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Hansi Kursch – Singer and songwriter for Blind Guardian

Date: 4/8/06
Interviewed By: Rich Catino



Prior to the official start of the interview Hansi and I chatted a bit catching up being we had met before when the band first came to the States in 2002 on their first U.S. tour which started at the ProgPower fest in Atlanta and included a cd signing at Vintage Vinyl in New Jersey where I was the only press on hand to cover the event and speak to the guys for my former publication That's so Metal.com.

For this interview Hansi commented on their appearance at ProgPower saying he felt it was not their best because of jetlag. They wanted to arrive for the festivals pre party which the promoter Glenn had invited them to do so but they could not make it in time. Next time they tour the States, which he's hoping for later this year, they want to get in town earlier so they will be better rested.

1. Is the direction of the new album as orchestrated and layered with vocal harmonies as “Night at the Opera” or does it have more in common with “Imaginations from the Other Side” or even “Somewhere Far Beyond”?

HANSI: Well the working title of the album is “Twist of the Mist”, we have about five weeks of mixing coming up so during that time is when we will decide on the album's title. Would I confuse you if I said we are consequently going in the direction of “Opera” but with less orchestration, Hahaha . You can definitely hear the roots of the band on it especially if you have the single for “Fly” and on the song “Skalds and Shadows”, but there is a new direction as well. I think we have included the qualities of every album so far. Of course our target lies in the future so its not exactly to be compared with any of the albums we have done before. All the 12 songs differ drastically and go in different directions. There is a traditional section, a more modern section and a more orchestrated section. I am very convinced that this was the right step to do because every song contains great melodies. The album has a focus on melodies but not so as many layers like we did with “A Night at the Opera”. There are tons of guitar melodies and we tried to focus on the lead vocals more this time than on “Opera” and we removed a lot of those backing vocal layers. “Opera” was a very busy album, this time the attitude is still the same but based on a very strong melody line either played by Andre's guitar leads or my vocals. I think you can feel that in “Fly” already and that is a great example of the new album.

2. Are you doing anything musically significantly different that you have not done on previous albums?

HANSI: I think the music more straight forward in some ways, like “Fly” for example, if we went further away from what we have done before it would be too much. The epic aspects are second priority this time. Well for “Fly” we used some trumpets which you can hear playing, we used that in another song as well. Our new drummer Frederik is a very talented musician. He played bagpipe and flute on the album. We definitely have a wide variety of authentic instruments this time. Its still a basic Blind Guardian set up with straight forward drumming, progressive elements and guitar harmonies with some more organic instrumentation this time.

3. It has been understood that your original drummer Thomen left the band and started Savage Circus because he was more interested in making music in the style of earlier Blind Guardian. Is that because Blind Guardian is fazing out that part of the bands history in the future?

HANSI: Well he really liked that stuff, as we all do, but it was more of both a mixture of artist and business matters. We all had a discussion and decided it was the best thing to do for everyone. It depends how you look at it addressing your question.

If you look at “A Night at the Opera” and find that a complete change for you then we have in a sense moved away from that part of the band's past but without really thinking about it. I think “A Night at the Opera” is a consequence and development of what we have done before but that does not mean we have denied our roots or do not want to do that music anymore, its just not the time for that right now. That was the 80's and early 90's and we need to come up with something new and develop, we are progressive band and therefore it is important for us to have something different between all the albums. There was no discussion neither with or without Thomen whether we were going to do another “Imaginations from the Other Side” or “Somewhere Far Beyond”. As I said its nothing we would deny and of course you can still feel those Celtic elements in the single “Fly” or “Skalds and Shadows”. We just write the songs we are comfortable with.

4. On the “Imaginations Through the Looking Glass” DVD, for that concert you played two nights with two different setlists which were recorded. Why were all the songs not included on the DVD and do you think they may be available at some point in another fashion?

HANSI: Some of the songs we just felt weren't good enough performance wise and we wanted to choose the best material performed for the DVD. It is very expensive to do the editing for the 24 songs that are included on the DVD also so to do more would have been even more costly, especially with the high level of quality it was done at.

Well we have left our record company EMI who still hold the rights to the Blind Guardian catalogue but one day we may get a hold of it and use them songs that did not make the DVD somewhere else.

5. Is the new drummer Frederik contributing to any of the writing for the new album?

HANSI: There was no chance to do so because he joined the band over the summer and everything was already written at the time. He had some input on the drum and percussion arrangements and he brought in the flute elements for “Skalds and Shadows” and some bagpipes for “Carry the Blessed Home” and some for “Turn the Page”. He is a very good drummer and on the same level as Thomen . We were lucky enough to find someone of his level because Thomen was a very important part of shaping Blind Guardian's sound and a hell of a drummer.

6. Tell us about the artwork for the single “Fly”.

HANSI: We singed a contract with Nuclear Blast Records and they came up with the idea to introduce Anthony Clarkson and his work. He was exactly what we needed when I saw his work. We needed someone who could catch the intensity of the old Blind Guardian covers but merge that with some new elements. He is working on the album cover as well. I think the “Fly” cover is one of our top three so far, that's real fantasy. The artwork is in no relation to the tracks on the single as far as I know, you have to ask the artist.

7. Is the forthcoming album a concept and if so what part of the story is “Fly”?

HANSI: The album has no concept it is individual songs all inspired by many fantasy novels and topics. One called “ Otherland ” is based on the novel of the same title. There is some bible related songs, one called “The Edge” that deals with Paul and his shaping of the Christ creation, it depends how you look at it, he created the Christ cult you could say. “Carry the Blessed Home” which leads us back to Stephen King's “The Dark Tower”, we have “Another Stranger Me” which is about a schizophrenic person and then there's one about King Arthur. “This Will Never End” is about a French painter and father death which I think will appeal to both old and new Blind Guardian fans, probably the strongest song on the album. It's a very strong Heavy Metal song and contains all the elements of the band. Each song on this album tells its own story and it would be a pain to connect them all into one story.

8. How was your only tour of thus far, of the States in 2002? Did you find there is an audience here for the European sounds of Power Metal and do you think it has improved since you toured here?

HANSI: It was an adventure and a pleasant surprise as well to see a very strong and loyal underground in America. We went through a lot of bullshit because of travel reasons and distances between shows was tough but aside from that it was great. To come back down to that smaller level and have the support of the fans was great. It is something we want to build on more and we are willing to spend more time in the States to do so.

I have spoken to John Schaffer from Iced Earth several times, even back in the mid 90's, about playing the States, and he has told me how much it has changed in recent years. A friend of mine was asking a bunch of bands in Europe if they would be interested in doing a package tour in the States, like a festival thing, a mini ProgPower everywhere, Haha . I mean that would be great and think it would be a great success as well.

9. Any plans to return to the States anytime soon?

HANSI: Maybe mid November.

10. Any plans to do some dates with Demons and Wizards?

HANSI: Not right now. Between mine and John s schedules its very difficult. Once I'm off John will be on the road with Iced Earth so right now its impossible. If Iced earth and Blind Guardian could do a tour together that would be ideal and if we could arrange it than we will. Just coordinating and timing between both bands is difficult but never say never .

Official website: www.blind-guardian.com

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