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When I first learned that John Schaffer of Iced Earth and Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian are doing a project together I was intrigued. Both are among my favorite bands and both have released excellent albums so far. The only thing that made me skeptical was the fact that usually projects are being release only for money. Well... fortunately this was not the point with them. Being old time friends Hansi and John were just looking for an opportunity to work together and now that they found it they created a masterpiece. A perfect mix between the two bands, a production that kicks major ass and songs that are gonna be club and fan favorites as soon as the album is released. Both guys visited Greece in order to promote the album and give some interviews. We were lucky enough to have a private conversation with them (the last they did in Greece) and both proved worth their fame for being good guys, friendly and interesting people. The result of our conversation is what you are going to read. With red we mark the answers of John (the demon) and yellow the answers of the wizard (Hansi).

O.K. Hello to both of you.

And hello to you too...

First I would like to know the story behind the album. How did it happen and you worked together ?

Well we've been friends for like ten years, since we first worked together. We wrote a song together in 1997 when I was in Hansi's house, visiting him. It was "Last Sunrise", it's in the album, and we went into the Blind Guardian studio and recorded it and it was really cool. There was a cool chemistry between us. We opened for Blind Guardian in Spain in 1998 when they were doing their "Nightfall" tour and we were doing our "Something Wicked" tour, so we were supporting them. Then we talked and said... "Let's do it, that's it, let's do it". Well that was the beginning of the story.

Now tell me the one of you lives in Germany, while the other one lives in United States. So how did you managed to work together ?

This was not really a problem because we know what to expect from each other, so we were just sending tapes to each other. I mean John did some arrangements and sent them by mail to me. When I got them I started working on them and sent them back and that was it. We did most of the work this way and then met in June for the pre-production of the album. We spoke on the phone of course many times. But it's not such a big difference because we know each other, we trust each other and the distance doesn't mean anything. Anyway that's the way I work with Blind Guardian. You know we may live close enough but I am in the studio in daytime while he is during nighttime so we just leave messages to each other. We don't have to talk to each other. We know what to expect from each other and that's the best.

Well lucky you, that you don't live in Greece. If you were using the Greek Mail services you would never had done the album ! (laughs)

(laughs) Yeah right

Now tell me how did the name came out ?

Well we were thinking very seriously about the name. We wanted a name that would fit and which would sound nice and which would have a meaning. We wanted a name that would involve the images of John and me. So when his wife come up with he name Demons and Angels John thought that it's obvious that he is the demon, but me the angel... no. That was probably a little too much. So John said "Give him the Wizard" and I am very grateful for that. You know the first thing that come into my mind was Uriah Heep, because I love the album, but he was not thinking about it.

Yeah this was the first thing that came into my mind too...

Well it's not the first time that a band is taking it's name from a  song or an album from another band. I did think about it afterwards but it was a cool name. Anyway people were always like Blind Guardian are the magical guys you know and me I was always the demonic figure, especially if you think of our older stuff...

Come on you are really a very good guy to be a demon (laughs).

(laughs) Yeah we found out later who's really demonic. I mean he can be magical as well and I can be a pain in the ass as well... (more laughs).

You know we did a photo session, in France I think, and I was the Angel while John was the devil and I had to look like I was praying or something. You know I had this certain look in my eyes and John was playing the devil. The pictures came out great, but when we were doing it I was like "God... let me get through this... somehow". (even more laughs)

You know when I first heard the name I thought that the music was going to be something like Epic Power Metal, maybe more close to Blind Guardian than to Iced Earth, because Iced Earth are more heavy. I though the music was going to be more close to Epic somehow. You think of a fantasy saga, an epic saga...

Well I think that it's a good cross of the two bands because of the obvious, but I think we created something new. Somehow it is Epic Power Metal...

John I think he is right. If you consider the name to be a trademark of the music then it turns into ore in the Blind Guardian direction. I understand what you mean. If I just knew the name without listened the music I would think the same thing.

Anyway, now I would like to learn a few things about the lyrics of the album. I've never had the chance to read them so what are they dealing with ?

It's worth reading them someday.

I'll do it. Are they on your web site.

I don't thing they are yet. But I imagine if I tell our web master to put them up he will do it sometime.

That would be great.

But they are going to be in the album anyway. They are cool man. The stories that Hansi came up with are just great.

There is one song about one of god's favorite Angel's who is thrown into the pit because he tempted himself and other people and because of that he lost his position beside god. So he asks for a release, but god denies him just because he needs a counterpart, he needs someone who is the bad guy. There's also another one about the crusades, about propaganda, to motivate people go there and fight for Christianity. Another story is about a man who plays the flute and makes the children come with him. It's based on a German fairytale. But I've made it a bit darker.

Sometimes it's better when it's darker.

Yeah. The story that I came up with is that this man has an agreement with the rats. He belongs to their clan and they are traveling from city to city to get food for the clan. So they either get the money or in case they don't get any money they get the children, so they have food. He is not really regretting what he is doing, but he has doubts if he is doing the right thing.

Sounds cool. Now tell me are there any plans for touring ?

Right now we don't know what the demand for the band is going to be. I mean the album is not out yet and we are at the very early stages, but if we want to be realistic the most possible thing is some festivals. Of course our bands are the priority, but if Hansi is not in the middle of the recording process in the the studio during summer, then it's possible we can do a few live gigs. You know these are things that have to be considered all. We'd both love to play in Greece anyway.

Now if you don't mind I would like to ask you a couple of questions about your main bands, Iced Earth and Blind Guardian. So when can we expect new albums ?

Well certainly in 2000. I don't really know when, but hopefully summer. At least that's our target for a release.

I rather hope for Autumn. October would be my favorite month, but in case we are not ready until then it would be hard to release the album in 2000 because we are in a major company and there are problems to release the album just before Christmas, because there are other acts coming out this time. I mean it wouldn't hurt us in Greece, but it would in other countries. So if not in October then in the beginning of 2001.

Now John I would like to talk with you about your gold album. I can hardly remember the last time a heavy metal album went gold in Greece...

Yeah they told me it was a Maiden album, which was quite a while ago. It's an amazing feeling, I found it out last night. My record company just knew it for a few weeks, but they told me nothing because they wanted to surprise me when I would come here. So Angelo (their distributor in Greece) told it to me last night after dinner and I totally freaked out. You know it's funny how you can work so many years just to take a record in a frame to hang on your the wall, to feel like you have accomplished something. It's the first we get and that's what make it so special. I mean I cried in my hotel room last night, it was very emotional. I called Jim, I called Mat, I called my wife first obviously... it was a great feeling.

Yeah we Greeks like to give pleasant surprises to people...

And problems.

Problems ? What kind of problems ?

Democracy, which is a problem because no one understands her and treat her the right way. As far as I know that's probably too much of a complement, but you invented philosophy also.

Which is something that nobody will ever understand...

Maybe they don't understand it but it's good thing obviously. You know sometimes it gives me some hard times ! I am also a big fan of Greek food. That's way so many people tell me that I am pregnant. (laughs)

(laughs) Yeah right. Now I had a specific question for John concerning his golden album, but I also have one for you. I know that Hollywood is making a movie about "The Lord Of The Rings" and your fans want you to make the soundtrack...

Well yeah, basically there's some truth in there but I don't think that we'll ever get the job. Well at least we had the chance to send them out stuff and we had the opportunity to be considered to be one of the bands who would actually do it. I know that the deadline to send our stuff is around Christmas and I don't know what we are going to do because right now I am promoting the Demons and Wizards album. I guess we'll see.

O.K. so I have to thank you both for your time and I hope to see you both in Greece for a concert.

taken from