qualities of Thomen’s playing as well. That’s another quality of Frederick, that he was able to bring that in.





I think for the upcoming songwriting he maybe would play a more important role, since he’s a pretty good flautist and a pretty good pianist, so he can come up with harmonies as well.





He plays bagpipes too, right?


Yeah, well, you barely can ever use that, so I doubt that is going to happen in the future too many times. Maybe it is, but I would not be surprised if that’s not so supportive for the band. Apart from that, I think he is the driving force, and every drummer in every heavy metal band is the backbone, so, that’s his most important part at the moment – especially when we play live. He’s very good in that – he was very successful, he had a very strong entering into the touring scene.



Yeah, definitely. When I heard you guys last night in Tempe – I saw you guys in 2002 – I didn’t notice any difference in the drumming at all.


No, there isn’t at all.



The transition was pretty smooth.


Yeah. I mean, they are on the same level. They certainly have the same kind of spirits. Of course they are different individuals, but he has been the perfect successor.



A worthy replacement, then.





Ok, let’s talk about the orchestral project a little bit. Have there been any new updates on that recently since the release of A TWIST IN THE MYTH? Have you guys done any more on the orchestral project?


No. We had completed most of the songwriting before A TWIST IN THE MYTH and the basic plan was to do the recordings at the same time we did A TWIST IN THE MYTH, but since Thomen left the band we had to change plans because the production would have been a little more demanding. During the production we recognized that it would not be a wise step to do two albums at the same time, but nevertheless we are done with most of the songwriting. It would be as difficult and dangerous to do it during the touring situation, so once we start touring there’s no recording and we do not do anything during that part of our business. I think that we’re going to work on the orchestral project and finalize it from mid-to-end 2007, and we may be able to release it in 2008. It’s still a lot of work, because we have to change plans here and there. It’s pretty orchestral at the moment; it’s based on a classical orchestration and vocals, and we may bring in the band as well.



So this will be released under the Blind Guardian name?


Yeah, most possibly.



Do you know if you guys will release a single for it or anything?


No. I don’t think… umm, it will be a straight album. Since it is kind of outstanding, it will have a completely different approach even with promotion and everything because it does not necessarily mean we’ll have to play for it. We may do a few shows, but the most possible from my point of view would be the second Blind Guardian festival.



And that would come after the release of the orchestral album?


Yeah, that would make sense, you know, to have that with the project.



So no earlier than 2008 for the next Open Air?


The album – definitely no earlier than 2008, and the festival – if there is any – maybe 2009.



So it’s not for sure that you guys are going to do the second festival?


Oh we will, it’s just a question of when.



Alright. So I’ve always been curious: What type of music are you listening to when you’re not busy doing things?


Basically a lot of 70’s stuff – it differs from member to member – but I would say everything from System of a Down to Queen is on someone’s agenda, so it’s a wide mixture. We listen to modern music, partly, but for most of the parts I would say it’s the rock music.



That comes through in the songwriting sometimes, which leads me into my next question: Could you take me step by step on how you guys go about writing a song from the initial idea to the final conclusion? Do you come up with a little tune in your head and then develop it from there, or…?


I think that’s one of the qualities of Blind Guardian, that we do not have a real concept in writing songs. There is no technique or something we’re using, so it’s pretty much freestyle. Nevertheless, we come up with an idea for one single part and try to build up that single part into the next part. Once you have accomplished your stuff you provide the other guys with the stuff and ask for their ideas for the particular piece of music. Once this is accomplished and everyone is satisfied, we go to the next step and try to add some more parts to it up to the point where we have the feeling that it’s either a complete song or a part of a song which demands choirs or chorus next, and then we start working on something that we consider to be the main chorus or the main subject. That’s what might take the longest during the songwriting, and once you have achieved that point you have a certain idea which direction musically and emotion-wise the song goes, and then I start considering what lyrical subject would fit best or which topic.



So when you write the song, do you come up with the full structure of the song first and then add parts to it, or…


Oh, it’s structure-by-structure, and then we have a section – say, six parts or so – and then we either go on or we say “Well, these six sections are pretty good,” but we have to add something at a certain point or substitute something. But at a certain point we keep what we have and we keep on working on the same song; it is a constant progress which sometimes takes about three or four months before we say it is completed. You would see a constant development, and for most of the songs the first ideas are always very obvious and very important for the song.





The lyrics over the two decades you’ve been writing Blind Guardian songs have really progressed a lot. Do you practice writing lyrics, or is it just by nature of writing lyrics for songs that you improve?


It’s because of practicing; it’s because of growing as a person and being interested in different things and trying to add that as well; and it’s also a question of the music you’re playing, and then of course the gain is pretty much based on your personality and depends on it. I think you start recognizing that there is a necessity for songs which have the same quality as the music: in the beginning, everything’s totally freestyle and you do not care for certain things so much and you except mistakes, and later on you do not accept mistakes as we do with music, with songwriting, with the production; it is more or less the same with the lyrics. You try to keep up the qualities that the other ones are providing you with.



What type of musical training do the band members have? Do you have any formal music composition training or anything like that?


No. Of course, one or the other at a certain point takes exercises. Frederick certainly has studied a lot of drum stuff, and included in it is, of course, at least some lessons about composing.



So nobody studied it in a university or anything like that?


The other ones? No.



The first two albums were pretty much speed metal albums, and from there it progressed more into bigger choirs and choruses and things like that. A TWIST IN THE MYTH is a bit more stripped down compared to A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Where do you see the Blind Guardian sound going from there?


Uh… I… I don’t know.



Too early to tell?


Yeah, far too early. It’s really a question of the progression of interests. I personally enjoyed the most writing a song like “Fly” and so did André, but this was done in a medium-period of songwriting. Afterwards, we went back towards a completely different direction, and I also enjoy that, but where we go in the future? I don’t know. I think it will be hopefully independent in terms of being artistically free.



Right. You don’t want to mimic one of your old albums or anything.


Yeah, so if we’re able to accomplish that everything’s fine and everything’s allowed to… to do a Blind Guardian “Reign in Blood” album, that’s cool; if we do “Operation: Mindcrime” that’s cool, you know, if it’s Blind Guardian. But to say how it sounds or if we go more into the choir direction or if it comes even more down to “let your hair down” music, I don’t know. Certainly the orchestral project goes in a more sophisticated direction, but it’s still very enjoyable and very melodious, but it does not have a lot of thrash or speed metal.



But it still maintains the Blind Guardian sound? When you hear it, you’ll know that it’s Blind Guardian?


I believe so. I think it pretty much goes in a further direction of NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE-EARTH; that’s how I look at it. Some of the stuff, it has some elements that remind me of “And Then There Was Silence” but nevertheless it’s even more this direction.





On the tour so far, in both Europe and the first show you played here, you’ve only done maybe two or three songs off the new album each –


No, that’s not true. In a night, yes; three or four at the highest, but we’ve played five so far. We played “Carry the Blessed Home”, “Skalds and Shadows”, “This Will Never End”, “Fly”, and “Another Stranger Me”. I think that’s five, right?



Yeah. [laughs] So you plan on bringing those out at the shows here in the U.S.?


Yeah, these five.



Are there any more that you plan on bringing out?


We are discussing “Turn the Page”, because we have done rehearsal on that one, but we are not that far with the choir arrangements, which is a difficult issue for that one because we have to minimize it but still get the same impression. Since there are some tricky things in there we do not know how to accomplish that. It’s also high-pitched, and once you play like five shows in a row it sounds worse and worse, so it varies. I think we’ll keep that one for Japan. We may do it during soundchecks in the U.S., but playing the five we’ve played in Europe. Then, once we’ve done Japan, I would like to discuss with the other guys adding a song like “Otherland” for the rest of the tour. We’ll be on the road until at least August 2007.



You have a lot of festivals lined up and all that, right?


Yeah, still in the planning phase, but it looks pretty impressive already.



Are there any songs you wish you could play live from the entire Blind Guardian catalogue?


Yeah, I have a feeling we will play them. Songs like “A Dark Passage” I think we have to play one day. I was recommending it, but to have that on the set list with “And Then There Was Silence” doesn’t make a lot of sense because they have a lot of things in common, so to play them both would be kind of too challenging and too demanding to the listener and to the audience so you either have to play one or the other. But at one point in our career I would like to have that in the set. We played “Thorn” years back, that would be one as well. “Noldor” we have never played; “Curse of Feanor” is very difficult; then some of the A NIGHT AT THE OPERA stuff certainly would be played one day.



I know you’ve been asked this before, but are there any plans on maybe re-releasing the Lucifer’s Heritage stuff or, you know, remastering the old albums or something like that – they’re good songs!


I would love to do a remastering or remixing and probably some additional recordings for A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. We could do that production-wise better, actually, make that a more enjoyable album for the ones who think it’s too complicated, but it’s not that complicated. That’s the advantage of A TWIST IN THE MYTH, you know, it contains as much information as A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, but we haven’t made the same mistakes so it gives you a different feeling. Some people, of course, they start complaining that A TWIST IN THE MYTH is too easy. It’s not – it’s bullshit.



People will complain no matter what.


Yeah, always.



They’ll say, you know, “Do another IMAGINATIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE!” and they expect you guys to go back and repeat yourselves.


Yeah, that’s true. That’s so true. I think A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, apart from that, I’m fine with all the albums, how they turned out. It’s so long ago; if we play a song like “Majesty” nowadays it does not have the same quality. Of course, we can play it better, but it’s not the same spirit in there, so doing that again as a kind of rerecording, I don’t say I can see that. Mixing-wise, yes, the first two albums and maybe TALES FROM THE TWILIGHT WORLD we could do again one day. We have all the tapes, and so we might. I think, basically, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA would be the first one I would like to redo some stuff.



I want to change tracks here and ask you a couple questions about Demons & Wizards, if you don’t mind.


Not at all.



I heard another interview you did where you said that you guys were eventually planning on touring in the United States and doing a DVD. You mentioned something about possibly recording a DVD in New York City or something like that.


Yeah, I think that was even a discussion before TOUCHED BY THE CRIMSON KING Jon and I had. We said “well, if we do the second album, that’s the first step in terms of touring,” but we were far too late for the album. Once we had accomplished it, it was pretty obvious that I would not be able to do anything, and therefore we skipped the plan and most possibly wait for the next chance – which will be the third album. But with that, the first goal will be the U.S.



So that’ll be a while from now since Jon is writing the rest of the Something Wicked trilogy, and you guys have the orchestral project coming out, so I take it’ll be a while from now.


Yeah, I was guessing 2010 or 2009, so it’s a pretty long time.



Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, since I don’t want to keep you for too long. I mean, I could go on for hours, but I know you guys want to rest before the show.


[laughs] Yes, thank you very much.




I would like to thank Loana dP Valencia of Nuclear Blast USA for helping set up the interview.



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