Blind Guardian Vocalist Hansi Kursch Talks New Album "At The Edge Of Time"
Band Photo: Blind Guardian (?)
After 25 years of championing fantasy-themed power metal, Blind Guardian has returned with the band's latest journey "At the Edge of Time." Vocalist Hansi Kürsch took some time to explain the creation of the album and the themes behind the songs. Commenting on the influences in the album and how it fits into the Blind Guardian discography, Hansi stated "...there’s a little bit of everything. It makes the album attractive not just for Blind Guardian fans but for heavy metal fans, because it’s a pure, epic, orchestral heavy metal album." He also dropped some hints about the possibility of a new Demons & Wizards album with Jon Schaffer, and discussed the band's upcoming tour schedule.
xFiruath: Let’s start off with the new Blind Guardian album “At the Edge of Time.” What’s going on with this album and how is it different from the rest of the band’s discography?
Hansi: First off all, this has been a very spontaneous album in terms of composing. After we finished touring it was like 14 to 16 months to finalize all the songs before we started really producing them, which took another 10 months. The differences can be seen in the orchestration. We worked with a real orchestra, and there is a stronger Oriental undertone in songs like “Wheel of Time,” for example. There’s more proper Celtic music like in “Curse My Name.” We did a sort of heavy power ballad. It’s a very diverse album, containing all the qualities of the band we have had over the last 25 years. There’s a little bit from the very old era, like “Follow the Blind,” which is reflected in songs like “A Voice in the Dark,” for example. “Valkyries” has a strong “A Twist in the Myth” handwriting, so there’s a little bit of everything. It makes the album attractive not just for Blind Guardian fans but for heavy metal fans, because it’s a pure, epic, orchestral heavy metal album.
xFiruath: Where were the recording sessions for “At the Edge of Time?
Hansi: We went to our own studio. We live in the west of Germany. The studio is called Twilight Hall and we established that in the late ‘90s and ever since have done our recordings and mixings there. It’s a highly professional studio so we have a nice environment and the right stuff to accomplish what we want on our albums.
xFiruath: Does this album follow a specific theme or story?
Hansi: Apart from the theme of time in every lyric, there would be none. Most of them are strongly connected to fantasy topics. I take the inspiration from several books I’ve read over the years. There’s some topical, historical, religious stuff like in “Curse My Name” or in “Control the Divine.”
xFiruath: Who handled the cover artwork for this album?
Hansi: That’s a cover artist from Colubmia, his name is Felipe Machado and he is a huge Blind Guardian fan. He contacted me some years ago for a chance to provide us with his art for any of the albums. When we worked on the topics for “At the Edge of Time” I had a pyramid idea in mind so we contacted him and came up with great ideas. He later on supplied the cover artwork for each song, so the booklet will contain several great pieces of art illustrating the lyrics of the songs. It’s a great booklet and it really looks amazing.
xFiruath: You guys already did a music video for “A Voice in the Dark.” Tell me a bit about that video and where it was shot at.
Hansi: We did that in Serbia. The guys were highly professional and came up with different ideas that complemented the music very well. They related to the lyrical issues and took that inspiration to create their own universe.
xFiruath: Blind Guardian has been going for 25 years now. How has the band changed over that time and what’s it like working with the same band for that period of time?
Hansi: We have had one change so far, that was five years ago when Frederick got in and he brought in some fresh blood. So we are younger now. The vision has stayed the same for all of us. We share the same interests and we feel we can still accomplish something with Blind Guardian. We have close friendships of course and a strong understanding of each other so that makes our live performances and song writing far easier.
xFiruath: You guys have gone through some major changes in the music industry, from cassettes to CDs and now on to downloading. How has that affected Blind Guardian and changed the way the band operates?
Hansi: Not too much I must confess. At one time it did a little bit. When we made our first DVD in 2003 we figured that our record company, which was Virgin Records, could no longer be the perfect choice for us. We asked for termination of the contract and luckily it was no problem. We had the freedom then to choose a new company. When we started, the first thing we had to struggle with was the simple fact that the record companies were experiencing suffering in the late ‘80s. The first type of heavy metal was disappearing. We started doing music when it became more difficult to do metal albums. That continued throughout our whole career. In the ‘90s people were complaining about the difficulties of selling albums, especially heavy metal albums and metal was called dead and blah, blah, blah. It never really had any effect on us because we established our own style and created our own following, for the band and for the music. With each album we became a little stronger. When Internet technology came in the motives had changed, but still we are still a very successful band and we aren’t suffering too much.
xFiruath: Blind Guardian has a very epic, fantasy based sound. I understand you were even offered the chance to do the score for the Lord of the Rings movies. Any chance you guys will be doing movie scores in the future?
Hansi: We did the songs for a computer game, but other than that we haven’t really done anything like that. We would love to do so, of course, but it’s very difficult to get your foot into the door. That’s the big business and they usually don’t like to work with metal bands they don’t know so I’m not sure how realistic it is. We attempted to do something like that for the Lord of the Rings movies, but due to time problems we didn’t. We would need a movie like that, a strong fantasy movie for our music to fit perfectly.
xFiruath: You also work with Jon Schaffer for Demons & Wizards. Have you heard his new project Sons of Liberty, and if so, what did you think of it?
Hansi: Yes, I have heard it. I think it’s really cool music and I’m happy to see that Jon has the courage to proclaim what he believes in.
xFiruath: Any hope for a new Demons & Wizards album down the line?
Hansi: I would say so. I can’t exactly say when we’ll find the time to work on the next one, but I would like to make that the ultimate album in terms of quality. We have spoken about it several times already, and I have a feeling we will eventually find the time to work on song writing in 2011. Hopefully there will be an album release in 2012, but it will be difficult because I’m on the road for almost the next 18 months.
xFiruath: I saw that you guys are already confirmed for the Wacken 2011. When are you hitting the road next?
Hansi: We start in Europe, which will be the first part of the world tour. It starts at the end of September and we will more or less tour all European countries before we hit the U.S. That’s going to happen in the middle of November. There will be some shows in Canada as well and I’m pretty sure they will be announced within the next 14 days.
xFiruath: What bands are on your personal rotation?
Hansi: Iced Earth. I love Nevermore. I like Iron Maiden. Basically a lot of stuff. General metal stuff I would say.
xFiruath: Any parting words about the new album?
Hansi: I think people will enjoy listening to it, or I hope at least. I’m looking forward to coming out and playing.
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