This interview was originally done at Metal Camp (Slovenia) in 2011, but it was never published before. The interview is quite a long one and contains various questions that cover different periods of Blind Guardian’s discography. Also, I’ve discussed with Hansi Kursch various topics based on literature, inspirations, his most beloved writers (Tolkien, Stiven King, Michael Moorcock), characters in Guardian’s songs (Feanor, Elric and alike) and epic fantasy genre. I guess that the most of Guardian’s devoted fans and followers would find many interesting details within the chat.
What do you think, if Tolkien was alive, would he like the music of Blind Guardian?
As far as I know, he’s been a very strict person, totally dedicated to religious issues and classical music as well. So, I’m not exactly sure if he would be able to catch the spirit of Blind Guardian. But still, when we are dealing with Tolkien topics, it gets very close to what he has written, and I think we have a pretty good way in transferring his music for another generation and for another people.
And how about Michael Moorcock for example?
I think he’s a more modern guy so, he probably would dig the stuff we’re doing. Same could be said for Steven King, even he’s probably more into freaky 70’s stuff. But, all in all, I think they would agree in what we’re doing and how we transfer their stuff.
Let’s focus on music of Blind Guardian now. Could you tell us something more about your upcoming, not album but project, orchestral project. Could you unveil us some titles and information behind it?
There are no titles. It has that Tolkinish attitude in music, it’s very soundtrakish, it’s very gigantic and it’s progressing, and that’s a great thing. We have recorded six songs, orchestral so far, and I did preproduction for another four songs. That’s all, in terms of lyrics, individual freestyle stuff, already driven into a fantasy direction, very independent.
Is the lyrical background going to be more Tolkien-wise?
It will be definitely fantasy-wise and will definitely carry the Tolkien spirit.
And how about the musicians? If I’m not wrong, only you and Andre are playing?
Well, at the very end, there are so many options with this project. In first case it will be me and the orchestra performing. Then second step will probably be different vocalists performing with the orchestra. At the very end the idea is to create something which would also work together as a chemistry between the band and the orchestra, and the other guys will all come in more or less. Except this first step is quite different from what we usually do. It’s the exact opposite of what we did on Sacred Worlds for example, where we first had the band and then involved the orchestra. This time is the other way around. We have the orchestra and the vocals, and then, when this is completely settled, we will work on the band arrangements as well, and then go back to the orchestra, so there is a kind of interaction.
If I’m not wrong, wheel of time was supposed to be on this album, but then you’ve turned the idea and added this song to At The Edge Of Time?
Wheel of time was very exotic at it’s own way, as you’ve said, considered to be a sort of orchestral song, but it didn’t really catch the spirit of our music. It was me who suggested to create a typical Blind Guardian song out of it. Then we started working with the band supported by the orchestra. Development of this particular song is quite different from any of the other songs, but you’re right, it was considered to be an orchestra song, then we said it’s not blah, blah, blah…
But, you know, what I’m really reffering to is more like we worked on the Sacred Worlds because this was pure heavy song at the begining, and then we involved the orchestra very strongly.
It seems that the most popular songs from At The Edge Of Time are Sacred Worlds and Wheel Of Time, among other song of course. But it seems that people really like this orchestral approach when it comes to Blind Guardian.
I’m not too supprised about that because, you do have a certain feeling whenever you do arrangements and composing, especially when you start a production, and you feel what could attract people. It’s a good indicator for an orchestral album and, more or less, it’s going in that direction even stronger. So, I would say with, whatever we have done in the past, we still have the ability to catch little of the actual taste of people for Blind Guardian, and what they would hope us to do.
There was also an album The Forgotten Tales, more compilation like but, there were a few acoustic versions and an orchestral version of Theatre Of Pain as well, and it was a really interesting album. About this album, were you influenced by the other bands who were releasing acoustic albums at the time, like Nirvana and Alice In Chains? And do you have a plan to release one more album like The Forgotten Tales one day?
I believe we will do something like The Forgotten Tales again in the future, but more in an acoustic version, and probably with cover versions again, of regular songs or, you know, our favourite metal songs which we will transpose into a Blind Guardian direction. That’s rather opened at the moment because, it comes in from time to time, and we all agreed it that it might be a great idea, but then we would, you know, produce a completely new album with the things we havent done before.
When we did The Forgotten Tales, it was more because of our record company who recommended that. Mr Sandman was a mainstream single, and we did that at the Imaginations From The Other Side, we presented Mr Sandman to them. They were so impressed by the song they really believed that, with that song we could probably really get into the deep mainstream and become highly popular. And then we created the video but, they’ve said if we do that seven months after Imaginations we need another album with it, and since we had a few ideas we said, let’s do a hybrid album.
It was a combination, playing along with ideas and the request of the record company. We just refused the idea to go out with „the best of“ album, because Mr Sandman didn’t belong there at the time, and still doesn’t belong there. But then everything failed because the record company was not able to establish the song so, things went quite different. But, all in all, I must say, The Forgotten Tales is a nice album. If we had done everything new, it would be a great album, but since we have used a few songs that have been used before, it lost a little of the attraction.
We have the ability to create cover versions and deliver something with it. However we do it, whether it’s strictly related to what the original idea has been or we switch it around completely, it doesn’t matter, we still have the ability to do something with the songs, and therefore I wouldn’t mind having cover versions on it as well.
So far, you have done many covers from other bands. Which one do you like the most? For example, I like the Judas Priest cover of Beyond the Realms of Death. How about you?
I still think Don’t Break the Circle was a great cover version because we didn’t have much time and we couldn’t spend it on any thoughts, we were forced to just go into studio and do it. I also think Spred Your Wings is a strong cover version and maybe Don’t Talk To Strangers. That would be the first three coming into my mind. The Wizard was really good too.
Well, some bands are already doing it, like Therion etc. They choose one album, legendary album or a cult from them and then perform. So, is there a possible way for Blind Guardian one day to choose an album, for example Imaginations From The Other Side, to make a shorter tour and perform the entire album?
I really do not like the idea. It could be an option for the Nightfall In Middle-Earth if we did the orchestral album and do something for the 25th anniversary of the band, and probably to have guest musicians and a choir. But apart from the special occasions I don’t see that. I like the way how we present our sets and how we choose the songs. I’m not too much into doing dedication tours just to come around third or fourth time, we just come by one time and that’s it.
Ok, let’s now turn lyricwise, since you write all the lyrics for Blind Guardian. I noticed, especially in the first years of Blind Guardian that you were very Michael Moorcock inspired, besides of Tolkien of course. So why were you so much about Moorcock, because I like the Eternal Saga as well.
There are two main reasons, first, the main idea of the Eternal Champion, the things repeating themselves again and again, and the Moorcock’s idea of time issues, how he creates such intense momentums due to the way he deals with the time issue in addition to the destiny approach that he has. So, these were the main two reasons for me to stick to that stuff. And his approach to story, the delivery of the story from his side is far more visual and far more to the point from Tolkien for example. Tolkien is very intense and deep, you know, and it demands a lot of, not research, but a lot of attention by the reader, and the listener. And Moorcock is the other way, more visual I would say. I like that a lot.
I noticed that your lyrics are dealing with some kind of fatality, if you get what I mean. We have already talked about this topic, but now I want to go even deeper. I think this is the main difference from Blind Guardian to any other band, especially when it comes to German bands which everyone label as happy, but Blind Guardian is far more grimmer.
Yes grimmer, but I think we still hold this little tiny peace of hope, whatever we’re doing. We describe situations as they are, due to fantasy lyrics I would say. If you go back to A Night at the Opera album, which is still different to what we’re usually doing, there are many links to reality and what is happening right now, because, you know, it’s a really political album. Many people don’t see it, they only see: „Oh, it’s greek mythology“, but there’s always a message contained in the stories from 2000 years ago. You can feel that, not too many things have changed. Again we go to the Moorcock subject back as well, things seems to be repeating, and it seems to be difficult to get out of the circle. And I make that, inicial for Blind Guardian, it’s how I relate on things. I believe that you don’t have to give up, you have to try your best, but sometimes, situations are very fixed, and it’s very difficult to get out of it, and it’s really difficult to realise that they are fixed. Many things, which are going on at the moment, they seem to be really fixed and if we don’t really take care we will lose many aspects of democracy in the next years, which no one seems to recognize because everyone lives the life that just goes on. History repeats itself.
When it comes to previous Blind Guardian albums you’re more into old-fashioned writers. But when it comes to the new album, At The Edge Of Time, you are now exploring some other writers as well.
Well, you’re correct. I was dealing with these topics for years, always waiting for the right moment where the music comes in, which deserves and demands such storytelling. The Milton’s stuff is something which came in by coincedence, effected by some research but also by things which have been done on A Night at the Opera album, going back to The Age of False Innocence. Many different ways delivered me to John Milton, and this has a very actual aspect as well so, it’s all connected.
Could I say you were more into old-fashioned writers than you were into newer ones?
Yeah, but it’s always the question of the perspective. And the age. If something really attracts me, I read some stuff by the new autors, even non-fictional, but not non-fantasy writers, and they inspired me a lot with the message they are delivering. But again, it does not fit into Blind Guardian so, I keep them aside and probably will turn back to those issues later on, but at the moment I still feel the music defines what stories I can use and in many ways there is that ancient aspect in Blind Guardian music, so I prefer the old authors more often than new authors.
If you could draw a parallel link to yourself and some characters from the books who would it be? Maybe Elric or Feanor?
I usually don’t do that, you know. What I do is trying to put myself into all of these characters, almost like an actor. I start writing songs or doing the lyrics to come up with the combination of the protagonists in the songs and myself. In many cases, there are particular songs where the perspective changes so quickly and you don’t even know who’s talking. Feanor is slightly human, but still to good to be a human. But these second role characters, they are the ones which attract me. There’s a lot of them you know. Don’t necessary have to be servants, but Moorcock servants for example, they attract me more than the Tolkien servants do, because the Tolkien servants, they are too loyal, and Moorcock’s, they are different. They play their part, they do not interact too much, they don’t interupt. They’re there, trying to be supportive, but just to certain extent, they don’t go any further.
- Answers by Hansi Kursch, 2011
- Interview by Marko Miranović
- Typed by Darko Panić