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Blind Guardian: Let your mind wander

Bad weather does not affect Hansi Kürsch, singer, front man and ex-bass player of legendary German Metal band Blind Guardian from Krefeld. He is quite talkative and answers questions about the past, the present and the future. And even slight problems with the telephone connection cannot slow him down!

Hansi, you have been on the road for almost a year, and you will be continuing that. How was it so far?
This tour is a lot of fun and even more successful than the “A night at the Opera”-tour, our biggest success up to now. We have visited even more countries now and we can say that we are able to play anywhere in the world, and only the few real big bands like Iron Maiden can say that. On this tour we will even play in Africa for the first time. And also our new drummer Frederik fits in well, also in the band, he is even more silent than we are. We are not that introverted but also not extroverted, and Frederik is very down to earth, without star attitudes or something. Basically the tour is very demanding, although the second block in North America was not as bad as expected.

”Another Strange Me” is your new single that just came out. Why now after having the album out for about nine months?
Basically this single should have been out by February, but somehow it did not happen. But it is not that bad because this single is now the teaser for the summer festivals and so we are again present for the fans. And we planned to have another song that appears in the film “In the Name of the King” or so. But as this did not work out we decided to have “Another Stranger Me”.

Last time you said that you did not feel like putting money into a video. So why now?
For two reasons. First our old label Virgin did not see any sense in making a video that would not be played anywhere. And it is the case that the artist has to cover half of the costs for a video. After seeing the result of “Mirror, Mirror” back then where nothing of the original idea was left I decided not to consider that any longer. The second reason was Nuclear Blast´s different strategy. They see a commercial purpose in a video and try to place it on TV. And they work with people who do a better job for less money. A video is always nice for the enhanced part on a CD. Back then we did the “Another Stranger Me” video to promote the album, and now with this single it seems like a good decision.

How do you see your last two albums “A Night at the Opera” and “A Twist in the Myth” now from a distance?
I noticed that we have two kinds of fans. One part would prefer us making albums in “Somewhere Far Beyond” and “Imaginations” style. The others, the major part, would prefer Guardian to develop. ANATO had first class songs but was a bit over-produced. We wanted a bit too much, title and cover caused some people to approach the album with some reservations. When Thomen dropped out, the album was discussed again, some finally started to deal with the songs and discovered that they are quite good. As we had some conflicts with Thomen even during the songwriting process, ANATO was a new beginning for us, it widened our horizon and opened more doors for the future. One thing was clear:We did not want to copy ourselves. Our new album had an easier start and a certain negative touch, because many thought that it must sound like ANATO without even listening to it. Our next CD will again exceed limits.

Looking at your live setlist one will notice that only a few songs are from those albums. And it is strange that you play “Harvest Of Sorrow” regularly without having this song on any album.
Fact is that we NEVER played more than three songs of a new album. Reasons are that those are not so well-known among fans and that there is not enough time for preparations. New songs have to be rearranged and so on. On tour we played five new songs (This will never end, Fly, Another stranger Me, Skalds and Shadows, Carry the Blessed Home) and from ANATO we´ve always played “Punishment Divine” and the notably extended “And then there was Silence”, so also the playing time is OK. This song is also one of the most popular among our fans. “Harvest Of Sorrow” we have hardly played on this tour.

But isn´t there a certain danger to bore older fans because they always here the same songs?
We also do not play more than two or three songs from older CDs like “Tales” or “Somewhere”. If you look for our setlists on the internet you will find that we have a pool of about 30 songs that are always changed. And I really want to find out what happens if we drop songs like “The Bard´s Song”, “Nightfall” or “Mirror, Mirror” and play new songs instead.

What is for you the sense of music?
When I write music it is the expression of my soul. Our concerts are also always a communication with the audience, and within the band. And it is an emotional exchange. When I listen to music I want to let my mind wander, then I am a music consumer in first place. Naturally, due to my profession and my experience, I begin to analyse the music. But this is secondary, and I cannot say when it happens. It might take a few months or even two years.

Time-travelling into your back catalogue you have to notice some changes. Earlier songs were simple, based on riffs and had long instrumental parts. Today it is much more complex. Similarily the lyrics, much easier back then, the focus was ear candy and sing along-quality. Today the lyrics are more complex, and there is hardly anything without vocals. What is today your attitude, your challenge, when you write lyrics?
With my lyrics I want to mirror the musical expression, music and lyrics should be a symbiosis. Thematically there are big things today, our lyrics gained another character and are quite philosophical. As for your analysis, I think you are basically correct. However, we still do the song writing the same way. We try to paint a musical picture. What changed is the precision and the melodies. We are no longer into heavy groovy riffing or aggressive rattling, this is what Nu Metal bands overdo today. We rather focus on something we can do, which is compose melodies. And adding an orchestra the material naturally evolved into a certain direction.

Looking at single bonus tracks I noticed that new tracks are hardly used, but cover or alternative versions of other songs. So is there so much left over of Guardian productions?
We always have material left over after a production. Our productions take so much time so we focus on songs for the album and on those that will surely used for B sides. Also a coverversion takes less time.

Characterize a typical Blind Guardian fan!
The typical BG fan is open for new stuff, but you cannot use any age category. I noticed that we have so many more young fans than I thought. And they usually don´t read Metal magazines. You could say that in our audience you can find everyone, kiddies and family fathers.

You said some years ago about Metal, that you wished it would develop and not stagnate. How do you see the situation now?
For a long time it looked worse than today. In the 90s it seemed that more CDs are released in shorter time, and bands often just copied themselves or from Maiden or Priest. Today everything seems to develop and bands like Threat Signal gave Metal a new direction.

Your former drummer Thomen Stauch released the debut of his new band Savage Circus recently, “Dreamland Manor”. What do you think about it?
I think it is really good, yet there are worlds between this one and new Guardian material. But everyone can decide for himself. I think that most of it would not be of use for us even in the 90s.

You have been working with many musicians in your career, e. g. Therion, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) and Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth). Who did impress you most?
There are a lot. First Viktor Smolsky of Rage has to be named, I worked with him for the 20 years Nuclear Blast CD. Kai Hansen is another icon. And with Jon Schaffer I developed respect and a friendship through our cooperation. You can always learn a lot from other musicians. It is also amazing how the guys from Edguy have developed.

What would Hansi Kürsch do if he had not made it back then?
I really don´t know. We have really worked hard on our success. We had a vision and worked towards it, and if that had not worked out I might have looked for something else that promised success.

Now a more personal question: How about sports?
A good topic, haha. Well, in the first 20 years of my life I did a lot of sports, but with Guardian it ebbed out. Today I have problems with my intervertebral discs, my double chin and my big belly. But I still enjoy running, and I would like to swim but my ears don´t allow that. And I like to watch soccer. And remember that you always lose some pounds on tour.

Back to the future. Where do you see yourself and Blind Guardian in ten years?
We will still be here, definitely. If we will still be successful is another question. This is difficult to say for me now, and also if we will still be touring. We will definitely have some projects and some surprises.

What is up in the near future?
This year it is the 20 year anniversary of the “Battalions of Fear” release, for many the beginning of BG although we started two years earlier. We will release a series of remasters, and we want to remix our first two albums. For our 25 year anniversary there should be another big thing, we consider organising a festival. Originally we planned that for every year or as round up of every tour. But this is too big. Otherwise we could add a song for a computer game that suits us. I cannot say more than both sides will profit from the co-production. If that should work out we would also release an EP.

I also sang for a track on the Nuclear Blast CD which was composed by Victor Smolski for his band. It is a typical Metal song. And don´t forget, we are working also on an orchestra album, Andre (Guardian-guitarist, the author) and me were working on it parallel to the last album. So we have 90 of that one ready. It is just the question if it will be a Guardian release, it depends if the others will be involved in it. I would prefer that because that would add another sound dimension. Lyrically I thought about Tolkien but the movie hype points against it. When this album will be out is not quite clear. Perhaps we release a regular album first.

Hansi, thank you for the interview! All the best for the future and see you at summer festivals!
Yes, we will definitely meet there!

Author: Timo Päßler, transl. K. Weber, photos: Blind Guardian
Date: 2007-05-19

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