Interview with Hansi Kursch by Sweet Suffering E-Zine

Tony Webster: My first question to you Hansi is that I want to know since you went with the whole Tolkien concept for this album if you are going to do a future concept say for Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit...

Hansi Kursch: Well Lord Of The Rings is very interesting especially since the movie is coming out very soon next year I guess. But its a pretty long story and you have to put it on one album because the story is told in one way and thats the difference in the Silmarillion where you can piece the story together seperately and it still makes sense and if you get in at a certain point and get out at a certain point it makes sense in itself. With Lord Of The Rings if you just put a certain period it does not make much sense and its not as attractive so Lord Of The Rings is rather difficult because uhm bringing everything into say 70 minutes is an adventure thats for sure, but on the other hand the idea attracts me and the movie attracts me and we still hope we can do something for the movie and in case we cant do something for the movie we definitely will try to do a concept album regarding the Lord Of The Rings. There are other concepts which are also kind of attractive for us but in case say we dont do the Lord Of The Rings thing I guess we just go back and do a regular album. At least for this coming next one though.

TW: How did your last tour go? I know there was Wacken open air and some other cool dates....

HK: Yes! It was very successful I mean we started here in Germany with the regular German tour....which was the most important part for us of course. And we had an average of 1500 to 1700 people which is really good for Germany and you play 13 or 14 concerts and I guess besides us its Dream Theatre and Savatage who can draw that many people. All the other bands either draw a smaller number or a bigger one than us. Then we had the festivals... such as Wacken... they were successful too. Afterwards we went to South America for the first time and played in Brazil and Argentina which was our first experience there and it was a great experience, but also rather exhausting adventure because everything was not planned rather well. I had become ill during that time and by that we had to cancel one show which caused a lot of problems. Besides that South America was a good trip. And then we did Southeast Asia which is a very important market for us since the beginning you can say. We had a huge success in Japan although its not as enthusiastic as it has been some years ago. Thats not based on our success but on the economic situation and of course that metal became weaker in general over there because kids are following trendy lines... This is something which has happened for the first time there which was a little confusing but it was as successful as the rest of the tour. Now we came back from Greece where we were successful and we're ready to go out at the end of october which means from tomorrow on to the middle of november we do southern europe and mexico and afterwards this should be past.

TW: Whats the metal scene like over there and you mentioned metal becoming weaker in Japan. Its also kinda weak in the USA. Do you think there may be some bands that give metal a bad name?

HK: Well not a bad name... metal is very well established especially there is a loyal fan scene behind this music which is natural normal or ordinary you can say. I mean not ordinary in a bad name... just normal kids listening to it and so are the bands like BLIND GUARDIAN or GAMMA RAY for example. My opinion besides Japan since thats something Europe its going pretty well I do have the feeling that something is changing in the states so I am very optimistic for Heavy Metal. The Only thing thats probably missing are some good newcomer bands which bring in some rather new influences. There are some good bands around say like RHAPSODY and HAMMERFALL which are no doubt good bands but they are a little too traditional I think. Even Rhapsody though they try to bring in something more dramatic. Thats a keypoint that there are not so many new bands bringing in new elements which would make a progression of metal. On the other hand the established bands they sometimes from time to time they fuck up and do an album which is not as good as some of their others. So this is the other problem. Bands like JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN who are very important still for metal they both failed.. no doubt about that.

TW: You were just talking about newcomer bands and you did some work with the band Edguy....are you going to do anymore work with them?

HK: Uhm... I mean they're strong enough to do everything themselves and they dont want support... I came in by accident you can say... it was never planned that I will be a steady supporter of the band. It was a one time thing and I think they will keep it as a one time thing. I will not try to get into their part of business because they are strong enough as I said and I do not think they need my support or need anyone's support. They are one of the most hopeful metal bands right at the moment and its just a question if they can progress or develop or not, and this is something they have to come up with alone and without outside help.

TW: We were just talking about PRIEST before and I'm wondering what made you guys do a cover of "Beyond The Realms Of Death" for the tribute album and on the newest single.

HK: Well.... two reasons.... 1 reason of course is that we like the song and we always felt it was an extraordinary song music wise and lyric wise by JUDAS PRIEST and that was the main goal probably and well this song is much easier for us with our style to do a cover of that song comparing it with regular JUDAS PRIEST stuff which is a little different than what we're doing right now. The other reason is that the lyrics fit in a little more with the BLIND GUARDIAN type of lyrics because they do have a little deeper sense and reminded me of Ashes To Ashes so I was pretty interested in doing that song. Vocal wise of course its easier for me to follow that line of Rob Halford than along other lines he had done. Hes a brilliant singer but he has a completely different style than mine. So this was a big time opportunity for me to bring in my element of singing without destrying the flare of the original song.

TW: I'm curious why you do not play bass on the tour?

HK: Because I suck! *laugh* Actually I am really not that good of a bass player and I always go into the studio without having anything prepared for the bass and it became difficult to play bass with the complex song structures we have and it takes me a lot of time to learn the basslines and put them on tape so uh when we left the studio for imaginations I decided that on the following album I would not do the bass. When we came up with songs for Nightfall In Middle Earth which became more complex than the songs on Imaginations From The Other Side it was natural for us to use another bassist for the album. Once we did that it was obvious that the basslines of Oliver Holzworth were too difficult for me to try to play on stage and on stage I always had the problem of following my vocal lines before I followed my basslines which caused technical problems which means I fucked up and then it should have been in the past. So we said lets try to make it this much better this time and have a good performance by the band and the vocalist. So finially this was the right decision and we made the decision because he fit in well during the recording process. So we thought we would let him do one regular tour with us from the beginning to the end and here we are and he did well.

TW: Are you going to participate in the IRON SAVIOR project again?

HK: Well I was just in that tiny little piece of it just to do some vocal lines. I dont think that I will have time to do anything with it having BLIND GUARDIAN and Thomen wont be doing anything on it as well since he is tied up with us as well. Piet knew that it was going to only be a one time thing with Thomen and I dont think that he will join again. I might join IRON SAVIOR in a future album for a short appearance but nothing which will consume a lot of time with them.... definitely not.

TW: Back in the late 80s and early 90s you had Kai Hansen doing some work with you guys. How did you come about getting him to work with you and will you ever do anything ever again with him?

HK: Well I could imagine we would do something with him in the future. However its a question of moods, interest and time. In 89 when he left HELLOWEEN and we were strong supporters of HELLOWEEN back then and we were strong supporters of Kai Hansen. We were surprised to learn that he and our old Producer Kalle Trapp were pretty good friends so he introduced Kai to us once we were in the studio for Follow The Blind and we just asked him if he would like to play something on the album. So he was rather interested so he just played something and it was amazing to see him on our work and this friendship has never ended so far.

TW: Kai seems to appear on everyone's albums it seems.

HK: Yeah! I mean he likes to do that.... he's really kind of a person who always is doing something. He never gets tired... and whenever he's finished with GAMMA RAY he's always looking for something else to do... Dont ask me why he's doing it I cant tell you *laugh*.

TW: Now onto a kore serious topic.... I was reading an interview done with Michael Kiske and he was saying that the metal scene is dead and that all of the bands in it are asslicking bands who are trying to please the public, and he says that all the metal bands today are very dishonest. What do you think about that?

HK: Well... I mean he did make his expierences and I do not know him personally so I cannot say too much about him. He is a wierd minded guy as far as I know and whatever he says does not bother me and I never have nor will have any type of relationship with the guy. But yeah theres some bad bands in the scene and not everything is not as good as it seems but on the other hand the music itself is strong and does have its own qualities and there are bands which appear serious who are doing metal in a brilliant way. Its not good if someone for example Michael Kiske is saying something bad about something when he is not even involved with it anymore... on the other hand he was part of the scene for a long time and he did make his profit out of it. The problem with his statement is that the scene today is in no way different than say when he was singing in HELLOWEEN and thats the same with the people and the bands. Today the music has actually become more professional and if he's saying that kind of bullshit he's telling bad things about his own past and thats something I do not understand. That is also a narrowminded statement considering he does not know me and considering that if I wanted to be an asslicker as he says I would make pop tunes like the Backstreet Boys or whatever. I could make a lot more money doing that but I dont because I like metal and I write my music from my heart.

TW: Do you think it could have something to do with the fact he was fired from HELLOWEEN?

HK: Well... *laugh* I do not know I mean there is a kind of bad vibe between Kiske and Weikath and I am not sure on who is right or wrong. As I said I'm not too much involved in the whole policy with HELLOWEEN but of course from what I've been told Kiske caused some bad expierences for himself with HELLOWEEN. However in the magazines HELLOWEEN told a lot of bullshit about Kiske and whether its true or not its still a childish thing, because this was in a big magazine here in germany and they started arguing about who is to blame for Ingo Schichtenberg's death and thats something I personally think is silly to do regarding a personal thing like that is neither the blame of HELLOWEEN nor is the blame of Michael Kiske. So I was shocked to see how they reacted in the magazine about it.... also from my point of view HELLOWEEN said worse things about Michael Kiske than Kiske said about them. They finially put the blame on Kiske and that was something I was a little confused about. However that was like 5 years ago and HELLOWEEN has not said anything bad about him since yet he still will not shut up about it. I think he should drop the whole subject and get over it.... HELLOWEEN leaves him alone now and doesnt say anything bad about him anymore yet Kiske still persists and still says bullshit about them and thats a very childish thing to do and it makes me wonder if Kiske was actually to blame now. Other than that I really cant say much else about it since I was not there.....

TW: Have you had any luck with getting your albums released over here in the USA?

HK: Yes our label Virgin records made a deal with Century Media USA to release our last there regular studio album. Its a small company but right at the moment it lets us at least get introduced to the American market and their work over here in Europe is good and that made me very optimistic that they could do a good job in the states even if its a small company.

TW: Do you think of the albums do somewhat well over here will you come over here to the usa?

HK: Well... lets see what will come out with the albums. I am optimistic that there is a strong underground for BLIND GUARDIAN worldwide and in the states. If the albums sell enough where we can do some concerts in the states I do not know. Im pretty sure that by the next album I'll do something with say John Schaffer from ICED EARTH to arrange some dates at least in the midwest USA.

TW: Do you think its good for bands to evolve and try different things such as say the new Rage album with his classical elements in it? I think it is and would love to know your opinion...

HK: Well I agree 100%! I think they have to try something new....not only RAGE but bands in general otherwise its a little boring for me you know to listen to an album again and again and the next release will come out and it definitely is the same again and this cant be the future so I support what RAGE has done their new album and even though on some parts they could have added a bit more uhm I believe that their way in bringing in something new is completely right.

TW: You know another band that sounds really good right now is GRAVE DIGGER as well.

HK: yeah GRAVE DIGGER is a great band and even they changed a little... but you know... did you know I did some vocals on the Tunes Of War album?

TW: You did?!

HK: Yes *laugh* I did some backing vocals on the songs on Tunes Of War.

TW: I never really read the booklet just listened to the album a million times.

HK: *laughs* well they are a good band and my name is not in the booklet because they were afraid to use my name due to some legal problems.. I did the backing vocals on the album with Piet Sielck and a bunch of other people. But give it a listen and you'll be able to hear me on there *laugh*. Some people asked me if I was on there and well I told them yeah... they werent sure though because my name isnt in the booklet. I think GRAVE DIGGER made a great progression on their new album and its brilliant, but it seems that not all of the fans treat it the same way because they like the more traditional stuff... and thats the risk and difficulty of bringing out a new album when you add some new elements and try to keep your sound at the same time. In the case of GRAVE DIGGER for some reason they lost some credibility and I do not understand that because Knights Of The Cross is one of the best albums I have ever heard. They are a little upset of course... and it was the right move for them.

TW: Now are you going to be doing a project with John Schaffer from ICED EARTH?

HK: Yeah... we join together from time to time and the last time we had a session together and we did one song and this went so fast regarding the composing that we decided that if we have time again in a few weeks we might prepare a whole album. We're just waiting for a time to get together which seems to be impossible since we have been on the road since May 1998 and their album came out a little later and he's on the road for the next 3 or 4 months and we will have to decide when the next album will be or at least when we'll record it. When that happens we will probably find the time to do it then. We're southern Europe tomorrow and we're playing Spain and ICED EARTH is going to support us so we have 6 dates together and we'll try to figure out when we can do a project or at least when we can get together.

TW: I'm not a big ICED EARTH fan at all but I do like their new album a lot and think it's their best.

HK: Yes the new album is very extraordinary but I must say that I am a huge supporter of the Dark Saga. *laughs* I like all their albums and my favorites are the new one, Dark Saga and Night Of The Stormrider even though I like them all.

TW: Know whats funny? I'm an American and I knew about you guys before I knew about them.

HK: You did?

TW: Yeah.

HK: The strange thing is that some told people in the states told me that but they are much bigger in the states than we are since they have been there for a few years now but some people are more familiar with BLIND GUARDIAN than ICED EARTH... its silly *laugh*.

TW: HELLOWEEN has been getting a lot of support over here and they were in some big magazines. Do you think that if they break the US market again that people may look over to Germany and realize theres other great bands over there such as say BLIND GUARDIAN, RUNNING WILD, GRAVE DIGGER, RAGE, etc...

HK: Well its a question of how people look at it... if they watch HELLOWEEN as an entry and they are open minded to hear other bands from Germany then its a kind of a help the bands recieved from them... the music though is too different and it wont influence our following in the states neither positive nor negative.

TW: Have you seen a lot more support say for the band lately and more in the usa?

HK: Well I dont know... i'm not the biggest supporter of the internet but Andre tells me that a lot of people are coming to our homepage that are from the states who are die hard fans and they didnt find us by accident because they know all about us and they actually looked for stuff by BLIND GUARDIAN. At least they know 2 or 3 albums and for a country that has had no albums released there thats a lot. Its not too cheap to get our albums in the usa. I think in the last two years a lot of things changed in the states especially for us and this is a reason I think the metal market in the states will change in general.

TW: I was wondering what you think of the internet and if its a good way for people to learn about bands...

HK: It DOES! *laugh* It definitely does help because it helps present us and other bands in say other countries where metal is not as big and where your band is not as big as in others... you know... kids they get it and dont ask me why or how and they know where to look to find interesting metal bands and a big medium for bands is the internet so it will help the metal scene to spread.

TW: When you guys go to write songs how do you go about it?

HK: Well its a mixture... ...we definitelty get in the seperate ideas and then its a kind of buildup like say putting a puzzle together you might say. Nobody knows what we will come out with in the end so we just start with nothing and mainly Andre starts with nothing and trying to put a musical introduction together and at some point hell ask me to do vocal lines over it and once we have done that the next member say Thomen for instance will try to put his element to the song. Then we decide if this introduction is good enough to start a song or if we think it sucks and if we have to go back and find something new and interesting and something so we get further piece by piece and part by part and member by member then finially its the drums that come last. But theres no real line which we can follow because its always slightly different because in the beginning theres nothing and theres nothing already telling us what to do. We also write the lyrics after the music is done... so when we start a song I just start singing nonsense and well some people say I sing nonsense when we have lyrics anyway! *laugh* That depends on the song and on some songs I would agree *laugh*. We definitely think the music is more important than to having lyrics. We are open minded in general before the lyrics are started because we just have to see how the song is and we then decide which direction we'll write the lyrics.

TW: Are you guys going to come out with an EP in the coming months?

HK: Yes... there are three more songs written for the Nightfall In Middle Earth sessions which we started recording but we had to cancel due to lack of time so its a question if we can come up with some ideas regarding the vocals and if we do have some spare time to fulfill the recording once we have both then we will be able to release the EP.

TW: Do the songs continue with the NIME concept?

HK: Definitely... as I said the music was written at the same period and will be continuing the story but I will not come to the end thats for sure.

TW: Why hasnt Marcus Spiepen written anything lately?

HK: Well as of late Andre and I are the better team but the'se three songs on the EP we're talking about were co-written by him and myself and he's involved with the songwriting still and as you may not he was also involved in writing the curse of feanor at least it shows that they still are around and doing something. The three songs for the EP are very good but not as good as the rest of the album I feel. Thats the reason why we decided to release them later on and they're still interesting enough to have them out.

TW: When you were going into music what were some of your biggest influences?

HK: Well it definitely was IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA, QUEENSRYCHE, the old HELLOWEEN of course... PRETTY MAIDS stuff like that.

TW: I'm really curious what bands you're listening to right now today...

HK: Well its is bands like SAVATAGE, ICED EARTH, RAGE is a great band... I think JAG PANZER is a great band SKYCLAD is good... and a bunch of bands but mainly the ones I just mentioned.

TW: What prompted you guys to do some of the covers you did in the past say like Mr. Sandman, or Spread Your Wings and even Surfin USA...

HK: Hehehehehe well... I cant say... *laugh* its an interest on the songs and the knowledge that we could do something that would fit in with Blind Guardian's schedule even though its completely different... mainly because we like the songs. I mean it doesnt matter if its a song like Mr. Sandman which is a funny song of course if its Spread Your Wings by queen... we feel confident with the'se songs and we like the original ones and we feel we can do something with them without losing the spirit of the song and if we feel we cant then we wouldnt do it.

TW: Im really curious about what band originially did Trial By Fire which is a bonus track on Somewhere Far Beyond,... ..

HK: This is a song from a band called Satan which is a NWOBHM band and the album is called "Caught In The Act" and was one of the biggest influences for us when we started back in 1984 or something like that. Its a good album and check it out its not the only good song on there there are many but we felt wed do Trial By Fire to honor that band since they never really never recieved the success they deserved... its just a brilliant band and they probably got more recognized by our cover version than the band itself did with their own work.

TW: Any last words for any of your fans?

HK: Well its good that you're there and I hope you'll stay there for awhile because this is just our entrance into the US market and would like to come there soon and bye!

--- After this Hansi did some station IDs... we talked for about 15 or 20 mins just off the record and that was it... you guys are great fans and Blind Guardian is an awesome band. Thanks to all of you the fans! ---

interviewed by Tony.