Progressive power metallers BLIND GUARDIAN have released their first live album in 14 years – Live Beyond The Spheres is a collection of 22 tracks including all-time classics such as ‘The Bard’s Song (In The Forest)’ and ‘Mirror Mirror’, but also rarely performed tracks like ‘And Then There Was Silence’.
“We compiled one ‘show’ out of the best tracks from more than 40 live performances, recorded during our European tour in 2015. That’s how we pinned down the most beautiful and atmospheric moments on this medium”, explains guitarist André Olbrich.
Antihero Magazine‘s Anya Svirskaya had the opportunity to chat with Blind Guardian frontman Hansi Kürsch about the new album Live Beyond The Spheres and much more!
ANTIHERO: Hi Hansi, how are you today?
Hansi Kürsch: I’m doing well thank you. How about you?
ANTIHERO: Same. So, to start things off, Blind Guardian has performed many shows all over the world. Are there any songs in the band’s catalogue that you would like to perform live, but do not get a chance to do as much?
Hansi Kürsch: Yeah. To be honest, an issue with A Night at the Opera songs we have. For instance, we’re intending to play for more than, I would say, 10 years now. We have given it several tries during the rehearsals, and we’ve spent tons of time at home to maintain that into a good live version, but so far we’ve not been successful. So, “And Then There Was Silence”, this will be one of the songs that I definitely would like to present to the audience because there are a lot of people in love with that song, and it is a great song. But, it’s so difficult to be performed live, that it’s impossible. If we go to Australia, for example, the people require “You’re the Voice,” which is the cover version we did on the At the Edge of Time album. I think it was the B song of the single, “A Voice in the Dark,” as far as I remember. And they want to hear it because it’s one of their legendary vocalists who originally the song is from, John Farnham. Even though they require the song, we couldn’t play it. It would be nice to play it for this particular instance, but the song would not be really of use anywhere else. It is quite a challenge to prepare such a song for just one show.
In general, we prepare as many songs as possible, but they need to have the opportunity to be performed in at least four or five cases, and therefore, whenever we go on tour, we have 40 songs, and we can choose from these 40 songs. But, if you’re intending to listen to the 41st song, 41 songs, there’s not chance for us to be playing it because we haven’t prepared it in any way.
ANTIHERO: Looking through the track listing of Live Beyond the Spheres, there’s something for everybody. Would you say that this album is a turning point for the band, in the sense that the next record could be slightly different for the next album? For example, I look at bands like KISS. When they released Alive!, it pushed them to expand on their sound with the album Destroyer, that followed. Is it possible that Blind Guardian will take the same route?
Hansi Kürsch: I believe that this has been the case with all three live outputs we’ve had so far. After “Tokyo Tales,” there was a significant change with Imaginations from the Other Side. When we did live, there certainly was a big change when we did A Twist in the Myth, and we have the first lineup change. Unfortunately, Thomen, our drummer back then left the band. So, there was recognizable change in the mentality of the band, the way we presented ourselves on stage and the way we performed. Everything was a little different and we announced the classical period of Blind Guardian, which is still going on. Yet, with this live album, we’ve finished an era and something new is to come that will be very significant and obvious when the next output is going to be released, which is going to be the orchestral album. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Even though that stretches the last 20 years of our careers, it’s so significantly different from whatever we have done before, that the change is very obvious at that point.
We haven’t done too much songwriting for the next regular Blind Guardian album, but still, we’ve made some steps at least, and I can sense a strong change in comparison to what we did on the last album. There’s one song called “Architect of Doom,” which is a real heavy song. Very powerful. Very thrashy at points. And there’s another song called “American Goth,” which is kind of what you would expect from Blind Guardian, but yet the way we maintained the drums, for example, the way we maintained the orchestra, and that is a song with orchestra, again, it’s so different. I’m pretty sure that there will be a significant change when you listen to these two albums and from that point of view, yes, Live Beyond the Spheres is the end an era.
ANTIHERO: After Live Beyond the Spheres, what will Blind Guardian be focusing on?
Hansi Kürsch: We are keeping our main focus on the orchestral album, but since the songwriting for this album has been done quite a few months ago, this is more a question of accomplishing it. I’ve started singing my stuff a few weeks ago and I’m continuing until the end of the year. But, there’s also some time, which we already spent on songwriting for Blind Guardian, as mentioned, and whenever there is a gap with regard to my production, vocal production, we will put some production of the first songs we have accomplished. I would say there’s a good chance that the orchestral album will be musically accomplished completely at the end of this year, and throughout the whole next year we will continue with mixing and everything, so this album can be released in the beginning of 2019. And the heavy album, basically, is supposed to follow later. Let’s say in 2020. We are having a very good run and if things continue like they are maintaining at the moment, I’m pretty sure that we can stick to this schedule.
ANTIHERO: Will the orchestral album be 100% orchestral, or will there be some heavy music incorporated as well?
Hansi Kürsch: It’s 100% orchestral and it’s new songs, basically new songs. The first songs we have written 20 years ago, but they have never been released or reviewed to anyone. So, it’s completely new music and it’s stretching a little bit of the era of the band, of every era ever since 1997. It covers a lot of the Blind Guardian universe, even though it is completely different, since the band is not involved. But recently, when I did sing one of the first songs, I recognized that, at least in one song, there is a little bit of rhythm guitar for either Andre or Marcus to do. But that’s it so far, there’s no heavy metal instruments involved in this recording.
ANTIHERO: A question in regard to your discography. Nightfall in Middle-Earth is considered one of the classic Blind Guardian records. What album in your catalogue would you say is your favorite?
Hansi Kürsch: You mentioned Nightfall in Middle-Earth. That is my favorite of all time so far. The orchestral album might be able to top that, but I will only be able to judge once the whole thing is finished. But I have a very good feeling there. Other than that, for me personally, it’s At the Edge of Time and Beyond the Red Mirror, which would be my album number two and three.
ANTIHERO: The storyline behind that album is very complex. Obviously, the songs were inspired by The Silmarillion. I can see Blind Guardian taking that album out on tour. I could also envision visuals in the background that go along with the song and the story. Have you ever thought about doing something like this?
Hansi Kürsch: Yeah. I’m not a big fan of playing a complete album. A year ago, when we did the “Imaginations” shows and I’m continuing doing this year, but basically I like, sort of, “best of” live opportunities. “Nightfall” definitely would be an album worth to be performed live in its entire beauty, and I believe you could do a lot visually. The songs are doable, unlike “A Night at the Opera,” which is very difficult album to be performed live and its entire complexity I would have doubts that we could do so. With “Nightfall” you could do so, and there’s a lot, which could be mingled in. Maybe, when we do the orchestral album and do song featuring for that, that could be an option since the orchestral album will be conceptual as well. Maybe link these two albums and try to present them in a way. But, in general, I do not pay too much attention about conceptual live releases.
ANTIHERO: I wanted to get your opinion on the power metal genre. When Blind Guardian first started to gain little bit of a fan base in the United States, it was very underground. Power metal wasn’t as mainstream as it is now. Music was accessible through bootlegs and imports. A lot of us fans held it as, this is our own. Blind Guardian will always be one of the first bands that helped to shape power metal. Many bands came followed after. Do you think it became overly saturated and overly produced?
Hansi Kürsch: I would partly agree. I think that a lot of bands started to sound like they believed they were supposed to sound. So, there was strong stagnation in the music for a lot of bands. If it’s overproduced, I don’t see that. I see the opposite. I see a lot of bands using the same production patterns, and this brings in even more stagnation. I still believe that there is good music. There is a development. I would love to see that some of the bands, and I don’t mention any now.
That would be willing to dare a little bit. They believe that the power metal sound requires a certain atmosphere or a certain song pattern, but I doubt that. The success of Blind Guardian is telling me something different. I believe that a lot of power metal fans are very open-minded. And, yes, they like traditional stuff, but they do not have problems with, you know, alterations with different sounding voices and with topics, which might not be too metal. Stuff like this. This is something that I really regret by some other bands, which are basically doing the same over and over again.
ANTIHERO: I think that a band such as Blind Guardian, who’s been around for many years, you took a lot of chances, and you’re still taking a lot of chances. There’s been a strong growth and development, so to say that any band in the genre should, kind of, stay in that moment in time and not take experimental risks. I think that they’re just doing themselves a disservice. As a music fan, I do want to see a musician reach their potential with their instrument and their voice.
Hansi Kürsch: Yeah, right. I think so too. If it was a question of progression or development in general. You can’t hold yourself back for such a long time, and some of the bands are doing the same things for 10 years now, and I also, personally, I like ’80s stuff, I like ’90s stuff. I like the stuff of the first decade of this millennium. There’s always something good, and this need to be involved in my output, my creative output. I’m enjoying, and I can see the same in everyone involved in Blind Guardian music so much. It’s not so much a question about style or what you have to do, or what you’re supposed to do, but more, this is a lifestyle.
This is what makes us, what makes you human, what defines you as a person. And it’s a chance given away by a lot of people. Yeah, of course, I see the aspect of getting as much money so you can feed your family. But if people are not willing to grow with you, you have to take up the risk because other people will come in. That’s for sure.
ANTIHERO: You mentioned that you like a lot of 80s and 90s stuff. What are you currently listening to?
Hansi Kürsch: Well, at the moment, I’m listening to Led Zeppelin. A French band called Trust, which is a heavy metal band from the 80s. I’m listening to Metal Church still, and I like their newest output. I like an album where I’ve been involved called, The Source by Ayreon. I think Arjen Lucassen is a great musician. You know, I like every kind of music from jazz to folk music. I like Neil Young. I like Gregory Porter. It really doesn’t matter to me, as long as I realized that the musicians or the music has something to say. And it needs to reach me, of course. I like classical music, but it does not catch me as much as popular music. That’s for sure. And I think that’s because I like human beings and I like the extraordinary chance, which pop music gives you to express yourself.
ANTIHERO: What does Hansi do when he’s not working on music? Do you have any talents that we don’t know about?
Hansi Kürsch: No. I don’t think that I have a lot of talents. I have a lot of fun, that’s for sure. I’m enjoying the company of my family. I’m enjoying the company of my friends. And, what I can say is that I’m, to a certain extent, I am a musical nerd. So, I’m really excited about music, I’m really excited to work on Blind Guardian stuff. I’m spending tons and tons of time in the studio inventing these things. I think maybe Andre and I would have invented something else, if it were not for the music because we, you know, we like to try out things. I don’t see any bigger talent, but, you know, just the sensation about things is pretty strong in me.
ANTIHERO: What do you think that you would have done if you weren’t a musician?
Hansi Kürsch: I might have become and instrumentalist and tried to be a good musician instead of just being a good songwriter. I do not know. Maybe … I’m good at storytelling to a certain extent, and if I had the opportunity to really keep my focus on inventing stories, that could be an option. I might be good in teaching young people, but maybe I would fail completely. I don’t know, but I think that could be an option.
ANTIHERO: You never know. There may be a Blind Guardian inspired book written by you some time in the future.
Hansi Kürsch: Yeah. Maybe. I’m sometimes complicated and have a weird way of thinking. I don’t know. The German language gives us the opportunity to extend sentences like … The Russians have the same quality, I think. It’s not a straightforward language but it turned into a straightforward language. And I just did not make the steps so … In the way I create sentences, I’m sometimes too complex and maybe too slow as well. I don’t know. But, yeah, why not? A book about the Blind Guardian universe could be a future project.
ANTIHERO: I understand completely because I come from a Russian background, so the way that I structure my sentences in Russian is completely different from when I speak in English.
Hansi Kürsch: Yeah, I can imagine. I easily can imagine. Yeah, I recently read some Russian authors like Dostoyevsky. And they have also the tension to create a sentence in the sentence, and go into a storytelling story, which can be all combined and contained in one single sentence. And I like to do that as well, so I’m losing myself sometimes because I think you need to be very organized. It demands a lot of preparation to create stories if you are the same kind of person, you know what I’m talking about.
Because once I’m talking, I’m thinking about something in addition and then this has to be added to the sentence and it goes on like this forever, and of course, if I have the opportunity to do it on a blank paper, it’s an endless of thought.
ANTIHERO: I know that in the Russian language, and I’m sure in German it’s the same, where if you were to translate into English, there maybe five different ways to describe one single world. I feel like I am talking all the time with many sentences because it’s hard to do a direct translation.
Hansi Kürsch: It is the same. Still, German and English they at least have the same rules so you can find a lot of similarities in between these two languages, and that helps a little bit. But, I think it’s a modern way, especially when it comes to American English, a modern way of thinking, which is most straightforward and I can see the same in Germany. There are new classes and new ways of defining things, which I sometimes feel difficult to follow up because I like the old-fashioned extended way.
ANTIHERO: There was an announcement a few months ago that you and Jon Schaffer are making strides to records the next Demons and Wizards record. What is the current status of that album?
Hansi Kürsch: There were two songs, which we have worked on and they are more or less ready to go. We can improve them. There is no doubt. But they are on a very high level already. Apart from that, we are still working on our schedules to get together and get further with the next songs and with the planning of a production. I hope that we can do everything within the next few months, and then, hopefully, we’ll be able to release an album in 2018. That is one of my biggest goals for right now.
ANTIHERO: Thank you so much for your time. Being a long time Blind Guardian fan, it was a privilege to get a chance to speak to you. What is your message to your fans?
Hansi Kürsch: Thank you. Enjoy life and you can be sure that we will come back to the States as soon as possible, but don’t expect to see us there before 2020.
ANTIHERO: 3 years.
Hansi Kürsch: Yeah, we’re slow.
ANTIHERO: Well, that answers my next question, but I know when you guys do come back on tour, you’re going to have a wealth of material to choose from in that set list, and that is something to look forward to.
Hansi Kürsch: Yeah. I mean we will definitely work on new songs. It is obvious that the classical songs will stay the classical songs, but always realize that there’s a good amount of songs, which we haven’t played too many times and they definitely deserve a little more featuring. And that is something we’ll work on next time. And we would have a new album, plus the orchestral stuff, so there will be plenty of stuff to talk about and there also will be plenty of new material, so people will experience something completely different from what they hear in “Live Beyond the Spheres.”
ANTIHERO: Thank you for your time. I hope you have a great day
Hansi Kürsch: Same to you, and nice talking to you. Pleasure.
Order Live Beyond The Spheres:
Limited Edition Vinyl box set: http://bit.ly/BGLiveBeyond
Standard CD: http://bit.ly/AMZLiveBeyond
Order Live Beyond The Spheres digitally to get ‘Prophecies’, ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Twilight Of The Gods’ instantly: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/live-beyond-the-spheres/id1240180696?app=itunes&ign-mpt=uo%3D4