Demons & Wizards Interview

When the most prominent members of two metal combos, which our readers hold in highest regard, record an album, it will create a stir in the metal scene, comparable to the stir about the tennis fusion of Steffi Graf and André Agassi in the gossip column of the press. Only that the fusion of this dreamlike couple Hansi Kürsch/Jon Schaffer is much noisier...

Proof is the debut side project Demons & Wizards which will surely lead Iced Earth supporters as well as Blind Guardian supporters to a dance around their CD player. But at the other side the cross-section of the fans is really big and so there is the question about the sense of it all. Well, Hansi: Where is the sense?

"We both can get along pretty well and we had the feeling that there is a lot potential in us. We wanted to bring our ideas close to the people. Jon and I are creative people and we translated our friendship into art. We meet whenever Jon is in Germany or I'm in the States. One day we were bored and started to jam and in an instant we had a good song. Or at least from our view, ha ha ... I think that the people will be interested in Demons & Wizards because there are still hardly any bands that make a sound like this."

The result agrees with you since the album has exactly what both fan groups of your main bands would await. Iced Earth riffs with Blind Guardian-like melodies, although somewhat more simply structured.

"I think we sound very independent although you can hear elements from Iced Earth and Blind Guardian", said Jon. "I think that's because we both are recognizable in our bands and we have our own style, and that's something that always shines through. But the combination sounds really unique."

"During the song writing phase I had never the feeling we would move too much in a certain direction", adds Hansi. "But I wouldn't have had a problem with singing to a album which would sound 90% like Iced Earth. It would be stupid for Demons & Wizards to sound completely different cause finally we both have our trademarks."

It was surely a nice alternative to sing more raw and straight smashers which don't call for the typical Blind Guardian perfectionism.

"Yeah, it was a cool experience. This way I had more liberties. A few little mistakes, that would attract attention on Blind Guardian, doesn't disturb on Demons & Wizards. Jon has his special way to compose songs which get the point immediately and are easy to see through. Although we were 6000 km apart here and there during the composing, I always had this jam session feeling. That's something we haven't had with Blind Guardian anymore since the beginning of the 90s cause we've developed in a complete other direction. With Blind Guardian we always try to do things down to the detail of the detail. That's also cool but we didn't need it this time and that was the attraction of it at the end."

Don't you get trouble with the other band members? Usually it is a sign for not enough scope in the main band for self-realization.

"No, that's not the case," said Jon. "The other Iced Earth members were enthusiastic about the material since it gave the band an added promotion. Beside this I've known Hansi almost longer than the Iced Earth members, ha ha."

"If we sounded like a Blind Guardian copy, I think I would have had trouble." said Hansi. "On the other hand, had we done something completely different that sounds crappy my band mates would be mad at me, but this way, everything is fine and the guys are happy when we are successful."

That you are both very busy people should be known and so it is really surprising that you found the time for this project.

"We had a good timing. As we wrote our fist song 'My last sunrise' we realized that we wouldn't need much time. After the 'Nightfall in Middle Earth'-activities it was sure we would take time off with Blind Guardian. The situation on Iced Earth was similar. Fortunately we are nowadays in the situation that we can take our time. Both bands are not urged to put out an album every year."

Do you wanna promote the Demons & Wizards album live?

"That depends on the timing of our main bands. We both want to be back into the studio during the first half of 2000. Would we start to record with Guardian in April I would have to add my vocals in summer and I couldn't do any shows then. But we would like to do this cause there are already offers. I could imagine to play a few festivals like Wacken, Dynamo or anywhere else."

But that Hansi would play the bass is something we doubt cause he didn't play any part on the D&W album. All parts are played by Jon.

"Seems like Hansi didn't like the bass anymore", laughs Mr. Schaffer with a bad cold. "I think that's why he doesn't play the bass anymore with Blind Guardian. But it wasn't a big deal for me to do the bass parts cause I took on bass parts here and there on some Iced Earth albums without claiming extra credits. It's a lot fun to me. Why should I hire someone when I can do it on my own and know the best how it should finally sound? I wanted to have kind of a Gene Simons sound and besides I've admire bass players all my life, no matter if it's Steve Harris or Geezer Butler. That's a bit strange for a guitar player but who cares, ha ha... To a good bass sound you can move your ass across the room."

"My favorite musicians are not bass players. There is not one in my top ten, ha ha!", states Hansi, unmistakably clear that he don't miss his role as a bass player.

Oh yeah, you mentioned the word "role"; your band naturally requires a separation. It is obvious that Hansi personifies the Wizard. How do you feel as a Demon, Jon?

"Right now I feel more like a piece of shit, ha ha!", rattles and croaks the guitar player, with a nice Batman watch on his wrist.

"You get what you deserve, no doubt! I have infected you with my magical spell, he he", Hansi kids his buddy.

"But seriously, the name fit well from the beginning on", Jon the up the thread up again. "As we got the idea for this name we stopped searching for another one immediately. I'm a Gene Simons fan all my life and Hansi tells me all the time that I look like a Kiss demon on stage, just without make up... Against that, Hansi is more like the mystical part of Blind Guardian. You see, the name is perfect!"

The lyrics - alike the Blind Guardian lyrics- are about fantasy subjects, just a bit more realistic and not with this typical Tolkien flair. With the triple attack 'Tear Down The Walls' 'Gallow's Poll' and 'My Last Sunrise' there is even a concept trilogy on the album.

"It is an end time story", explains Hansi. "It's about a creature, a gnomish creature called Azrael. It has created the whole universe, including all gods who have died out now. One day Azrael realized that everything he had created doesn't live up to his imaginations anymore and he decided to turn everything into a big nothing, like it was before. The creature went on its travel, accompanied by a human being, that, for example, could be Jon or me. The human is a chronicler who documents the destruction. Finally Azrael itself dissolves and it is on the companion to choose if he should dissolve too or create a new universe."

Jon, at the beginning of the interview, Hansi mentioned that you both are good friends. What is it in your opinion that makes you both get along so well?

"I really don't know what it is, it just happened, from the first day on. We played in Hamburg and after both bands partied, the typical rivalry was gone. Our saying after the first evening was 'Lets make this tour a total killer!", but there is also a spiritual connection. We support each other whenever we can. The mentioned tour I would still call the best in my life. I will never forget it."

"What distinguishes and connects us as musicians is that both bands have a target and pursues it without big compromises", said Hansi. "That says a lot about our characters. Jon is the most European American, I can imagine. He is mega loyal and I don't wanna miss him as a friend. That sounds almost like I'm talking about a dog, ha ha"

What is your favorite Iced Earth album?

"I think that would be a combination of 'Night of the Stormrider' and 'The Dark Saga', but my favorite song is 'A Question Of Heaven'. I would like to sing this song but I doubt that I could do it well."

And Jon, what would be your favorite Blind Guardian album?

"My Blind Guardian faves are 'Tales From The Twilight World' and 'Imaginations From The Other Side'. The tour to 'Tales...' was our first tour together and the song 'Welcome To Dying' is still my absolute favorite song."