Follow The Blind - 1989 - No Remorse
Tales From The Twilight World - 1990 - No Remorse
Somewhere Far Beyond - 1992 - Virgin
Imaginations From The Other Side -1995 - Virgin
The Forgotten Tales - 1996 - Virgin
Nightfall In Middle Earth - 1998 - Virgin
A Night At The Opera - 2001 - Virgin/Century Media
Live, in North America - 2003 - Virgin
A Twist In The Myth - 2006 - Nuclear Blast
At The Edge Of Time - 2010 - Nuclear Blast
Beyond The Red Mirror - 2015 - Nuclear Blast
S= HANSI KÜRSCH
G= Sinbreed>>MARCUS SIEPEN>>Sinbreed - ANDRE OLBRICH
B= Demons & Wizards>>Hansi Kürsch>>Demons & Wizards
D= Iron Savior>>Thomas Stauch>>Iron Savior, Coldseed, Savage Circus, Seelenzorn, Power Quest, Stranded Guns - Schattentantz>>FREDRIK EHMKE
The band released a debut demo in 1986 under the old name and managed to get a deal with former Metal Hammer editor Charlie Rinne's label. While Blind Guardian seemed to be another in the long list of Tolkien-inspired metal bands in the late eighties, the band quickly turned itself into a marketable metal band in Germany with a major deal. Asking friend and Gamma Ray man Kai Hansen to produce a demo (and often appear on albums), the Blind ones had already staked their turf. The band's albums sell around 100,000 copies each in Germany and the band's popularity seems to be growing elsewhere as well. One sign of this is the band's good sales in Japan and the Tokyo Tales EP of 1993. The band's line up is remarkably stable and the bands tours are with the likes of Iced Earth and Nevermore. Demons & Wizards is a popular and well-selling side-project with the guitarist of Iced Earth.
The first annual Blind Guardian Open Air festival, a festival promoted by the band, was scheduled for June 13-14, 2003 at BGS Open Air Arena in Coburg, Germany. A line-up of Blind Guardian, Napalm Death, Tankard, Freedom Call, Primal Fear, Grave Digger and Subway To Sally was announced. The band toured USA and Canada with Symphony X in the autumn of 2002.
The band consequently released a new album, called Blind Guardian - Live, in North America on October 7th. The album was recorded on the band's A Night At The Opera tour.
Filmed mainly in 2003 at the band's own festival, Blind Guardian's Imaginations Through The Looking Glass 2-DVD set was issued in the middle of 2004. Drummer Thomas Stauch left the fold at the beginning of 2005. He joined Persuader members Jens Karlsson and Emil Norberg in a new act called Savage Circus. In the meanwhile, the band unveiled a new deal with Nuclear Blast Records and named Frederik Ehmke as its new drummer. A Twist In The Myth was issued in September of 2006 and a worldwide tour followed. The band's '80s and '90s catalogue was reissued on CD with new mastering and liner notes in 2007. Edguy's bassist Tobias "Eggi" Exxel played bass for one show for the band on October 13th, 2007 in Pretoria, South Africa as a fill-in. Stauch was touring with industrial band Seelenzorn in 2008, while Blind Guardian was playing select shows in Europe. The title for the next Blind Guardian album was At The Edge Of Time. A late summer or autumn 2010 release was slated for the follow-up to 2006’s A Twist In The Myth. Vocalist Hansi Kürsch had previously stated: "This will be our most bombastic and epic album so far." Blind Guardian’s North American portion of the Sacred Worlds And Songs Divine 2010 World Tour was commencing on November 19th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and concluding on December 22nd in West Springfield, Virginia. Support acts were California’s Holy Grail and Florida’s Seven Kingdoms. Blind Guardian’s guitarist Marcus Siepen would play two shows with Sinbreed in the autumn of 2011. Marcus Siepen joined the German heavy metal band Sinbreed full-time in late 2011. Siepen had previously appeared live with Sinbreed at a couple of shows, including the ProgPower USA XIII festival in Atlanta, Georgia. A Traveler's Guide To Space And Time, a limited-edition box set with 15 CDs in 13 digipacks, released as 8,000 copies worldwide, would be out on February 4th, 2013. Stranded Guns was a rock project by Thomas "Thomen" Stauch on drums. The band had recorded a debut album called Time Machine. Hansi was a guest at Doro Pesch’s thirtieth anniversary as a recording artist. It involved two concerts on May 2nd and May 3rd, 2014 at CCD-Stadthalle in Düsseldorf, Germany. The band picked Beyond The Red Mirror as the title for its 2015 album, which was out on January 30th through Nuclear Blast. It was recorded and mixed at Twilight Hall Studio from May 2014 to October of 2014. Barend Courbois of Vengeance was the session bassist. Barend Courbois was announced an official bassist for Blind Guardian in January of 2015. Blind Guardian and Grave Digger announced a tour of North America for October and November. Blind Guardian announced the release a live album for 2016. Moreover, an orchestral album was due to arrive in 2017. The band would perform its entire 1995 album Imaginations From The Other Side on the North American tour with Grave Digger.
BLIND GUARDIAN - IMAGINATIONS THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS - CENTURY MEDIA
BLIND GUARDIAN - FLY - NUCLEAR BLAST
BLIND GUARDIAN - A TWIST IN THE MYTH - NUCLEAR BLAST
"Am I in time?" enquires the voice on the phone. In fact, Hansi Kürsch of Germany's Blind Guardian is ten minutes late for a telephone appointment with Ali "The Metallian" on a fine Saturday morning. It might not be a shining example of German efficiency, but the interview is taking place subsequent to the release of the band's latest single Fly, which is sure to become a prime example of the band's proficient and able song craft. On with the questioning then because several more interviews await the man. Apparently, a bunch of journalists have lined up to get 30 minutes each with the in-demand musician. - 15.04.2006
METALLIAN: Hansi, you have just released a single called Fly. My understanding is that your full-length is six months away, which begs the question why release something now?
HANSI: Basically, you are right. The album is now five months away. The reason for the delay is illness. I got ill during the production of the album leaving me with no chance to keep the schedule for the album's release, which was originally for late April. We were talking to the record company and we decided to keep the schedule for the single because that would give the fans an idea what the album would sound like and give them a sign of life from us. People are waiting for the album as it has almost been four years again since the last CD. I know it is not the smartest thing to keep the single release date and postpone the album, but it is merely a promotional push.
METALLIAN: How representative of the album is the single?
HANSI: Sound-wise, it will give you a very good idea. Musically, it allows you to see the perspectives of the album, but you will also see 11 or 12 completely different songs there as well. You will hear the traditional Blind Guardian songs on the album and you will hear a modern section. All in all, there are no fillers on the album and, as you can hear from the single, it is vocal-oriented.
METALLIAN: Does the description of Scalves And Shadows as an "acoustic version" mean that the song will also appear on the album?
HANSI: There will be a different version of the song on the album, but it won't differ too much. The song will remain the same. There will be some more choirs and Classical instruments on it, but the attitude will remain the same with Celtic roots. I would say that Fly belongs to the stronger songs of the album. Otherland is another strong one, which is more epic and power metallic. The Otherland novels by Tad Williams inspired the song. Another song, called This Will Never End, is for old school fans. It might be the most interesting song for power metal fans because it is very energetic. I am anxious to see how people will react to it. I am convinced that it will be highly appreciated by eighty-percent of our fans.
METALLIAN: Blind Guardian fans are usually not known for reacting negatively.
HANSI: No, they are not, but you can feel that there is a kind of very traditional section of our fan-base that wants to hear Tales From The Twilight World and Imaginations From The Other Side again. For them there might be some elements that are too modern. Even these guys will find that fifty-percent of the album is attractive.
METALLIAN: What can you tell us regarding the album's progression so far?
HANSI: Well, I suggested the title A Twist In The Myth a long time ago and we are still thinking about it. It is still the perfect title, but if we can come up with something better then that is fine. The album has been recorded. We do not have any more recordings. We are in the middle of mixing which should take another two weeks. It is produced by Charlie Bauerfeind with help from the band of course.
METALLIAN: Hansi, you need to be challenged on recording and releasing another cover version. What exactly is the point of reprising other people's work?
HANSI: There is a need for doing covers. Whenever we head into the studio we have enough material that is good enough for the album. This means that releasing a single with all the tracks from the album does not make sense. As I said, all the originals have a certain quality. We cannot downgrade one of them and place it on a single. We needed to come up with a cover version and we like to play cover versions. I liked the idea of covering In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida because I immediately came up with the idea of what to do with it vocally. We gave it our own style. I was able to deal with the song. That is the basic reason for a cover version. It is a B-side and nothing more. It gives a little value to the single. We like playing cover version, but we don't really like to have them on the album.
We have done another cover version for the second single as well. It will come out after the album is released. This one will be a big surprise. It is in the tradition of Mr. Sandman. Some people will like it and others will not. These are also a good chance to feature our more Spinal Tap-ish side!
METALLIAN: Is bassist Oliver Holzwarth a permanent fixture of Blind Guardian now?
HANSI: Oliver has been playing on our two albums and appearing live with us of course. He is a constant guest. That is how we look at it. I still keep the option of going back and doing the bass work. The material since the Imaginations”¦ album has become so complex that I was not really able to do the bass patterns and simultaneously singing on stage. I managed to do both in the studio for Imagination”¦ but at that point I said that I wont do it for the next album. Then we started looking for a studio bass player. We found Oliver who used to be in Sieges Even and is again now. He was exactly the type of bass player we needed. He can play all the progressive Steve Harris stuff. We have been calling him first ever since and, so far, he has been able to do it. He will be on the next tour, as well but he is not a constant member.
METALLIAN: Earlier you mentioned that some of the music on the forthcoming album would appeal to fans of the albums you recorded in the '90s. Do you believe this is an indirect recognition that some of the misgivings of former drummer Thomas Stauch regarding your newer sound were valid?
HANSI: (Hesitates)”¦ well, I mean, he is free to say anything he wants. He never complained about it when we recorded A Night At The Opera and he certainly didn't say anything when we did Nightfall In Middle-Earth. He was not involved in the song writing and he didn't offer us any songs. That is the truth.
We had spoken about it though. That was not a problem for us. There were so many other things between he and us, which we could not sort out anymore. It wasn't just the musical issues. It was a big bunch of things that were not right. We spoke about that several times. We did not reach a conclusion with him though. At a certain point, he reached the conclusion that he wants to leave the band. We all said that it was the right thing to do. There is more to the story than just the music.
Still, he did not leave in anger. There are no bad words between us. It just did not get well anymore.
METALLIAN: Is it possible that Savage Circus might steal fans from Blind Guardian?
HANSI: 'Steal' is not the right word. They certainly will attract some of our fans. A lot of things are possible. Their vocalist is close to me. I have only heard two songs though. From what I have heard there are some similarities, but also a different approach to singing. That is from my point-of-view. They do a decent job as a traditional metal band, for sure.
METALLIAN: Hansi, years ago you were speaking regarding sales figures in Germany and you remarked to an interviewer that the sales ceiling in Germany is 300,000 copies for a metal band. Has that changed in any way?
HANSI: That statement is absolutely correct. I think it was some eight or nine years ago that I made that statement. The whole music business has suffered pretty much. If you sell 150,000 copies in Germany that is a 'Gold Album.' Barely any band does that. Nightwish got one two or three years back, but that was an exception. Nowadays, whoever sells 100,000 copies in Germany and 250,000 in all of Europe is a major success for any record company. I would guess that we are targeting 400,000 to 500,000 album sales for our forthcoming CD on a worldwide basis. It is difficult to say, of course. If you have a smash hit on the radio things could be different, but radio doesn't play hard rock here. You cannot become a mainstream band. It is all word-of-mouth. Of course, we have good print media here and the metal scene is very healthy. It is too small to be mainstream, but too big to be underground. It is something in-between.
Time is up and Hansi is flying off to answer more questions for someone else. The single Fly is now out through Nuclear Blast. For the fans, the release of the full-length, due in September, cannot come soon enough.
Nuclear Blast Records has been doing a good job of building momentum and hype for the first Blind Guardian album in four years. Partly helped by a delay that has turned out to be fortunate and partly through a lack of competitive product at time of release, the German quartet's album, entitled A Twist In The Myth, has a serious shot at establishing another milestone for the band given the new recording contract, which allows the band new resources and emphasis in North America. Seeing that Ali "The Metallian" addressed the music with the band's singer Hansi Kürsch a mere four months ago and the review is also to be found in these pages, the focus of this interview shifted to other matters less discussed. Read on for a chat with the amiable vocalist on topics such as the band, politics and life. - 20.08.2006
METALLIAN: Hansi, what is the level of excitement when a new album comes out and can you connect the dots to your personal life? Not being an underground band, is the excitement still there or have the preparations become routine?
HANSI: No, it's not routine and I think its never going to be routine. We put all our hearts into the music and, it's not like we release an album on a yearly basis, so a lot of things depend on that album. We consider each album to be an expression of our inner souls so we depend on good feedback and that's why the excitement is still the same. We are disillusioned about several things because we can feel and touch the impossibilities of a fame like Iron Maiden due to several reasons but apart from that it's still the same excitement, you just become more realistic.
METALLIAN: You say you depend on good feedback. What does that mean? Does that mean you get disenchanted if you get bad reviews?
HANSI: We have gotten a lot of bad reviews. I mean you experience that with youth and you experience that kind of feedback, but you need the support and assistance of your fans. If we are on tour and no one shows up or they show up but they are disappointed and would not listen to the new songs then this would be some thing to consider of course, but so far we have experienced a good feedback. It is not something we really think about.
METALLIAN: When you say an album is an expression of your soul, given how you were formed 20 years ago, how do you keep releasing albums that sound vibrant? Where does the freshness come from album after album?
HANSI: Well, it's certainly a question of your development as a person. You establish a different life from album to album, something going on around you and this has an effect on what you are doing, but sometimes I myself am surprised how little we have changed. Of course, you improve your music and try to be better in terms of doing more progressive music, coming up with new elements, coming up with new songs but the basic musical and lyrical message is pretty much the same, I think.
METALLIAN: You say you haven't changed as much, but in the meanwhile many of the fans say you have changed a lot. You have heard all the criticism about your complex sound.
HANSI: Yes, but on the other hand there is criticism of songs like Skalds And Shadows. The problem is that we have so many people around us and we can't please everyone because there are people who really support the progressive element, there are people who support the classic element, the bombastic element and of course there are the old-fashioned ones who celebrate the 'let your hair down stuff' from the early '90s and of course some of it does not have the same attraction. That is the way things go. You attract people and these people go in different directions that you wish they would go with you and you have to accept that.
METALLIAN: Do you accept it as you say or do you say, "I am sorry but I am going to lose these people and there is nothing I can do about it" or do you work it out during the songwriting and in the studio and say, "I want to keep everyone."?
HANSI: You know that's what I meant when I mentioned Skalds And Shadows. You cannot please everyone. Some people have a kind of fixed opinion and whatever you do they have already decided to leave you. I listen to a song like This Will Never End, for example, and I would have guessed that this should have pleased the old school Imaginations... fans and in lots of cases it does, but in many other cases it doesn't and I think it's really a question of progression in general and if these people do go to a different direction whatever we would do we could not hold .
METALLIAN: You mentioned Skalds And Shadows twice. Have you been getting criticism from that song?
HANSI: Yes, of course and that's the exact opposite direction you know and maybe it's the same people, the people who would love us to do stuff from the Imaginations... era. You find both, the people who love the song and you find some criticism about it and I think it's same people who want us to do what we have done in the past, but when we do it its not good enough so its very difficult to please everyone. The guy from Machine Head said if you do the old stuff you will be crucified and if you do new stuff you will be crucified so the only thing you can do is to try to come up with honest music and express and please yourself first and then hope and wish that a lot of people enjoy what you are doing.
METALLIAN: I am surprised you mention Skalds And Shadows because I would have thought that people would listen to Fly from the EP and that would get you a lot more criticism, because it has that Celtic and the Caribbean elements and sound.
HANSI: You are right and we thought in the same way. I think for Fly we got like 80 percent spectacular reviews, but twenty percent of the people really hated it. Skalds And Shadows is just a nice little ballad you do not really think about it as the most spectacular song ever written but it has been done in a very decent way and we enjoyed working on it and we thought "well this song will hurt no one" because it really describes what we are doing. If I would have to define Blind Guardian this is the song which I would relate to us as the closest so I did not expect to get harsh criticism for that one, but there were some people really complaining about that and these people strangely enough said Fly is OK or even good. That's a joke. I mean that's how things are.
METALLIAN: Where does the bulk of the criticism come from?
HANSI: The majority of people really enjoy what we are doing. I cannot really complain about any criticism neither from the fans nor from the journalists because it seems they are very supportive and they seem to mostly share our opinion about the music and Blind Guardian. It is a minority, but it is a loud one and I see that and as a musician of course I am more sensitive to negative reviews than positive ones, I am not sure if it's natural but it is natural for me.
METALLIAN: Is the criticism mostly from the underground, from fan- based sites, or from major commercial magazines?
HANSI: No, it's definitely the underground, from fan based magazines and the more traditional Blind Guardian fans who posts on our home page, for example. You can see it there. The discussion about this song and that song is there and you yourself wonder sometimes why it's so harsh sometimes.
METALLIAN: Do you read your own forum often?
HANSI: I try not to. When we did A Night At The Opera there was a good amount of very positive reviews for the album and most of the people seemed to like it. Of course we heard that some people thought it was over-produced and some other people thought it was too complicated and we took that under consideration when we did the songwriting for A Twist In The Myth, but the majority was very positive but after our drummer's departure the discussion started again and it was far harsher than it had been before. The album was four years old! That's the ridiculous stuff where you have to be very careful because that can easily manipulate your mind and the minds of others people and I therefore sometimes try to avoid reading any of the comments.
METALLIAN: Going back to my original point, when you are releasing a new album does life, and I mean your life at home, stop and you go into a professional musician mode and your family and home for two years?
HANSI: It is a difficult life sometimes especially when it comes to touring because you need to keep touch and there are so many things going on around you that you are completely confused about and it becomes very very difficult. The good thing is my long-term relationship. I have been together with my wife for over 20 years, which means that she is used to the whole process and my son brings me back to reality within seconds no matter how long I have been away but if you are on the road you are not in charge of everything. It is impossible to keep the balance of private and business life.
METALLIAN: Is it like jet lag when you get into that mode and come back home or does it take you several weeks to get used to it? Do you get completely used to it like your son does or is it a difficult transition as a musician?
HANSI: No, that's what I meant when I said that fortunately I have a son. He demands the regular attention from the very first moment you are back and there is no time for a 'jet lag', not at all. But if you are on the road, especially if you are in the United States or Canada, for example, my son is sleeping when I am awake so it's hard to just talk to him once on the phone during the whole period and that makes life very difficult.
METALLIAN: When one thinks of Blind Guardian, in the sense of word association, one thinks fantasy, a night at the opera, goblins and Tolkien. Does that bother you or are you completely happy being perceived as a person being in a fantasy-oriented band and specialized in that kind of story telling?
HANSI: I think it's when we are strongest so it's natural that people relate to that and it has been such an important part of our career and describes what we are doing so well that I don't have any problems with it I am just surprised that people don't realize how much apart from that our lyrics can be. Even through the music one can say the same thing because there is a different element in Blind Guardian, which is not recognized, but it does not bother me. It is just natural that the stuff people like most and they can relate to becomes your most significant trademark.
METALLIAN: Is there a political or reality side to Blind Guardian? Is there a social side to you as a person, do you pay attention to the news and the politics?
HANSI: Yes certainly and I would say so for the other guys as well because we are really stuck in reality. We are facing it and it is also delivered in the music and the lyrics, but on a lower level. If you go back to A Night At The Opera, the song Wait For An Answer is certainly a political statement as well.
METALLIAN: Where do you stand politically and what is your view as far as Germany is concerned right now?
HANSI: I am what you would call a democrat with a strong social aspect. It is almost a green attitude I have, but it is not exactly green although I am on a more working class level.
METALLIAN: Do you mean to say the Green Party?
HANSI: I am certainly closely related to the Green Party but, to be honest, they have so many things which they politically try to achieve which are not worth achieving and they don't have a clue about a lot of things, which are not connected to the environment. I am really shocked by that, trying to save the Amazon by killing the European forest, for example, type of a thing.
METALLIAN: That makes no sense.
HANSI: But that's how they work. I have spoken to a lot of people and the more local it gets the worse it is. I mean, the biggest achievement of the Green Party here was they agreed to some activity which was completely against their philosophy and ideology but apart of that they have some really good aspects, so yes somewhere between the Greens, working class parties and the more liberal economy parties is where I stand.
METALLIAN: Like the Social Democrats?
HANSI: Yes, but there is no big difference between them and the Christian Democrats anymore. That makes it really difficult, but we have a liberal party here which is more supportive for the economy. So it's the minor parties which I am pretty much supporting.
METALLIAN: Are you referring to the free liberals?
HANSI: Yes them and the Greens, the two big parties are too much the same at the moment to be supported. When it came to elections a few years back I voted for the social party but that was more for the chancellor Gerhard Schröder because I think he was not exactly what you would consider a social democrat even though he was their leader, but I like a lot of the things he said and the way he thought.
METALLIAN: What is the name of that left leaning party you mentioned you support?
HANSI: Die Linke.
METALLIAN: I want to ask you about your other band Demons & Wizards and your partner in crime in that band. I am not trying to put you on the spot, but to me he sounds like a typical right-wing American ignorant wacko. You are into some fantasy, culture and you have obviously read books. I don't understand how you two get along. Perhaps you never discuss politics and don't get into that stuff...
HANSI: Oh we do and we disagree on some things and you would be surprised how many times we agree. I understand and I accept that the American culture and point of view is different from the European point of view and I have to accept that. Jon has his opinion but he accepts the opinion of other people and I appreciate that and have no problem with his political direction. I don't think he is strongly right wing and he is certainly not ignorant so even though we don't have everything in common in terms of politics we can get along very easily with each other. He explains a lot of things and that makes life far easier.
METALLIAN: What is going on with Demons & Wizards?
HANSI: Unfortunately yes, I think, because Jon has started working on Iced Earth's next album and I'll be on the road with Blind Guardian for at least for the next 12 months, maybe even longer, so we might be able to start discussing the next album in 2009 or 2010 and until then it's impossible to even think about it.
METALLIAN: You are also working on an opera on the side. Is that something that we should forget about and not even ponder for another year or two?
HANSI: No, that is close to be accomplished. We considered featuring one of those songs on A Twist In The Myth's limited edition, but we finally gave up on the idea because it was too difficult to realize it. We are fairly close to finishing the song writing and once we have accomplished the touring for A Twist In The Myth that will be the next thing on the agenda. It is very possible the album is coming out in 2008.
METALLIAN: Does that mean that your touring plans are for another year or so?
HANSI: Twelve months certainly, and if the album is more successful than expected then it will be even more than a year.
METALLIAN: Is the opera going to be a Nuclear Blast project as well?
HANSI: Yes, I think so. It depends. If we do not release it under the name Blind Guardian we could release it with another record company, but since they are doing such a great job with us so far I don't see any reason not to release it with them.
METALLIAN: I must be confused because I was under the impression that the opera is not going to go under the Blind Guardian name.
HANSI: Well we are still working on it. If we involve the band as a band in that project then it certainly will be a Blind Guardian album. If not then it is still a discussion. If I just do the vocals and Blind Guardian has done the composing it's a question if it's a regular Blind Guardian album or not so let's says 60 to 70 percent I am sure it will be a Blind Guardian album.
METALLIAN: What is going on next with you guys?
HANSI: It looks pretty promising because I am happy to announce that the North American tour will start in the beginning or middle of November and we will tour Canada of course. There will be at least four shows, maybe five, in Canada. We will play the West Coast which we didn't last time, there is one show in Vancouver. We play Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City and I think there is a fifth city too, but I am not sure yet as it's a pretty extensive tour this time.
METALLIAN: What else is going that everyone should know about?
HANSI: We are working on the production for the European tour, apart from doing interviews and being on a promotional tour, Europe starts in September. The album will be released the very first day of that month. We will do some signing sessions during that time, trying to prepare our families for our departure which is a tough job.
METALLIAN:: Finally, there is also a promotional video for the album.
HANSI: Yes it is completed. It is for the song Another Stranger Me, the song itself tells a story of a schizophrenic person who realizes his multiple identities as he tries to find a peaceful state with these characters, but they are all very vigilant and violent so they do not give him the opportunity for a peaceful status. The video tries to deliver that through a detective story which is inspired by movies like Angel Heart or Fight Club.
A Twist In The Myth is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. The band's web site is at www.blind-guardian.com.
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