The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

Shane interviews BLIND GUARDIAN’s Hansi Kürsch

 

I spoke to Hansi Kürsch, singer and bassist for german progressive power metal band blind guardian, late last year about their cover version of john farnham's iconic 'the voice', blind guardian's work schedule and hansi's dream festival lineup...

 

 

SP: Hey Hansi this is Shane from The Rockpit, how are you mate?


H: Hi Shane I’m fine how are you?


SP: Very well, mate, very well


H: Ah that’s great to hear


SP: Where are you calling from today?


H: I’m calling from Krefeld, my home town and I’m actually sitting in my old kitchen, and uh, having some breakfast later on


SP: Nice


H: Right at the moment I’m doing interviews (laughs)


SP: Yeah, well I’m sure that keeps you busy at the moment


H: Yeah it does, it does, especially now that Australia has come in, because usually I am to have some leisure time, some time to do my own stuff in the morning, you know to prepare all the stuff for the upcoming tour


SP: Sure


H: And now, I was supposed to do even interviews in the morning because I do Europe in the afternoon and South America later on in the evening


SP: Yeah, it’s always fun trying to balance the different time zones I guess


H: Yeah but it’s pretty cool because, still you can accomplish a lot, you know, during one day, and uh, you get things out of the way


SP: Gives you an excuse to get up nice and early and start early, eh?


H: Yeah and I don’t have any problems because my son needs to go to school and I wake him up, and I usually, you know, start working on songs around eight o’clock, nine o’clock in the morning anyway


SP: Yeah cool


H: It’s no problem. It gets more annoying for me when I have to do interviews after nine o’clock in the evening, but even that is okay, because, once we’re on the road, I’ll be on stage around uh, ten o’clock - this can be seen as the preparation for that


SP: (laughs) Yeah, excellent, it’s all part of the job isn’t it?


H: It totally is, yeah and I enjoy doing it, it’s good to talk to people, and especially when it comes to making albums, it’s you know, once in like four years, like six to eight weeks and uh, then it just goes by and uh, and the next thing comes, so, it’s a very comfortable situation we’re in


SP: Hmm. So is it just purely sort of a part time project for you now?


H: No, um we do have a four years period for each album. So we do an album, then we are on the road for um, almost eighteen months and of course we do interviews and everything in between, but it’s not the massive demands we do have once an album comes out, and uh, after this eighteen months we basically do another eighteen months of song writing and production, and that leads us to the last year, which is basically is reserved for production and promotional stuff and, uh, you know... get things started for the next tour, so, that is what we basically do within four years and uh, everything is pretty much focused on Blind Guardian. We of course have some, um, minor projects in between. I for example do a band with my friend uh, John Shafer, which is called Demons & Wizards… But apart from that, you know the whole focus is Blind Guardian and we do not do any, sort of, extra jobs or you know


SP: Sure


H: We do not need any sort of, uh, additional challenges to cope with


SP: It’s a very different industry nowadays isn’t it, if you look back twenty or thirty years ago bands like Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Saxon would do one album every single year and a tour


H: Yeah that’s very true, it has changed, but the quality in music and the demand the listener has, has increased drastically and even though that may sound a little harsh, but an album like, you know, the first Iron Maiden album, even though they do still have very strong potential, in the way they have been done, they would not make it nowadays. And uh, there is one more thing which makes it very complicated, uh, the older you get, and the mature you get, the more time you need to come up with something significant, different, and that also causes, you know, longer periods in between two albums


SP: I absolutely agree with that, but it’s also the extra baggage, for want of a better word, in your life isn’t it? I mean you mentioned you have a son and we have relationships and financial responsibilities and that sort of thing


H: Yeah that might be a part, you know, of the whole thing but that won’t hurt the general ability to write the songs in a short amount of time. It’s really more the way of thinking and being picky, because, you know I, as a professional musician, consider music and song writing as my main job, so there is nothing else, I don’t go to a bank to do my job or to a factory and you know have to work eight hours a day, no I go to the studio each and every day and you know work on new materials for six to eight hours


SP: Yeah, cool


H: It’s more the innovative and invention part which is very time consuming and uh, very loved on first glimpse and fairly small when you go back after a day of work on a song for example. And you skip so many things. It’s not like you know, we’ve done the late eighties when, you know, we did a song, and more or less, you know, when the song was done, the song was done. Nowadays you do have a target and you start fixing things and reconsidering things and then, all of a sudden you say, ‘Oh well this part is not good enough so I’ll skip it and start with a new one’, and then you need to find something to continue, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, which at the same time, you have to invent the single pieces


SP: Yeah.


H: And this is, simply time consuming, and, uh, the family suffers none the less, (laughs) because of, they have to live with your addiction and, you know, that’s music, music is... you know? And you cannot say ‘Well I’m off for the next six months, or three months’ yes of course when I do vacation here and there for a week or two, you know, then I stop talking about music and, I try to avoid thinking about composing music as well (laughs) but in general you can’t stop that - It’s a very essential part of yourself.


SP: You were saying that with the technology that you’ve got the capacity to go back and fix things like a jigsaw puzzle and, the production of the album can take eighteen months or so. Do you find that it’s a blessing and a curse because you’ve got the possibility of being a bit too perfectionist?


H: I think it’s, for us, you know and, looking back how we worked the last twenty years you know, it’s more of blessing than a curse, because we did do that sort of mix or something and putting things together stuff even in the nineties without having the technical abilities, so from that point of view it’s a pure blessing for us. It can more become a curse because I don’t think necessarily for Blind Guardian but for many bands it’s tempting to start that uh, paste and copy thing...


SP: Yes!


H: That uh, won’t work for Blind Guardian because we still have this not fixed pattern you know, uh, there are so many elements coming in and every song has to be considered individually and we don’t really know how to get from part one to two and, it has to be invented during the steps of progression of the song, so, it’s very difficult for us but I could see that in the general attitude of bands and music in general, that uh, very, very, very, many people are, you know, just having that verse bridge chorus – song and they refuse to play it three times nowadays... and therefore they lost the groove which they usually need to make this music suitable and uh, somehow attractive to people and uh, especially metal bands, they lose a lot of their original intensity which they have had when they were recording everything naturally

 

 


SP: Cool, so how would you define Blind Guardian’s music? I mean you’ve been around for a long time and entire genre’s of music have come and gone quite a bit in that time…


H: Um, could you pick another question (laughs) because um, many people just start considering us a Power metal band, and uh I’m always a little confused about that. I don’t have a problem with power metal at all, I like power metal and we certainly have power metal influences in that. I consider our music as a hard individual metal music, you know, um, because, I do not like to think in the way so much many people do and it’s not a big problem, but it’s very difficult to get two people who really do have the same, uh, point of view on genres and categories so, the difference from every individual ... So, um I’d say it’s individual, very diverse metal music with a lot of elements from different music genre’s such as Celtic music, classical music, and Seventies rock music


H: And in general I think uh, that metal has evolved. There are so many different, diverse types of metal it makes it almost impossible to come up with these categories, but people try to follow it, you know, try to come up with new names, I just mean, you know for example, Blind Guardian, our record company calls it Melodic Progressive Power Metal whatever that means (SP: laughs his arse off) ...I’m fine with that (laughing). But uh, you know, I’m not really keen in thinking in categories in that way, um, there are so many different categories, a lot of people still enjoy it, not only those playing it but also people consuming it and listening to it, and making it a sort of dedicated part of their lives... so, um, this scene is quite healthy and, but due to internet and to several directions the music industry went, I think the whole music business really suffering at the music end and it’s uh, interesting to see how they are uh, trying to get rid of that problem


SP: Yeah, well I definitely think that people are coming up with stupider and stupider narrow little genre definitions – it’s crazy!


H: (laughs) Yeah totally


H: There’s nothing wrong, you know, as you said it’s crazy because, how can you think in such a way, you know there are people who - of course we all play metal music for example, but how can Blind Guardian, Nevermore, and Hammer Fall, be in one genre...


SP: Yeah exactly, that’s it exactly


H: We do what we have to do and accept, but uh, musically there are really...


SP: …not a lot of similarities there, yeah?


H: No, and still it’s both power metal you know, even if you go deeper into a subject, you know people call German power metal, and then it gets even closer related, and they’re further away than you can imagine, you know?


SP: Oh I saw one, last week being called Melodic Death Folk Metal, so…


H: Oh that’s, that’s nice. (laughs)


SP: I cannot even imagine what that would sound like. (laughs) It’s crazy! Right so, we’re Australian so we’ll have to ask - you’ve covered John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ (H: laughs his arse off) I hear that was very big in Germany?


H: It was a major hit; it still is, to be honest. It’s on any radio station, any commercial radio station in Germany. You will be able to listen to that song at least twice a day - I’d make a bet, you know? (SP laughs) I would turn it on right now and it would be a good chance it would be played


SP: Wow!


H: But, you know, when I grew up, I grew up with rock music and good music in general, but in the eighties I was only listening to metal music, there was nothing else and when we did “Follow The Blind” [1987] I hated every other part, you know, any other genre of music, but um, when ‘You’re the Voice’ had been broadcast for the first time on the radio, I fell in love with the song, and so did Andre and ever since it is one of our favourite songs, and I feel a strong connection between the uh, the chorus part of Blind Guardian, and uh, in general because it has the same attitude. It was not, you know, done on the intention of, it cannot be seen as a general influence for our hook lines but, so far it has been a very obvious choice, but uh, of course when we did the verses and the chorus we had to cope with the problems, you know, for a metal band


SP: Yeah?


H: But we somehow succeeded and with the two uh, metal songs, uh, this is also very important we need to find stuff where we can, you know, give it a push into our direction and, yeah, we somehow succeeded


SP: Didn’t you come out to Australia once before, quite a few years ago?


H: Yeah we played in Melbourne, two shows… Next time I’m pretty sure we are at least in Sydney and maybe our promoter will be able to do one of your shows, but I mean it’s such a big country, it’s very difficult

 

 


SP: Yeah, we’re right on the other side over in Perth on the West, so we miss out on a lot of tours unfortunately


H: Yeah so that is why, you know, you have to live with that as well, so you just bring the minimum of equipment, and make sure that it’s somehow reasonable to get over, because the expenses, they really kill you


SP: Yeah, I bet. And you’re doing Wacken Open Air [August 4 – 6]?


H: We are doing Wacken in 2011


SP: The art work on your albums is just fantastic, can you tell us a little bit more about that?


H: Yeah it’s done by Felipe Machado and he’s been a huge supporter of Blind Guardian for years, and he basically was trying to get in contact with me for years and uh, three years back he emailed me and offered his services and uh, when I came up with the idea to involve that Latin-American pyramid, um, it was obvious that he would be my first choice, and uh, yeah I just told him what I basically wanted to see on the cover and he got back to me with a spectacular drawing within, you know sixty minutes...


SP: Great!


H: And I said you do have the job so, just go ahead and do whatever you want to do. Twenty-four hours later I had the first composing in colours and it was just uh, great and I was completely blown away


SP: Fantastic


H: But uh, yeah once he accomplished that one, he meant that he would be willing to do an art work for each and every song on the album and so he did. So we do have a little booklet with practically, I don’t know, ten – eleven - twelve art works in it


SP: Wow! That’s pretty cool! In 2003 you put together the first Blind Guardian open air festival


H: Yeah


SP: Are you planning to revisit that idea?


H: Uh, it depends, uh it’s very difficult to accomplish because it was so stressful in organising and put all the things together. We do have it in mind, but we need the right things to set it up for, but for instance if we come up with the orchestra one day, then uh, plans to make a another Blind Guardian festival but up to that point we have to wait


SP: If you were going to do a Blind Guardian festival, if you were going to do it for 2011, off the top of your head, what would be your dream line up?


H: Um, including Blind Guardian or without Blind Guardian?


SP: Oh, you’d have to have Blind Guardian there wouldn’t you?


H: Uh okay, yeah. (both laugh) Um, sorry. Yeah Iced Earth certainly would be my first choice, then it would be Sabotage, Nevermore, um, Testament. They’re almost from the same level, so, it’s just a dream festival! And I would like to have Queensryche and, um, probably Edguy, so…


SP: Yeah, we saw Edguy earlier this year they were fantastic


H: That’s a great band


SP: Testament are coming to Australia but they’re not making over to us unfortunately


H: Oh, that’s a shame


SP: Um, now we’re pretty much done, I think, Oh now you mentioned the orchestral album that you’ve been sort of thinking about…


H: Yep


SP: How’s that coming along? Is it likely to happen?


H: Um, yeah we did some recordings already, we will continue, and it’s just a question of when I’ll find the time to sing all this stuff


SP: Yeah great!


H: We’ve accomplished ten songs, they go into a nice slow direction but without having the uh metal element, so it’s more really on the orchestral sort of side


SP: Can you give us an idea about the difference in the popularity of Blind Guardian in different parts of the world? Like, are you huge in Germany, and the rest of Europe?


H: We are mainstream in Germany, mainstream in Japan, uh, mainstream all over Europe, mate… and we’re becoming sort of strong around the continent of the U.S. and we are mainstream in South America, and uh, yeah in Germany we are on top, definitely


SP: Alright well last question we ask all of our interviewees, is just a very easy one for you...What is the meaning of life?


H: It’s more than having fun...Exploring


SP: That’s a good one, yeah. Cool! Okay mate thank you so much for your time


H: Thanks a lot

 

Thanks to Chris at Riot Entertainment for hooking us up with this interview

Thanks to Lana Oldham for transcribing this interview

 

Shane Pinnegar