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Interview with Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian

On the verge of their 20 year anniversary, one of the most highly influential progressive /power metal bands known to man are set to release yet another milestone album to their massive discography. On the shores of America preparing for their N. American release date, (9-01), for ’A Twist In The Myth’. I had the golden opportunity to talk with founder/vocalist Hansi Kursch.

Even after many mishaps of the day and 16 interviews later, it was my turn. I am so glad I have had the chance to chat with Hansi. Not only one of the finest musicians in the business, but one of the most pleasant chaps you could have a conversation with. I am also glad I came back into the room to get the late call. So here’s a bit about what’s in store for you, the fans. And for those of you who will be becoming fans after you get your hands on this one.

JH: So how’s everything going?

HK: Everything’s going fine.

JH: So where you calling from today?

HK: New York.

JH: So you will be attending the listening party tonight?

HK: Ah no, that will be tomorrow. Today we just have interviews and later on we will be going out for dinner. I’ve had like 15 or 16 interviews already today. Only two more to go.

JH: Well I’ll keep it as short as possible.

HK: No worry.

JH: Well first off, congratulations on yet another amazing Blind Guardian album.

HK: Thank you very much.

JH: I just got it a couple days ago and have listened to it about three times now. How about you giving us a rundown on the album.

HK: It’s typically, musically geared towards the typical Blind Guardian direction. We have tried to stick to the guns to deliver the Blind Guardian attitude. There are a lot of musical roots that you can hear on each and every song. It delivers some of the very old Blind Guardianish songs inspired, and it’s also filled with some new elements of course. Which makes it a very special album. It’s a very progressive album, it is a diverse song writing so you’ll find a colorful mixture of songs. Songs from a very Celtic ballad to to a Ozzy Osbourne/Queenish type power ballad to thrash metal or sort of like the edge to the more imaginate from the other side like power metal song like the song ‘This Will Never End’. And lyrically it’s a wide mixture as well. There’s something from mythology, some history, some religion. It’s mixed wildly, so it is a very confusing topic sometimes that you have to deal with in the songs. So that’s also why I felt the title of the album fits so well.

JH: Very cool. So how did the writing process go?

HK: Well first of all, I believe we started in the beginning of 2004 after finishing all the activities for ’ A Night At The Opera’ and the live album and ‘Imaginations Through The Looking Glass’ DVD, so Andre and I sat around and spoke of the direction and what with think was the simple fact that we both agreed on bringing back the vocal line ,lead vocal lines to the higher attention of the listener. And driving down the amount of tracks like used on ‘A Night At The Opera’ for example. But in the meantime we were willing to follow the direction of ‘ A Night At The Opera’ having many different elements in the music which gave the whole thing a more modern approach. And then we just started the song writing and did whatever came into our mind. When we do song writing, we work with many very small pieces and work on these pieces until they are very accomplished and then we keep on like that. More like puzzle work that you have to sit and put together.

JH: How about the recording? Did it go fairly smooth?

HK: Yes, very smooth. And that was caused by the simple fact that had prepared the songs so well. And everyone was in the picture of what they were suppose to do. There were no big surprises during the production. We did some kind of demo recording before we entered the studio and the final result did not differ too much from the demo recording.

JH: So how is the work load dispersed among the band when it comes time to make a new album?

HK: It’s in most cases Andre and I who do the job. We simply do all the composing. Which any other band member could do just as well, but it was in the past it was sometimes Marcus who had the other ideas of another song. He brought in in very rare cases , but in most other cases Andre comes up with them. He brings the compositions, elements and arrangements and I work on it from there with my vocal arrangements and then I hand it back to him with what I’ve done vocal wise and we act on what I’ve done vocal wise and try to work further on what he has and it’s back to me and I build up on that. And that’s basically how it works. When I work with Marcus, it’s basically the same way.

JH: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

HK: Well now, that’s a difficult question. Of course now a days lives have a big influence. The music you are listening to certainly has it’s influence too. There’s nothing that you can touch or define 100% because it’s a natural progress. The less time you think about it and the more time you spend being productive, the more you get out for sure. It’s not really a significant inspiration which brings you to the level of composing a song. It’s more of your development in general.

JH: Now the first single off the album was ‘Fly’. It was very well received and has had great success up to now. Now I hear the second single is going to be ,’Another Stranger Me’?

HK: Most possibly that is our idea, but it’s not been decided yet. There are many other things we need to consider first. We did just do a video for that one. So that alone proves how important the song is. We like to use the outstanding stuff of an album for singles and videos and stuff like that. We feel that’s a good statement for a band not to present their usual stuff or stuff people would expect from you. But something with the unusual. I also kind of think ‘ Another Stranger Me ‘ is a rocky song . It contains the Blind Guardian aggression but apart from that, it’s more of a rock song. And therefore it has a tiny little bit of a mainstreamish character to it.

JH: So is there a video out for ‘Fly’?

HK: No. And that because it was obvious that it was more of a progressive sounding song. It was really more of a song to wake up the fans and bring up the attention of the metal sense of the band. We tried to deliver the impression of how much can do in a power metal song. We don’t use the same tools all the time. We always try to bring in some different stuff from time to time. And bring that to the attention of the listener as well.

JH: So have there been many shows lately with the new material?

HK: There will be. We’ve only played six shows so far. And we play ’Skalds & Shadows and Fly’. These were the only ones because the album has not been available. But once the album will be out, and we are out on the road in Europe, we will add at least two more songs each night. We’ve prepared, ’This Will Never End, Otherland Turn The Page, Carry the Blessed Home’. So we can play a nice mixture.

JH: So how did the fans react to the new material?

HK: Oh very good. During the responses we got for the albums ’Nightfall In Middle Earth, A Night At The Opera ‘, these were much stronger. But it always take awhile before people take to new stuff. But with these two songs, I think it was just as strong as was for the rest of the program. And that’s usually not the case.

JH: What do you expect, or what would you like fans to get from this album?

HK: The sensation that there is still enough creativity to win the world and the dimension of Blind Guardian.

JH: So how does the tour schedule look like?

HK: It’s busy. It’s packed. We start in Europe from September on and tour there for almost six weeks, we will break and then come to N. America and Canada . We’ll have a little break for Christmas then we’ll do South East Asia. South America. Some more European shows. And we at the moment consider coming back to the U.S.A. and Canada afterwards which will be the last leg of the’ A Twist Of The Myth’ tour. And then at the very end of the activities ,we’ll play festivals at summer and the Waken festival August 2007. Which should be the final show of the tour for the album.

JH: Wow! That is pretty packed.

HK: Yeah, I don’t know how we get through so much. It’s so many shows.

JH: Can you tell us about the orchestral project you and Andre have been collaborating on?

HK: Yes. We still talk on how to release it as a Blind Guardian album or as something else. It delivers typical Blind Guardian music from the stuff we’ve done on ‘Nightfall…. , a little bit of A Night At The Opera, and having a good amount of A Twist Of The Myth as well’. But it’s all played by a classical orchestra instrument and I do all the vocals to it. If every thing works well, it will be dedicated to The Lord Of The Rings.

JH: Now will this be a studio recording or just a live thing?

HK: No, we will be recording it as an album. I think once we have finished touring for ‘Twist In The Myth’, we need another two or three months in the rehearsal room to finish the songs and then basically it off to recording. And doing my vocal performance. We as well also talk about the involvement of the band to add another dimension to it . We may do so, but that’s where it’s at so far.

JH: I’m looking forward to hearing that.

HK: Well it’s very interesting stuff. You have to consider it’s stuff we have always written in between, but with the same attention and same dedication of the other stuff, but within the last ten years. Plus it is very interesting for me as well to find out how that will really turn out.

JH: So this year will mark the 20 year anniversary of Blind Guardian?

HK: Yes.

JH: Not to make this sound wrong because obviously Blind Guardian is an excellent and highly influential band, but what do you attribute to the longevity of the band?

HK: Well thank you. But no, I feel it’s the understanding of each and every member of the band. The goals which we share and certainly the ambition to write honest music with passion. And with every one in the band, I could sense the willing to develop and deliver something wonderful to the audience. By accident or by luck or by free will understanding, we were able to catch the emotions of a lot of people.

JH: Anything looking back that you would ever do differently?

HK: No. I mean, no. You make mistakes. That’s for sure with each step there’s a possibility of a mistake so whatever we have done wrong has only made us stronger.

JH: Any words of advice for the frustrated new bands out there trying to make a name for themselves?

HK: Well if you really believe in yourself and you have a potential , just go on. The future’s wide open. There is approval there in many, many bands. But, you need to find your own style. That’s very important. Not to copy a band that has already been successful because that usually does not work. Because it’s not their music. That probably works in pop music for awhile at least but not in metal music.

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