Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kurch pops down to RC Towers for a chat!July 12, 2010
I talked to Hansi Kurch of Blind Guardian in June 2010. This was a biggie, so I tried to keep my rampant fanboyisms to myself and maintain my ever present professional veneer. In keeping with that I found out about the interview at 7am, did a full day’s work, and then interviewed him an hour after I got home. Talk about not having time to put the kettle on!
“Hello!” says Hansi, sounding in good spirits. Which makes a change from how most people sound after a night at the Travel Lodge, doing promotion. “We ended the album some weeks ago, so we try to set up something so we can talk to people. Luckily this time, we’ve been able to come to London for the day”. At the time, I’d not yet heard the album I was supposed to be quizzing our fine German friend about, which he thought was quite amusing.
However, having heard the lead single Voice In The Dark, it seems like as good a starting point as any to wrangle out details of the new album. “Well, musically we’ve pretty much followed the traditions of Blind Guardian, and somehow tried to maintain an album which delivers the qualities that we’ve achieved and improved on over the last 25 years. So, there’s a little bit of our very early era, let’s say from the Follow the Blind stuff. There’s also a lot of the orchestral approach that we’ve worked with during the last 10 years. There’s also a good amount of 90′s orientated stuff, which means…very bombastic Celtic elements in there as well. It’s a little bit of everything and it more or less came up naturally, we’d not really thought about doing something like that. We started writing right after finishing touring for A Twist In The Myth. We had a pretty good flow, even though it took us another 18 months to complete song writing from the end of 2007.”
As we all know, Blind Guardian are a tad nerdy. Andre Olbrich plays World of Warcraft and it’s rumoured that Hansi has the entirety of The Silmarillion tattooed on his body. Nightfall in Middle Earth has a very obvious Tolkien slant to it, but At The Edge of Time has a few different literary influences: “Lyrically, since the music seemed to speak a certain…narrating, mythological, fantasy inspired language…this was what I was referring to in terms of lyrics as well. I went back and dipped back into some of my favourite fantasy literature, for example Michael Moorcock and Robert Jordan, and came up with stuff relating to their stories. It’s very inspiring, I think. The title, At The Edge of Time, came in at the very last moment. It’s related to the lyrics, of course. Time is a very constant issue in most of the lyrics, so it was natural for us to involve that in the album title, as well [the phrase] At The Edge of Time is open to interpretation. We’re always scratching the edge of time, whenever things try and change, one can talk about the edge of time. It not naturally meant to be the end of the world, but…something right before a new beginning. In our case, it’s the new album, new touring. The for the world…it’s just new situations”.
Those Blind Guardian bods amongst us will recognise the album’s title is an echo of a line from And The Story Ends,the final track on Blind Guardian’s 1995 album, Imaginations From The Other Side. “When I offered that title to the other guys, Marcus was about to suggest that title, or something very close. We immediately agreed, but we’d had a big discussion prior to that. It was Frederike, strangely enough, who pointed that out that these were the lines fromAnd The Story End. I really did not recognise it, and even then I had to go back and recheck…’Am I singing it?’ and performing the song in my mind. Then I found that line and thought that was perfect because it’s the line used by Michael Moorcock in some of his stories relating to Elric of Melnibone. That was more in my mind than in And The Story Ends, but since there is such a connection, it’s even more suitable”.
Sacred was made for an RPG called Sacred 2. Unfortunately, none of us have been able to get a legitimate copy of it as a song in it’s own right. Until now. Hansi tells me about the opening track on the album, Sacred Worlds. “The core song is pretty much the same, but we extended it with two additional parts. The orchestration has evolved, but other than, the introduction is about two minutes long and the outro is about ninety seconds of an opera sequence. It’s pure orchestration, so it turns into more of a soundtrack.”
So, onto the tour. We get one date in the UK in September. Only London, says Hansi. “All in all, it will take more than 14 months. We start in Europe for six weeks, in the Netherlands and finish the first leg in November. We’ll take a break and go to North America, from Mid-November. That’ll be to the end of the year. Then we’ll be onto Japan, then back to Europe, especially the countries we’ve not been to at that point. Then it will be the summer festivals, after that probably South America, back to North America and hopefully some Australian gigs as well. That’ll take to about October 2011.”
Making mention of some of the fine metal legions down under, it appears it’s not just the Australians who like Australia. “During our last tour, the off days in Melbourne were quite amusing. I’d love to go there again, have a great day in the Hinterlands. We went to two or three wineries, a cheese factories and then a few bars and pubs. It was a real Australian day, and enjoyed it more than the rest of the tour, there was so much to see. The people there, they provided us with two great shows, and we’d love to go back and do some more. The promoter, he was actually trying to get us over for a New Year’s show but we couldn’t do it because of our schedule, the composing and producing.” Being on the road for over a year is tough work, especially as all of Blind Guardian now have little bards of their own. “It’s difficult for us, but for them it’s far more difficult. They feel it more often, things are so stressful when you’re on the road, you really just rush through and you wonder where four or six weeks has gone. It’s different for all our families, and we all suffer through it. Luckily, technology has made some great progressions like Skype, so we can talk on the phone and see each other on screen. My son, he’s eight years old now, this will be the first tour he’s experienced. He’s sad already, and I’ve only been gone two or three weeks”.
The most important question of all, does Hansi’s son approve of Blind Guardian? “He listens to it, but he’s more into rock music. His favourite band at the moment is Kiss, but I have no idea why! We’re not his favourite band, but it’s too early for him probably. Give him another three years to make a judgement. He prefers me being Daddy than the vocalist of a metal band!”
Now, onto the other stuff. There’s been a rumour about the orchestral Lord of the Rings project that Hansi and Andre Olbrich have been working on. “There’s a bit of truth. We started that about twelve years ago. We keep working when we have the time, somewhere between songwriting on touring. What’s happened so far? We have ten songs. Listen to Sacred Worlds and Wheel of Time, but ignore the band arrangement in it. We’ve recorded three songs with the orchestra so far. We’re doing three songs with an orchestra in August, and then find time in between to do final orchestration and the vocal performances. We’d love to do something connected to Tolkein’s work, this music is predestined to be transferred to higher stages, and we need a really cool storyboard and storyline and make it fit into ninety minutes.”
Despite being insanely busy, we were told by Jon Schaffer that there could be a third Demons & Wizards album later this year. Y’know, because Demons & Wizards are awesome. “I’ve been too busy. We were supposed to do some songwriting in December, but had to kick that to work on production. It’ll be at least the end of 2011 before we have time to work on that stuff. I’d be happy to have an album out at the end of 2012, beginning of 2013.”
With that, I said good bye to Hansi. “It’s been fun! You check out the album, I think you’ll like it. I have a good feeling for you about it”. Is it any good? well, check out my review here: http://twaddlefish.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/blind-guardian-at-the-edge-of-time/. With that, I left the vocalist of Blind Guardian to one of the sunnier evenings we’ve had this year, along with shitty tea and a lumpy pillow from one of Britain’s finest roadside doss houses. I’m down in London in September, so I’ll be checking out Blind Guardian in action. They’ll be good. My invisible hobbit says so.