Heart of Steel: Interviews


Marcus Siepen of Blind Guardian
Interviewed by Waspman

I recently had a chance to sit down for a brief chat with Marcus Siepen just before Blind Guardian slayed everything in sight at their tour stop in Toronto. As it turns out, Blind Guardian are not simply content to put out killer albums and go out on successful tours. Read on to hear about what they’ve got planned for 2003, including a festival, side projects, a DVD, and more.

Hi Marcus! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I know you guys are busy getting ready for the show. It’s pretty bad weather out there - I’m glad you guys made it!

Me too! The problem was, our driver got stuck in the snowstorm somewhere. The bus was supposed to arrive yesterday at noon, and he arrived this morning at 9:30. (laughs)



(laughs) It’s a long drive from Montreal to here.





So how has it been? This is your first tour of North America. How’s it been going? How has the response been?

So far it’s been really impressive. We had 1,500 fans in Atlanta kicking ass, and Montreal was one of the best shows on the tour, something between 1,800 and 2,000 fans, and they were all totally crazy. You have a feeling like this in the shows that you only usually get Brazil and Spain! It was crazy - they nearly crushed the venue! (laughs)



(laughs) Well, you’ve got about the same amount of people going crazy for you guys here tonight, so it should be more of the same!

So far we are really impressed and now, of course, we think that it was a mistake not to come before! (laughs) We waited too long!



The album A NIGHT AT THE OPERA did really well in Europe and Japan. How was the response over here?

It did pretty good. I think we’ve already achieved a nice underground status, so that helped us. Now we are released everywhere in the world. We have a very loyal fanbase everywhere. It makes it easy to play everywhere, and that’s all we want. In the States we were released with NIGHTFALL the first time, so it’s only our second album stateside.



You mentioned that you just played Atlanta, which was the ProgPower festival. How was that?

It was great! Somehow it felt like German overkill! (laughs) We knew all the bands there. It was really nice to play with them there, and the audience was amazing.



So it’s safe to say that you’d do it again?

Oh yeah! I mean, whenever we have a chance to come back to the States and Canada, we will be there for sure.



You mentioned German overkill on the ProgPower show. Were there any North American bands that you caught for the first time that you thought were impressive?

Um, no. I only saw Edguy. There were lots of things to do and interviews etc., so we really didn’t get a chance to see other bands.



I recently read an interview that Metal-Rules did with Tobias from Edguy and he mentioned that the German metal scene was very closely-knit. Is that true from your perspective?

It is, but we are a little bit out of it. Maybe because we are not from those big towns like Hamburg and Frankfurt.



Speaking of festivals, what can you tell me of the Blind Guardian festival planned for next June?

The festival’s main focus will be on the fans, and will really present something special to them, which is not possible on a regular tour. We thought, because we have good conversations with our fans over the ‘Net, and they always ask us to play certain songs, we are disappointed that we can never do it. So we said “OK, maybe it’s a good idea to play 2 days in a row, and present them 4 hours of different songs”. That was the main idea, and then we built this festival and we have friends in lots of bands like Rage, and we asked them if they wanted to play. Basically, one thing led to another and we put together the festival. We’re trying to do something special around the festival too, because we have the Wacken festival, as you know. Lots of fans complained about things, like toilets and shitty food, so we thought we might be able to do something more fan-oriented at which you have things like meetings and stuff. We’re working on this, and it’s going to be great.



Wow, that sounds like it’s going to be fantastic! I wish I could go to that, but I think money might get in the way of traveling all the way over there. Anyway, who can take the credit for coming up with this idea?

It was Hansi’s idea.



Cool. Speaking of live shows, everybody knows that you guys are good friends with the Iced Earth guys. Is there any chance that you’ll tour with them again in the future, maybe in the States?

Maybe one day. It depends on the time schedule of the bands, that’s the biggest problem. We were talking about touring the States together for a long time. Now, it was best to go as is for both bands.



As for touring, we know that Hansi is working on the new Demons & Wizards with Jon; do any of you guys have any side projects that you want to work on during that time?

Yeah. I’m working on a side project, but it’s also with Hansi. It’s more of a musical, orchestral theme. We’ve been working on it for years. (laughs) I’m hoping we come to a final production soon.



Did you say that it’s kind of like a musical?

Yeah, it’s kind of musical, and it’s not a heavy production. It is completely orchestral-based.



That sounds like it will be cool. On this tour you have Oliver (bass) and Michael (keyboards) as touring members. Is there any thoughts of them becoming full-time band members?

No. We have been in this lineup now for almost 17 years, and there’s quite a balance there. That’s the reason why we stay together. To bring somebody else into the band could break the whole thing. They are fine in their positions, and they don’t complain about anything. They get the same things on tour that we do, so we don’t discriminate there. We are the main band, and the main decisions will only be the four of us.



To switch gears for a minute, last night was your first show ever in Canada, but have you ever had a chance to check out any Canadian bands over the years? Have there been any that have impressed you?

I’ve only had contact with some friends who play in underground bands. I’ve heard some things there but not too much.



I was going to ask if how you thought the Canadian metal scene compares to the German scene, but I would guess that the German scene is stronger.

I can’t say really. I don’t think that the German scene is strong.




Yeah, I think that it’s pretty weak. The German scene sticks too much in the 80s. I mean, in the 80s we had a real strong metal scene, there were lots of bands that had something to say. In the last few years though, only one, two, maybe three highlights. Besides Edguy who came up, most of the bands have been around for 20 years and most of them still play the same music.



Back to Blind Guardian, there’s been talk of a live album. Can you tell me anything about that?

Yes, we have recorded about 30 shows so far from this tour, and we’ll mix a double live album in January or February. The release will be in April or May I think.



Awesome. Will it be one full show, or will you mix and match the songs?

We’ll take the best from each country, because we’ve recorded almost everywhere we’ve played and we’ve got some really great takes already. Also, because we change the setlist every night, you’ll find something from each album. Great takes!



It must be somewhat difficult to change the setlist every night.

Well we rehearsed three hours of material and because we mainly play around 100 minutes, we can change.



So you’ve got that base of material that you can just swap it in whenever you feel like it.

Yeah, exactly. It’s easy to change things.



How about the talk of a DVD? What’s going on there?

Yeah, we’ve already filmed one show in Stuttgart. We’ll release a DVD next year, but much later because the focus will be the Blind Guardian festival. We will film both days with a good setup, lots of cameras. Will have lots of possibilities like going in the risers which is not possible if you have lots of bands playing, because you can’t put all of the cables in. Now, it’s our festival and it’s easy to shoot. I’ve also collected home material on video camera since 1992, so there’s lots of scenes from backstage and studio. It will be a pretty interesting DVD I think, with lots of bonus material. The plan is to release it in winter 2003.



That sounds awesome! I’ll be looking forward to that. After you had a lot of success with NIGHTFALL, have you ever considered going back to a full concept album, not necessarily around Tolkien?

Yes. That’s always a choice. We didn’t do it this time because we didn’t want to look like we were copying ourselves. We wanted to do something different. Sure, if we find an interesting theme, we’ll do it.



That leads into another question I had, which is aside from the obvious Tolkien influenced songs, a lot of your lyrics are wide ranging in terms of topics, what kind of things mainly influence the band, or Hansi when he writes lyrics?

It depends on the music, of course. The music is there first, and then Hansi thinks of a theme that could fit to the feeling that the music has. What the influence is, I can’t say for Hansi, but I think that it’s pretty much the same as mine, which is mostly out of daily life. How you fell, what your mood is, how you’re influenced by your surroundings and what’s going on in the world. You take this feeling, and the feeling of the music, and choose a topic. Then of course, the books that [Hansi]‘s reading.



One more question about Tolkien. There was a rumor back before the Fellowship of the Ring movie came out, that Blind Guardian was thinking of submitting some music for the score, is there any truth to that?

Yes, we had in mind that we could offer this side project that we’re doing, because it’s completely orchestral. The bad thing was that most people thought that we’d just offer regular metal songs that maybe wouldn’t fit very well, besides a ballad like “A Past and Future Secret” or something. This material is totally different from Blind Guardian. It’s got some very nice melodies like in our medieval songs, and I think that it would have fit perfectly. In the end we didn’t have time to produce a nice demo. We had the content already, but that was when Hansi was having the problems with his ear, so we didn’t have a chance to get something put together in time for the movie.



What did you think of the movie, by the way?

I liked it. I thought it was really good for what they were trying to do.



Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers, anything you’d like to let us know about?

Just to keep coming out to the shows, because we’re having a great time, and love playing for everyone. Keep an eye out, because 2003 is going to be a busy Blind Guardian year!



Cool! Thanks, Marcus, for taking the time for this interview!


Band Website:  www.blind-guardian.com